You might think, on first glance, that you might not enjoy this 1987 book due to its similarity to Richard Adam's 1972 classic, Watership Down. That's why it sat on my shelf for almost a decade collecting dust, until recently when I felt the need to dip into some more children's literature.
The barebones plot has a group of small, harmless animals, displaced from their homes by man. A group of survivors venture out into the unknown (and very British) countryside with a Moses-like leader. There are trials and tribulations, including a conflict with their own kind, and eventually they find the promised land where they can live in peace... at least for a few generations.
In the days before mobile phones and the Internet, people would have to have conversations with their pets to keep themselves from going insane. That's how it is with the Monroes, a nuclear family with two young children, two careers, and two pets: a cat (Chester) and a dog (Harold).
And every day, when the family members head out of the house, they leave their pets unsupervised to indulge in their vices. Chester reads horror stories; Harold daydreams about food. Life is perfect.
Until the day the Monroes go to a Dracula film, and come home with a little fluffy bundle of a rabbit in a shoebox full of dirt.
In 2012 John Claude Bemis (author of the Americana-Fantasy series The Clockwork Dark) brought us a new post-apocalypse novel for young readers called The Prince Who Fell From The Sky. “In Casseomae’s world, the wolves rule the Forest, and the Forest is everywhere. The animals tell stories of the Skinless Ones, whose cities and roads once covered the earth, but the Skinless disappeared long ago. Casseomae is content to live alone, apart from the other bears in her tribe, until one of the ancients’ sky vehicles crashes to the ground, and from it emerges a Skinless One, a child. Rather than turn him over to the wolves, Casseomae chooses to protect this human cub, to find someplace safe for him to live. But where among the animals will a human child be safe? And is Casseomae threatening the safety of the Forest and all its tribes by protecting him?” Published by Random House, check this out over at the author’s web site.
Mousenet and Mousemobile are recommended for readers 8 to 12, grades 3 to 7. They are clearly juvenile fiction, but are well-written and imaginative enough that “all ages” might be a better recommendation. Megan Miller, the protagonist, who was 10 years old in Mousenet, is 11 years old here. The series is not just spinning its wheels; this is a true sequel.
In Mousenet, Megan and three others – her slightly older step-cousin Joey Fisher and two adults, Megan’s inventor uncle Fred Barnes who made the mouse-sized Thumbtop miniature computer, and Joey’s father Jake who invented the solar blobs that are its power supply – become the only humans who learn that all mice are intelligent, and want the Thumbtop for all mice around the world so they can communicate instantly via a Mouse Internet. They obviously need more than a single miniature computer curiosity if this is to happen, so Mousenet is about the two children and the mice – particularly Trey, the Talking Mouse, and the officious but smart head of the Mouse Nation, the Chief Executive Mouse (a.k.a. Topmouse, known as the Big Cheese behind his back) – persuading Fred and Jake to mass-produce the Thumbtop. The mice come up with the fiction that enables the two adults to get away with this, by creating a “cute” small company, Planet Mouse, to purportedly make miniature computers as novelty keychain fobs, in Megan’s and Uncle Fred’s home city of Cleveland, Ohio.
Illustrated by Stephanie Yue, NYC, Disney•Hyperion Books, October 2013, hardcover $16.99 (282 pages), paperback $7.99, Kindle $9.99.
On 3 October, the statues were auctioned to raise money for an expansion of Bristol Royal Hospital for Children. One lot, Gromit Lightyear, designed by animation studio Pixar and depicting Gromit as Buzz Lightyear from the Toy Story franchise, sold for £65,000.
The eighty-one statues, depicting Gromit in a variety of styles, were designed by several artists, including Nick Park (creator of Wallace and Gromit), and Simon Tofield (animator of Simon's Cat). In total, £2.3 million was raised for the hospital. Nick Park said he was "stunned" by how successful the auction was.
It seems that not all our imaginary friends have found a safe home like Foster’s. And so it falls upon agents Dave and Terry and the crew of I.M.A.G.I.N.E. to keep things cheery for the world and safe for children. That’s the idea behind Imagine Agents, a new full-color comic book mini-series from Boom! Studios. You see, adults cannot perceive a child’s imaginary friend (referred to as a ‘figment’ in this world), unless they have the special equipment that our trusty agents from I.M.A.G.I.N.E. employ. Check out the preview at Comic Book Resources and it’ll all make a lot more sense. Imagine Agents is written by Brian Joines (Noble Causes) and illustrated by the artist known as Bachan (Justice League). Look for it starting later this month.
The British power-metal band known as Ascension have started up a side project: A cartoon band dedicated to making some rockin’ tunes for little listeners. Yes, in the tradition of Hevisaurus (look it up!) it’s time for Sharky Sharky, the undersea band! Their stated purpose: “”Kids don’t have much to listen to today, no real live bands to look up to. They have One Direction, Justin Bieber, Miley Cyrus…all artists who glorify love, fashion and popularity – all things kids shouldn’t have to worry about right now, especially when enjoying music!” You can check out Sharky Sharky’s first four songs on Sound Cloud, or on their Facebook page.
