Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Another World

Escapism in children's literature
Trends seem to occur in every media including children's books. Sometimes they are a natural occurrence and sometimes they are manufactured. Either way they happen. For instance,  if there is one book that seeks to transport you to another world there are 20. So in this column I've highlighted three books that use different techniques to help children escape into an adventure. 

"The Seven Keys of Balabad"
By Paul Haven
Illustrated by Mark Zug
For ages 8 – 13
Adventure, exotic locales, mystery and treasure — all just part of what makes "The Seven Keys of Balabad" a fun read. No witches, wizards, vampires, fantasy fairies or alternate universes. With the exception of a few flashbacks this story takes place today, in our world. this story doesn't depend upon trends to thrive. It all comes down to an intriguing story.

This story follows Oliver, a young, American teen living with his family in Balabad, a worn-torn Middle Eastern country. When a 500-year-old sacred carpet is stolen, Oliver finds himself embroiled in a mystery with his best friend Zee, a one-eye warrior and his daughter, and seven unique keys.

Steady action and intrigue keep the story exciting without becoming frenetic. The characters are believable and the dialogue is realistic. Boys and girls alike will enjoy this tale adventure as Oliver and his friends piece together the mystery of the Brotherhood of Arachosia and search for a hidden treasure.

"Ignatius MacFarland: Frequenaut"
By Paul Feig
For ages 8 – 12
Full of adventure and humor this tale begins with an explosion. A misguided attempt to build a spaceship and launch it into space explodes in our title character's face — literally. It doesn't kill him or injure him, but it does send him into another frequency. An interesting take on the whole alternate universe concept, MacFarland ends up in a world that looks very similar to his own. That is until he looks a little closer and discovers nothing is the same.

After making friends with a cat that acts like a dog MacFarland stumbles across the leader of the world, who turns out to be a former teacher of his. This teacher also happened to disappear in an explosion. Pretty soon MacFarland is trying to free the world and its inhabitants from the evil teacher's clutches while simultaneously finding a way home.

"Igantius MacFarland" is fun and funny escape with an interesting look at culture, civilization and dictatorships. 

"What a Trip"
By Arthur Yorinks
Illustrated by Richard Egielski
For ages 4 – 9
When Mel trips on his way home he falls right into another dimension. It is full of sharp points and angles. No smooth curves anywhere. When he falls back home nobody believes Mel's tale of an alternate universe. Mel tries so hard to trip into the angle universe again people, including his parents, begin to wonder if he is stable. It isn't until he finally trips into the other world again that his parents get to see the truth.

Although the language is nice most of the humor in this tale is in Egielski's slapstick illustrations. The Mad Magazine style folded illustrations that reveal a hidden surprise are also quite nifty for kids. It is a wonder more illustrators haven't tried this gimmick over the years. Kids will enjoy it once in awhile, but this story probably won't be picked for nightly story time.

For information regarding reprints and pricing contact mcgeath@mcgeathfreeman.com.