The Suspended Castle: A Philémon Adventure

castle

The Suspended Castle is the third book in the Philémon series, and it’s also (obviously) the third release in Toon Books’ English-language versions. If you’ve been reading along with the first two books, then you should already have some idea of what to expect here, in terms of tone and content.

I mean, one look at the cover is enough to tell you that you won’t be disappointed…if, that is, you came for absurd visuals and unforeseen plot twists. In short, it’s still totally insane. And an insanely good time.

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The Wild Piano: A Philémon Adventure

wildpiano

I can’t believe I let this one sit for so long. I included The Wild Piano in this roundup of new titles from Toon Books, but it’s well past time for it to appear here, especially now that the third Philémon book is out.

Philémon is a French character who’s been around since 1965. His stories, however, have never been published in English before now. Therefore, in the pantheon of French-language comics, he’s mostly been relegated to Tintin’s and Asterix’s shadows. Toon Books recently published his first adventure, Cast Away on the Letter A, and it was such a success that they expedited the release of this second book. (See here for my review of that first book.)

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Windmill Dragons (A Leah and Alan Adventure)

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Toon Books continues to kill it. Their entire library is breathtaking, and the latest offering from David Nytra is no exception. Following on the success of his 2012 debut, The Secret of the Stone Frog, Windmill Dragons again focuses on siblings Leah and Alan for another adventure.

Although the reader is left to interpret their adventure in the first book as a dream (or was it?), Windmill Dragons sets up its fantastic events in the first few pages as a story Leah reads aloud. The siblings then dive into the pages and appear as the protagonists of that story.

Welcome to a land where the elemental forces are under the control of three magnificent beasts: the Ziz (sky), the Behemoth (land), and the Leviathan (sea). When they exist in harmony with one another, peace prevails. However, when Leah and Alan arrive, all is most definitely not peaceful, and the duo are charged with saving the land from the windmills – which have come alive and are attacking the citizens.

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Cast Away on the Letter A

lettera

  • Cast Away on the Letter A (A Philémon Adventure)
  • written/illustrated by Fred
  • published by Toon Books (Candlewick Press) (2014)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

There’s something about a book that begins with a map. Maybe it appeals to my inner explorer. Maybe it appeal to the inner 9-year-old who pored over world maps, lost in the wonder of what those little dots and intersecting lines represented.

Whatever it is, when I open a book and am immediately confronted with a mid-century National Geographic world map…I’m in.

I have to admit that before cracking open this beautiful little book, I was wholly unfamiliar with the character of Philémon. I’d hazard a guess that most Americans are. The character began in the French magazine Pilote in 1965 and was eventually successful enough to merit its own series of books.

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Hansel and Gretel

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  • Hansel & Gretel
  • written/adapted by Neil Gaiman
  • illustrated by Lorenzo Mattotti
  • published by Toon Books (Candlewick Press) (2014)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

They reached a river, and their father showed them where to ford it, where the river was shallow and the rocks stuck up from the water. They shook off their shoes, and they carried them until they reached the far bank, where the trees were thick, and old, and gnarled into shapes that looked like angry giants, frozen in time.

“Hansel and Gretel” is one of those stories that seems older than time. It is one of the most recognized of the Grimms’ fairy tales, yet it still remains unfamiliar. Elusive. Intangible.

Perhaps that’s because there have been so many different versions over the years. Tamer versions that smooth over some of the “unpleasant” aspects of the original. Children’s versions that soften the witch into someone more likable or change the parents’ roles entirely. Modern Hollywood versions that imagine the title characters as badass monster hunters.

Ask most kids nowadays, and their impression of the story more than likely centers on the witch’s candy house. “Hansel and Gretel” has, through the years, become known as a lighthearted romp through the woods to a Willy Wonka-style candy house.

Leave it to master storyteller Neil Gaiman, then, to bring us back to the story’s dark, gruesome, and haunting roots.

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5 Questions with Frank Cammuso

FrankCammuso

(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 Frank Cammuso.

Zoey is most familiar with Frank from his work writing and illustrating the The Misadventures of Salem Hyde series (Amulet Books) and the Otto series (Toon Books). But Frank has also created the Knights of the Lunch Table and Max Hamm: Fairy Tale Detective series (Graphix/Scholastic and Nite Owl Comix, respectively).

In short, he’s a kids comics powerhouse.

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The Big Wet Balloon

  • The Big Wet Balloon
  • written and illustrated by Liniers (Ricardo Liniers Siri)
  • published by Toon Books (Candlewick Press)
  • Roar Score: 5/5

It seems appropriate to feature this book today, as it was just recognized in a BIG way with an Eisner Award nomination for Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7). The publisher, Toon Books, must be conflicted since three of the five nominees in this category are their books! (The other two are Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas by Philippe Coudray and Otto’s Backwards Day by Frank Cammuso. We have the latter and can attest to its awesomeness.)

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