Sunday, October 23, 2011

Marvelous Middle Grade Monday: Toonopolis Gemini by Jeremy Rodden, Illustrated by Cami Woodruff

About the Book: Toonopolis is a cartoon city that is home to the thoughts and ideas of all sentient beings in the universe. As the center of the Tooniverse, it acts as an other-worldly rest stop for these creations.
      Gemini is a teenage human boy who is thrust into Toonopolis through his father's scientific research program.

He loses part of himself in the process and immediately begins a quest to regain his lost memories with the help of his Tooniverse guide named Jimbob the Talking Eggplant.
      After an altercation with a mysterious Shadowy Figure, Gemini's mission is changed, and he begins a new quest to defeat Shadowy Figure and protect Toonopolis from his nefarious destruction. Along the way, he meets new friends, discovers just how diverse and strange Toonopolis is, and learns lessons about compassion, forgiveness, redemption, and being true to oneself. -Goodreads

First Line: "When I first returned from my trip to Toonopolis, I found it hard to put into words what I had experienced." 

What Others Are Saying: "Toonopolis: Gemini is a clever representation of the unique ideas and passion that are responsible for the types of media we all enjoy, whether they be drawn, animated or pixelated. Rodden has taken all of these wonderful concepts and brought them together in one place, then asks the question, “Okay, what happens now?" -The Adrenaline Vault
“Jeremy also has made a link between our world and Toonopolis, a very important link between creator and created, one which lends an air of danger and immediacy to Gemini’s tour of this fantastic world.” -Graphic Novel News

What I Thought: I have a dirty little secret. I abhor cartoons. Or should I say for most of my life I have abhorred them, my husband has worked tirelessly to convert me. He has shown me the philosophical wisdom of the medium, it's artful execution and their complex plots. (How many times do you need to watch Wile E Coyote be outsmarted by Road Runner. Right?) But just like any artform there are wide extremes and everything in between.
       So when Jeremy contacted me to review his book, admittedly I was reticent. Then I read what it was about and and was intrigued. Could I suspend my disbelief long enough to submerge myself into the cartoon world. Me, who can barely play Wii bowl, let alone manipulate a playstation controller. I am happy to report that I was and found myself caring about the characters, especially the talking eggplant.
     These cartoon characters are far from flat and the adventure and world that Jeremy creates is complex. While I might not have enjoyed it as much as a cartoon aficionado, I do have a new found respect for the medium. I liked recognizing characters from my childhood that made their home in the alter-universe subject to the whims of their creators. I developed real compassion for their plights and cheered them on.
      So...if you know some passionate cartoon readers or gamers, they're going to love this. While the reading level is probably older middle grade to young adult, this would make a great read-aloud for younger readers.

Illustrator: Cami Woodruff  [This is something that I should have included a long time ago with all my reviews.]  Check out her great portfolio here.

Author: Jeremy RoddenBlog 

Who:  I spent the first ten years of my professional life in retail sales, working my way up to store management positions in two different Fortune 500 retailers. Along the way, I managed to earn a BA in Religion and English Writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia, PA and an MA in Secondary Education from Holy Family University, also in Philadelphia.
     After completing my Masters, I began teaching high school English. When my second son was born in May, 2010, however, my wife and I decided that it would be more prudent for me to be a stay-at-home dad, taking care of the new baby along with my first son, who was born in June, 2005. I have since had the challenge and pleasure of being a homemaker." 
 -Toonapolis, The Blog

When: "I actually wanted to be a writer since elementary school. I waffled with some other career options as a kid: teacher, lawyer, etc. I actually even thought about being an actuary at one point because I excelled in math.
      What I learned, though, is that aptitude for something does not necessarily mean that it is the best career choice. You have to have a passion for it as well. As good as I was at math, I couldn’t imagine sitting at a desk calculating insurance rates or some other mundane probability-related career.
     I did become a teacher briefly (high school English) before switching to a role as a stay-at-home dad turned author and all three of those careers are much more in line with both my skillset and passion." Rodden @ --Hampton Reviews

Why:  "Two of my favorite authors are Lewis Carroll and CS Lewis. Both of them were able to create unique fantasy worlds that were linked with the “Real World” and appeal to readers of all ages. One of my biggest goals in writing a novel was to write something that could share that classification. I pulled pieces of my world-building from tons of sources: cartoons, comics, movies, books, and video games. I’m a big geek.
     As a former high school English teacher, one of the things I always tried to do with my students was link new material with prior knowledge. I hope that anyone who reads this book will find a sense of familiarity and connect their own forms of nostalgia to the story that would make them connect to my world in their own way." Rodden @ -Books: The Cheapest Vacation You Can Buy

How: "I can’t really answer that except that they are very alive in my mind. With some of the secondary characters, I started with stock characters (such as Miss Fire and Hawk) and just allowed them to grow and respond to situations that they normally wouldn’t face. A stock character in a stock world is boring. A stock character in a different world becomes a whole new creation. My main characters have existed in my mind for over ten years. They’ve grown and changed over the years. Gemini, for example, was originally Kid Gemini and 3 years younger. Jimbob gained a new wrinkle a few years ago that people will learn when they read the book."  Rodden @ -Book Worm Castle

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  1. Sounds like a story my son would like! I've seen his tweets but in all of them, never realized it was for middle grade!

  2. Gosh, I've never heard of this book. Thanks for educating me! Sounds cool.

  3. Totally something my son would LOVE! Thanks for the word about it.

  4. Hey! Thanks for reviewing this...will keep my eyes peeled for it. Think it will be a hit with my book club kids, too!

  5. @Pam: Thank you for the kind words. I love the way you pulled from my online interviews in this post!

    @Laura: Honestly, Pam hit it right on the head in her post and that high MG/lower YA is my target audience. I see my target as the same audience that likes Artemis Fowl and Percy Jackson.

    @Joanne: Well, I think it's cool. But I'm biased. :)

    @Barbara: I have been so happy to hear from younger male readers who enjoy it. As a father of two boys (6 and 1), I really see a lack of books for MG/teen boys that aren't about sports or some sort of over-the-top "BOY" theme.

    @Deb: I have a great Worldbuilding activity that I do when I speak at elementary schools about writing and being an author. Feel free to contact me if you think it would be a fun tie in with a book club!

  6. I haven't heard of this either and am not partial to cartoons. But it's always fun to read something you don't think you'd like and then be pleasantly surprised. It's one of the things I love about blogging.

  7. Great review and nice interview with Jeremy. (Viva us stay-at-home dads!) I'll be on the lookout for this.

    Pam, Thanks for stopping by Middle Grade Mafioso today too!

  8. I follow him on twitter. Interesting!

  9. My kids would LOVE this!! Thanks, Pam! :-)


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