Picture Book Perusal: Doodle Cat is Bored

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picture book perusal button

Today I am bringing you the second, bright and zippy adventure from Kat Patrick’s inimitable Doodle Cat, Doodle Cat is Bored.  If you haven’t met Doodle Cat before, you should probably pop off and have a squizz at his introductory adventure, I Am Doodle Cat, but in the meantime, just be aware that Doodle Cat is loud, proud and impossible to ignore.

Especially when he’s bored.

We received our copy of Doodle Cat is Bored by Kat Patrick from Scribble Publications and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Doodle Cat is back and he is very bored. Until he finds a thing!

But what is this thing and what does it do?

doodle cat is bored

From that eye-ball burstingly bright cover, through the hypnotic endpapers to an all in pangolin party, Doodle Cat is Bored is a book that will imprint itself on your memory.  If you have read I Am Doodle Cat, you will be aware that our feline protagonist is confident, outgoing and not afraid to think outside the box.  So it is with Doodle Cat is Bored, after Doodle Cat finds a thing – which turns out to be a crayon – and boredom evaporates in the wake of scribbles that evoke everything from interstellar, gas-propelled travel to the discovery of long lost, pasta-based relatives.

The bold font of the text and the bright, minimalist colour palette ensures that each page cries out to be looked at and this really drew the mini-fleshlings into this particular story.  There are a few pages here that take advantage of a wider range of colours – all from one single crayon! Fantastic! – and this added to the feeling that author had developed the concept of Doodle Cat as a character and was working well with the illustrator to highlight the importance of imagination without ramming the message down kid’s throats.

Doodle Cat is also not afraid to be a little bit indecorous and the mini-fleshlings were in fits of laughter after Doodle Cat decides to draw his own bum.  Bums, of course, being the height of comedy for three to six year olds in the dwelling.  They also quite liked Wizard Susan’s unusually stinky mode of travel, but it took a few moments for them to fully appreciate the gag.

This is a great addition to the Doodle Cat series and I’m pretty sure the mini-fleshlings enjoyed this one more than the first, possibly because the theme of imagination and entertaining oneself was easier to grasp on to.  This series is not your typical picture book experience, as the author and illustrator aren’t afraid to bend the conventions of picture book creation to create a totally unique character and story flow.

We highly recommend Doodle Cat is Bored for mini-fleshlings of your acquaintance who are prepared to take a risk on something a little crazy.

Until next time,

Bruce

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Atmospheric Adult Fiction and the Bygone Video Store: Universal Harvester

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universal harvester

Ah, the good old video store!  Blockbuster, Video2000, Civic Video, VideoEzy: for the most part they’ve all gone the way of the dinosaurs – not, thankfully, in the fiery chaos of destruction by meteorite, but nevertheless faded from consciousness, if not from the lazy person’s keyring.

Universal Harvester by John Darnielle, who I first encountered through Wolf in White Van  back in 2014, is the atmospheric, creepy and mildly discomfiting story of a selection of video tapes upon which some unwanted footage has been foisted.  We received our copy from Scribe Publications for review and here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Jeremy works at the counter of Video Hut in Nevada, Iowa. It’s the 1990s, pre-DVD, and the work is predictable and familiar; he likes his boss, and it gets him out of the house.

But when a local schoolteacher comes in to return her copy of Targets, she has an odd complaint: ‘There’s something on it,’ she says. Two days later, another customer brings back She’s All That and complains that something is wrong: ‘There’s another movie on this tape.’

Curious, Jeremy takes a look. And what he sees on the videos is so strange and disturbing that it propels him out of his comfortable routine and into a search for the tapes’ creator. As the once-peaceful fields and barns of the Iowa landscape begin to seem sinister and threatening, Jeremy must come to terms with a truth that is as devastatingly sad as it is shocking.

If you haven’t read any of Darnielle’s work before, you won’t be familiar with his strange, detached narrative style.  A lot of the work of piecing together the story is left to the reader, and it can take a few chapters (or half the book) before one can feel settled in the story.  Even then, everything’s a bit touch and go as you never know where Darnielle will spin the yarn next.

