Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Pizza and Taco, together again!

Pizza and Taco: Super-Awesome Comic!, by Stephen Shaskan, (Aug. 2021, RH Graphic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593376034

Ages 5-8

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.

Visit author Stephen Shaskan’s webpage for great printables, too!

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

Chaos Bunnies, portal dimensions, and witches! ParaNorthern has it all!

ParaNorthern : And the Chaos Bunny A-hop-calypse, by Stephanie Cooke/Illustrated by Mari Costa, (July 2021, Etch/Clarion Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780358169000
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
Abby is a witch in the supernatural town of North Haven, where her mom runs a coffee house called Witch’s Brew. She helps her mom and hangs out with her friends – a pumpkin-headed activist for gourd rights (the carnage of pumpkin spice season!), a ghost-girl (not dead, just in a different dimension), and a wolf-girl – and her younger sister. But when she comforts her younger sister after being bullied by speed demons, something weird happens. Abby’s accidentially – unknowingly – released a burst of magic so strong that it opened a portal to a realm inhabited by chaos bunnies. Oh yes, my friend. Chaos Bunnies. They’re adorable, but destructive beyond belief, and unless Abby can figure out how to close that portal, North Haven is about to be overrun with them! What Abby doesn’t realize is that she’s a more powerful witch than she could ever have realized, and she’s got an ancestor warning her against going down a dark path. With the power of her friends and her sister, Abby learns to work her magic, and with her ancestor’s guidance, she’s aware that too much power can lead to corruption. The story is light, with action and humor. There’s a diverse cast of characters that readers will love, and a fun, fantasy storyline that readers who get a kick out of fantasy will enjoy. Display and booktalk with books like No One Returns from the Enchanted Forest, Dungeon Critters, Witches of Brooklyn, and The Okay Witch books for a magical touch!

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

Music linking generations: Lucy in the Sky

Lucy in the Sky, by Kiara Brinkman and Sean Chiki, (July 2021, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626727205

Ages 10 to 14
A girl connects to her father through music and forms a band, inspired by The Beatles. Lucy is a seventh grader who’s having a rough time: she feels like her single dad isn’t enjoying his life enough; her globe-hopping photographer mom isn’t around, and her grandmother is undergoing chemotherapy. Things change when she discovers a box of her dad’s old albums, particularly his Beatles records. They open up a new world to her, a world she can escape to when the real world is too much. Inspired to create music, she and her friends form Strawberry Jam, but – just like The Beatles – the collaborations aren’t always smooth. Relationships are hard, as beautifully communicated here. Lucy is conflicted about her relationships with her friends, and her place within her friend group. She has mixed feelings about her mother, and her anger and grief over her grandmother’s battle with cancer informs most of the story. There’s music history, great character development, and a heroine you want to root for here, making this a great graphic novel to give to tweens and early teens, who will relate to the frustrating, sometimes frightening, changes that come with the territory.
Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Folktales from the Pacific! The Night Marchers and Other Oceanian Tales

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

Ages 8 to 12
This collection of cautionary tales from the Pacific is just incredible. The Philippines, Hawaii, and Fiji are all represented, with artists who bring these tales to life in a variety of artistic styles, from cartoon to fantasy art. This is the fourth entry in the Cautionary Fables and Fairytales series, which has done wonders in getting folk and fairy tales from all over the world into the hands of readers. What are you going to find in here? One story, “The Turtle and the Lizard”, is written entirely in Baybayin, an old Tagalog script, and invites readers to learn Baybayin at the end of the story. The title story is an achingly beautiful Hawaiian tale of loss; The Tyrant Has Horns is a tale about a horrible ruler who grows horns on his head, coming to you from the Philippines. Every story transports readers to a fantasy world, and every story gives readers a window into a new culture. Get this series on your shelves.
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Beware the Accursed Vampire! (Not really…)

The Accursed Vampire, by Madeline McGrane, (July 2021, Harper Alley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062954343

Ages 10-13

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.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

It ain’t easy being a superhero’s kid: I Am Not Starfire

I Am Not Starfire, by Mariko Tamaki/Illustrated by Yoshi Yoshitani, (July 2021, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781779501264

Ages 13-17
The latest original DC YA graphic novel, by YA rock star Mariko Tamaki, is all about the fraught relationship between (Teen) Titan’s Starfire and her teen daughter, Mandy. Mandy’s been raised by her mom – no word on her dad’s identity, although everyone around her sure has opinions they don’t mind sharing with her – and she is NOT like her mother at all. She isn’t sparkly. She isn’t a tall, alien superhero with superpowers. She’s a goth chick who dyes her hair black, wears combat boots, and looks at just about everyone her with total disdain, except for her best friend, Lincoln. When Mandy is paired with “in” girl Claire for a school project, the two hit it off – so well that Mandy, who’s just walked out of her SAT and decided to run away to France rather than go to college – may be interested in sticking around after all. But Starfire’s family unrest follows her from Tamaran to Earth, and Mandy finds herself facing a fight for her life – or her mother’s.
I Am Not Starfire is all about the up-and-down relationships between parents and kids. Are parents aliens to teens? Possibly. Are teens aliens to grownups? Heck yes (speaking for my two, exclusively). The relationship between Mandy and Starfire is recognizable, whether you have a parent that expects too much from you, or that you just can’t relate to for a moment in time, but that you still love and want to be loved by in return. It’s about family secrets, starting over, and discovering ourselves for who we are, sparkly powers notwithstanding, and it’s about relationships with our friends, nurturing a crush to see where it goes, and the (sometimes) explosive relationships we have with family. Yoshi Yoshitani’s artwork is amazing, and Mariko Tamaki is one of best writers in comics right now. Together, they create a great book for your teen graphic novel collections.
Posted in Graphic Novels, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