Since then, film director Joel Allen Schroeder envisaged a documentary about Calvin and Hobbes, and in 2007 began filming interviews with fans. In 2009, Schroeder created a Kickstarter campaign to fund his project, which raised twice its initial goal of $12,000. A subsequent campaign raised $96,000. Now complete, the movie (Dear Mr. Watterson) has been picked up by a distributor and is scheduled to arrive in theatres November 15.
Stan Lee’s Kids Universe imprint continues to be a good source for new books aimed at kids — and kids at heart of course. Which, often enough, include furries! Dani Jones has been reviewed here previously for her book Monsters vs. Kittens (check it out here). Now her latest work is called Once Upon A Time, and it’s simple: A young pig is trying to tell a fanciful tale, but on each page his various animal friends keep cutting in with their own take on the story. Visit Dani’s web site to find out more about these and other current projects. Also from Kids Universe, look for Reggie the Veggie, written by Dale Mettam and illustrated by Ivan Escalante. It chronicles the adventures of a young, vegetarian crocodile trying to get through his first day at school — and, word is that Reggie might have a game in development as well. Look for both of these new books to come out this July.
And another furry Kickstarter campaign of note: Fox Hollow Tales is the creation of Jennifer Carson (writer, designer) and Pat Ann Lewis (illustrator). It’s a series of full-color illustrated books for young readers, featuring the adventures of a multi-species cast of characters in late 19th Century New England. The first book in the series, Wojer and the Wizard of the Wood, is nearing completion — and the creators are seeking crowdfunding to get it there, as well as to get started on the second book in the series, Wojer and the Black Knight. Visit their Kickstarter page to find out more, and to see a video trailer for the series.
Boston & NYC, Little, Brown & Co., March 2013 Hardcover $17.99 ([6 +] 285 [+ 7] pages)
Kindle $8.89. Illustrated by Charles Vess.
The age rating on this is “8 and up”. This is one of those “all ages” books like The Wind in the Willows that you will not want to miss just because it may be in the children’s section of your bookshop or public library. Seek it out! It is worth it.
Lillian Kindred is a little girl whose parents are dead and who lives with her Aunt on a farm at the edge of Tanglewood Forest. The book doesn’t say how old she is, so that’s probably not important. What is important is that she’s established as old enough to be allowed by other people to play in the forest alone, and young enough to look for fairies. One of the things that she sees is lots of cats wandering freely – feral cats and farm cats. She does not bother them, but she does put out dishes of fresh milk for them.
One day she falls asleep in the forest, and is bitten by a venomous snake. Vess’ illustration shows a coral snake; the worst kind. Wikipedia says that, “Coral snakes have a powerful neurotoxin that paralyzes the breathing muscles; mechanical or artificial respiration, along with large doses of antivenom, are often required to save a victim's life.” Lillian does not have any of that. She is alone at the foot of a tree, dying.
The Wolf Children Ame and Yuki (trailer 1 - 2) is a 2012 anime film directed by Mamoru Hosoda. Unlike his 2009 Summer Wars, this movie is very slow, introspective, and somewhat tragic. It might appeal to a small subset of furries, but its furry elements are underplayed and it may not have enough animal content to hook us as viewers.
Talking about this movie without spoiling it impossible because the story has no complexity. Basically, a single mom moves to the country and struggles to raise two werewolf kids; one embraces their wolf heritage, the other rejects it, and the family moves apart. That's it. (See Wikipedia for a more complete summary.)
Furry artist Mitch Beiro has been sentenced to ten years in prison and lifetime probation, after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor under fifteen. The charges relate to his arrest in October 2012, following a police investigation into the sharing of child sexual abuse images via peer-to-peer Internet networks.
Well-known fantasy author Charles De Lint has teamed up with well-known illustrator Charles Vess to bring us The Cats of Tanglewood Forest, a new hardcover full-color graphic novel coming this March from Little Brown Books For Young Readers. “Lillian Kindred spends her days exploring the Tanglewood Forest, a magical, rolling wilderness that she imagines to be full of fairies. The trouble is, Lillian has never seen a wisp of magic in her hills–until the day the cats of the forest save her life by transforming her into a kitten. Now Lillian must set out on a perilous adventure that will lead her through untamed lands of fabled creatures–from Old Mother Possum to the fearsome Bear People–to find a way to make things right.” From the review at Amazon, of course.
And with that, we’ll say TTFN (ta ta for now!) until after Further Confusion in San Jose, California. Take care!
Jeff Smith, the multiple-award-winning creator of Bone, has returned with a new full-color softcover children’s book from Toon Books. In Little Mouse Gets Ready, “There’s lots to do before Little Mouse is ready to go visit the barn. Will he master all the intricacies of getting dressed, from snaps and buttons to Velcro and tail holes?” According to Amazon, this book has already been given the Theodor Seuss Geisel Honor Award. So how the heck did we miss this one? It came out in 2009!