"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · recommend · Tales · wondermous

gorgeously rendered

30 days of pbDay ElevenNasreddine

By Odile Weulersse, Illus. Rébecca Dautremer

Translated by Kathleen Merz

Eerdmans Books for Young Readers 2013

Orig. Flammarion 2005 (Fr)

nasreddine cover “No matter what Nasreddine tries, it seems that someone always finds something to disapprove of. Nasreddine is a legendary character popular in stories told throughout the Middle East, and this clever story will bring him to a new audience. Accompanied by stunning artwork, this tale offers a gentle reminder to readers that it isn’t always necessary to listen to the world’s criticisms.”–goodreads

nasreddine 1758327Nasreddine is worth picking up just to admire the cover and the artwork inside, but you should go ahead and read the delightful tale Weulersse has recorded inside. This one will go a long way for children and adults alike because no matter what young Nasreddine does, someone in the public sphere has something critical to say. Can such an old figure of wisdom in lore be any more timely?

nasreddine-pg-8Nasreddine is so small on the page, but always the most present that he does not risk insignificance—an important lesson to notice in and of itself. His father is marvelous and the world is rendered in such beautiful angles, colors and light.


Nasreddine is just a gorgeous book from text to image and back again. No doubt someone will want to read the French, but I found no trouble with Merz’s translation. This one is an absolute must!

* There is a “Historical Note” at the close. It tells us that Nasreddine is spoken of in many stories throughout the Middle East as a man who has the “ability to offer both wisdom and delight.” I am enchanted by the decision to render him as a child learning from his own wise father. Imagine this child growing up to continue in his delight and wisdom.


Odile Weulersse is an accomplished French author of children’s literature, writing historical fiction mainly. All this, of course, after earning impressive degrees at a young age before lecturing on Film and writing screenplays for television.

Rébecca Dautremer was born in 1971 in Gap in the South of France (Hautes Alpes). She attended classes in the ENSAD of Paris and got a degree in graphic edition in 1995. She afterwards became a graphic editor and illustrator. A few years ago, she started to write books of her own. Now living in Paris with her husband Taï-Marc Lethanh and their three children, she also works for the press for children (Milan-Presse and Fleurus-Presse), school publishers, and in advertising.  Her picture books are very poetic, with a hint of humour. Bio via goodreads

Dautremer has illustrated these books: The Secret Lives of Princesses by Phillipe Lechermeier (Sterling 2010), music-cd book Swing Café by Carl Novac (The Secret Mountain 2010), and many, many more that have yet to be translated from French into English, but might find in Spanish. And I’m interested to see her picture book app Eleanor’s Secret.

check out Kirkus Reviews

{images belong to Rebecca Dautremer}


"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · recommend · Tales

a fortunate find

30 days of pbDay TwoGoldy Luck and the Three Pandas

By Natasha Yim, Illustrated by Grace Zong

Charlesbridge 2014.

GoldyLuckThreePandas_300small “One Chinese New Year, Goldy Luck’s mother asks her to take a plate of turnip cakes to the neighbors. The Chans aren’t home, but that doesn’t stop Goldy. She tries out their rice porridge, their chairs, and their beds—with disastrous results. What an unlucky way to start the year!”—Publisher’s Comments

GoldyLuck_4-5leftStill waking for the day, Goldy runs the errand for her mother rather begrudgingly. Finding the Chan’s apartment empty, she also finds the congee (rice porridge) too much to resist, same with the chairs and beds. Of course, the Chan’s know who she is when she runs away. It is a wonderful twist that Goldy cannot forget what she’s done and how it affects her neighbors. The apology goes over well and she begins her new year on a high note, suggesting maybe that some wealth and good luck can be made, not merely wished or destined.


Yim is humorous, and the illustrations (acrylic on paper) carry the same kind of warmth and dry-wit. Yim’s version of the classic tale has details that make the story relatable to modern audiences, and manages to entertain and write a good lesson. Goldy is rewritten from a selfish, invading figure to a child who can be a bit foolish and unlucky, but who can also be sympathetic and fortunate.

goldyluck interior

The illustrations are engaging, with just the right balance of realism and play (like the text itself). Yim and Zong have created a successful partnership here. The colors and the movement, the openness, are attractive and easy on the eyes. And if so desired, only reading the pictures will tell a great deal of the story itself.

