Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Leo Geo

I know that I have talked a little about books I got at this year's HeroesCon, and today I am going to look at two that are not only gorgeous to look at but also great for content learning. They are by Jon Chadurjian (aka Jon Chad), who is an instructor at at The Center for Cartoon Studies. He also wrote and drew a bunch of mini-comics and zines as well as the horrible and hilarious The Bad-ventures of Bobo Backslack. Unlike that graphic novel, these two books, with their sense of adventure, science content, and playful formats, are great for many age groups.

In this first book, Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth, scientist Leo Geo travels down, down, down into the Earth, along the way elucidating us about Earth facts and geology knowledge. Along with the facts, there is also some fiction in the form of fantastic creatures and an underground city from which he must escape. It's a pretty fun story in terms of plot, and the factoids along the way are interesting. Additionally, Chad packs the illustrations full of details, jokes, and characters. It's like a picture book version of Pop-Up Video in some ways, and I love this book like I loved that show.

Perhaps the most fun part of the book is its format. It is a long and skinny volume, and immediately you have to turn it 90 degrees as Leo starts his journey downward. About halfway through the book, perspective changes and you have to flip the book 180 degrees as Leo starts his journey upward. I loved the novelty of this type of reading format, and I think that adventurous readers would also appreciate this playfulness and willingness to play with space.

The reviews I have read about this book have been very positive. Trever Van As called it "strange, wonderful and totally different." Rob Clough wrote, "The book rewards multiple readings, if only to soak in the sideline details and little jokes that Chad throws in on every single page. The book is tightly paced, dense, and is short enough to end without wearing out its welcome." Publishers Weekly offered their opinion that "budding scientists should find the geology fascinating, and the magic dagger fighting with monsters gives it a good story to go along with the facts."

Leo Geo and His Miraculous Journey Through the Center of the Earth was published by Roaring Brook Press, and they provide much more information here.

This sequel actually has two titles, Leo Geo and the Cosmic Crisis is the one they sell it under, but if you flip the book and start from the "back," you will read Matt Data and the Cosmic Crisis. In the first narrative, Leo learns that a comet is hurtling toward his brother Matt's space station, and being a good sibling, he runs out in a rocket to rescue him. In the meantime, Matt  learns that Leo's computer is about to malfunction and he sets off with his ultra-smart and resourceful space dog, Maff, to help his brother. Along the way, each brother encounters robots, strange creatures, even space pirates who complicate their journeys. And they also drop a bunch of science knowledge about space along the way.

This book is full of detailed illustrations and wonderful asides. It also plays with gravity some, requiring the reader to turn the book in order to orient themselves. Up is not always up in space, and that fact is used to good effect in this book. This sequel is just as playful as the first volume, and what is more, it's in color:

Like its predecessor, this book has also been received well. Kirkus Reviews gave it a starred review, writing, "Readers who carefully trace the science-minded sibs’ circuitous pathways will be rewarded with a nonstop barrage of chases, battles, goofy sight gags and silly details. They’ll also enjoy numerous meaty minilectures on topics astronomical, from how multistage rockets work and types of asteroids and stars to algebraic formulas for computing gravitational attraction and escape velocity." The School Library Journal's Marian McLeod also gave it a starred review and summed it up as "a great offering for graphic-novel enthusiasts or kids looking for a fun read." FirstThursdaysReviews added, "The colorful cartoon style illustrations will engage any reader as they follow the two different stories to the end."

Leo Geo and the Cosmic Crisis was also published by Roaring Brook Press, who has lots of information about the book here.

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