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

Kid-Friendly graphic novels for younger readers

I told you, this is a graphic novel summer! I’m so happy to see graphic novels coming out with younger and newer readers in mind: they helped develop a love of reading in my own kiddo, and I know the littles in my library love them as much as my middle graders do. Let’s take a look at what’s good.

Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark Graphic Novel, by Mary Pope Osborne, Adapted by Jenny Laird, Illustrated by Kelly Matthews and Nicole Matthews, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593174715

Ages 6-9

Jack and Annie are headed to graphic novels! The Magic Tree House books have been a staple in libraries for decades; now they’re transitioning to more visual storytelling mediums with graphic novels, starting with the first Magic Tree House adventure, Dinosaurs Before Dark. Jack and Annie discover a treehouse loaded with stacks of books, make a wish to see dinosaurs, and discover that they’re been transported back in time to the prehistoric era! Annie befriends a couple of plant-eaters, they run from a T-Rex, and try to figure out how to get home again. The story translates wonderfully to a graphic novel medium, and the artwork has a manga influence, which makes for big facial expressions; the artwork is colorful and eye-catching. Less dense text relies on visual storytelling, making this even more appealing to emerging and struggling readers. This series is going to be a hit.

Be sure to check out the Magic Tree House Classroom Adventures website, where you can find lesson plans and more resources. The Magic Tree House website has resources for kids and parents, including a Mission Game and Kids Adventure Club.

Fitz and Cleo, by Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox, (May 2021, Henry Holt), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250239440

Ages 6-9

The dynamic duo behind the Llama Destroys the World series is doing graphic novels now!! Fitz and Cleo are sheet-wearing ghost siblings who find and adopt a cat they name Mr. Boo. There are 11 bite-sized stories in this first volume; perfect for newly confident readers to pick up and spend time with. Fitz sports a baseball cap and glasses and is more interested in science than cats; Cleo wears a head bow, is cheery and fun, and is always there to support her brother. The two are best friends, with Mr. Boo adding comic relief with his antics, usually aimed at Fitz. Adorable, fun, Fitz and Cleo is a great early graphic novel to add to your younger reader shelves. Download a Fitz and Cleo activity kit right here!

 

Blue, Barry & Pancakes: Escape from Balloonia, by Dan & Jason, (June 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250255563
Ages 4-8
The second Blue, Barry, and Pancakes adventure is just as wacky and fun as the first. Blue and Barry want a day just for themselves, but Pancakes has other plans: she’s made a rocket, and a planet made of balloons, and before Blue or Barry can say a word, they’re zooming off into space, where they’ll find themselves facing a giant Balloonian – a resident of Balloonia, naturally – named Balloon Kong. Will the trio ever get home? Will Blue and Barry ever get their quiet day? You have to read it to find out! This is such a fun series that you can easily start reading with preschoolers. The humor is light, laugh-out-loud funny, and the characters are endearing and adorable.
Scaredy Squirrel in a Nutshell, by Melanie Watt, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593307557
Ages 6-9
Popular picture book friend, Scaredy Squirrel, makes his graphic novel debut in Scaredy Squirrel in a Nutshell. Scaredy has successfully secured his tree from wooly mammoths, woodpeckers, lumberjacks, and aliens, but now he’s faced with a seemingly insurmountable foe: his new neighbor, a friendly bunny named Ivy. Scaredy has to weigh all the potential risks and plan for every scenario before deciding whether or not to invite Ivy to share his takeout pizza, and he discovers that having a friend can be pretty fun, after all. If you’re familiar with the Scaredy books, you’ll give a hearty chuckle at seeing Scaredy’s familiar lists for everything. If you’re new to Scaredy, you will be quickly enchanted by how funny and sweet he is. The artwork is adorable, expressive, bold, and eyecatching; there are three easy-to-navigate chapters that advance the story and give readers easy spots to put the book down for a break if they need to. Scaredy Squirrel is a great choice to bring to graphic novels!
Shark and Bot #2: Sleepaway Champs, by Brian Yanish, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers, $9.99, ISBN: 9780593173381
Ages 5-8
The two besties are back in their new adventure, where they head off to sleepaway camp (much to Bot’s chagrin: he wanted to go to Space Camp). Camp Sweet Sunshine is not what the friends expect: Bot is put in a giant bubble because “everyone swims at Camp Sweet Sunshine”; they’re glitter-bombed by another camper, and the bathroom may be haunted. But they have a talent show to practice for, and it’s the one place that has enough privacy! Sleepaway Champs is a funny, cheerful story about summer, friends, and trying new things, sure to make readers smile. The book is organized into 8 chapters, making for easily paced reading with breaks. Author Brian Yanish’s website has loads of resources for caregivers and educators, including a video on how to draw Shark and Bot. Back matter includes instruction on how to draw Batty, Shark’s stuffed wombat, and amusing and interesting facts about wombats.
Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Tis the season to be reading!

