About Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School…
Happily, David Mackintosh’s books are always something to look at, so it’s no surprise that “Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School” takes on friendship from a different angle: the book is narrated by an established insider, forced to be nice to the new guy. Young Armstrong is fascinating, and Mackintosh gives us a two-page spread of his oddities, ranging from the physiological (“His freckles look like birdseed on his nose”) to the sartorial (“His laces are straight, not crisscrossed like mine”) to the misunderstood (“His glasses belong to another boy” — i.e., Ray Ban). The narrator’s not eager to attend the birthday party of this precocious, allergic, fountain-pen wielding stranger, but Marshall Armstrong’s house turns out to be a similar parade of wonders, from the thrilling (“We all ride down the special fireman’s pole, from the top of the house to the bottom”) to the intriguing (“We take turns looking at the sky through a telescope, and through a microscope at the cut on Jane’s arm.”) to the borderline snarky (“Bernadette has to go home early”). The illustrations are a rush of sketch and shape and texture, not unlike the work of Oliver Jeffers, although my favorite bit is a calm drawing of a game of hide-and-seek, with not a single child visible. This party of a book gives us an unsettling truth: one reason Marshall becomes appealing is that he has lots of great stuff. How I wish that didn’t ring true.
– New York Times Book Review: Daniel Handler (aka Lemony Snicket).
In David Mackintosh's cheerful paean to eccentricity, "Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School" (Abrams, 32 pages, $16.95), our narrator is not at all sure that he wants to be seated in class next to the new boy.
Marshall Armstrong "looks different," with his pale, freckled skin, straw boater and big glasses. At lunch, Marshall Armstrong opens suspicious packages: "We call it 'space food,' because it comes in silver wrappers," the narrator reports, capturing the classroom's suspicion. Furthermore, the new boy "doesn't have a TV at home. He prefers the paper. His dad says that it gives him a good perspective."
So when Marshall Armstrong invites the class to his birthday party, you can imagine everyone's reluctance. "I'll probably have to sit next to him the whole time," the narrator laments. " He'll make us read the newspaper with his dad . . . and everyone will have a terrible time."
Having seen Mr. Mackintosh's delightful matte pencil-and-watercolor drawings of the newcomer riding an old-fashioned bicycle and reading contentedly while the other pupils are at gym, readers ages 6-11 won't be worried. They already know what the narrator is about to discover: that Marshall Armstrong is a fun, confident boy from an interesting family. The birthday party is, of course, a success, and when, on the last page, a girl named Elizabeth Bell "is new to our school," the narrator quickly makes sure that she is seated beside him and Marshall Armstrong.
– Wall Street Journal By Meghan Cox Gurdhon.
“A sophisticated combination of faux-naïve pencil drawing, collage and varied layouts makes David Mackintosh’s Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School striking.”
– Sunday Times Culture Nicolette Jones.
“Even very young readers will … enjoy how Mackintosh’s beautifully underplayed text and genial drawings manage to be empathic to both the leery narrator and the serenely outré object of his misapprehension. Without a whiff of pedantry, Mackintosh skillfully dismantles the narrator’s defenses and bonds him to Marshall Armstrong, all the while proving that fun doesn’t always fit within the confines of one’s comfort zone.”
– Publishers Weekly.
Marshall Armstrong is ‘so hot right now’, “...features a wonderfully eccentric title character. Utterly unpredictable from one page to the next, this is a seriously funny book”
– The Independent On Sunday.
Irish-born author/illustrator, David Mackintosh is a super star in the making. His debut picture book, Marshall Armstrong is New to Our School (Harpercollins, £10.99) is a tour de force of originality and good design, with a strong, universal story about a boy who is proud to be different.
Marshall Armstrong is different in every way. The young narrator explains why: ‘His freckles look like birdseed on his nose. He has lips like my tropical fish, Ninja . . . His watch doesn’t even have hands.’ But slowly the boy begins to realise that different isn’t so bad, in fact, in Marshall Armstrong’s case – with his amazing house complete with fireman’s pole and home-made grand piano - it’s actually pretty darn good.