A YA graphic novel about honoring your authentic self: Needle and Thread

Needle and Thread, by David Pinckney, Edited by Chris Sanchez/Illustrated by Ennun Ana Iurov, (Oct. 2021, Mad Cave Studios), $17.99, ISBN: 9781952303234

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.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

The Ocean Strikes Back in Super Sidekicks #2!

Super Sidekicks #2: Ocean’s Revenge, by Gavin Aung Than, (July 2021, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593175125
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
The second book in the Super Sidekicks graphic novel series is all about the sidekicks standing on their own. The world’s leaders and the superhero grownups have been captured by The Mother of the Sea, who’s sick and tired of the damage us humans are wreaking on the planet, and it’s up to Junior Justice (JJ), Flygirl, Dinomite, Goo, and Ada, the most intelligent belt buckle in the universe, to save things and start the world on a better path. Mother of the Sea has put together a Trash Titan – a giant monster created out of all the trash from the Pacific Ocean – and wants to destroy all the land dwellers, so talking her down is going to take all of the skills the Sidekicks have at their disposal!
This is a perfect series for readers who are moving up from chapter books. It’s a fast-paced adventure story with fun superheroes who show the adults a thing or two about respecting kids and the planet. Illustrations are colorful, and the beginning of the story carries incredible weight: drifting trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; seagulls feeding plastic bottle caps to their babies; a sea turtle swimming with a plastic soda ring around its neck. Watching the Trash Titan form from the tons of junk polluting the waters, you kind of want to root for the Mother of the Sea. Naturally, the adults are all clueless, but the kids know what’s up! Empowering kids to save the world one piece of junk at a time, Super Sidekicks: Ocean’s Revenge includes tips on reducing our trash footprint, and tips on how to draw Dinomite and Goo.
Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Science Fiction, Steampunk, Teen, Tween Reads

Know all the tropes! The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor

The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor, by Shaenon K. Garrity/Illustrated by Christopher Baldwin (July 2021. Margaret K. McElderry Books), $14.99, ISBN: 9781534460867

Ages 12-16
This hilarious sci-fi/gothic romance novel is perfect for a YA audience. Haley is a high school student who loves gothic romance novels, from the Brontës to Henry James. Her teacher is exasperated: no more castles! No more brooding heroes! Find a different genre to write about! As Haley heads home, she spies someone drowning, and jumps into the river to save him, awakening in a place that seems to hit on a lot of her gothic tropes: stately manor with hermitage. Three brothers, two of whom are broody, and one carefree dilettante. A surly housekeeper. A ghost. She’s in Willowweep, a pocket universe that’s fighting to keep an alien force called The Bile from taking over and entering our own universe! Haley has to call on her own skills – hey, she’s a gothic heroine, right? – to help the three brothers save their universe, and our own!
What starts as a funny story loaded with gothic romance tropes becomes an hilarious sci-fi, gothic romance mashup with steampunk elements and characters you’ll recognize and love. Haley is a heroine who is equal parts smart, funny, and one step ahead of everyone because she knows her gothic tropes. Artwork easily blends science fiction/steampunk devices and glowing ooze with rambling moors, brooding heroes, and… possessed woodland creatures. It’s worth it, I promise you. The Dire Days of Willowweep Manor is great fun for YA fans, and may get them reading that copy of Wuthering Heights a little differently now: hey, it worked for Pride, Prejudice, and Zombies!
Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Tween Reads

Breaking the cycles: Artie and the Wolf Moon

Artie and the Wolf Moon, by Olivia Stephens, (Sept. 2021, Graphic Universe), $16.99, ISBN: 9781728420202

Ages 12-15

Artie and the Wolf Moon is, on the surface, a YA graphic novel about werewolves and vampires, but there’s so much more waiting for you here. Artie Irvin lives with her mom, a park ranger. She’s a burgeoning photographer who sneaks out one night, against her mother’s wishes, to take some photographs and discovers a huge wolf that somehow morphs into her mother! Confronting her mother, Artie learns that she comes from a long line of werewolves, but may be a “late bloomer” because she hasn’t shifted yet. Artie’s mom agrees to tell her about everything, including her late father, but when racist bullies at school lead to Artie shifting, her mom realizes it’s time to introduce her daughter to her family – and learn about what it means to be shifter.

Olivia Stephens has created a truly original werewolf story with origins in Black history, infused with the power of the wolf to guard and survive. I could read stories about every character in Artie’s family and still want to read more; I love Olivia Stephens’s storytelling and artwork so much. She creates realistic characters and her origin story reminds me of indigenous artwork with earth tones and primitive figures. She creates harrowing moments in the struggle between wolf and vampire and gives readers an incredible story of Black culture, community, family, and history. Fantastic storytelling and I want more.