Posted in Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Join The Bug Club!

The Bug Club, by Elise Gravel, (Aug. 2021, Drawn & Quarterly), $17.95, ISBN: 9781770464155

Ages 6-10

I adore Elise Gravel’s graphic novels. Her latest, The Bug Club, is part autobiography, part STEM study; just like her Mushroom Fan Club (2018). We learn that Elise Gravel has always been fascinated by bugs, and, using her friendly, cartoon style, presents a wide range of fascinating and adorable bugs for readers to enjoy with her. It’s a good introduction to etymology; she gives an overview of invertebrates and what makes them members of that club; she illustrates wing shapes, antenna shapes, provides an overview of life cycles, and offers illustrations of baby vs. adult types of bugs, like wasps, ladybugs, and dragonflies. We even get profiles on some of her favorite bugs, with full-page illustrations and a brief discussion of tardigrades, dung beetles, and others. Loaded with fun facts, Ms. Gravel encourages kids to use their imaginations and think about bugs as cool aliens. Her writing is easy to read, easy to understand, and makes the science of bug-watching just plain fun. Great for young readers, you can go over colors, count numbers of bugs, wings, eyes, horns, or legs. Get creative! Encourage your own kiddos to start their own nature journals (you know I love my nature journals) and sketch pictures of the bugs they may discover in books or in the park (remember; take only pictures, leave only footprints).

Visit Elise Gravel’s page on Drawn and Quarterly for more about her graphic novels; visit Elise Gravel’s webpage for fun activities and downloadables for your kiddos and your libraries and classrooms.

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

YA graphic novel roundup

These three graphic novels, all sent to me by Drawn & Quarterly for review, are smart additions to your young adult bookshelves. One of the biggest challenges in my graphic novels section in the YA area is making sure to strike a balance between the Marvel/DC/Image/superhero trades that circulate like wildfire, and building a strong graphic novel collection in the same fashion as I would build a middle grade or college fiction collection. There’s great literary fiction out there, and while middle grade is certainly experiencing a renaissance of graphic novel material these days, there is great stuff for your teens and young adults, too. Also not to be missed is the growing trend toward graphic autobiographies and memoirs – Mira Jacob’s Good Talk made a splash when it pubbed in 2018 – which makes for layered storytelling and allows readers to see subtlety in facial expressions, lighting, and details that may miss emphasis with merely written words.

Drawn and Quarterly and Fantagraphics are two houses I turn to, time and again, for graphic novels for my T/YA/Adult shelves. of I hope you will, too.

Perfect Example, by John Porcellino, (Feb. 2021, Drawn and Quarterly), $19.95, ISBN: 9781770464681

Ages 16+

Perfect Example is the author John Porcellino’s look back at the time between the end of high school and beginning of college. John P, as he’s known through the book – seriously, there are at least 3 guys named John in this – moves through house parties, hanging out with friends, a kinda-sorta girlfriend, and depression. It’s not something he can easily shake, and it rides on his shoulder through the book. Mr. Porcellino expertly captures the malaise and going-through-the-motions feel of depression fog of depression in his story, and the back matter, where he recounts his “resume and relevant information”; a biographical sketch. Black and white illustrations throughout are unfussy. Add Perfect Example to your shelves for its realistic look at lingering depression. John Porcellino’s a zinester whose website includes links to his Patreon, his books – most notably, King Cat, and his social media.

 

Okay, Universe: Chronicles of a Woman in Politics, by Valérie Plante/Illustrated by Delphie Côté-Lacroix, Translated by Helge Dascher, (Dec. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $21.95, ISBN: 9781770464117

Ages 13+

Valérie Plante’s fictional memoir of taking on the male-dominated political scene to become the first woman elected Mayor of Montreal, Okay, Universe introduces us to Simone Simoneau, a wife and mother who decides that she’s “hit a plateau” at her job; when her community volunteering leads to the chance to run for municipal office. The story follows her through the relentless door-knocking, hand-shaking, and life juggling she undertakes on her path to the election. The story calls out gender inequality, from graffiti on her campaign posters to her mother praising Simone’s partner, Hugo, for “helping” rather than “doing his share”. The book focuses on Simone’s dedication to community service and the betterment of the quality of life for everyone, as well as her dedication to her family, and how hard that balancing act can be. The artwork is colorful, and readers will love reading this birds-eye view of entering the political arena.

