Book review: The Wolf Who Solved the Mystery of the Missing Mask, by Orianne Lallemand, illustrated by Claire Frossard, translated by MaryChris Bradley

Lallemand, Orianne. The Wolf Who Solved the Mystery of the Missing Mask. Illus. by Claire Frossard. Trans. by MaryChris Bradley. Auzou, 2019. Unp. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-7338-67402-2. Ages 4-7. P8Q8

Quirky bold illustrations begin with a black wolf sporting a huge, long nose who grumpily goes to a museum with his friends because he wants to be with Wolfette. The narrative proceeds with punny artists’ names, beginning with Leonardo da Wolfinci, and Wolf wanders on by himself. A missing tribal mask traumatizes the little guard, Barnabas, and Wolf sets out to uncover the perpetrator, finding more clues and pieces of the museum. The gentle story finishes with the discovery that Wolf’s friend, Miss Yeti, had taken the mask because it looked like her father. All ends happily when Miss Yeti buys a replica of the mask in the gift shop and Wolf falls in love with a painting that looks like his forest.

Verdict: Twists and turns take the reader through a museum, a mystery, and a relationship that ends in pure joy.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

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Book review: A Surprise for Little Mole, by Orianne Lallemand, illustrated by Claire Frossard, translated by MaryChris Bradley

Lallemand, Orianne. A Surprise for Little Mole. Illus. by Claire Frossard. Trans. by MaryChris Bradley. Auzou, 2019. Unp. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-7338-6732-7. Ages 4-7. P8Q8

Watercolors in soft hues provide the background for Little Mole’s discovery of a baby on the doorstep. She feeds the panda-like creature that she calls Who-zit before they set out to find the parents. Each animals’ family sends her on: the rabbits to the bear family, the bears to badgers, and the badger to an owl before a wolf tries to take the baby. The forest families rescue Little Mole and Who-zit, and owl guides them to the zoo. Leaving Who-zit with its parents, Little Mole goes home, lonely, where she discovers that her friends have given her a birthday party.

Verdict: The warm, loving story shows the importance of caring and friendship, and the lovely illustrations highlight the tale.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Hey There, Earth Dweller! Dive into This World We Call Earth, by Marc ter Horst, illustrated by Wendy Panders, translated by Laura Watkinson

Horst, Marc ter. Hey There, Earth Dweller! Dive into This World We Call Earth.  Illus by Wendy Panders. Trans. by Laura Watkinson. Beyond Words/Aladdin, 2019. 176p. $19.99. ISBN 978-1-58270-656-6. Ages 9-12. P7Q7

From the earth’s core to the top atmospheric layer, fascinating information is enlivened and enriched by whimsical cartoonish drawings and photographs of natural phenomena. The book begins with the creation of the universe and moves on to the solar system and the earth’s depths and water before moving on to climate change and the end of the world. Chapters begin with entertaining stories such as the man who went 24 miles into the atmosphere in 2012, four times higher than airplanes travel.

Verdict: Sometime the author stretches his analogies a bit—for example—using groups of mice to explain how the moon’s gravity creates tides, and he claimed that “your grandmother” probably didn’t have a watch. First written and published in the Netherlands, the book has a European emphasis but still contains great charm and pieces of universal knowledge. The pieces on surviving extreme weather events are useful, and the migration of humans around the world interesting. No index.

June 2019 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Farmer, by Ximo Abadia, translated by Grace Maccarone

Abadia, Ximo. The Farmer. Holiday House, 2019. Translated by Grace Maccarone. $17.99. ISBN 9780823441587.  Unpaged. Ages 3-6. P6Q7

Paul is a farmer. And like most farmers, he never rests. He is working from dawn until dusk, and when the rain doesn’t come, he despairs for his crops. The rain does come, though, and all is well. I really enjoyed this odd book. The text is simple and spare, and the illustrations seem childlike at first, but they actually have a lot of humor in them (especially the mole holes that have moles, and as the book progresses, we see Pauls in the holes too- keeping watch over his farm) and are quite clever. The spread with the huge orange sun beating down on the poor seedlings makes a big impression. Originally published in French in 2017.

VERDICT: This book would be a good story about farm life to read to a child who likes to look closely at details.

