"review" · Children's · Picture book

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30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay Twenty-Two: Iggy Peck, Architect

by Andrea Beaty, illus. by David Roberts

Abrams Books for Young Readers, 2007.

igg peck cover

“A hilarious, irreverent book introduces Iggy Peck, who has been building fabulous creations since he was two. But when his new second-grade teacher declares her dislike of architecture, Iggy faces a challenge.”–publisher’s comments.

igg peck page

Traumatized at an early age by architecture, Iggy’s second grade teacher forbids any hint of it in the classroom. This sucks for Iggy because he is all about the Architecture and has been since an early age. He was precocious to say the least about it. Now school is boring–that is, until he is able to prove his creative genius is of value after all.


iggy peck page 2

{love the reverse shots}

The story is that straightforward, except in how Andrea Beaty manages a rhyming text throughout. Hers is enjoyable work and –no shocker–so are David Roberts’ illustrations. I love looking at the characters and their clothes, the patterns and textures. He has an eye for story in his compositions, in what is or is not there. For example, when Architecture is banished, Iggy sits at an empty desk, alone on a massive expanse of white page. There is nothing left for him, and he isn’t the only one to lose out for it. The classroom literally disappears. Then there is that fun when Iggy inspires his classmates to help save the day.

Iggy is entertaining. This will be a good purchase for the young creative mind in the family (which is, hopefully, every young mind you know); by the time she/he gets around to Architecture there should actually be some design work.

"review" · fiction · Illustrator · juvenile lit · series · Tales

tales of terror from the black ship

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship

by Chris Priestly

Illustrations by David Roberts

Bloomsbury, 2008.

Hardcover, 243 pages

I will never look at snails the same way again. –Thank You Chris Priestly for adding another neurosis, and Thank You Carl V. for the book recommendation.

I am not one who boasts a fearlessness when opening a book of scary stories meant for children. I’ve learned my lesson, but I didn’t think Priestly’s Tales of Terror from the Black Ship was going to get me, especially after the mysterious Thackeray’s first tale. Sticking with the read I was eventually rewarded by becoming both grossed out and properly horrified. It is my fondest wish that after reading this book, you will feel the same.

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship is a collection of scary stories set at sea, or involving the sea-faring. The stories are woven into a narrative involving a boy, Ethan, and his younger sister, Cathy, who are left ailing and alone at the family Inn while their father is fetching medicine for them. A stranger comes and due to the fierceness of the storm outside, they feel obliged to let him stay until it passes. Thackeray is a suspicious figure, but he keeps the morbid children entertained with stories of the macabre (their favorite). Between tales, the interactions between characters create a growing sense of unease. It doesn’t help either that the stories themselves become increasingly scary. And after Thackeray has finished his last tale for the evening, there is yet one more tale of terror to be finished, it had been drawing itself out.

The tale I found the most delicious in sensation? The Scrimshaw Imp. The Monkey had me laughing in that hysterical way; nice, and terrifying. Nature and The Boy in the Boat had wonderfully grotesque moments and lingering unease. I did appreciate the overall story, though I admit there were times I felt the Tales and tales went on a bit long; which is likely due to my impatience or those anxiety-induced moments of “oh dear, there’s more!?” Oh, but the ending is nicely done, Priestly’s devisements work.

The addition of David Roberts’ illustrations are delectable. They are wonderfully Edward Gorey-esque. Each tale is given an illustration incorporating a title, a more seamless way to mind how the tales are all part of a greater story. And you’ll be looking forward (with some trepidation) to the full page illustration that comes with each story. They capture the mood and are always worth lingering upon.

Tales of Terror from the Black Ship is the second in a series of Tales of Terror by Chris Priestly. Unfortunately, the Library here only had this one. I am assured that the first book Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror is brilliant (and likely better). I’ll be looking forward to the others. If you are curious about them, check out Carl V.’s reviews for Uncle Montague’s Tales of Terror and Tales of Terror from the Tunnel’s Mouth. You’re sure to be persuaded to try one of these volumes, if not all—even if that means adding a new fear of something.

