Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Teen, Tween Reads

More #BooksfromQuarantine, Graphic Novels edition

I’ve been tearing through my graphic novel stash now that I’m back at work two days a week. Here’s some from the new crop.

Supergirl: Being Super, by Mariko Tamaki/Illustrated by Joëlle Jones, (July 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781779503190

Ages 12+

The latest DC YA graphic novel is a collection of the 4-issue Supergirl storyline, Being Super (2018). Caldecott winner and YA graphic novelist powerhouse Mariko Tamaki and Eisner winner Joëlle Jones, whose work I’ve really loved on Lady Killer and Helheim, join forces here to tell the story of Kara Danvers, a teen who’s got BFFs, irritating parents that she totally loves, and a ginormous zit. She can also lift a car with one hand, and runs slower than she really can on her track team, but who cares? She loves her life in Midvale… until catastrophe strikes, and leaves Kara with more questions than answers about her past.

What I’ve been enjoying about DC’s YA graphic novels is the relatability. The super powers take a back seat to the relationships and the frustrations of adolescence; here, it’s Kara’s struggle to discover who she is, and the decisions she makes as she seeks that answer. Coping with grief is a secondary theme running through the story. Joëlle Jones’s  artwork is expressive, bold, and eye-catching. Being Super is a Newsweek Best Graphic Novel of the Year.

 

Child Star, by Brian “Box” Brown, (June 2020, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781250154071

Ages 13+

This documentary-style graphic novel gives a look into the life and times of fictional child star, Owen Eugene. From his overbearing stage parents and his sitcom catchphrase to his post-fame struggle to steady his life, this is a story we can see – have seen – unfolding on reality TV. It’s all in here: interviews with co-stars, hangers-on, and former loves; the parents who felt they had a right to Owen’s money; the D-list reality TV shows that feel like the last stop on the road to obscurity. Readers familiar with some of the bigger child star stories will recognize them in Owen Eugene’s story. A sad look at the collateral damage of 1980s pop culture, Child Star is great reading, written by graphic novelist and biographer Brian “Box” Brown, award-winning writer and illustrator of Andre the Giant: Life and Legend, and Is This Guy for Real? The Unbelievable Andy Kaufman.

Child Star has a starred review from Publishers Weekly.

One Year at Ellsmere, by Faith Erin Hicks, (July 2020, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250219107

Ages 10+

Originally published in 2008 as The War at Ellsmere (thanks, ComicBeat!), Faith Erin Hicks’s boarding school story gets some updated art and some color. Juniper is a new student at the prestigious (read: snobbish) Ellsmere Academy, an exclusive boarding school where she – daughter of a single mother with thrift store clothes – is quickly labeled “the project” by the school’s Queen Bee, Emily. Juniper and her roommate, Cassie, quickly bond over being outcasts in a school full of Mean Girls; something that helps Juniper as she endures Emily’s brutal bullying. Running through this boarding school story is a touch of magical realism surrounding the forest next to the school. I loved the character development, the fantasy touch with the forest story, and how both elements come together to make yet another great story from Faith Erin Hicks.

Read Faith Erin Hicks’s webcomics at her author website.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Nameless City saga comes to a close with The Divided Earth

The Nameless City: The Divided Earth (The Nameless City #3), by Faith Erin Hicks (Sept. 2018, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626721609

Ages 8-13

Faith Erin Hicks’ epic graphic novel trilogy, The Nameless City, comes to a phenomenal close with The Divided Earth. Dao prince Erzi now has control of The Nameless City, but the city is under siege by Dao and Yisun forces who want the war for the Nameless City to come to an end. The Named – the people of the city – are caught in between. Rat and Kaidu (Kai), the two main characters, plan to sneak into Erzi’s palace and steal back the ancient text containing the formula for napatha, an ancient weapon that Erzi plans to unleash on the city.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Stone Heart takes a deeper look at The Nameless City’s turmoil

stone-heart_1The Stone Heart, by Faith Erin Hicks, (Apr. 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626721586

Recommended f0r ages 10+

Picking up shortly after the events in The Nameless City, The Stone Heart throws readers right back into the turmoil within the Dao as the General of All Blades seeks to form a Council of Nations that will bring peace to the City. The general’s son is furious at being denied his perceived birthright to rule. Kaidu, meanwhile, believes he’s discovered a text that describes how to create a devastating weapon used by the City’s founders. Kept in the archives by the Stone Heart monks – where his friend Rat lives – Kaidu is torn between betraying his friend and bringing the solution to his father’s attention, should war break out.