May 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: A Surprise for Mrs. Tortoise, by Paula Merlán, illustrated by Sonja Wimmer, translated by Ben Dawlatly and Kim Griffin

Merlán, Paula. A Surprise for Mrs. Tortoise. Illustrated by Sonja Wimmer. Translated by Ben Dawlatly and Kim Griffin. NubeOcho, 2017. $16.95. ISBN 9788494633348. Unpaged. Ages 4-8. P7Q7

This story, originally written in Spanish, is about friendship. Mrs. Tortoise is depressed after seeing her reflection in the pond. She feels old and tired, and doesn’t know what to do. Her best friend Birdie tries a variety of things to cheer her up- covering her in starlight, flowers and clouds, and eventually finds a way- a bright paint job on her shell. The lush watercolor illustrations were my favorite part of this book- there are lots of small, strange details to look at, and the rich colors and whimsical style made me happy. The story is odd but cute, and Mrs. Tortoise makes a heartfelt apology for being mean to Birdie- it’s nice when children see characters trying to make things right.

VERDICT: The artwork and sweet story will appeal to children and parents too.

May 2019 review by Carol Schramm.

Book review: Deogratias: a Tale of Rwanda, by J.P. Stassen, translated by Alexis Siegel

Stassen, J.P. Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda. Trans by Alexis Siegel. Intro. By Beata Umubyeyi Mairesse. First Second. 2018. $21.99. 78p. ISBN 978-1-250-18964-6. Ages 15+. P9Q9

Early in the 20th century, Germans and Belgians made one Rwandan tribe, the Tutsis, the elite ruling group over the poorer farming Hutus. In 1994, the Hutus rose in rebellion to exterminate the Tutsis and killing 800,000 people in 100 days. This genocide is seen through the eyes of Deogratias, “thanks be to God,” a Hutu teenager in love with Apollinaria, a Tutsi. As darkness descends through the brutal revels in the graphic novel, he goes from an ordinary boy to believing that he is a dog, possibly from the toxic banana beer that he drinks to forget the past. The narrative also includes the hypocrisy of whites, some of them priests, who go to Rwanda to help the people but simply use them for their own means. Black bordered panels depict current events, and borderless panels represent the past war and carnage as the boy goes through his transformation by being forced into murdering two Tutsi friends. The heaviness of the boy’s experiences is heightened by the black outlines of people and the dark hues.

Verdict: Some people may consider Stassen’s grim narrative inappropriate for teenagers, but it shows the life of many people in the world as massacres occur throughout the world and people continue their inhumane behavior. This brilliant work communicates the horror and heartbreaking lives of ordinary Hutus who were unable to avoid the tragedy of their country.

April 2019 review by Nel Ward.

[Editor’s note: Originally published in Belgium by Dupuis, Deogratias won the 2000 Goscinny Prize for outstanding graphic novel script.]

Book review: I Love My Colorful Nails, by Alicia Acosta and Luis Amavisca, illustrated by Gusti

Acosta, Alicia and Luis Amavisca. I Love My Colorful Nails. Illustrated by Gusti. English translation by Ben Dawlatly. (Egalite series.) NubeOcho, 2019. Translated by Ben Dawlatly. $15.95. ISBN 9788417123598. Unpaged. Ages 4-7. P6 Q6

Ben loves painting his nails cheerful colors. His friend, Margarita also has amazing nail polish and they paint their nails together. Ben’s classmates make fun of him and call him a girl. Margarita is an upstander and tells her classmates to leave him alone. Ben paints his nails only on weekends so the kids at school will not laugh at him. Without his nails painted, he no longer feels bright or cheerful. To support Ben, his dad paints his nails. For his birthday, Ben receives a gift that is both affirming and makes him feel colorful again. The illustrations are a classic early 1970’s look with black lines and flat solid colors. The color palate is terra cota, ecru, brick red and muted colors. The eyes are early 70’s style smiling eyes which make the people look like their eyes are closed or looking down. One illustration shows an upside-down ice cream cone and Ben sitting down with his head buried in his knees showing his sadness. The illustrations show ethnic diverse children. The author refers to Ben’s mom and dad as mommy and daddy which makes Ben seem younger or shows a tight bond between them. This book was inspired by a true story. The original title was Vivan las unas de colores! The text was translated into English. In the Egalite series, Values Fun & Diversity.

Verdict: Children who love colors and do not fall into the stereotypical gender roles will enjoy this book affirming self-expression. I Love my Colorful Nails validates children to express themselves as they desire and models being an upstander. Earlier this year, I had a student who painted his nails and was laughed at by his peers. I told him that he is perfect just the way he is and he can express himself in any way he wants. Because of that experience, this book caught my eye. He will enjoy this book, knowing that he is not alone in painting his nails.

April 2019 review by Tami Harris.