 

The Contradictions, by Sophie Yanow, (Sept. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $24.95, ISBN: 9781770464070

Ages 16+

A fictionalized account of author Sophie Yanow’s life as a student abroad in Paris, The Contradictions introduces us to Sophie, a queer student studying art in Paris because she liked Paris’s comics. Lonely and looking for connection, she meets two New York students, one of whom is Zena, an anarchist-activist-vegan who shoplifts for her basic needs. The two decide to head out on a hitchhiking trip to Amsterdam and Berlin, where they dabble in couch surfing, drugs, and exploring. The book captures the time in college when an individual is still figuring themself out, trying on new ideas, and exploring the world around them. The black and white artwork is simple and uncluttered, with dialogue being the main point. This won’t be everyone’s book, but those who like road tripping memoirs should give this a look. The Contradictions was a webcomic from 2018-2020, and is an Eisner award winner. It also has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly.

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

More Graphic Novels!

I’ve got more graphic novels! Let’s get to it.

Nori, by Rumi Hara, (May 2020, Drawn & Quarterly), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-77046-397-4

Ages 10+

Three-year old Noriko – Nori, for short – lives in Japan’s Osaka suburbs and spends most of her time with her grandmother while her parents are working. Set in the 1980s, Nori is all about a little girl’s adventures as she explores the world around her, accompanied by her best friend: her grandmother. The book contains five short stories and is infused with Japanese culture; the events of World War II still reverberate with the adults around Nori, and cultural festivals bring the excitement of the city alive in the pages. Nori brings childhood memories alive for readers: a part in a school play; chasing rabbits and watching neighborhood kids play with crawfish and beetles; she even wins a trip to Hawaii for herself and her grandmother, which leads to a healing moment for a family who’s lost their own matriarch. Black and white artwork has one-color moments for contrast and interest. Nori is a celebration of childhood and the special relationship between a child and grandparent and middle school-aged readers and young teens will especially love this.

Nori has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Read an interview with Rumi Hara on We Need Diverse Books, and visit her website for more information about her work. Nori is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

 

Marge’s Little Lulu: The Fuzzythingus Poopi, by John Stanley, (Sept. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $29.95, ISBN: 9781770463660

Ages 6+

This collection takes me back to my childhood in the best of ways. I used to read Little Lulu reprints when I was growing up, alongside issues of Richie Rich, Casper, and Archie, to name a few. Little Lulu comics were all about the adventures of Little Lulu Moppet and her best friend/frenemy, Tubby; originally published by Dell Comics in the 1940s and 1950s, they’re all about childhood adventures like having snowball fights, trying to gain admission to the “No Girls Allowed” clubhouse, telling stories to a sick friend, and various – hilarious – money-making schemes. This is Drawn and Quarterly’s second Lulu collection, and is filled with reprinted Lulu and Tubby comics, “Lulu’s Diry” diary pages that ran in individual issues, and a cover gallery. The stories are loaded with imagination, like the clip where Lulu houses a ghost who’s been ousted when the house they haunt is torn down; imagines herself in a desert and has to retrieve a nickel from a sewer grate (still in the desert!) by using strands of her hair, leaving her bald. She foils a burglar claiming to be Santa Claus because “he didn’t have a twinkle in his eye!”, and rallies the neighborhood girls together to fight back when they find themselves targeted for snowball attacks by the boys.

Great for new readers who want fun, day-to-day stories of childhood and adults who grew up with Lulu, Tubby, and Alvin. This is a keeper. Read more about The Fuzzythingus Poopi and read an excerpt at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s page; discover the impact Little Lulu has had on comics, culture, and feminism through this Comics Alliance article and this New Yorker piece.

