Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen

SPECS is looking like good ’80s YA horror!

Most of you know I’m a comic book fan(atic). I’m also stuck in the ’80s – my beloved formative years – and the teen horror that defined so much of that decade. Stranger Things? Give it right here.  Grady Hendrix’s books like My Best Friend’s Exorcism and Paperbacks from Hell? Yup, all on my bookshelf. What’s up next? According to an email in my inbox from BOOM! Studios, it’s SPECS:

From the press release:

LOS ANGELES, CA (August 10, 2022) – BOOM! Studios announced today SPECS, a mysterious new series from highly acclaimed writer David M. Booher (Canto, All-New Firefly), artist Chris Shehan (House of Slaughter) and colorist Roman Stevens, about a group of misfit teens who mail-order a pair of novelty glasses, and realize they’ve received much more than they bargained for, in stores November 2022.

All that high school students Kenny and Ted want is to not feel like outcasts in their small town in Ohio. But their world is turned upside down when the Magic Specs they ordered unlock a world of unforeseen possibilities. . . and consequences. Their fun starts out innocent enough, but when they wish that their bully would disappear, things take a cursed turn, with far darker results than they thought possible…

Channeling his love of 80’s sci-fi, fantasy, and horror, David M. Booher writes for TV, film, and comics. He co-created and wrote fan-favorite fantasy Canto from IDW, now in development as a motion picture with Will Smith’s Westbrook Studios and with David adapting the screenplay. David’s credits also include All-New Firefly for BOOM! Studios, Killer Queens from Dark Horse Comics, the comic adaptation of Joe Hill’s novella Rain for Image Comics, and Alien Bounty Hunter and Powerless from Vault Comics. An attorney by training, David lives in Los Angeles with his husband and the true brains behind their operation—their adopted greyhounds.

SPECS is my most personal story so far. As a gay kid who grew up in the Midwest, I know how it feels not to fit it. Kenny and Ted’s story as outsiders, filtered through the lenses of wish-granting novelty glasses, is my way of reminding that little kid that he’ll find his place in the world,” said Booher.

Chris Shehan is an American comic artist living in Austin, TX. They have been published by Vault Comics, Black Mask Studios, Scout Comics, A Wave Blue World, and Titan Books. Chris is best known as the artist for the bestselling series House of Slaughter from BOOM! Studios. They are also the artist and co-creator of The Autumnal from Vault Comics. They can be found on Twitter and Instagram @ChrisShehanArt.

“A story about a magic item that grants wishes… what could possibly go wrong?” said Shehan.  “David Booher, as usual, poured a lot of heart into SPECS and bringing that to life has been such a joy for me.”

SPECS #1 features main cover art by highly acclaimed artist Skylar Patridge (Trial of the Amazons), and variant covers by fan-favorite illustrators Kevin Wada (Buffy the Vampire Slayer), Chris Shehan (House of Slaughter), David Talaski (Nightwing), and more.

SPECS is ’80s adventure movies, supernatural horror, and small town kids going through some very strange events that will change them and their friendships forever,” said Elizabeth Brei, Editor, BOOM! Studios. “David and Chris have perfectly captured the chaos of teens caught in a trap of their own making and it’ll be up to you, dear readers, to find out if they manage to escape with their lives or sanity intact.”