There was something strangely attractive about the creepiness of the blurb that had me requesting this one.  If you are old enough to remember a time before internet, Netflix and 24 hour movie channels and the like, you will be able to appreciate the utter spookiness of finding weird, confusing, disturbing footage taped onto a video from a rental store.  I mean, someone had to first tape the footage, then borrow the video from the shop, then tape the footage onto the borrowed tape, then return it, all the while knowing that someone else was going to get one hell of a fright after borrowing out a tape for a Saturday night romcom.  It’s quite a violation if you think about it for too long!

The story unfolds slowly, with the mystery of the tapes eking out in dribs and drabs as more tapes come to light and Jeremy’s boss starts to get far too involved in the whole business.  Darnielle has done a brilliant job of heightening the suspense throughout, as particular characters start to behave in unexpected ways and its not clear how certain events and behaviours are linked – or if they are linked at all.  The structure of the book requires the reader to jump back and forth in time: initially we are introduced to Jeremy, the video store and the discovery of the errant tapes, before flicking back to the past and an instructive piece of plotting that fills in some of the gaps for one key character, and finally jumping forward to the present and a new set of characters who provide the denouement and tie up loose ends.

The final part of the story sees a new family moving in to the farmhouse in which the mysterious footage was apparently shot.  This family are the key to winding up the mystery and making the path straight for the reader.  It was a relief to have all the loose ends tied up in a completely unexpected way, and the ending really puts a new spin on the events that went before.

Once again, I don’t necessarily think that Darnielle’s style of writing is going to appeal to every reader, but I did find this book more accessible and less confusing than Wolf in White Van.  There seemed to be more clues and contextual pieces of information from the author in this one early on, that at least had me invested in Jeremy, his father and what might befall them throughout the story, so that I was committed to getting to the end even when things weren’t as clear as they might be.

I would give this one a go if you are a fan of stories that give you a shiver up your spine, but don’t follow the usual path and tropes seen in most creepy stories.

Until next time,

Bruce

The Heart of Henry Quantum…and a Giveaway!

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Today’s book is for those who like a bit of quirk in their contemporary.  The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding is part romantic comedy, part epic Christmas quest and part relationship drama, and it was kindly provided to us by Scribe Australia for review.  Even better is the fact that now you get the chance to win a copy!  Read on for that…but in the meantime, here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

Henry Quantum has several thoughts going through his head at any given time, so it’s no surprise when he forgets something very important — a Christmas gift for his wife, Margaret, which he realises on the morning of December 23rd.

So Henry sets off in search of the perfect present for Margaret: a bottle of Chanel No. 5.

But much like Henry’s ever-wandering mind, his quest takes him in different and unexpected directions, including running into the former love of his life, Daisy. Meanwhile, Margaret is questioning whether she and Henry belong together after all …

‘The Heart of Henry Quantum’ is a sweet, funny, and touching debut which shows how the seemingly insignificant events of one single day can change our lives forever — perhaps, if we’re lucky, for the better.

I was super excited to read this book.  I will say that right up front.  From the blurb and the cover, I thought that this was going to be a book featuring a lovable and slightly forgetful old bloke who ends up discovering how much he loves his dear old wife after an uplifting and heartwarming encounter with an old flame from his youth.  Exactly the sort of story I love, I thought.

So I started reading and soon discovered that Henry is not an old man, but rather a middle-aged fellow with quite remarkable powers of going off at a tangent, mentally.  Also, he works in marketing.

Alright, thought I.  The main character is not who I expected, but I will still give this a go.  Despite the fact that Henry can’t keep a relevant thought in his head for more than two seconds at a time.  And is such a man-child that he can’t even plan ahead to buy his wife a present.

So I read on with an open mind until….we meet Daisy, the former love of Henry’s life.

That’s cool! I thought.  Daisy seems like a fun, interesting gal.  This could be looking up! I thought.

And then we find out that Daisy may be the love of Henry’s life, but their former relationship was carried out during Henry’s marriage to his wife.  The one he can’t remember to buy a Christmas present for.  And Daisy, in order to be with Henry, was also cheating on her husband.

If there is one thing I can’t abide, in real life or in fiction, it is infidelity.  If I had liked Henry more to begin with, I may have pushed on, but since his flights of ideas were already beginning to get on my nerves, I decided to put the book down there, at page 71.

I can see that this book will have a huge number of readers that will absolutely love the contemporary, quirky, rom-com nature of the plot.  Unfortunately though, I do not count myself among their number.

As well as being a let down because I was expecting a completely different kind of story, I am also left in the lurch on not finishing because this was going to be my entry for the letter Q in my Alphabet Soup Reading Challenge.  I had already tried (and failed!) with two previous Q titles, so I was counting on Henry to see me through.

