REVIEWS – Publisher of Children's Picture Books


The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel is a wonderful children’s book. The author does his own illustrations and they are hauntingly beautiful. The story of two young boys, from different economic and social backgrounds, have a friendship that transcends all their differences. It is sad toward the end, but it is magical. I absolutely loved this story!
Paz Ellis

Absolutely loved the story, and the boys deserved better from they’re father’s but at least they’re together… Would definitely read more than once and recommend… ❣️
Jennifer Kessler

This is a dense, heartbreaking book with a very powerful message. The tale about two boys, with different backgrounds, but similar losses and dreams, that became friends. They shared hopes, passions, and supported each other.

Gabriel lived with his dad in a big house in a fancy neighbourhood. His mom passed away the night he was born. He is mostly on his own, reading and playing video games. His dad doesn’t play with him but takes him to the beach every Sunday. And was at the beach that he met Jibreel.

Jibreel lived with his dad on an upside-down boat. The same boat they used to cross the sea. He was alone most of his time as he lost her mom when they were crossing (she drowned) and his dad worked seven days a week to support them.

The friendship grew stronger fast and the boys enjoyed each other company. They played, made plans for the future, and started a new project together based on a passion and dream they had in common. Unfortunately, they will also be together to face hate, judgment, and violence.

Only a few times I read a children’s picture book like this. It’s a really good one, but also dramatic, deep and with a sad story. From the characters’ names choice (Gabriel is the message of God for Christians and Jibreel, is the chosen one to communicate Allah’s messages to His profits according to Islamic faith), to the symbolism used by the author, it’s a beautiful work. It’s also a great tool to discuss how aggression, blind hate, and prejudice can affect all of us and the consequences are never positive.

Illustrations are artistic and beautiful. They enhance the words and complement them. You can feel the characters. Breathtaking and pungent.

A great addition to personal libraries and to schools and definitely a conversation starter. Group readings can benefit. The book certainly tackles important subjects that we sometimes avoid talking about with children… and we shouldn’t.

Recommended for eight-ten years old (mature) and up.

Marin’s (The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel) fourth entry in his 2Gether picture book series is a dark story of friendship, adult violence, and tragedy set against the backdrop of a refugee crisis. Gabriel, a boy of indeterminate age, lives a somewhat privileged life alone with his father, after his mother’s death in childbirth. He and his father travel to the beach weekly, on the day his nanny does not work, and Gabriel spends time exploring while his father stays in the car. On one of these trips, Gabriel meets Jibreel, another motherless boy who lives in a makeshift refugee camp on the shore, and they form a fast friendship.

Addressing potentially upsetting topics with younger children is a difficult undertaking, and Marin makes every effort, via the use of evocative digital collage illustrations and vivid prose, to make comprehensible to his readers the typically mature topics of racism, the dangers refugees face, and loneliness. However, the story’s word choice learns toward a more mature audience than that of the typical picture book. And one main element of the plot is not fully explained (the boys’ building of a “digital airplane”).
Moreover, the book’s bleak, abrupt ending, in which the boys burn to death as the result of a hate crime perpetrated by Gabriel’s father, will strike many adults as inappropriate for picture book readers. While there is some hope—the narration describes Jibreel’s dwelling turning into an airplane and taking off with “the two angels inside,” as though to carry them to the next phase of their cosmic journey—this is a shocking development, and the last sentence of the book is “life isn’t fair.” This ambitious story is well told, but its subject matter may be too much for young kids.

When two boys from different socioeconomic backgrounds meet, they forge a friendship that transcends privilege and expectations and lasts until their devastating end. Marin’s uniquely detailed art style sets the scene for a timely story of love and loss.

Leigha Chiasson-Locke
Children’s Services Librarian
A.C. Hunter Public Library
St. John’s, NL A1B 3A3

Another enjoyable book from Marin, with a lesson and a twist in the tale. A story that is very fitting in today’s world. The book is a joy to read and beautifully illustrated. ( *****)


Gabriel and Jibreel is a wonderful tale of friendship, hardship, and the belief that we are much the same despite some of our outward differences.
Jewell Cousens,
A.C. Hunter Public Library

In a world that wants to move towards more inclusion and acceptance, “Oaky” is written and designed to get the kids started early on this ethic. With plenty of clever puns and colourful imagery, it celebrates difference and uniqueness, while at the same time conveying the overarching message that, in a truly inclusive society, one’s difference is one’s contribution. “Oaky” is very well done and, in the current global push for social justice, it comes along at just the right time.