SPECS is the newest release from BOOM! Studios’ eponymous imprint, home to critically acclaimed original series, including BRZRKR by Keanu Reeves, Matt Kindt, and Ron Garney; Something is Killing the Children by James Tynion IV and Werther Dell’Edera; Once & Future by Kieron Gillen and Dan Mora; We Only Find Them When They’re Dead by Al Ewing and Simone Di Meo; Seven Secrets by Tom Taylor and Daniele Di Nicuolo; The Many Deaths of Laila Starr by Ram V and Filipe Andrade; Basilisk by Cullen Bunn and Jonas Scharf; Grim by Stephanie Phillips and Flaviano; and the upcoming series Briar by Christopher Cantwell and Germán García, Stuff of Nightmares by R.L. Stine and A,L. Kaplan, Damn Them All by Si Spurrier and Charlie Adlard; The Approach by Jeremy Haun, Jason A. Hurley, and Jesus Hervas, and Behold, Behemoth by Tate Brombal and Nick Robles. The imprint also publishes popular licensed properties, including Dune: House Atreides from Brian Herbert, Kevin J. Anderson, and Dev Pramanik; Mighty Morphin and Power Rangers from Ryan Parrott, Mat Groom, Moises Hidalgo, and Marco Renna; and Magic from Jed McKay and Ig Guara.

Coming to comic book stores in November, I’m going to keep an eye out for SPECS #1 and definitely keep it in mind for when the trade paperbacks start coming.

Posted in Non-Fiction, picture books

Excelsior! Stan Lee has a picture book biography!

With Great Power: The Marvelous Stan Lee (An Unauthorized Biography), by Annie Hunter Eriksen/Illustrated by Lee Gatlin, (Oct. 2021, Page Street Kids), $18.99, ISBN: 9781645672852

Ages 4-8

Gone but never forgotten (or, if you’re like me, maybe you prefer to think he’s hanging out with The Watcher somewhere), Stan Lee changed the faces of comic books forever: from The Hulk and the Fantastic Four, to the X-Men and the Avengers, he collaborated with industry giants like Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, to give us heroes that were super AND human. With Great Power is a wonderful tribute to our “generalissimo”, beginning with Stanley Lieber’s spare childhood in New York City, his job at Timely Comics, which, along with his love of books and fantasy led to him becoming an editor while still in his teens, and ultimately, his work creating superheroes that have since become household names: Spider-Man, Iron Man, Doctor Strange, Black Panther, and so many more. The book even mentions “Stan’s Soapbox”, a column in Marvel comics where Stan would take on issues of the day like racism, sexism, and enjoying comics, no matter your age. (You can also buy the collected Soapboxes!) The comic book artwork is loaded with heroes that even casual fans will recognize; toned in sepia as we look back to Stan’s earlier years, things come to life when his career takes off. There’s a diverse crowd thronging as he walks a red carpet, a host of Marvel superheroes following him, and he’s surrounded by a diverse group of superhero fans, dressed as their favorites, at the story’s close. Back matter includes some more Stan facts and a bibliography, and endpapers are a collection of comic book exclamations, which you’ll also discover as you read the story. A fitting tribute for a man who gave his life to comic books. Make sure to check out the free activity guide. Display and booktalk with Boys of Steel by Marc Tyler Nobleman; the book profiles the lives of Superman creators Joe Shuster and Jerry Siegel.

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 Fiction, Intermediate, Teen, Tween Reads

Holiday Book Hurrah!

I know it’s been a few days, but I’m back! I had a big birthday (as in number, not celebration), and took a few days for introspection and thinking of where the next half century will take me. It was nice, there’s been hot cocoa and homemade cookies, and now I’m ready to embrace the full-on holiday season, snowstorm warnings (for NYC) and all. So let’s celebrate all things bookish!

DC Christmas Carols: We Wish You a Harley Christmas, by Daniel Kibblesmith, (Oct. 2020, Chronicle Books), $14.95, ISBN: 9781797207957

Ages 10+

Perfect for comics and pop culture fans, this little book of Christmas carols all have a DC comics spin, taking favorite characters and creating songs to the tunes of popular holiday classics. There are 31 songs in here, with household names and deeper cuts, sure to make everyone laugh. “Batman Baby”, to the tune of “Santa Baby”, is Catwoman’s plea to Bats let her get away with some mischief just once: “Batman baby, just let me get away this one time / It’s fine / I won’t do it again / Batman baby, you don’t have to be such a Dark Knight”. There’s “I Saw Lois Kissing Superman” – well, you can guess that one – and “We Wish You a Harley Christmas”. Illustrated with full-color contemporary and vintage artwork, you’ll see DC’s finest hanging out with snowmen, hoisting sleighs aloft, exchanging gifts, and racing Santa Claus. Artists featured include Alex Ross, George Pérez, Sergio Aragonès, Tim Sale, and John Byrne. C’mon, go beyond “Jingle Bells, Batman Smells” and embrace the joy of “The Twelve Days of Villains”.

