Superheroes, written and illustrated by Maxwell Eaton III, Knopf/Random House,early reader
The adventures of Max (a boy) and Pinky (a pig) continue in this second episode. They decide to play superheroes, first practicing the right moves and dressing the part, and then becoming Mighty Max and his sidekick. “Wait, ‘stubby sidekick’?” Pinky gets mad over his second rate status and quits, but when he discovers Max in trouble, he’s able to prove just what a first rate superhero he is. The text is laugh-out-loud funny with much of the humor taking place via speech balloons. My favorite is while they’re trying on superhero outfits and Max asks “How come you get the good hat?” (Well, you have to see the illustration!)The bold, brightly colored art and black outlined figures add to the fun. Kids will relate easily to the ups and downs of these “best buds”.
Samsara Dog, written by Helen Manos and illustrated by Julie Vivas, Kane/Miller Book Publishers, picture book
Few picture books combine sadness, suffering, love and joy like this one. Based on the Buddhist concepts of Samsara and Nirvana, the many lives of Dog are presented as a natural process that children can easily grasp and understand. When we first meet Dog he’s living on the streets, loving and trusting no one. In later lives his circumstances vary – he’s with a motorcycle gang, a mountain rescue team, a juggler, four lively, young girls – and the relationship he has with each owner shifts a bit. Lastly, Dog learns the most important lesson of all as he lives a full and happy life with a boy who loves him and depends on him throughout the boy’s adulthood. Julie Vivas’ soft watercolors capture the emotionality of each of Dog’s lives, significantly adding to the story.
It was hard to read this without an “adult” head or without some anthropomorphizing on my part — I’m such a dog person. Each reading brought tears because there’s no denying this is a sad book but there’s hope too, and I felt such comfort and joy knowing that Dog knew compassion.
Front Porch Tales and North Country Whoppers, written and illustrated by Tomie dePaola, Putnam/Penguin USA, picture story book
DePaola celebrates his love of northern New England in this modern tall-tales collection of stories and jokes. The humorous tales are arranged by season and each section ends with a cartoon-strip depicting a tourist’s interaction with the locals. DePaola’s familiar illustrations appear throughout, focusing on the beautiful landscape and the taciturn, practical people. His use of regional dialect like “fahmah” and “hewse” adds to the down home flavor of the tales. You don’t have to be a New Englander to enjoy this collection!