Sunday, December 11, 2011

Books for Middle School

People by Blexbolex, Gecko Press

 Another challenging book by Gecko Press. It’s hardbound with a jacket and is presented in an unusual size (25cm x 19cm). It’s as thick as a proper book (that is, not a picture book) but this is in part due to the very solid paper used. Librarians will be scratching their heads wondering where to shelve it. Each page presents a minimalistic image of a person in some kind of role, along with words that describe the role. So we find School Children, a Conductor, a Painter, a Stevedore, an Astronaut. So far so good. But the artist’s sly sense of humour comes through when we find images for A Seasonal Worker (Santa Claus), a Myth (Prometheus pushing his stone), a Nudist, an Invisible Man, a Risk-Taker. Humour is also evident in the juxtaposition of the images – an Explorer is next to Tourists, a Monk is next to a Rabbi, a Vagabond is next to a Bedouin.
Now, who would appreciate a book like this? I could see it being used in primary schools for social studies lessons, but children will probably need guidance from teachers to help them think about the not-so-obvious aspects of the images. Art teachers may also be interested in it because the illustrations certainly bear out the “Less is more” guideline. By the way, Blexbolex is a French illustrator and graphic artist, and this book won the Best Book Design in the World Award at the Leipzig Book Fair.
ISBN 978 1 1877467 87 3 RRP $37.99
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

D.E.S.I.G.N.* by Ewa Solarz, illus. Aleksandra and Daniel Mizielinski, Gecko Press
The asterisk stands for Domestic Equipment: Sleek, Ingenious, Groundbreaking, Noteworthy – all qualities which could be applied to this book. It’s a solid hardback volume (originally published in Poland) using top-quality paper, meaning that it has a definite feel-good aspect. It offers a selection of 69 objects created by “the most influential and famous designers from around the world”. These are all objects which can be found in a house, and they are presented chronologically. Each double spread display includes cartoon illustrations, explanatory text, the date of invention, the designer’s country of origin, the material it’s made from – and various other bits of information. Not to mention a great deal of humour! The featured objects are not what you’d expect – browsing through the volume one can find an elephant chair, a skier’s table, a grass sofa, a cosmic lamp, an octopus-shaper juicer, animal houses with tails, sky shelves, and a floor doily... I rather like the indestructible sofa. The cartoon illustrations are colourful and funny – and quite addictive. You find yourself turning the page just to see what weird object is going to come up next.

Strangely enough, I see this book as being of interest to schoolchildren of five to fifteen because of the universal humour. But as a reference tool, it would probably be useful for students once they start studying design as part of their curriculum.
ISBN 978 1 877467 83 7 RRP $39.99

Reviewed by Lorraine Orman
The Littlest Angel: Lily Goes Skitter Skating by Elizabeth Pulford, illus. Aki Fukuoka, Scholastic NZ

The Littlest Angel: Lily Lands in Bubble Trouble by Elizabeth Pulford, illus. Aki Fukuoka, Scholastic NZ
These are Books 3 and 4 in The Littlest Angel series. If you know the series, you hardly need to read on but if you don’t, Lily is a pupil at Amelia’s Angel Academy (think fairies, rather than traditional, religious-type angels), the kind of student who always has the best of intentions but gets herself into some awful scrapes. The presentation of the books in the series is clever – girls will love the sparkly silver bits on the cover, the glitzy coloured foil on the page edges, and the pastel shading on the pages themselves. I’m sure there are plenty of primary-aged girls out there who already love Lily and will be delighted to find these two volumes in their Christmas stockings.
ISBN 978 1 77543 024 7 RRP $12
ISBN 978 1 77543 052 0 RRP $12

Diplo-dizzydocus by Kyle Mewburn, illus/ Donovan Bixley, Scholastic NZ
Primary-aged boys are unlikely to read Scholastic’s The Littlest Angel series, but they could easily become addicted to this series which began about the same time: Dinosaur Rescue. This is Book 4, and tells us another funny and easy-to-read story about Arg, the genius Neanderthal boy, and his friend Skeet, who happens to be a clever Tyrannosaurus Rex. As in the previous stories, there is plenty of vomit, snot, stink, poo, and so on. My advice to parents – don’t read it! You’ll be disgusted. But if you’re trying to encourage a boy into reading books, this series would be spot on – the hilarious cartoon illustrations should be a good enticement. By the way, there are Teachers’ Notes available for this book on the Scholastic website.
ISBN 978 1 77543 050 6 RRP $12
Reviewed by Lorraine Orman

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi, can i ask you something? I’m looking for children books with “scary” animal illustrations like Wolf (or fox) eating pigs (or seven kids or Red Riding hood or birds in Chicken Little) or being pictured with a fat stomach. Any sort of help is appreciated. Thanks in advance. Great blog, by the way!