A Kitten Called Holly (Jasmine Green Rescues), by Helen Peters/Illustrated by Ellie Snowdon, (Sept. 2020, Walker Books), $6.99, ISBN: 9781536215724

Ages 7-10

The newest in the Jasmine Green Rescues series is all about Holly, a kitten Jasmine and her best friend, Tom, rescue when they discover that the newborn kitten’s been abandoned when the mother cat was moving her litter! Jasmine and Tom help nurse the kitten to health as her mother explains the difference between feral and tame cats, and why feral cats don’t always make great pets, but when Jasmine asks to keep Holly, Dr. Singh puts her foot down: Jasmine already has a pet pig, a pet dog, and a pet duck; she intends to put Holly up for adoption as soon as she’s old enough! But what about Jasmine’s best friend, Tom, who loves Holly just as much as Jasmine does? Can he convince his mother to open her heart and home to a pet?

The Jasmine Green stories are gentle, with stories that will endear themselves to animal fiction fans. Jasmine and Tom’s genuine love for animals and the knowledge imparted by Jasmine’s veterinarian mother brings together fiction and straight talk for readers. Black and white illustrations throughout add to the story pacing and feel, and Helen Peters’ writing is so warm-hearted, every story ends up being a feel-good story about animals and fur-ever homes. A nice winter read, A Kitten Called Holly is best paired with a cat (real or plush) and a cup of hot chocolate.

Posted in Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

JULIE MURPHY NEWS FROM VALIANT!

I just got this email, and literally dropped what I was doing (scheduling a dentist appointment, but still) to get this post out. See, I’m not at New York Comic Con this year (waving at my friend, Esti, my son, and his girlfriend who braved the morass of the Javits Center today), so I’m living for everyone’s e-mails, tweets and Facebook posts. THIS email from comics publisher Valiant made me SO HAPPY: Julie Murphy, author of one of my fave YA reads, Dumplin’, is writing a YA novel about Faith, a character from the Valiant Universe that I absolutely love. Check out this gorgeous cover!

From Valiant:

Valiant Entertainment and HarperCollins Publishers imprint Balzer + Bray announced today a new series of young adult novels featuring Valiant comics characters, kicking off in Spring 2020 with FAITH: Taking Flight by #1 New York Times bestselling author Julie Murphy.

“We are always looking for masterful storytellers to bring our stories and characters to life in new and exciting mediums,” said Russell Brown, Valiant President of Consumer Products, Promotions & Ad Sales. “Julie Murphy is one of the best. Having read several of her previous YA novels, we knew she was the perfect author to write about one of our most popular characters, Faith Herbert. Through this and more Valiant YA novels to be announced, we can’t wait to introduce a new generation of fans to the Valiant Universe.”

Julie Murphy is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the books Side Effects May VaryDumplin’Ramona Blue, and Puddin’Dumplin’ was recently adapted into a Netflix original movie starring Danielle MacDonald and Jennifer Aniston.

“Collaborating with Valiant on FAITH: Taking Flight has been such a thrill! I’ve been able to write what I love—body positive stories about young people on the brink of self-discovery—while getting to stretch my legs and play in the world of comics and superheroes,” said Murphy. “Faith has come to mean quite a great deal to me as a plus-size icon and I’m so excited for longtime Faith fans to meet teenage Faith and for a whole new crop of readers to discover Faith and her world for the first time.”

