Warthog: A Counting Adventure, by Birdie Black, illustrated by Rosalind Beardshaw; Nosy Crow Books, $14.99, 32 pages, ages 1-3.
A playful combination of poetry and numbers makes this introduction to simple counting a welcome addition to the lift-the-flap genre. As little Warthog goes a-wandering, each adventure leads to another, with suspense building as he quickly reaches double-digits and a big surprise. Beardshaw’s bright mixed-media illustrations of a cheery menagerie of warthogs, birds, and butterflies matches Black’s quick-paced rhythm, creating just the right amount of suspense and adventure for the preschool set.
The Bay Area’s Book Passage filed a lawsuit seeking the repeal of California’s autograph law. Read all about it on the Fine Books Blog.
Fish Girl, by David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli; Clarion Books, $25.00, 185 pages, ages 7-10.
On a lonely stretch of seaside boardwalk stands a modest three-story building hiding a big secret: inside resides the mysterious Fish Girl, watched over by King Neptune. For a small fee, visitors are welcome to glimpse the girl for themselves. Fish Girl feels protected by Neptune and believes his stories–that she is the last of her kind, that this building full of exotic fish is the last refuge of his realm–until she befriends a neighborhood girl, Livia. Now, the mermaid (soon to be renamed Mira) wants to enjoy life on land, but an inability to talk and lack of legs hampers the process. Slowly, with steady determination, a little yoga, and some magic, Mira’s lonely life changes forever.
Three time Caldecott Medalist David Wiesner (Mr. Wuffles!) and Donna Jo Napoli (Albert) debut their first graphic novel with an exploration of trust, betrayal, and bravery–Mira is kept in what amounts to a water-filled cage, lied to about her family, and forced to perform tricks for money. Adults will no doubt make comparisons to children and young women conscripted into all sorts of unsavory labor around the world, but the mermaid element keeps this story squarely rooted in fantasy and will not spook young readers. Interestingly, the protagonist is mute–most of Wiesner’s best-loved books are wordless, relying on visual storytelling. That’s not to say Mira doesn’t share her thoughts–somehow, she communicates with her underwater and oxygen-breathing friends, and cultivates a language of friendship with Livia. Deft interplay of myth and contemporary folklore make this splashy story hard to resist.
Motherhood means something other than candy and roses in The Handmaid’s Tale. Read about Hulu’s adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s classic as well as the Folio Society’s illustrated edition–on the Fine Books Blog.
American Gods, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Dave McKean; Folio Society, $120.00, 560 pages, ages 14+.
Fans of Neil Gaiman’s award-winning American Gods (2001), rejoice: the Folio Society has recently released a commemorative edition of the 560-page genre-crossing tale of myth, fantasy, and faith. The timing is spot-on; recently adapted for television, American Gods debuted last month on the Starz network to such fanfare that the show has already been renewed for a second season.
In the Folio Society edition of the book, Gaiman’s exploration of faith in ancient and modern mythology leaps off the pages with the assistance from longtime collaborator Dave McKean, who previously illustrated Gaiman’s Sandman and Violent Cases. Here, twelve surreal acrylic and cut paper illustrations, including three double-page spreads and an otherworldly slipcase design, create, as McKean writes in the introduction, “an off-kilter, unrealistic place, where perspective doesn’t work.”
For the uninitiated, American Gods centers around a recently released convict named Shadow, who wanders aimlessly after learning of his wife’s fatal car accident during his time in prison. Shadow hooks up with con man Mr. Wednesday, and together they travel across America encountering Mr. Wednesday’s various associates–manifestations of old gods from ancient mythology now half-forgotten and wholly unimportant to 21st century folk. Gaiman’s premise is that the gods only exist so long as people remember them, and some gods resort to desperate measures to remain relevant. While the old gods fade into memory, a new breed of gods have taken over the American psyche, ones who represent humankind’s newfound obsession with social media, narcissism, and sexual power. A battle is looming, and Mr. Wednesday (who turns out to be an incarnation of the Norse god Odin) is leading the charge in a fight for the soul of America.
The Folio Society’s version of American Gods includes Gaiman’s “preferred text,” from the 2003 edition as well as the introduction from the 2005 edition, and fans unable to procure a Hill House 2003 limited edition–which fetch anywhere from $450 to over $1,000 these days–will find $120 for the Folio Society’s American Gods a relative steal.