Monday, October 26, 2009

PW's Starred Reviews

Publisher's Weekly starred reviews for the week of Oct. 26:

Picturebooks

Alphabeasties and Other Amazing Types by Sharon Werner and Sarah Forss. Blue Apple (Chronicle, dist.), $19.99 (56p) ISBN 978-1-934706-78-7

No ordinary abecedarian, this typographical trip will wow design fans and suggest creative projects with letterforms. The book's introduction speaks affectionately of typefaces—“just like people, they look different and have different personalities”—before embarking on a thrilling spin through the alphabet. The first spread presents an alligator's silhouette, made up of capital and lowercase As, as the repeated word “algae” forms green strands around it. A bat shaped from gothic Bs holds vampire connotations; tall, skinny Gs evoke the height of a giraffe that hides behind leafy, vertical folds; and breathless italic Rs make a rabbit seem poised to leap. Werner and Forss, a debuting team of graphic designers, devote page borders to extra wordplay: a C becomes the curved back and tail of a cat, a K's extended foot kicks a soccer ball, a cursive L is a lasso and rounded Ps nestle in a pod. Innovations arrive several to a page, rewarding repeat visits and encouraging readers to muse on the power of type and all that letters and words can imply or insinuate. Ages 4–8. (Oct.)

Christmas

What's Coming for Christmas? by Kate Banks, illus. by Georg Hallensleben. FSG/Foster, $15.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-374-39948-1

The smudgy lines of Hallensleben's soft-focus acrylics capture the tranquillity of a snowy day in a semirural setting, while Banks's text reads like a lullaby, as “something” approaches in the days leading up to Christmas. Banks vacillates between ephemeral indications that something special is imminent (“You could smell it in the scent of cinnamon and spice that permeated the air”) and the signs that escape notice (“No one saw who put the gifts under the tree and filled the stockings.... No one, no one, no one”). A gently thrilling reminder of all the elements that make for a celebratory season. Ages 3–6. (Oct.)

The Christmas Magic by Lauren Thompson, illus. by Jon J Muth. Scholastic Press, $16.99 (40p) ISBN 978-0-439-77497-0

A sedulous and quirky Santa, who sports bunny slippers and feels a “tingling in his whiskers” (his mustache sticks out like the hands of a clock at 10:10) as Christmas nears, prepares for the arrival of the holiday. He calls his reindeer home and tends to them, then shines his sled, carefully selects toys and climbs a stepladder to tie up his enormous pack. Muth's idyllic, wintry watercolors and pastels set the mood as “the night begins to thrum with magic, the kind of magic that makes reindeer fly.” Readers, like Santa, will feel the magic, too. Ages 4–7. (Sept.)

The Gingerbread Pirates by Kristin Kladstrup, illus. by Matt Tavares. Candlewick, $16.99 (32p) ISBN 978-0-7636-3223-6

A boy makes a gingerbread pirate crew on Christmas Eve; his mom leaves most of the pirates for Santa, but the boy takes the captain to his room. As the boy sleeps, the captain—sporting a ruffled shirt made of icing and a toothpick peg leg—makes his way downstairs (“Where's my crew? he wondered. And who's this Santa Claus who wants to eat them?”). Luckily, Santa ends up being a friend who gives the pirates a ship of their own. Swashbuckling gusto and a poignant finish should make this a new favorite. Ages 4–10. (Sept.)

Congratulations to these authors!

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