But what sets this book apart isn’t its clever, well written story, or the enigma that is Marshall Armstrong, it’s the stormingly good illustrations. Like picture book masters such as Maurice Sendak, Satoshi Kitamura and, more recently, Oliver Jeffers, Mackintosh says so much with a few light strokes of his pencil. Each spread brings a new surprise: a cluttered gym scene where children play marbles, do the splits or look on anxiously; Marshall on his wonderful Penny Farthing bike; the Armstrong’s multi-coloured, almost Barbapapa-like mansion. You turn each page and gasp. His use of colour, line and perspective is audacious. It shouldn’t work, but it so does.
This is certainly the most exciting and original picture book I’ve come across so far this year. With Jeffers, Chris Haughton, Kevin Waldron, Chris Judge and now David Mackintosh coming through the ranks, the future of Irish-originated picture books is in good hands.
– Inis children's book magazine, Sarah Webb.
Marshall Armstrong Is New To Our School, by David Mackintosh (Harper Collins Childrens Books)
This first book from London-based writer and illustrator David Mackintosh is visually beautiful, and redraws the familiar tale of a misfit arriving at a new school in an original, witty and charming manner. It tells of Marshall Armstrong, a boy who is straight-laced, studious and often infirmed by mysterious illnesses. Marshall is immediately ostracised when he joins his new school, but manages to become the coolest boy in the class after one eventful birthday party. Mackintosh’s debut is smart and detailed, proving that differences are something to embrace rather than fear and that – in the end – we all have a cool side.
Lauren Child Top 14 Children's Books August 2014, The Telegraph
About The Frank Show…
“Mackintosh’s busy, helter-skelter images contribute mightily to the story’s humor and emotional honesty, but it’s the willful personalities of both of these protagonists that make it stand out.”
– Publishers Weekly, starred review
"This humorous and heartwarming tale will inspire children to seek out their own grandparents' treasure trove of stories."
– Shelf-Awareness, starred review
"Pore over the funny details, soak in the humor (the things-were-a-lot-tougher-in-my-day spread had me in stitches), appreciate the very specific mood Mackintosh so successfully creates in this story, and delight in the illustration, lettering and overall design, all handled by the talented and overachieving Mackintosh."
– Kirkus Reviews blog
"Mackintosh writes with irreverence, and his illustrations are packed with prickly humor... But Mackintosh also draws with emotional sensitivity and empathy."
– The New York Times online
"Old-timey gripes gain zest from Mr. Mackintosh's exuberant and colorful collage illustrations."
– The Wall Street Journal
"Complete with lively pen-and-ink illustrations, this offbeat picture book is sure to become a family favorite. Along the way, it may prompt children to wonder what exciting details their grandparents have yet to reveal about their own life stories."
About Standing In for Lincoln Green…
If Mackintosh hasn’t already won you over with “Marshall Armstrong Is New to Our School” and “The Frank Show,” this new story, about a boy who’d rather play than do his chores, is sure to. Mackintosh’s voice is engaging, but it’s the look of his pages that will have readers — and lap listeners — marveling at the variety of perspective, color and composition that make “Standing In for Lincoln Green” such a standout.
– The New York Times
LUCKY received a glowing review in Publishers Weekly! The review will appear in print and online on Monday, August 11. Enjoy!
Mom announces there’ll be a surprise at dinner, and the narrator and his brother, Leo, eventually decide it can mean only one thing: their family has won a trip to “Hawaii for two weeks: all expenses paid!” The brothers set the school grapevine buzzing and even inspire the principal to give everyone 10 minutes of free time because “this is the first time in history that anyone from our school has ever won a vacation.” Then Mom enthusiastically reveals, as only mothers can, that the big surprise is... takeout pizza. Crushed and embarrassed, the narrator slowly realizes that he’s in a pretty lucky family after all—a revelation handled with the subtlety and sweetness that’s become Mackintosh’s signature. As befits a story about magical thinking, Mackintosh (Standing in for Lincoln Green) amplifies his sketchbook- style drawings with a visually extravagant mélange of comic book framings, exaggerated typography that sometimes tips a hat to concrete poetry, and collage (which includes kitschy Hawaiiana to accompany Leo’s rhapsodic tribute to island life). It’s a story that leaves its readers feeling fortunate as well.
