Molly and the Bear Review

cameron-company-molly-and-the-bear-soft-cover-1Molly and the Bear by Bob Scott

Cameron & Company, 2016. 978-1937359850

Synopsis: When pan phobic Bear moves in with Molly and her family, life becomes anything but ordinary. But with a lot of patience and understanding, Molly gradually begins to help Bear outside of his shell…even if there is some crying and whining along the way.

Why I picked it up: I am a huge fan of quirky animal stories, strong female protagonists, and family comics.

Why I finished it: It takes a special sort of person to handle a 900-pound pan phobic grizzly, and Molly happens to have the right personality. Despite the fact that some of Bear’s trivial idiosyncrasies leave Molly scratching her head, she is (to a point) happy to oblige to his requests. It’s not that she’s being dismissive; she merely wants to find a way to relieve some of Bear’s anxieties: his fear of cats, his worry that the air isn’t safe to breathe when they land after a plane flight, the stress of whether or not Molly is going to leave the house when she puts her socks on (sometimes she just has cold feet), and how to get her father to warm up to him. Originally published as a webcomic, Bob Scott has collected the most comprehensive collection of his strips to give the reader a little bit of a taste as to what Molly and the Bear is about. As previously stated, it’s easy to  get drawn in to the comic not only because of the characters, but because Scott’s art pays such a loving homage to the Golden Age comics of which we are so fond. There is a playfulness to the art and the writing that shows the reader just how much fun Scott has writing and drawing the strips. I thought it was particularly clever that he’s thrown in a few artist gags into the mix – they might go over some reader’s heads because they seem somewhat out of context, but I think it’s a way for Scott to poke a little bit of fun at himself. It’s a funny, heartwarming comic about just being yourself and the joys of friendship. For more of Molly and Bear, check out the comic here.

Other related materials: Garfield comics by Jim Davis; Snoopy: Contact! (A Peanuts Collection) by Charles M. Schulz; Woodstock: Master of Disguise: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; Charlie Brown and Friends: A Peanuts Collection by Charles M. Schulz; Beginning Pearls: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Croc Ate My Homework: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; Skip School, Fly to Space: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; When Crocs Fly: A Pearls Before Swine Collection by Stephan T. Pastis; The Mutts Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; The Mutts Winter Diaries by Patrick McDonnell; AAAA!: A FoxTrot Kids Edition by Bill Amend; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce; Oh, Brother! Brat Attack! by Bob Weber, Jr. and Jay Stephens

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Game On: Pokemon Go

pokemon_goPokémon GO

Niantic, Inc., 2016.

Available for Free on iOS and Android platforms

Summary: Catch Pokémon in the real world and train to become the greatest Pokémon trainer of them all!

This game is a big deal for a number of reasons, only a few of which I will highlight here. Originally developed for personal gaming systems (think Gameboy, Gameboy Color, Nintendo DS), the augmented reality game developed a cult following in the 90s that also included a television series and a trading card game – the latter of which is still popular. New Pokémon games have popped up over the years, but with the exception of expanding the number and variety of monsters (the original 151 has grown to a ridiculously large 721), it’s my understanding that the nature and the goal of the game hasn’t changed. With the release of Pokémon Go, the game is now much more interactive and has a greater opportunity for socializing. For people in my generation that grew up with the original games (think Red, Blue, Yellow), there’s a definite nostalgia factor and the marketing isn’t afraid to play this up. It’s an opportunity for the older generations to connect with the younger generation; it’s an opportunity for groups of people to get out, walk around, and (to a certain extent) explore their communities. It’s giving kids and adults that have trouble interacting in social situations a way to intermingle with their peers: I have a college friend with a daughter that has high-functioning autism and Pokémon Go has given the daughter more confidence and more focus. It sounds super hokey, I admit, but this game really does have the opportunity to transform individuals.

