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Friday, February 5, 2016

Pugs, Noodles, and Cat Tales

By Jan Pease

Many chapter books now are illustrated with fantastic illustrations.    Graphic novels for younger and younger readers are being published, and a famous  series of comic books is now considered to be one of the best graphic novels of our time, an interesting time for children’s writers and illustrators.


With apologies to Ann M. Martin, I used to joke that there would be “Baby-sitters Club” books about the babysitting tweens as they aged through college, adulthood, and old age.  I didn’t expect them to be reborn as graphic novels.  “Claudia and Mean Janine” has been revised by Ms. Martin and Raina Telgemeier.  I really like the updated version, and I think fans will flock to this old but new series.

Tedd Arnold has written and illustrated a graphic novel that feels like the beginning of a series.  “Noodlehead Nightmares” was co-written by Martha Hamilton and Mitch Weiss, who wrote a collection of folk stories called, appropriately, “Noodlehead Stories.”   The noodleheads look like

elbow macaroni, and are named Mac and Mac.  An example of their wisdom is their decision to sleep under their beds so they won’t have to make their beds each morning. 

I don’t even know where to begin to describe this next book.  Neil Gaiman has come back to the Sandman epic, with “The Sandman Overture.”  The Sandman stories were originally issued as comic books, but are now considered some of the finest graphic novels in literature today.  Art in this book is incredible and gorgeous, created by J.H. Williams III and Dave Stewart.  Officially described as a prequel, this volume makes me want to read the entire Sandman series. The volumes of Sandman comics are available through interlibrary loan in Pioneerland Library System.  The titles are:   “Preludes & Nocturnes, The Doll's House, Dream Country,  Season of Mists and Game of You.”  They are also available through Mnlink under the title “Sandman Omnibus” volumes 1 and 2. 
  

Not quite a graphic novel  with more illustrations than the usual chapter book describes “Pugs of the Frozen North,” by Philip Reeve and Sarah McIntyre.  This is another in Mr. Reeve’s   “Not-So-Impossible-Tale” series.   Imagine a sled dog team consisting of sixty-six yapping pug puppies, each wearing  a sleeve from a warm sweater.  The adventures two friends have with these sixty-six puppies are amazing, funny, and almost believable in this fun book for young readers ready for longer chapter books.

The “Bad Kitty” books by Nick Bruel are another example of heavily illustrated chapter books.  “Bad Kitty Goes to the Vet” reminds me of some of the visits I’ve made at the local veterinarians.  I think I remember our Siamese Ichi, biting one of the doctors.  Patches, my favorite cat, used to grab the door jamb with all four feet if he had a chance.  Our current cat, Kitty M, tries to become invisible in his cat carrier.   The “Bad Kitty” books are always very funny.   Mr. Bruel says on his website that Kitty is based on “every cat, every ornery and self-important cat, I have ever known.”  He says about writing, “The hard part is not coming up with ideas.  The hard part is recognizing them when they arrive and making the effort to honor them with thoughtful contemplation. 

For the curious, here are Zoe, Patches, and Ichi, who are deceased, and Harley, sleeping adorbly, who is still with us. 



I don’t know why the current trend is toward heavily-illustrated chapter books, but I’m all for it.  Enjoy these books and many more at Litchfield Library!