LUCKY starred review from Kirkus Reviews, September 2014 issue.
“Two boys get carried away when their mom tells them they will have a surprise at dinner. Little brother Leo thinks it's curly fries, but the young narrator starts thinking…and that's how they get into trouble! They brainstorm a list of ever bigger and better possibilities (a bike! a new car! a swimming pool!), and finally, with visions of grass skirts and volcanoes in their heads, they conclude it must be an all-expenses-paid trip to Hawaii. Both voice and reasoning are hysterically, authentically childlike. Dynamic, rapid-fire collage-and-pencil illustrations capture the zany escalation. The text increases in size, replicating their ever bolder assertions. Excited, they tell everyone at school, where even the staff celebrates by giving the students an extra 10-minute break. But when they get home, the siblings discover a very different surprise awaits them, leaving the narrator feeling rather sick until contagiously enthusiastic Leo cheers him up. How lucky can a kid get? This is a quirky, spot-on snapshot of family life, perfect for family sharing and repeated readings. And children will love examining the whimsical, surprisingly delightful details in the drawings. A winner.”
The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books for their December 2014 issue:
“When Mom hints that there’ll be a surprise tonight at dinner, our protagonist’s imagination runs wild. He and his brother Leo mull possibilities—tickets to the Amazing Yo-Yo Supershow? a swimming pool in the backyard?—but reject them, until they conclude that the folks have won an all-expenses paid trip to Hawaii. They tell everybody at school the exciting news, whipping the whole place up to a frenzy, and get home to find the surprise is . . . pizza. Our narrator is mortified, but he’s jollied into better spirits when Leo adds pineapple to make dinner into Hawaiian pizza and the family has a little island evening in their own dining room. It’s the revved-up narrative voice and its counterpoint in Leo’s occasional comments that bring the comedy here, and kids will immediately grasp the upcoming doom when the boys’ Hawaii notion accelerates into headline news with schoolmates and administrators (“To celebrate, we’re all given ten minutes of free time”). The artwork combines thick crayonish scrawls, spidery linework, and collaged photog- raphy and other digital elements on creamy matte pages; there’s a casual disorder to the visuals that’s counterbalanced by careful, rhythmic layout and the oversized text in a crisp, dramatic font. Kids will get a “there but for the grace of God go I” kick out of the imaginations run amuck, and adults will be reminded of the perils of sparking unlimited expectations.”
Reading Today Online: Best picture Books of 2014 (december 8 2014)
Delighted that their mother has a surprise waiting for them at the end of the day, Leo and his brother try hard to guess what it might be. The narrator's imagination runs wild with all the possibilities, and he blows everything out of proportion, setting up expectations that will be hard to meet. Once the brothers arrive home, there is, indeed, a surprise, but it doesn’t come close to what the boys had imagined. Many young readers will relate to the narrator's disappointment while also being glad for Leo's ability to put a positive spin on everything. Maybe, in the end, there are lots of different ways to be lucky. The illustrations are filled with bright colors and large font sizes that show the boys' rising excitement throughout the story and the narrator's ultimate disappointment.
—Barbara A. Ward, Washington State University Pullman
Julie Danielson at Bookpage Oct 2014:
If you ever find yourself wanting to explain to a child what the phrase “snowball effect” means, pick up a copy of David Mackintosh’s Lucky to aid your cause.
Mackintosh is an author-illustrator hailing from the U.K., who makes visually interesting and very funny picture books with busy, stylized collage illustrations. This new title playfully honors a child’s imagination with humor and heart.