In terms of game play itself, the functionality is relatively simple. You start out by picking a character, dressing it, and then choosing a starter Pokémon: Bulbasaur, Charmander, or Squirtle. Using your phone’s GPS and camera, the user can basically walk around while looking at a map of their area in order to find and catch Pokémon (by flicking a Pokéball at the monster, which you can re-name after you add it to your Pokédex), train at a gym (starting at Level 5), or find a Pokéstop where they can collect more Pokéballs for catching monsters or even eggs (by spinning a coin-like logo that appears in the middle of the screen). Eggs can be hatched by fulfilling a certain walking distance requirement while placed in your incubator. Pokémon can also be traded in to the Professor for candy that allows you to level up and evolve your Pokémon. Other equipment upgrades, coins, lures, and incense can be purchased in the in-game store. At Level 5, the user will pick one of three teams – Team Mystic, Team Valor, or Team Instinct. Battling is a little bit different than in the video game: instead of a turn-based system, the user repeatedly taps the screen in order to attack their opponent. A major downside to the game is that it drains your battery and can potentially use up quite a bit of your data – but those are really the least of your concerns. Making sure to stay safe and alert while playing are super important, especially considering how easy it is to stare at your phone while walking around. Overall, there are some aspects of the functionality that can be frustrating and the game is still a little bit buggy (no pun intended), but it’s fun and it gets people up and active. So, get out there and catch them all!

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The Quikpick Papers: To Kick a Corpse Review

to_kick_a_corpseThe Quikpick Papers: To Kick A Corpse by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang

Harry N. Abrams, 2016. 978-1419719066.

Synopsis: It was over. After our last adventure, there wasn’t supposed to be a Quikpick Adventure Society. But Marilla was bent on delivering justice for her family…for the thousands of slaves that had to suffer under the hand of their masters. And when a pretty girl is goading you and calling you a wimp, well, what choice did we have? So here it is; the last and final adventure…for real this time.

Why I picked it up: I wanted to know how the last adventure ‘ended’.

Why I finished it: And so, things have come to an end. For real this time. Well, I am sure there will still be excitement and adventures, but nothing quite so fantastic as before. The trio has certainly grown since we first met them, and they will keep going on even though there are no more reports. I do have to admit that the premise for the last adventure is a little bit odd.  Then again, I’ve mentioned before that I’m not the kind of person that would intentionally seek out the strange and abnormal – I’m more of a Dave than a Marilla or a Lyle. But these sort of experiences are the ones that make a lasting impression on the characters and on the reader. The things we do with our friends, no matter how weird or crazy they may seem to others, are what bring us together and strengthen our bonds. They are the things that we will remember and look back on years later. Angleberger has given us a story about the power of friendship and the strange nature of change. Our lives evolve in unexpected ways as we get older, a fact that becomes apparent to Lyle at the close of the report. It’s not always good or bad, but it happens. Wang’s illustrations help add to the humorous nature of the story and they play off the sort of silliness that is inherent to Lyle, Dave, and Marilla’s friendship. It’s a somewhat serious end to the series, but it does give the reader some comfort knowing that the trio continues to carry on, even in the face of change.

Other related materials: The Quikpick Papers: Poop Fountain! by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang; The Quikpick Papers: The Rat with the Human Face by Tom Angleberger, illustrations by Jen Wang; Rocket and Groot: Stranded on Planet Strip Mall! by Tom Angleberger;  Origami Yoda books by Tom Angleberger; Star Wars: Jedi Academy books by Jeffrey Brown;  How to Eat Fried Worms by Judy Blume; Freckle Juice by Judy Blume; Diary of a Sixth-Grade Ninja books by Marcus Emerson; The Ninja Librarians books by Jen Swann Downey; The Creature from My Closet books by Obert Skye; Diary of a Wimpy Kid books by Jeff Kinney; Guys Read books edited by Jon Scieszka; The Lemonade War series by Jacqueline Davies

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Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath Review

kid_beowulf_1Kid Beowulf: The Blood-Bound Oath by Alexis E. Fajardo

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449475895

Synopsis: You’ve heard of the epic poem Beowulf. This is the story of what happens before Beowulf becomes the hero of Norse myth and song. This is the story of Beowulf and his brother Grendel before they became enemies. This is the story of how a king broke his word and tore his family and people apart. So forget everything you know or what you think you know about these characters and join them on new adventures before they became legend.

Why I picked it up: I’m sometimes leery of a reworking of the classics, but this one piqued my interest.