 

Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter, by Brea Grant, (Oct. 2020, Six Foot Press), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1644420294

Ages 12-16

Mary is perfect for every goth tween and teen you know. She’s the 5 times great-granddaughter of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, and she’s from a family of overachieving women dedicated to that legacy. They’re all writers of renown, especially her superstar author mom, who can’t understand… Mary’s ennui? Lack of interest? The fact that she’s not an overachiever in school or life just yet? The thing is, Mary does have a very special family gift, and it makes its debut in these very pages. Mary can heal monsters. Actual, real-life monsters do exist, and Mary discovers that one night when she reattaches one walking dead guy’s foot. He tells his friends, and they tell their friends… and so on, and so on, and so on, as the old commercial goes. Monsters of all sorts show up at Mary’s with some amusing results, and Mary doesn’t know what to do with herself and this gift! Does she walk away from this gift, or does she embrace it?

Work with me: this is relatable! Teens feel the pressure to know what they want to do with their lives by the time they’re seniors in high school. Imagine the stress of being Mary Shelley’s descendant? When there’s a shrine to your many times-great grandmother, who wrote an enduring classic at the age of 19, in your very own home? Imagine discovering you are good at something… it just happens to be something unusual, or different, and the extra stress that can carry with it! Mary is a teen trying to find her way in a family of high-achieving, highly valued women, and isn’t quite sure that being known for healing monsters is what she wants to be known for. To accept her gift and embrace herself is a journey that most tweens and teens can get on board with. Brea Grant’s moody artwork gives great atmosphere to the story, and the dialogue is wonderfully snarky and introspective all at once. Please buy this for your collections and the readers in your life.

Don’t believe me? EW has an excerpt and article on it. Check it out.

 

The League of Super Feminists, by Mirion Malle/Translated by Aleshia Jensen, (Oct. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770464025

Ages 12+

A fantastic guide to feminism for tweens, teens, and beyond, The League of Super Feminists explains the basics of feminism: YES! you can still enjoy princess movies! NO! You don’t have to hate men! What we need everyone – EVERYONE – to understand is how to critically evaluate the media that makes men knights and dragon slayers, and women damsels in distress. That women don’t come in one size: skinny, white, blonde. That women need to build one another up, not tear each other down. That boys and girls can be friends! Diving into such topics as gender, representation, inclusivity, consent, and beauty, The League of Super Feminists uses a range of characters to illustrate and explain these concepts and deconstruct myths and falsehoods for readers. Written like a conversation between the friends, the book is fun, upbeat, and playful, but always self-aware and smart. Mirion Malle never talks down to readers; it’s straight talk that lets everyone know that feminism is good for all, leads to healthy thinking and self-image. A great beginning to an ongoing conversation. See an excerpt on publisher Drawn and Quarterly‘s webpage. Aleishia Jensen’s translation from the original French to English is flawless and picks up all the nuances set forth by Mirion Malle.

Read more about The League of Super Feminists at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s webpage, including an excerpt on representation. Read an interview with Mirion Malle on We Need Diverse Books.

Psst… makes an excellent holiday gift for the tween in your life. Just saying. The League of Super Feminists is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

And one to look forward to!

 

Forever Home, by Jenna Ayoub, (Feb. 2021, Boom! Studios), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684156030

