My Boyfriend is a Monster #1: I Love Him to Pieces

My Boyfriend is a Monster #1: I Love Him to Pieces
by Evonne Tsang illus. Janina Goerrissen

Ah, this one was so silly!

So I got the recommendation from a School Library Journal Article that highlighted some graphic novels. I went into it with some trepidation, monster romances not being my typical thing, but I ended up really liking it! It grew on me, you might say (har har).

We open the book in a very normal high school, following Dicey, a cute girl with awesome baseball skills. We watch her do a school project, just kind of getting to know her, and then watch her fall in love with her boyfriend. It takes quite a while for the whole "monster" thing to come up, in fact. At first I was like, "Okay, where's the monsters? Lets get to the good stuff!" But after reading the book, I say it is paced just right.  The slower beginning and everyday feel really let the climax pack a punch. If we had started with monsters, well, it just wouldn't have been as exciting!

Anyway, this one was silly and funny, and . . . also somewhat violent, but not graphic. The style of the art is fairly detailed, and I appreciate that the violence was not detailed. It kept the focus of the book on the characters, and didn't make me want to gag.  

I'd say recommended for 12 plus, have fun with it!

Cybils season! +Hunger Games teaser trailer

Hey everybody! Here is the link to the Cybils site, just in case you want to volunteer to be a judge. I've loved it, three years running.  Crossing my fingers for four.

Also here is a link to the Hunger Games teaser trailer. Just in case you haven't seen it.

Understanding Comics

Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud

So this was really interesting!

Since I have been reading a lot of graphic novels lately, I've been wondering about the technical terms for things. Like "Is there a name for the scribbling over the top of someone's head, to show that they're mad?" Well, I still don't know the answer to that one. But the spaces between panels are called gutters, in case you were wondering.

Anyway, Understanding Comics is less a primer of terms and more a discussion of the question "What is Art?" and how comics fit into art. Graphic novels, webcomics, and picture books all fit into McCloud's definition of "comics." Also lots of other sequential images.

The book itself is written as a comic -- very effective for it's purpose.  It expounds the history of comics according to McCloud and talks about Eastern (especially Japanese) comics vs. Western comics. Their conventions, the things that artists do to get their point across. It delves in to how images can represent the passage of time, and all sorts of other interesting theoretical and practical stuff.

It will definitely be helpful to those (like me) who want to learn more about comics, how to read comics critically, and understand why an artist does something a certain way. More than that, it is consequential as a  commentary on art in general. I'd call it a must for those who want to write comics.

I heard about Understanding Comics from author Gretchen Rubin's blog. She's not even interested in comics, but found it fascinating. I heard McCloud has written two follow-ups. Anybody read them yet? I think I might like to chew on those, next.
p.s. I now have some affiliate links available for you! If you make a purchase (any purchase) through one of these links, I will earn a small commission at no extra cost to you! Thanks for supporting my geekery!
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A World Without Heroes

The latest and greatest Brandon Mull book (author of the Fablehaven series and The Candy Shop War) hit the shelves not too long ago. I've read all of Mull's books, and I must say, after I got about halfway into Heroes, I enjoyed this one best. For whatever reason, it wasn't grabbing me from the get-go. Maybe I'd gotten out of the habit of reading. Maybe it's impossible to get into a book when one has only two-to-five-minute snatches of time in which to read. Maybe I wasn't convinced that I was ready to invest myself in learning about and caring about a whole new middle-grade fantasy world (this is the first book in a slated trilogy). In any case, I (eventually) enjoyed the fast-action pacing, the likeable (if somewhat unbelievable) main characters, and the plot twists that kept me guessing until the last chapter.

The book has a very strangely quirky beginning for what turns quickly into a serious story. Jason, age thirteen, works at a zoo. Cleaning by the hippo cage one day, he hears music coming from ... inside one of the hippos? Leaning closer to investigate, he falls in, gets swallowed by the melodious water horse, and ends up in another world, where he suddenly finds himself on a seriously dangerous quest, accompanied by another young "Beyonder," Rachel, to recover all the syllables of the one word that can undo the purely evil magician/dictator who rules it.

I say the characters are slightly unbelievable because they are a little too well-spoken and mature for your average thirteen-year-old. Which is not to say that thirteen-year-olds aren't either of these things. These kids just come across as college professors on occasion.

Still, entertaining book. I'll definitely read the sequel, but I won't be dying for its release.

...Well, whaddaya know, it was!

So I wrote a little story for the aforementioned contest.

The Princess and the Robot

If you like it, register for the site (which is simple, and not spammy) and "heart" it so that I have a chance to win. There are nearly 200 entries, so it is a little daunting, but I only have to get in the top 15 to be considered for the grand prize.

Personally, I think I did a fantastic job. Ashley helped me with the editing.
"Bellissima always gets her way. But when a suitor comes calling during the robotics fair, it could throw a wrench in her plans."
Remember, if I win the awesome prize (books by Shannon Hale and an Amazon Gift Card) I will give the books away here on the blog! :D

Whew! & So this looks fun.

Hey, weren't those guest posts awesome?  Whew, they took more work to put together than I originally thought they would, but of course the hardest work was done by their authors. And it was totally worth it! Many thanks to those who left comments on them. We were featured on the homepage of the Center for Children's books, did you see?

In other news, doesn't this contest look fun? Basically write a less than 1500 word story about a prince or princess and you could win awesome Shannon Hale prizes. Y'all know how I feel about Shannon Hale prizes. So I'm going to enter! And, since I already own the two Shannon Hale titles that are part of the prize, if I win then I will do a giveaway here! I've already got a start on my story...


