Books Review – Board Book Roundup

My method for picking out children’s books is to walk around the library and look for books on display that seem interesting/cute, randomly flip to a couple pages and see just how much text there is and to check out the artwork (I can’t tell you how many books I’ve put back because the illustrations are awful!), and then read them to a ridiculously smart almost three year old.  Anyway, I decided to combine several in this review.


TITLE: Harold’s ABC
AUTHOR/ILLUSTRATOR: Crockett Johnson
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: Originally 1963. This edition – 2016? 2015? (New book/doesn’t say)

The book is kinda cool.  Harold and his trusty purple crayon (yes, that Harold) go out on an adventure through the alphabet.  This isn’t a typical ABC book.  There’s no A is for apple, turn the page, B is for Banana, etc… Instead, what you get is a story interrupted by that… “To go on any kind of trip, you have to leave home. He started with A for Attic…”  And as Harold is going through this, you see illustrations where the letter is front and center to something they’re talking about (In A’s case, the A makes up the top of the house. Q forms the Queen’s head.)

It isn’t bad, but this book is *small* – like maybe 4 inches or so.  I wish it had been just a little bit larger and the letters had been a little bit bolder.  I’m guessing with a kid a little older who already knows his letters that this story would go over better, but in this case, the toddler knows *most* of his letters and it was a little difficult to get him to pick out the letters and he got bored with it.  [Note: This paragraph brought to you by the phrase “little bit”]

A few of the letters were weak (X is for X-out), and Z was for snore “Zzzl” – um.. since when is there an l in the middle of a snore?  But most of them were good.

I’ll give it a 3/5.  Nothing overly wrong with it, but nothing exceptional about it either.


TITLE: Dig
BOOK BY:  National Geographic Kids
FORMAT: Board Book
PUBLISHED: 2015

So, Dig looked cute.  There’s a photo of large excavating equipment on the front, and when I opened it up randomly, I opened it to a larger photo of the same piece of equipment.  So I sort of assumed that it was about big equipment, which excited me.

Apparently, I should have looked at more pages, because it’s about all kinds of things that dig – people, dogs, whatever.  I was a bit disappointed.  Also, the toddler didn’t really care that mommy and daddy could dig in a garden.  He wanted the big equipment too.

This is an issue I have with board books.  Nothing about the book on the back cover, just a sales pitch for the rest of the series.

Anyway, really disappointed. The book was done well enough, but it isn’t what either of us wanted. And some kid apparently snacked on the library copy, so it tastes good enough.

Still, I’ll give it a tentative 4/5.  I was disappointed in it because it wasn’t what I thought it was (and really, what are the odds that I’d open randomly to the one page of equipment and not any of the other 10 pages of mammals?), but it wasn’t a bad book.


 

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Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper by Joe R. and John L. Lansdale

Title: Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly, Jack the Ripper

Authors/Creators: Adapted by Joe R. Lansdale and John L. Lansdale from the original story by Robert Bloch

Format: Trade Paperback Collected Comic Series, IDW

Published: 2010

yourstrulyjacktheripper

Some stories, those collections of words and punctuation that becomes pages of sentences and paragraphs, should simply remain prose. Others lend themselves to adaptations into other forms, from television series to movies and so on.  Upon my first reading of Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper, a tale first printed in the pulps in 1943, I can remember thinking how cool it would be see this play out on the comic page.  Bloch’s descriptions in the story lent themselves to a visual medium such as comics, the rapid pace of sequential storytelling seemingly a perfect match for his writing style.

IDW’s adaptation, Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper by Joe and John Lansdale both proved my long held opinion right…and wrong.

Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper opens at the scene of a horrific murder in 1940s Chicago.  Jenny, a female newspaper reporter/owner and Dr. Carmody, a psychiatrist are present at the scene, one that is rather horrific, and the most recent in a series of prostitute murders.  Sir Guy Hollis of London, a rather wealthy and influential man, inserts himself into the investigation, stating that he is certain that the killer is somehow the infamous 19th Century murderer, Jack the Ripper.  Although Carmody is skeptical, Sir Guy and Jenny began gathering clues and eventually encounter a being that, the Ripper or not, is indeed a monster.  The story winds through grim revelations, dark alleys, and sinister supernatural doings, revealing that the Ripper indeed may be stalking Chicago in the 1940s…and no one may be able to stop him.

The original Bloch story was almost more character study than actual full tale and the Lansdales expanded on Bloch’s work quite a bit.  Although several liberties were taken in this adaptation, the adaptation holds to Bloch’s style, delivering both simple, straightforward storytelling as well as digging beneath the surface and finding the twists and turns within characters more than relying on the gore and audacity of the actual murders.  The true essence of this adaptation, like its source material, is what makes a person do what they do and how fickle control of that actually may be.

Where this adaptation falls short, however, is in an area that really matters in any comic book-the art. Kevin Colden, the artist, definitely works in a stylized manner within the book, relying essentially on jagged line work, reminiscent of rough pencils with splashes of red throughout.  Although atmospheric at various points and even a time or two evocative in a horrific way, the art overall is a distraction and slows down the storytelling.  If not for the strong narrative established by the Lansdales in the dialogue, the art would have crippled this story.  Because the actual adaptation and the expansion of Bloch’s work is so solid, the art can’t really do more than make this an overall average experience.

Robert Bloch’s Yours Truly, Jack The Ripper is a three out of five page read, just barely.  The art is really an issue with this adaptation, but the story itself is actually set up well and makes this worth the read.

The IDW collections earns 3 out of 6 bullets. It’s an average read when taken as the whole package because of the negative impact the rather and quite literally sketchy art has on the tale.

 

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