Why I finished it: This comic has a little bit of something for everyone: adventure, action, mystery, and more. It takes what we know about the classic poem and makes it into a much more universally understood story about the first European peoples, their thirst for power, and how desire can ruin even the best intentions. The story traces back to Beowulf’s grandfather, King Hrothgar (pronounced Roth-gar), who makes a deal with a dragon in order to gain power to rule. The first couple of chapters are pretty standard myth, really: betrayal, cheating, stealing, sleeping around, uneasy truces. It’s the last chapter that really has most of the meat to it, since that is when we meet young Beowulf and Grendel. Both are unaware of the other’s existence, both having lived their separate lives until they are both captured and offered as entertainment for the Heathobards (the clan at war with the Danes, the clan of their grandfather). Besides the apparent lesson of being careful what you wish for, there’s also an element of think before you act that runs through much of the story. Again, nothing we haven’t heard before, but something about the way Farjado is presenting the story makes it seem a little less in-your face. I’m loving the art in this comic as well – for being such a serious story, Farjadas has infused bursts of color to give it almost a jaunty, fun feeling that draws you in. It gives the characters a more figurative color and we feel more attached to them. I’m so excited for this series and I can’t wait to read more!

Other related materials: Kid Beowulf: The Song of Roland by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf: The Rise of El Cid by Alexis E. Fajardo; Kid Beowulf Eddas: Shild and the Dragon by Alexis E. Fajardo; Bone series by Jeff Smith; Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard books by Rick Riordan; Percy Jackson and the Olympians series by Rick Riordan; Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling; Avatar: The Last Airbender series by Gene Luen Yang, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gurihiru, and Bryan Koneitzko

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Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans at Fort Canning Review

sherlock_sam_2Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449477882

Synopsis: On a class trip to Fort Canning, a base used by British troops during World War II, Sherlock Sam and his friends discover a hidden escape port that appears to be haunted. Desperate to prove that there is no such thing as a ghost, Sherlock, his robot Watson, his sister Wendy, Sherlock’s dad, and his friends Jimmy and Nazhar set out to discover the real source of the moaning within the historical monument.

Why I picked it up: I was eager to read more about Singapore’s Greatest Kid Detective!

Why I finished it: In Sherlock’s second case, he’s forced to confront the idea that something illogical could be the most logical solution. But Sherlock isn’t willing to accept that all signs point to the supernatural. Sure, there are plenty of ghosts in Peranakan and Asian culture, but those are just stories; stories like that couldn’t possibly be real. Then again, belief in the supernatural is different from person to person…. Readers get to know a little bit more about Sherlock’s dad, as he joins the gang to help his children and their classmates solve the mystery behind the ghostly moans coming from the hidden escape port. It’s easy to see where Sherlock gets some of his hobbies and quirks, evidenced in the plot and by the accompanying illustrations. I liked the additional character development because now the parents don’t feel like such flat characters. They do have a role, and it’s not just to cook food, tell them to do the dishes, and lecture them about getting to school on time. Husband-wife writing team Felicia Low-Jimenez and Adan Jimenez have started to develop a little bit more of their style with this book. The plot remains somewhat formulaic (as mysteries tend to be), but they throw in enough twists to keep the reader guessing and keep things from becoming predictable. They have even thrown in some universal cultural references to ground non-Asian readers in the story. drewscape’s drawings continue to enchant, focusing more on the little details in the background for this installment that not only brings the characters to life, but gives us a better idea of their personalities as well. It’s fun, humorous, and just the right amount of scary. And be sure to check out Sherlock Sam’s Blog and Facebook page for even more of the boy detective.

Other related materials: Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Sinister Letters in Bras Basah by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Alien Encounter on Pulau Ubin by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Vanishing Robot in Penang by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Cloaked Classmate in Macritchie by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Stolen Script in Balestier by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Fiendish Mastermind in Jurong by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Obento Bonanza in Tokyo by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Comic Book Caper in New York by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sarah Pennypacker, pictures by Marla Frazee; Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective books by Donald J. Sobol; Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, illustrated by Marc Simont; The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner; The Chicken Squad books by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

 

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Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong Review

sherlock_sam_1Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape

Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 978-1449477899

Synopsis: Meet 10-year-old Samuel Tan Cher Lock, or, Sherlock Sam. He’s a boy detective with astute powers of observation, a love of comics, and an insatiable appetite. So what happens when the cookbook needed to make one of his favorite dishes goes missing? Along with his sister Wendy, classmate Jimmy, and his robot Watson, he’s on the case to recover the family heirloom!