FAITH: Taking Flight is the story of Faith Herbert, a regular teen, who, when she’s not hanging out with her two best friends, Matt and Ches, is volunteering at the local animal shelter or obsessing over the long-running teen drama The Grove. So far, her senior year has been spent trying to sort out her feelings for her maybe-crush Johnny and making plans to stay close to her Grandma Lou after graduation. Of course, there’s also that small matter of recently discovering that she can fly… and a super cool (to say the least!) new girl in town, one who Faith never in her wildest dreams ever thought she would get to meet.

“Julie Murphy’s books have helped change the conversation around body positivity in the YA industry,” stated Alessandra Balzer, VP, Co-Publisher, Balzer + Bray. “We are excited to partner with Julie and Valiant to bring this groundbreaking superhero’s story into the world.”

Faith, first created by Jim Shooter and David Lapham in 1992 for Valiant, received her first solo comic book series in January 2016 from writer Jody Houser and artists Francis Portela and Marguerite Sauvage and became an instant success, earning an Eisner Award nomination and praise from The Atlantic, Vox, NPR, Cosmopolitan, and many more. Today, she is one of Valiant’s most recognizable characters, and her adventures are published worldwide, available in 47 countries in 27 languages. Faith is also a key character in the Harbinger comics, a series about a group of enhanced individuals who band together to avoid being persecuted by government officials and exploited by large corporations. A Harbinger feature film is currently in development at Paramount Pictures under producers Neal H. Moritz and Toby Jaffe of Original Film and Dan Mintz, CEO of DMG Entertainment, the parent company of Valiant.

Valiant’s slate of forthcoming YA novels intend to feature younger versions of classic Valiant heroes as they learn to control their superpowers, battle evil elements, and deal with the trials of growing up. More announcements of the next books in the series will be made soon!
About Valiant Entertainment
Valiant Entertainment, a subsidiary of DMG Entertainment, founded by Dan Mintz, is a leading character-based entertainment company that owns and controls the third most extensive library of superheroes behind Marvel and DC. With more than 80 million issues sold and a library of over 2,000 characters, including X-O Manowar, Bloodshot, Harbinger, Shadowman, Archer & Armstrong, and many more, Valiant is one of the most successful publishers in the history of the comic book medium. For more information, visit Valiant on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and ValiantEntertainment.com. For Valiant merchandise and more, visit ValiantStore.com.

HarperCollins Children’s Books is one of the leading publishers of children’s and teen books. Respected worldwide for its tradition of publishing quality, award-winning books for young readers, HarperCollins is home to many timeless treasures and bestsellers such as Charlotte’s Web, Goodnight Moon, Where the Sidewalk Ends, Where the Wild Things Are, and The Hate U Give; series including The Chronicles of Narnia, Ramona, Warriors, A Series of Unfortunate Events, Pete the Cat, Fancy Nancy, Divergent, and Red Queen; and graphic and illustrated novels such as Nimona, Invisible Emmie, and New Kid.  Consistently at the forefront of digital innovation, HarperCollins Children’s Books delights readers through engaging storytelling across a variety of formats and platforms, including the largest young adult (YA) book community, Epic Reads.  HarperCollins Children’s Books is a division of HarperCollins Publishers, which is the second largest consumer book publisher in the world, has operations in 17 countries, and is a subsidiary of News Corp. You can visit HarperCollins Children’s Books at www.harpercollinschildrens.com and www.epicreads.com and HarperCollins Publishers at corporate.HC.com.

 

FOLKS, I AM BEYOND EXCITED. I love Julie Murphy’s writing style and her body confident characters. This is going to be a novel I keep an eye out for!

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Guide, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Comics: Easy as ABC! is essential kid and grownup reading!

