I’m still reading graphic novels by the bunch: I’ve even applied to be a CYBILS Graphic Novel judge this year, because I had such a great time being one last year! There are such good books coming out for middle grade and YA, and with a new focus on early reader graphic novels picking up strength, I can honestly say we comic book fans have inherited the earth and it feels good. Here are a few more to add to your Fall order carts.
I adore Elise Gravel’s graphic novels. Her latest, The Bug Club, is part autobiography, part STEM study; just like her Mushroom Fan Club (2018). We learn that Elise Gravel has always been fascinated by bugs, and, using her friendly, cartoon style, presents a wide range of fascinating and adorable bugs for readers to enjoy with her. It’s a good introduction to etymology; she gives an overview of invertebrates and what makes them members of that club; she illustrates wing shapes, antenna shapes, provides an overview of life cycles, and offers illustrations of baby vs. adult types of bugs, like wasps, ladybugs, and dragonflies. We even get profiles on some of her favorite bugs, with full-page illustrations and a brief discussion of tardigrades, dung beetles, and others. Loaded with fun facts, Ms. Gravel encourages kids to use their imaginations and think about bugs as cool aliens. Her writing is easy to read, easy to understand, and makes the science of bug-watching just plain fun. Great for young readers, you can go over colors, count numbers of bugs, wings, eyes, horns, or legs. Get creative! Encourage your own kiddos to start their own nature journals (you know I love my nature journals) and sketch pictures of the bugs they may discover in books or in the park (remember; take only pictures, leave only footprints).
Visit Elise Gravel’s page on Drawn and Quarterly for more about her graphic novels; visit Elise Gravel’s webpage for fun activities and downloadables for your kiddos and your libraries and classrooms.
The third outing for BFF duo Pizza and Taco is all about the creative process, and the disagreements that can throw a wrench into the works. The two friends decide to work on a comic together: Pizza is the writer, Taco’s the artist, but they don’t really see eye to eye on things. Taco’s superhero sketches make him look like a musclebound superhero, but Pizza’s superhero wizard looks a tad… scrawny. Pizza’s superhero backstories make Pizza “Pizza Supreme:” with superpowers like “super everything”, while Taco’s superpowers include “onion breath” and “super farts”, and works at a bank. Deciding to work separately, they realize that something’s missing… each other! They reunite, setting ground rules before they launch back into their story of superhero wizards who do karate to save the universe! The story has hilarious dialogue that kids will love and laugh at as they learn about working through differences, compromise, and creating working agreements in order to work with others. Great for emerging readers, the book is organized into chapters that prepare readers for bigger books like the Wimpy Kid series, Dog Man, and Captain Underpants. Give to your Narwhal and Jelly, Fox and Chick, and Shark and Bot readers. Make sure to do the Best Friend dance with your Kiddos – they’ll love it.
The Night Marchers and Other Oceanian Tales , Edited by Kate Ashwin, Sloane Leong, Kel McDonald, Jonah Cabudol-Chalker/Contributions by Rob Cham, Yiling Changues, Paolo Chikiamco, Diigii Daguna, Brady Evans, Mark Gould, Gen H. , (Apr. 2021, Iron Circus Comics), $15, ISBN: 9781945820793
Dragoslava is a vampire kid who works for the mean witch who cursed him ages ago. The witch wants her stolen grimoire back, so she dispatches Dragoslava and their two friends, Quintus and Eztli, to a town called Baneberry Falls, where the kids discover life in a small Michigan town around Halloween, and befriend Ayesha, the witch who has the grimoire in her possession – and her vampire partner, Sara. Posing as travelers interested in learning magic, Dragoslava wants to gain their trust and grab the book, but Quintus and Eztli are enjoying their new surroundings and suggest that maybe Dragoslava cut ties with the witch making their life miserable? The book, however, is too powerful to be contained, and there’s another being in Baneberry Falls keeping an eye on Dragoslava and their friends. A fun story with a few thrills and lots of adventure and humor, The Accursed Vampire will appeal to readers who like their spooky books on the funny side. It’s a story about found family and learning to stand up for oneself, with a diverse cast: Dragoslava is nonbinary, referred to with “they/them” pronouns; Quintus is a male child of color, from vampire society; Eztli is a Latinx female, likely from Mesoamerican mythology: the bird feet bring to mind the feathered serpent, quetzalcoatl, and the name Eztli originates from the Aztec word for “blood”.
The Accursed Vampire has a starred review from School Library Journal. Find more of Madeline McGrane’s artwork (and more Dragoslava!) at her website.
Ages 12 to 16
Noah is a high school senior who dreams of being a costume designer, but his parents are dead-set against his “hobby” being a viable career and pressure him to apply to more traditional colleges and think of a more “reasonable” career. Azarie is the daughter of a politician determined to show a perfect family picture to the public. Azarie is the lead cheerleader and the perfect student, a young woman who’s in with the in crowd, and nurses a secret love of comic books and a desire to be an actress. The two bond over their shared interests, and Noah introduces Azarie to his friends, who welcome her into their circle – much to the chagrin of the Mean Girls in Azarie’s school social circle, and her image-obsessed parents. When introducing Noah’s family to Azarie’s, her father insists that Noah and his first-responder parents (a firefighter and police officer) enter through the back door – the racial implications, atop the social, cannot be denied. But more than a story about an image-obsessed family of social climbers, Needle and Thread is a story about embracing your passions, honoring yourself and your dreams, and pursuing a supportive community. Azarie is welcomed into Noah’s artistic, cosplaying community and grow with that community’s encouragement, while hitting some bumps along the way. Characters are diverse, the story and artwork are interesting and work together to create a full narrative that YA readers will dive into.