Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, April 6, 2015

Blog Tour: Last Of The Sandwalkers

As temperatures fluctuate between warm and cold, spring inching into the month, insects are making their presence known.  You can hear and see them buzzing above the sun-warmed soil. Stirring and lifting a blanket of leaves, they scurry and scuttle for cover with their work disrupted.

Yesterday I finished a captivating new graphic novel, Last Of The Sandwalkers (First Second, April 7, 2015) written and illustrated by Jay Hosler.  Before you realize it your world shifts and shrinks, your perspective changes to a beetle's eye view.  Page by page you proceed, much as the expedition members do, with uncertainty and excitement.

The publisher's description is:

Nestled in the grass under the big palm tree by the edge of the desert there is an entire civilization-a civilization of beetles. In this bug's paradise, beetles write books, run restaurants, and even do scientific research. One such scientist is Lucy, who leads a team of researchers out into the desert. Their mission is to discover something about the greater world...but what lies in wait for them is going to change everything Lucy thought she knew.

Beetles are not the only living creatures in the world.

Barely recovering from a near death confrontation with an unknown creature, the five explorers, Lucy, Professor Bombardier, Raef, Professor Owen and Mossy, experience a setback, a surprise and a betrayal at the hands of Mother Nature and a traitor. Knowing they must return to Coleopolis to reveal uncovered secrets, close encounters with beings completely unknown to them bind the group together in loyalty, ingenuity and love.  Every chapter is an adventure.  Every chapter is a doorway into bug basics and details.

Jay Hosler writes with the sure knowledge of his subject but also employs time-honored storytelling techniques; cliffhanger chapter endings for one.  He develops characters fully, using their gifts and shortcomings to enhance the narrative.  Dialogue is realistic and liberally dosed with humor.  The insertion of information is flawless; making you feel more knowledgeable as you track the characters' exploits.  Here is a sample passage. I am deliberately not telling you who is speaking.

Owen has it.
Owen does not have my notebook. 
Yes, he does.  He had it with him right before he activated my rockets and sent us flying.
Give me your left hand.
I gotta pull your finger.
You're kidding me.

Panels of all sizes mirror the non-stop action.  Smaller images may be placed on a full-page image.  Many illustrations have no words but extend the tale with excellence.  The use of black and white as elements in combination with Hosler's fine lines is a request for readers to pause increasing their participation in the story.

I am thrilled to be able to showcase one of the members of the crew, Mossy, drawn by Jay Hosler.  It is followed by Hosler's description of him.  As you can see Mossy is "meeting" an insect known to us but completely new to him.

Character Name: Mossy
Species; Dynastes hercules
Length: 15 cm
Color: Mostly dark brown/black head with pale yellow/olive green elytra with dark spots
Habitat: forest floor undergrowth
Superpower: Super-duper strong

The rhinoceros beetle is the giant of the beetle family.  Grant’s rhinoceros beetle is a particularly impressive specimen. Males sport two large horns; one is on the front of their face and another grows from the front part of their thorax. Like most horns in nature, these have evolved for fighting. Males will do battle with each other on a log or in the leaf little (or on your living room floor if you have a pair) to gain access to a female. They use their horns to grab and lift their rival. These battles can get off to a slow start as opponents size each other up and try to gain the upper hand (or horn, as the case may be), but they eventually end with a rapid burst of movement as one male tries to topple the other.  You can watch a thrilling log battle in this video.

Not surprisingly, such a big beetle is also very strong. Ounce for ounce, rhinoceros beetles are the burliest creatures in nature. According to the Guinness Book of World Records, some species can support up to 850 times their own weight. Sounds exhausting, I know, but don’t worry about these critters too much. They’re also incredibly efficient lifters. Piling on the extra weight doesn’t slow them down and according to a research paper published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, rhinoceros beetles spent 10 times less energy carrying heavy loads than scientists predicted based on data from other animals like horses and dogs.

In Last of the Sandwalkers, the ever-stalwart Mossy is modeled after Grant’s rhinoceros beetle. Mossy has a big heart and is willing to put up a fight to defend his friends.  But, when he’s given a choice in the matter, he proves to everyone that he’d rather be a lover than a fighter.

I don't know about you but I most certainly would like to have Mossy as a friend day in and day out and as a companion when traveling through uncharted territory.  There is something for every reader in Last Of The Sandwalkers written and illustrated by Jay Hosler.  Mystery, danger, science, a snarky villain, a cast of characters of varying ages and talents and the power of friendship and family make this graphic novel goodness.  I predict it will be a reader favorite.  You might want to plan on multiple copies.

There are twelve pages of annotations, page by page, at the book's end.  Jay Hosler includes two pages of references, books, articles and videos.  The link attached to his name takes you to his website.  At the publisher's website a series of photographs celebrate the arrival of the book in a January 22, 2015 post.  You can get a peek at several interior illustrations along with the front and back of the cover and spine.  Please stop by the other thirteen blogger participants' sites. 

Jay Hosler
 Photograph credit Lisa Hosler
Jay Hosler is a biology professor at Juniata College, and a cartoonist. He enjoys telling stories about science and the natural world, and his first graphic novel (Clan Apis) won a Xeric Award and was selected for YALSA's 2002 Popular Paperbacks for Young Adults. His latest book, Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth, was a 2011 Junior Library Guild selection, a nominee for YALSA's 2012 Great Graphic Novels for Teens, and has been included in the Texas Library Association's Maverick Graphic Novel Reading List. He lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and his two little nerdlings.

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