You want seasonal books? I got seasonal books. I got Hanukkah books, I got Christmas books, I got winter books, I got all the books: I’m just posting a few at a time, to keep the thrill of the season alive. Join me and enjoy!

The Littlest Candle: A Hanukkah Story, by Rabbis Kerry & Jesse Olitzky/Illustrated by Jen Kostman, (June 2020, Kalaniot Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-9988527-5-1

Hanukkah is coming! The candles are so excited! Who will be the first candle on the menorah this year? The candles all discuss among themselves why each should be the first candle. All except Flicker, the smallest candle in the box, that is. Little Flicker is always the first candle to support his friends, whether it’s through cleaning up the hard to reach areas of the box, or making sure the others have enough to eat. Waxy, the wisest candle, recounts the story of Hanukkah and the importance of each candle in the menorah, and decides to make Little Flicker his helper candle: the shamash.

Soft, cheerful colors and gentle storytelling make this a wonderful Hanukkah story with a great message: “Hanukkah is a reminder that sometimes, even when you are small, you are still capable of miracles”. The cartoony artwork will appeal to all kids, and reminded me of The Day the Crayons Quit. Most of the artwork revolves around the crayons, but there are people in here, too; a family celebrates the season together with the brightly lit menorah burning in the background. Back matter has more to learn about Hanukkah, including the blessings to light the menorah by. Add this to your holiday reading every year, whether you celebrate Hanukkah or another seasonal holiday. It’s got a wonderful message that kids will love to hear.

I’m very excited because Kalaniot Books, The Littlest Candle‘s publisher, is a new imprint that will publish books for children on Jewish culture and history. So I’m hoping to bring more exciting titles to you in the future!

 

Elf, based on the film by David Berenbaum/Illustrated by Kim Smith, (Oct. 2020, Quirk Books), $18.99, ISBN: 9781683692409

Ages 4-8

Quirk Books has the best in pop culture books for kids and I am here for it. The newest? This year’s Elf, adapted from the hilarious 2003 movie starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf. The story of Buddy the Elf, the human raised by Santa’s elves, who goes to find his dad in crazy New York City and ends up saving Christmas is adorably rendered here with cartoon artwork and a mix of narration and word balloons, usually capturing some of the best movie moments. Endpapers bookend the film, showing Buddy at the beginning and end of his journey, and the art is so cheery and colorful, you won’t help but want to read this again and again. Absolutely wonderful, and perfect for a Pop Culture storytime (psst… Quirk publishes picture books about Home Alone 1 and Home Alone 2) along with classics like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, and so many more.

My only question: when do we get a picture book adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s A Christmas Story? Come ON!

