Amulet Book One: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi

The Plot In 5 Sentences:  After Emily and Navin’s dad perishes in a horrible accident, their mother moves them to a spooky, rural house once owned by their grandfather.  The children soon discover his old workshop as well as an amulet that Emily ties around her neck.   That night, when a creature kidnaps their mom, the children chase after them and stumble into a strange world.  There they learn that the amulet has magical powers and that they have been charged with using it to gain power over this weird place known as Alledia.  With this knowledge, Emily and Navin embark on a dangerous adventure to find their mother.

My Take:  This is a highly requested item in my library, so I felt compelled to read it.  I was not disappointed.  The plot is unencumbered and the pace is brisk.  Kibuishi’s art is eye catching when necessary, but shorn of detail when the narrative speeds forward.  Children will appreciate the fully realized fantasy world and the dangers that lurk there.   I think that I’ll be reading the second in the series.

One Interesting Note About the Author:  Kibuishi will design the covers for the rerelease of the Harry Potter series.

The Squish Series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm continue the amusing tone set in their Babymouse graphic novels with their new series Squish.  Last week I read the first two installments to my 5 year old daughter.

Plot: Squish is a young amoeba who lives in a pond floating with other microorganisms including paramecium and planaria.  But life in the pond is not easy and Squish is plagued with troubles familiar to any human child in elementary school.  In the first book, Squish must face down the school bully Lynnwood, also an amoeba, who wants to eat his obnoxiously ebullient friend Peggy, a paramecium.  In the second book, Squish is starting a new school year and finds that he has made it into the cool crowd with the Algae, the “coolest microorganisms in the pond.”  But Squish soon finds out that being with the popular kids comes with a price that is too high for him to pay.

Personal Reaction: These are fun, clever reads.  I love the artifice of using the microscopic world of a pond as an allegory for the trials of elementary school.  Lynnwood is the scariest amoeba in school because he readily, and quite literally, eats and digests other microorganisms.  The Algae are the coolest kids  because they produce oxygen.  As an adult, I found it entertaining to reconsider the life of an amoeba, something that I had not thought about since 9th grade biology class.  Kids will enjoy the comic book spoof humor and the problems that relate to this age group.

Themes: following your conscience, bullying, standing up for your friends, father-son relationship,  the effects of the inner life of the mind on the outer world, fitting in with social groups, the shifting nature of friendships under pressure.

Squish: Super Amoeba 94 pages 2011 Random House; Squish: Brave New Pond 90 pages, 2011 Random House.