Monday, June 16, 2008

Titans Smackdown!

Ladies and Gentelemen, welcome to the All Ages Reads Titans Smackdown! In this corner, we have Tiny Titans, a festival of color and cuteness brought to you by Art Baltazar and Franco. Awwwww yeah, Titans! In the opposite corner we have Teen Titans Year One, the action-oriented origin story by Wolfram, Kerschl, Lapointe, and Peru. Our judges tonight are comic reviewers extraordinaire, Shelby, age 12, and Sarah, age 9. Let’s get ready to rumble!

Round One: Humor
Sarah: Tiny Titans has actual jokes, even knock-knock jokes! Most of the time you don’t have to understand about the characters to get the jokes, but they’re funnier if you do. Like they talk about the Big Penny and the dinosaur that are always shown in the Batcave – that’s not so funny if you’re not a Batman fan.
Shelby: In Teen Titans Year One, when Aqualad squeals, that’s pretty funny. Flash tries to show off and be funny but he’s not exactly cool, kind of like this kid at my school. Most of the time he’s funny but sometimes he’s just stupid.

Round Two: Cuteness
Shelby: Tiny Titans, duh.
Sarah: Tiny Titans – oh, the cuteness! The cuteness!

Round Three: Action
Shelby: Teen Titans Year One has explosions and the Titans have to beat up their mentors.
Sarah: Teen Titans Year One because the characters aren’t in elementary school and they aren’t chubby. There’s actually punching and the bad guys are actually scary. In Tiny Titans the Fearsome Five are really cute and they try to take the swings away from the Titans, which is very evil. NOT!

Round Four: Powers
Shelby: In Teen Titans Year One they actually use their powers to kick the bad guys’ butts. Except Robin, of course, who just kicks butt without powers. The only way the Tiny Titans use their powers is like when the girls use Cyborg as an Easy Bake Oven.
Sarah: In Tiny Titans they use their powers to do cute stuff like when Kid Devil heats up Robin’s hot chocolate or flame-broils wieners or Beast Boy turns into different animals to bug the teacher. In Teen Titans Year One they use their powers the old-fashioned way to save the world.

So who is the winner of the All Ages Reads Titans Smackdown? The readers, of course! We highly recommend both titles. Teen Titans Year One might not be right for the very youngest kids – they might be afraid at seeing Batman act like a bad guy, and yes, Flash does say “kick butt.” It’s great for everyone else, though. Tiny Titans manages to be that rare beast, a truly all-ages comic; kids will laugh at the jokes and gags while adults will chuckle at the DC references.

Sarah: Tiny Titans makes you laugh out loud from cuteness and jokes. Teen Titans Year One tells a good story and makes you want to find out what happens next.

Shelby: It depends on who you are on the inside. Are you more tender on the inside, like a good steak? Then read Tiny Titans because it’s tender and cute. Or are you raw on the inside and charred on the outside? Then read Teen Titans Year One because you will enjoy some kick-butt action.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Little Vampire, Salt Water Taffy, & Johnny Boo

Our stack of titles to be reviewed is now taller than Sarah, so we’re going to try to power through a bunch of titles in the next few weeks. These reviews will be shorter than we usually do in the interest of getting the good stuff to you quickly, and I’m resorting to using the publishers’ book solicits as summaries. Cheap and easy? Yes, but quick!

Little Vampire by Joann Sfar (First Second)

Little Vampire and his friend Michael are the stars of these three stories about the things kids care about — like bullying, friendship, and being kind to animals — seasoned with a dose of supernatural adventure. Insightful and inventive, author/illustrator Joann Sfar brings Little Vampire and Michael's fantastical world to life, feeding the imagination of young readers with stories that resonate with emotional truth. (from First Second)

First Second has released three Little Vampire stories in one volume. This is one of our favorite titles and we really enjoyed reading “Little Vampire and the Canine Defenders Club,” which we hadn’t seen printed in English before. Sarah sums it up: “The creator’s imagination is different than most – his ideas make you feel like you’re really there even though most of it’s not real. I think it’s not for little tiny kids or kids who get scared easy, but if you like a little bit of violence and some funniness packed into one book, you will like Little Vampire.

Creepy and dark, yet charming and lovable, the mix of simple and complex character designs gives the book a rich, textured feel. The panels are unbelievably detailed, yet feel uncluttered and inviting. You’ll be drawn in from the first page and will want to read these stories again and again. Little Vampire might be too scary for very young children or those afraid of monsters, but everyone else will love it.

Read the full text of our previous review of Little Vampire here. Read a preview at the First Second site.

Salt Water Taffy by Matthew Loux (Oni)

Eleven-year-old Jack Putnam and his eight-year-old brother Benny are being dragged against their will on a summer-long vacation with their family. And not to somewhere cool like Disney World, but to a little port town in Maine named Chowder Bay, far away from anyplace fun. But what promises to be a very bleak summer quickly becomes a series of exciting adventures in one of the most mysterious places on earth! (from Oni)

Shelby says: “The drawings look like a cartoon and the story is sort of like Scooby-Doo except without a dog. The beginning is a little slow because there isn’t as much action, but it gets better as you go along. The best part was when the big lobster came up and attacked – the drawing was really effective with all the wood splitting and flying in the air.” Sarah says: “Salt Water Taffy is very different in a good way because it has so many original ideas that make it unique. Like, have you ever seen two cute little lobsters in a newspaper boat planning schemes? Well you will when you read this book!” A high-energy mystery played out in stylized, black and white art makes this is a fun romp, perfect for summer reading. Salt Water Taffy is appropriate for all ages.

Read a preview at the Oni site.

Johnny Boo by James Kochalka (Top Shelf)

Johnny Boo is the best little ghost in the whole world, because he's got Boo Power. This means that he can go "BOO" really loudly. His pet ghost named Squiggle has Squiggle Power, which means that he can fly and do really fast loop-the-loops. Together they have the world's greatest ghost adventures! (from Top Shelf)

Sarah says: “Johnny Boo has simple but fun-to-look-at art that makes the story complete. It is a cute, touching story that lets the characters feel many different ways about each other. They change emotions over and over again in the book and I like that ‘cause you can tell what they’re feeling.” Shelby says: “I like the story but it was repetitive. That’s good for little kids, but I was getting bored. It’s cute, though.” Almost painfully cute, but with a slight air of naughtiness, Johnny Boo will appeal to the silly tastes of tiny tots. The story reads like it was written by a three-year-old, which is a good thing, and very young children will eat it up like secret, purple ice cream.

Read a preview at the Top Shelf site.