Monday, 23 August 2010

Ugly, dirty and Bad

Whom an I talking about? Kids of course.

If you believe kids like being combed, washed, wringed, wrapped in laces and left posing still like mummies to show all their childish charms, then I suggest that you change article. Why, are you wondering? Because I’m about to talk about real kids, those who hate washing teeth and feet, those running around wild like ferocious little animals, screaming and champing at the bit, those for whom days are pure adventure. Shortly: common kids.

Is it a negative influence? Maybe. Even though, for me, there’s nothing more negative than hiding reality under the semblance of fake perfection. Therefore, here and now, I admit my preference for those stories where kids are treated frankly, with no pedagogical pretensions, with no final supposedly respectable little morals that give satisfaction to grownups but leave nothing to them, the real books' addressees.

And so, in those days of muggy hot, let’s immerge ourselves in a series of refreshingly fun stories.

Hattie the Bad, by Jane Devlin, illustrations by Joe Berger, Dial Publishing, 1st April 2010

Bad or good? What is best? Being terribly ‘bad’ and continuously reproached by adults, or becoming so good so as to win the prize for the "Best-Behaved Child Ever” and have no more friends to play with? Maybe reality lays in the middle or, maybe, being truth to one’s real nature is the only possible solution even if, for some, this is inconvenient. Hattie somehow reminds me of the kids from the series Our Gang, always ready to plot terribly brilliant and unacceptable ideas alike. She has no Pippi’s plaits but two little pigtails bursting with liveliness from every tuft and a poor, unfortunate, brother she’ll keep trying to get rid of.

Shortly, an exhilarating story, not necessarily politically correct but this is the best part!

For more in-depth reviews, you can visit:

Kids Lit  -
Pink Me -
Nochilas A. Basbanes -

And Joe Berger’s Site -

The Boss Baby, by Marla Frazee, Beach Lane Books, 31st August 2010

"From the moment the baby arrived, it was obvious that he was the boss." In this first line what will happen to the poor parents is already quite clear: nothing different than what happens in real life though! After all a baby has urgent needs that, like it or not, we can’t ignore. And so our poor lives take on totally knocked over rhythms: no more dinners with friends, mo more theatres nor movies, over with safaris in the savannah and peaceful sleep. The whole world ends up spinning around paps and terrifying night awakenings! Gulp! And who’s in chief of Diaper Operation? Him, the little screaming, teeth-less, tyrant! A fun picture book on the market very soon.

Here is Marla Frazee’s site - very interesting, it contains as well considerations upon illustration, techniques and tools, sketches and storyboards and much else.

And some nice interviews:

7Imp -  together with Liz Garton Scanlon
Jama Rattigan's Alphabet Soup -
Cynisations -

Mostly Monsterly,  by Tammy Sauer, illustrations by Scott Magoon, Simon & Schuster/Paula Wiseman Books (31st August 2010).

Published the same day of The Boss Baby, here we have Mostly Monsterly: from the story of a monstrous little tyrant with harmless looks, to the story of a monster hiding behind her dreadful looks a kind heart. After all when you have sharp teeth and nails, pointed ears, greenish skin and a necklace with a skull for pendant, the entrance to the "Monster Academy" is guaranteed. What happens though if, behind those looks you have a delicate soul? How to handle with classmates who prefer to amuse themselves uprooting trees and eating snakes when, deep in your heart, you love cuddling animals and cooking cakes? Will Bernadette, the leading character of Tammy Sauer's new book, be able to find a solution?

Here’s the book trailer:

And some reviews:
Miss Print -
School Library Journal -  (search SAUER)

And an interview with the author:
Writing for Kids While Raising Them -

Least but not last the sites:

author, Tammy Sauer:
and illustrator, Scott Magoon:

From France with fury, comes the first volume of a very promising graphic novel:

Les Sales Histoires de Félicien Moutarde, 1. La Naissance de Félicien Moutarde, by Fabrice Melquiot, illustrations by Ronan Badel, Publisher L'Elan Vert, 17th May 2010

The volume includes four chapters:

- La naissance de Félicien Moutarde
- Félicien Moutarde assassine sauvagement Bambi
- Le premier amour de Félicien Moutarde
- Félicien Moutarde a des super pouvoirs super pourris*

Félicien Moutarde says about himself: "Je suis un garçon vraiment pas gâté. Le plus étrange dans cette affaire, c'est que je suis quand même très heureux d'être en vie..."** An opposite superhero, in the style of Kick-ass to some extent: not exactly charmant, where others have super-powers, he affirms having all possible faults and super-weaknesses. A little misanthropist who would happily slap about the other kids playing in the park, who has an ironical and harsh sense of reality and hates tedious stories. He somehow reminds me of the book series Billy Brouillard by Guillaume Bianco, sharing that same demystified vision of life and a taste for noir that perfectly matches the illustrations, with their light strokes and grotesque feeling. I admit it: I love him already!

Here you can find some reviews, in French:

La Soupe de l'Espace -
France Culture -
L' -
Citrouille, Librairies Sorcières -
Passion du Livre -

From the author's site, Fabrice Melquiot:

Well, this is it for today!

* - The birth of Félicien Moutarde
   - Félicien Moutarde wildly kills Bambi
   - Félicien Moutarde’s first love
   - Félicien Moutarde has dreadful super powers

** "I'm a kid who's hardly ever cuddled. The strangest thing in this whole story, is that I'm all the same happy to be alive."


  1. I find it interesting that the sorts of children's books coming out recently are these sorts of realistic---if you will---books that depict children as they really are.

    Perhaps it might be wise to acknowledge that every book is a product of its time, culture, and society. So these (what I presume are) Victorian books that dressed up children like dolls in refinement are as much a reflection of that time period as these contemporary books portray children "realistically" as stinky little monsters are (which may be a statement on our own time period)in ours. What may be "realistic" to us may not have been so for them back then. We need to be careful of imposing our modern--if you will--judgments on products of a Victorian mindset, as both are entirely different.

    As for children's behavior, maybe neither the Victorian view or this "realistic" view are correct, as one represses children and the other regresses them to a presumed natural and acceptable state. Perhaps a medium between the two (with books propagating it) is in order.

  2. Hi Laurien,
    thank you for stopping by and leaving your thoughts, this is mostly appreciated.
    I have to say I completely agree with you, when you say that a medium vision is probably the most correct; though I believe it's correct as well to leave space to both visions, to let people choose the one they prefer. I believe as well that a good parent could teach his children to interpret both visions correctly: having fun with "monsterness" and giving rules that need be respected. Of course, I express nothing than my personal vison, arguable as it is, as much as my book selection! Thanks for your precious comment, I look forward to hearing from you again!