I’m reading through my graphic novels stash this week, and have lots to talk about. Jumping right in.
The Black Mage, by Daniel Barnes/Illustrated by D.J. Kirkland, (Aug. 2019, Oni Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781620106525
This book was published last year, and I just found it as I was going through my hard drive during the quarantine. WOW, am I glad I did, because this is timely. It starts off with a young man named Tom Token being invited to St. Ivory Academy, a historically white wizarding school, as their first Black student, part of their “Magical Minority Initiative”. The headmaster, Atticus Lynch, wears a white robe with a pointed hood, but… it’s okay, right? Tom and his pet crow, Jim, arrive and face predictable racist treatment, from ridiculous questions (“Do you drink grape soda rather than potions to enhance your magical powers?”) to straight up hostility. When Tom discovers a mysterious student ID card, he’s determined to get to the bottom of what’s really going on at St. Ivory Academy. Joined by his new friend, Lindsay – a white girl who’s quickly learning that St. Ivory is up to no good – Tom meets two ghosts from history that will show him a dangerous conspiracy that goes all the way back to the Civil War. If Tom can’t expose St. Ivory, he may lose his soul!
This was SUCH a good story, with manga-influenced artwork, fast-paced action and dialogue, and a socially relevant storyline. I love having Harriet Tubman, Frederick Douglass, and John Henry featured as superhero freedom fighters, even in the Great Beyond. Great art, great story, great book for middle schoolers. Make sure you’ve got this handy when you rejuvenate your collections. Oni Press has an educator/discussion guide for The Black Mage available here.
Fun Fun Fun World, by Yehudi Mercado, (Apr. 2020, Oni Press), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1620107324
Written and illustrated by Sci-Fu’s Yehudi Mercado, Fun Fun Fun World starts off with the crew of the Devastorm 5, led by the inept Captain Minky, running from another failed mission. Minky’s in serious trouble if he doesn’t have tribute for his Queen, so he makes her an offer she can’t refuse: he’ll give her the Earth. The rest of the Devastorm has no idea how they’re going to pull this off, but Minky is convinced they can do it. So when they land at Fun Fun Fun World, a down-on-its luck amusement run by a single dad raising his son, Javi, they think they’ve got Earth laid out in front of them. Javi figures things out pretty quickly and decides not to tell them that they’ve landed in Des Moines: after all, he needs their technology to get the park up and running, saving his dad’s career and keeping a roof over their heads. The story is hilarious, bananas, and too much fun to read. It’s bright, it’s neon, with confused aliens and a kid who keeps outstmarting them to further his father’s dream. There’s a super secret mystery hidden at the heart of Fun Fun Fun World to spice things up a bit, and there’s always the threat of interplanetary war to keep things running. Kids who love watching Cartoon Network’s high-energy cartoons like Steven Universe and The Regular Show will love this.
Yehudi Mercado includes rough pages from the work in progress and a photo of the kids who helped come up with some of the featured rides at the park. There’s also an FFFW Character Quiz from publisher Oni Press that will make comic book discussion groups a hit. Checkout Yehudi Mercado’s webpage for a look at more of his books, a free preview of Fun Fun Fun World, and links to social media.
Wallace the Brave, by Will Henry, (Oct. 2017, Andrews McMeel Publishing/AMP Kids), $9.99, ISBN: 9781449489984
Reminiscent of Calvin and Hobbes, Wallace The Brave is a collection of comics strips about Wallace, an imaginative, inquisitive boy named Wallace, his best friend, Spud, and the new girl, Amelia. We also meet Wallace’s parents and unibrowed, feral little brother, Sterling, all of whom live in the small town, Snug Harbor. Kids who love Big Nate will get a kick out of Wallace, who’s always up to something; whether he’s spinning epic tales about the school bus, testing the strength of a stale muffin, or trying to figure out what seagulls are really saying.
The book includes a map of Snug Harbor, with major locations from the comic strip numbered; ways to organize a beach cleanup, help monarch butterflies, and make a nature crown. There’s a sequel, Snug Harbor Stories, for readers who want more. Wallace’s page on the AMP website has free, downloadable sheets with activities that you can do at home with the kids, and a book trailer for Snug Harbor Stories.
Cat and Cat: Cat Out of Water (Cat & Cat #2), by Christophe Cazenove, Hervez Richez & Yrgane Ramon (July 2020, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781545804780
The second collection of Cat and Cat stories is just as much fun as the first. Catherine and her cat, Sushi, live with Cat’s dad; the strips are a series of funny slice-of-life moments. This time, the big story is that Dad takes Cat and Sushi on a camping trip, where Sushi proceeds to wreak havoc on the campgrounds. Other moments have Sushi visiting the neighbors to get his daily snacks in; constant struggles surrounding the cat door and Sushi’s habit of inviting all the cats in the neighborhood to Dad’s house, and Sushi trying to figure out what that big ditch filled with water (the new pool) is supposed to be for.
Brightly illustrated with expressive cartoony characters, this is a great addition to titles like Sisters, Ernest & Rebecca, Dance Class, and Chloe. Papercutz has the inside track on great graphic novels for Intermediate level readers who are looking to move up from Easy Readers and may need a break from chapter books.
Dance Class: Letting It Go (Dance Class #10), by Crip and BéKa, (March 2020, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781545804322
Dance Class is one of the most circulated graphic novels series in my library. The kids love the stories about the dancers at Dance School, so I decided to finally sit down with a book that I got from Papercutz’s Virtual ALA email and see what the hubbub is about. I get it: it’s just a fun series! The adventures of the younger dancers and the teen dancers is good-natured and fun, with this latest storyline centering on the school’s upcoming production of The Snow Queen, and the beautiful new dress to be worn by the show’s star…. if they can get the dress to stop disappearing! It’s an amusing series of miscommunications and misunderstandings as the dancers get ready to put on their show.
Brightly illustrated with cartoon characters, fun dialogue and silly sight gags, like the dancer who’s menaced by a classmate – in her dreams! – this is a book that appeals to Loud House, Sisters, and Chloe readers. The cover is begging for Frozen fans to devour this book in a single sitting, and they will.