An “Author’s Note” follows the story wherein it further illuminates the themes and actions of the story, “Before New Year’s Day it is customary for people to clean their houses, repay their debts, and resolve old arguments in order to star fresh in the new year, as Goldy’s mother advises her.” And there is a translation for a well-wishing she uses in the story with a pronunciation guide in both Cantonese and Mandarin.


“The Chinese Zodiac” and “A Lucky Character” are nice paragraphs accompanying a rather adorable rendering of the Chinese zodiac. The final bonus feature is not the least for being last: a “Turnip Cake” recipe!

A delightful read…for an occasion or no. It will be one to own, and share.


Natasha Yim  also authored Otto’s Rainy Day (Charlesbridge 2000); Cixi the Dragon Empress (Goosebottom 2011); and Sacajawea and the Shoshone with illus. Albert Nguyen (Goosebottom 2012)

Born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, at five she moved to Singapore, and at 10 Hong Kong. She traces her love of writing back to First Form English class (~7th grade). When studying in college in California, Yim earned her first BA in English Lit w/ a Writing emphasis, but went on to receive an M.S. in Counseling Psychology. “Most of my job career has been in counseling or social work. […] Along the way, I’ve written articles for regional and national magazines and newspapers, and three picture books.” (My Story)  “In addition to being a children’s author, I’m a freelance writer and playwright.” (Other Writing)

Grace Zong  Studied at RISD; She splits her time between New York and Korea. She also illustrated Orange Peel’s Pocket by Rose A. Lewis (Harry N. Abrams 2010), her first picture book.

{images belong to Grace Zong}


"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · recommend · Tales


30 days of pb

Day One:  Ganesha’s Sweet Tooth

by Sanjay Patel and Emily Haynes, illustrated by Sanjay Patel

Chronicle Books, 2012. Includes “Authors’ Note” wherein some pronunciation help is provided.

ganesha's sweettooth coverGanesha is just like any other kid, except that he has the head of an elephant and rides around on a magical mouse. And he loves sweets, especially the traditional dessert laddoo. But when Ganesha insists on biting into a super jumbo jawbreaker laddoo, his tusk breaks off! Ganesha is terribly upset, but with the help of the wise poet Vyasa, and his friend Mr. Mouse, he learns that what seems broken can actually be quite useful after all.

The bold, bright colors of India leap right off the page in this fresh and funny picture book retelling (with a twist) of how Ganesha came to help write the epic poem of Hindu literature, the Mahabharata. With vibrant, graphic illustrations, expressive characters, and offbeat humor, this is a wonderfully inventive rendition of a classic tale.—jacket copy

Ganeshas Sweet Tooth_Int 1

The vibrant colors and beautiful pattern work sweeten the reading of this picture book. The energy in the illustrations is akin to a sugar high, without the troubling side effects. The familiar amid the un- was a nice touch and a smart move. The authors, in their note, hope their play with the classic tale will intrigue readers/listeners to greater intrigue. I hope they do a whole series.* I am already hooked.

ganesha's Sweettooth1The illustrative work of doing the lengthier passages of time is clever and the design work is remarkable. Love the shift to blues for backgrounds, and Mouse’s reassurance: “Everyone loses their teeth. And besides, you already have an elephant’s head and your friends still love you.” The bright pinks and yellows and turquoise darken to blues and grays with Ganesha’s mood, only to return in a sunny declarative array once Ganesha is able to appreciate the turn of events. The turn of greater selflessness is subtle, but noticeable, and parent’s will also appreciate the calming effect of the last illustrated page when the colors mute into cooling tones and the movement of the illustrations have taken on a repose for this final scene.

ganesha's sweettooth endpages

{the endpages}

I absolutely adore this picture book, it is beautiful, entertaining, and invites the imagination and further interest in the story to which it alludes…Needless to say, I highly recommend it.


*Discovered Gheehappy.com: “Ghee Happy is a brand that celebrates Indian mythology and culture thru design and storytelling in a fun and modern way.  This vision has lead to the publication of two books, museum exhibits, apparel, and products.” Ramayana: Divine Loophole (Chronicle Books, 2010) sounds awesome.

Sanjay Patel is an animator and storyboard artist for Pixar Animation Studios, where he has worked on many features including A Bug’s Life, Ratatouille, and the Cars series. Sanjay is also the creator of Ramayana: Divine LoopholeThe Big Poster Book of Hindu Deities, and The Little Book of Hindu Deities. His modern interpretations of Hindu epics have been exhibited at the San Francisco Asian Art Museum.

