Jon Klassen is having something of a moment now–the WSJ ran a Q&A with the Caldecott winner today: I had the pleasure of speaking with him this summer for my story in this month’s issue of Fine Books & Collections (print only, alas). You can, however, check out my profile on Klassen from way back in 2014, when “Sam and Dave Dig a Hole” was just released. This guy’s going places–

First Edition of “Alice in Wonderland” Fails to Sell at Auction

First Edition of “Alice in Wonderland” Fails to Sell at Auction


We’re trumpeting an announcement today:

Literary Features Syndicate is going on summer vacation!

That means we’ll be posting less frequently over the next eight weeks. But don’t fret, there’s still some great stories heading your way–we’re even reviewing a trio of independently published books, a first for LFS!

Keep on reading and have a wonderful summer!


image©2011 Karina Schaapman, photo by Ton Bouwer. Reproduced with permission from Dial Books.

The Mouse Mansion, written and created by Karina Schaapman, photographed by Ton Bouwer; Dial Books, $18.99, 60 pages ages 5-8.

Usually when there’s a mouse in the house, the human inhabitants run for the hills. Here, debut children’s book author Karina Schaapman created a home just for those furry creatures. Her six foot wide, ten feet tall, hundred-room mouse mansion is made of cardboard boxes and paper mâché, and each room is filled with to the brim with all the trappings one would expect in a home – diapers and formula in the nursery, armoires overflowing with tiny undergarments, bookshelves bursting with miniature versions of Charlotte’s Web and Winnie the Pooh. The carefully shot photographs are by Ton Bouwer, and the folio-size pages allow for careful examination of each object.

This mansion isn’t for ritzy city murines; it gives off a warm, nubby, cozy feel, and the accoutrements appear pulled from a romp through an attic that hasn’t been touched since 1970. Families of gray and white cloth mice live here, and two young friends, Sam and Julia, scamper from room to room in search of adventure and fun.  There’s laundry to sort, a bakery to visit, and even a Friday night Sabbath to attend, complete with a tiny table covered by challah, candles and wine.  Schaapman’s detailed artwork is accompanied by thoughtful and informative text, and though the book clocks in at 60 pages, each chapter can easily be read as a unique tale. Pouring over the abundant detail on each page will captivate readers of all ages, and makes an excellent reading choice for snuggling up and spending a wintry afternoon with little readers.


This week’s Throwback is from 2011, with Karina Schaapaman’s magical Mouse Mansion.



Love Me, Love My Dog

From Wolf to Woof! by Hudson Talbott; Nancy Paulsen Books; $16.99, 32 pages, ages 4-7.

Long before Labradoodles and
Schnauzers, wolves roamed the Earth, and they were not man’s best friend. Slowly, some wolves befriended humans, and a beautiful relationship blossomed. Here, in Hudson Talbott’s latest picture book, a prehistoric orphan boy and a lonely wolf pup slowly warm to each other, ultimately forging a bond that leads to the creation of a team of fellow misfits and outcasts whose tribe eventually dominates those without wolves. The relationship survives
millennia, and now over 400 species of domesticated dogs have been bred for hunting, herding, rescuing, and even just cuddling.

Talbott’s ability to synthesize massive amounts of data into an age-appropriate text are nicely matched by his lively watercolors. A bibliography and resources on how to help current wolf populations make this book a howling success. 


Good Things Come in Threes

Hensel and Gretel: Ninja Chicks, by Corey Rosen Schwartz and Rebecca Gomez, illustrated by Dan Dantat; Putnam, $17.99, 32 pages, ages 4-7. (May 24, 2016)

In the third in a ninja-themed fractured fairy tale trilogy, Corey Rosen Schwartz, Rebecca Gomez, and Caldecott Medal winner Dan Santat combine witty limericks with bold illustrations to delightful comic effect. Here, in a twist on the Grimm Brothers’ classic Hansel and Gretel, ninja chicks Hensel and Gretel must rescue their parents from the clutches of a cunning fox. Recalling campy 1980s marital arts films, the fleet-footed rhyme is expertly matched by Santat’s bold artwork–close-ups of tense poultry and malicious foxes begs to be read with the soundtrack from “Hard to Kill” in the background. A plucky twist on an old favorite.


 Shackleton: Antarctic Odyssey, by Nick Bertozzi; First Second Books, $16.99, 128 pages, ages 12-18. (Publication date: June 17, 2014)

Amateur and professional explorers worldwide will mark the centennial of Ernest Shackelton’s ill-fated yet miraculous voyage to the Antarctic this year. Entire documentaries and symposiums are devoted to understanding how the entire crew survived in polar conditions after their ship became trapped and ultimately crushed in pack ice. There’s even a cruise called the Shackelton 100 that will recreate the route of the Imperial Trans-Antarctic Expedition. 

For adventurers staying close to home, Nick Bertozzi’s graphic novel replicates the voyage through a riveting and wholly original approach to telling this story of survival. Historians have meticulously documented the expedition, but in this account Bertozzi changes the point of view by inviting the reader onto the Endurance alongside the captain and his crew.  Each panel illustrates the minutiae of life aboard a sea vessel – from chronicling Mr. Orde-Lee riding a bicycle across the ice, to a chapter called “Last Dog” which delicately handles the issue of starvation and self-preservation. 

Bertozzi’s black and white illustrations overflow with visual detail while creating a solid and engaging story.  Ships, men and various polar creatures are at once grand and familiar. While the author is quite deft depicting each man in the story, Shackelton stands out from his crew; a tall, dark-haired commander determined to bring  all twenty-eight crewmen home after almost two years lost at sea.

Writing and illustrating stories of great explorers seems second-nature to Bertozzi, whose previous work includes Lewis and Clark, an equally inventive examination of two great explorers. Could Amelia Earhart or Thor Heyerdahl be next?  

@01FirstSecond For #TBThursday, Nick Bertozzi’s stunning graphic novel on Ernest Shackleton’s ill-fated voyage gets a second look.