Jeff Kelland,
Indie Publishers of Newfoundland and Labrador

This work is exquisite on multiple levels: story, illustration, writing, humor, and morality. Kids will love it. This is a story of universal appeal, of moral rectitude, and man’s best and second-best friend.
I can almost hear the chirp of laughter in little rooms around the world. Bravo.

Herb Hoskins,
a retired teacher, writer, artist

‘The Tale of Was and Das’ by Marin centers around some obnoxious things like farts and burps but does have a nice storyline. What is notable is the word jugglery throughout the book that creates real fun, like bisecting the meaning of German Shepard, using two German words DAS and WAS in the questionnaire, thesaurus instead of a dinosaur, barking lot, funny signposts like ‘buy one, get one flea’ and so on. This book can be enjoyed by kids along with their family. There is also a take-home message for big kids like us on how to recycle garbage towards a circular economy. I found the book enjoyable and constructive.

Quite frankly, I wasn’t what to expect from this book when I saw the cover and title. But as I began reading, nostalgia washed over me as I recalled the nightly routine of reading or creating stories for my children so long ago. The artwork and storyline were simple but the overall effect was a delightful story. And, as with many children’s books, there is a lesson to be learned, and certainly that is the case here. Funny enough, I find myself currently in a situation where the lessons of this simple story just may jolt them into realizing the absurdity of how childishly they are behaving! Perhaps I shall read this book with them at our next meeting!

My only regret is that my children aren’t young anymore for me to read this story to them. Nevertheless I shall share this story with them — I think they will still enjoy it!
Paul S.

‘The Journey of Yuan and Kian’ by Marin Is a very cute picture story book for children. The rhyming names in his book titles make it even more cute. The author is also a very talented illustrator, his drawings bring the story to life. Coming down to the level of kids, understanding their thoughts and speaking in their language is not easy, but the author has done it very well. I always like these kind of children books that are not crammed with morals and lessons, but are made of pure joy, imagination and innocence. The book can be children’s introduction to animal identification as well. The underlying message is that ‘if you believe, you can do anything’, reminds me of Disneyland’s theme to inspire generations.

Congratulations on completing another lovely creation. As I read through the pages of Yuan and Kian, I maintained a healthy dose of curiosity as to wondering how in the world will a unicorn teach a sea unicorn how to walk or how will the story transition to having a whale or anteater fly? Who will they get to teach them how to fly? and Why do they want to fly? I was reminded of the joy I had as a child reading about the adventures and characters of Winnie the Pooh and a growing community of unlikely friends who accepted one another for who they were and the funny quirks in their personalities. Friends helping one another along their way, helping them realize their dreams without judgment.
Friends show up in the most unlikely places. Look what you can achieve when you dream, believe – think you can, seek supports and don’t give up!

Once again, congratulations on your accomplishments!

Warm regards,
Daphne MacNeil

Knight Alex and his unicorn Er encounter some unusual characters in their quest to reunite a snowman with his stolen broom. Another great storybook from Marin, which again he has illustrated beautifully. I loved the inventive, unusual characters. A joy to read for adults and children who like stories. ( ***** )
Vivien Murdoch,

The Adventure of Alex and Er: Get ready for a fun tale of adventure and rescue. Marin Darmonkow creates a colourful world inhabited by a wicked witch, strange creatures, royalty and, of course, a brave knight and his faithful unicorn mare. It’s sure to delight readers of all ages.
Kelly Shiers,
Nova Scotia

‘Twas the Night is a unique children’s book in the fact that it has absolutely no words whatsoever. It’s an actual picture book where readers can make up the story as they go along. The “story” is about a boy in a wheelchair who befriends a bird and dreams of flying, using crutches as wings. He also gets to meet Santa as he’s flying in his sleigh.
I found the book to be inspiring. It teaches kids to use their imagination and make the story whatever they want it to be. The pictures are bright, colorful, and engaging, and readers will enjoy being able to create something special over and over again. They say a picture tells a thousand words, and that’s what ‘Twas the Night aims to do.

This book tells an absolutely amazing story with nothing more than pictures. It has a very deep meaning. It is very emotional, and a very heartfelt book. Marin did an amazing job conveying the emotional feeling in this book. Love and humanity for all ♥️!

Marin has proven to be a gentle storyteller, wanting to acknowledge the beauty in hoping for more. By using a child who is confined to a wheelchair the author shows how many possibilities there are no matter what restrictions you possess.

Beginning with the title, the reader is guided to the holiday season through pictures. The illustrations, which are dark, yet very detailed, give a feeling of loneliness but not necessarily of desperation. There is an overall sadness about the boy, as felt through these dark illustrations.

The story could be told in so many different ways, depending on the focus, because the author has chosen to tell the story without words. The story can be about loneliness or it can be about found companionship. The story can also be about sadness and hurt, or it can be about hope and healing.