Emily Haynes is an editor by day, specializing in entertainment and humor titles, and a children’s writer by night. In her spare time she can often be found up to her elbows in clay, making functional ceramics. This is her first children’s book.

{images belong to Sanjay Patel}


"review" · concenter · juvenile lit · mystery · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · series · short story · Tales · Uncategorized

{comics} lost islands & found creators

Explorer: The Lost Islands 

edited by Kazu Kibuishi

Amulet Books (Abrams) 2013.

tradepaper, 128 pages, incl “about the creators.” Library Loan

The highly anticipated second volume to the critically acclaimed Explorer series, “The Lost Islands “is a collection of seven all-new stories written and illustrated by an award-winning roster of comics artists, with each story centered around the theme of hidden places. Edited by the “New York Times “bestselling comics creator Kazu Kibuishi, this graphic anthology includes well-written, beautifully illustrated stories by Kazu (the Amulet series), Jason Caffoe (the Flight series), Raina Telgemeier (“Drama “and “Smile”), Dave Roman (the Astronaut Academy series), Jake Parker (the Missile Mouse series), Michel Gagne (“The Saga of Rex”), Katie and Steven Shanahan (the Flight series), and up-and-coming new artist Chrystin Garland. –publisher’s comments

Can I begin a post about a Kazu Kibuishi affiliated anything without confessing what a fan-girl I am of his work? No. It is a goal of mine to not only own a collection of his work, but be able to gift some away. His Amulet series is an easy recommendation for instilling that comic book addiction in your young. But like his Flight anthologies for the older crowd, Explorer curates excellent talent in which to introduce the young to potential fan-girl and -boy obsessions with various industry creators. See my review of Explorer: Mystery Boxes here and lets take a look at this installment’s theme “hidden places.” [click creator name for link to their website. *=a favorite]

*”Rabbit Island” by Jake Parker (Missile Mouse, illus The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man) pp 4-19.

The rabbits have built a nice little utopia when one especially hard-working (and innovative) bunny salvages a robot and puts it to work alongside him.  Soon, it isn’t only the robot who becomes unrecognizable.

I really dig the color palette, it and the staining/wash and lettering bubbles reminds me of my worn out kids comics from well, ages ago when I was a kid. Not only does it work with the tale-quality of the comic, but it affords today’s youth the experience of their parent’s nostalgia with more contemporary sensibilities. In a way, it is like Will Eisner for kids, but with Jake Parker’s singular drawing arm. And may I say that I find the finish refreshingly absent of dramatic lighting–when I say ‘shiny!’ I want to employ the Whedon-esque meaning.

*”The Mask Dance” by Chrystin Garland pp 20-37 (d)

Nathaniel Hawthorne (minus the religious moral) meets one dancing princess in this mysterious and thrilling tale of a young lady’s night out.

The dark is just dark enough and the color dazzling into appropriately garish. The painterly quality helps animate and lend the light that artificial quality that tonally unsettles. An up-and-comer to watch.

“Carapace” by Jason Caffoe (lead production assistant for Amulet series, contributor for FlightExplorer) pp 38-55

You could easily create a moral from surviving and being nurtured by observing nature and finding a spirit guide, but “Carapace” is a story of friendship, of (im)moveable shelters. It is a nice twist on a deserted island story when the boy isn’t left completely abandoned nor is the island deserted.

Caffoe’s work with color is a stock & trade, but he tells a good story. There is a lot of text and a lot of setting, but there is also an eye for detail that draws the reader in. The island becomes less terrifying and more exotically beautiful, mimicking the camaraderie between boy and crab-ghost-from-the-shell.

{w/out text}

*”Desert Island Playlist” by Dave Roman (Astronaut AcademyTeen Boat!) & Raina Telgemeier (SmileDrama), colors by Braden Lamb (Adventure Time) pp 56-73. (d)

Wow, this one was creative with the playlist theme. The baby-toy is a stroke of genius and helps with the time-travel puzzle. I also appreciate that they aren’t willing to underestimate the youth-audience’s ability to get the “memory” pieces in juxtaposition to text and tale. This is a smart and beautiful story, but then it is Roman and Telgemeier.

The creators are good with movement and use the text with economy. They are as explicit with translating important visuals as is necessary, but engage the reader in creating meaning. The art is accessible, full of movement and just enough cartoon to lighten the tone.

“Loah” by Michel Gagne (The Saga of RexZED: A Cosmic Tale) pp 74-91.