 

Mouse’s Night Before Christmas, by Tracey Corderoy/Illustrated by Sarah Massini, (Oct. 2020 Nosy Crow), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536214406

Ages 3-7

This sweet take on the classic A Visit from St. Nicholas/’Twas the Night Before Christmas stars a mouse who desperately wants a friend. The lonely mouse lives in a grandfather clock and wishes for a friend to give presents to… when who should land on his roof but old Saint Nick and his reindeer, forced down during a storm! The Mouse happily offers to guide Santa on his way, and spends a happy Christmas Eve as Santa’s helper. When he drops Mouse off, he comforts a disappointed Mouse by reminding him that Christmas isn’t over yet… and Mouse has to discover his own gift. A touching story of friendship, the rhyme is set to the rhythm of the original Clement Moore poem; you’ll fall right into it as you read it out loud. The mixed media illustrations are comforting and warm. Kids will love curling up with this lovable story of finding friends.

 

Gigantosaurus: The Holiday Party, by Cyber Group Studios, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Entertainment), $5.99, ISBN: 9781536213409

Ages 3-7

Gigantosaurus is an animated dinosaur show currently streaming on Netflix and available on Disney Junior and the books have started hitting shelves. Based on the episode The Shortest Day, The Holiday Party Tiny, a triceratops, decides to throw a big party in celebration of the shortest day of the year. She’s planning food, music, presents, and the biggest party ever! But everything that can go wrong does go wrong, and Tiny is devastated. And then Giganto shows up: the big scary guy! Will Tiny’s party be saved? A holiday story about celebrating, friendship, and wrong expectations, The Holiday Party is digitally illustrated and includes both narration and speech bubbles. It’s a fun read for kids who love dinosaurs, and the stickers on the last two pages will make this a super-fun holiday treat. If you’re including this for your library shelves, slice those stickers out and give them away to your kiddos!

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

Pulp fiction goes graphic with Head Games

Head Games, by Craig McDonald/Illustrated by Kevin Singles, (Oct. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $17.99, ISBN: 9781596434141

Recommended for readers 18+

This graphic novel adaptation of an Edgar-nominated novel gives us a little Hollywood and a whole lot of pulp fiction. Hector Lassiter is a hard-drinking, hard living novelist in 1957; he thought he was done adventuring, but an offer he can’t refuse drops into his lap: the chance to recover the lost skull of Mexican revolutionary Pancho Villa. Villa’s people want the skull, and so does the infamous Yale secret society, Skull & Bones; and they’re all willing to do anything to get it. Lassiter, poet Bud Fiske, and aspiring actress Alicia Vicente take a road trip across the American Southwest as they search for the highest bidder and dodge bullets.

I’ve never read Craig McDonald’s Lassiter books, so this was new to me. If you like pulp, or noir fiction, you’ll dig right into this book. It borders on satire at times; it seems like a send up of the Hollywood studio system, the Feds, and pulp noir. Lassiter is a larger-than-life figure that appears to be popped straight from Hemingway’s mold – and then you discover that Lassiter and Hemingway were contemporaries in this story. Marlena Dietrich is here, and Bud Fiske is so thoroughly written into the story’s mythology that I had to Google him to see if he was a real-life figure (go find out for yourself, I’ll never tell). Two-color yellow and black artwork give this an old-school, faded feel; you know this is a story that’s seen things. Head Games is crazy, over-the-top, and compulsively readable. There’s violence, alcohol abuse, and sex aplenty, so it’s not a graphic novel for the children’s room.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Add Manga Classics Jane Eyre to your TBR

manga-jane-eyreJane Eyre (Manga Classics), by Charlotte Bronte/adapted by Stacy King, (Jul. 2016, Udon Entertainment/Morpheus Publishing), $19.99, ISBN: 9781927925652

Recommended for ages 12+

I am loving the Manga Classics line from Udon Entertainment. This is my third one; I’ve read The Scarlet Letter and Pride and Prejudice – both books I struggled with in high school – and came away with a better grasp on them. This time, I read Jane Eyre, a book I really enjoy (I’m a Bronte fan), but know that kids tend to struggle with, too.

