Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen

SPECS is looking like good ’80s YA horror!

Most of you know I’m a comic book fan(atic). I’m also stuck in the ’80s – my beloved formative years – and the teen horror that defined so much of that decade. Stranger Things? Give it right here.  Grady Hendrix’s books like My Best Friend’s Exorcism and Paperbacks from Hell? Yup, all on my bookshelf. What’s up next? According to an email in my inbox from BOOM! Studios, it’s SPECS:

From the press release:

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 10, 2022) – BOOM! Studios announced today SPECS, a mysterious new series from highly acclaimed writer David M. Booher (Canto, All-New Firefly), artist Chris Shehan (House of Slaughter) and colorist Roman Stevens, about a group of misfit teens who mail-order a pair of novelty glasses, and realize they’ve received much more than they bargained for, in stores November 2022.

All that high school students Kenny and Ted want is to not feel like outcasts in their small town in Ohio. But their world is turned upside down when the Magic Specs they ordered unlock a world of unforeseen possibilities. . . and consequences. Their fun starts out innocent enough, but when they wish that their bully would disappear, things take a cursed turn, with far darker results than they thought possible…

Channeling his love of 80’s sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, David M. Booher writes for TV, film, and comics. He co-created and wrote fan-favorite fantasy Canto from IDW, now in development as a motion picture with Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios and with David adapting the screenplay. David’s credits also include All-New Firefly for BOOM! Studios, Killer Queens from Dark Horse Comics, the comic adaptation of Joe Hill’s novella Rain for Image Comics, and Alien Bounty Hunter and Powerless from Vault Comics. An attorney by training, David lives in Los Angeles with his husband and the true brains behind their operation—their adopted greyhounds.

SPECS is my most personal story so far. As a gay kid who grew up in the Midwest, I know how it feels not to fit it. Kenny and Ted’s story as outsiders, filtered through the lenses of wish-granting novelty glasses, is my way of reminding that little kid that he’ll find his place in the world,” said Booher.

Chris Shehan is an American comic artist living in Austin, TX. They have been published by Vault Comics, Black Mask Studios, Scout Comics, A Wave Blue World, and Titan Books. Chris is best known as the artist for the bestselling series House of Slaughter from BOOM! Studios. They are also the artist and co-creator of The Autumnal from Vault Comics. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram @ChrisShehanArt.

“A story about a magic item that grants wishes… what could possibly go wrong?” said Shehan.  “David Booher, as usual, poured a lot of heart into SPECS and bringing that to life has been such a joy for me.”

SPECS #1 features main cover art by highly acclaimed artist Skylar Patridge (Trial of the Amazons), and variant covers by fan-favorite illustrators Kevin Wada (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Chris Shehan (House of Slaughter), David Talaski (Nightwing), and more.

SPECS is ’80s adventure movies, supernatural horror, and small town kids going through some very strange events that will change them and their friendships forever,” said Elizabeth Brei, Editor, BOOM! Studios. “David and Chris have perfectly captured the chaos of teens caught in a trap of their own making and it’ll be up to you, dear readers, to find out if they manage to escape with their lives or sanity intact.”

SPECS is the newest release from BOOM! Studios’ eponymous imprint, home to critically acclaimed original series, including BRZRKR by Keanu Reeves, Matt Kindt, and Ron Garney; Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera; Once & Future by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora; We Only Find Them When They’re Dead by Al Ewing and Simone Di Meo; Seven Secrets by Tom Taylor and Daniele Di Nicuolo; The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V and Filipe Andrade; Basilisk by Cullen Bunn and Jonas Scharf; Grim by Stephanie Phillips and Flaviano; and the upcoming series Briar by Christopher Cantwell and Germán García, Stuff of Nightmares by R.L. Stine and A,L. Kaplan, Damn Them All by Si Spurrier and Charlie Adlard; The Approach by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley, and Jesus Hervas, and Behold, Behemoth by Tate Brombal and Nick Robles. The imprint also publishes popular licensed properties, including Dune: House Atreides from Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, and Dev Pramanik; Mighty Morphin and Power Rangers from Ryan Parrott, Mat Groom, Moises Hidalgo, and Marco Renna; and Magic from Jed McKay and Ig Guara.

Coming to comic book stores in November, I’m going to keep an eye out for SPECS #1 and definitely keep it in mind for when the trade paperbacks start coming.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

New Faith Erin Hicks! Ride On!

Ride On, by Faith Erin Hicks, (Aug. 2022, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250772824

Ages 10-14

Eisner Award winner Faith Erin Hicks is back with a new graphic novel! Ride On hits on all the things my middle graders love to read about: horses, friendship, and a challenging situation. Twelve-year-old equestrienne Victoria arrives at Edgewood Stables after a break from riding following a fallout with her former best friend, Victoria. She initially brushes off attempts at friendship from Norrie, one of the other students, but finds common ground in a science fiction TV show fandom and eventually lets her guard down and befriends Norrie and her friends, Hazel and Sam (the only boy at the school). When the Edgewood riders are invited to a competition at Waverly, Victoria realizes that she will have to face her former best friend.

