See You In The Cosmos by Jack Cheng

By Maureen Tai, 30 May 2019

“Do you have light brown skin like I do or smooth gray skin like a dolphin or spiky green skin like a cactus?” – Alex Petroski, posing a question to aliens.

img_5437.jpegAlex Petroski is eleven. He has a troubled mother, an absentee older brother and an adopted stray canine named after his hero, Carl Sagan. He is obsessed with rockets and he dreams of sending one into space. Inside the rocket, there will be an Ipod with his voice recordings about life on Earth, a gift to sentient beings outside of humankind’s own orbit. Alex himself is a gift. He is the infuriating yet loveable little brother you wished you had, and one of the most endearing, amusing and authentic voices in recent middle-grade realistic fiction. In See You in the Cosmos, Alex uncovers the heartbreaking truth about his past and his present, yet finds the courage, optimism and humour to face it all.  Continue reading

My Milk Toof – The Adventures of ickle and Lardee by Inhae Lee

By Maureen Tai, 25 April 2019

“Milk Toof: n. One of two adventurous little baby teeth belonging to the author, named ickle and Lardee.”

IMG_1966My Milk Toof is not a traditional, or even contemporary, children’s picture book. It’s not really a novelty book either, because it isn’t cheesy or offensive or twee, neither does it pop out or unfold in an unusual way.

What it is, is a brilliantly conceived, adorably charming and ingeniously funny, photographic journal of the adventures of two milk teef who return to their owner’s home to stay.   Continue reading

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

By Maureen Tai, 16 January 2019

img_0250There are some graphic novels that take your breath away not only because they are so exquisite to look at, but because you’ve always dreamed of being able to draw like the illustrator. The Prince and the Dressmaker is such a book, telling the charming story of the unlikely friendship (and ultimate romance) between a dress-wearing Crown Prince and his talented personal seamstress. And the fashion?  To die for. Continue reading

Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven by Brandon Easton and illustrated by Denis Medri

By Maureen Tai, 13 January 2019

“Pro wrestling is theater. People are hungry for a story. Every match, no matter how poorly constructed, tells a story.” – Andre “the Giant” Roussimoff

img_0137I remember coming across a pro-wrestling match on TV when I was an anxious high schooler in Canada. I watched oil-slicked, beefy men-monsters grapple, headlock, punch, kick and throw each other around under glaring lights, egged on by cheering crowds that included, to my incredulity, children.  I didn’t understand the entertainment, and I must confess that I still don’t. But a slim non-fiction graphic novel, Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven has opened my eyes, and my heart, to one of pro-wrestling’s great heroes.  Underneath that hulking mass of flesh, there was a man with a soul, a mind, doubts and feelings like any one of us. This is his story. Continue reading

Illegal by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano

By Maureen Tai, 5 September 2018

“It feels like a door has opened. And that I need to step through before it closes”  – Ebo

IMG_7714Illegal charts the harrowing journey that two orphaned brothers make from a poor village in Ghana to promise-laden Italy.  The boys cross lands that offer no sanctuary and encounter exploitative grown-ups who offer no mercy.

Illegal is, by far, one of the hardest graphic novels I’ve read with my children, but in an increasingly fractured and unkind world, it tells a powerful story too urgent to ignore, too important to be forgotten.  It demands to be read. It has to be read.   Continue reading

The Murderer’s Ape by Jakob Wegelius

By Maureen Tai, 1 September 2018

IMG_7673“Human beings have two names, a first name and a surname, but I’m a gorilla and I just have the one name – Sally Jones.” – The narrator, an anthropoid ape.

The beauty of this book is what strikes me first. It has a bright turquoise framed cover, gorgeous maps as endpapers, detailed black and white illustrations throughout the almost 600 pages of uncoated paper, and pleasing fonts.

Then I get stuck into Sally Jones’ story – an old-fashioned murder-mystery that is chock-full of fabulous characters, sea travel to exotic locations and suspenseful moments – and I am captivated. Continue reading

Giants Beware! By Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre

By Maureen Tai, 18 June 2018

“Violence is not just efficient, it feels good too.” – Claudette

Ah, such words of wisdom from Claudette, the ferocious, intrepid and sassy ginger-haired heroine of Giants Beware! She may be pint-sized – like her pet pug Valiant – but she has bucketloads of chutzpah (one of my favourite Yiddish words that loosely translates into “ballsy attitude”).  Moreover, she’s intent on slaying the baby-feet eating giant that is holding her village psychologically hostage.

Hold on to your hats, folks! We’re in for a rip-roaring ride.

Continue reading