Thursday, May 19, 2022

Review: The Scarlet Letter (Manga Classics) by Nathaniel Hawthorne

As my followers know, I do try to sneak in graphic novels whenever I can ,since these do resonate with young readers and are one of the first sections my own kids visit. One criticism I've run across on the graphic novel front is that kids aren't hitting 'real literature'. So, when I stumbled across this series, I couldn't dare pass it up. It takes the classics (a huge range) and has transposed them into graphic novel form. In the series, everything from Pride and Prejudice to Dracula to The Adventures of Huckleberry Fin to Romeo and Juliet to...well, it just goes on and on.

I'm assuming the next question might be, 'Can a manga do a classic justice?' Well, let's find out! 

Manga Classics
by Nathaniel Hawthorne
re-written by Crystal S Chan
Illustrated by SunNeko Lee
Inked by Morpheus Studios
Manga Classics
YA Classic
308 pages

Nathaniel Hawthorne's powerful tale of forbidden love, shame and revenge comes to life in this manga presentation of the classic story. When Hester Prynne bears an illegitimate child, she is introduced to the ugliness, complexity, and ultimately the strength of the human spirit. Though set in a Puritan community during the Colonial American period, the moral dilemmas of personal responsibility and consuming emotions of guilt, anger, loyalty and revenge are timeless. This beautiful manga retelling of Hawthorne's classic American novel is faithfully adapted by Crystal S. Chan and features stunning artwork by SunNeko Lee which will give old and new readers alike a fresh insight into this tragic saga of Puritan America.



Remaining amazingly true to the original novel, the illustrations and dialogue bring new life to a classic and allow the tale to resonate with another branch of readers.

The story is as anyone whose read the book already knows—Hester Prynne gives birth to an illegitimate child and must face the town's wrath, hate, and gossip during Colonial times in a Puritan community. And this manga brings exactly this tale across, staying very true to the original. 

First, for those who are new to the manga world, there are instructions on how to approach this type of novel (as they are read in a different direction than our Western world is accustom to). Then, it starts with the writer's finding of his ancestor's notes, which inspires him to recapture Hester's tale. I was wondering how all of this would flow...whether it would be lighter, changed, different atmosphere and such. But this is a very serious read, which brings across the exact same atmosphere, scenes, characterization and circumstances. 

The settings and scenes, of course, pick up mostly in the illustrations, and these do a great job at making the time visual while keeping it simple. Little details like Hester's 'A' poke forward with a subtle intensity to make the scenes and importance sit. I was also impressed at how well the emotions and characters are brought across. The illustrator takes care to capture each one with the right features and let their personalities shine without over doing it, either. The dialogue did meld a bit away from the original, but only in the sense that it was easier to read and understand. I even found this aspect well done.

Of course, classic lovers and those, who really want to dive into the novel, will probably want to grab up the original, but this form does a great job at offering a slightly different point of view without altering the main strings. It is easier to digest and is even worth a peek from those, who do adore the original novel. To say that it is probably more inviting for the younger audience is, in my opinion, a given. 

After reading this one, I'm more than curious to dive into the other manga classics in the series.

Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Happy Book Birthday, Wind, Ocean, Grass by Karen A Wyle!

 Today's read is great for a mid-week pause. It invites to a second of relaxation while enjoying art and a poetic tale surrounding the wind, water and grass. I've enjoyed other works from this author and had a feeling this one might win me over again. So, let's take a look.

by Karen A Wyle
Illustrated by Tomasz Mikutel
Oblique Angles Press
Picture Book
50 pages
ages 4 to 8

This unique picture book has neither human nor animal characters, but instead features the wind speaking to the grass, explaining how long grasses are both like and unlike the waves of the ocean. Through lyrical prose and breathtaking impressionist-style paintings, the reader follows the wind’s journey over sea and land: the many moods of the ocean, the different seasons of the grassy field. We see glimpses of the birds that live off the bounty of the ocean, and the birds and flowers that live among the grasses.

Through this nature metaphor, the story, without becoming didactic, teaches children about seeing commonality and celebrating differences.



Beautifully illustrated and poetically written, this read embraces nature and blows along with the atmosphere of an ancient tale.

The wind speaks to the grass, and soon, the comparison to the ocean begins. The wind tells of its observations, comparing one to the other with the similarities and differences. The entire text takes on a poetic tone, which snuggles in with the painting styled illustrations. The two harmonize together to create an inviting, artistic atmosphere, which will even grab older readers.