Faith Erin Hicks masterfully creates characters and situations that speak to readers. Whether they’re new students at a boarding school (A Year at Ellesmere), a street urchin living in a city overrun by invaders (The Nameless City), or a homeschooled teen confronting a ghost (Friends with Boys), she has the ability to weave the fantastic with the everyday and create special people. Every character in Ride On is someone worth knowing, including Quinn, the newest horse in the Edgewood stable. From Norrie’s hilariously drama queen personality to Victoria’s initially brusque, withdrawn temperament, and Sam’s “bro-dude” older brothers, readers will see themselves and people they know in Ride On. She understands how fandom breaks through walls and unites people – for good! – and deftly uses that understanding to give us a wonderful subplot. Hicks’s illustration is realistic and soft, approachable. An author’s note provides more context for the story. An absolute must-buy for graphic novel collections.

Ride On has starred reviews from Booklist, Publisher’s Weekly, and School Library Journal. Visit Faith Erin Hicks’s website for more about her work and to read her webcomics.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Coping with Loss: Burt’s Way Home

Burt’s Way Home, by John Martz, (July 2022, Tundra Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780735271029

Ages 6-9

Burt is an “intergalactic, transdimensional time traveler”. His parents, also time travelers, have been separated from him during a journey, and now he’s stuck on Earth, living with a woman named Lydia, until he can figure out the antiquated Earth technology and find his way home. Lydia, however, tells a very different story. A graphic novel created with two narratives, Burt’s Way Home is an aching look at a child in foster care, dealing with confusion and grief, and the caregiver who tirelessly works at understanding him, supporting him, and caring for him. Illustrated in two-color blue and white, with bold black outlines, John Martz creates an unfussy atmosphere that carries cartoon appeal while delivering a poignant message. This is a completely different story about grief and loss, and I want this in my collection first and foremost, for any child that may need it – for a child living in a foster situation, or for any children whose primary caregiver is not their parents: a grandparent, an aunt or uncle, an older sibling, a family friend – and to explain and engender empathy in others. Sensitive and respectful, this is a great book to have in your collections.

Burt’s Way Home was originally published in 2016 by Koyama Press.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Bonanza: Swim Team

Swim Team, by Johnnie Christmas, (May 2022, HarperAlley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780063056763

Ages 8-12

Bree is starting her new middle school and can’t wait to select her electives. She’s got her eye on Math Club, but it’s closed out. In fact, everything is closed out of her time slot, except for Swim 101. Bree, afraid to swim, reluctantly takes the class, but tries to dodge it until she realizes that it will affect her grade point average. A mishap at her apartment complex leads her to Etta, an older woman who lives in the building, who also happens to be a former swim team captain from Bree’s school. As Etta trains Bree, she becomes a confident swimmer who gives the school team a chance at victory over rival Holyoke Prep. A strong subplot about Etta’s time in middle school delves into the history of segregation and public pools, and busts the “Black people don’t swim” myth wide open. Solidly constructed storytelling keeps readers invested and engaged; they’ll be white-knuckling the book and cheering Bree’s team, the Manatees, at every meet. A strong theme of social justice and change provides historical background and back matter includes resources for more reading. Talk this up with realistic fiction graphic novels like Jerry Craft’s New Kid and Class Act; Alyssa Bermudez’s Big Apple Diaries, and Gillian Goerz’s Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer. Put this book on your shelves!

Swim Team has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, Kirkus, and BookPage; it’s also been selected for the Kids’ Indie Next List.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Bonanza: All My Friends

All My Friends, by Hope Larson, (Jan. 2022, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9780374388669

Ages 10-14

Hope Larson’s third installment in Eagle Rock series keeps the momentum going. When we first met Hope’s main character, Bina, in 2018’s All Summer Long, she was a 13-year-old finding her way through music, and figuring out her evolving friendship with her bestie, Austin. Now, in All My Friends, Bina and her friends are in Fancy Pink, a band getting a lot of notice; she’s in a back-and-forth with her parents as she tries to take her band to the next level, and her parents worry about things moving too quickly, and she’s still figuring out relationships, whether it’s her strained relationship with Austin or how she feels about Cooper, the cute guy in a local band. The Eagle Rock books have captured big moments in a tween/teens’ life: relationships, dating, parents, and growing up. The characters have grown with each book, as Hope Larson’s audience is growing, keeping them invested in the stories of the Eagle Rock friends. Artwork in shades of pink, black, and white keep the focus on the story while using fonts to give the feeling of music moving through crowds. Whether she is weaving magical tales driven by a human story, or a character-driven story with a spark of magic (in this case, through music), Hope Larson always nails it.  A great third act for a popular series.

