The Barnabus Project by the Fan Brothers. 2020. Graphite and colored digitally. Published by Penguin Random House.
Brief summary: Barnabus is a combo of a mouse and an elephant. He lives in a secret lab underneath the Perfect Pets store. Barnabus is one of many failed projects living in bell jars dreaming of the world above thanks to the descriptions of it by a cockroach named Pip. One day Green Rubber Suits come down poking and talking about each creature in a bell jar while putting red stamps on all of the jars…FAIL. Before, they had no idea they were failed lab projects until Pip tells them that they indeed are and that there are better versions of themselves above. The creatures are going to be recycled. Barnabus decides he wants to go up now and see that wonderful world the cockroach tells everyone. All the creatures decide to join Barnabus and their adventures begin with figuring out how to get above. What will they discover?
Comments: I love the imagination and creativity of this book. The Perfect Pets Store is hilarious. Young readers can empathize with the failed projects and the desire of the creatures wanting to escape to live freely in a new world.
The Fan Brothers never fail to share a unique and creative story.
At the Pond by Geraldo Valério; illustrated by Geraldo Valério. 2020. Graphite pencil, color pencil, acrylic paint, latex pain, color markers, and a little bit of gouache paint. Published by Groundwood Books.
Brief summary: A boy walks his dog on a chain leash in the woods to the pond of swans. The boy rides on the back of one of the swans. The pond is full of birds and other animals with beautiful flowers growing on the shore.
The boy takes off the dog’s leash so it could play with the butterflies. The little boy puts it around the neck of the swan instead which causes the pond to turn gray and all of the swans to fly away.
The boy takes off the chain and drops it into the pond which brings all of the colors and animals back to the pond.
Comments: A simple but excellent story without words for children to learn about the respect and empathy of Mother Nature’s animals. Using the bright colors to symbolize happiness and the black and white section to equal imprisonment and unhappiness helps readers understand the story.
The Cool Bean by Jory John; illustrated by Pete Oswald. 2019. Scanned watercolor textures and digital paint. Published by Harper Collins.
Brief summary: A bean admires his friends who are now cool beans. Everything they do is cool, and he wishes he was as cool. No matter how much he tries to match their coolness, he fails in comparison and begins to lose his self-esteem. One day, he drops his lunch in the cafeteria and was amazed that one of the cool beans helped him clean it up. He continues to have other mishaps and is helped by the cool beans. He regains his self-confidence and realizes that coolness isn’t about how one looks but about helping others.
Comments: The illustrations are hilarious. The story’s morale would appeal to young readers. Several bean puns.
These are a few others by this author/illustrator duo with funny life lessons to share:
Coming out in February 2020:
Baabwaa & Wooliam: A Tale of Literacy, Dental Hygiene, and Friendship by David Elliott; illustrated by Melissa Sweet. 2017. Watercolor, gouache, and mixed media. Published by Candlewick Press.
Brief summary: Wooliam loves to read, and Baabwaa loves to knit. The two sheep enjoy spending the days with their favorite activity until one day, Wooliam suggests that the two friends go on an adventure. They leave their trailer and have a walkabout of the field not going past the stone wall. They are just finishing their lunch of grass when a third sheep approaches with a dirty wool coat. “Run!” said Wooliam. “It’s that Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing I’ve read about.” The wolf chases but then stops, curious about what they had read about him. The sheep show him the book. After realizing the wolf cannot read, the sheep decide to teach him how to read and knit him a new coat. No good deed goes unpunished, but the three do arrive to harmony.
Comments: These two sheep decide to be kind and understanding to someone even though he has the reputation of eating them, has awful teeth, and is constantly chasing them around the field. A different viewpoint of the Big Bad Wolf.
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The Lost Kitten by Lee Sakai; illustrated by Komako Sakai. 2017(translation). Arylic colors and oil pencils. Published by Gecko Press.
Brief summary: Hina and her mother open the front door to find a sickly kitten with a mama cat and her other kittens standing aside. The mother cat meows and nods her head as to ask for them to take care of her baby before leaving. Hina’s mother agrees to keep the kitten and brings it inside. She gently wipes the goo from the kitten’s eyes explaining to her daughter that they will take it to the vet tomorrow to make sure the little feline is okay. Hina learns how to take care of the tiny kitten as it explores the house. Her mother must go to buy cat food leaving Hina with her sleeping Grandmother. Hina tries to come up with a name for the new family addition and realizes the kitten is no longer in her sight. She searches all over the house becoming very upset recalling the time she was lost in a store and wanted her mother. She felt the little kitten must have felt the same way and must be found immediately. Not seeing it anywhere inside, Hina concludes the kitten must have slipped outside when her mother left to go for food. The girl opens the closet door and starts to put on her coat when she looks down finding the kitten on the bottom of the closet floor safe and sleeping. The little girl begins to cry relieved to have found her new lost baby. Her mother comes home learning Hina has come up with the name for the newest member of the family.
Comments: This book was originally printed in Japan in 2015. The unique illustrations of Komako Sakai stand out with this book through her soft and muted brushstrokes and black pencil. I could not find a lot of information about this author and illustrator but hope to have more books translated in the future.
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