Two Illustrated Books: “Armstrong” and “The Only Child”

I picked up these two illustrated children’s books the same day I grabbed J.K. Rowling’s Very Good Lives from the library. They were on display and since it’s been a while since I’ve read I picture book, I decided to give them a try. Armstrong looked familiar, but I couldn’t recall where I’d first seen it; and I’ve often seen the cover of The Only Child so I wanted to know why a stag was hanging out with a kid.

armstrong-the-adventurous-journey-of-a-mouse-to-the-moonArmstrong: The Adventurous Journey of a Mouse to the Moon by Torben Kuhlmann (illus.)

Goodreads summary:

A long time ago a mouse learned to fly . . . and crossed the Atlantic. But what happened next? Torben Kuhlmann’s stunning new book transports readers to the moon and beyond! On the heels of Lindbergh: The Tale of a Flying Mouse comes Armstrong: A Mouse on the Moon where dreams are determined only by the size of your imagination and the biggest innovators are the smallest of all. The book ends with a brief non-fiction history of human space travel from Galileo s observations concerning the nature of the universe to man’s first steps on the moon. (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

I didn’t read the title when I checked this book from the library. I got it because of the cover and it wasn’t until I started reading that I realized it’s a story about a mouse’s attempts to travel to the moon.

The story was okay. I thought it was a little dull, but it was informative and it piqued my interest a little in space travel. I liked that it shows the various trials the mouse, named Armstrong after the famous American astronaut Neil Armstrong, had to go through to realize his dream and his will to persevere despite the minimal support he receives for his efforts and also the extensive research required for his travel — building a rocket and space suit and being able to survive while in space.

I also liked the extra pages at the end, where the author added some facts on the history of space travel. Space travel is not a subject I’m very familiar with so these quick facts were welcome.

Art style:

I wasn’t much interested in the story because I didn’t find it very entertaining, but I loved the illustrations. They kept me reading. They are strong, realistic, and arrest the eyes for a moment are two. I love the double-page spreads and the end pages as well, which have a bunch of diagrams that I assume the mouse in the story drew.

Overall: ★★★☆☆ 1/2

It was okay, but I’d still recommend parents get a copy to read to their kids. It will certainly spark an interest in the sciences. There are some fun elements added to the story to make it more enjoyable — like the mention of the “moon is made of cheese” myth and the police chasing Armstrong the mouse — that didn’t stand out to me but might appeal to children. They’ll certainly love the illustrations and the quick facts at the end.

the-only-childThe Only Child by Guojing (illus.)

Goodreads summary:

A little girl—lost and alone—follows a mysterious stag deep into the woods, and, like Alice down the rabbit hole, she finds herself in a strange and wondrous world. But… home and family are very far away. How will she get back there?

In this magnificently illustrated—and wordless—masterpiece, debut artist Guojing brilliantly captures the rich and deeply-felt emotional life of a child, filled with loneliness and longing as well as love and joy. (Goodreads)

My thoughts:

The Only Child is a sweet fantasy story that reflects the author’s experience as an only child living under the one-child policy in China during the 1980s. I usually avoid reading notes and such that precede the beginning of a story, but I highly recommend that everyone read Guojing’s to understand the author’s intent in writing this book — well, drawing it since it’s a story told using only pictures and no words.

I enjoyed this story. It’s heartfelt and touching. The story panes follow the child, a little girl, as she wakes up, is left home alone by her parents, gets bored, decides to visit her grandma, boards a bus, and gets lost on her way to her grandmother’s house because she fell asleep on the bus. As she walks off into some woods, she meets a stag that takes her on a fantastical adventure.

I love this story for the emotions it conveyed through its pictures: loneliness, boredom, fright, love, relief. I also love the fun, tender moments the girl has with the stag and another creature the stag introduces her to. My favorite part, though, is the end when she’s about to be reunited with her parents. You can see the anticipation in her face.

Art style:

I think it’s all done in pencils. The illustrations all have a fuzziness about them, as if they aren’t definite, which makes me think of the whole story as being a dream, but I think it’s because of the weather in the story — winter. However, the fuzziness works well for the moments when the girl is with the stag. In a way, we could say that she dreamt that adventure.

The art is mostly minimalistic. Details are only included when needed and the focus is only on the characters; sometimes, there’s nothing else in the panel with them. I don’t usually like this art style, but it works well here. I think the softness of the pencil shadings also help to emphasize how tender this story is.

Overall: ★★★★☆ 1/2

I loved this one and would love to read it again. I think it’s one parents will enjoy sharing with their kids and also reading on their own. It certainly tugs at the heartstrings.


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