The story is told from the point of view of a young boy, whose mother has promised him and his brother Leo a surprise. “Just wait and see,” she tells them when they ask what it is. The boys let their imagination go as the day wears on. Could it be curly fries? A new car? Separate rooms? Tickets to the amazing Yo-Yo Super Show at the town hall? When his brother declares that in all likelihood the parents won a family vacation to Hawaii in a contest, the boy is convinced. The news spreads at school—he even takes some classroom time to tell everyone about his trip—and the principal sings his praises. When he gets home to find that the surprise is pizza for dinner, he’s not only disappointed, but his family laughs about his confusion when Leo tells them. All’s well that ends well, however, when Leo adds some pineapple to the pizza—Hawaiian pizza, anyone?—and the good-natured family don leis, as if they’re actually lounging on Hawaiian shores.
There’s a lot of humor here (be sure to check out the placement of the dog door in the family’s home), and Mackintosh’s multimedia illustrations, with their relaxed lines and pops of color, are dynamic. Best of all, there’s honesty: “Sometimes grown-ups say things they don’t really mean,” the protagonist says. One senses that Leo knows this, too, but as the narrator notes in the final spread, Leo’s at least able to make the best of it. And the family may not be vacationing miles away from home, but they are enjoying one another’s company and their Hawaiian pizza in all their weird and wonderful glory.
White Ravens 2015
The New York Times Sunday Book Review 18.01.15
If Juna and CJ reside within more or less traditional picture book worlds, another disappointed child, the unnamed boy protagonist in David Mackintosh’s “Lucky,” lives in a postmodern one. Text is used as a design element — stacked, layered, squeezed, slanted. The large-headed, spindly-legged children proceed through a landscape of sketches, photographs, postcards, blocks of color and collage, with enough logic and white space to keep things from feeling too frantic. “Lucky” achieves a synchronicity between text and illustration that rarely occurs unless both are created by the same person.
When the boy’s mother announces in the morning that there will be a surprise for dinner, he and his brother, Leo, spend the day considering and rejecting possibilities. Leo begins by guessing that it might be curly fries. From there things escalate, to great comic effect. A new bike? A new car? “maybe we’re getting a swimming pool in the backyard.” In each case, hope is quashed by reason: “But we live in a high apartment and don’t have a backyard. So that can’t be it.”
Throughout the school day, the boys continue to speculate, finally concluding that the family must have won a two-week vacation in Hawaii. Dazzled, the boy tells a classmate. The news disseminates at school and even reaches the principal, who is suitably impressed.
Young readers will have no trouble getting in on the joke, and the book’s siblings are the only ones who will be shocked to learn that, alas, they are not destined for Hawaii. Not only is the boy disappointed, he also feels like a fool — complex emotions captured neatly with a few lines of text and a sketch of his face that barely makes it onto the page.
So why is he lucky? Maybe it’s because he has a brother who is also his best friend. And in a true-to-life ending, even that blessing is not totally unalloyed: They still have to share a room.
Picture books like these three lead by example rather than by preaching, using story to help prepare young readers for the more complex novels that await them — and for a world sorely in need of those who can respond to disappointment with grace.
White Ravens 2015/International Youth Library
Selected in the picture books for 2015. Read the description here.
About What's Up MuMu?:
Reading Zone website Sept 2015:
Author and illustrator David Mackintosh has an instinctive grasp on children's moods and preoccupations and in this story, Mumu has woken up in a bad mood and, despite her friend's best attempts to cheer her up, she seems set to remain in that bad mood. Until her friend absorbs her grumpiness - which immediately gets her out of her bad mood as she focuses on cheering up him instead. This is a lovely story for encouraging children to think about the things that sometimes make them grumpy and how their mood might affect their friends. It could also make them think about the things their friends like. I also really enjoyed the detail of all the places that Mumu and her friend visited in his bid to make her happy - having tried all the things she liked (shopping, a film, nature and food), he then shows her something he likes - a skyscraper - which he finds really interesting (although she doesn't). Mackintosh's illustrations are bold and expressive and each spread is very distinctive, making it a lovely book to share with a group as well as individually. Picture book / Ages 4+ / Reviewed by ReadingZone.