Guest Review: Monkey Truck

Monkey Truck by Michael Slack

Book Review by Mohammad J. (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews)

Monkey Truck is a superhero that helps the animals in the jungle. The monkey truck has four wheels and is a half monkey, half truck. He is brave.

The monkey truck book is a good book to read to kids ages 2-5 because the words tell what the monkey does.  It has a lot of action pictures that are fun to look at like when the monkey truck does something. Every thing the monkey did was well drawn in the book. All the pictures show a lot of facial expressions.

Note from Alysa: I seem to remember two camps among the students when it came to Monkey Truck -- those who thought it was awesome and those who found it so-so. Mohammad falls into the latter category, I think.  But it is worth mentioning that the text rhymes and the illustrations, which have a kind of Cartoon Network feel, expand the text and give the story fullness. Read and (hopefully) enjoy!

Guest Review: Doors

Doors by Roxie Munro

Book Review by Marcus Taylor (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews)

Doors is a perfect book for kids around the ages of 6 to 12. I say this because it has a decent length of words for the kids to read, and lots of color and texture as to where they won't lose attention. Within the reading the children are asked to find an apple and a hat or other random stuff  from different scenes as you turn the page.  The opposite page has little doors, or pop-ups if you will, for kids to lift and find these items. So, over all this book is an attention-grasping, worth-your-time book to read; and I give it a R.

Note from Alysa: Ooh, this sounds fun! My older son no longer wants to rip the flaps off of books like this, I wonder if he'd like it. That reminds me that I've been meaning to read Press Here by Hervé Tullet, which sounds similar. Thanks for letting me read (play?) Tullet's other book, The Book With A Hole, with you!

Guest Review: You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fables to Read Together

You Read to Me, I'll Read to You: Very Short Fables to Read Together by Mary Ann Hoberman.

Book Review by Clorisa Mainor  (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews).

The book I read was You Read to Me, I'll Read to You by Mary Ann Hoberman. I want it to be an all star book. It's short fables that have really good morals at the end.

I believe this is a great book to start off reading to children because the morals will teach them wisdom and the illustrations are really on point. The pictures can tell the same story as the writing in the book. I think the pictures are for the children who can't read yet so they won't be missing out on anything. They will be reading alone but through pictures. I also love this book because it rhymes and I know children love books that have a rhythm.

Even as a 17-year-old this book appeals to me. So not only is it for children, but adults can also have fun reading along. Most of the fables in the book I heard when I was young, and I really like that they are still being told and in different patterns. I really love to read to children; my little cousins, their friends, even random kids I see in Douglass library when I go. And I really think the theme "you read to me, I read to you" gives the child to time to read along and be engaged instead of sitting there and watching and looking at the pictures.

I think more books like this should be made for a child's imagination. This book should be recommended to all elementary schools and all libraries.

Note from Alysa: One thing Clorisa didn't mention is that the narrative inside is split into two parts -- presumably so that two people can read it together.  Of course one person could read both parts, or more than two people could rotate. I think it would be fun to use this book for choral reading. In the workshop we also talked about the interior design of books and this one has a great design that makes it easy to use.

Guest Review: Chester

Chester by Melanie Watt.

Book Review by Christina Coleman (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews).

I really enjoyed this book, it was creative and cute. It had nice pictures, the concept was understandable and held my attention.

The book was about a cat named Chester that is self centered and rude, and takes over the author Melanie Watt's book. He re-writes the book with a red marker and doodles on it too. He really just wants the story to be about him and not about what she's writing about. Also kids will enjoy a laugh.

What I liked about the book, was that the author was having problems with her own character, and really couldn't handle him. There was nothing that I didn't like about the book.

I recommend this book to young kids ages 7- 10 years of age. Also this book would be great as a read aloud and a read alone book.

Note from Alysa: Hmm, a character who takes over your projects, doodles on things with red markers, and wants everything to be about him? Sounds like parents of toddlers will enjoy a laugh, too! I'll definitely pick this one up soon.

Guest Review: The Little Red Pen

The Little Red Pen by Janet Stevens

Book Review by Jessica Heath (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews)

In the book a red pen takes on the task of completing a huge task alone but in the end only bad comes from the situation.

There are many characters in this book. There is a pen, a stapler, a highlighter, a ruler, a yardstick, an eraser, and other basic office supplies. This is a helpful book because it shows the value of teamwork. It also shows that not one person can do a job that requires many.

This is a good book to read to children because it shows the different dialog by using different colors and font type for each different character. This can allow the reader to use different voices to entertain the children or audience that they are reading to.

The illustrations are good in the book also. They have a lot of color and even though the characters are inanimate objects you can still see the facial expressions.

Note from Alysa: I haven't read this one yet, but I'm guessing it plays on the story of The Little Red Hen. Sometimes I identify pretty well with that bossy chick, so I'll have to pick this one up!

Guest Review: Mirror

Mirror by Jeannie Baker

Book Review by Jonathan Diaz (part of the TAP In series of guest reviews).

There are two different places that create two different stories. One family lives in the country of Australia and the other family lives in Morocco, North Africa.

Each story has many differences and maybe some similarities -- just like some things in families are the same for each family. The book Mirror describes and shows the differences between how people live in each country; how they cook, eat, getting to places, what transportation they use, their different lifestyles at home, different religious views, and many other differences in life using pictures side to side.

As a critic, I think this book was very useful to any age. It was realistic and creative. The story was realistic and simple because it did not use words; it just showed images to describe each action the picture creates. This book would be useful to any person and it makes you think of how different each person’s life is.

Notes from Alysa: This was a favorite of several in the group, and there was some discussion about how it would be great for classroom use. It is not constructed like a typical book, so when my 11 month old opened it up he got frustrated. :D Within the cover are two books that open up side by side, to show the parallel lives Jonathan talked about. Check it out!
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