Ages 9-13

This sweet, funny haunted house story is perfect reading for kids who are big on comedy. Willow’s a girl who’s been raised all over the world: her parents are in the Army, and that means moving around every couple of years. She’s had to say goodbye to friends too many times, and she doesn’t want to move again! Her parents have just bought Hadleigh House, an old, pink house in need of some TLC, and Willow is happy to finally set down roots: but Gladys and Viola, the ghostly Hadleigh sisters, want their home all to themselves – and the two ghosts that live with them, the Lady and Thomas, a World War I veteran. The sisters raise a ruckus, but they don’t count on the fact that Willow can see and hear them, and she lets them know she isn’t going anywhere. A touching story of belonging and family, Willow is a smart kid who has no problem digging in her heels to stay in the home she loves; Viola and Gladys are delightfully mischievous ghosts, and The Lady’s habit of killing husbands and fiancees is played for laughs as it’s alluded to, never quite addressed. Thomas’s backstory is poignant, and he emerges as a sweet, almost tragic figure. Forever Home has a little bit of comedy, a touch of bittersweet, and enough affection to make this a sure bet for readers who get a kick out of spooky comedies like The Addams Family and The Boxtrolls. Good for middle grade, great for middle school.

 

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

The Worst Book Ever is hilarious!

The Worst Book Ever, by Elise Gravel, (May 2019. Drawn & Quarterly), $17.95, ISBN: 9781770463639

Ages 5-10

Elise Gravel’s work always makes me smile, and her newest book, The Worst Book Ever, made me laugh out loud. Three characters come together to comment on the worst fairy tale ever as it unfolds. They’re annoyed by standard fairy tale tropes, like the “beautiful prinsess and brave prinse”; they criticize typos, illustration, and writing style, all for laughs. The commentary is laugh-out-loud funny, and the visuals are bold, bright, and wonderfully odd. The fourth wall is more than broken; it’s demolished as coffee stains and cookie crumbs dot the pages and our main characters call out lack of diversity, literary clichés, and weak female characters. One character makes a list of all the spelling mistakes found in the book always good for a prize for anyone who can catch them all. As the story descends into madness, the characters become more confused, and your readers will laugh even harder.

The Worst Book Ever can be a good companion when talking about short story writing. Point out issues the characters have with the story as it develops, and see what your readers chime in with. Can they fix the narrative?

Lest I leave out the most important part: there’s bathroom humor. I quote: “Poopie Peepee Fart Booger”. So this is basically kid gold.

Add this to your graphic novel shelves and watch it fly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A concept classic returns! Yellow Yellow by Frank Asch & Mark Alan Stamaty

Yellow Yellow, by Frank Asch/Illustrated by Mark Alan Stamaty, (May 2019, Drawn & Quarterly), $15.95, ISBN: 9781770463585

Ages 2-6

Originally published in 1971, Yellow Yellow is back for a new generation of readers. A boy finds a bright yellow hat as he goes walking in the city one day. He wanders the streets, wearing the hat, until he finally meets up with the hat’s owner: a burly construction worker, who needs his hat back. When the boy goes home, he makes his own yellow hat.

Yellow Yellow has vintage ’70s artwork that just explodes across the page, and the story is truly written in a different time; the boy wanders crowded urban streets with no parental guidance, walking along a construction site loaded with screws, pipe fittings, and paint cans; passes blocks jammed with small storefronts, like a barbershop, a bookstore, and a deli; and passes through a lunch counter joint, where he weighs himself on a scale that costs a penny. This is the urban New York landscape of my childhood, and I love every single second I spend with this boy and his stroll. Tiny details abound, providing a feast for the sharp-eyed reader. The black and white scratchy ink drawings have yellow touches for effect and appear like 1970s-era mandalas for Gen Xers like myself. Mark Alan Stamaty made each 2-page spread filled with things to see, from the paint cans that offer inspirational messages (read ’em!) to the boys’ room at home, walls covered in pictures of planes, numbers, and letters. Surreal touches dot the artwork, too: the boy has fish in a birdcage, and two birds thriving in a clearly full fish tank. At the lunch counter, a live frog waits under one glass dome, while a bird makes a nest in another. Hope they’re not on the menu!

If you love the old school Sesame Street music cutaways, like the famous pinball “12” song, Yellow Yellow will hit you right in the heartstrings. Right this to your kidlings, play the Number 12 song, and have plenty of yellow construction paper handy to make yellow hats.

