The King of Kazoo

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  • The King of Kazoo
  • written and illustrated by Norm Feuti
  • published by Graphix/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

I’ll admit it: I was unfamiliar with Norm Feuti before The King of Kazoo arrived at my door. But fewer than 10 pages in and I was a fan. With this book, Feuti has created something that is both familiar and fresh.

King Cornelius (the titular king of the land of Kazoo) is a bit of an idiot. He came into his position and inherited a country at peace, and he hasn’t yet had a chance to earn an epithet (like those that came before him, such as Founder of the City, Defender of the Realm, or Simplifier of the Taxes).

Cornelius spends his days “thinking kingly thoughts” and suggesting inane solutions to non-problems. In short, he’s pretty much a joke.

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Questions from a Kid: Raina Telgemeier

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions from a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with best-selling graphic novelist Raina Telgemeier.

Raina burst onto the scene with 2010’s Smile and then followed that up with Sisters, Drama, and this year’s Ghosts. All four books have dominated the best-seller lists and have won nearly every award for which they’re eligible. And in the process, Raina has become a superstar talent in the industry.

Just how big has she become? At this year’s National Book Festival, she was one of six presenters to take the main stage. The others? Stephen King, Bob Woodward, Shonda Rhimes, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and Salman Rushdie. Not too shabby.

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Raina Telgemeier’s Ghosts

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  • Ghosts
  • written and illustrated by Raina Telgemeier
  • published by Graphix/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Raina Telgemeier is back with her fourth original graphic novel, and we’re all the richer for it. This week marks the release of Ghosts, and in it she explores the nature of family and friendship against a backdrop of self-discovery and the Mexican Día de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) holiday.

It’s easy to forget that Raina’s first original book, Smile, came out as recently as 2010. That’s because the effect she’s had makes it hard to remember what graphic novels were like beforehand. Really, it’s hard to recall what the publishing industry in general was like.

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Duck on a Tractor

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  • Duck on a Tractor
  • written and illustrated by David Shannon
  • published by Blue Sky Press/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

David Shannon’s Duck on a Bike has long been a favorite in this house. It’s absurd, it’s fun, and it’s beautifully illustrated. It’s no surprise that a sequel has come out. The only surprise is how long it’s taken. The original came out way back in the Stone Age of 2002. That’s 14 years ago – at least two lifetimes in the publishing industry.

But thankfully, Duck on a Tractor has arrived to carry on the ridiculous barnyard fun. And it’s like revisiting an old friend.

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Cleonardo: The Little Inventor

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If you’ve read any of the Harry Potter books, then you know (and probably adore) Mary GrandPré’s art. She provided the cover and interior art for all of the original U.S. editions. And if we’re being honest, her cover art is a really big reason for why the first book became so popular.

But she’s so much more than her Harry Potter art. She’s written and illustrated several children’s books and received a Caldecott Honor in 2015 for The Noisy Paint Box, which is about Kandinsky’s synesthesia (a condition that has long fascinated me).

Her newest book, Cleonardo: The Little Inventor, is nothing short of gorgeous – both the art and the message. As the father of a young daughter who loves to tinker and experiment, this book resonated with me in a huge way.

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Dream Jumper #1: Nightmare Escape

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  • Dream Jumper: Nightmare Escape
  • written by Greg Grunberg & Lucas Turnbloom
  • illustrated by Lucas Turnbloom
  • colored by Guy Major
  • published by Scholastic/Graphix (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

Scholastic’s Graphix imprint has long been home to some of the best “all-ages” graphic novels put out by a traditional book publisher. Graphix actually hit the ground running and got its start with the color editions of Jeff Smith’s groundbreaking Bone series, and they haven’t looked back.

They’ve since become a wellspring of fantastic, kid-friendly graphic novels, publishing books such as Kazu Kibuishi’s Amulet series, Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space series, all of Raina Telgemeier’s books, and so many more. Seriously, I challenge you to find a Graphix book that isn’t stunning.

Dream Jumper is one of their newest titles, and it’s definitely off to a promising start with the first book in the planned series, Nightmare Escape.

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The Pirate Jamboree

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  • The Pirate Jamboree
  • written and illustrated by Mark Teague
  • published by Orchard Books/Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

If you have kids, then Mark Teague’s art is likely very familiar to you. In addition to his own wonderful books, he’s also the artist behind the How Do Dinosaurs…? books with author Jane Yolen.

We’re in love with his style and big fans of his work. His newest book, The Pirate Jamboree, is told in verse and concerns the fearsome neighborhood pirates: the Johnson brothers (Blackbeard, Bluebeard, and Beigebeard), Sharktooth Jane, Eye Patch Sue, Cap’n Gunderboom, and Peg Leg Jones.