Jane is an orphan, left in the care of her awful aunt and cousins. She finally gets away and makes her way in the world as a governess, sent to the mysterious Mr. Rochester’s estate, where they fall in love. A dark secret in Mr. Rochester’s past gets in the way. It’s a Gothic novel, which lends itself nicely to a manga adaptation; there’s drama, angst, and enduring love, all of which shine in this visual adaptation.

As with the other books in Udon’s series, this is a nice companion to Bronte’s work; a solid introduction to new and reluctant readers in middle and high school.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Teen

The Scarlet Letter (Manga Classics) makes another classic more accessible to readers

cover57424-mediumThe Scarlet Letter (Manga Classics), by Nathaniel Hawthorne/adapted by Crystal Chan/illustrated by SunNeko Lee (2014, Udon Entertainment/Morpheus Publishing), $19.99, ISBN: 9781927925331

Recommended for ages 13+

Reading the story of Hester Prynne and her scarlet letter is a rite of passage in high school, but that doesn’t always make it an accessible book. Nathaniel Hawthorne’s tale of adultery and a small New England Puritan town can be difficult for reluctant or struggling readers. Udon Entertainment’s Manga Classics line reaches out to those readers with beautiful art and drills the story down to the main points and action, drawing a reader in and, in essence, teaching them how to read the novel.

As with Udon’s manga adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, the main story is faithfully intact, merely abridged for easier storytelling. This is by no means a replacement for the novel, but it serves two tremendous purposes: 1) to bring new readers to the story who may never have picked the book up before, and 2) to serve as a companion read to readers who have trouble with the novel. Manga is a popular art medium that’s been reaching beyond purely Japanese titles and finding a firm audience in American adaptations, from popular YA series like Twilight and Beautiful Creatures to classics like Les Miserables, Pride and Prejudice, and now, The Scarlet Letter.

I will be adding this book to my burgeoning manga classics collection. It would a fun display idea to feature the original and its manga adaptation side by side – I’d love to see how it affects my circulation.

The Scarlet Letter will be out in March, but you can pick up copies of Udon’s manga adaptations of Pride and Prejudice and Les Miserables right now.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Pride and Prejudice goes manga!

pride and prejudice mangaPride and Prejudice, Manga Classics, by Jane Austen (adapted by Stacy King)/illustrated by Po Tse. (Udon Entertainment/Myrick Marketing & Media, LLC, Aug. 2014). $19.99 ISBN: 9781927925188

Recommended for ages 12+

I’ll admit it – I’ve never been a huge Austen fan. My taste in classics runs more toward the Bronte sisters, filled with more angst, rage, crazy wives locked away, that whole gothic thing with the moors. Lately, I’ve been bound and determined to re-read Austen, though, and decided to start with Stacy King’s manga adaptation of Pride and Prejudice.

I loved this retelling! Po Tse’s manga style art is lush and sophisticated, with sweeping panels and beautiful attention to detail. There are great little winks to the manga style I’m more familiar with (I have three sons, therefore I have watched much Pokémon), like the cartoony, wild expressions of absolute joy or despair, meant to encourage a reaction from the reader, that enhanced my enjoyment of this story.

The basic story is all here – the five Bennett daughters, the overbearing mother trying to marry them off, the headstrong Lizzie and the prideful Mr. Darcy – all here, with all the supporting players. The manga style allows for exaggerated facial expressions, adding a relatable dimension to the more restrained drawing room drama.

The book reads in manga style: that is, from right to left, and a note to readers at the end of the book explains this. There’s a letter to the reader from Stacy King, discussing the appeal of Pride and Prejudice to modern audiences, particularly teenagers.

This is a great introduction to the classics for tweens and teens, especially those who may find the classics “boring”. I’d love to get a few copies of these manga classics on my library shelves and get kids reading them in preparation for the real thing – it lays a great groundwork and adds faces to put to the names, so when they do pick up the book, they’ll be more familiar with the characters and the world where the story takes place.

And heck, I’m going to sit down and read Pride and Prejudice again, myself.