• Posted on October 15, 2012

Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure~Revealed!

Welcome to a new feature of 32 Pages-the Art Reveal, where an about-to-be-published book is introduced in all its awesomeness. Kicking off this new feature is Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure, book 4 in a series of culinary mysteries by Kevin Sylvester, starring Neil Flambé~a 14 year old ‘wunderchef’ not unlike Gordon Ramsey-if Gordon Ramsey was a ginger with a talent for solving crimes. Like Mr Ramsey, Neil can cook anything, and he can do it better than anyone else. Maybe he’s a bit cocky, but patrons pay top dollar and wait months for reservations at his tiny, boutique restaurant. Child labour laws aside, what those around him don’t know is that his talents do not stop at crème brûlée. With an extraordinary sense of smell, and the help of police inspector Sean Nakamura, this budding young detective is as good at cracking crimes as he is at cracking eggs.

And here’s what our young master chef is up to now…

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  • Posted on September 16, 2012
Crazy Carrots cover

Creepy Carrots

One does not usually think of carrots in the same breath as ‘scary’ or ‘unsettling’, unless they are cooked English-style, which is to say, boiled until they are mush. Tasty, yes, but boring. Bereft of personality, you would think, but…you’d be wrong. In Aaron Reynolds and Peter Brown’s new book Creepy Carrots, we are introduced to the other side of this most unassuming of vegetables, the side that is capable of all sorts of mayhem. Tread carefully in your garden, folks. The carrots are watching.

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  • Posted on June 17, 2012
Zorro Gets an Outfit cover image

Zorro Gets An Outfit

I  am currently living with a cat and a dog. I love my cat, but it’s hard to read her emotions. Her expression rarely changes, even as the claws come out. She’s an action cat. Not much of a feeler. The dog, on the other hand, registers every emotion from joy to deep existential pain. It’s true that most of her emotional life revolves around food, and the procurement thereof, but whatever she’s feeling, we know it, from the direction and flaccidity of her ears, to the raised eyebrows, ear-cracking barks, and most especially, the world-weary sigh of a wish unfufilled. As my nieces would say, she’s an EMO. All dogs are EMO, including Zorro, star of the new book by Carter Goodrich, Zorro Gets an Outfit.

In the first book of the series, Say Hello to Zorro, it was Mister Bud who suffers an indignity when a rambunctious pug named Zorro enters his life, wreaking havoc on his meticulously scheduled existence. In Zorro Gets an Outfit, the tables are reversed, and it is the pug who must learn to adapt. Of course, when your name is Zorro, it is inevitable that you will, at some point, sport a cape…

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  • Posted on June 07, 2012
Art and Max paint

Painting 101

At first I was just going to write about My Dog Thinks I’m a Genius. It’s a brilliant book (with a great title), and certainly worth a stand-alone review. But then I started thinking about other books in my collection where painting is the focus, and four came to mind, although I’m sure there are many more that have escaped my memory (or awareness.) By definition, a picture book about painting double-serves the subject in that it is a work of art about the creation of art, assuming, of course, the illustrations are actually works of art, which is not always the case. However, with these five books (and the other titles listed at the end of this post), the exquisiteness of the art is indisputable, as is the quality (and sheer number) of apes, dogs, squirrels, and lizards populating the text. But then, what is a kids book, even a kids book about art, without a dog, or a lizard?

In the aforementioned, My Dog Thinks I’m a Genius, Harriet Ziefert tells the story of an eight year old boy and his dog, Louie. The boy loves to paint, and Louie loves to watch~and critique. As the story opens, the boy is working on a picture of a tall building, methodically adding each element until he believes the painting is done, but Louie’s barks suggest otherwise. Something is missing. The boy adds Louie to the painting and voilà, it is finished. (Hard to argue with Louie’s logic. Most things are improved with the addition of a dog.) However, as it turns out, Louie isn’t just a connoisseur of art, he may also be a budding canine Cézanne. Now who’s the genius?

My Dog Thinks I’m a Genius is absolute stunner. The illustrations by French artist Barroux are a mixed palette of watercolour and pencil, scrawled, splashed, and (when it comes to the characters) meticulously drawn over thick, sometimes lined pages. The boy states, “I must draw and paint everyday”, and Barroux’s exuberant illustrations express the character’s love of painting in bright candy colours, shifting perspectives, and a very inventive use of space. Not unlike Cézanne, in other words, who is given a wonderful homage at the conclusion of the book. My Dog Thinks I’m a Genius celebrates the creative process as a messy, and often collaborative effort. It also slyly hints at the reality that there is always someone better than you, even if it’s your dog, but in the end the only thing that matters is that you love what you do. Suggested sequel: My Cat Thinks I’m an Idiot.

According to three-time Caldecott winner David Wiesner, Art & Max was born out of the creative process itself, and in particular, the inherent possibilities of various mediums. If a character’s top coat of paint is ‘cracked’ to reveal a pastel drawing below, and then in succession, all of the layers are exposed, what remains of the original line drawing? What if it collapses into a single line? Can the character be restored? In yet another display of Wiesnerian logic, he dumps the early drafts of ‘cuddly creatures’ in favour of the stylistically more interesting lizard to answer these, and other, self-imposed questions. I mean, why not?

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  • Posted on May 28, 2012
Unbeelievables Buzzzzz

UnBEElievables

I did not intend to write another post about a bugs, but UnBEElievables found me a few days after I purchased The Beetle Book, and well, bees are irresistible. Like beetles (and all bugs), I was scared of these tiny, furry creatures for most of my life, or at least until I started observing and learning about them. However, as in all things, the more you know, the less fear it engenders (tarantulas excepted.) And there is a lot to know about bees~a lot we should know, and a lot that is just fun to know.

In UnBEElievables, Douglas Florian gives us both, along with some truly fetching bee art. In 14 lively poems, Florian introduces us to the intricate and highly structured life of the honeybee. Each poem is accompanied by factual blurbs and the most charming paintings of insects this side of a grade two class. This is not a criticism. The multi-media illustrations are full of smiling bees, and it’s impossible not to respond in kind while flipping the pages of this book. Even the super cool, sideways cap-wearing bees of Drone (“Brother! Yo, Brother! Bee-have in your hive!…”) are sporting grins. This is a good thing, as it’s important to see apis mellifera as affable, hard-working, and life-enriching contributors to our world. Indeed, viewed through Florian’s nimble and mischievous imagination, UnBEElievables will make you want to run out and beefriend a bee. Just don’t look for the hats. I’m pretty sure he made that up.

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  • Posted on November 12, 2011
Man on the Moon by William Joyce

The Secret of MiM

Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Sandman, the Easter Bunny, Jack Frost and the Man in the Moon. What do they all have in common? Well, other than varying degrees of commercial value, nothing, other than they are the mythological beings of our childhood, along with (if you’re Canadian) the Friendly Giant and Mr Dressup. As such, they loom large in the imaginations of many children, and a certain, brilliant author and illustrator-William Joyce. The Man in the Moon is the first in a series of books to be called The Guardians of Childhood, a concept born out of Joyce’s disappointment at the ‘weak and undefined’ mythology surrounding these fantastical beings. “There are defined mythologies for Batman and Superman, so why not a defined mythology for something we actually believed in as children?” Why not indeed, although I personally don’t recall being too concerned about where the purveyor of my Mr Fruit n’ Nut originated, other than his name was Easter Bunny. But, I may have been wrong about that…

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