Loah is a special creature, but what is even more remarkable is her friendship. She sees a way out of her crumbling world and she dreams for all of the others, and swears that her friendship helps her to do so.

The movement, like the story is sweeping, but the story itself small and deceptively simple. I am enjoying this thread of neither inhabiting nor leaving these hidden places alone. I’ve been impressed with the vibrant colors up to this point, but Gange’s piece is as magical as the tale he tells. 

“Radio Adrift” by Katie Shanahan (Womanthology: Heroic) & Steven Shanahan (sibling co-creators of Silly Kingdom), colors by Eric Kim & Selena Dizazzo pp. 92-109

Alright, so this one is just stinking cute. Mage-in-training, Wiya needs for her pixie egg to hatch and has attempted every sound possible. And then Radio Adrift drifts in for a limited time engagement. The focus turns outward, especially when Wiya recognizes that she has to refocus the conversation.

The style of artwork is fun, and I enjoy the light shift for the storytelling portion of the story told. This will be effortless in its candy colors, spunky characters and magical turn.

*”The Fishermen” by Kazu Kibuishi, colors by Jason Caffoe pp 110-27. (d)

The captain may have lost it (mentally and physically?), to the greed of a catch of a (literal) lifetime. The story uncovers hidden things both base and incredible, and with an old fisherman and his granddaughter at the helm it is a delightful short story.

Kibuishi is marvelous with scale as well as story. The characters are expressive. And the action sequences are fun, the illustrations managing a great deal of movement between steadying frames.

{images belong to respective artists. be sure to check out their sites, and of course, the book to enjoy more of their work!} {d=diversity in lit}

"review" · fiction · juvenile lit · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · Tales

{book} cello girls

rooftoppers coverRooftoppers by Katherine Rundell

w/ illustrations by Terry Fan

Simon & Schuster, 2013.

Hardcover, 277 pages.

newly owned, juvenile fiction (8-12).

‘On the morning of its first birthday, a baby was found floating in a cello case in the middle of the English Channel.’ Sophie may have survived a shipwreck as a baby, but her life really began when an eccentric but loving bachelor brought her home. Charles uses toast as a bookmark and welcomes Sophie writing on the walls. But when a child services organization threatens to remove Sophie to an orphanage, she and Charles flee to Paris to search for the one thing that might save her: her long-lost mother. (jacket copy)

If you guessed that I based this book purchase on the promise of the whimsical, you’d be right. And it imparts plenty of imaginative charm as the story cartwheels its way toward Parisian rooftops. The whimsy moves from quaint to less precious fascinations: like limited food resources, climate, and clothing. As with the tale itself, real life intrudes. It is questionable whether Charles and Sophie can go on like they are, in their own little world, and reality takes the cold and crude form of social services. In all honesty, they should’ve been just fine, but that persistent belief that her mother did indeed survive the sinking ship is finally able to be tested.

The benefit of beginning with an embrace of the unusual is the ability to continue in it. The story continually asks the reader to test probability, indeed, Charles’ family motto is: “You should never ignore a possible.” It takes imagination and Rundell proves she is fanciful in spades in introducing a world of rooftoppers.

Sophie is a strange and clever girl with fellow characters of just as appealing (read compelling) personality. However, it is in the meeting a young male rooftopper Matteo that we realize not all of Sophie’s quirks have been randomly generated. She is well-suited for this adventure, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a few fears to overcome.

While the beginning chapters leading to Paris do not feel hurried, the novel relaxes into the fascination with the rooftops and its whys and wherefores. The “mother hunt” is never far from the teller’s consciousness, but the rooftoppers are evidently the reason the story is being told. It becomes a difficulty, in this relatively short novel, when spending an evening with Matteo competes with the greater premise of finding Sophie’s mother so she isn’t separated from Charles and doomed to the cold and sinister halls of institutionalization. Matteo is an appealing Peter Pan, Sophie is not as obnoxious as Wendy (which isn’t that hard to do, but still), and the rooftops make for an intriguing Neverland. But the story must close, and it is a fairly tidy ending with plenty of daydreams for readers to detach and carry with them. My impulse though is to not look for a sequel, but an anime.

I really adore Charles, the interactions there are completely lovely. And the plucky heroine and charming voice of the storyteller make for an entertaining read. I know exactly where to keep it on the shelf, when I am not lending it out.

recommendations… ages 8-12, love the fantastic, the fairy tale, and/or a bit of the improper. If you recoil at the idea of spitting, you needn’t bother.

of note: was a 2013 read.

