Monthly Archives: September 2014

Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson

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Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson

Troll Swap by Leigh Hodgkinson caught my eye on a book cart of recently returned materials at my library.  The bright red color of the cover drew me in to initially think this could be a holiday book for Christmas.  An image of a little girl with pig tails and a friendly looking monster standing next to her are illustrated on the cover of the book.  The two are wearing matching shirts and both have antennae on their heads.  The angle of their eyes looking at each other is friendly and approachable, almost begging to be asked what they are talking about.  The cover art is simplistic, imaginative, and boldly colored.  The back of the book gives readers another glimpse into what the relationship between this little girl and the monster may be.  The little girl has taken her boots off and is jumping on a couch while the monster stands on a rock waving to the little girl.  It is obvious before even opening the book that this little girl has a mischievous side to her and is full of energy, while the monster seems to be more of a polite observer.

The book itself is made of nice materials, a firm binding, heavy weight pages that would not tear easily from frequent use and beautiful ink for the font and illustrations of the story. Opening the book to read the inside of the dust jacket brings to light the fact that the little girl and the monster are out of place in their worlds, bringing light behind the meaning of the title Troll Swap.  The author begins the story by introducing both of the characters to the readers and gives information about what they like to do.  Each character is seen as friendly and easy to relate to.  The monster’s name is Timothy Limpet and he is a troll.  Timothy does not enjoy doing troll like things with his troll family.  He is very polite and considerate of his family and friends.  As the author transitions to introduce the other main character it is clear through the illustrations that she is not like Timothy.  The little girl’s name is Tabitha Lumpit and she is loud, messy and completely opposite of her very neat family.   It seems natural that these two characters should meet and ultimately decide to swap places.  This book is written to appeal to children age preschool – 2nd Grade.  Troll Swap addresses a timeless underlying theme, with humor, teaching readers and listeners to celebrate themselves and be accepting of differences in others.

The beginning of the story opens with Timothy introducing himself.  It is quickly observed that the voice in which Timothy speaks is defined by neat, specific, underlined font that embodies his character.  The font used as a voice for his family and other trolls is loud and abrasive, all capital letters varying in size and shape.  The size of the font on each page is larger but not overwhelming.  Many pages have a lot of white space which allows for the words and illustrations to pop off the pages.  As readers are introduced to Tabitha Lumpit the same font used for Timothy’s family and friends is used for her voice.  This little girl is filled with energy and lacks restraint in controlling her thoughts which quickly spill out of her.  The voices of the children around her and her parents are written in the same font that Timothy speaks.  It is evident through the font alone that these characters are living in worlds where they do not fit in.

As the story begins it quickly displays, not simply through different font, but through the illustrated emotions on each of the characters faces that they feel out of place.  Children will enjoy reading this story as it is humorous and easy to relate to in a world where they too are growing and beginning to understand how they fit into the world in which they live.  Timothy and Tabitha are both terribly sad about not fitting in when they first bump into each.  They quickly notice that they are the image of how they think they should be in order to fit in.  It is only natural that they decide to swap places.  Through switching places these two characters initially find great comfort in fitting into these worlds with others just like them.  It doesn’t take long, however, before both of them miss their old worlds and the excitement being different brings into their everyday lives.  The friends and families of these characters also begin to miss the unique characteristics of Timothy and Tabitha and find that life is missing something and feels rather dull without them.  As the story reaches its climax both characters realize that life where everyone acts the same is boring, “it was time to swap back and for both of them to go home, where they belonged.”

Troll Swap takes place in two different worlds and is told in third person.  The messy loud world that Timothy lives in and the neat, polite world Tabitha lives in.  The voice the author gives to the story allows readers to clearly differentiate between the two worlds.  Much more color and higher contrast of background and images is used in the troll world.  When in the human world the images are more simplistic on a white background.  The clean feel to these pages in Tabitha’s world highlights the text and images of the characters. The author of this story has written a delightful story for children that is age appropriate and straightforward.  Listeners will enjoy the uncomplicated vocabulary and moments of laugh out loud humor that highlights the oddities that each of us possess that make us special and unique.

Hodgkinson, L. (2014). Troll swap. New York: Candlewick/Nosy Crow.

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Locomotive by Brian Floca

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Brian Floca has created a timeless picture book that not only displays excellence in his artistic technique but does a brilliant job of engaging readers in a fun story that effortlessly merges appropriate historical imagery and facts during a time of growth and innovation in the United States.  Created with beautiful watercolor, ink, acrylic and gouache, the time appropriate illustrations help build a greater comprehension of the story and the time period represented.  The amount of illustrated detail that each page offers begs readers to enjoy this book more than once.  The illustrations build different emotions in the reader as they board the train and race across the country with railroad workers and travelers; whistles blowing excitedly, landscapes passing quickly, people sleeping,  and sparks flying as the engineer works through difficulties along the way and joyous faces as travelers reach their destination.  Each page is waiting to be turned, filled with a rich depiction of any given stage of the journey.  This book is a self-contained entity, not dependent on any other media and would be considered a picture book.

The illustrations in Locomotive tie in brilliantly with the mid-1880s time frame that this book takes place in.  The story is told in poem with much repetition, onomatopoeia and alliteration, combining historical facts with the tale of a family traveling out west.  The imagery that naturally flows from the authors rhythmical voice ties perfectly with the illustrations helping readings visualize and build a greater understand of what it must have been like to not only travel on a train out west but how a train works and what different  jobs were a part of making this journey possible.  Children of all ages will love reading and viewing this book more than once, it seems that with each reading a new detail pops off the pages from this delightfully illustrated story. The end papers are remarkable.  Detailing, at the front, the history of the Continental Railroad and, at the end, how a steam powered locomotive works.  The pages in between bring their own beauty as we watch this magificent iron machine work vigorously day and night to bring its passengers to their desired destination.  As trains continue to be popular with children, it is easy to imagine that Locomotive will naturally become a classic picture book enjoyed for many generations to come.

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