Tag Archives: Ashley Spires

I heart Binky, Maru’s brainy cousin

binkyIf you ask me, Binky is what might happen to Maru if he focused less on boxes, and more on the possibility that aliens could be trying to attack his family’s space station (house). Those who know me, know how much Maru means to me, so that is perhaps all I really need to say to tell you how much I love Binky, the crazy cartoon kitty, created by the always stylish, super-talented Ashley Spires.

But honestly, I have many more reasons why I think The Binky Adventures are pretty much purr-fect (absolutely could not help it). Let’s make a list, shall we?

1. It’s got huge kid appeal, for boys and girls. Not just sayin’ this folks, I’ve got the banged-up, always coming-and-going copies in my school library to prove it. Some girls might be picking it up because Binky is just so darn cute, but they’ll stay because he is hilarious. There’s sweetness, but there’s also a little potty humour. In Binky Takes Charge, Gordon the dog may be leaving coded messages for the aliens (flies) in his business (um… poop). Now that will make kids laugh.

2. An average kid reader could finish a Binky book in one sitting, not rushing, just having a good time.

3. Spires’ artwork has such clean lines and a neutral colour palette that the expressions on the characters’ faces really stand out. Also, the uncluttered design of the panels will help readers to hone in on the story all the more. Plus, there’s something about Spires’ illustration style that feels modern and hip – and we all know how important it is for kids these days to feel modern and hip (*wink wink*). Perhaps I should say that Binky will score their hipster parents’ seal of approval?

4. It is becoming harder and harder for me to track down and stock enough graphic novels for the library that are appropriate for smart, book-devouring younger readers. I’m talking about kids in Grade 2/3/4 who are desperate to leap onto the GN bandwagon and who are really not ready for the content, length, and language in some popular GN series. Binky is perfect for that kind of kid. So not only are hipster parents cheering, it also gets the Cool Librarian’s Seal of Approval.

5. When you read a Binky book, you feel like Ashley Spires gets how cats think. Ask any cat lover and she (or he!) will tell you that their cat could be Binky, and this is at once thrilling and terrifying. (Now that I think about it, Yoyo has been spending more and more time lately lying on top of the heating vent. Perhaps he thinks the aliens are going to break in via the magic hot air?)

yoyo

The little rotter

In conclusion, Binky is for everyone from Grade 2 right on up to your crazy cat lady relative. Read all four and you’ll heart Binky too.

Binky Takes Charge and all the others in the series are published by Kids Can Press.

Day 17, book 17: Larf by Ashley Spires

I like Ashley Spires‘ sense of humor, and I can tell you that kids do too. It’s understated, a little wacky, and sweet. Small Saul, Spires’ tale of pirate diversity, was the overall favourite of the Blue Spruce titles at our school last year. We were rooting for it to be the big winner, and while it wasn’t, I’m sure that when kids read Larf they’ll be just as delighted and the Spires fan club will get even bigger.

Like Spires’ other creations, Binky the wannabe space cat and Saul, the Martha Stewart of pirates, Larf is an outsider. That happens when you’re a sasquatch. He is a gentle giant, living a simple life in the woods with his bunny, Eric. (Let’s stop right there. A bunny named Eric? You’re laughing, right?) Larf is sure he’s the only sasquatch, and he’s fine with that because he’s shy, and he’d rather jog or take walks with Eric or do some gardening. Then one day when he’s reading the paper, Larf learns that a sasquatch is scheduled to make an appearance in a nearby city. He’s a little uncertain if it’s the right thing to do, but Larf eventually decides to go see if it’s true. After all, how can he not want to meet the only other sasquatch in the world? Turns out, the whole thing is a stunt. Larf realizes it straight away: “Something doesn’t seem quite right. Why are its eyeballs not moving? Is that a zipper down its belly?” There’s a happy ending in sight for Larf, however, and it turns out that like man, no sasquatch is an island.

Larf is a feel good story. There’s not a lot of tension, but I don’t think that matters. There’s plenty of charm and trademark Spires humour. One of the parts of Small Saul that the kids at school liked most was the way that Spires inserted funny details into her pictures that were just as funny as the jokes in the text. That’s here this time as well, like Larf’s #1 Sasquatch mug and his hilarious bunny pack for carrying Eric. Plus, you gotta love the looks on everyone’s faces when they spot Larf walking along the city streets. Priceless.

In my opinion, Ashley Spires is well on her way to becoming one of the big names in Canadian Kids’ Lit. She’s a unique talent, and she’s charming kids and grown up readers alike with her quirky tales starring out-of-the-ordinary heroes.

Larf is published by Kids Can Press.