Quote of the Month

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

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Handheld Hilarity 2

Undoubtedly, humans with canine or feline members in their families can agree on certain shared experiences.  The unconditional love of our furry friends, some shown more easily than others, is without question.  This love supplies us with an incomparable form of companionship.  Each dog or cat has their own unique personality regardless of their breed.  Their individual quirks generate an endless supply of joy and laughter.

Our social media accounts are filled with photographs of our dogs and cats in their most precious, to us and sometimes to others, moments.  In Bloop (Harper, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers, July 6, 2021) written by Tara Lazar with illustrations by Mike Boldt, an extraterrestrial is sent to Earth to prove his worthiness.  Imagine his surprise at discovering the wonderful life enjoyed by its rulers.

Training to be the next ruler of Planet XYZ was hard work, Bloop tried to follow all the emperor's rules, regulations, and robots.
But . . .

Bloop made so many mistakes, he was issued an ultimatum. In one week, Bloop needed to become the supreme ruler of Earth.  It was his last hope.

Upon arrival, he quickly noticed fluff balls, dogs, were in charge.  Why else would the larger beings chase them, cuddle them, or scoop their poop?  He learned as much as possible about these creatures, but control of them seemed impossible.  An SOS to the Emperor on Planet XYZ gave him another option to pursue.

Bloop hid his floofers and engaged in doglike activities.  It was superb until he was snatched up by the royal guard (animal control).  At the facility he was attended by servants.  A small one decided she wanted Bloop to live with her.

If Bloop thought acting like a dog was superb, living in a home with these beings was superb plus.  His accomplishments did not go unnoticed by the emperor.  Bloop had decisions to make.  The most crucial one involved his new mission.  It was PURR-fect.

Author Tara Lazar is gifted in crafting clever comedy.  In this story, she takes what we accept as ordinary and gives it a twist.  The perspective of Bloop, a visitor from another planet, is hilarious with a capital H.  Dogs rule this world!  To him fire hydrants are identical to robots on his planet.  He delights as a dog in giving them their due.  Furthermore, Tara Lazar has him view Earth as a realm.  Squirrels are commoners, and his new family are loyal subjects, a lady-in-waiting, a footman, and a very small servant.  Text and dialogue are used to excellent effect.  Here are two passages.

Bloop had plenty of gourmet nourishment and squishy, squeaky gizmos.
He realized these were for calling the servants.
A small, sticky one approached.

"Oh, Mommy, him, him,

"Let's see . . . must be a rare breed," said
the lady-in-waiting.  "Yes, let's take him!"

The open and matching dust jacket and book case tell an interesting tale.  To the left, on the back, on a green background similar to the color of Bloop is a spacecraft.  It has crashed into the dirt, sideways.  The hatch is open.  Leading from the vehicle are paw prints.  When you pair this with the front, on the right, the floofers are the finishing-touch clue as to Bloop's origin.  Look at the faces on the dogs!  Bloop and the text are varnished on the jacket.

On the opening endpapers Bloop, inside his spacecraft, is zooming through space in various positions.  Moons, comets, planets, and stars in a dark sky are his only comfort.  On the closing endpapers, Bloop is enjoying the life of a dog.  Tucked in the upper, right-hand corner is the Animal Control truck.  These images are placed on a bright yellow canvas.

On the title page, looking like a conquering hero, Bloop is front and center.  He is standing tall on planet Earth, leaning forward.  In his right paw he holds a large light-colored flag.  There the title is placed.

These digital images by Mike Boldt were created using

Painter and Photoshop.

They are a vivid, full-color collection of double-page pictures, smaller vignettes, and single-page visuals.  They are as lively as the characters with expressive facial features and body postures.  You can't resist smiling or laughing out loud.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a single-page image.  It is on an orange canvas with a splash of bright yellow in the center.  Bloop was hoping his gathered treasures (dog toys) would ease him into the spot of ruler of planet Earth.  Instead, three dogs race around him, charge and grab at the toys, covering him in dog slobber.  They are blissfully happy, he is not.

If you are looking for laughter and a fresh perspective on the way of dogs on planet Earth, Bloop written by Tara Lazar with artwork by Mike Boldt is the title for you.  Not only does the humor flow freely through the combination of words and illustrations, but it offers us a means to ponder how the same thing can be seen differently.  You'll want a copy of this book for your professional and personal collections to add loads of humor to a story time.