The text is well down and flows wonderfully. While the vocabulary is well set for the age group, the metaphors and meanings do need a bit more maturity than most younger readers/listeners will have. Slightly older ones will pick-up on this end better, and it's a lovely way to introduce the audience to this more insightful way of thought. It can be used to lead into discussions and questions as to the meanings and thoughts behind some of the phrases in a classroom, group, or homeschooled setting as well.

But ignoring the learning possibilities, this book is beautifully created. Each illustration is a piece of art, and while some will grab the attention of younger readers better than others, the scenes do a wonderful job at portraying various aspects of grass and water in nature. Adults will appreciate this aspect as well.

It's a gentle read with the flow of an ancient tale as the wind takes on the narration. The phrases calm and the scenes do invite for a deeper glance, making it a lovely read for the right listener.

You can learn more about Karen A. Wyle and her other works here:

Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Review: Rock Star Recess by Patrick Bagatta

Today's read swings into imagination and recess fun. I picked up this one because my own kids were School of Rock and Fancy Nancy fans. Plus, that cover is vibrant and energetic and so packed with promised chaos that it screams over-the-top entertainment. Since most picture book tend toward calmer tones, this one definitely catches attention. But lets just go ahead and see what it's about.

by Patrick Bagatta
Illustrated by Emily Mullock
Union Square Press
Picture Book
40 pages 
ages 4 to 8

School of Rock meets Fancy Nancy in this exuberant story about rock n' roll dreams colliding with the reality of elementary school.
Elsie’s music class has played Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star too many times, and she wants to try something new. When her music teacher suggests she “rock on her own time,” Elsie devises a plan. It’s recess, and the playground will make a great venue. Soon she and her best friends are setting up a stage. In true rock-star fashion, their band enlists classmates to help with hair and makeup, special effects, and security. They even host a press conference and an autograph session! Elsie has thought of everything to throw the most epic of recess rock concerts . . . or has she?


The amazing powers of imagination hit full-force, engulfing everything (as a kid's does) to form the best reality ever.

Still caught up in the joy of singing during class, Elsie knows exactly how to spend recess. Her and her friends are going to perform a rock concert. Thirty minutes seems short, but Elsie and her group have everything under control. Soon, make-up, autographs, stage crews, management and more are churning full-gear...until she realizes they forgot something extremely important.

Elise is a ball of energy...or maybe, calling her a small tornado is more appropriate. She's bursting with ideas and determination, and it's hard not to get caught up in her excitement. Her two friends stand at her side, offering words of advice and jumping into the swirl with as much commitment as Elsie. It's an atmosphere packed with positive vibes, energy, and drive to inspire and make a listener/reader smile.

Of course, this is completely over the top and impossible in any twist of reality, except for the imagination. But any child with an active one will know (and their parents, who try to get their attention) that the world disappears. So, while some scenes made me raise an eyebrow, I remembered my own 'spy adventures' as a kid and can only say that these pages hit spot on. The writing is very natural and slides some comments in for a tiny bit of food for thought along the way. 

And there's the message, which rides through like a show, but then, this is about a show. It's not preachy and simply rounds off the story, while staying present enough to be noticed. 

This is a cute read, which will grab attention when read-aloud or revisited by the reader to gaze at the vibrant illustrations. I don't see this one as being one to read again and again and again, but it's definitely worth a fun visit and could make a nice start to a series. I can imagine that Elsie and her friends have quite a few more ideas waiting to be placed into action.

Monday, May 16, 2022

Review: Oceans of Love by Janet Lawler

I'm switching the read, which was supposed to appear today, over to tomorrow...simply because this weekend was SO busy that I didn't get enough side-time to pick up a little longer book. So, peek by tomorrow to see the middle grade read about recess and rock stars. 

Today's read swims into the underwater world and motherly love. I picked it up because I had a feeling the illustrations alone would already make this one enjoyable. Plus, motherly love is always a theme to snuggle up with and enjoy.

So, grab those snorkels and let's see what this book holds. 

by Janet Lawler
Illustrated by Holly Clifton-Brown
Random House
Viking Books
Picture Book
32 pages
ages 8 to 12

A beautiful watercolor celebration of the love between ocean mamas and their babies, big and small.

