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Full Speed Ahead! How Fast Things Go

Cruschiform. Abrams, $18.95 (64p) ISBN 978-1-4197-1338-5

French design firm Cruschiform’s graphics channel midcentury poster art while comparing the speeds of animals, people, and vehicles. Left-hand pages introduce the speed at which the objects on the facing pages move. Surprising juxtapositions include an alligator paired with a nuclear submarine (both move at 22 mph), and a springbok, dragonfly, sailboarder, mako shark, and fire truck, all members of the 56 mph club. Readers will be intrigued to see how the universe’s slowpokes (such as the seahorse and Galapagos tortoise) measure up to its fastest—like a shooting star, which travels at a whopping 60,000 mph. A glossary provides additional details about each featured subject, along with a definition of speed itself. Ages 4–8. (Nov.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Alphabetics: An Aesthetically Awesome Alliterated Alphabet Anthology

Patrick and Traci Concepción, illus. by Dawid Ryski. Little Gestalten (Prestel, dist.), $16.95 (64p) ISBN 978-3-89955-728-2

The husband-and-wife team behind Concepción Studios, a graphic design company, team up with artist Ryski for a modish alphabet book that delights in sophisticated, alliterative language: “Ezra the eccentric eskimo/ embarks on an expedition to Everest/ on his earmuff-wearing elephant,” reads the E entry. Other subjects include “Orson the omnipotent octopus/ of the open ocean” and “Uma the unpredictable unicorn/ underneath an ultraviolet umbrella.” Grainy prints dominated by shades of mustard, saffron, and robin’s egg blue lend a polished, offbeat aesthetic. A glossary offers definitions for many of the words, rounding out the tongue-twisting wordplay with a vocabulary lesson for budding logophiles. Ages 3–8. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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10 Times 10

Hervé Tullet. Tate (Abrams, dist.), $15.95 (128p) ISBN 978-1-84976-247-2

Tullet counts to 10 in 10 wildly eccentric ways, channeling the energy of a messy preschool art room. In one chapter, Tullet counts by fingers—but instead of using two hands, he just keeps adding fingers on one, with the resulting appendage resembling a sea anemone. Elsewhere, an accumulation of two ears, three noses, four eyes, five mouths, and more form a grotesque pink mutant creation with ruby-red lips and fangs. A riff on the Biblical story of creation and a fairy tale about two princes, three princesses, four witches, and so on are just a couple of the ways Tullet takes something as simple as counting to 10 and uses it as a springboard for loopy, creative experimentation. Ages 2–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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My Barefoot Book of Wonderful Words

Illus. by Sophie Fatus. Barefoot, $19.99 (48p) ISBN 978-1-78285-092-2

Inviting acrylic-and-pencil cartoons introduce more than 700 words within the context of such familiar environments as a park, library, and market. A spread featuring the people and businesses on a busy street precedes one devoted to various professions: “Sam wants to be a chef. What do you want to be when you grow up?” Tiny portraits of dozens of workers include a bus driver, artist, reporter, and arborist. Later, the park scene leads to an overview of emotions: “Everyone in the park looks happy and relaxed. How do you think these children feel?” A friendly and diverse cast of characters helps create a book with broad appeal, as well as plentiful whimsical details to examine. Ages 2–6. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Up & Down: A Lift-the-Flap Book

Britta Teckentrup. Candlewick/Templar, $17.99 (28p) ISBN 978-0-7636-7129-7

A penguin’s journey to reunite with his friend supplies the premise behind this understated and elegantly designed interactive introduction to antonyms. The use of large, well-integrated flaps creates a satisfying sense of motion as readers help Little Penguin travel through the green-blue water past bloblike ocean flora and a variety of fauna, flecked with grainy or marbled patterns (“He swam above a bobbing jellyfish... and below a tickly octopus. He swam over an orca’s tail... then under its belly”). Sweeping blues and grays emphasize the vastness of the water keeping the friends apart, making their eventual reunion especially tender. Ages 2–5. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Messenger of Fear

Michael Grant. HarperCollins/Tegen, $17.99 (272p) ISBN 978-0-06-220740-1

First in a planned series, Grant's (the Gone books) uneven paranormal story transcends time and space to address the consequences of bullying, violence, and moral cowardice. Teenage Mara wakes up with amnesia in a place set outside of reality; she learns she's meant to become the apprentice to the so-called Messenger of Fear, an immortal young man who judges evildoers and forces them to confront their actions and experience their greatest fears. Mara familiarizes herself with three cases, the most haunting of which involves a teenage girl driven to suicide by a classmate's bullying. But nothing is straightforward in Mara's new role, and she has much to learn about right and wrong, dispensing justice, and the transgressions of her own past. Intriguing mythology fleshes out Grant's concept, and the story concludes with a powerful revelation. Yet inconsistent internal logic (the severity of one of the infractions that Mara presides is out of step with the other two) and the unsubtle message about behaving with mindfully good intentions mar an otherwise absorbing premise. Ages 14–up. Agent: Steve Sheppard, Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams and Sheppard. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Isobel Journal

