Here Comes Ingo by Odeta Xheka

Review Copy Courtesy of Odeta Xheka

Where to Find Here Comes Ingo:

[Affiliate Link] Amazon 
[Local Bookstore] Indiebound
[Library] Worldcat

Here Comes Ingo is unlike any picture book I’ve ever read or seen before. Author and artist, Odeta Xheka uses abstract collage and says that her book, “exemplifies a progression of thinking leading towards love, kindness and inclusion because the world needs more empathetic, understand and tolerant children.”

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From Here Comes Ingo. Image Courtesy of Odeta Xheka

And it’s interesting because when it comes to this book, I am honestly lost. There is so much about this book that I do not understand. But what’s fun is that the kids have zero problem following through the story and that makes for a neat role-reversal where they clearly understand something way better than I do.

When they look through it they ooh, and ahh, and giggle, and point, and get excited. When I read through it I feel like I’m swimming and looking for something, anything to latch on to – because it is the most dream-like book I’ve ever experienced and my brain really wants it to make sense – at least in an analytical way. But I don’t think Xheka is particularly interested in this book being analytical at all. She has other goals. She wants us to, “keep an open mind in order to embrace what at first may seem strange. Remember, it is very important to learn how to be understanding, tolerant and kind.”

This book, as you can see from the images, is very surreal and pushes the boundaries of logic and coherence in ways that I have not seen in a picture book for children. It’s a disorienting experience (at least for me, again, kids don’t seem to have any problems with it). But it is not an unpleasant experience at all. Have you ever experienced art where afterwards you think, “I like it. I don’t think I really understand what’s going on here – but I’m okay with that.” I wonder if reading this book is like a seed being planted – and I’ll understand it one day randomly while doing something else.

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From Here Comes Ingo. Image Courtesy of Odeta Xheka

What’s also unique about this book is that I’m usually the one helming the storyline with wordless picture books, but with Here Comes Ingo my children are in charge — and it is amazing to watch my kids tell me the story. They genuinely enjoy and have a great time explaining to me what and how and why — and it is never the same experience twice.

But even with my own sense of disorientation – the book is very interesting and fun to look at. It’s very, very strange on some pages, very beautiful on others, and sometimes the pages are both beautiful and strange.

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From Here Comes Ingo. Image Courtesy of Odeta Xheka

If I had to sum up one way to describe the illustrations and the whole book, it would be as phantasmagorical – “having a fantastic or deceptive appearance, as something in a dream or created by the imagination.”

But whether the illustrations make sense to you or not, the bright colors grab you immediately – and demand for you to stop, look, and check in with yourself that you are really seeing what you think you’re seeing. And there’s something about these images that calls to me – where just because I don’t understand something completely (or sometimes at all) doesn’t mean that I can’t appreciate that there’s a distinct beauty to them.

Xheka says on the back of her book that, “this wordless picture book familiarizes children with figurative art collage.” And her book definitely does that. Her illustrations inspire my children and have my boys asking where the scissors are so that they can go and create their own collages. There’s an honesty and rawness about the images that makes my kids say, “I want to create, too.”

One thing I love about having my blog is that I get to learn about books that I never would have learned about otherwise – and I’m so glad to have learned about this book and to have had this unique experience with my children.

Where Obtained:  I received a review copy from the publisher. No other compensation was received. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

FTC Disclosures:  Some of the links in the post above are Amazon affiliate links and others are IndieBound affiliate links. If you click on the link and purchase something, I will receive an affiliate commission at no additional cost to you. Which goes to fund my family’s picture book habit.  It’s a vicious cycle, but we manage.  I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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Sep 13, Grand Remembrances

Today is Grandparents Day in the United States. Being a Grand is a special honor. I feel very blessed that my wife and I have two grandchildren. We were able to visit them today. Yes, we are still being cautious with the coronavirus, but we also find it very difficult to not see them when they live so close. So today we did drop by to visit Jacob (age 10) and Sophia (age 7) along with their parents. We brought donuts and caught up with them. Our grandchildren are still pretty young and this is a precious time in their lives – and ours!

I wish I had known my grandparents better. We never lived in the same place. Dad was a career Air Force pilot, so we moved around a lot. But we did get to see them once in a while when they would visit us, or we them.

A Plague of Giants

There are five known magical ‘kennings’ or types: air, water, fire, earth, and plants. Each nation specializes in of these kennings, and the magic influences the society. There’s a big pitfall with this diversity of ability and locale–not everyone gets along.