>>>note: this book can be pretty gorey and violent–a bit of a given. However, like Carl, I feel a caution is necessary on the language; ” for a book that is published for children, I was a little taken aback by the amount of swearing and by a few sexual remarks.” I agree with Carl when he suggests it fits the coarseness of the setting/lifestyle. The book being published in the UK first might have to do with it as well. But a caution just the same, at least for the 8 and change crowd.

this has most definitely been considered a Reader’s Imbibing Peril (RIP) VI read.

"review" · Children's · comics/graphic novels · Illustrator · juvenile lit · Picture book · recommend

the dunderheads

Browsing the Library Juvenile Fiction w/ N and this was face out. Attractive cover and title, the daughter and I looked at each other, smiled, and borrowed it.

The Dunderheads by Paul Fleischman, Illustrated by David Roberts

Candlewick Press, 2009. Juvenile Picture Book: Ages 6-10.

Miss Breakbone hates kids. Especially the “time-squandering, mind-wandering, doodling, dozing dunderheads” in her class. But when she confiscates Junkyards crucial find, she finally goes too far. Enter Wheels (and his souped-up bike with forty-eight extra gears), Pencil (who can draw anything from memory), Spider (look up and you’ll find him), and their fellow misfits in a spectacular display of teamwork aimed at teaching Miss Breakbone a lesson she wont soon forget. From the incomparable Paul Fleischman comes a winning cast of underdogs; and one of the most terrifying teachers you’ll ever meet; brought to vivid life in David Robertss quirky, hilarious illustrations.~Publisher’s comments.

Reading Comics shouldn’t be seen as an act of rebellion and reading Picture Books post second grade shouldn’t be a source of embarrassment. Especially with the works of Shaun Tan residing so comfortably on grown-up shelves. Course, it doesn’t  hurt when the book isn’t formatted for two laps and is more popularly categorized as a “graphic novel.” The daughter (newly 11) and I huddled over the pages of Paul Fleischman authored and David Roberts illustrated The Dunderheads—a wonderful hybrid read for those of us who still love picture books after we’ve become proficient readers and avid fans of the comic form.

The Dunderheads is narrated by the boy who sits at his desk with a chess set, Einstein. It is obvious he is familiar with strategy, understanding how to make the diverse pieces at hand work to his advantage. Each of the “dunderheads” has a unique talent and they each have a role to play in recovering Theodore’s (aka Junkyard) present for his mother, confiscated by Miss Breakbone who likes to hock such items to fund her evil lifestyle.

Will you ever see a classroom with this range in talent? Yes. And you just never know when that long-distance spitter will come in handy, or when someone’s obsession may prove crucial in a heist–or in response to a hostile learning environment.

Miss Breakbone brings to mind Madame Medusa from The Rescuers (1977) and Ms. Trunchbull from Matilda (1996). Her exaggerated bosom in theme with the rest of the presumptions the read interrogates; Miss Breakbone is hardly maternal.

Roberts’s (The Dumpster Diver) drawings, with their delicate lines and sly cultural references (Miss Breakbone looks like a cold war — era prison guard), convey just the right note of dastardly charm. ~Publisher’s Weekly

The Dunderheads proves and exceptional balance of great storytelling in the text and image. Both Fleischman and Roberts allow for the right amount of wit and daring in this combined effort to subvert an establishment: both in story form and social implication. Each revel in their own intelligence and obsession; creating a book that demands its own attention (neither conforming to strict panel or open image/text formats); telling a story that validates and encourages individuality and cooperation. I see The Dunderheads as being a fantastic classroom read.


The pop cultural references are begging for an audience older than ten, wouldn’t you say? Sean and I were both charmed by the illustrations Roberts provides. Natalya and I both highly recommend this read.