Booklist Reviews

*Starred Review* Almond-McKean is one of the most fertile partnerships out there, with The Savage (2008) and Slog's Dad (2011) as ample evidence. Their latest is an original fable of creation and imagination loaded with both playfulness and darkness. It's set in a world a bit like ours, but also not: "There were gaps and holes in it . . . places where there seemed to be nothing at all." The gods who'd created it all had grown complacent, so one day, three children are inspired to fill a few of those holes. The youngest imagines a "kind of mousy thing," and presto! A mouse. The sister follows suit with a "kind of birdy thing," and the elder brother hisses a snake into existence. But there's an even bigger, fiercer hole that needs to be filled, and together they bring a wolf to mind as the afternoon takes a ferocious turn. The contorted beauty of McKean's figures and Almond's intense, twisty narrative will keep readers right on the edge of comfort before the clouds clear. Along the way, they'll be dazzled by the lush lyricism of the tale and the wild emotional swings from page to page as well as McKean's creative use of mixed materials and compositional space. You could say that this is Almond and McKean's most beautiful effort yet, but just know that beautiful has its own dark and wondrous meaning in their hands. Copyright 2013 Booklist Reviews.

Horn Book Guide Reviews

The gods have abandoned their work with "still much making to be done." Little Ben is first to notice; soon he, Sue, and Harry are dreaming up creatures and piecing them together--first a mouse and a bird, then a more problematic snake, a terrifying wolf, etc. McKean expertly matches his angular figures to Almond's children, with their perilous mix of innocence, naiveti, and power.

Horn Book Magazine Reviews

All creation and its quandaries are encompassed in this succinct fable. The gods -- hefty caricatures in grisaille, drowsing and carousing on clouds -- have abandoned their work with "still much making to be done." Below, Little Ben is first to notice: "Why are there so many gaps and spaces?" Soon he, Sue, and Harry are dreaming up creatures, positing their traits and piecing together such stuff as wool and grass till they materialize. Ben's mouse and Sue's bird are "clever," remarks a god; then Harry, a lanky teen, stares into sky, earth, and his own dark self to contrive a more problematic snake. "Enough," worries Ben, but Harry and Sue are on a roll: using sticks and stones they make a terrifying wolf, which gobbles them up. And though Ben manages to undo their evil creation, "now their wolf was inside them, like a dream." McKean expertly matches frames and spreads to the impulsive events and his angular figures to Almond's children, with their perilous mix of innocence, naivete, and power. The book's skewed world, with its odd creatures and significant blanks, is not quite ours; but the unanticipated consequences of its thoughtless creativity are ours indeed. From the stunning cover art hinted at by the faux-die-cut jacket to a last glimpse of the louche and negligent gods and the wolf lurking in the darkness deep underground, a fascinating, provocative collaboration. joanna rudge long Copyright 2013 Horn Book Magazine Reviews.

Kirkus Reviews

An award-winning British team conjures a haunting graphic novella that shows what happens when the complacent gods stop creating things and children pick up the slack. The gods--slothful as Roman emperors--loll about half-naked in the clouds eating cake and looking down upon their creations, which range from mighty mountains to delicate wisteria. But they abandoned their world-building long ago, leaving empty gaps and spaces as huge as deserts or "no bigger than a fingernail." Harry, Sue and Little Ben are children who inhabit the gods' incomplete world. One day, Ben, finding this too-empty landscape peculiar, yells up at the gods, "It needs more things in it!" The children proceed to imagine--and then construct with twigs, clay and grasses--a few things themselves. The titular mouse, bird, snake and wolf spring to life! Spoiler: Creating the wolf backfires hideously. Skellig (2009) author Almond's tale is as otherworldly as ever, his themes of imagination and creativity nuanced. In inventive comic-book–style panels and theatrical full-bleed spreads, McKean adds a fierce, frightening texture to the narrative. The edgy, toga-wearing gods above and children down below are sculptural, as if they were molded out of clay--a fitting image for a creation story. Wild and alive, this visually extravagant fable of the marvel, power and active nature of the creative process howls at the moon. (art not seen in full color) (Graphic novella. 9-12) Copyright Kirkus 2013 Kirkus/BPI Communications.All rights reserved.

Library Media Connection

Almond and McKean have created a magical creation tale unlike any other. Young Harry, Sue, and Little Ben live in a strange world that contains many wonders, but the gods have grown complacent and now spend their time admiring their works and stuffing themselves with tea, cake, and compliments. The three children, however, have noticed there are gaps and spaces in this world that need filling so they set about to create their own creatures, using materials from this world and their imaginations. They realize they have gone too far when Little Ben must save his friends from the "wolfy thing." The narrative alone is a delight to read aloud but the combination of story with illustrations make this work remarkable. McKean uses a varied combination of panels and perspectives that make each page a delight. Some of the illustrations are a bit graphic and the underlying themes make it hard to classify as far as grade level. Terry Roper, Library Consultant, Region 10 ESC, Richardson, Texas. H GHLY RECOMMENDED Copyright 2012 Linworth Publishing, Inc.

Publishers Weekly Reviews

Almond and McKean, the collaborators behind The Savage and Slog's Dad, take on themes worthy of Greek tragedy: human ambition, the emergence of evil, and the power of the individual to resist it. Harry, Sue, and Little Ben live in a world whose lazy gods have made creatures like whales and camels but have given up their work, leaving blank spaces, "places filled with emptiness." The children discover that they can create animals themselves, using sticks, leaves, and clay; Little Ben makes a mouse; Sue, a bird; and Harry, a snake. But Harry and Sue aren't satisfied. They create a terrifying wolf that turns on them and eats them, and Little Ben must summon the courage to save them. McKean draws swirly, sinewy portraits of the children, the gods, and the animals, skillfully capturing Little Ben's anguished face as he appeals to the indolent gods for help. First cousin to Philip Pullman's imaginings, this contemporary fable about man's power to create and to destroy may be controversial in settings where questioning biblical creation stories is taboo, but where questioning is encouraged, it will challenge and provoke. Ages 7–up. (Mar.)

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School Library Journal Reviews

Gr 2–6—In this original creation myth, set "long ago and far away, in a world rather like this one," the gods have left some things unfinished. Having created mountains, camels, people, and other phenomena, they are now prone to enjoying naps and teatime in the clouds more than work. Yet, there are "places that were filled with emptiness." Almond's potent text and McKean's otherworldly caricatures create a magic that is all-absorbing. Text and image are more tightly connected in this hybrid format than in previous collaborations. Often they are contained together in panels of varying sizes and shapes. Sometimes the words are overlaid on pictures or a sentence or paragraph is framed by the full-page composition. The design propels readers through the story of Harry, Sue, and Little Ben, who, when bored with the world they know, start imagining and then fashioning new creatures. Each animal, made from materials at hand and called to life by the children's commands, gets progressively larger and more threatening until Harry's wolf gobbles up the two older children. Realizing that the gods are no help, Ben addresses the danger by unmaking the beast and rescuing the youth within. The ending leaves an opening for trouble to rise again. Almond's mythic and folkloric elements, wrapped in his own fertile imagination, combine with McKean's expressionistic illustrations to produce a whole that reveals the beauty and terror encountered in the created world and in the human spirit.—Wendy Lukehart, District of Columbia Public Library

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