Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.

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The Wicked + The Divine by Kieron Gillen & Jamie McKelvie

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Image from

Gillen, K., & McKelvie J. (Ill.) The Wicked + the Divine, vol. 1: the Faust Act. Image Comics: 2014. ISBN: 9781632150196

Annotation: Every ninety years, twelve gods come back to earth. Two years later, they are dead. In 2014, Laura is obsessed with the recently returned pop star deities and will do anything to get close to them.

Reaction: This book is excellent if you, like me, love the mythologies of religions all over the world and enjoy seeing modern uses of ancient gods. They’re very like fairy tales in that way for me, and this book does some wonderful, modern things with these relatively obscure gods and goddesses. This is not to say that you have to be super into mythology to get this book; it would definitely appeal to urban fantasy and superhero comics fans, as well. Gillen & McKelvie have pulled a lot of things together to create something fantastic, all while using a diverse cast of characters, including a couple of gender bending deities. And seriously, their lady Bowie!Lucifer is inspired, and I cannot wait to meet the male Inanna (one of my favorite pre-Christian goddesses).

I really appreciate the story centering on Laura, and that we get this crazy escapade from the perspective of a normal girl. She really helps ground things into the “real world,” and it is completely wonderful that they use a lady of color for this pivotal role. I think the creative team has done a great job of reflecting the diversity of London (and I also really enjoyed the story’s skeptic pointing out that a white girl as a Japanese Shinto deity might be problematic). The writing in this is just so smart and witty, and the art fits so well with it.

My favorite thing about the art (and something that Gillen points out in his Writer Notes about the issues), is how McKelvie really captures facial expressions. There are some panels where the characters face conveys so much and is so perfect for that moment in the story. It’s subtle and completely awesome. But you know? The big moments are great, too. McKelvie and their colorist does a great job of giving those “holy shit is getting real!” moments the impact they deserve. And I love the juxtaposition of the quiet and the major. This is probably the kind of thing that it would be really easy to give your reader whiplash with, but pacing in this never feels frenzied to me.

I finished my first read-through of this on a plane, and it was everything I could do not to slam it down on my fold out tray in anguish at the thought of having to wait any length of time for the next installment. This is another one I’m debating about single issues vs. collected paperbacks. I absolutely love it, and I really don’t know that I can wait another 5 or 6 months for the next collected volume.

Author’s website, where you can read the “director’s commentary” on the individual issues of this (search for “Writer Notes”).

Illustrator’s website

(Contributed to Cannonball Reads 7 as part of my 52 reviews in 52 weeks.)



Tell Me A Dragon by Jackie Morris

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Image from

Morris, J. (2009). Tell me a dragon. London: Frances Lincoln Children’s Books. ISBN: 9781845075347

Annotation: In this beautiful book, people from all over the world describe their dragons.

Reaction: The art in this is breathtaking. The pictures are beautiful and remind me of Renaissance paintings, full of detail and light. Each dragon has distinct features, unique to the people and places where they belong. Each double page illustration is accompanied by a few lovely lines that tell the reader what kind of dragon they’re looking at and it’s special characteristics. The dragons are caring and playful and warm, and not a one pillages or eats people. These dragons are protectors and friends, and the final pages, with all the dragons grouped together, invites the reader to imagine his or her own dragon.

This book is a total must for fantasy lovers, and I think the final page of “Tell me about your dragon” could foster some really lively imaginative play for children.

Media Used: Watercolors

Author’s Website

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Night Knight by Owen Davey

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Image from

Davey, O. (2011). Night knight. Somerville, MA: Templar Books. ISBN: 9780763658380

Annotation: A young knight takes the reader on his adventurous journey toward bedtime.

Reaction: I picked this book up as a possibility for my preschool storytime (pretty much why I pick up an picture books these days), but I kept it because of the beautiful illustrations. As my husband said, it’s just about a boy getting ready for bed, but I love the fantastic journey he has to take to get there. I love the palette of red, yellow and orange that Davey uses in this book. It puts me in mind of sunset and getting ready for bed (which is probably the point). I also love the way Davey incorporates bits of the knight’s house into the world of his quest, tethering the real to the imagined. This book is simple and beautiful and delightful and magical. This would make a fantastic bedtime book for anyone’s little knights, boy or girl.

Media Used: Digital media

Author’s Website

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Animalia by Graeme Base

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Base, G. (1987). Animalia. New York: Harry N. Abrams, Inc. ISBN: 9780810918689

Annotation: This alphabet book offers pages detailed pictures that all start with the same letter and silly sentences full of alliteration.

Reaction: An alphabet book may seem too young for our target audience, but this is a book for those 10-12 year olds who loved Base’s other books, like The Eleventh Hour and The Sign of the Seahorse. Kids will have fun naming all the different things “of a kind” Base has included in his illustrations, many of which only older readers will be able to identify; Base even includes delightfully nerdy references in his illustrations, such as a Dalek and the Doctor from Doctor Who and the Enterprise from Star Trek: the Next Generation. To make the reading experience even more fun, he has included an illustration of himself in each picture for a rousing game of “Where’s Graeme?” Sometimes, he’s easy to spot, and sometimes, the readers have to work a bit to find him. The art is richly detailed and beautifully colored and is sure to delight and amuse readers of all ages.

Each letter of the alphabet is represented by a wonderful, almost nonsensical sentence of alliteration

Media Used: None listed, but it seems likely that he used acrylic paint as in The Eleventh Hour, given the similarities of the illustrations in the two books.