Through the illustrations one can remember how dreaming felt as a child, while offering a child the beauty of what it means to dream.

I give this story four out of five stars for its detailed illustrations and beautiful ideas. There may be a level of difficulty as there are no words to guide a younger reader. This book would be best suited as a Read-to story to teach about love, caring, and hope.

’Twas The Night by Marin Darmonkow is a remarkable book. It doesn’t tell a story; it shows a story. There is neither narrative nor dialogue as the tale is completely visual. A young boy in a wheelchair finds an injured dove in the street. He takes it home and nurses it back to health.
The whole book has a surreal quality to it. It’s nighttime on Christmas Eve and the streets are completely empty of cars and people. Although the shops and houses are ablaze with light, there is a feeling of solitude. The boy and the dove appear to be the only living things in the whole world. The surreal quality expands as the book moves on to a point where reality and dream are confused and the magic begins to unfold.

The lack of words is the strength of this book because every page elicits an emotional response. Loneliness, love, care, wonder and triumph jostle for room in this emotional yet gentle rollercoaster. I love the artwork from the cityscapes to the pictures on the walls of the little boy’s home. Most significant is the picture of Peter Pan’s shadow. The boy who never grew up; the boy who could fly. Yet this is his shadow. Parallels can be drawn between Peter Pan’s shadow and the wheelchair-bound boy.

There are lots of loose ends for the reader to ponder over. When the boy fell asleep, his glasses were on the pillow. When he awoke, they were on the bedside table. These are not errors, they indicate that dreams and reality are becoming confused and we are not able to judge when he is asleep and when he is awake.

Although this is ostensibly a children’s book, I think its appeal will span every age group from the very young to the very old. I loved this book. I loved everything about it and it is with great pleasure that I award it 4 out of 4 stars.

Helen Combe

A child in a wheelchair helps an injured bird and dreams of flying in this wordless picture book.

Darmonkow’s (The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel, 2019, etc.) work begins with a few pages of realistic paintings of a glowing city at night. Sparkly Christmas decor dots the scenery. Next, a bespectacled white child using a wheelchair finds an injured bird on the sidewalk. The kid takes the white bird home, tends to its wounds, and provides food and water. With the bandaged bird nestled in bed, the child dreams of flying out the window, using a pair of crutches as wings. High in the sky over the shimmering metropolis, the kid discards the crutches and encounters Santa Claus in his sleigh. Then, the story abruptly ends. Although the author’s intent of showing the power of a child’s imagination is evident, the tale would have benefited from a clearer plot. But Darmonkow’s photograph-like illustrations are emotive. They offer vivid details that kids will recognize and enjoy, such as a Peter Pan painting hanging on the wall in the background of one image. Many elements here are open to interpretation, including the child’s backstory. Still, the overarching, worthy message celebrates the imagination, Christmas wishes, and the importance of treating all creatures with care and kindness.

An artistic, nicely illustrated Christmas tale that offers a valuable sentiment.

Kirkus Reviews

‘Twas the Night: Christmas dream-like story by Marin is a children’s book in a unique format. This book is about a young boy who is disabled. The content shows him as a child in a wheelchair and this is our first introduction to him. It is a cold winter’s night as the title suggests. The boy comes upon a bird lying injured on the ground. Under these circumstances, it is bitterly cold as can be seen through the pictures. The boy takes the bird with him and takes care of it and nurses it. This story is essentially about the boy and the bird and how their lives interweave.

The most unique feature about ‘Twas the Night is the fact that it is a story without any words. The entire tale is told simply through illustrations with no accompanying dialogue or narrative. As a result, the story is open to interpretation to a certain extent. This open concept of storytelling is a subtle reminder of our thoughts and impressions, which are also always subjective at the end of the day. Young children can definitely let their imaginations run free with this book and it would be a good tool to use for teachers or parents to encourage children to verbalize their thoughts and feelings. It may also be great to use in a group discussion where everyone contributes and develops the story as they go along. Overall, this is an interesting concept book with some fun illustrations.

Gisela Dixon

I was lucky enough to get this book to review before it is released. I absolutely loved it! Yes I know it’s a kid’s book, but I don’t care as it’s my kind of book. I’ve never outgrown stories of Witches and I can’t wait to explore Marin’s other books. I hope there’s more Witches and also in future publications. Marin also illustrates his books and I love Weeny Meeny and her pet cat and crow. The illustration of cat and crow on the broomstick is definitely my favourite. A girl after my own Witchy heart. Took me right back to my childhood and the excitement of Halloween and my favourite topic …Witches. ( ***** )

V. Murdoch

‘Twas the Night’ by Marin is a word-less picture book that will touch your heart. It is about a disabled kid in wheelchairs and high-power specs – his compassion for nature, Christmas miracle and the desire to fly. The good thing is there is no words, so it is up to the readers to interpret with their own imagination. Good job, Marin!