Why I picked it up: I like kid detectives and fast-paced mysteries.

Why I finished it: Previously published overseas, Singapore’s Greatest Kid Detective makes his U.S. debut in style. The book draws on famous Singapore locations for its setting and the diversity and the culture really come to life. So, not only does Sherlock Sam have mystery and intrigue, there’s a history/social sciences lesson. Plus, all the talking about food was making me hungry – I love trying new foods and I’m eager to go to my local library to see if I can check out some books on how to experience some of the tasty treats I read about. Sherlock is a quirky character that is (intentionally) just as intelligent and resourceful as Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s famous detective. The genius factor is played up just enough that readers will be able to follow most of Sherlock’s logic and deductions, and we are in awe of the cleverness exhibited by the young detective. The husband-wife writing team has crafted a story that is sure to keep us on our toes until the final pages. I really enjoyed the illustrations because they brought the story to life. They reminded me a lot of the Big Nate comics the way the lines are drawn and the way drewscape uses visuals to really bring home the humor. It’s a quick read sure to entice mystery lovers and reluctant readers alike. And be sure to check out Sherlock Sam’s Blog and Facebook page for even more of the boy detective.

Other related materials: Sherlock Sam and the Ghostly Moans in Fort Canning by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Sinister Letters in Bras Basah by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Alien Encounter on Pulau Ubin by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Vanishing Robot in Penang by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Cloaked Classmate in Macritchie by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Stolen Script in Balestier by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Fiendish Mastermind in Jurong by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Obento Bonanza in Tokyo by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Sherlock Sam and the Comic Book Caper in New York by A.J. Low, illustrations by drewscape; Waylon! One Awesome Thing by Sarah Pennypacker, pictures by Marla Frazee; Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective books by Donald J. Sobol; Nate the Great books by Marjorie Weinman Sharmat, illustrated by Marc Simont; The Boxcar Children series by Gertrude Chandler Warner; The Chicken Squad books by Doreen Cronin, illustrated by Kevin Cornell

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Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic Review

mrs-piggle-wiggles-magicMrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s Magic by Betty MacDonald, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger

HarperCollins, 2007. 978-0064401517

Synopsis: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle loves everyone, and everyone loves her right back. The children love her because she is lots of fun. Their parents love her because she can cure children of absolutely any bad habit. The treatment are unusual, but they work! Who better than a pig, for instance, to teach a piggy little boy table manners? And what better way to cure the rainy-day “waddle-I-do’s” than hunt for a pirate treasure in Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle’s upside-down house? – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: These were and still are some of my favorite stories to read to myself or aloud.

Why I finished it: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle has charmed generation after generation of children and adults alike, and she is continuing to charm them even after sixty years. The stories are humorous in a way that both parents and children can relate. We may never want to admit it, but we have been the kid with the bad table manners, or a heedless breaker, interrupters, tattle tales, and (more often than we care to admit) a waddle-I-doer. Plus, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle is totally that adult that we all wanted and some of us were lucky enough to have in our lives when we were young. I don’t know of many adults who would be so willing to let people dig up their yards or go rooting through their houses looking for pirate treasure, but then again, how many people do you know whose husbands were pirates? Another thing to love about these stories is that the stories for the most part stand on their own. You don’t have to have read any of the other books to get a good idea of the characters and of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle herself. It’s a fun, family-oriented book that will be enjoyed for years and years and years after they have been ‘discovered’.

Other related materials: Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger; Mrs. Piggle Wiggle’s Farm by Betty MacDonald, illustrated by Maurice Sendak; Hello, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle by Betty MacDonald, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger; Happy Birthday, Mrs. Piggle Wiggle by Betty MacDonald and Anne MacDonald Canham, illustrated by Alexandra Boiger; Pippi Longstocking by Astrid Lindgren; Charlotte’s Web by E.B White, illustrated by Garth Williams; Stuart Little by E.B. White, illustrated by Garth Williams; Little House books by Laura Ingalls Wilder, illustrated by Garth Williams; Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, illustrated by Quentin Blake; Amelia Bedelia books by Peggy Parish and Herman Parish; The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster; Classics to Read Aloud to Your Children edited by William F. Russell

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