Junior Website UK
Getting out of the wrong side of the bed happens to everyone. We all have ‘off’ days and that’s precisely the problem that MuMu is currently facing – luckily he has a devoted best friend Lox who has made it his mission to cheer MuMu up. This is a book which celebrates friendship, whilst also helping children to understand moods and feelings. It’s an incredibly relatable narrative with a simple premise, but author David Mackintosh elevates What’s Up MuMu? from books of a similar ilk with his tongue-in-cheek hand-drawn illustrations and the hilariously deadpan hand-written asides from MuMu. It’s a very pared back picture book, which is printed to look like David’s original drawings on uncoated paper, that in turn gives it a lovely handmade quality.
About There's A Bug On My Arm That Won't Let Go:
Books for Keeps Nov 2017:
What to do...there’s a bug on my arm that won’t let go. But I think it quite likes it there – so I better look after it.
Here is a picture book that stands out, not just for the witty text through which we hear the reasonable voice of the child who has taken a particular stance and will hold on to its proper conclusion (yes, the bug says “Goodbye”). This voice is direct and immediate, drawing us in without any unnecessary description or verbage to experience that particular day, hearing echoes of the adults, meeting the cat – and the friend next door; but all this through the medium of the child. Then there are the illustrations, distinctive, textured, original. Mackintosh’s energetic lines combine with a minimal palette to create movement, emotion and atmosphere. Pages are designed to bring a restless variety to the narrative ranging from full page spreads to vignettes and on occasion the storyboard comic strip. Here is a picture book that stands out; it is both quirky, fun and visually interesting – outstanding.
(Reviewed by Ferelith Horden)
Children's Books Ireland (online review 29.05.2018)
A tale of acceptance and letting go, this is the story of a girl and a bug told in the first person. A child is bored and has nobody to play with. An insect lands on her arm and she moves from panic, to annoyance, to acceptance until finally it is time for the bug to leave. Language and rhythm are pitch-perfect, a rough and tumble of feelings, memories and reactions.
Mackintosh’s singular illustrations communicate so much – from the chaotic energy of a bored, antsy child at the start to the quiet moment of peace at the end. The anarchic sketchiness and glorious messiness of his pictures bring you right inside his characters. Mackintosh has an uncanny knack for drawing how things feel, rather than look. Perspective is used to fantastic ends – arms stretch out like elastic bands and pets drastically increase in volume when they are a large part of the action. Even colours are unstable; a red bird turns into an enormous black creature, and Pearl the cat is black and white, or just black or white or grey – depending on what page you are reading, perfectly capturing the essence of children’s storytelling. Whenever our protagonist retreats into a memory, the format shifts to comic book style. It’s wonderfully effective.
Not a detail of this book has been neglected, font and text setting add a wonderful energy to the reading. There is something of Tony Ross about Mackintosh, a joyful recognition and respect for the intense, sulky, joyful, exuberant emotional lives of his characters. This is his best work yet. Perfect for 5-7 year-olds.
(Reviewed by Vita Coleman).
Waiting for Chicken Smith
A review on the picture book trailer from Elizabeth Bird (SLJ.com).
Australian Bookseller and Publisher Online Review by Margaret Hamilton (05.07.2018)
The nameless narrator of this story has been coming to the same beach with his family for summer holidays for many years. He’s there this year with his sister and his dog Jelly. On previous summer holidays, he formed what he thinks is a lifelong friendship with Chicken Smith, so he’s looking forward to seeing his friend again this summer. Will Chicken Smith turn up this year and will their friendship continue for another summer? Will the narrator be able to give Chicken Smith the special shell he’s brought? The suspense builds as readers are taken on a journey around the beachside town, with the narrator remembering his previous summer holiday adventures with his friend. This simple but emotive story of friendship, memories and anticipation by UK-based, Australian-educated author and illustrator David Mackintosh will appeal to many readers, particularly those who have had the same experience during long, hot Australian summers. Mackintosh’s sketchy, mixed-media collage illustrations have a whimsical charm and give the impression that they have been drawn by the young narrator of the story during his summer holiday. It is recommended for readers aged six and up.
Margaret Hamilton is a former children’s book publisher. She is now proprietor of Pinerolo, the Children’s Book Cottage in Blackheath, NSW