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The Secret of the Stone Frog: A TOON Graphic (The Leah and Alan Adventures) Hardcover – September 11, 2012
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From School Library Journal
Gr 2-4-Leah and her younger brother, Alan, awake to find their beds relocated to the middle of a lush forest. They soon come across a stone frog that guides them toward their home. It's not easy. Their long, strange trip is full of bees, fanciful lions, and a subway ride with dressed-up sea life-all presented in out-of-whack proportions. After they make a narrow escape when an entire town-buildings, streets, and all-comes alive, the story ends with our hero and heroine back in their beds as a new day begins. The Alice in Wonderland comparisons are clear, as the children encounter unusual characters and bizarre situations in their travels. It's a world long on enchantment but rather short on plot. The black-and-white pen-and-ink illustrations are astounding in their intricacy. Tiny pen strokes amass to create rich landscapes and characters. The plot may come second, but the journey here is the whole point. A surprising, and visually stunning, trip.-Travis Jonker, Wayland Union Schools, MIα(c) Copyright 2011. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
The intricate flowerings and soulfully etched forest backgrounds of the art make the black-and-white pages sing as though they were drawn in a rainbow of colors...To stick the landing, Nytra’s serene ending manages to be worthy of its glorious beginning. His cavalcade of dreamscapes is a rich and beguiling experience that deserves multiple immersions.
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Winsor McKay was a comics pioneer whose early experimentation with the form nearly predated the form itself. McKay’s spirit, along with his dream-inspired imagery, lives on through Nytra, whose remarkable debut taps into the same unearthly environment with a similarly enchanting effect. . . .The extraordinarily delicate and fine-lined art incorporates touches of manga aesthetic so that, like the story itself, it merges timeless narrative elements to craft something wonderfully innovative. TOON took a chance on a brand-new talent to create the first of their ever-so-slightly more mature graphic novel line and it’s paid off with a smashing success.
—Booklist (starred review)
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Top customer reviews
THE SECRET OF THE STONE FROG is written in a whimsical style that is strongly reminiscent of Lewis Carroll's ALICE IN WONDERLAND and THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS. For instance, the female beekeeper bares and uncanny resemblance to the Queen of Hearts (just look at that giant head). The story is interesting enough and the beautifully rendered illustrations are sure to keep children entertained.
However, there are two major flaws with THE SECRET OF THE STONE FROG. The first is that it is so derivative of other children's stories, there is very little originality in the story itself. The situations and characters are different, yet they evoke memories of other stories you read as a child once upon a time. Derivation isn't a bad thing, but the excess amount of it in the story spoils what originality is found here.
The second major flaw is that neither Leah or Alan learn anything on their journey. For instance, in ALICE IN WONDERLAND, Alice came into her own and was able to stand against the Queen of Hearts and her soldiers. Nothing of the sort happens to Leah and Alan. In fact, just before the end of the siblings journey they find themselves running away from chaos they are partially responsible by not having listened to the instructions given them at the beginning of their journey. By the time the siblings come to the end of their journey, other than the apparent experiences they have shared, they are no different than when they began.
Overall, THE SECRET OF THE STONE FROG is a gorgeously illustrated children's graphic novel. The book will entertain young readers, but the extreme derivation smothers the original elements of the tale and the lack of any moral or character development prevents the book from being highly recommended.
In Windmill Dragons, Leah and Alan are sitting in the woods at their house. Leah is reading a book and Alan sees some pictures inside the book that interests him. He asks Leah to read to him, and that is where the adventure begins. Leah and Alan are transported to a land where there is magic and they are knights. The magic, unfortunately, has stirred up the windmills and turned them into dragons. On their quest to defeat these dragons and restore order to this world, they must encounter a troll, save an aged knight, and face many other obstacles. I normally try not to spoil books like this, but if you've read the first book, then you know that they are able to defeat the dragons and return to their own home.
The illustration style in these books can be described as pen and ink. It is not colored, but it is highly detailed and makes the pages and the story come to life. The stories themselves clearly draw from popular literature, which is most obvious in the second story taking inspiration from Don Quixote. There are several things I liked about these books, including the close bond of Leah and Alan and the way the author/artist captures the power of dreams and imagination. Dreams and imagination are two powerful entities when you are a child, and while we might forget that as we grow older, to children they are just as real, if not more real than the actual world we occupy. The only complaint I have is that the books are two different sizes. The Secret of the Stone Frog is approximately a 6" x 9" book, but the Windmill Dragons is approximately a 7" x 10" book, and this creates an incompatible look on your shelf when the books are placed next to each other. If you can get over this gripe, then you should really check out these fanciful graphic novels!