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Bonanza: Adora and the Distance

Adora and the Distance, by Marc Bernardin/Illustrated by Ariela Kristantina, (March 2022, Dark Horse), $14.99, ISBN: 9781506724508

Ages 12+

Like I said, I read a HUGE backlog of graphic novels while I had my little break, so be prepared for some “If you didn’t read it, it’s new to you!” posts. This time, I’ve got Adora and the Distance, by television writer-producer and comic book author Marc Bernardin. Set in a high fantasy world, Adora is a young woman of color living in a world full of adventure: there are pirates, ghosts, a royal family, and a malevolent entity known as The Distance. The Distance devours and destroys, and Adora, connected to The Distance, must leave her home on a mission to stop it.

The artwork is stunning. The colors, the shading, the depth, bring this book to life in a reader’s hands. The story builds to an incredible conclusion that made the world come to a halt around me as I took it all in. Adora and the Distance is a father’s love letter to his daughter in the best way he could reach her; the best way to let her know he sees her. Adora and the Distance is a story of autism, you see; Marc Bernardin’s author’s note at the end of the book  explains his impetus for creating this epic tale. Adora is smart, brave, and full of love.  There’s humor, adventure, family, and forgiveness all here, bound into this story that connects a father to his daughter.

Put Adora and the Distance in your distributor cart, and get it on shelves for your readers. Give it to parents, educators, and caregivers.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade

What does the first cat in space eat? Pizza, of course!

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza, by Mac Barnett/Illustrated by Shawn Harris, (May 2022, Katherine Tegen Books), $15.99, ISBN: 9780063084087

Ages 7-12

Two award-winning kidlit powerhouses come together for a laugh-out-loud tale about a cat, a toenail-clipping robot, and a group of hungry rats posed to devour the moon. Rats from another galaxy are eating the moon! What is the Earth to do? Dispatch a cybernetically enhanced cat – First Cat – to take care of business. Accompanied by a stowaway robot who believes he’s destined for greater things than clipping toenails, and a ship’s computer who’s furious at being upstaged from a larger part in the story, First Cat lands on the moon, and the adventure begins: frozen wastelands, living forests, churning waters (Sea of Tranqulity? HA!) and dangers at every turn. There are repeating gags that get funnier with every utterance, and readers will giggle themselves silly as First Cat tries, time and again, to have a mouth-watering slice of pizza. Artwork is boldly outlined and colorful, hilariously communicating the madcap storytelling.

Did you know First Cat is Instagram famous? Kids can watch First Cat’s live adventures on Instagram or the First Cat webpage, where they can also sign up for the newsletter! The graphic novel includes sheet music and links to songs from the series. The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza is perfect for summer reading your readers will love.

The First Cat in Space Ate Pizza has a starred review from Publishers Weekly and is on the May/June 2022 Indie Next Kids List.

Posted in Graphic Novels

Graphic Novel bonanza continues! Let There Be Light, by Liana Finck

Let There Be Light: The Real Story of Her Creation, by Liana Finck, (Apr. 2022, Random House), $28.99, ISBN: 9781984801531

Ages 14+

Artist Liana Finck reimagines the Book of Genesis in her latest graphic novel; here, god is a woman wearing a crown and wielding a wand, creating the world and populating it but not quite satisfied. She creates Man, then creates Lilith (Adam’s first wife), creating Eve when Lilith storms out and leaving Adam bereft. It’s assumed God presents as male – something that irks the Creator throughout the book, as rendered in amusing and outraged footnotes – which ends up being the reason behind why humans are unable to view the face of God. Let There Be Light tells the stories of Cain and Abel, the “Begats” (an hilarious look at all the babies being born to centuries-old men, seemingly without female assistance), Joseph, Abraham, and others. Simple black and white line drawings get spots of color for emphasis. God is a more human deity in this book, with neuroses and anxiety, making her a more compassionate figure.  An author’s note touches on Kabbalist concepts and its influence on her story. An amusing and thought-provoking retelling.

Let There Be Light: The Real Story of Her Creation has a starred review from Booklist. Visit Liana Finck’s webpage for more information on her books and her artwork.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Sweet Valley High gets the graphic novel treatment!

Wow, this is taking me back. If you’re of an age, you may remember Francine Pascal’s Sweet Valley High – I can still see the shelf full of novels in the kids’ section at my childhood Barnes and Noble. (We didn’t have a separate YA section yet; teen books just wrapped around the end of the kids’ books. It was the ’80s, folks.) I never got into them the way some of my friends did; I was all about S.E. Hinton’s angsty boys by then, but those books were everywhere and I had friends who were OBSESSED. So this morning, when I saw that Sweet Valley High is getting the graphic novel treatment ala Babysitters’ Club, I knew I had to get the word out.

