Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, Fantasy, General Books, Humor, Kid Fiction, Middle Grade, Science Fiction

On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1) by Andrew Petersen – #eARC #BookReview

Goodreads: On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga #1)
Publish date: 10 March 2020
Publisher: WaterBrook & Multnomah
Genre: Middle Grade, Children’s Book, Fantasy, Science Fiction
Panda Rating:

Janner Igiby, his brother, Tink, and their disabled sister, Leeli, are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that they love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang, who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice. The Igibys hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.

Full of characters rich in heart, smarts, and courage, On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness is a tale children of all ages will cherish, families can read aloud, and readers’ groups are sure to enjoy discussing for its many layers of meaning. Extra features include new interior illustrations from Joe Sutphin, funny footnotes, a map of the fantastical world, inventive appendices, and fanciful line art in the tradition of the original Frank L. Baum Wizard of Oz storybooks.

It’s been a very long time since I read any middle grade books but I’ve recently added a few to my shelves that have been well praised by many book lovers, and when I saw the cover for this book I immediately wanted to read it because it’s simply a really attractive cover (yes, I’m judging a book by it’s cover so hard now). Plus, the blurb sounded good and I enjoyed the excerpt I read of it!

That said, while I was generally entertained by the book, I also found myself unexpectedly bored for certain periods of time (off-pacing), and I think that the story was going on for a lot longer than it should’ve. I was also unsure about the use of the footnotes. While some of the footnotes were interesting, I found that even if I didn’t read them, I wasn’t missing out on anything other than a humorous story or anecdote. I’m also wondering if footnotes are something young readers (especially middle graders) would appreciate? I don’t recall ever reading a book with footnotes in it when I was younger unless it was non-fiction or a textbook, and as an adult reader, I’m still not always a fan of footnotes; unless they really added key/important elements to the world building and the story itself.

I think one of the things I struggled with was not being able to form a connection with the story overall and in particular with the characters. I liked the Igiby family well enough–Janner, Tink and Leeli were interesting characters–but I just didn’t feel as invested in their journey as I hoped to be. Perhaps my favorite characters in the story were Peet and Nugget (the doggo, reasons for which go without saying. He’s a loyal companion to the Igiby children, particularly for Leeli)!

Peet was a courageous side-character who suffered from (what I can tell) possible mental health issues and a disability. He was pitied in town and was treated pretty awfully by the Igiby heads of house (Podo and Nia) for a reason that only becomes apparent at the end, but to me never justified the unfair treatment of his character. While I started off liking Podo’s character, his awful treatment of Peet was so distasteful and made me like him a lot less (it says a lot about a person’s character IRL just as much as in a book)! The Fangs of Dang were obviously awful characters we were meant to hate and the author did a great job of stoking those feelings against these characters. I thought the disability rep with Leeli’s and Podo’s characters was really great. Leeli was such a strong female character that had a fierce independent streak. I loved that her disability didn’t stop her from having adventures and getting up to mischief with her brothers; her disability was normalized (as in, it didn’t hamper her in any way) and it was nice to see that being shown in books to such a young audience.

As this was an e-ARC, most of the illustrations and maps were not yet included, so that was also a little bit disappointing because the illustrations that were already included in the story were pretty amazing! I can only imagine how much fun these illustrations will be to look at once it’s done (and in color too)! Overall, while I was really pulled in by the premise of this story, I found it a bit difficult to get into and that’s what made me remove stars. I wish that the pacing was more consistent but it was still an enjoyable enough read. I think many young middle grade readers would enjoy it too!

Thanks to NetGalley and the author for the e-ARC in exchange for an honest review. This new hard cover edition is out March 2020.
Have you read The Wingfeather Saga books? Let’s
chat in the comments!

Posted in ARC, Book Reviews, General Books, Graphic Novel, Kid Fiction, Middle Grade

Elma: A Bear’s Life: The Great Journey (Vol 1) by Ingrid Chabbert – #ARC #GraphicNovel #Review

Goodreads: Elma: A Bear’s Life: The Great Journey (Vol. 1)
Publish date: 17 July 2019
Publisher: Europe Comics
Genre: Children’s Fiction, Comic, Graphic Novel
Rating:

Elma is a joyful, free-spirited child who is being raised by her father. But Papa Bear is hiding a secret, and the close-knit duo must make a long and perilous journey to begin a mysterious new life beyond the forest. Adventure and danger are in store as they discover the secrets of Elma’s past and future.

Um, OKAY. How dare this graphic novel end on such a cliffhanger!? Nooo… I want to know what happens to Elma and Papa Bear! Do they make it?! Where are they going? Is he bringing her back home? Why is the fores seemingly conspiring to take Elma away from Papa Bear? SO MANY QUESTIONS! I kind of feel a little bit like Elma right now because the curiosity and need for answers is strong!

I adored this graphic novel. First of all, that cover is a wonderful representation of the stunning art work that you’ll find inside the pages. The colours are autumnal, so they’re warm and very comforting. I could seriously just look at the pages all day because the work is beautiful, and I enjoyed that there was limited dialogue so it didn’t detract from the art. This is targeted at children, however, at one point Elma does lose all her clothes and her full body (including genitalia) can be seen. It’s one scene and then she’s covered up again in the next. I don’t think it was done distastefully, but I just thought I’d leave a warning anyway.

I found the start of the storyline just as enjoyable as the art. It obviously has “Jungle Book” vibes (of course, abandoned child in forest raised by an animal that’s meant to be a predator) and although I admittedly am not the biggest fan of that story (don’t hate me), I really enjoyed this one! I’m a little sad this was only the first volume/chapter, as reading the blurb led me to think it might be the full story. Still, I’m glad I stumbled across it because so far it’s a sweet story, although it does raise many questions I hope will be answered in the next volume!

The relationship between Elma and Papa Bear was very sweet, and you can feel through their dialogue, interactions and the art that they really care for and love each other like father/daughter. Elma is full of life and so much sass and Papa Bear is this big calming force looking out for her. I love a story where animals can talk and this was definitely no exception! I thought their story really fit with the art work because it effused the same warmth the colours in the art work gave me. I’m looking forward to getting my hands on more of this graphic novel and I would 100% add this to my physical shelf because it’s beautiful book and the story is shaping up to be too!

Thanks to NetGalley and Europe Comics for providing the e-ARC for an honest review. This book is out now! Have you read Elma: A Bear’s Life? What’d you think? Let me know in the comments below and let’s chat!