Frank Asch went on to create the classic Moonbear books, and Mark Alan Stamaty wrote another children’s classic, Who Needs Donuts, in 1973.

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

Three graphic novels you should NOT miss!

It’s been a busy few months! I realized that some really good graphic novels passed their book birthdays, but that’s no reason not to shout about them! I’ve got a little something for most here – see what’s good!

Aquicorn Cove, by Katie O’Neill, (Oct. 2018, Oni Press), $12.99, ISBN: 9781620105290

Ages 8-12

The third outing from Princess Princess Ever After and Tea Dragon Society author/illustrator Katie O’Neill is another hit! A girl named Lana and her widowed father return to their seaside hometown to help her Aunt Lana – her mother’s sister – clean up after a storm devastated the community and discovers more about her mother, her aunt, and the magical underwater creatures whose fate is tied directly to the surface. A tender, thoughtful story about humanity and our relationship to our world, Aquicorn Cove explores at grief and loss, sustainability, and community. This timely – and yet, timeless – story has soft, warm artwork with lush scenery and gentle faces; diversity above and below the water, and a sweet, hinted-at relationship between Aunt Lana and the queen of the aquicorns. Put this one on your shelves if you don’t have it already. Also makes a great holiday gift.

Katie O’Neill is a two-time Eisner Award winner and a Harvey Award winner.

 

Beautiful Darkness, by Fabien Vehlmann & Kerascoët, (Oct. 2018, Drawn & Quarterly), $17.95, ISBN: 9781770463363

Ages 13+

Do not let a first glance at this cover deceive you: this is NOT a kids’ title. Take a closer look at that cover. That’s no leaf the little blonde pixie is standing next to: it’s a human hand. The story itself is grisly: what would happen if a little girl died in a forest, and a small, vicious, fairy society sprang up around her? Originally released in French in 2014, this is a dark fantasy; an anti-fairy tale that will grab the eyeballs of your horror readers. The sweet artwork is in direct conflict with the grisly, often bleak storyline; small moments within each panel pop up to remind us that we are not in an adorable, cotton candy fairy world: the fairies ransack an opened purse, and we see a little boot lying nearby; a character sits, hungry, in an outstretched hand, surrounded by worms, as she waits for food. The watercolor artwork is stunning, which makes the story of backstabbing, betrayal, and murder all the more nightmarish. This one is a headtrip, but worth the ride for horror and dark fantasy readers. Clearly mark this one so it stays in your teen or adult graphic novel areas. Beautiful Darkness has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

 

Lumberjanes: The Infernal Compass, by Lilah Sturges/Illustrated by polterink, (Oct. 2018, Boom! Studios), $14.99, ISBN: 978-1684152520

Ages 9+

One of my favorite comic book titles – seriously, Lumberjanes always brings the goods – has a brand new original graphic novel! Lumberjanes, for those not in the know, is basically the X-Files meets summer camp as a group of girls in the Roanoke House at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types: Friendship to the Max! In this installment, the Janes are off on an orienteering outing (finding your way with a map and compass), but one of the compasses is a little… off. When the friends start disappearing one by one, Molly knows something is up – and when she meets a strange female explorer who claims that she has no need of friends, she knows something is up! The Eisner- and GLAAD Award-winning series explores sensitive topics about relationships, gender, and sexuality in an upbeat, fun environment; this latest adventure is no different. The awkwardness of going from being “one” to “partnered” is a main plot point here as Molly’s and Mal’s relationship develops; April even bestows a “ship name” on the duo, which really makes it weird for poor Molly. Throw in a lost in time explorer, a mysterious compass, and some automaton butlers, and you’ve got a true Lumberjanes adventure. Usually a full-color comic, Infernal Compass is in black and white, with green accents to highlight the supernatural bits. The comic’s first issue is a bonus, included at the end, to orient new readers. Stock up on your Lumberjanes trades if you don’t already have them: this is a middle grade-and-up series (and there are middle grade books, too!) you want to have available to your readers.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

