Monday, March 30, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

From Publishers Weekly, 3/30/2009

What Is This? by Antje Damm. Frances Lincoln (PGW, dist.), $15.95 (96p) ISBN 978-1-84507-899-7
Buttons become pig noses and a kitchen faucet turns into a swan under Damm's inventive hand. This appealing title, in line with Damm's Ask Me, invites readers to imagine what ordinary objects could become, given the addition of some paint, paper or clay. The titular question is cleverly scripted against monochromatic backgrounds in ways that relate to photographs of various items on the facing page (the words are written in flour opposite a slice of bread, and composed of pollen grains across from an orange daisy). The subsequent spreads reveal how Damm re-envisions each object: following a photo of a piece of Swiss cheese, a page flip reveals a cow created entirely from cheese, with the holes becoming spots. Three wooden spoons turn into a family of chickens with the digital addition of beaks, wattles and combs, and with a bit of clay, a seeded kaiser roll transforms into a turtle. This compact volume will easily prompt children to reconsider everyday objects—and maybe indulge in some arts and crafts. Ages 2–5. (Apr.)

Creepy Crawly Crime by Aaron Reynolds, illus. by Neil Numberman. Holt, $16.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-8050-8242-5; paper $9.95 ISBN 978-0-8050-8786-4
In this first installment of the Joey Fly, Private Eye series, Reynolds (Buffalo Wings) and Numberman, who makes a wowser of a debut, marry the film noir spoof to the graphic novel, and the result has the sweet smell of success written all over it. The mystery takes readers to the big insect city, where most of the inhabitants are “normal everyday bugs just trying to put three feet in front of the others.” But there are always a few rotten arthropods in the barrel, and keeping them in line is Joey Fly, a detective with a fedora, a sense of justice masquerading as cynicism, a flair for similes and really, really big eyes. Joey, clearly an adult, is given a sidekick, an impetuous but eager scorpion named Sammy Stingtail. The crime does get solved—it involves a stolen diamond pencil box—but like the best noirs, the particulars take a backseat to the irresistible interplay of moody visuals (Numberman wryly replicates the chiaroscuro mis-en-scène of Depression-era cinema) and hard-boiled patois (“The facts were starting to line up like centipedes at a shoe sale”). Ages 8–up. (Apr.)

Congratulations to these authors!

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