Scary Wallpaper Bark

What There Is Before There Is Anything There (A Scary Story) by Liniers. English translation by Elisa Amado. Groundwood Books / House of Anansi Press, 2014. 9781554983858. 24pp.

Argentinian cartoonist Liniers has several great books out from TOON (Written and Drawn by Henrietta is probably my favorite), and Enchanted Lion has been publishing his excellent comic strip in English since 2004 (the 4th volume of Macanudo was just published). You should read all of those. And this one, too, of course, which I was delighted to find at my local library.

It’s about that infinite black hole above a boy’s bed, after his parents turn off the light, and the things that come at night after his ceiling disappears. They’re weird little creatures, cartoonily monstrous, and then the terrifying branching darkness (the title character) appears, sending the boy fleeing to his parents’ bed. No moral, no explanation, no lesson.

I wish I’d had this book as a kid. It would have been proof that someone believed me, because I wasn’t lying about the monstrous hand that came out of the wall above the bed in my grandma’s house.

Gordon: Bark to the Future by Ashley Spires. Kids Can Press, 2018. 9781771384100. 72pp.

The 6th (or 7th?) book in the graphic novel series that began in Binky The Space Cat is as fun as the rest. F.U.R.S.T. (Felines of the Universe Ready for Space Travel) has become the more inclusive P.U.R.S.T (Pets of the Universe Ready for Space Travel), and a gadget-inventing dog named Gordon is a member. After aliens (bugs) hatched in the space station’s (house’s) walls, neutralized the cats, and made his humans flee, it’s up to Gordon to deal with the invasion. Without time for tests (he wasted it playing with a ball), Gordon uses his time machine to go back to try to prevent the invasion. But he went back too far — to when Binky was just a kitten and F.U.R.S.T. wanted nothing to do with a dog. Plus he may have just changed history for the worse.

Wallpaper by Thao Lam. Owl Kids, 2018. 9781771472838. 32pp.

This is one of those picture books that’s so beautiful, if you see it you have to pick it up. A big part of that is Lam’s cut paper artwork, which she assembles into colorful scenes full of expressive characters. Even the plain-seeming flowered wallpaper she creates is amazing.

A shy girl, alone in her house, hides when she’s noticed by three neighbor kids in a treehouse outside her window. Hiding behind her wall, she notices a small tear in her wallpaper. A single bird emerges, then a flock. When she peels it back, she finds herself in a forest, where a toothy three-eyed monster suddenly appears. But is it chasing her, or does it want to be friends? Doesn’t matter (at least at first), because it scares her, and sends her on an adventure across and into different walls that are full of textures and animals and loveliness.

Accident! After The Storm With Dogs

Accident! by Andrea Tsurumi. HMH Book for Young Readers, 2017. 9780544944800. 48pp.

Lola (an armadillo) knocks over a pitcher of juice and makes a huge mess, so she runs away to the library. On the way she meets a bear who breaks a swing set, a sheep who prunes a hose, a puffer fish with a ruined cake. As they continue their mad dash to the library, they leave cartoony chaos in their wake. A small animal does an ice cream spit take all over her friend, sloths have a car accident, and a bird wets himself — and that’s just some of what’s happening on one page. This is a beautifully drawn Where’s Waldo? of accidents.

My Pictures After The Storm by Éric Veillé. Gecko Press, 2017. 9781776571048. 32pp.

The orange of this book’s cover is so much brighter than it appears in the image to the left. Thick boards, amazing paper, and a matte finish on everything make it a joy to hold. On the left side of each two-page spread are cartoony pictures. On the right are the same things and people after. The first are things at the beach — on the right the slide is on its side, the bucket dumped, the surfboarder has a towel blown onto his face. See what happens to a cake after the elephant, to a kid’s life after the baby, and to some animals after too many potato chips. A fun way to build vocabulary and get some laughs.

A Day With Dogs by Dorothée de Monfried. Gecko Press, 2017. 9781776570980. 64pp.