Author’s Website

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Golem by David Wisniewski

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Wisniewski, D. (1996). Golem. New York: Clarion Books. ISBN: 9780395726181

Annotation: In 16th Century Prague, the Jews are being persecuted by the non-Jews, who are spreading malicious lies about Jewish traditions. To protect his people, the chief rabbi breathes life into a clay giant.

Reaction: The paper cuts are amazing. I love all the details and intricacies Wisniewski is able to incorporate into his illustrations. As I examined the minute details of the pictures, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it took him to complete his paper cuts for this book, and I would love to know much was done by hand or with something like a die cut machine and how large the original illustrations were (surely big, right? they’re so delicate).

I also really like the emotional complexity he gave to Golem, and how human he was by the end of the story. I wish he could have been allowed to savor life longer. Golem, named Joseph by his creator, should be a reminder to appreciate the small beauties of life, the way he savors the new experiences of being alive, like “the scent of a rose or the flight of a pigeon.”

This book uses sophisticated language in the text through the religious terminology and through the complex ideas presented about humanity in the text and illustrations.

This book won the 1997 Caldecott Medal.

This book is on the 2011 Students’ List for “Books receiving votes for Top Ten Favorites from students in Summer 2011.”

Media Used: Cut paper.

Author’s Website: None

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Just Being Audrey by Margaret Cardillo

Cardillo, M., & Denos, J. (ill.) (2011). Just being Audrey. New York: Balzer + Bray. ISBN: 9780061852848

Annotation: A touching portrait of Audrey Hepburn throughout her life, from her childhood in Belguim and Holland to her humanitarian work with UNICEF.

Reaction: Wow, I loved this book. I wasn’t originally planning on including it on my Top Ten Favorites list, but this book has just stuck with me, percolating in my brain. This is a great book about a beautiful, kind, strong role model for girls.

I didn’t know much about Audrey Hepburn beyond her movies, and I really enjoyed her history: living through hiding from the Nazi’s, being poor in London, becoming a hugely popular and iconic actress, and giving back to the world through humanitarian aid. Thinking about all that she did with her life and fame is very humbling; even at the height of her popularity, she was kind and giving. This book celebrates her life and legacy, honors her commitment to doing good in the world, and gives a whole new generation of people an opportunity to fall in love with her and model their lives after hers.

And the art in this book. Wow. Perfect. Denos perfectly captures her essence, her spirit and charm. The illustration of Audrey with the UNICEF children is powerful and nearly moved me to tears. I love that all the pictures show a happy, content Audrey just doing her thing in life, not paying any attention to critics. The art is wistful and dreamy and highlights Audrey’s giving nature.

This book is on the 2011 Students’ List for “Books receiving votes for Top Ten Favorites from students in Summer 2011.”

This book is on my Top Ten Favorites list for this class.

Media Used: Blend of watercolor, colored pencil, graphite, charcoal and Photoshop.

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website

ETA: Hooray! I won a signed copy of this book from the ladies at Girls of Summer, and it came today (08/22)!!!

Just Being Audrey Prize

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Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

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Selznick, B. (2011). Wonderstruck: a novel in words and pictures. New York: Scholastic Press. ISBN: 9780545027892

Annotation: Ben lives in Minnesota in 1977. Rose lives in New Jersey in 1927. Using prose to tell Ben’s story and pictures for Rose’s, Selznick brings these two characters together.

Reaction: This book (and Selznick’s other illustrated novel, The Invention of Hugo Cabret) is pretty daunting at first sight, until you realize that about half the book is made up of really beautiful illustrations. This would be such a great book to read with your kids before bed and would be also be great for introducing diversity to a kid who may not have any experience with deaf people or Deaf culture.

The drawings are amazing and very detailed. Selznick forces the reader to pay attention to what’s going on in the drawings as they tell an important part of the story. I actually confused myself because I missed the changes he introduced to the drawings to indicate the passage of time for Rose from 1927 to 1977. I loved the way he used white space to set her off from the crowds around her, so the reader instinctively knows who the subject of the scene is. And even though Rose tells her story to Ben later in the prose section, the reader already knows all that because Selznick is meticulous about including all the pertinent information in his drawings. I was a little concerned when I first started the book because I am notorious for skimming over illustrations and missing details. I had to remind myself to pay attention and even narrated the action of the pictures to myself. I really think this was probably a great exercise for me personally in observation and paying attention to the details.

Right before I read this, I’d been watching a lot of Switched a Birth on Netflix, which features main characters who have been deaf nearly all their lives, so reading about Ben dealing with being newly deaf was really interesting. He had to totally relearn how to communicate with the world around him, and I’m so glad Selznick included the wonder he felt at his discovery of sign language.

I loved Selznick’s description of the magic of museums, of discovering and collecting and being a curator of your own life. The glimpses of the inner workings of the museum was wonderful and shows the amount of effort that going into all the museum pieces and displays. Ben’s book within the book was a particularly nice touch.

Though I didn’t pick up it, Selznick in the Acknowledgements says he alludes to From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by K.L. Konigsburg multiple times throughout the book. To be fair, I last read that book when I was 12 myself, so I’m sure kids who have read it more recently will be able to spot Selznick’s references.

This book is on the 2011 Students’ List for “Books receiving votes for Top Ten Favorites from students in Summer 2011.”

This book is on my Top Ten Favorites list for this class.

Media Used: Pencil on Fabriano Artistico watercolor paper.

Author’s Website