Douglas, by Randy Cecil, (Sept. 2019, Candlewick), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763633974
Iris Espinosa goes to the movies one day, and ends up taking a small mouse home with her when it curls up in her pocket to nap. She names the mouse Douglas, after her favorite actor, Douglas Fairbanks, and Douglas ends up having a big adventure on the way back home to the movie theatre! A companion to Randy Cecil’s Lucy (2016), Douglas is also told in four acts, and is an exciting adventure filled with cats, humans, chases, and escapes.
The black-and-white artwork gives a lovely, vintage feel to the artwork, especially when Randy Cecil places readers into a more specific time frame by recalling a screen star from Hollywood’s Golden Age (Fairbanks was active in the 1920s and 1930s). There are mini-stories throughout the main story that make this so much fun to read: Iris’ sister meeting her boyfriend’s mother, with Douglas tagging along for the ride; the vigilant six-toed cat; Everett Dunn, who desperately wants a pet of his own; Mrs. Pennington and her large hat. There’s so much to enjoy while reading Douglas, and it’s a book kids will want to come back to, because there’s something new to discover each time. As Douglas Fairbanks had his own swashbuckling adventures, so does Douglas.
Douglas has a starred review from Kirkus.
Thornhill, by Pam Smy, (Aug. 2017, Roaring Brook Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626726543
Recommended for readers 10-14
Two girls, two decades, one story: Thornhill is a story told in prose and pictures, switching back and forth to tell each character’s story. In 1982, Mary is a lonely orphan living in the Thornhill Institute for Children, relegated to her room where she makes puppets, for fear of the merciless bullying she suffers. The Institute is on the verge of closing, and the girls are being re-homed – except for Mary and her tormentor, who continues unabated by the social worker who prefers to victim blame. Mary’s story unfolds through journal entries, where we see the bullying turn her, desperately, to a plan for revenge that will echo for decades.
In 2016, Ella is the new girl in town, living in a home with a perfect view of the abandoned Thornhill Institute. As she looks out the window, she sees someone in the lonely attic window at Thornhill. Determined to discover who she is, Ella wanders onto the Thornhill property and unravels Mary’s – and Thornhill’s – story. Ella’s story is told through stark black and white artwork, leaving much for readers to discover. The narratives follow one another; Mary’s narrative enriches Ella’s story. The chilling ending will leave readers breathless.
Thornhill is captivating, urging readers to its conclusion. Mary and Ella are kindred spirits on their own journeys; while Ella’s story is relegated to what we see on the pages, there is a wealth of material there for sharp-eyed observers. It’s a great choice for suspense and thriller fans.
My Dad is a Clown/Mi papá es un paysaso, by José Carlos Andrés/Illustrated by Natalia Hernández, (Jan. 2017, NubeOcho), $14.95, ISBN: 978-84-944137-6-6
Recommended for ages 4-8
A boy with two dads is proud of what they do for a living, and wants to be like them both when he grows up. Both of the boy’s dads are healers: one dad, Pascual, is a doctor and heals his patients’ bodies; his other dad, whom he refers to as simply “Dad”, is a clown, and heals people’s souls. Pascual and the boy sneak into Dad’s rehearsal one day, where the boy realizes the hard work that goes into being a performer, and decides that he will combine the best of his fathers’ professions when he grows up.
This is a sweet story about a boy who loves and is proud of his parents. We also see a loving relationship between the boy’s parents, who happen to both be men. The cartoony two-color art, primarily black and white with reds added for visual interest and emphasis, is both sweet and dramatic. The family is tender with one another, unafraid to show affection. It’s a gratifying, emotional read, particularly when the family reunites after Dad’s rehearsal and they share happy tears.
This third edition of the story is a bilingual edition, translated into English and includes the Spanish text directly beneath the English text, both featured in a highlighted typewriter font that makes for easy independent and cuddle time reading. It’s good for English and Spanish language learners, and is a sweet story about family love to add to your bilingual collections and your storytime rotation. Put this 0ne on your shelves: there are families out there who need and deserve to have their stories told.
Friends is Friends, by Greg Cook, (Aug. 2016, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781596431058
Recommended for ages 16+
A series of short stories portray the complicated relationships between an elephant that’s down and out on his luck, a teddy and a ghost bear that follows him around, taunting him, and a family of pigs. Not a graphic novel for younger audiences (content and language), Friends is Friends is indie author/artist Greg Cook’s first major work in over a decade. The stories border surreal and loaded with dark humor. The artwork is in black and white, with white on black pages denoting the beginning of new vignettes.
I’ll be honest, this just wasn’t my book. I enjoy dark humor, but I just didn’t get into the stories or the characters. There were moments where I chuckled along – the opening short between the elephant and the young pig in particular – but other moments that just didn’t catch me. Friendship isn’t easy – that’s a key message contained in the book – but the characters just weren’t likable enough for me to want to be friends with them, to stick with them through the ups and downs of their relationships.
My teens aren’t the audience for this one. If you have a good YA and adult-level graphic novel collection, give this a read before you choose to add or not to add.