Curse of the Chosen Volume 1 & Curse of the Chosen Volume 11

Curse of the Chosen Volume 1
Curse of the Chosen Volume 11

Alexis Deacon
Flying Eye Books

These are two bumper volumes, the first comprising (Geis) A Matter of Life and Death and A Game Without Rules, the second being the eagerly awaited The Will that Shapes the World, which concludes the trilogy.

Alexis Deacon’s first two graphic novels have held readers in their thrall since their publication. The first begins in fairly traditional fairytale style becoming progressively darker: a young woman, Io, finds herself in a room with 50 nobles; all are waiting for the death of the matriarch and thence the declaration of a new chief. They discover that the former matriarch has died but her body has been possessed by a sorceress who sends them from the Castle telling them to be back before dawn. “One alone I will spare,” she tells them. From this point on the reader watches the ordeals of some of these nobles as they try desperately to fight the “death magic” that has brought them thither.

Equally enthralling and even darker than the first book, A Game Without Rules begins by saying that the first test is now completed and only Io and a young man, Nemas know the truth of the sorceress’s plan. What follows is essentially a game of manipulations and wit within the city walls and the castle itself. Readers learn more about these characters who during the race for the crown, that at times becomes a race in a matter of life and death, we see the contestants change and develop. With the stakes raised the tension grows and it’s impossible to predict what will happen and who will succeed in the second test.

Powerful storytelling and awesomely detailed artwork once again sweep the reader away in the series finale The Will that Shapes the World. “The sorceress plans to kill us all! She has already murdered and enslaved the others!” comes a girl’s voice from behind bars, one of those remaining who are now scattered throughout the castle.

Shortly after comes an announcement from the sorceress, “Only one of you will survive … kill the others and one of you will live. I promise you that.”
Nightmarish scenes follow and awful realisations too as we head towards an unanticipated, impactful and clever conclusion.

I was astonished to realise that the creator is the same Alexis Deacon whose picture books are some of my most frequent classroom shares. What his awesome graphic novels do, among other things, is expose a different audience of older readers to challenging vocabulary, presenting it in a visually supportive context.

Ergo

Ergo
Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books

For me there’s nothing worse than feeling trapped between the walls of my home however safe and secure it might be. And I suspect most of us have experienced some claustrophobic feelings during the last sixteen or so months, though I’m lucky to be living at present in the countryside surrounded by green spaces that I’ve taken advantage of no matter the weather. Hurrah for the big wide world waiting outside your immediate cosy environs, both physical and mental.

So let’s now meet the aptly named Ergo, a cute baby chick that’s just woken up to her own physicality. She decides to explore the world: first she finds her toes, ‘wiggle, wiggle ‘ now that’s a GREAT START and it’s followed by wings, beak and legs. Now that’s a small world: AM I THE WORLD though?

Ergo concludes that she is. Until she notices the wall surrounding her – a roly poly world then.

Suddenly into this hitherto perfect world intrudes a sound – BUMP and it’s closely followed by a realisation. Time to embark on a journey of discovery perhaps …but it’s going to take some pluck to reach out. Can Ergo make that vital truth searching move? …

What Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz have so cleverly created here is a philosophical demonstration of freeing oneself, of going beyond the information given and of reaching out to others. Seemingly simple perhaps, but this is a highly thought-provoking and a smashing starting point for a philosophy for children discussion in the primary classroom.

Animals and a Vegetable

 

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Dolci and her mum enjoy the story together

Fiddlesticks!
Sean Taylor and Sally Anne Garland
Simon and Schuster pbk
Mouse’s house is perfect – well almost. There’s just a slight slope to one of the windows. Easily fixed, thinks Mouse but not so; he can’t reach up far enough. “FIDDLESTICKS!” Surely big, strong Bear can help though – oops!

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One broken window… “FIDDLESTICKS and RATS!” But Squirrel is an ace climber and woodworker … Oh no! …With flood water to contend with, filthy footprints all over the kitchen wall (courtesy of Otter), a gaping hole in the roof – Moose’s offering, Mouse’s house is pretty near wrecked.

