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Review: Balloon Toons New Releases

I enjoyed the first Balloon Toons titles so much, that I bought myself their newest releases, even though I don’t have small children of my own. As with the first set of titles, the newest Balloon Toons are fun and eye-catching and offer a nice mix of storylines, so new readers are sure to find one they love. The new releases are available in both hardcover and paperback. I ordered paperback for several of them, since the price was so good ($4.99), but was disappointed to find that the bindings were tight and difficult to open. I could force them, but that would break the spines. Libraries are encouraged to add these, but be sure to order the hardcovers, which are reasonably priced at $10.99.

A Day in the Office of Doctor Bugspit
by Elise Gravel
Ages 5-8; Grades K-2
Blue Apple, August 2011, 40 pages
Hardcover ISBN 978-1-60905-092-4, $10.99
Paperback ISBN 978-1-60905-182-2, $4.99

Gravel is just as offbeat here as she was in her first Balloon Toon title, Adopt a Glurb. The wacky Doctor Bugspit is the galaxy’s number one doctor, treating alien ailments with the help of the dour Nurse Giggles. Kids will laugh at the silly antics as Doctor Bugspit diagnoses illness like Split-Brain-O-Sis and dispenses medicines that he makes up using disgusting ingredients. The funny ending, with Doctor Bugspit scared of his own sneeze, will make kids feel better about their own doctor, who at least knows to get a tissue!

The Totally Awesome Epic Quest of the Brave Boy Knight
by Pranas T. Naujokaitis
Ages 5-8; Grades K-2
Blue Apple, October 2011, 40 pages
Hardcover ISBN 978-1-60905-099-3, $10.99
Paperback ISBN 978-1-60905-183-9, $4.99

A young boy is ready for adventure, but he’s not sure that hanging out with a girl is really the way to find some. Luckily he’s wrong and soon he and his monster friend Butterscotch are on their way to rescuing a city, investigating a dark cave, and finding a treasure. Naujokaitis’s plucky hero is definitely all-boy, but there is enough fun here for both genders. The girl he keeps running into gets him into and out of scrapes on a regular basis, but still gets him home in time for bed. The short chapters and bright colors will quickly catch the eye of young readers and the hip, silly fun will keep them reading, though parents may have to help with a few of the longer words or the contractions.

The Super-Duper Dog Park
by Aron Nels Steinke
Ages 5-8; Grades K-2
Blue Apple, October 2011, 40 pages
Hardcover ISBN 978-1-60905-093-1, $10.99
Paperback ISBN 978-1-60905-184-6, $4.99

In his newest Balloon Toons outing, Steinke moves from a nighttime romp with cats to daytime fun with dogs. There isn’t as much poetry as there was in The Super Crazy Cat Dance, but readers who love dogs will snatch this one up quickly. They’ll enjoy the detailed art and the fantastical park setting. Give this one to readers who have aged out of Go, Dog. Go. Steinke’s off-kilter adventure has a similar sense of whimsy and would make a good choice for inclusion in a read-to-a-dog library program.

Prickles vs. The Dust Bunnies
by Daniel Cleary
Ages 5-8; Grades K-2
Blue Apple, October 2011, 40 pages
Hardcover ISBN 978-1-60905-080-1, $10.99
Paperback ISBN 978-1-60905-185-3, $4.95

Cleary’s strange story has my favorite art out of all of the new Balloon Toons titles, though it may not appeal to everyone. His story is simple: a cat named Prickles keeps trying to get rid of the dust bunnies in the house while a mouse named Squeeky keeps helping them hide. Prickles and Squeeky are drawn with spiky lines sticking out of them, earning Prickles his name and making them both look cartoonishly fuzzy. The dust bunnies are an inspiration, rendered in pencil smudges with eyes and noses drawn in. The overall effect is one of messy fun, which makes Cleary’s art stand out from the usual run of art in children’s books, which tends towards the too-clean at times. It’s a perfect fit for this odd little story and kids will laugh at Prickles efforts, even as they unexpectedly learn more about dust.

It seems like the Balloon Toons line is going strong and that’s great for libraries and readers. Add these to either your graphic novel collection or your early reader shelf and they’re sure to check out again and again.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.

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