Comics: Easy as ABC! The Essential Guide to Comics for Kids, by Ivan Brunetti, (Apr. 2019, TOON Books), $16.95, ISBN: 9781943145447

Ages 8-12

Ivan Brunetti and an all-star cast of comics luminaries put together a compulsively readable guide to cartooning and comics for kids and grownups alike. An Understanding Comics for younger readers, Comics: Easy as ABC! introduces kids to the joy of cartooning and doodling; drawing characters whose faces and body language communicate emotion and personality; perspective; point of view; lettering, and so much more. There are quotes and excerpts of comic panels and drawings by such comics and graphic novel notables including Neil Gaiman, Elise Gravel, Liniers, and Jeff Smith. TOON Editorial Director and New Yorker art editor Françoise Mouly notes, in her introduction, that she hopes Comics: Easy as ABC! encourages more people to fall in love with comics and to inspire budding cartoonists.

This is such a great volume to have as a desk reference for librarians, parents, and educators, because it’s a crash course in understanding comics. It gives a language to the artwork, letting us look at all art – comic books, naturally, but picture books and illustrated chapter books, too – and explain to readers how to read art; how to decipher facial expressions and body language, how to read a landscape and understand a setting for a panel or spread. The book encourages readers to “draw their own conclusions” by letting them fill in the ending of a comic strip drawn by Pulitzer Prize-winning author and artist Art Spiegelman, and “find their own voices”, with guidance from author Eleanor Davis. A section dedicated to parents, teachers, and librarians guides us grown-ups through the process of how to read comics with kids, with examples, advice, and callout tips like, “The child who makes informed guesses is reading. Enjoy, and hold back from correcting”. Information about the TOON Into Reading Program explains TOON’s leveled reading (also broken further into Lexile, Guided Reading, Reading Recovery, and grade levels). An index, further resources, and a bibliography round out this information-packed guide to the world of comics and graphic novels.

TOON! does it again. This is an essential volume for your graphic novels shelves, and for your desk reference. There’s a 7-page free, downloadable Teacher’s Guide available on the website.

Posted in Fiction, Middle Grade, Realistic Fiction, Tween Reads

The Dollar Kids: Starting over, and fitting in

The Dollar Kids, by Jennifer Richard Jacobson/Illustrated by Ryan Andrews, (Aug. 2018, Candlewick), $17.99, ISBN: 9780763694746

Recommended for readers 9-13

Lowen Grover is a 12-year-old artist is using his comic book artwork to cope with the gun-related death of his young friend, Abe. He just wants to get away: away from the memories of Abe and the shooting; away from his neighborhood, where everyone knows. When he sees an article about a former mill town, Millville, holding a lottery of dollar homes to bring new life into the town, he mentions it to his parents, who apply and secure a home. It’s a chance for his family to own their own home, and a chance for his mother to start up a business, but rural life isn’t what Lowen expected, and the Millville families aren’t as welcoming to the new “Dollar Kids” and their families as he’d hoped. As the Grovers and the other new families try to make inroads into their new town, Lowen works through his grief and tries to rediscover friendship, his love for art, and his place in the community.

The Dollar Kids unpacks a lot of ideas and moments, and it’s beautifully done by author Jennifer Richard Jacobson and illustrator Ryan Andrews. It’s a book about grief and loss, and the guilt that comes with grief. It’s also about friendship, and accepting friendship, even when one doesn’t think he or she deserves it. It’s a book about family. Finally, it’s a book about acceptance. Lowen is grieving the loss of a kid who was somewhat of a friend; a younger kid who hung around him constantly; he embraces this chance to start a new life in a rural town, but he and his family discover that a dollar home takes a great emotional and financial toll; the families in Millville don’t like change much, even when it’s to benefit their town, and feel almost contemptuous toward the newcomers. The characters are realistic and relatable, with the author giving as much attention to her supporting characters as she does her main characters. The comic book artwork by Ryan Andrews is an outlet for Lowen, and helps readers work through his grief with him.

