This graphic novel takes us to a world, much like ours but for one difference—this world was left unfinished by gods who spend their time feasting and sleeping. In this unfinished world live three children Harry, Sue and Little Ben who one day decide to go wandering and come to rest beneath a tree. Ben declares he can sometimes see things in the empty spaces, and brings forth a mouse. Sue looks into the empty space and brings forth a bird. Harry conjures a snake. But then their imaginations get overly ambitious and they bring something new and dangerous into the world. It’s up to Ben to save Harry and Sue, as the gods are still napping. This tale takes familiar fairytale concepts and breathes a new fresh tale into existence. The illustrations are as twisty and ephemeral as the children’s thoughts. Dave McKean uses pen & ink, colored pencil and digital collage to draw us into this world and peer into the minds of the protagonists.
This a graphic novel format retelling of the epic Ramayana from the point of view of Sita, Rama’s wife. The illustrations are done in the scroll painting style of Patua—with thick black outlines and vibrant colors, the illustrations are like murals and illuminated manuscripts from centuries past. Told from Sita’s perspective, the mighty battle in Lanka takes on a sorrowful tone as she empathizes with the women who have lost loved ones. The tale subtly highlights the fate of women in a male-driven world. At the back of the book is a section on how the book was created and a historical note about female retellings of the Ramayana.
This concertina style book is wrapped in a four-panel fold out that, on the interior, has facts about the greatest heights and the deepest depths of the Earth and the intrepid explorers who have traveled there. The concertina itself is printed on both sides. One side takes you up above the surface of the Earth and shows a myriad of ways to explore and enjoy this planet. There are campers, downhill skiers, dragon-kite-flyers, planetary-spy-ers, and mountain climbers. On the flip side, the illustrations take you below the surface into underwater caverns, past dinosaur skeletons, gemstones, bats, cave dwellers, and abandoned mines. The vibrant palette is reminiscent of the 1960’s with lime greens, bright blues and reds jostling for attention. This wordless concertina provides hours of entertainment as you pour over the illustrations and make hypotheses about who the characters are and what they are doing.
Told from the perspective of a young refugee, Blaise Fortune, we learn of how he was raised by a woman named Gloria after she rescued him from a burning train as an infant. After the collapse of the Soviet Union the pair travel from the Republic of Georgia across Europe, Gloria tells Blaise that his mother was French and that he is a French citizen. It is Gloria’s goal to get Blaise to France so that he can live a life of freedom. Five years are told in vignettes and as Blaise grows older, so too does Gloria. This novel is a tale of survival, love, and belonging.
This is a book about colors, and the way we describe them. The book itself is printed on black glossy paper, with text in white on the lower half of the left page. On the upper half of the left page, the text is repeated in braille. On the right page are embossed black-on-black illustrations. The book is beautiful both in design and feel. What makes this book so great is that unlike most braille adaptations, this book is in picture book format which means that it is for all children not just blind children.
This charming picture book follows Clarence and Grandma as they go into the woods to pick wild berries. Told in English with Cree words sprinkled throughout the text in red, this gentle tale is a celebration of time spent outdoors with those we love. Julie Flett has created a story that is at once familiar and brand-new. With illustrations on the right and text on the left, the book carefully balances text and images. The illustrations are watercolor and cut paper against a white background. The palette is deep and earthy, composed of green, grey, red and blue. At the back of the book is a pronunciation guide and a recipe for wild blueberry jam.
This book is not a book about math (even though it’s based off of Fibonacci’s famous equation). It is a book about rabbits. The text explores how many rabbits can a pair of rabbits create at the end of a month? How many rabbits will there be at the end of a year? And what happens when you have 53 pairs of rabbits in one field? The book is designed like a calendar (complete with a hole for hanging on the wall), and each page turn will bring you to a new month. Gravett’s mixed media illustrations are both humorous and inviting. A few pages have mini books that cover everything from knitting a rabbit sweater to the Carrot Cookbook. As the population increases, the hand-drawn rabbits spill over one another in order to fit on the page until finally they all burst forth in a pop-up at the end of the book.
This hefty wordless book is a visual demonstration of the passage of time. Each page contains a single full-page illustration that extends to the very edges of the page. Most of the stories are a two page set of before-after like the acorn and the oak, but a few are before-after-after like the oak tree through the seasons. The digitally rendered illustrations are vibrant, but appear flat—there is very little shading used to create the illusion of depth. To differentiate foreground from background all of the items on the page have thin outlines, but the outlines are not all black. The size (6”x9”) is ideal for a cozy exploration in a comfy chair.
A tale of the conquest of Mexico by Cortez, utilizing both historical documents and first-person sources Serrano explains how Cortez, with the aid of La Malinche, was able to travel to the capital city of Tenochtitlan and overthrow Moctezuma. The book doesn’t shy away from the realities of conquest, but the focus is on La Malinche’s role as translator and the symbolic mother of all Mexicans. At the back of the book is a map that shows Cortez’ route, a glossary, a list of sources, and recommended further reading. The book is filled with illustrations reminiscent of early church murals combined with Aztec motifs in a warm, sun-baked palette.
This collection of three shorter Shaun Tan works explores how people (or in one case, rabbits) move through the world. In The Red Tree a girl moves through a bad day, starting with a room full of fallen leaves to being overshadowed by a giant putrid fish to being stuck in a tiny boat surrounded by giant steamboats. But at the last minute hope is restored when she returns home to find something beautiful waiting for her. The illustrations here are in Shaun Tan’s unique style, combining organic with machine to create new and puzzling combinations. The palette is subdued but lush. In The Lost Thing the protagonist tells a tale of the time he was collecting bottle caps and spotted a lost thing on the beach. Again Shaun Tan creates a creature that is part organic and part machine (but full of personality). The protagonist is told by his parents that the lost thing needs to live somewhere else, and goes on a trek to find a place where the thing can fit it. This story is utterly charming, and the illustrations are full of gears and mechanisms to ogle and ponder. The last tale The Rabbits was written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan. This story is an examination of imperialism and manifest destiny—if the conquerors had been rabbits instead of people. Gorgeous earthy colors and layers upon layers create the scenery into which the rabbits invade. As the tale moves forward, the illustrations get smaller in size and darker in color. It is a prime example of how text and illustration can work together to create a something greater than the sum of its parts.