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What the Sleepy Animals Do at the Audubon Zoo

Grace Millsaps and Ryan Murphy, illus. by John Clark IV and Alyson Kilday. Sleepy Animals LLC (www.thesleepyanimals.com), $21.95 (44p) ISBN 978-0-9887603-0-1

The husband-and-wife team of Millsaps and Murphy, along with Clark and Kilday of the Hop and Jaunt design firm, debut with a jaunty story whose publication was funded through crowdsourced contributions. In it, they tackle a question that has plagued zoo-goers as long as there have been zoos: Why are all the animals sleeping? A girl named Renee asks her father this question during their visit to New Orleans’s Audubon Zoo, triggering a long, inventive explanation on his part—namely that the animals were up all night throwing a wild shindig. While there are a few shaky moments in the meter and rhyme of Millsaps and Murphy’s verse, it provides amusing setups aplenty: “The sea lions sometimes will synchronize swim./ There’s a costume contest and everyone wins./ The best one at limbo is the white alligator,/ and when they get hungry, the pelicans cater” (directly from their bills, which are stuffed with jambalaya, gumbo, and more). Clark and Kilday’s polished cartoons are full of entertainingly goofy details—green hippos, purple seals, and other not-found-in-nature combos are in keeping with the silly, free-spirited mood. Ages 4–8. (BookLife)

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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A Balm in Gilead

Marie Green McKeon. White Bird, $4.95 e-book (254p) ISBN 978-0-9904338-1-1

Vulnerability of heart, mind, and flesh resonates throughout this scathing, affecting thriller about a rape victim's struggle to salvage her identity as she endures social persecution and works to heal the emotional and physical scars of violation. McKeon doesn't blink at queasy themes of sexual victimization, degradation, and political corruption. After Quin Carlisle is raped on a Pennsylvania college campus by student Dennis Price, she faces unsympathetic police and college officials, a smothering family, and dangerously mounting self-disgust. Ten years later, Quin's hope for normalcy after meeting gentle Joe Armstrong in Chestertown, Md., is shattered by a murder reminiscent of her own attack. Local police ignore Quin's attempts to help, and, in her struggle, she crosses paths with Billy O'Brien, a man seeking justice for his murdered brother. Infusing outrage with sensitivity, McKeon injects moral ambiguity into a heartfelt (if structurally convoluted) plot, whose erratic interweaving of past and present occasionally dilutes suspense. Frailties of both victims and human monsters are laid bare, inviting immediate gut reactions ranging from sympathy to disgust. (BookLife)

Reviewed on 09/26/2014 | Details & Permalink

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