Elem. – The Great Zapfino

Barnett, Mac. The Great Zapfino. Beach Lane Books, 2022. Unpaged. 978-1-534-41154-8. Grades 1-3. $17.99.

In this nearly wordless picture book, Barnett has created a likable character named Zapfino who works as a high diving artist in the circus. As the story begins, the ringmaster announces that Zapfino will dive from a height of ten stories into a trampoline. The performer, wearing a cape monogrammed with a Z, climbs up a very tall ladder, but then seems tentative about jumping and simply disappears. Zapfino is next seen purchasing an airplane ticket to a coastal destination. He finds a job as an elevator operator in an apartment building located on a beach with palm trees. As a perk, he is given a room on the 10 ½ floor. Up and down in the elevator goes Zapfino, who finds himself very tired at the end of the day. While waiting for his toast to pop up, he falls asleep and wakes up to heavy black smoke. Fire engines arrive, and his only way out is to jump from the tenth floor into the fire rescue trampoline. Can he overcome his fear of heights and take the plunge? Marla Frazee’s charming drawings were created with black pencil. The illustrator depicts Zapfino as a small unassuming man, whose smile does not appear until the end of the story. The apartment building is drawn in the Art Moderne style, and the elevator passengers are shown in small multi-panel displays. A drawing on the back cover puts a finishing touch on the story.

THOUGHTS: This is a simple and engaging text about overcoming fears. Children will be fascinated by the tiny panels which reveal the personalities and interests of the residents. The trim size (31 cm. x 18 cm.) is a great vehicle for creating the illusion of height. Highly recommended for elementary collections.

Picture Book          Denise Medwick, Retired, PSLA Member

MG – The Great Chicago Fire: Rising from the Ashes

Hannigan, Kate. The Great Chicago Fire: Rising from the Ashes. First Second, 2020. 978-1-250-17425-3. 119 p. $19.99. Grades 4-8.

Everyone knows Mrs. O’Leary and her cow – at least everyone in Chicago does! The Great Chicago fire of 1871 was devastating and destructive to this wooden city. This graphic novel tells the story of the Great Chicago fire through the eyes of two children, Franny and John Patrick Fitzgerald, who get separated from their parents in order to get a puppy back to it’s mother. The story explains how the fire supposedly was started,how it traveled across the river, and the struggle to save the city. The duo must change course, help others, and stick together to outrun the blaze. The story also tackles the xenophobia of Irish immigrants and how it caused the people of Chicago to blame Mrs. O’Leary (and her cow). The illustrations capture the burning Chicago with detail and will delight the reader while pulling them into the past.

THOUGHTS: This historical graphic novel (by the creators of Science Comics) does a fantastic job of telling the story of the Great Chicago fire with colorful illustrations and short bursts of text. This series is sure to delight fans of graphic novels and history! The extra information provided in the back is a bonus for students who want to know more about the Chicago fire and the Columbian Exposition in 1893.

973 Graphic Novel          Jillian Gasper, Northwestern Lehigh SD