Tuesday, September 28, 2010

On the Blue Comet

By Rosemary Wells
Illustrated by Bagram Ibatoulline
$16.99, ages 10 and up, 336 pages

Trouble comes to everyone, Oscar's dad suggests just before the Wall Street Crash of 1929. Like the whistle of a train or the voice of wolf, you can't help but hear it coming.

But suppose 11-year-old Oscar could go back and stop trouble before it ever happened?

In this wondrous book by award-winning Wells, Oscar loses everything he holds dear, but discovers just in time that if he longs for things hard enough, he might find a way to get them back.

Blending the magic of Lionel trains with theories of time travel, Wells tells the remarkable journey of a boy who gets separated from his father and nearly loses his life before finding his own happy ending on a model train.

Bagram Ibatoulline's paintings envelop you like a Norman Rockwell print and even though Oscar's world is filled with unpleasantness, glimpses of hope always come through in the pictures. 

Two years into the stock market disaster, the bottom falls out of Oscar's peaceful life in Cairo, Illinois. Not since his mother died in a fireworks plant explosion when he was 3 years old has Oscar felt his insides burn with so much fear and anger.

In one summer, his dad loses his job selling tractors, the bank repossesses their house and and bank president Mr. Pettishanks buys out their cherished Lionel trains, including Oscar's 11th birthday gift, the queen of all trains, the Blue Comet.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Stop Bugging Me!

Written and illustrated by Daniel Cleary
$10.99, ages 4-8, 56 pages

A grouchy dog made from pencil scribble discovers that good friends are hard to ditch in this hilarious debut set on the pages of a notebook.

As Smudge the dog scuttles across a sheet of lined paper, one friend after another comes from behind, asking if they can join him on his walk.

But Smudge doesn't want company, and he isn't afraid to be blunt about it. Every time a friend asks to tag along, he cuts him off with a few terse words.

First his guinea pig friend Piggie, a soft smeary fellow with faint little legs and a wisp of a tail, scampers up to Smudge and asks where he's going.

Without even looking back, Smudge grumps, "Somewhere. And stop following me." 

Ignoring his testiness, Guinea Pig presses Smudge to explain why, and Smudge snaps back with the evasiveness of someone trying to keep a secret.

"Because," Smudge mutters impatiently, then quickly walks to the next page.

But Piggie wants a better answer than that and asks, "Because why?" and now Smudge is really peeved.

Running further ahead on the page line, Smudge vents, "Because you ask too many questions is why."

This time Smudge has gone too far and he knows it. But why isn't Piggie listening to him?

Friday, September 10, 2010

Benjamin and Bumper to the Rescue

By Molly Coxe
Photographed by Olivier Toppin
$16.95, ages 3 and up, 40 pages

A royal cat is on the prowl for a tender morsel to eat and unless a little boy mouse and a stuffed pachyderm can outwit him, that morsel could be the boy's mother.

In this enchanting adventure, Benjamin Middlemouse enlists his elephant friend Bumper to help him find his missing mother, only to discover Sir Pouncelot the cat is prepping her for his dinner.

Award-winning Coxe, author of the early readers Big Egg and R is for Radish, transforms a simple tale into a magical picture book with miniature scenes that only the most delicate fingers could arrange.

Wool felt animals small enough to fit in a child's hands, some with clay paws, others with medieval outfits, are positioned in cluttered rooms and rustic settings in a real-life medieval village.

Every scene is exquisitely photographed by France's Toppin, whose use of light and perspective will make readers want to believe everything they see and might even inspire some to fashion a tiny hideaway for a toy mouse of their own.