Slush Pile: Good Children’s Books I Read Recently

As a side effect of my Great Graphic Novels for Kids columns — which I aim to restart Any Day Now — I have also been sent a number of children’s books, which I define as large, flat hardcovers that don’t quite qualify as comics. (Although the art tells a story, it is usually captioned instead of paneled with word ballons.) Here are a few that I enjoyed reading. Thank you, publishers, and I’ll be more timely in talking about them in future.

The Ocean Story

by John Seven and Jana Christy
Picture Window Books, $22.65 ($16.99 if you’re a school or library)

Attractive water-color-looking (how suitable!) illustrations tell the ecological story of how important the ocean is. From happy kids splashing in the rain to impressively sized and colored sea creatures (I’m a particular fan of the penguins), this is a comfortable introduction to both the water cycle and the variety of life under the waves.

It’s lovely to look at, with poetic narration, and provides lots to think about, especially in the second half, which explains oil spills. (The book was created after the Deepwater Horizon Gulf disaster. For those afraid of a liberal screed, they also acknowledge how we need oil for our lifestyle.) Yet it ends on a welcome note of hope.

Long-time comic fans may recognize the creators as those behind Very Vicky years ago.

Billie the Unicorn

by Brianne Drouhard
Immedium, $15.95

Drouhard is an accomplished animator, with credits including Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes, and the “Amethyst, Princess of Gemworld” short for the DC Nation block. That sense of fluid motion is on full display in this story of a young unicorn seeking adventure.

Billie visits her forest cousins in order to learn how to grow magic flowers, but she’s distracted by rumors of a better garden in the Queen’s palace. However, the greener vista in the distance is rarely what it seems, and family and friends are important for happiness.

The characters are designed in a distinctive, modern fashion. They’re not traditionally pretty, but they have a charm all their own. The book has its own website.

The Year of the Rabbit

by Oliver Chin and Justin Roth
Immedium, $15.95

This shows how far behind I am, since the year of the rabbit was 2011. If you’d like to see the more up-to-date installment, it’s The Year of the Dragon, the next book in this “Tales From the Chinese Zodiac” series.

Rosie is a new-born bunny who, with her forest friends, visit the nearby farm. Rosie is caught, leading to a series of rabbit references — carrots, lucky paws — until the bizarre ending of a chase involving a tiger and a dragon. Yes, I know they’re references to other parts of the Chinese Zodiac, but overall, this tale is muddled, pointless, and confusing. Those of Asian heritage or with interest in the culture might enjoy the slight story, but I can’t recommend it overall. Neat idea, though.

Kitty & Dino

by Sara Richard
Yen Press, $16.99

This nearly wordless, fantasy story will delight imaginative kids or those who want to foster that quality in younglings. The family cat explores a new discovery, a dinosaur egg. When it hatches, the cat dislikes the new inhabitant (who wants to follow the kitty around and be friends) but over time, comes to appreciate the oddly colored lizard-fluff. Once the dinosaur starts growing up, its attempts to mimic its friend become particularly funny, since size doesn’t always allow it.

The faded colors provide a dreamlike quality. The book is uniquely different in look from most kids’ publications, with sharp edges and weirdly pooled ink lines that add depth. The movement language and behavior of the animals is particularly realistic. There’s a lot of room for young readers to include their own interpretation of the characters’ feelings and motivations while still carrying a clear indication of what’s happening.

One Response to “Slush Pile: Good Children’s Books I Read Recently”

  1. Billie the Unicorn Available as Ebook; Special Discount Available » Comics Worth Reading Says:

    […] I talked about the charming children’s book Billie the Unicorn last week, I was made aware that it is also available as an ebook for the iPad/iPhone as well as […]




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