Book Reviews: New Ways to Tell Stories

Not one word interrupts the flow of Bow-Wow Bugs a Bug (Harcourt, $12.95; ages 3 to 7). This zany book stars a new terrier in town whose name, we assume, is Bow-Wow. An annoying insect, portrayed as a large dot, teases our hero into encounters with friends and foes - a clever and unexpected development with each turn of the page. In bold black lines, comic-book panels alternate with full-page scenes in this creation by Mark Newgarden (known for the Garbage Pail Kids) and Megan Montague Cash. For a taste, check out

"Phooey!" complains a boy in the book with this title (HarperCollins, $16.99; ages 4 to 8), later explaining, "Nothing ever happens around here!" Lively sound effects - sploosh, poit, oof, shmek - punctuate the nonstop, otherwise mostly wordless story that ensues. Pirates appear, then elephants, a blizzard of bouncing oranges and much more than the boy could have ever imagined. Creator Marc Rosenthal, known as a "sequential artist," reveals influences from Babar the Elephant to old slapstick comic movies and Rube Goldberg contraptions.

And just in time for the new school year comes Middle School Is Worse Than Meatloaf: A Year Told Through Stuff (Atheneum, $12.99; ages 8 to 12). No chance for boredom here, with Ginny's seventh-grade highs and lows graphically shown via newspaper clippings, notes from Mom, instant messages, report cards, receipts and other real-life ephemera. Jennifer Holm, co-creator of the appealing "Babymouse" graphic novels, collaborates with digital artist Elicia Castaldi in this honest story that will have readers feeling like they're snooping through a real girl's stuff.

- Kathleen Krull