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Time to bale out; off goes a distraught Mouse.
Meanwhile as the day progresses those destroyers have become creators and by sundown, when our little friend decides to return to his wreck of a home, he’s in for a big surprise.

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Those pals of yours have done an amazing job, just keep your paws off that door, little Mouse,
The author says he was inspired to write this amusing story when listening to Flanders and Swann’s The Gas Man Cometh. The slightly understated telling certainly works well and the built-in repetition and cumulative nature of Mouse’s expletives delight young listeners. So too do Sally Anne Garland’s cute illustrations executed in muted shades of blues, greens, browns, pinks and greys; and the whole thing is printed on high quality paper – an added bonus.
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A Day with the Animal Mechanics
Sharon Rentta
Alison Green Books pbk
Young Dylan Basset’s big day has arrived. He’s off to help his Dad at the garage he owns. When he arrives he sees the mechanics already hard at work; there’s so much to learn,

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things like how to use the car wash. So why is it that the hot afternoon is so quiet – not a single customer. Then… time to get moving Animal mechanics; grab the spare tyres, spanners, a snack and off you go. What a jam they discover on the coast road, all because a huge lorry up front has shed its load of boxes. It’s not only the cars that are overheating the mechanics find, so it’s fortunate that young Dylan decides to investigate the contents of the spilt cargo …

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Guess who gets the vote for best mechanic that day. Now you’ve all earned a refreshing seaside dip too…
Rich in detail, with plenty to amuse, explore and absorb, this latest episode with the Animal work force is sure to please young audiences and those who share the book with them.
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Cheese Belongs To You
Alexis Deacon and Viviane Schwarz
Walker Books pbk
Starting once again with a simple scenario, the creator of the brilliant There are Cats in this Book and There are No Cats in this Book has co-created a hilarious, totally brilliant, crazy story concerning the ownership of cheese, or rather, one particular, holey chunk of the stuff. Rat Law has it that, if any rat has the cheese, that rat is the owner of same –

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unless that is, a bigger, quicker, stronger, scarier, hairier or even a dirty rat (especially a gang boss), wants it. Which rodent eventually gets to partake of that cheese though?

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All manner of rats, and potentially extremely dodgy situations have been entertained with verve and vigour in reds and greys (the cheese though is a glowing yellowy orange) and through co-creator Alexis Deacon’s wonderfully clever, cumulative text.
There is so much to explore and discuss herein that I guarantee sharing it with a class of 4s to 7s will keep everyone engaged for ages; begin with the cover and cheesy endpapers and just FOLLOW THAT CHEESE! With its cleverly inbuilt repetition, this book is perfect for learner readers too.
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Catch that Crocodile!
Anushka Ravishankar and Pulak Biswas
Tara Books pbk
Herein, it takes a young fish-seller, Meena to solve the problem of how to deal with the jaw-snapping reptile that Falguni Fruit-seller discovers in a ditch. And, what’s more she does so in an entirely non-violent manner

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(luring it back to the river with a trail of her wares). That of course is after the likes of Probin Policeman, Doctor Dutta and wrestler Bhayanak Singh have all attempted to do their worst to the croc and definitely come off second best.

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With its clever, eye-catching typography, folk-style illustrations that look almost like woodcuts and catchy rhyme, this is good fun to read aloud with small groups of children who will need to be able to look closely at the pictures to get the most from the story.
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Supertato
Sue Hendra
Simon and Schuster pbk
Whoever heard of a superhero spud? I certainly hadn’t prior to seeing Sue Hendra’s latest offering. Said superspud is hot on the trail of one dastardly pea that has got loose from the freezer and caused all kinds of suffering among the inhabitants of the vegetable section of the supermarket.

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Supertato’s search sends him creeping through the cakes, the cheese and the cans but just as he’s about to grab his prey, he finds himself plunging into the icy depths of the freezer above which the pea lurks wielding a spud masher.

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Is our superhero destined to become mere mash? Not quite but it’s a pretty close call.
Hmm! What’s that green spherical object in the jelly?
Totally crazy but there’s something rather appealing about a spud with superpowers careering around a supermarket at night.
The bright, almost brash colours of the produce and their surroundings make for suitably eye-catching scenes and the playful language adds spice to this tongue-in-cheek drama.
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