Really real friend friends

Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham. First Second, 2017. 9781626724167. 224pp.

I feel like I’m seeing Pham’s name and artwork everywhere. I loved The Bear Who Wasn’t There (am I imagining the scene with a giraffe on a toilet?) and I’ve got Isabella for Real near the top of my to-read pile. And she also drew a full length graphic novel with Shannon Hale (Princess in Black, Rapunzel’s Revenge (I know she’s written a lot of other cool books, but those are my favs))?!? When does she sleep?

First, the art: fantastic. Pham captures the red-headed Shannon’s everyday antics and really brings her imagined games to life, too. She’s right up there with Raina Telgemeier. Wow.

The story: This is Shannon Hale’s story, based on her memories of elementary school friendships. (There are awkwardly beautiful pictures of Hale at the back for comparison with the character’s look, along with an author’s note about the story.) Shannon loves her friend Adrienne so much! But in second grade, others want her attention, too, and then Adrienne moves away. Shannon makes another friend, Tammy, who clearly wants Shannon’s friendship while all Shannon wants is for Adrienne to come back. And then she comes back. It’s painful to to read, and it only gets worse as girls form grade school cliques and Shannon moves in and out of them — lots of social anxiety, lots of stomach cramps. It’s saved from a didactic after school special vibe and comes alive because Shannon doesn’t always do the nicest thing, and like in real life it’s often not clear what she should do. (I’m leaving this where my high school aged daughter can find it.)

Fly Daddy Fly

My Dad’s A Birdman by David Almond, Illustrated by Polly Dunbar. Candlewick, 2008. 9780763636678. 128pp.

Gene: Before I moved last year I hadn’t seen this book for a long time, and I hadn’t really thought about it, but as I was looking at my shelf I realized this is the book from my daughter’s childhood that means the most to me. It’s one of the first chapter books we read together. It’s illustrated. And it’s all about a little girl coming to understand her very weird dad.
Sarah: (laughs)
Gene: It’s My Dad’s A Birdman by David Almond, illustrated by Polly Dunbar.
S: On the title page he’s eating a worm!
G: Lizzy’s the little girl. Her dad is kind of sad and unkempt.
S: Sad bathrobe dad!
G: She kind of takes care of him. There’s a guy named Mr. Poop who is taking entries for The Great Human Bird Competition, a contest to see who can be the first to fly across the River Tyne and win thousands of pounds. Mr. Poop comes around and calls for entries with a bullhorn, as one does. And Lizzy’s dad enters. He plans on wearing the wingsuit he’s made.
Continue reading “Fly Daddy Fly”

Like I Need a Reason to Crave Asian Style Pastry

Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong by A.J. Low. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 9781449477899.

sherlocksamElementary-aged, Singaporean amateur sleuth Sherlock Sam (real name: Samuel Tan Cher Lock) teams up with his sister, his cousin, and his snarky robot Watson to solve the mystery of his Auntie’s missing heirloom cookbook. Sherlock Sam is earnest, he learned all about problem-solving from Logicomix, he’s annoyed that adults keep pinching his chubby cheeks, and he’s motivated by food. This book made me hungry: it’s packed full of Singaporean delicacies (Sherlock Sam’s love of his Auntie’s ayam buah keluak is the main reason he wants to solve the case quickly).

This is an illustrated chapter book (though Andrews McMeel’s AMP! Kids imprint is known for graphic novels) with delightful black and white spot illustrations by Andrew Tan.

You can take the boy out of the cave but you can’t…

Caveboy Dave Book 1: More Scrawny Than Brawny by Aaron Reynolds, illustrated by Phil McAndrew. Viking, 2016. 9780147516589.

caveboy-dave-1Dave Unga Bunga wanted to invent something that everyone needs, like his grandfather (fire) and father (the wheel) did, but his stick-like “forfood” was a little ahead of its time. He thinks that maybe he should just become a hunter. But his teacher, Mr. Gronk, is unimpressed by his “running away from your prey like a terrified chipmunk” technique. This is a problem because Dave’s Baby-Go-Boom ritual is tomorrow. If he can’t invent something impressive overnight, he will have to venture into the wild with four friends. There they’ll need to hunt and kill one of the deadly and delicious animals known as The Big Six: a slothopod, a pokeyhorn, a flying rippy-beak, a giant blobby-good, a slugosaurus, or a stabby cat. If they can’t come back with meat for their tribe, they can’t come back at all. Ever.

I know that all sounds very threatening, but it’s really not. Dave is hilarious, and so are his inventions. McAndrew draws him like a completely well-meaning goober. In fact I love everything about the character and creature designs in this book, though my favorites things are the fake animals Mr. Gronk uses to train the kids (with limited success).

This graphic novel would be a fun and logical next step, reading level-wise, from Captain Underpants, and it won’t bore fun-loving grownups who read it aloud or read along.