A great middle grade book for realistic fiction readers. Explain to readers that dollar homes do, in fact, exist, and what the stigmas associated with buying a foreclosed home could entail: how may the Millvillians see the families that purchase them, in light of the town’s history? I’d booktalk this with Beth Vrabel’s Blind Guide to Stinkville and The Doughnut Fix by Jessie Janowitz, both of which look at life in a rural community, and The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin and Lisa Graff’s Lost in the Sun for addressing grief.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Books for Intermediate Readers – a new Stink!, Monsters, and friendship

Stink: Hamlet & Cheese, by Megan McDonald/Illustrated by Peter H. Reynolds,
(March 2018, Candlewick), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763691639
Recommended for readers 7-10

Judy Moody’s brother is back with his 11th adventure – and he’s going to Shakespeare camp! Stink and his friend Sophie head to camp for spring break, where they’ll learn to sword fight and yell silly curses, like “fat guts” and “stewed prune”. The only problem? Riley Rottenberger is at Shakespeare camp, too, and she’s determined to land a kiss on Stink! Stink does his best to avoid Riley while getting ready to act in the camp’s production of the Scottish play… yes, the Play That Shall Not Be Named (psst… it’s MacBeth). This latest story is loaded with black and white illustrations, callout boxes of Shakespeare insults and fun facts, and a good story for Stink and Judy Moody fans.  For readers who want to learn a little more about Shakespeare, a copy of Where’s Will? Find Shakespeare Hidden in His Plays (Kane Miller, 2016) combines Shakespeare with Where’s Waldo; the Stratford Zoo graphic novel series depicts zoo animals putting on Shakespearean plays with loads of backstage hilarity.

 

Cody and the Heart of a Champion, by Tricia Springstubb/Illustrated by Eliza Wheeler,
(Apr. 2018, Candlewick), $14.99, ISBN: 9780763679217
Recommended for readers 7-10

Cody’s fourth adventure has her dealing with life’s changes. Her friendship with Pearl is changing, especially now that she’s playing soccer and “in” with the “in crowd”, and she’s not sure why her friend Spencer is acting so weird. His mom is having a baby, and he’s become more quiet and withdrawn. Cody joins the soccer team, to try and stay close with Pearl, but the resident mean girl doesn’t make things easy. She’s determined to stay upbeat and try to roll with the changes, but when so much is changing all at once, it’s really hard. Readers will understand and empathize with Cody and how hard it is when everything seems to hit at once: friendships shift, seasons change, and families expand. There are black and white illustrations throughout and the upbeat tone of the book should help kids as they deal with their own transitions.

 

Simone: Even More Monstrous! (Simone, Vol. 2), by Rémy Simard,
(Apr. 2018, OwlKids), $16.95, ISBN: 9781771473002
Recommended for readers 6-10

This graphic novel is loaded with brief, one-page comics about Simone, a little blond girl, who travels into a world of monsters. If anyone remembers The Munsters (totally dating myself here), the running joke was that cousin Marilyn, the pretty blonde, was the “poor girl” for being so unattractive in The Munsters’ society; that joke holds here. Cute, little Simone is the monster in the monsters’ world, but they seem to enjoy her company, nonetheless. The graphic novel is loaded with independent stories, all one page, with a punchline at the end. They’re downright silly, sometimes surreal, and will get laughs out of readers. The first volume, Simone: The Best Monster Ever!, released last year.

 

Posted in geek, geek culture, Humor, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Love at ComicCon: The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love

geek's guideThe Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, by Sarvenaz Tash (June 2016, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers), $17.99, ISBN: 9781481456531

Recommended for ages 13+

Sixteen year-olds Graham and Roxana are the best of friends, sharing a love of Harry Potter, comics, and all things geek. Lately, though, Graham has started feeling more than just friendship for Roxy. He’s decided that New York Comic Con is the place to declare his undying love to her, especially since Robert Zinc – the reclusive creator of their all-time favorite comic book,The Chronicles of Althena – is going to be there! AND there’s going to be a John Hughes retrospective! It’s the perfect romantic setting, right? Unfortunately, not everything goes as planned, and Graham realizes that what looks good on paper is often very different from what works in real life. But he also may learn that surprises show up in the most unusual places: like ComicCon.

