Books by John Nickle

Released: Sept. 11, 2012

"Levinthal's children's-book debut lacks the laugh-out-loud silliness that is Margie Palatini and Richard Egielski's mashup The Web Files (2001), but this will find an audience. (Fractured fairy tales. 5-9)"
In language reminiscent of old-time-radio detective stories, Officer Binky narrates a few of his cases, which will be very familiar to young readers. Read full book review >
THE BRIXEN WITCH by Stacy DeKeyser
Released: June 26, 2012

"Fresh and satisfying for middle-grade readers. (Fantasy. 9-12)"
An enchanted coin, a plague of rats, an itinerant fiddler and the disappearance of the village children are familiar folklore elements that find their ways into this original adventure. Read full book review >
Released: Jan. 24, 2012

This unusual Grimm adaptation utilizes traditional fairy-tale treatments (lyrical language, graceful lettering) alongside innovative artistic choices (embedded paneling, sharp spot art). Inset oval illustrations, framed with blurred edging, draws eyes, while coal-black silhouetted scenes contribute to storytelling, adding even more depth to rich acrylic illustrations. Flecked, smudged backgrounds look like fibrous paper and complement the pictures' prevalent, ripe oranges, yellows, reds and blues. Plump, puppetlike people might seem dated, but Hans breaks from old-school fairy-tale renderings as a contemporary character; he's cute, comical and soulful enough to seem both freakish and sad. To older children, just seeing lines drawn between insiders and outsiders, between the attractive and unattractive, Hans' story seems grave. While the ending is completely expected, readers can't help loving it and even giving up a little gasp. When a kind princess inspires magical music from Hans' fiddle, he transforms into an entirely human hottie—and even looks like his old spiky self, with red tufted hair and a scratchy beard!

Prickly, a bit funny and a bit dark: classic Grimm, modernized. (author's note) (Picture book/fairy tale. 4-10)Read full book review >
Released: March 4, 2008

Nearly 40 years since Animals Should Definitely Not Wear Clothing (1970), Barrett is still dispensing similarly ageless wisdom—cautioning readers, here, against inviting ants to a picnic, shopping for shoes with a centipede, holding hands with a lobster and similar efforts to socialize with wild animals. Nickle's sophisticated, precisely detailed illustrations exploit the droll possibilities of each apothegm. A subway-riding porcupine gets up, for instance, leaving a sheaf of quills in his neighbor (an indignant anteater), the aforementioned centipede is gleefully whipping out a charge card to buy different shoes for each pair of feet, and the problem with taking a giraffe to the movies is plainly revealed in an upward-opening gatefold. A final positive after the litany of "nevers"—"Always <\b>go shopping with a pelican"—provides tidy closure to this latest distillation of good advice. (Picture book. 5-7)Read full book review >
Released: Sept. 12, 2006

Nickle's abecedarian offering invigorates the genre with fresh imagery and media. A double spread on "How to Play" provides details on what—and what not to—count on the ensuing pages. Each of the 26 alphabet pages is captioned with the potential number of words and images to find: 24 H's, 16 J's, and so on. (Clever kids spying more than what's listed in the answer key can inform Nickle, "Chief Alphabet Expert," via a provided e-mail address.) Each page offers an ersatz, irrational landscape, wherein the myriad flora, fauna and stuff, linked purely alliteratively, interact surreally. A hippo Hula Hoops on hind legs near a hill, hovering above a hopscotch board, whereon a haloed hyena hops toward a hot dog and hurrying Humpty Dumpty. Get the picture? Acrylics and spray paint contrast hyper-rendered images (an alligator in an atomic apron; 12 slices of toast) with fuzzy, graffitied shapes and edges. Reproduction quality appears excellent, and smart design, from brilliantly color-blocked endpapers to handsome typography, rounds out a package sure to intrigue primary grade puzzlers. (Nonfiction. 5-8)Read full book review >
TV REX by John Nickle
by John Nickle, illustrated by John Nickle
Released: March 1, 2001

Nickle (Ant Bully, 1999, etc.) doesn't play fair in this amusing but disorienting escapade. Young Rex used to help his inventor grandpa make and fix things, but now that Grandpa's "gone," he just sits and watches TV all the time. When the TV breaks down, Rex crawls inside to cry. Suddenly, he's swimming in the ocean, a guest on his favorite show, "Deep Sea Hunt." Then, with the help of a very special remote, he's tumbling from channel to channel, chasing bad guys on the "Harly Hog Cartoon Hour," wiping out Vladimir Nokyerblokov on "Wild World Wrestling," pitching a baseball here and a weather forecast there. Just as he's about to be eaten by a robot on "Doctor Bleep in Outer Space," he feels a hand on his shoulder. It's Grandpa, not dead as readers have been carefully led to believe, but just away on a long Florida vacation. Though some of the shows Rex visits look modern, "Doctor Bleep" is in black and white—which, with the array of old-style TV sets that Rex watches, give the illustrations a retro flavor. Readers thrown off balance by the climactic twist may prefer more predictable ventures into the boob tube, such as Marc Brown's Bionic Bunny Show (1986) or Matt Novak's Mouse TV (1994). (Picture book. 6-8)Read full book review >
THE ANT BULLY by John Nickle
Released: March 1, 1999

Bullies always find someone smaller than they are to pick on, so when Sid the bully picks on Lucas, Lucas bullies ants, drenching them with his squirt gun. An ant wizard shrinks Lucas, who then goes to work with the rest of the ants, hauling leaves, finding food, and fighting off an attack of wasps. The queen ant strikes a bargain with Lucas; if he will bring her a Swell Jell candy, he will be freed. Lucas's mission is successful, and when he returns to normal size, there's a bonus—the ants downsize Sid. Large, colorful acrylic paintings somewhere in the artistic vicinity of Ms. Spider's neighborhood carry the tale; Nickle uses shifting perspectives to accentuate height, creating giants out of children and mountains out of ant hills; these shifts help convey Lucas's own changing attitudes. (Picture book. 4-7) Read full book review >
Released: April 1, 1998

Goofy superlatives are showcased in this book from Barrett, some clever, some slightly mawkish, all shaped by a particular brand of humor that will either work for readers or leave them flat. For example: ``The quietest thing in the world is a worm chewing peanut butter'' has the ring of inspiration to it, whereas ``the silliest thing in the world is a chicken in a frog costume'' won't tickle everyone's funny bone. ``The heaviest thing in the world is a Tyrannosaurus rex weighing itself'' is just plain confusing, as is the art that accompanies the ``teensie-weensiest'' thing—a newborn flea; when scaled against the watchband in Nickle's vibrant illustration, the flea is not so small, and its mother is enormous. The least successful statements are those that run to nonsense; the most successful are the ones based in a grain of truth: Most readers will agree with the poetic notion that the ``the highest thing in the world is the very top of the sky.'' (Picture book. 3-7) Read full book review >