Captain Fantastic and the Chocolate Planet by Tommy Balaam is an imaginative and educational children’s adventure story of a spaceship captain and his dog Winston. When Winston is hungry and they find that there’s no food in their fridge, Captain Fantastic gets an idea. They travel to a Chocolate Planet full of sweets and treats for them to devour. They roam around, eating nearly everything in sight. When they return to their ship they’re so stuffed that they can’t fit through the door and don’t feel well. How will they ever get home?
Tommy Balaam’s has fun story full of vivid imagery, and it’s use of onomatopoeia and rhymes just makes the book much more engaging an interesting. The art in the book reminds me of a comic book style, with bright colors, clear pictures with some depth to them along with floating text boxes. The detailed artwork is visually appealing and will easily capture any child’s attention. This book does a fantastic job of delivering a message on health, eating, and exercise. It is certainly one of the more creative ways that I’ve seen to educate children on these topics.
I am giving Captain Fantastic and the Chocolate Planet, by Tommy Balaam 5 out of 5 stars. Filled with incredible artwork, a sweet story, and fantastic characters, this a perfect gift for young readers.
Pages: 32 | ASIN: B08PJPWJ18
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I’ve Got You is a fun space adventure for young readers. Captain Fantastic and his best friend Winston sail through the galaxy when they encounter a scary looking galaxy. When Winston gets frightened Captain Fantastic’s mission is to reassure his best friend and let him know that he’ll never be alone. Together, they can face anything.
Tommy Balaam has created a charming children’s story that is filled with colorful images that give life to this simple but effective story. I don’t often come across children’s picture books that fall within the science fiction genre. This is a welcome surprise as the story embraces it with a unique charisma that is reminiscent of early science fiction TV shows like Flash Gordon.
The story begins with the duo departing on an adventure. Before long we’re given a peek into their various exciting adventures on diverse planets and against many cute monsters. All relayed through rhyme. I loved the story but what I enjoyed most about this book, much like a comic book, was the fantastic art and imagery throughout the story. A fantastic start to what promises to be an amazing intergalactic children’s series.
Pages: 32 | ASIN: B08BKSBHSN
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Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody is a genre-crossing novel with elements of over-the-top action, science fiction, and dark humor as well. Did you start writing with this in mind, or did this happen organically as you were writing?
The science fiction part was planned, but the rest evolved. I started out with a loose goal to try and write something like Neuromancer, but it ended up being a lot less serious.
Suzy is a fugitive on the run and takes no crap from anyone. What were some of the trials that you felt were important to highlight her character’s development?
The situations involving her tendency to be impulsive – her inclination to shoot first, ask no questions, and then shoot again. Also, the situations involving trust. Suzy isn’t very trusting, but it’s hard to get through a good fight without a few friends, and she needs to deal with that.
There was rarely a dull moment in the story and I enjoyed the rapid fire action. How did you balance action with storytelling?
I try to make the action all about how the characters react to the stress. The real story is in the characters, otherwise it’s just a bunch of empty gunfire and explosions. To paraphrase Jim Butcher, “The action is just a light show.”
Also, I think action comes in different forms. Two people talking is action – as long as there’s tension, or it’s entertaining in a way that relates to the plot, or both. Kurt Vonnegut once said that “Every line should either reveal character or advance the plot.” I think about that quote a lot.
What is the next book that you are working on and when will it be available?
I have outlines for four new books, but I’m not sure which one I want to do. One of the outlines is for another Suzy Spitfire story, and I might do it. It was a fun book to write. It would be available next year.
When outlaw Suzy Spitfire discovers her father was murdered after creating a super-duper artificial intelligence, she races across the solar system in search of the brain he built—but it’s a rough ride, and she’s soon forced to tangle with pirates, predators, and her father’s killer—as well as a man she thinks she can love.
Suzy Spitfire Kills Everybody is a smash-bang sci-fi adventure filled with action, intrigue, and a dose of dark humor.
Posted in Interviews
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Chicken: A Comic Cat Memoir is about a girl named TJ who grew up allergic to cats, but over time, the allergy faded. As an adult she finds a tuxedo cat with bright green eyes. It’s a beautiful story of life, cat’s, and loss. What was your inspiration for this story?
My daughter who, when she was 5-years-old, repeatedly wanted to hear this true story about how we found our cat, Chicken. I told her every night for a year, at which point she suggested I “make pictures” for it. That lead me down an unexpectedly long path to finally officially publishing.
Do you have cats? If so, what are their names? What do you think your cat named you?
Yes, we now have Cha-cha who, like Chicken, also found me in a dream. I’d have to say Cha-cha named me “hu-mom” (made up word for human mom) because she wanted me to find her as much as Chicken did. She’ll be the star of the next story!
Through the story there are little doodles and background decorations that tell a different story. Can you tell us more about that story and why you chose to weave that in?
About halfway into creating the artwork, it hit me that through telling the cat’s story, I was telling my own. I think that every life is multi-layered and wanted to communicate some of those other layers that coincided with the one of finding a cat through a dream that then materialized. While I wanted to offer a “nod” to some of the details of my life as a relatable subtext, I didn’t want it to take over the primary cat story as told to my daughter. I think this may be why much of the positive feedback I’ve been getting is essentially saying it’s “fun for all ages.”
I liked the artwork through the story. I thought it went very well with the story. Were there any panels that you didn’t include in the story? What was the biggest challenge in creating the art for the book?
As the author/illustrator, I did all the writing and artwork. Once I did the rough sketches and managed to capture the accurate mood of most of the panels, I was preparing to ink them in the way that traditional cartoonists work. However, I faced a rather daunting creative block in taking that next step. I didn’t do anything for about two whole years and then my daughter and I made a mini book called The Frizzball from Outer Space. The fun of working on that project and getting it done so quickly, gave me the courage to begin the Chicken illustrations. Once I got ball rolling, I quickly realized that I wanted to include some photography and collage so it made more sense to to all of it digitally. My background is in graphic design—both practicing and teaching it—so I know how to use the tools of the trade. What I hadn’t done before this book, was create artwork on an iPad. While I’m always up for learning something new, it took so long to get up to speed that by the time I reached the end, I had to start back at the beginning and re-do most of those first panels. Also, there are limits to digital tools and, in some instances, such as creating the front cover title art for the word “Chicken,” I was only able to attain the look and result I wanted by doing it by hand with brush and ink then scanning it in. In the end, keeping track of and backing up the thousands of files it took to create this was a real accomplishment in and of itself!
What is the next book that your fans should be on the look out for?
When you get to the end of Chicken, the next character presents itself. It’s very small, but if you look closely you’ll see the star of the next book.
A true tale about the magical meeting of a cat and her person told in 72 full-color illustrations in a rustic, cartoon, doodle, collage style. A cat allergy sets the stage for this colorful romp in which a cat named Chicken finds her way into the arms and affection of TJ, an artist in search of adventure and meaning. Brought together by seeming divine intervention, the storyline ranges from funny to emotional, sweet to silly, thoughtful to mystical, as readers travel with TJ and Chicken between coasts, encountering diverse friendships along the way.
Posted in Interviews
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