Random House Graphic is publishing the series, starting with Sweet Valley Twins #1: Best Friends. Nicole Andelfinger is adapting, which is fantastic news; Andelfinger has worked on Sabaa Tahir’s graphic adaptation of the An Ember in the Ashes novels, worked on Steven Universe, and writes the Power Rangers comics for BOOM! Studios. Nicole Andelfinger knows how to write for graphic novels AND knows how to adapt teen novels for graphic novels, so I think my library kids are in very good hands. GLAAD Media Award nominee and Eisner nominee Claudia Aguirre is illustrating, and she’s done incredible work on Morning in America and Lost on Planet Earth, so I’m ready for this.

The story is getting a little bit of a reworking to be more available to middle graders, which makes perfect sense, especially in light of the fact that I cannot keep any of my Babysitters Club books on the shelves. From the press release: “In SWEET VALLEY TWINS #1: BEST FRIENDS, Jessica and Elizabeth are ready to take on middle school . . . but are they ready to take on each other? Jessica and Elizabeth have always been inseparable, but starting middle school means a chance for new beginnings. Elizabeth is excited to organize a school newspaper, but Jessica is more interested in joining the exclusive Unicorn Club. Middle school is hard enough, but with these twins each dealing with becoming their own person, will they be able to stay friends?”

The graphic novels will be available simultaneously in hardcover and trade paperback formats on November 1, 2022. The second book in the series, Teacher’s Pet, will be published in 2023.

 

Francine Pascal is the creator of the Sweet Valley universe, which includes Sweet Valley Twins, Sweet Valley High, and Sweet Valley Unicorn Club. Over their lifetime, Sweet Valley books have sold millions of copies, been adapted into a TV series (in the eighties), and inspired board games, puzzles, and dolls. It is one of the most popular kids’ book series of all time. Francine lives in New York and the South of France.

Claudia Aguirre is a Mexican lesbian comic-book artist and writer. She is a cofounder of Boudika Comics, where she self-publishes comics, and is a GLAAD Media Award nominee and Eisner Award nominee. Her comic works include Lost on Planet Earth with ComiXology Originals, Hotel Dare with Boom! Studios, Firebrand with Legendary Comics, Morning in America with Oni Press, and Kim & Kim with Black Mask Studios.

Nicole Andelfinger was crafting stories back when jelly shoes were cool. When not changing her hair color or writing comics for some of her favorite franchises—such as Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance, Regular Show, Rugrats, Steven Universe, and more—she works a day job best described as “emails.” She lives with her absolutely, most decidedly perfect cat in Los Angeles.

Random House Children’s Books (rhcbooks.com) is the world’s largest English-language children’s trade book publisher. Creating books for toddlers through young adult readers, in all formats from board books to activity books to picture books, novels, and nonfiction, the imprints of Random House Children’s Books bring together award-winning authors and illustrators, world-famous franchise characters, and multimillion-copy series. Random House Children’s Books is a division of Penguin Random House LLC.

 

SWEET VALLEY TWINS: BEST FRIENDS

By Francine Pascal, Illustrated by Claudia Aguirre, Adapted by Nicole Andelfinger

Random House Graphic | On sale November 1, 2022 | 224 pages | Ages 8–12

HC: 978-0-593-37647-8 | $20.99/$27.99 Can.

TP: 978-0-593-37646-1 | $13.99/$18.99 Can.

Ebook: 978-0-593-37649-2 | $8.99/$10.99 Can.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-Fiction, Tween Reads

Graphic Novels Bonanza Begins with Button Pusher!

Button Pusher, by Tyler Page, (Apr. 2022, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250758330

Ages 10-14

What did I do on vacation? I read books and played tabletop games! Starting off my graphic novel bonanza is Button Pusher, Eisner-nominated cartoonist Tyler Page’s memoir of living with ADHD. Tyler begins as a rambunctious 8-year-old who can be the class clown or lose track of a lesson as the teacher is speaking. He cuts up a school bus seat but doesn’t really know why he did it, when asked. His teachers think he just likes to be a troublemaker, but that isn’t it, and his mother takes him to the doctor to find out what’s going on, leading to his ADHD – attention deficit hyperactivity disorder – diagnosis. While the memoir centers on Page’s ADHD, and how he moves toward functioning with (and without) medication and treatment, the story also revolves around his school and home life, including the troubled relationship between his parents and his father’s own undiagnosed neurodivergence. The story is incredibly readable and offers sensitive portrayals of Tyler Page and his mother, who works toward understanding and helping her son while in a difficult marriage. Page also touches on male adolescent anxiety, particularly Tyler’s body image issues when he realizes that the medication is contributing to weight gain. Back matter includes an author’s note, samples of Page’s childhood art, and his working process. An informative and outstanding introduction for middle graders to understanding ADHD.

Button Pusher has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.