Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

February graphic novels bring magical realism and STEM nonfiction

First Second is a graphic novel powerhouse. Every season, I know I’m going to see good stuff from the authors and illustrators that First Second publishes. Here are two we’ve got coming in February.

Snapdragon, by Kat Leyh, (Feb. 2020, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250171115

Ages 10+

Magical realism infuses this story about a girl who befriends the town witch. Snapdragon’s heard the rumors about the “roadkill witch”, but when Jacks – a loner constructs skeletons from roadkill to sell to veterinary schools – rescues Snap’s dog, she finds herself cultivating a friendship with the loner, who takes her on as an apprentice. But Jacks also has rituals she goes through, to put those roadkill spirits to rest, and Snap is pretty sure that Jacks has a little bit of witchcraft after all.

Snapdragon is a story with depth. Lumberjanes writer Kat Leyh creates a magical, yet real cast of characters: Snapdragon, the daughter of a single working mother, is bullied at school and by her mother’s cruel ex-boyfriend. Her friend, Louis, who prefers to go by Lulu and wear skirts and nail polish, is tormented by his brothers. The two bond over their mutual love of a a horror movie series and Lulu finds comfort and safety in Snapdragon’s home. Jacks and Snap discover a connection between them in a subplot with Snap’s grandmother.

Snapdragon has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier, by Jim Ottaviani & Maris Wicks, (Feb. 2020, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626728776

Ages 8-12

Meet the first women to travel into space in this nonfiction graphic novel that has big appeal for Science Comics fans. Astronaut Dr. Mary Cleave navigates readers through the history of women and space travel, starting with the Soviet space program that made Valentina Tereshkova the first woman in space, and illustrates the long road American women had to take to get Group 9, NASA’S first mixed-gender class, to the stars.

The most frustrating thing about Astronauts is reading how seemingly determined the U.S. government was to keep women out of space. The graphic novel tells multiple stories from different points of view; the Mercury 13 and Women in Space Program both ended up going nowhere, while the Soviet Union focused on sending just one woman – Tereshkova – into space. (And she didn’t even tell her mother before she went.) It’s disheartening to read that science journalists imagined conversations between women – female scientists – and Mission Control consisting of, “this little thingamabob has jiggled off the gizmo”. Even when NASA got it together and began recruiting women for the space program for real this time, their concerns about dress codes and complete ignorance of basic physiology left me frustrated and even more determined to get my STEM/STEAM programming firmly entrenched here at my library. The second half of the book, focusing more on Mary Cleave’s space shuttle missions and NASA training, are a welcome relief. There are some great and hilarious anecdotes throughout, and Mary Cleave’s love for space exploration and science comes through, making me hopeful that this book will inspire many, many kids. There are references, a bibliography, and working sketches.

Astronauts has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publisher’s Weekly.

Author:

I'm a mom, a children's librarian, bibliophile, and obsessive knitter. I'm a pop culture junkie and a proud nerd, and favorite reads usually fall into Sci-Fi/Fantasy. I review comics and graphic novels at WhatchaReading (http://whatchareading.com). I'm also the co-founder of On Wednesdays We Wear Capes (http://www.onwednesdays.net/), where I discuss pop culture and geek fandom from a female point of view.

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