Happily though, this means that one of you can now snag a copy of The Heart of Henry Quantum by Pepper Harding and provided to us by Scribe.

The giveaway is open internationally and other Ts & Cs are in the rafflecopter form.  The giveaway will run from today until November 23rd, 2016.

To enter, just click on the Rafflecopter link below:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Until next time,

Bruce

Introducing Scribble, I Am Doodle Cat and Author Kat Patrick (+ a giveaway!)

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I am so pleased to be helping to introduce a brand new kids’ publishing imprint today – Scribe’s new addition, Scribble!  It’s always exciting to get a snifter of brand new books on the horizon and today I’ve got a little ripper for you…as well as an interview with the author and a chance for TWO lucky readers to win a copy of I am Doodle Cat!  But more of that later. Let’s meet Doodle Cat! Here’s the blurb from Goodreads:

I Am Doodle Cat and I am one very proud drawing. I’m red like a really ripe tomato. Sometimes I find it hard to choose between dancing and clawing the rug so I just do both at the same time. I make long lists of the things I love because it’s important to remember what makes you happy. I’ll help you spot the magic in silliness and the greatness in pretty much everything. Also, my best friend is a pangolin. Let’s be pals.

From the bright, energetic endpapers to the cheeky catalogue of loves, Doodle Cat is one book that is certainly going to appeal to mini-fleshlings.  Although there is no traditional plot here, Doodle Cat’s list of things that he loves were varied and unexpected enough to provoke giggles (the cat method of bathing), raised eyebrows (maths) and more than one slightly confused facial expression (farts and lentils) from the oldest mini-fleshling in the house.  Doodle Cat is a bit of a prankster I suspect, and his unconventional ways are ably illustrated by Lauren Marriott, who manages to put an enormous amount of character into even the most desultory of Doodle Cat’s bottom-wiggling dances.

The book also features short sections of commentary from Doodle Cat himself at the end of his litany of loves, which are quite lyrical and inspiring in their way.  I suspect that once kids get a glimpse of Doodle Cat, he will remain in their memories for quite some time. Since we first read the book, the older mini-fleshling has developed some basic narrative drives of his own, piloting first Doodle Dog (a dog who loves to eat green things, including green ants) and Doodle Fly (a work in progress).  But I get the sense that Doodle Cat probably loves being a muse, too.

Did I mention that I Am Doodle Cat has already won the Scholastic New Zealand Award for Best Designed Children’s Book?  Well it has!

Thanks to Scribble, I am able to offer TWO readers the chance to win a copy of I Am Doodle Cat!  The giveaway is open internationally and to enter, all you need to do is click on the Rafflecopter link here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Ts & Cs are in the Rafflecopter form. Good luck!

I know you’re itching to find out more about the creative genius behind Doodle Cat, so read on to find out Kat Patrick’s answers to some tough questions from the Shelf!

Doodle cat, with his catalogue of loves, seems the antithesis of world-famous Grumpy Cat.  Do you think Doodle Cat’s positive outlook will inspire Grumpy Cat (and cats generally) to be less grumpy?

Sadly, no. The magical thing about cats is that they only do exactly what they want to do. We’ll drop Grumpy an email, though. Will let you know how it goes.

Your name is Kat and your main character is a cat. Coincidence or fate?!

Narcissism! Kidding, no. Fate.

How did you first meet Doodle Cat?

As he was zooming past on a paper aeroplane.

What was the first thing you did when you found out you’d won an award for Doodle Cat? Now that he’s had a taste of success, does Doodle Cat count book awards amongst his loves?

Messsaged Lauren in disbelief. I don’t think we’ll ever fully comprehend that that our little kind-hearted jerk is becoming so famous. Hope it doesn’t go to his head, but also: so what if it does. He’d probably just do few zooms around the house before going back to his ice cream.

What can we expect next for Doodle Cat?

Bit of trouble, but mostly fun.

Given our loveable natures and aesthetically pleasing visage, would you ever consider writing a book featuring Gargoyles?

Yes! Maybe she could play the bass guitar in Doodle Cat’s band.

You heard it here first! Perhaps Doodle Gargoyle is in the works!

Thanks again to Scribble for letting us share in the launch of this exciting new venture.

Until next time,

Bruce