Tag Archives: Jake Parker

Recent Reads

As part of the book challenges I joined, I wanted to write reviews of every book I’d read. I’ve not had the time to recently and the longer I leave it after reading, the less detail I can remember to write about. So here are some brief summaries of books I’ve read so far this year that I haven’t yet reviewed.

The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (Puffin Books, 1980)The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye (Puffin Books, 1980)

This is still my favourite fairy tale after almost thirty years, and I loved it on re-reading as an adult. It deserves its own post and I have no problem with reading it over and over again in order to give it the attention it deserves. The story follows Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne, the seventh daughter born to the King and Queen of Phantasmorania, who at her Christening is given the gift of being ordinary by a crotchety fairy. So she grows up with freckles, mousey hair and everyone calls her Amy. In true fairy tale fashion there is danger and romance, but with a twist and a lot of humour.

The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker (Jake Parker, 2012)The Antler Boy and Other Stories by Jake Parker (Jake Parker, 2012)

I backed this book on Kickstarter after falling in love with Jake Parker’s art for The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man. It was worth the eight month wait. I’m more of a wannabe comics fan, which I suppose doesn’t make sense as I am a fan but I’m not in the slightest bit knowledgeable and comics are an expensive habit so I never am going to be knowledgeable. Being such a visual medium, and being a bear of little brain, I also find comics impossible to read aloud to children. It’s like audio description for television: very clever and not something I can do! The ten short stories in this volume are wonderful, and completely moreish. I want more of every world Jake Parker has created. I’m very glad I backed this and will read it many times, and when MG and DG are a bit older I might even let them borrow it too!

Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker, 2012)Hero on a Bicycle by Shirley Hughes (Walker, 2012)

I put off reading this novel for ages because it’s not a genre I’m particularly interested in and I didn’t want to dislike something from Shirley Hughes! It took a few chapters to suck me in but the story was compelling and the characters beautifully drawn – in words, not pictures. I hope Shirley Hughes writes more novels and I won’t care what genre they’re in because the writing shines through and makes this novel irresistible. I’m glad I got over my mini-phobia and read this book.

Holes by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, 1998)Holes by Louis Sachar (Bloomsbury, 1998)

I got this second-hand and started reading it one evening, only to find I’d finished it in one sitting! For some reason the mystical element at the end, with the gypsy curse appearing to be real didn’t sit right with me despite the entire book being fantastical with juvenile detention camp inmates digging a hole 5ft deep and 5ft in diameter every day. But somehow it all seems to make perfect sense as you read it, and Stanley Yelnets and Zero make good believable characters. It’s a weird and wonderful narrative that pulls you in from the start. Oddly enjoyable.

Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish (HarperCollins Children's Books, 2009)Dark Angels by Katherine Langrish (HarperCollins Children’s Books, 2009)

I bought this at the Oxford Children’s Book Group event and started reading it because  Katherine Langrish was  a great speaker and the descriptions of her work sounded just my kind of genre. I’ve just realised what this reminded me of: Redwall by Brian Jacques, although it’s been years since I read any of that series and Dark Angels isn’t about mice! The 12th Century Welsh setting with monasteries and castles is a backdrop to a very human tale. There may be elves, angels, devils and ghosts but they often seem dream-like so this works as historical and fantasy fiction. I loved the world envisioned in this book and the ending holds hope for a sequel. Wolf and Nest call Elfgift their little sister but she seems like their daughter too and I really want to find out more about their relationship. More, please!

Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books, 2012)Maggot Moon by Sally Gardner (Hot Key Books, 2012)

This novel has garnered high praise from many quarters and I ended up reading it in one day, in between child-wrangling. It’s not a book to read if you’re after a happy tale, because this is very depressing. It is also compelling and very readable. It’s set in an alternate 1950’s and the places are described as the motherland, the homeland, zones… It’s a miserable existence for Standish and his grandfather but they’re surviving. There are some horrible events in the book so it’s definitely not for younger children but it’s a chilling glimpse into a world that could have been and well worth a read.

Fiction Fridays #12: The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man

The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man: Michael Chabon & Jake Parker (2011)

Hi! I’m a superhero. My name is Awesome Man.

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Extra Info:
The first part of this book that I fell in love with was the art. It is so reminiscent of old comics, down to the ‘dotty’ print look (it probably has a proper name, I’m a lay fan of comics rather than an aficionado…) It took me a second reading to get the “voice” right and appreciate the awesomeness of the story too.

This is a book probably aimed at boys, but I don’t believe in gender stereotypes and my girls like superheroes too. But I can see it really working for boys especially because much as my girls do climb trees, and run everywhere, and play-fight constantly; I have seen a difference with friends who have boys in that we can stay indoors all day in bad weather without things deteriorating too badly for lack of outside space, for instance…

With my “parent” hat on, something I love in this book is: Awesome Man gets mad, but he knows he can’t go hitting things because he’s super strong and people will get hurt so he takes some time out to calm down, realises that he’s running low on energy and needs a snack. This is a fantastic message for children who don’t know how to deal with their strong emotions all the time.

With my comicbookfan hat on: Jake Parker’s images are spot-on and there are plenty of gorgeous double-page spreads to drool over. I want to hear more about the bad guys: Professor Von Evil, The Flaming Eyeball, Sister Sinister and The Red Shark – how cool do they sound?!

With my child hat on: Can you spot awesome man’s secret identity? Giant killer robots! Mutant talking jelly! Also, he says “pooped”!

This is a book for older-younger children, and up. It has a suggested age range of 4-8 which sounds reasonable, although I don’t see why over-eights can’t enjoy it too! It’s a fantastic book for any mini superheroes in the making, boy or girl, and a good one for comic book loving mums or dads to read to their children. I hope there will be more stories about Awesome Man in the future, I want to know more about those bad guys for a start…

Disclaimer: We were sent a copy of The Astonishing Secret of Awesome Man by HarperCollins for review. No other financial reward was given and the opinions are my own. I was not asked to write this post.