More Moomins! The Moomins and the Great Flood

The Moomins and the Great Flood, by Tove Jansson, (July 2018, Drawn and Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770463288

Ages 7-12

This Moomin tale is an illustated novel, rather than a picture book or graphic novel, and gives us a bit of a Moomin origin story. Moominmama and little Moomintroll are in search of a winter home, and in search of Moominpapa, whose restless nature led him to wander off with the Hattifatteners. As they wander through a precariously dark forest, they meet a small creature who joins their journey, despite being a bit cranky; they also meet a beautiful, blue-haired girl who lives in a tulip. Throughout the arduous journey, Moominmama and Moomintroll face each adventure with courage and kindness, helping every creature they meet, always hoping that maybe… just maybe… their journey will reunite them with Moominpapa.

Originally written during the 1939-1940 Finnish-Soviet Union conflict, The Moomins and the Great Flood was author Tove Jansson’s escape from the horrors of war. She uses a catastrophic flood to unite her characters, who could even be seen as refugees, all experiencing some kind of loss, displacement, or danger from the flood. The sepia and white artwork lends an old-world feel to the artwork, and the prose reads like adventure stories I read growing up. The book is relentlessly optimistic, with moments of near despair; it illustrates perseverance and the strength of family units when facing adversity. I’ll booktalk this with picture books like Nicola Davies’ The Day War Came and the Children in Our World book series.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Intermediate, picture books

Grab your passport! These picture books will take your imagination on an adventure!

An Atlas of Imaginary Places, by Mia Cassany/Illustrated by Ana de Lima, (March 2018, Prestel), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791373478

Recommended for readers 5-10

How do you not love a book that came together over coffee and carrot cake? An Atlas of Imaginary Places came together when author Mia Cassany and Ana de Lima did just that; talking about the places they pictured in their minds and dreams, they came up with “colors and languages for an atlas that would never exist… Or would it?” Bursting with color, islands, and mountains; with animals that change their coats every time someone sneezes, and volcanoes that spit lava made of bubble gum, the places in this atlas provide something new and exciting with each turn of the page.

This is the kind of book that begs for multiple readings. Every spread offers a new place with new wonders, and you’ll notice something new each time. There are cities, oceans, jungles, and islands waiting to be explored by readers who can get lost in their pages. Send your little ones to bed with a page or two, setting the stage for wonderful dreams, or ask your readers to add to the landscape and come up with their own exciting places and inhabitants. This is the kind of book that makes readers love reading; this is the kind of storytelling that sets the stage for creativity. Give this to your explorers and dreamers, and display with books like Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, Adele in Sandland, or Wallpaper. An Atlas of Imaginary Places was originally released in Spain in 2016.

 

The Dangerous Journey, by Tove Jansson, (Apr. 2018, Drawn & Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770463202

Recommended for readers 6+

Originally published in 1977 in Finland and translated to English in 2010, this Moomin adventure was the last picture book completed by beloved artist and author Tove Jansson. A young girl named Susanna is bored and irritable; her cat, being a cat, is curled up on the grass, enjoying the beautiful day, which seems to annoy Susanna even more. When a new pair of glasses just appears next to her, she tries them on and is transported to a fantastic land, where, though frightened, she sets off on a new adventure. She meets a group of fellow travelers who seem to know who she is: Hemulen (who readers familiar with Moomin will recognize), and friends from Moomin Valley:  Bob and Thingummy, Sniff, and Snufkin. Together, the group treads through surreal, creepy landscapes, braving volcanoes, storms, and monsters, until they reach Moomin Valley and safety.

The Dangerous Journey is a surreal adventure fit for kids and adults alike. The Dangerous Journey‘s rhyming text begs for a read-aloud, and Tove Jansson’s watercolor artwork appeals to the eyes and the imagination. The book’s final message also makes this a good graduation gift á la  Dr. Seuss’ Oh, The Places You’ll Go!: “Whether things turned out okay/She’s never going to know./When adventure comes your way/Enjoy it. Let it go.” This is a picture book classic to add to your collections; introduce it to readers of all ages who haven’t yet met the Moomins. You can meet the characters in Moomin, and see which character you’d be at the Moomin website.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Non-Fiction

Join Elise Gravel’s Mushroom Fan Club!

