where are you going and what do you wish?…a list of five capricious quests

quest cover image aaron beckerQuest, a wordless book by Aaron Becker
published in 2014 by Candlewick Press

Following up on his sublime Caldecott-Honor title, Journey (reviewed here), Aaron Becker now treats us to a second episode of adventurous escapades.

Armed with their magic crayons, our two friends and their elegant, purple quetzal are simply taking shelter from the rain at the park, when suddenly, an ancient king appears. “Shhhhhh!” he cautions, then hands them a curious map and strange sash. Before there’s a moment to explain, soldiers in armor fall upon the king, brandish spears, and drag him back through a mysterious doorway.

quest illustration aaron becker from wernickpratt dot com

There’s really nothing for it but to follow the king and attempt his rescue. The magic crayons hold the key, quite literally, to the entrance of this enchanted world. Outlandish air machines and medieval castles await them. Underwater antiquities and jungle fortresses are in store, too, as they doggedly follow the map. It’s a quest for a powerful collection of objects that takes them to the far north and east and everywhere in between! Hair-breadth  escapes, ingenuous thinking, and the magic of a powerful imagination are essential to success.

Becker promises us one more book in this picture-book trilogy. How exciting! This one is crammed full of wonder, adventure, color, thrill, and brilliant details. If you haven’t traveled with Aaron Becker before, be sure to jump aboard now. His work is spectacular. Ages 4 and up.

the man in the moon cover imageThe Man in the Moon, written and illustrated by William Joyce
published in 2011 by Atheneum Books for Young Readers

Many once upon a times ago, the Man in the Moon began his journey. It was during the Golden Age…”

Dreams and starlight, Moonmice and Lunar Ice Cream fizz and swizzle your way in this fantastical tale, this wonderific history of how that smiling man came to reside in the moon.the man in the moon illustration william joyce

William Joyce’s boundless imagination has created a space-world with a bit of steampunk feel to it. An extravagant airship, the Moon Clipper, is home to a happy baby and his parents, peacefully voyaging from one planet to another. Their devoted friend, Nightlight, travels with them, guaranteeing sweet dreams. But one calamitous day, the nightmarish Pitch appears, and a terrible war breaks out.

This is a scary part of the story. These battles are costly  — the baby-in-the-moon’s parents, indeed, are vanquished and only appear to him afterwards as a constellation. So, let that guide you when choosing this story for young children.

Joyce does not dwell on the tragic, however, but whisks us into the comforts and whimsy of the moon-baby’s new life, and the way he helps deliver sweet dreams to Earth children when he becomes the Man…in the Moon.

Stunning illustrations — these pages explode with otherworldly creatures, vibrant color, and luminous moonlight. I’d say ages 5 and up, as long as the disappearing parents don’t terrify your children.

captain cat cover imageCaptain Cat, written and illustrated by Inga Moore
published in 2013 by Candlewick Press

Captain Cat is a dear old sailor with a frothy, white beard and an abiding affection for cats. His ship is fairly over run with them, yet he can’t resist trading one valuable trinket after another for more and more cats.

This makes him quite the laughingstock at the harbor.Captain Cat by Inga Moore

When the Captain is blown off-course in a storm, though, and winds up at an astonishing island, his cats perform such a heroic deed for the queen that he is rewarded with trunkfuls of jewels! Now who’s laughing?!

This lighthearted and furry tale is accompanied by Inga Moore’s captivating, mixed-media illustrations. Her fine, etched lines, hazy light, and subdued palette all bring a hush to the pages. The emerald waters and rocky coves, old world scenery and costumes transport us to a far-off place and time. Yet the spunky, contemporary, Queen of the island (such a youthful queen!), romantic sailors, jolly Captain, and grinning kittens, add just the right dash of playfulness and glee.

It’s a splendid read, for ages 4 and up.

hairy maclary scattercat cover imageHairy Maclary Scattercat, written and illustrated by Lynley Dodd
First published in New Zealand, 1985; published in Great Britain 1987, by Puffin Books

This book is another example of why I am so jealous of UK bookshoppers!

I found Hairy Maclary whilst in Edinburgh where there are many jolly books about him and his doggy friends.

Hairy Maclary is a “bumptious and bustly, bossy and bouncy and frisky and hustly” little black dog. He looks a bit like a mop on hairy maclary scattercat illustration lynley doddlegs.

In this particular episode, Hairy Maclary is eager to chase something.Anything.  So, he goes about the neighborhood hassling the cats. Darling little Greywacke Jones. Pudgy Mr. Butterball Brown. Elegant Miss Pimpernel Pugh. On and on goes Hairy Maclary, being downright impudent to every cat, until…

…he happens upon one cat who won’t brook his nonsense! Yikes!

Delectable language, charming rhythms, an entirely likeable Hairy Maclary, and a hilarious come-uppance make this a delightful choice for under-Two and up. Lynley Dodd’s illustrations exude personality and energy. I think a few of Hairy’s books are available in the U.S., or you could always make a trip across the pond!

the hero of little street cover imageThe Hero of Little Street, a wordless book by Gregory Rogers
first published in Australia, 2009. published in 2012 by Roaring Book Press

When a Boy boots a soccer ball belonging to some ruffians into the public fountain…well, he’d better run fast! They’re after him!

The chase leads him into an art museum where he promptly gets into more trouble. Now the guard is chasing him as well.

He’s making a good dash for it when something odd occurs: a little dog jumps out of a painting. This leads to a great romp through the museum until the dog, followed by the boy, clamber right into another painting. They’ve entered the 17th century Dutch world of the hero of little street illustration gregory rogersJan Vermeer. And the trouble has only begun!

Mayhem, catastrophe, escapes, chaos — they seem to proceed and follow our little fellow wherever he goes. He’s determined to get his doggy friend back where he belongs, but that’s going to take daring and luck.

This is the third and final book of Rogers’ Boy and Bear series, coming to us from Australia.  I’ve previously reviewed his first title, The Boy, the Bear, the Baron, the Bard, here. Rogers’ exceptional storytelling skills through hundreds of energetic panels create fast-paced, humorous, throughly enjoyable tales. Plus, in this volume you meet some famous paintings. Can you identify them? Ages 4 and up.