"review" · comics/graphic novels · concenter · juvenile lit · recommend · sci-fi/fantasy · series · Tales · young adult lit

{comics} delilah and her lieutenant

or is it The Lieutenant and his Delilah…?

delilah-dirkDelilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant (book 1) by Tony Cliff

First Second Books, 2013. Tradepaper, 176 pages. first half sample.

Delilah Dirk is the heroine of a series of adventure comics set during the early 19th century. Each story is completely self-contained, and they’re suitable for readers of all ages!” –site.

as for the and the Turkish Lieutenant:

“First, Delilah Dirk causes his execution. Then, she saves his life. Honour-bound to return the favour, Selim, the titular Turkish lieutenant, plunges into a world of danger and excitement. What will he sacrifice to repay his debt?”


Tony Cliff renders 4 truly beautiful chapters of a Delilah Dirk adventure narrated by Selim, a gentle, tea-loving Turkish lieutenant swept up in her latest scheme: to rob a dangerous Sultan in Constantinople.

delilah dirk excerpt

Using Selim as the narrator facilitates a wonderful introduction to Delilah Dirk. Raised an English ambassador’s daughter, she has traveled the globe and learned skills from various exotic locations that contribute to a completely daring bad-ass heroine of epic-Indiana-Jones-proportion. Selim is less the risk-taker of this unlikely pairing; and as far as the story goes, he is the more mysterious character. His own characterization pulls her back from becoming a caricature—if having such a heroine could be deemed caricature-esque.  Their individual personalities, senses of humor and adventure collide and complement in entertaining ways. He is gentle where she is ferocious; longing for comforts while she mans an airship; and their aptitudes differ. That the story is one of friendship is as unexpected as their companionship.

delilah dirk bk 1

Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is as dynamic visually. It is flat-out pretty, illustration, ink, color, letters, its one of the easiest-on-the-eyes comics you’ll come across. And it is fluid, so much so that you eye-blink your way out of a magically real sequence that encloses one of the loveliest illustrations in the book—page 64. The energy is in the figure and antics of Delilah Dirk, in the expressive range of Selim’s visage , and the carefully paced frames racing and climbing across pages, looking for the restful vista of a full-page panel. There are tensions between the carefully contained and the explosive energy in the pairing of Delilah and Selim, and panel and page. The crafting is subtle and I had to recover from an infatuation with the art to re-view it.

delilah dirk coverLovers of potentially foolhardy adventures will enjoy Tony Cliff’s beautifully rendered work, but I think those who also possess an eye for craft will experience the most pleasure. Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant is an exciting comic you’ll not want to miss.


a concenter-quality read: significant poc characters, foreign setting, gender defiance

{images belong to Tony Cliff}

"review" · chapter/series · Children's · juvenile lit · recommend · series · Tales

{book} taking the case

Ivy_and_Bean_Take_the_Case_FC_HiResIvy + Bean: Take the Case (Book 10)

by Annie Barrows + Sophie Blackall (illus)

Chronicle Books, 2013. Hardcover, 126 pages.

Modeling herself after a classic film noir detective from her mother’s favorite film, Private Investigator Bean “laughs at danger! […] And she and her assistant, Ivy, are ready, willing, and able to solve any mystery you can throw at them.” If there were any mysteries deemed mysterious enough in Pancake Court, that is…

Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall deliver yet another delightfully creative and intelligent Ivy + Bean adventure. I was surprised to find, however, that plenty of the usual fans on goodreads did not care for this 10th installment. Most of the explanations focused on their “boredom during the first portion of the book” and its “untidy ending.” And I can see that, especially if one misses what is going on in the story.

A mystery was a question you couldn’t find the answer to. In Al Seven’s world, the mysteries were things like Who took Hester’s jewels? or Where was Sammy La Barba on the night of May twelfth? Bean didn’t have any jewels and she sure as heck didn’t know anyone named Sammy La Barba, but there were plenty of questions that she didn’t have answers to. […] What’s inside the cement thing in the front yard? What’s behind the Tengs’ fence and why do they lock it up? and What’s the matter with the mailman? when she asked these questions, her parents usually said something like It’s none of your business. That meant that there was an answer, but they didn’t want her to know it. (13-4)

Investigator Bean and her assistant Ivy are having problems solving mysteries that are impressive enough to satisfy the crowd (e.g. the other kids of Pancake Court), and apparently the reader (e.g. goodreads reviews). Or, rather, it is the answers that their investigations reveal that lack audience interest, because Ivy and Bean are not the only one’s who’ve always wondered about the cement thing, Teng’s backyard or the mailman. When they solve the mystery, the answer turns out to be a lackluster one. The girls are increasingly mocked and the pressure intensifies to find a mystery “strange” enough to satisfy their difficult crowd (which, granted, includes themselves).