The Stone Heart is one of those sequels that shines just as brightly as the original story. We get more character development, deeper story progression, and an ending that left me with clenched fists, waiting for the next chapter in this series. Kaidu’s father and the General of All Blades are tired warriors who just want peace in their time, and both struggle with their relationships to their sons. Where Kaidu’s frustration lies with an absentee father, Erzi, the general’s son, has been raised in a foreign land, with entitled expectations, and finds his father stripping away everything he’s ever known. Rat and Mura are two street urchins, both cared for by the Stone Heart monks at some point in their lives, but have become two very different people. These character parallels add so much more to the overall story and really invest readers. Even seemingly peripheral characters, like Rat’s friends from the City, enrich the overall story and illustrate how different Kaidu’s life has been thus far.

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The Stone Heart is one of the first must-read books of 2017. Add it to your graphic novel collections and booktalk this series hard. Get your copies of Amulet, Avatar, and Legend of Korra back out on display shelves for this one. An author note provides background on the author’s influences, and a lovely shout-out to libraries. There’s also a great sketchbook at the end.

Check out Faith Erin Hicks’ author webpage for info, including interviews, webcomics, and art.

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Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Tween Reads

The Nameless City is a must-purchase graphic novel!

nameless city_1The Nameless City, by Faith Erin Hicks (Apr. 2016, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626721562

Recommended for ages 10+

It’s been called Yanjing. Monkh. Daidu. DanDao. Every invader gives The City a new name. The natives – The Named – laugh and say that only outsiders name the City. They take no part in the constant wars, and the Dao, current rulers, are looked upon as outsiders. Kaidu, son of a general he’s never met, has been raised in the countryside by his mother, now a tribal leader. He heads to the City to train as a Dao soldier and meet his father, but he’s bullied by the other Dao boys, who see him as a loser and a bumpkin. His father is a general in the General of All Blades’ army, and wants to negotiate a peace between the Named and the Dao; create a government for all, but he’s laughed at my the General’s son and his trainees.

Venturing into the City on his own, Kaidu meets a street urchin who calls herself Rat. She’s one of the named and hates the Dao, blaming them for the death of her parents. Kaidu is fascinated by her, and slowly, the two become friends. Rat takes a chance and visits Kaidu at the palace, where she overhears a plot that will endanger lives and throw the City into chaos. Can she and Kaidu work together to save the day?

Faith Erin Hicks has created a powerful tale of division, friendship, and acceptance with The Nameless City. We get strong characters in this new series opener, with established backgrounds and bold personalities. We get a solid backstory that establishes a culture of anger and division; a lonely tween trying to find his place in a world he can’t seem to fit into, and another tween, alone within her world. Hicks brings these two lonely characters together and allows them to forge a powerful bond upon which a new future will rest, and she does it with action, pathos, intrigue, and humor. I love Faith Erin Hicks’ art and her storytelling, and Nameless City is another brilliant graphic novel. The Nameless City has already received a starred Kirkus review, and I expect it will receive more, plus some big nominations.

Who’s going to read this? Give this to your Avatar/Legend of Korra and Amulet fans, for starters. There’s a strong Asian influence to the novel that will appeal to fans of these adventure series, as well as older readers who are fans of manga series like Usagi Yojimbo and Lone Wolf & Cub.

Check out Faith Erin Hicks’ author webpage for info, including interviews, webcomics, and art.

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