Pawcasso by Remy Lai

Have you ever told a little white lie that has snowballed into a huge lie? What starts off as you not correcting something false becomes a whole string of untruths that you can’t keep up with. This is the situation that Jo finds herself in in Remy Lai’s first graphic novel, Pawcasso.

Jo thinks that she’ll spend the summer bored out of her mind, until she spies a dog, with a basket in its mouth, stroll past her house. She follows the dog to the shopping circle in town and discovers that he is doing a spot of shopping. The dog visits some of the shops and buys the things on the list in its basket. When Jo follows the dog to the bookshop, called Dog Ears, she gets mistaken for the dog’s owner. She tries to correct them at first, but the thought of making new friends and getting free books tempts Jo, and she goes along with the lie. The kids from the art class at the bookshop call the dog Pawcasso, as he becomes their model, and the name sticks. Each Saturday, Pawcasso comes into town, and Jo waits for him to walk past. As the people of South Redhart fall in love with Pawcasso, Jo’s chihuahua-sized lie becomes Great Dane-sized. It becomes harder and harder to tell everyone the truth. Even when Pawcasso rolls in poo Jo can’t bear to lose him. When Pawcasso’s real owners show up in town one day, Jo’s lies unravel and she must explain the truth, even if it means losing her friends.

I love Pawcasso so much! It is the most adorable kid’s graphic novel ever and it will make you grin from ear to ear. Whether you’re a dog-lover or not, you can’t help loving Pawcasso. Sure, he loves to roll in poo, but he makes the lives of everyone he meets just a little bit brighter. Kids and adults alike can relate to Jo and her little lie getting out of control, and everyone will wish they had a Pawcasso in their life. As with her previous books, Remy captures the funny moments but also the anxiety, sadness and frustration of her characters.

I have loved each of Remy’s books, especially the comic sections of her stories, Pie in the Sky and Fly on the Wall. I was super excited when she announced she was creating a graphic novel. Pawcasso is every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be. Remy’s artwork is outstanding! It is so colourful and vibrant, and her characters are full of emotion and personality. I love that Jo wears the same outfit throughout the story, but with different colour combinations. Remy and her colourist, Samantha Bennett, must have had a lot of fun choosing colours for Jo’s clothes. I love Jo’s character and the way that Remy shows her range of emotions throughout the story. I cracked up laughing at the illustration of her, with her face smooshed against her window, when she first sees Pawcasso. My favourite parts of the book were the wordless panels that just featured Pawcasso. These are the bits that perfectly capture Pawcasso’s personality, whether it be his head wrapped in a towel after a bath, rolling in poo at the park, or laying upside down on a beanbag, wagging his tail. Pawcasso is such a loveable goofball that people become smitten with him. I also love how, at the back of the book, Remy has drawn the people she wants to thank as dogs, cats and other creatures.

Remy has written the story and created the illustrations, but it is the whole team that has worked on the book that makes this graphic novel stand out. Samantha Bennett’s colouring makes the illustrations jump off the page, and Colleen AF Venable’s design work helps the story to flow and look good on the page. It’s great to see Allen and Unwin publishing more graphic novels from our part of the world too. Please sign Remy up for many, many more graphic novels.

Pawcasso is one of those graphic novels that will spread like wildfire between readers. I preordered multiple copies for my school library because I was that confident it would be a winner. I can’t wait for kids to meet Pawcasso. It is perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, and Kayla Miller.

Bear by Ben Queen and Joe Todd-Stanton

I’m a huge fan of Joe Todd-Stanton. To quote the brilliant Hunt for the Wilderpeople his illustrations are ‘majestical.’ I love his Brownstone’s Mythical Collection books, a series of comics that focus on myths and legends from around the world. I was excited to find a chunky new graphic novel on the public library shelves last week, that’s illustrated by Joe Todd-Stanton and written by Ben Queen. I picked it up because Joe illustrated it but I completely fell in love with this wonderful story.

This large format graphic novel follows Bear the guide dog and his human Patrick. Bear is disappointed to not follow in the footsteps of his parents and siblings to become a K-9 police dog, but he has an equally important job as a guide dog to Patrick who is completely blind. Bear becomes unwell one day and soon finds himself far from home and lost. While Bear tries to make his way home with help from new friends, Patrick looks everywhere for him.

Bear is a gorgeous graphic novel that kids and adults alike will love. If you’re a dog lover this is an absolute must-read. Ben’s story is sweet and heart-warming and it’s perfect for a graphic novel format. It’s a story about friendship and loyalty, but also about overcoming the obstacles that life throws at you. It certainly fills a gap in the children’s graphic novel market. Joe’s illustrations are absolutely stunning. He perfectly captures the different ways that Bear and Patrick view the world, especially as they have to use different senses to adapt to life. Ben and Joe show us that even when you don’t have sight your brain can still create images of the things around you.

Kids of all ages will enjoy Bear. I’ll be buying this one for my primary school library.

Sparks! Double Dog Dare by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto

Sparks! by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto is one of the funniest graphic novels for kids. I recommend it to kids in my library all the time. When I saw that there was a sequel coming I was super excited and I’ve been counting down the days. When I opened a book delivery for my school library the other day it was on the top and I did a little squee of excitement. Double Dog Dare is everything I hoped it would be – silly, funny and action-packed.