This was the sweetest, wackiest YA romance I’ve read in ages. I loved all the comic and geek world references, and I’ll be the first to admit I kinda had a moment when I realized that the beloved John Hughes movies of my adolescence are now awesome retro movies to today’s teens. (I loved it, I just can’t comprehend that Andie and Blaine shared a prom kiss 30 years ago.) Graham is one of those good guys that you really want to see get a break, and his long-suffering buddy Casey is hilarious as the semi-clueless foil to Graham’s hopeless/helpless romantic. The characters didn’t feel like caricatures; they lived and breathed and interacted in the bookspace, which I appreciated.

Display and booktalk this one with Rainbow Rowell’s Fangirl and, if you’re lucky enough to have scored a copy, her book, Kindred Spirits. If you’re having a comic con event at your library this summer, this is a perfect book to evangelize to the masses. For the burgeoning fangirls, make sure to put out a copy of Sam Maggs’ awesome Fangirl’s Guide to the Galaxy, so they can check out references to Firefly, The Princess Bride, and Harry Potter. Show some John Hughes movies, while you’re at it!

Sarvenaz Tash writes YA and middle grade books. Her author site has links to more information about them, plus links to social media, events, and news.

 

Posted in Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Cinnamon Girl: A Superheroine teens can get behind!

cinnamon girlThe Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, by Melissa Keil (April 2016, Peachtree Publishers), $17.95, ISBN: 9781561459056

Recommended for ages 13+

Alba is a teen who loves her life just the way it is. She and her mom live behind the bakery her mother runs in Eden Valley, a small, South Australian town. She loves Wonder Woman, comics and pop culture, and her close-knit group of friends, especially her best friend, Grady. Everything is pretty perfect – until it’s not.

First, a YouTube video from some wacko doomsday preacher goes viral. The problem? He claims that Eden Valley will be the one safe spot on the planet, which brings doomsday fanatics flooding into the Valley, setting up campsites on any available patch of land. Then, Daniel Gordon arrives on the scene: Alba and Grady’s childhood friend who went on to become a B-list heartthrob on a nighttime TV soap opera. He’s giving off signals that cause some confusing feelings for Alba, especially when Grady starts acting even weirder. Even Cinnamon Girl, Alba’s superheroine creation, is stumping her lately; she just can’t seem to find inspiration for Cinnamon’s continuing adventures. Can she get all of this worked out before the world ends?

I loved this book! There are fantastic comic book and pop culture references (Wonder Woman fans will be especially thrilled), and Alba is a great protagonist and teen role model. She’s body-positive, with an early conversation about her body and breasts that made me laugh out loud; she thinks she’s aware of who she is and her place in the world, until the outside world intrudes on the little bubble she’s created for herself and she finds herself faced with some big decisions.

This is an end of times story, but not necessarily the end of times you think it is. It’s a crossroads story, an end of childhood story, and for many people, entering adulthood and leaving high school behind can feel like it’s all coming to an end. I loved Alba’s narration and found it real; believable. Alba’s snarky narration is wonderful and refreshing, particularly when the world seems to be showing up on her doorstep and appear to have left their manners at home. The black and white comic art throughout the book made me really want to see a Cinnamon Girl comic book. Maybe we’ll get some further adventures of Alba, with prose and a graphic novel woven together to create a narrative a la I Am Princess X? Probably not, but that’s okay – The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl is a standout, standalone novel that Rainbow Rowell fans will devour. This book will also make a great graduation gift for the teens in your life; let them know that you know adulting is hard, but this book will help ease the transition.

Melissa Keil is an Australian author whose debut novel, Life in Outer Space, won the 2013 Ampersand Project (and which is now on my TBR). Cinnamon Girl has been shortlisted for the 2015 Children’s Book Council of Australia Book of the Year. Check out her author website for more info on her books!