To learn more about Tara Lazar and Mike Boldt and their other work, please visit their websites by following the link attached to their names.  Tara Lazar has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter.  Mike Boldt has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  The cover reveal and book trailer premiere were hosted by librarian, lecturer at Rutgers University, and writer John Schumacher on his blog, Watch. Connect. Read.  Tara Lazar and this title are showcased at Rhys Keller's site, Jena Benton's site, and at Laura Roettiger Books.

If you are a dog person, your experience tends to be limited with cats.  You rely on your cat-person friends' stories to inform you about their behaviors. And then, there are all those sleepovers with girlfriends and waking up to find the one's cat always sleeping on your head.  That particular tactic was puzzling to everyone, except for the cat.  Cat Problems (Random House Studio, an imprint of Random House Children's Books, August 3, 2021) written by Jory John with illustrations by Lane Smith explores the mind and attitude of at least one cat.  Or is it all cats?

Where's that sunbeam going?



Unfortunately, the sunbeam continues to move, and nineteen hours of sleep have been interrupted.  From this moment, events get worse.  The food dish is empty.  And another cat cannot remove itself fast enough from not one, but three special spots this cat, our protagonist, claims.

Bath time is necessary . . . alone if at all possible.  A box provides a temporary distraction and possible napping place.  Suddenly, a loud sound roars through the house.  It is clearly upsetting.  Wow! It's time to skedaddle to safety!  Threats are made.

The cat with problems believes it needs to leave this disaster of an existence.  Its frustrations are escalating.  It roams from space to space not satisfied with anything. Soon it sits on the top of a chair wishing and watching a squirrel on the outside.  The squirrel proceeds to give the cat a very complete lecture on its backward thinking.  The cat in turn wishes the window screen was gone for just enough time to grab that squirrel.

Feeling bored out of its mind, the cat does what cats do best.  


is spoken over and over and over again.  Initial results are not as desired.  Again, the meowing is raised to a din.  A peak point in an otherwise dull day is reached.  And then . . .here we go again.

Telling this story through the first-person (cat) voice doubles the hilarity.  Every nuance of this cat's day is vocalized through the spot-on words selected and written by Jory John.  This cat finds fault with everything!  What pushes the humor over the top is the squirrel's speech and the cat's response.  Here is a passage.


Wait, why did I just sniff
that catnip toy?

Now I'll be awake all night!
Goodness gracious.

Why can't I stop smelling this shoe?
I have to stop.
Still . . . it's intriguing.

What is it about
this shoe?

Is this what the 
smells like?

The matching dust jacket and book case begin the mirth found throughout this book.  Even though this cat is pleased with the box, for a split second, it looks stunned by its ho-hum life.  Even relieving its stress by clawing several letters in the title text does not work.  To the left, on the back, the background is covered in rows of 


The narrator, only neck and head visible, is yowling from the bottom of the image.  Its displeasure is highly evident. 

The opening and closing endpapers mirror boards (or fabric) scratched with vertical lines spaced close together.  (You will see this pattern again.)  On the title page, the cat is snoozing in the sunbeam beneath the text. For most of the book, the color palette seen on the jacket, case, endpapers, and title page remains the same with pops of vibrant hues for the other cat, the vacuum incident, a portion of the living room, and the catnip toy.

These visuals by artist Lane Smith 

created in oil paint mixed with cold wax and digitally in Procreate

ask readers to reach out and touch them.  We believe we can feel the torn places in the title letters, the warmth of the sunbeam, the fur on the cats, the roughness of the cat's tongue, the surface of the box and foil ball, and cloth of the catnip toy.  We are offered various perspectives depending on the size of the illustration; these elevating the narrative.  

Full-page pictures, half-page pictures, horizontally and vertically, sometimes crossing the gutter to become larger, collected squares to portray panic, and a few double-page images give the story excellent continuity.  The eyes on the two cats and the squirrel send the humor soaring.  They reveal a range of emotions.

One of my many favorite illustrations is a half-page image.  The cat is on its back.  Its tail is curled and its back legs are straight up.  One arm, the left, is next to its side.  The other paw is holding a foil ball and resting it on its stomach.  Its eyes look a little crazed.  The words say:

I gotta get out
of this house.

Whether you are a cat lover or not, this book, Cat Problems written by Jory John with illustrations by Lane Smith, will have you howling with laughter due to the veracity on every page.  The words and art form a story time treasure.  No personal or professional bookshelves would be complete without a copy of the title.

To learn more about Jory John and Lane Smith and their other work, please visit their respective websites by following the link attached to their name.  (I don't just say this as routine.  You will be pleasantly surprised by what authors and illustrators include on their websites.  You might want to start with Lane Smith.)  Jory John has accounts on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.  At the publisher's website you can view interior illustrations.

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