Tuesday, 28 June 2016

Popcultural Picturebooks: Spotlight on Elys Dolan

Image by Elys Dolan  www.elysdolan.com

One of the best things about becoming a parent was the wonder of sharing all things magical, geeky and pop cultural with our two mini-geeks. I'm not sure who was more enraptured about their first viewing of Star Wars: A new hope, but I suspect it may have been their Dad and I. We have since gone on to share the geek loving wherever we can, with Dr Who, Star Wars and Minecraft themed Christmas trees, themed birthday parties (we have a Harry Potter one coming up in the few months) and visits to Armageddon all on the agenda.

We are equally as big on reading to our mini-geeks, and I'm fairly proud of the fact that I can use the threat of one less bedtime story to get them to behave at the end of the day, they NEVER want to lose a story. So when we find our two great loves intersecting, life is extra good!

One of the VERY BEST authors who successfully does this, is the fantastic Elys Dolan. Her picture books are a marvel, with big glossy pages full of super fun art, hilarious dialogue and sneaky humour. There are always lots of hidden in jokes to be found. Her books are rather like Pixar movies, kids love them, but there is a little something there for the grown ups to get a sneaky laugh from too. There are references to Star Wars, Star Trek, and Ghostbusters, and her latest offering even has a bit of a throw back to those fun action movies of the 90s. What more could a geek parent and mini-geeks ask for really? Here are some of her book highlights which you can borrow from our collection.

Weasels was the first Elys Dolan book we had the good fortune to come across. I initially borrowed it because I noticed that one of the subject headings on the library catalogue was Megalomania: Children's picture books, and that is just not something you see every day!
In this book, the author asks what is it weasels do all day? and would you believe it is PLOT WORLD DOMINATION. They have created a machine to enable them to take over the world, but just as countdown commences, disaster strikes. The boys loved seeing the plotting weasels and working out just what happened to the machine, Mummy loved all the coffee and health and safety in jokes.

When I found Nuts in Space on the shelf at the library I was so excited. The weasels lady had done another book AND it referenced both Star Trek and Star Wars, it really can't get much better than that. (And no, I am not one of those purists that thinks there can only be one great Star thingy, I love them equally, so there ;) ) In Nuts in space, a rather furry Trekkie type crew have found the celebrated Lost Nuts of Legend and are on a mission to return to their home planet. Unfortunately, a hungry crew member has eaten the map, so they have to make a few stops on the way to ask for directions. The highlight for the mini-geeks and I had to be the Death Banana, which was a super fun spin on the Death Star.

The mystery of the haunted farm introduced the boys to the joys of Ghostbusters, or rather the Three Pigs Ghost-hunters, who are on the job at Farmer Greg's place with their Phantom Finder 5000, the latest in Scare-o-Meter equipment. Something is amiss down on the farm, with zombie ducks at the pond, and an array of other supernatural creatures taking over the barn (Frankenhorse and The Mighty Donkula anyone?) We didn't expect that twist in the ending, which made the book even more fun. There is nothing like a good twist!

My Mr 6 was very proud that our libraries ordered Steven seagull: action hero after he put in a suggested purchase for it. Steven Seagull is a retired cop (I hear there are rumours he was kicked from the force for being too much of a renegade) who is asked to come back and help save the beach. Some perpetrator has been stealing the sand and leaving massive holes everywhere. A gull's gotta do what a gull's gotta do, and Steven takes on the case and checks out the usual suspects. Does he manage to save the day? I'll leave that for you to find out, I'm off now to look up old Steven Seagal movies ;)

Thursday, 16 June 2016

Fractured Fairy Tales

In our library, the staff all take part in a reading challenge we call DER (Dare to Extend your Reading). Every few months we read a book based on a different theme. We do it so that we read something that we might not have read ordinarily, which is a great way of growing our collection knowledge so we can help our lovely customers to find just the perfect book.

Over the last two months, our theme was a book that was a modern retelling of a classic. It was really interesting to see how many of us ended up reading retold versions of classic fairy tales such as Snow White, Cinderella, The little mermaid and so on. You can check out some of the reviews here on our Pinterest page.

I really loved my book, and it got me thinking about just how many fractured fairy tales I have enjoyed over the years. Fractured fairy tales are the fairy tales we know and love, but changed up a little, such as changing the characters, setting or the point of view. I just love seeing favourite characters doing new and unexpected things!

So here are a few of my all time favourites, and I would LOVE to hear about yours in the comments. I'm always looking for another good read.

First up is Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine. I loved this when it first came out, and was even happier when it was turned into a movie featuring Anne Hathaway several years later. This is a retelling of Cinderella, but this Ella (who was cursed at birth to always be obedient) is incredibly smart and sassy. Yes there is a glass slipper (and a happily ever after), but Ella doesn't wait to be rescued by her Prince, she takes matters in her own hands and heads off on a quest to reverse her curse, with many adventures along the way.

My read for the DER challenge was Spelled by Betsy Schow, which was a whole new spin on The Wizard of Oz. In this version,  our main character Dorthea, the Emerald Princess, is a bit of of spoilt brat. She is sick of being cooped up in the castle due to a family curse, and when her family decide to marry her off to a prince without her consent, she makes a bit of a bad wish, undoing magic in the realm and losing her parents. It is now up to her, Prince Kato (who is now a chimera)  and insolent servant Rexxi to try and put things right, without dying in the process as the Gray Witch chases them, intent on stealing Dorthea’s magic for herself. Many other fairy tale favourites pop up along the way during this fun read. 

I've already blogged about graphic novel series Fables by Bill Willingham before in my Graphic novels for Grown Ups post, but it is definitely worth a second mention. In this series, all the fairytale and folklore characters we know and love have been forced from their homelands by the big bad 'The Adversary', and they are living in a secret community called Fabletown within our world New York. They call themselves Fables (we're the mundys), and anyone who can't pass themselves off as a mundy ends up at the Farm in upstate New York. All of your favourites are there, mostly in whole new ways you have NEVER seen them before. The central ongoing relationship between Snow White and Bigby (also known as the Big Bad Wolf) is possibly my favourite literary relationship ever!

And from one for the grown ups to one for the kids. The true story of the 3 little pigs by A.Wolf as told to Jon Scieszka and Lane Smith  is a fun wee tale I've loved sharing with my mini-geeks at home. The wolf tells his version of those famous events concerning those certain pigs in this entertaining read. Who knew just how much trouble a sneeze can get you into?