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Batman’s Dark Secret

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  • Batman’s Dark Secret
  • written by Kelley Puckett
  • illustrated by Jon J. Muth
  • published by Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

In 2016, another retelling of Batman’s origin story wasn’t high on the list of things I thought I needed to see…even in a children’s book. But Batman’s Dark Secret came out of nowhere and showed me how wrong I was.

This gorgeous hardcover picture book is a new edition of a book that was originally published in 1999 as a leveled reader. That book is not in my library (so I’m not familiar with it), but I think it’s safe to say that this is the preferred version. The oversized pages let the story breathe and do right by the art — watercolor illustrations that deserve a bit more of a “deluxe” treatment.

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Fortune Falls

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  • Fortune Falls
  • written by Jenny Goebel
  • published by Scholastic (2016)
  • Roar Score: 4/5

“Even if you aren’t lucky, you’re smart, and that’s far more important.”

Fortune Falls is a town you probably wouldn’t want to visit…unless you came prepared. With a four-leaf clover…and a rabbit’s foot…and a horseshoe. This is a place where superstitions are very much real things that have active control over people’s lives.

If you step on a crack, you really will break your mother’s back. If you don’t hold your breath while passing a cemetery, you really will end up dead. If you find a penny and pick it up, all day long you really will  have good luck. And if you blow out all of the candles on your birthday, your wish really will come true.

And that’s where Sadie Bleeker comes in. In a town where 12-year-olds are classified as either Lucky or Unlucky (and then sent to appropriate, segregated schools…for everyone’s safety, you see), Sadie’s about to turn 12.

Admittedly, she’s had a streak of bad luck (that’s lasted about 12 years), but she’s still technically classified as an Undetermined. However, her birthday is in a few days – on Friday the 13th, naturally – and she’s about to take the Luck Test…which will determine the course of her entire future.

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Questions from a Kid: Jennifer Holm

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of Questions From a Kid. Today, Zoey chats with author Jennifer Holm.

Zoey first became aware of Jennifer through Sunny Side Up, a recent graphic novel from Scholastic/Graphix that tells the story of Sunny Lewin, a young girl who spends the summer of 1976 with her grandfather in Florida. Jennifer worked on the book with her younger brother, Matthew Holm, who did the art.

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The Princess and the Pony

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  • The Princess and the Pony
  • written and illustrated by Kate Beaton
  • published by Scholastic (2015)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

Based on the title and cover, The Princess and the Pony initially got a lukewarm to mixed reception in my house. The 6-year-old girl looked optimistic (though she’s not a “princess girl”), and the 4-year-old boy eyed it with extreme skepticism.

It only took a couple pages, though, to find them both roaring with laughter and repeating the lines after me (between giggles, of course).

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5 Questions with Kazu Kibuishi

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(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Kazu Kibuishi: artist, author, and creator of the Amulet series of graphic novels.

Not since Bone was Zoey so immediately taken with a book and its world. Almost instantly, she attached to 12-year-old Emily and her adventure. This really shouldn’t come as a surprise. If you’ve read any of the Amulet books, you already know that it’s a gripping story that’s superbly written and breathtakingly illustrated.

It’s not often I hear audible gasps and genuine surprise and concern when reading comics and graphic novels to her. Amulet, however, leaves her breathless. We read through the first book in a single sitting, and there was no looking back.

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5 Questions with Jeffrey Brown

Jeffrey Brown

(previous interviews in this series can be found here.)

Welcome to another installment of 5 Questions with a 5-Year-Old. Today, Zoey chats with Jeffrey Brown, writer and artist on the adorable Darth Vader and Son, Vader’s Little Princess, Goodnight Darth Vader, and the Jedi Academy books.

We first became aware of Jeffrey Brown in 2012 when Darth Vader and Son was released by Chronicle Books. I got a copy for Father’s Day and instantly fell in love. Zoey instantly fell in love, too, though she loved the art and the fact that Luke and Leia were tiny and cute. She hadn’t seen the movies at that point, so some of the jokes went right over her head. But, she still laughed.

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Cleopatra in Space

  • Cleopatra in Space, Book 1: Target Practice
  • written and illustrated by Mike Maihack
  • published by Graphix (Scholastic)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

If the title doesn’t grab your attention, you might want to check your pulse. And if the cover doesn’t totally captivate you, then you might seriously be dead. Consult your physician.

This is a book that I’ve been looking forward to for a long time. I was overjoyed when I heard that Scholastic had decided to publish it and give it a treatment that the story and art deserve. Cleopatra in Space is the creation of the awesomely amazing artist Mike Maihack — an artist we love so much in our house that I might border on hyperbole here. Apologies.

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