The cover of this Gecko press book is glossy, but it’s got that same amazingly thick paper, and it’s also orange (though not dayglo). This is kind of a combo of the above two books for dog lovers. It uses word balloons and cartooniness to tell the story of what animals do all day like Accident!, and a lot of the items on each page are labeled, so it would be good for vocabulary building. The Bathroom page features a shih tzu on the toilet, a mutt in a bath towel, a dalmatian in a bathrobe, and six other dogs making a mess in a bath tub. The dogs get dressed, do some counting, make art, go to school, and more. It features lots of other animals as well and ends at home at night, so it might be a good book to flip through at bedtime, though many of the dogs aren’t sleeping. In fact a few are watching TV, using a computer, and raiding the fridge. Bad dogs!

Under Everything

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Under Earth, Under Water  (or maybe Under Water, Under Earth (depending on which side you see first) by Aleksandra Mizielinska and Daniel Mizielinski
Big Picture Press (Candlewick), 2016. 112pp. 9780763689223.
Gene: You ever seen any books from Big Picture Press? Most (if not all) of its books were originally published in Poland, in Polish, but they’re these amazing picture book by a husband and wife team whose names I never want to mangle. They’ve done some really big board books and books of maps, they’re just beautiful.  I want you to know I didn’t open this because I wanted to look at it with you for the first time.
Gene: It’s a flip book. One side is called Under Earth. The other side is called Under Water.  Look at, on the cover of the underwater side, all of the cool diving gear, some of it not real looking to me.
Sarah: Though I know that’s real because I used to have a picture of it above my desk.
Gene: I saw one of these bulbous, 1800s, brass diving suits in Paris in a museum, and it looked like something from Hellboy to me.  Then on the Under Earth side it’s all animals that live under ground along with some humans who are digging, along with some bones and stuff. Isn’t that cute?
Sarah: Yeah!
Gene: Let’s start on the Earth side.
Sarah: I like this graphical table of contents.
Gene: There are little pictures for each of the entries. #26 is Sewage, which is nice. And it’s not quite laid out from top to bottom, it’s more of an adventure, a little maze to follow.
Sarah: The pictures are cartoony but like you can see what the things are, they’re accurate. Giant earthworm! Yeah!
Gene: The large earth bumblebee. The European beewolf. (What the hell is that?) And there’s a cutaway of an ant hill.
Sarah: Ant fungi farming.
Gene: Burrowing animals.  There are little pictures everywhere. This is old world cartooning with really nice control of line and small textures. The armadillo is outstanding.
Sarah: My thought was, you can read this in any order. It would be really fun to read with a toddler.
Gene: And this is the kind of book that would get me exploring. It’s got my favorite, the naked mole rat, which the Pacific Science Center in Seattle has on display.
Sarah: Naked mole rats have this toilet room they go into and roll around in so that they smell the same. That way they can tell who is an invader and kill them.
Gene: And they don’t get cancer. That’s what I remember anyway. Or maybe I’m just a bad librarian.
Sarah: Badger. Red fox. Roots. Underground utilities!
Gene: There’s a toilet!  And the sewage system.
Sarah: Nice.
Gene: A word rarely used to describe a picture book’s two-page spread on sewage…and after you go down and down to the earth’s core, we can flip it over and start at the sea.
Looks like it starts at the ocean, coral reefs, sink holes.
Sarah: Sink holes!
Together: Ooooh!
Sarah: Those are cool.
Gene: Scuba diving, diving bells, a history of diving suits.
Sarah: Ha! It would be cool to walk around at the bottom of the sea but I’m not brave enough to do it.
Gene: I guess those diving suits on the cover are all real.  My favorite might be the Lodner-Phillips Underwater suit. It’s a steel cylinder. That’s insane.  One of these was made in 1715? What?
Sarah: There are the bits in 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea where they talk about walking around underwater in these suits. People have been thinking about it for a long time.
Gene: Wow. That wasn’t as out of the question as flying was. Oh! This is the one I saw in France in the Naval Museum!
Sarah: That’s really cool.
Sarah: Submarines! Look, the American Civil War submarine.
Gene: That was metal, right?
Sarah: Yes. Look, guys had to crank rows and rows of cranks to make it travel.
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Gene: There’s a scale picture of a blue whale’s eye.
Sarah: And a colossal squid’s!
Gene: Oil and gas platforms, scientists under water, the wreck of the Titanic — what a great color.
Sarah:  The blobfish!  A lot of these things were discovered in the 2010 census of marine life — scientists just looked for a bunch of cool stuff, and found things like the vampire squid.