The Mushroom Fan Club, by Elise Gravel, (May 2018, Drawn & Quarterly), $17.95, ISBN: 978-1-77046-322-6

Recommended for readers 6-12

Artist and author Elise Gravel’s newest book, The Mushroom Fan Club, is its own little science comic! Elise Gravel and her family love going mushroom hunting, and The Mushroom Fan Club shares that sense of fun and adventure with readers. Beginning with an illustration of Gravel, her daughters, and cats heading out to explore, Gravel narrates why she’s fascinated with mushrooms: they look like aliens from outer space! They come in all different sizes and shapes! She proceeds to teach readers what she’s learned about mushrooms, from biology (parts, reproduction, environment) to the different types of mushrooms. She exercises caution, exhorting readers NOT TO EAT mushrooms they may encounter on their own, as many are poisonous; even illustrating mushrooms warning readers that they can “make you very, very sick! And even worse!” The Mushroom Fan Club is loaded with fun facts, bright illustrations in Elise Gravel’s immediately recognizable style, and fun mushroom-related art activities.

I’m a big Elise Gravel fan, so if she illustrated a box of cereal, I’d eat it and suggest it for literary honors. I love this fun twist on earth science nonfiction; she makes graphic nonfiction interesting and memorable. If you haven’t read her biography on The Great Antonio, I highly recommend it. Check out an excerpt of The Mushroom Fan Club on the Drawn and Quarterly website, and visit Elise Gravel’s author webpage for free printables of all sorts. Read The Mushroom Fan Club in a science program, read it at dinner time, just read it and have fun with it!

Posted in Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

Take a peek inside Elise Gravel’s Journal…

If Found Please Return to Elise Gravel, by Elise Gravel, (June 2017, Drawn & Quarterly), $17.95, ISBN: 9781770462786

Recommended for ages 7+

Ever wonder what an artist’s journal looks like? What thoughts, doodles, and ideas wait within the pages? Wonder no longer: If Found Please Return to Elise Gravel lets you peek inside the Canadian artist and author’s (The Great Antonio) journal. There’s wonderful advice for budding authors and artists, combined with drawings and doodles, themed pages and spreads, and notes about little characters she creates.

Most authors advise aspiring writers to write – no matter what, just write  to get into the habit of writing. Similarly, Ms. Gravel notes that she draws every night; she draws for fun as often as she draws for work, letting readers know that joy is a really important part of being a working artist and author; and she never critiques the drawings in her black notebook. If they’re ugly, they’re ugly! She gives herself permission to mess things up; in fact, she shares her artwork with daughters, from whom she also draws inspiration.

Gravel’s drawings are bright – even the blacks are vibrant and fun. I loved the pages and pages of silly, fun, adorable monsters; grumps, and creatures. I love her sense of humor, and I love her sense of fun. How can you not enjoy the work of someone who loves what they do? She embraces the silly: something we all need to do a bit more in our own lives.

 

 

I love that I can put this book in my children’s room at the library as easily as I can hand it to my tweens and teens. It’s a fun commentary on the creative process, with helpful advice for older kids who may be interested in pursuing art as a career or more serious hobby. Ms. Gravel turns the tables on the reader at the end, providing readers with starting prompts for their own notebooks, and telling them that it’s their turn. But look at how much fun it is!

 

You know me – I love my programs in a book, and If Found, Please Return to Elise Gravel is another great program in a book. I’ve got a writer’s workshop this summer, where I’ll be working with my Queensboro Kids every week to tell their stories using a different style, from journaling to poetry to comics. I’m also working with my teens on a ‘zine workshop, and a book like If Found is a great addition to my collection, to show kids yet another fun way to express themselves. A must-add!