Thanks Marin for the funny (but oh so relatable!) audio story! It was a great way to begin my day!

“I visited Fontreal and…speechless. In awe. The illustrations, the books. Magnificence.”

Lorence Collins,
Retired Executive Director of the Law Society Newfoundland and Labrador

Funny short story with the ending really being fitting for today’s world! I listened to the audiobook, which isn’t released yet, so I could provide a review. Worth a listen to get a wee laugh. Children’s stories for adults.


The image of the lips making rude gestures while the mouth tried to talk made me laugh out loud. It’s nice to see that the asshole’s virtues we’re recognized at last. Unfortunately, many of the ones we have in the UK currently are not so useful.
Helen C.

Varied stories of humor, fantasy, and heartbreak
It’s quite possible that an author has never published such a varied collection of stories—from silly nonsense that will quite possibly induce a giggle, to a heartbreaking parable that is not for the faint of heart, to a completely wordless picture book that lets readers decipher their own emotions. The variation in the five tales of the 2Gether Picture Book Collection shows that Marin is a true storyteller with a poetic mind and artful illustration style that takes on a vectored, photographic look.
A mystical and magical romp for older picture book readers, The Adventure of Alex and Er chronicles the dreamy escapade of a knight and his unicorn as they endeavor to locate a snowman’s missing broom. A witch is the likely thief. The pair must work together if they are to overcome obstacles such as finding the corner of an oval room. More words than pictures, this book will most likely appeal to readers who enjoy fantastical tales.
Filled with absurdity and humorous puns for the word-loving crowd, The Tale of Was and Das tells the story of an orphan gypsy boy and his dog, a German Sheppard. The boy and the dog find each other living at the dumpster built halfway between Fartsville and Burptown—it’s the area where the townspeople come for fresh air. Fast friends, the dumpster provides them with shelter and entertainment—they even fill a container with found books and label it the Library. They end up building a dinosaur named Thesaurus—the biggest dinosaur in the world— and it brings the people of Fartsville and Burpville together. This book is the only one not illustrated by Marin; Peter Stan created the entertaining artwork for this title.
With a message of “When you believe, you are” The Journey of Yuan and Kian is a fable about a land unicorn, Yuan, and a sea unicorn, Kian the narwhal, and how they created the stars in the sky. Yuan’s job is to make holes in the soil with his horn so that people can plant seeds and grow fruit and vegetables. Kian’s job is to poke holes in the ocean so that the other ocean animals can get some air. When Yuan meets Kian, they see themselves in each other and from an immediate friendship—only to realize that there is not enough time in their hardworking day to play. Yuan learns to swim and Kian learns to walk, but now they must learn from other animals if they are to find a way to add more light to the nighttime allowing for a longer playtime. Kids who like stories with a folktale feel will likely enjoy this animal story, with its touch of magic.
The Epic of Gabriel and Jibreel is a heartbreaking parable of two boys, one of whom is a refugee. Gabriel’s mother died the night he was born. He lives with his father in a large house by the beach. Gabriel’s father does not like the refugees. One day, while his dad is in the car texting and talking on his phone, Gabriel meets a refugee boy named Jibreel. Jibreel lives with his father in the boat that brought them across the sea, and he recalls his mother drowning. With similar stories of devastating loss and yet joyful life dreams, the boys form a connection and continue to meet every Sunday unbeknownst to Gabriel’s father. That is, until a fateful day in which their lives end tragically because of a hateful crime. This is the most heartbreaking story in Marin’s collection and it is not for the faint of heart, however, the message is a powerful one and is certainly worth hearing.
The only wordless book in the 2Gether collection, so far, ‘Twas the Night features a blonde Caucasian boy who is in a wheelchair. The setting is dark, gray, moist, and certainly Christmas. The boy finds an injured pigeon that he nurses back to health with gentle care until it is able to fly again. An illustration shows a framed picture of Peter Pan’s shadow on the mantle, and readers experience the boy’s dream: he is in flight with the pigeon and even encounters Santa flying in his sleigh. ‘Twas the Night is a poignant wordless wonder that allows readers to interpret their own meaning of the story, while undoubtedly sending the subliminal message to dream big. It’s a story in which imaginations and reveries can take flight, just as the pigeon and the boy in the wheelchair do.
All in all, readers are sure to find an appealing story in the 2Gether Picture Book Collection, and it’s quite probable that the story will be like none they have read or experienced before.

— The Children’s Book Review