Posted in picture books

One Mean Ant is back!

One Mean Ant with Fly and Flea, by Arthur Yorinks/Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, (Oct. 2020, Candlewick Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763683955

Ages 4-8

The rollicking, continuing adventures of the Mean Ant continues in this second book, which picks up shortly after the events of the first. The Ant and the Fly are prisoners in a spider’s web, so Ant’s day isn’t getting any better. But, wait! What’s that spot? It’s Flea! With Flea’s acrobatic prowess – he’s a flea circus escapee – the group manage to escape the web, but they’re not out of danger yet! This is the second book in a trilogy, and I rank this up there with Jon Klassen’s Hat Trilogy in terms of laugh-out-loud storytelling. The comedic timing here is spot on: this is a priceless readaloud. Ant is cantankerous, Fly just tries so hard, and Flea is frightened for his life! The wordplay is genius, and the expressive faces and body language enhances the dialogue. I can’t wait for the third installment. A great readaloud choice beyond the little ones, first and second graders will love this story – my third grader laughs out loud when we read it together.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Uncategorized

One Mean Ant has a lot to complain about!

One Mean Ant, by Arthur Yorinks/Illustrated by Sergio Ruzzier, (Feb. 2020, Candlewick Press), $22.99, ISBN: 9780763683948

Ages 4-7

See that guy on the cover? He is mean. I mean, MEAN. Leaves fall off trees, grapes shrivel into raisins, and dung beetles… well, you can guess what they do when he walks by. One day, this crabby ant is so focused on complaining and yelling at everyone around him that he wanders into the desert and discovers he’s totally lost. Luckily for him, a fly happens by. Unluckily for the fly, the ant starts yelling at him! The fly takes the ant’s lousy attitude in stride, and the two engage in a progressively funnier exchange that ends with a twist you won’t see coming, but will laugh out loud when you get there.

Arthur Yorinks has captured what it means to be in a lousy mood. Everyone will recognize and appreciate this Mean Ant, because we’ve ALL been there. Kids will laugh out loud, especially if you give it some spirit during a readaloud. The fly’s passive, sweet demeanor is a great foil for the ant, and their exchanges are laugh-out-loud hilarious as the story continues. My kiddo and I take turns being the ant and the fly when we read this together, and it’s pretty darned funny each time.

Sergio Ruzzier’s pen, ink, and watercolor illustrations have a great retro vibe, reminding me of picture books I grew up with: very ’70s Sesame Street watercolor schemes, and the facial expressions on the ant and fly are the perfect accompaniment to the story.¬†Everyone will love One Mean Ant.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Arthur Yorinks’ Making Scents: A New Family Structure

Making Scents, by Arthur Yorinks/Illustrated by Braden Lamb and Shelli Paroline, (June 2017, :01 First Second), $15.99, ISBN: 9781596434523

Recommended for readers 8-12

Mickey is a boy who’s been raised a little differently. His parents raised bloodhounds before he was born, and raised Mickey just like his “brothers and sisters”. Mickey doesn’t see anything different with his upbringing, even if other kids treat him like he’s weird. He wants to make his parents proud of him, so he’s working on developing his sense of smell, constantly sniffing and honing his senses. A tragedy strikes, and Mickey’s sent to live with his elderly aunt and uncle, who don’t like kids or dogs – but maybe Mickey can show them that he and his sniffer are more helpful than they realize.

This one was a wacky read. Making Scents reads like realistic fiction – it deals with grief and loss, extended families, and nontraditional families – but it does work on your suspension of disbelief. The opening scene, with baby Mickey being left in the woods for the dogs to find as a test/publicity gimmick sets the tone for the story: two dog-crazy grownups find themselves with a baby that they have no idea how to raise, but they do the best with what they’ve got. They love their human son as much as they do their canine sons and daughters, but I have to wonder what kind of parent-child relationship you can have if you see your child as equal to a pet that you “master”.

Regardless, Making Scents progresses to become a touching story of intergenerational relationships and family. Mickey, his mother’s older sister, and her husband have to create their own new family structure when an accident leaves Mickey orphaned. Once again, Mickey is thrust into a family that doesn’t know what to do with him, but this time around, he doesn’t have anyone or anything to take a social cue from; his aunt and uncle, like his parents, do their best with what they have and stumble along until Mickey’s abilities help reveal a potential health crisis.

Unexpected and sensitive, Making Scents is good for graphic novel collections that provide different perspectives.