Tag Archives: toon books

hearts by thereza rowe + paper airplane valentines

hearts-by-thereza-roweHEARTS by Thereza Rowe (2014).


This is put out by TOON Books, a very cool publisher of comic picture books that kids can read on their own. On their own! Even at three years old. Why? Because they’re told visually and with minimal, simple words.



And YET. This book is not simple at all. It invites readers to come up with their own narrative interpretations. It’s kind of a wild ride! And the art is impeccable thanks to Thereza Rowe‘s bold, beautiful, graphic creations.

hearts 1_905I like how this book is about love, one’s heart, but it’s really about the friendship kind of love. Penelope the fox’s best friend takes off in a rocket (of course!)—but at least she’s got a stack of books with her. Penelope’s heart is broken in two with the loss. And then, oops, she drops her heart in the ocean!


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hea-slide1From there, it’s an adventure story of Penelope chasing after her heart with dolphins, seagulls, armed guards, a helpful horse, and more along the way.

One sweet part of the backstory is that the story emerged when Thereza Rowe lost one of her cats. “…it was like half of my heart was ripped out. As I was wallowing in my own misery, suddenly came a wee voice: ‘Whatever happens, never lose your heart…”






Keep that newspaper airplane in mind for craft time!






You’ll appreciate hints of Alice in Wonderland, superheroes, fairy tales, mid-century modernism, elements of Mary Blair, along with all things whimsical.



(If you’re an educator, TOON’s got resources for you here. And Paper Darts has a nice interview as well as some of Thereza Rowe’s other work here.)


Images via  Thereza Rowe and TOON Books





3paperairplanesThis book was immediately my pick for a Valentine’s Day craft. And why, you ask? The paper airplane made from newspaper that carries Penelope’s heart! In the sky, over the trees, and into a castle.




valentine-heartsIt’s super simple. Make a paper airplane and put a heart in it to be carried away. (I love the idea of kids launching these around a room at each other!). You can keep it simple or make it as fancy as you want.

paper-airplane-craft-diyWe lined our airplanes with another paper for a pop of color or pattern on the inside. Then we made exhaust tails out of whatever was on hand—pretty tissue paper, blue accordion ribbon. Cut out some hearts in whatever color you like, write a message (preferably aviation or postal related) and voila! Your valentine is ready to send!






And that’s how you send a heart, picture book style.


One last surprise:

I’m giving away a copy of HEARTS over on twitter!  

Come find me there to enter!



one fairy tale, two versions: hansel & gretel

hansel&gretel-two-versionsHere are two different versions of the classic fairy tale that I read over and over again as a child. There’s something so captivating about “Hansel & Gretel.” (155 BOOKS come up in a simple Amazon search for the title in children’s literature.)

The forest, the wonderful candy house, the terrible witch. Oh and the children’s woodcutter father, sad and dark and conflicted.

There’s the indelible bond of these siblings too, a boy and girl, not unlike the characters in The Snow Queen.


Hansel and Gretel by Cynthia Rylant, pictures by Jen Corace (2008).

This version has a classic feel and is well-suited for younger readers. Despite the disturbing nature of the familiar tale, there’s a sense that all will be well, that children are meant to be loved and cherished and looked after and, ultimately, they will be. Not to worry, Hansel and Gretel will prevail by way of love and ingenuity and their own strength.

running-home(click image(s) to enlarge)


From the beginning:

“Inside a stone cottage in a green forest, a young brother and young sister—Hansel and Gretel—lived with their father and their stepmother. Their real mother had died.


“The family was very poor, for the father had been ill and unable to work for their bread. They were down to their last loaf.”


“The new wife was very bitter about this. She had expected to be taken care of, and now here she was, nearly starving.”

“She decided to blame the children.”

And thus the familiar story begins.




The talented Jen Corace has provided storybook, rustic illustrations, only updated in a way that feels fresh and contemporary enough to pop off the page. Her textiles are especially bright and colorful.  (Love the cherries on one of Gretel’s sweaters!)



This is a story with lessons for children, and not cloying ones. Real lessons. Hard lessons. Lessons of their own wisdom and resilience despite dangers.

Images via JenCorace.com.

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Hansel & Gretel by Neil Gaiman and Lorenzo Mattotti (2014).

This newer version (someday to be a film) is a darker take. So so so very dark and definitely suited for slightly older readers.

The full-spread illustrations are in solely black and white. Inky, scary, hard to decipher. It was, in fact, Mattotti’s artwork from an exhibit at The Metropolitan Opera that inspired Gaiman’s story.

From the beginning:


“There was a woodcutter. He cut down trees. He chopped the branches off the trees, and he cut the trunks and branches into logs for firewood, which he would haul on a handcart to the nearest path into the town. It was hungry work, cutting trees.”


Gaiman’s version has more text and goes further in inventing backstory. In his rendering, there has been a war and with it everything fell apart for everyone. In his version, the stepmother is changed to mother too, another more sinister choice, but one true to the original tale.







I think what appealed to me as a child about “Hansel and Gretel” and what still appeals to children (all of us) in fairy tales is the darkness. Others have spoken eloquently about this (including, of course Neil Gaiman). For me, there was such a familiarity to the story though not in the specific details of course. But in the idea that something might lie beneath the surface. Something scary, to be wise about. Because if you know it’s there, in a way, you’ve already conquered it.


Images via Toon Books and elsewhere. 


I thoroughly enjoyed both these versions and each has its own place with the right audience, in the right hands, with the right voice reading the words aloud.