Suddenly a rope appears and know one knows who hung it from Dino’s chimney. Every night knots add length as it begins to wind about Pancake Court. This is where the “big mystery” kicks in–but obviously not the story. In Film Noir, this is where the story would start, too. But this is Pancake Court and Bean is not a hardened, tormented detective. And this is Annie Barrows and Sophie Blackall breaking from the formulaic. In many ways, their willingness to dare something unexpected and different reclaims the word and idea of mystery; and in doing so, they do what they do exceptionally well: argue on the side of creativity and its prerequisite imagination and different points-of-view.

ivy and bean $(KGrHqNHJF!FFwcJd6+(BRkZVQp7cg~~60_57

Some mysteries are going to remain mysteries, like the one presented in the first chapter: Why would a mother who restricts Bean’s screen-watching-time to ten movies with a strict personal-parental rating allow her daughter to watch a film that breaks all but one of those rules? Barrows could have launched Bean’s new obsession from another source (as many other picture and early chapter books have done).

Clues to who-dunnit appear throughout the early mysteries before we’ve arrived to the Big Case. There is a lot to suggest the who and why by the time the crowd is threatening a revolt. Did the investigative reader consider all the angles? In Mysteries, does the reader really leave it up to the Investigator to do all the work?

<<spoilers alert!!! spoilers!!!!>>

Noting his presence/timing in text/illustration: Jake the Teenager. Why? to help a nutty neighbor out, or to amuse himself, or both? But why leave “The Mystery of the Yellow Rope” unsolved? because the magic of having a mystery is really what Ivy and Bean have discovered to be the most enticing part of a mystery. Think about how quickly the attitude shifted when questions were answered. Boring ol’Pancake Court became even more so.

“Al Seven is always wanting to solve mysteries,” Bean said. “That’s what I don’t get about him,” said Ivy. “Why does he always want to solve them? You solve problems, but a mystery isn’t a problem, so why does it have to be solved?” “Sometimes it’s a problem,” said Bean. “This one isn’t. Nobody’s getting hurt or anything. It’s a nice mystery.” [Ivy said.] (105-6)

Yet again they “solve” the mystery and it isn’t satisfying; the answer’s lack of logic doesn’t help. I am fascinated by the inclusion of the children’s impulse to inform their parents of the rope and inquire of the answer of them. It couples well with this (oft frustrated) need for immediacy and for any work they put in to be rewarded in a way that feels rewarding. The neighborhood kids aren’t getting the “niceness” of the Yellow Rope Mystery, nor are some of its readers, apparently; which is okay. I just find it a smart, creative shift of perspective.

<<spoilers!!!! over……>>

ivy and bean illu-IB_WalkAwayNot all mysteries can be solved, some you do not want to solve, and many have really lackluster answers. That the audience longs for creativity, not only in the mystery but its answers is a central conflict that Take the Case handles beautifully, because it remains a mystery as to why the demand for creativity often ends up in a loathing of the creative revelation or response; or is it? Is this all too much for a grade school chapter book? Hardly…which is why I really love knowing Ivy+Bean exists. In Literature, we expect the form to contribute to the coherence of the work. You needn’t a degree to discover it; if it does, I suppose it fails. I do not believe Take the Case fails. I am continually impressed with how thoughtful the crafting of this series has proven itself to be while yet possessing utter charm and entertainment.

For all the talk of mysteries, Barrows/Blackall keep the friendship center stage as the two explore a childhood and all its strange mysteries together. Like the mutually supportive fictional duo, Blackall’s illustrations are without fail a flawless partner in the rendering of personality the text would infuse into the characters and story. There is no second-guessing or mystery as to whether these to two will stick together come what may.

recommendations…girl or boy, gradeschool, who like humor, contemporary fiction, and friendship stories. A series for those who desire to nurture their young (or to-be) creative writer and reader of Literature. Not for readers who expect (and desire) a transparent tale and its simplistic ribbon-tied ending for their young reader.

{images belong to Sophie Blackall}