Isobel Harrop. Capstone/Switch Press, $16.95 (208p) ISBN 978-1-63079-003-5

Harrop, a teenage blogger from northern England, presents a stream-of-consciousness journal/scrapbook. In pages filled with her own drawings (both sketches and collages with photos and postcards) and ephemera (such as a ticket from a miniature railway), she muses on friendships and boys ("I've invented a phrase which I hope all teen girls will latch on to: boy high. Noun: OMG we texted all day, I'm on a total boy-high!"), thinks about role models ("I wish I had half the sass of Debbie Harry"), and offers tips on daily life ("When riding your bike in a skirt, my top tip is to wear old exercise shorts underneath to confuse passersby"). Younger YA readers will probably find this to be a fascinating, sweetly funny, and relatively unscary introduction to teenage life; older readers may lose patience with Harrop's manic pixie girl persona and wonder why she has little to say about the world beyond cute animals and boys. Her one attempt at bigger issues is the headline: "Feminism: Why Not?" and a drawing of hairy legs. Ages 14–up. (Aug.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Suee and the Shadow, Part 1

Ginger Ly, trans. from the Korean by Kay Lee, illus. by Molly Park. Bhive Comics (www.sueeandtheshadow.com), $2.99 e-book (112p) ASIN B00BIGI1XI

Twelve-year-old Suee Lee’s first days at a new school take some strange turns in this eerie graphic novel from a Korean creative team. Suee isn’t happy about moving to Outskirtsville with her divorced father, and she’s determined to avoid “loser” status by staying as uninvolved as possible—Suee’s detached demeanor, cerebral narration, and the overall look of Park’s artwork are part Emily the Strange, part Daria Morgendorffer. (“Life in grade school. A series of tiresome events,” thinks Suee during a counseling session with her homeroom teacher.) But Suee’s school-day anonymity is threatened when her shadow inexplicably starts talking to her, and she realizes that there’s something fishy about a new after-school class. Park’s polished cartooning sticks to a palette of drab grays, spiked with pale reds, yellows, and blues—it’s very much in keeping with Suee’s outlook on life and a story in which shadows and bullying play key roles. The book ends with a major cliffhanger, but the sequel is already available, and the third and final installment is in the works. Ages 8–12. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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Samson's Gift

Ellen Jean Diedrich. Givinity Press (www.givinity.com), $19.95 (32p) ISBN 978-0-9728654-6-3

A lamb explains how his fine wool proved fit for a king in this tenderhearted Nativity tale, published by the author/artist. Orphaned during a wolf attack that killed his mother, Samson was rescued by shepherds and adopted as the favorite of one shepherd's daughter, Tedra. The lamb's unusually rich coat—and Tedra's pleas—earn him protection from an early shearing, a circumstance that puts him in good standing as he and Tedra accompany the three traveling kings seeking "a new baby king" in a nearby stable. Upon seeing the infant wrapped in rags, Samson sacrifices his special wool "to protect the baby from the prickly straw." Diedrich's rough textured, neo-Impressionist style paintings blend watercolors and acrylics in softly lit tones, creating an idyllic setting. A closing page of "Sheep and Wool Fun Facts" is included. Ages 5–up. (Sept.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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The Three Wise Men: A Christmas Story

Loek Koopmans. Floris (SteinerBooks, dist.), $16.95 (32p) ISBN 978-1-7825-0135-0

Dutch artist Koopmans offers a subdued, almost dreamlike account of the journey of the wise men, Melchior, Caspar, and Balthasar. Gathered in the turret of an observatory, surrounded by hilly desert, the three "stargazers" look with awe at the strange star that has appeared in the sky: "They did not know the star's name. They had never seen anything like it before. It was a miracle." With a backdrop of pale yellows, greens, and blues, Koopmans's paintings have a gauzy quality that amplifies the mystery about the star's meaning as the men acquire camels and gifts and follow the star, suspecting it may be connected to an ancient story about the birth of a new king. A powerful sense of serenity permeates both the understated text and richly rendered artwork. Ages 4–up. (Oct.)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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