From whales and dolphins, to hermit crabs and jellyfish, the ocean is filled with many different creatures. Join them on this imaginary undersea journey as ocean mamas care for their babies, each in their own special way! Because one thing is universal: there's no other love like that between mamas and their little ones.

With bright and beautiful watercolor illustrations comes this tender and heartwarming celebration of all the different mamas and babies you can find, especially those that live under the sea.



The world under the ocean's surface swims in motherly love and introduces more than a few adorable creatures.

Motherly love is the main theme in these pages, but it takes a new spin as it heads into the deeper waters of the sea. The entire books is written in rhyme, which flows well and makes it works nicely as a read-aloud. The text amount and vocabulary is just right for the age group. There's just enough to set the scene and allow the reader to then, settle into the illustrations. 

The illustrations are my favorite part of this read. It's a mix of playful imagination and reality. The sea life stays close enough to the true appearances to give readers/listeners a good idea of what they look like, and make them recognizable. But they receive eyes and slightly playful forms to make them endearing and cute. This makes each scene fun to visit and allows readers to probably discover several new creatures they've never seen before.

The idea of motherly love hits every page and, yet, it's gentle. These moms help, protect, and play with their young but because of the settings, the 'motherly love' slides into the atmosphere more than being at the forefront. The last page makes up for this with a mother-child embrace. 

It's an adorable read and especially nice for all of those sea life fans out there.

There's also a free coloring sheet to go along with the tale on Janet's website

You can learn more about Janet Lawler at her website :

Saturday, May 14, 2022

Review: Little Wanderers: The Everlasting Seasons by I.K. Silver

I'm always thrilled to discover well-written reads from self-publishers or smaller presses, and today's read fits that category. I'll admit that the cover didn't quite ring with me, but the author was so sweet and the blurb so grabbing that I decided to give it a go. And I'm glad I did. 

Little Wanderers #1
by I.K. Silver
Middle Grade Fantasy
240 pages
ages 8 to 12

Snowy is a tiny dwarf leading an almost normal life in the village of never-ending winter. Aside from the ever-dreary sky, living next to rowdy neighbors, and being treated like a child, nothing seems to pose a challenge.

All that changes when rumors about Snowy breaking a taboo spread. Disheartened at what he deemed betrayal and feeling stuck in his village, Snowy sneaks out to look for Originem, a village where misfortune befalls no one. However, the aftermath exceeds his wildest expectations.

Snowy finds himself in a magical world, suddenly dealing with the quaintest of things, from singing fruits and a wizard cat to dark woods (brimming with vicious beasts) and other villages locked in one season. But to reach his destination, Snowy, and his new friend, Kokoro, must first solve the mysteries surrounding the villages of everlasting seasons, as the secret that connects them may threaten their very existence


Snowy is a dwarf, living in a village of endless snow, but there has always been endless snow. No one leaves the village, and those who did long ago never returned. But Snowy wants to know what's beyond the village and sneaks out to discover the world. What he discovers is more than just a little adventure.

This is a richly written fantasy with many engaging characters, wonderful dialogue, and an adventure to get lost in. The writing flows very well, dancing between a pinch of humor, emotions, action, and imagination in just the right way to keep readers in the pages. It is interesting and fun to meet each character as Snowy comes up against the most amazing creatures and situations. Of course, there are lessons to be learned, but these flow right with the tale.

I enjoyed the writing quite a bit and easily was caught up in Snowy's adventures. The author does a good job at making the characters really come to life, and their decisions sit. I was missing a bit more details in the world building end, but it was already a rich, character driven world. So, I'm being nit-picky on that end. The only true 'wondering' thoughts I have go along with the intended reading level and audience. This story is very adventurous and does speak to the middle grade audience, but the vocabulary is a little high for the lower end of this age group, while some parts of the story and its playfulness fit more snuggly with the younger end. I do see this one as a great read-aloud and believe it's the perfect read for those bedtime or rainy-day stories, since the reader could really make this one come to life. It's definitely a wonderful world, and I do hope to see Snowy again in the future.

And here she is...

I.K. Silver is the author of Little Wanderers middle-grade fantasy series. The first book in the series, Little Wanderers: The Everlasting Seasons, was released in 2021. I.K. Silver is currently working on the second book in the series (Little Wanderers: The Rose of Many Colours). As I.K. Silver is fond of nature, cats, and magic, you’ll find that reflected in her writing.