Enter the Hathrim giants, or ‘lavaborn’ whose kenning is fire. Where they live the trees that fuel their fire are long gone, but the giants are definitely not welcome anywhere else. They’re big, they’re violent, and they’re ruthless. When a volcano erupts and they are forced to evacuate, they take the opportunity to relocate. They don’t care that it’s in a place where they aren’t wanted.

I first read Kevin Hearne’s Iron Druid books and loved them (also the quirky The Tales of Pell), so was curious about this new venture, starting with A PLAGUE OF GIANTS. Think Avatar: The Last Airbender meets Jim Butcher’s Codex Alera series. Elemental magic, a variety of races, different lands. And it’s all thrown at you from page one.

But this story is told a little differently. It starts at the end of the war, after a difficult victory, and a bard with earth kenning uses his magic to re-tell the story of the war to a city of refugees. And it’s this movement back and forth in time and between key players in this war that we get a singularly grand view of the war as a whole. Hearne uses this method to great effect.

There are so many interesting characters in this book that I can’t cover them all here. Often in books like this such a large cast of ‘main’ character can make the storytelling suffer, especially since they don’t have a lot of interaction with each other for the first 3/4 of the book–but it doesn’t suffer, thankfully. And the characterization is good enough, despite these short bursts, that by the end we understand these people and care about what happens to them.

If there were a main character it would be Dervan, a historian who is assigned to record (also spy on?) the bard’s stories. He finds himself caught up in machinations he feels unfit to survive. Fintan is the bard from another country, who at first is rather mysterious and his true personality is hidden by the stories he tells; it takes a while to understand him. Gorin Mogen is the leader of the Hathrim giants who decide to find a new land to settle. He’s hard to like, but as far as villains go, you understand his motivations and he can be even a little convincing. There’s Abhi, the son of hunters, who decides hunting isn’t the life for him–and unexpectedly finds himself on a quest for the sixth kenning. And Gondel Vedd, a scholar of linguistics who finds himself tasked with finding a way to communicate with a race of giants never seen before (definitely not Hathrim) and stumbles onto a mystery no one could have guessed: there may be a seventh kenning.

There are other characters, but what makes them all interesting is that they’re regular people (well, maybe not Gorin Mogen or the viceroy–he’s a piece of work) who become heroes in their own little ways, whether it’s the teenage girl who isn’t afraid to share vital information, to the scholars who suddenly find how crucial their minds are to the survival of a nation, to the humble public servants who find bravery when they need it most. This is a story of loss, love, redemption, courage, unity, and overcoming despair to not give up. All very human experiences by simple people who do extraordinary things.

Hearne’s worldbuilding is engaging. He doesn’t bottle feed you, at first it feels like drinking from a hydrant, but then you settle in and pick up things along the way. Then he shows you stuff with a punch to the gut. This is no fluffy world with simple magic without price. All the magic has a price, and more often than not it leads you straight to death’s door. For most people just the seeking of the magic will kill you. I particularly enjoyed the scenes with Ahbi and his discovery of the sixth kenning and everything associated with it. But giants? I mean, really? It isn’t bad enough fighting people who can control fire that you have to add that they’re twice the size of normal people? For Hearne if it’s war, the stakes are pretty high, and it gets ugly.

The benefit of the storytelling style is that the book, despite its length, moves along steadily (Hearne is no novice, here). The bits of story lead you along without annoying cliffhangers (mostly), and I never got bored with the switch between characters. It was easy to move between them, and they were recognizable enough that I got lost or confused. The end of the novel felt a little abrupt, but I guess that has more to do with I was ready for the story to continue, despite the exiting climax.

If you’re looking for epic fantasy with fun storytelling and clever worldbuilding, check out A PLAGUE OF GIANTS.

The post A Plague of Giants appeared first on Elitist Book Reviews.

The Artwork Of Gary Choo

Gary Choo is a concept artist/illustrator based in Singapore. I’ve know Gary for a good many years ( 17, actually ), working together in animation studios in Singapore like Silicon Illusions and Lucasfilm. Gary currently runs an art team at Mighty Bear Games, but when time allows he also draws covers for Marvel comics, and they’re amazing –

The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo
The Art Of Gary Choo

To see more of Gary’s work or to engage him for freelance work, head down to his ArtStation.

The post The Art Of Gary Choo appeared first on Halcyon Realms – Art Book Reviews – Anime, Manga, Film, Photography.