Charlie and August are two cats keeping their city safe, dressed in the mechanical superhero dog suit known as Sparks. When there is a family trapped in a burning building, a twister heading for a bus full of children or a pizza truck that’s crashed into the ocean, Sparks is there to save the day. But when a second, evil Sparks shows up and starts causing trouble everyone blames the real Sparks. Who is this fake Sparks and what do they want? It’s up to Charlie and August to uncover the truth and prove that Sparks is a good boy.

Double Dog Dare is another hilarious, explosive adventure with Charlie and August. While we don’t have the alien baby overlord in this story there is a lot of action, with explosions, fire and fights. August’s inventions always make me laugh and I especially love the way he uses the most advanced laser beam in the world. Charlie loses his confidence when a new cat moves in across the road. This cat is polydactyl (meaning it has extra digits on its paws) and Charlie thinks that August wants to replace him. After all, a cat with thumbs could do some pretty awesome things in the Sparks suit. Charlie’s insecurity leads to us getting a flashback to his life before he met August.

The story and the illustrations feel bigger and bolder than the first book. I really love the action of Nina’s illustrations that flows really nicely from panel to panel. I want to give a special mention to David Dedrick, the colourist of this book. The colours are sharp and really make the illustrations jump off the page. There is a lot of action in the story and David’s colours make the action pop.

I highly recommend both Sparks books and they have the kid tick of approval too (the first book is hardly ever on the shelf in my library). I hope there will be more Spark books to look forward to.

Picture Book Nook: Ted by Leila Rudge

I mentioned recently that I’m a sucker for a good dog story, so when I first saw Leila Rudge’s new picture book Ted I fell in love.  Ted, the little dog who is the subject of the story, graces the front cover in various poses wearing his little green jumper.  I knew right away that I would love Ted and you will too.

Ted is a smart dog, with his own jumper. But he has lived at the pet store for as long as he can remember and nobody seems to notice him. Will Ted ever find the perfect place to live? Ted joins the circus, enters a pet pageant, and takes a job as a guard dog, but nobody notices him.  When he least expects it, Ted gets noticed.

Ted is a superb picture book by a very talented author and illustrator.  Ted is a loveable character that children certainly will notice and want to take home. The story is great to read aloud and will have children laughing and hoping for Ted to find a home.  The illustrations are both cute and funny, with lots of quirky details that children will point out.  I particularly like where Ted puts his collar when he’s a guard dog.  The end papers even add to the story (compare the ones at the front to those at the back).

The ending of the book is absolutely hilarious and I definitely didn’t see it coming.  I thought it had all gone horribly wrong for Ted, just when things were looking up.  You’ll just have to read it to find out what happens.

Ted is the perfect book to snuggle up with and share before bed on a cold Winter’s night, so grab a copy from your library or bookshop now.

Picture Book Nook: Bad Dog Flash by Ruth Paul

I’m a sucker for a good dog story, especially when it features a very cute dog who you can’t help but love.  Bad Dog Flash is New Zealand author and illustrator Ruth Paul’s dog story.  Like her previous books, including the 2012 New Zealand Post Children’s Book Awards finalist book, Stomp, Ruth has proven that she can tell a fun and entertaining story using very few words and her delightful illustrations.

Bad Dog Flash is the story of a playful puppy whose games keep getting him in to trouble.  Whether it’s chasing the cat, digging a hole in the garden to hide his bone or chasing the washing on the line, he always gets told off.  However, as all dog lovers know, you can only be angry with your dog for so long, and then it’s back to giving them lots of love and affection.

Bad Dog Flash is a wonderful picture book, full of mischief and humour.  It certainly has the cute factor because I just want to pick the wee guy up and give him a cuddle.  Ruth Paul’s illustrations are soft, making Flash look fluffy and adorable, but she’s also given him loads of character.  Ruth has made Flash bouncy and full of energy (as all puppies are) and you can tell by the expression on his face and the curl of his tail that he’s happy.  Flash also has a really good guilty face.  You can tell by the way that Ruth has illustrated Flash and his actions that she is a dog person.  The way that Flash plays with his stick and the shoes is absolutely spot on.

The thing that I love the most about Ruth’s books is the way that she can tell such a wonderful story with so few words.  The text on the pages with Flash and his stick is ‘Push stick, poke stick…chew stick, chuck stick…’  Ruth could have used more words, but these eight words work so well just by themselves.  All you need are these action words and you can fill in the rest yourself.

The rhythm and rhyme of the text make the story a lot of fun to read aloud and I’m sure you’ll find the children joining in with you as repeat ‘Bad dog, Flash!’ Grab a copy of Bad Dog Flash from your library or bookshop and meet this loveable little troublemaker.

 

Join us for the Oh No, George! Blog Tour

On Thursday, over on the Christchurch Kids Blog, I’ll joined by a great new author and illustrator called Chris Haughton.  Chris’s new picture book is called Oh No, George.  I got the chance to ask Chris some questions about his new book and his work as an author and illustrator.  You will even have the chance to win a print of one of the illustrations from the book.

Check out this fantastic book trailer for Oh No, George.