Friday, February 25, 2011

Mudkin: Stephen Gammell

My love of picture books started at a very young age.  I love a story that can be told without words. The child of artists, my first books were colorful works of art, filled with illustrations worth framing. It is the very artful cover of Mudkin that drew me to it.

Mud and imagination are two of a child's more prized possessions. When there's a pause in the rain, a young girl is greeted by a cute mud creature called Mudkin. Mudkin takes the girl as his queen and introduces her to the whole mud population. When the rain returns, her new kingdom is washed away, but her mud crown will remain forever.

The story, like so many imaginative games that children play, is magical and whimsical. The total number of words in Gammell's book number less than two dozen, but the illustrations communicate volumes about playtime. Mudkin is reminiscent of childhood, not only because of the story, but also because of the beautiful watercolor pictures. I found myself staring at a couple of the pictures, awed by the detail. Stephen Gammell is one of those rare artists who is not only an illustrator, but a story-teller as well.

Rating: $$$

ARC received courtesy of Lerner Publishing Group.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

No Place Like Holmes: Jason Lethcoe

What do you get when you introduce Encyclopedia Brown to Sherlock Holmes? You get Griffin Sharpe--a genius with a knack for observation.

Griffin Sharpe is a very observant boy. His keen eye and mathematical mind have caused him a bit of trouble in his short life, but Griffin knows that his skills will serve a purpose. In 1903 he is sent to his uncle's for the summer. On his journey to London, England, Griffin learns about the great detective, Sherlock Holmes. Inaccurately believing that the uncle he has never met is Mr. Holmes, Griffin is surprised to find that his uncle is actually Rupert Snodgrass: a lesser-known detective who happens to live in the same building as Sherlock Holmes--literally in his shadow. Griffin proves to be an invaluable asset to his grumpy uncle as they set out to unravel the mystery of a man believed to have been eaten by the Lochness Monster.

Jason Lethcoe has brought a classical fiction character to new light, as seen through the eyes of an intelligent young detective. What a wonderful way for a new generation to fall in love with Sherlock Holmes! All the old fellas are there, including Watson and Moriarty. The adventure and excitement of this novel may seem predictable to adult readers, but to the young audience, it is a maze of intrigue that every young sleuth will enjoy unraveling.

No Place Like Holmes wraps up in such a way that leads me to believe--to hope!--that we haven't seen the last of Griffin Sharpe and his eccentric uncle.

Rating: $$

ARC received courtesy of Tommy Nelson.