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

CYBILS graphic novels check-in

The CYBILS Round One reading goes on. I’ve read 60 of 107 nominees so far, and my shortlist… well, it’s pretty long. I’ll be going through my shortlist a few times and talking books with my other Round One judges before we can provide the next round with a shortlist to go to, but it won’t be easy. There’s been some good stuff written and illustrated this year. While I can’t go into too much detail, since these are more nominees, I didn’t want them to be missed. Enjoy.

Stepping Stones, by Lucy Knisley, (Sept. 2020, RH Graphic), $20.99, ISBN: 9780593125243

Ages 8-12

I am a Lucy Knisley fan, and I’m excited that she’s writing graphic novels, in her autobiographical style, for middle graders. This is her first middle grade book, a fictionalized story of her life when she and her mom moved to a farm with her mother’s boyfriend. In the story, Jen is not happy about leaving her life in the city to live on a farm with her mom, her mom’s bossy boyfriend, Walter, and Walter’s two daughters, Andy and Reese, who spend every weekend with their dad. Jen thinks Andy is bossy and a know-it-all, like her dad, and Reese is weepy and cries for her mom. Gradually, the three girls become friends – stepsisters, even – as they start talking and discover that they’re not worlds different, after all. An author’s note gives readers the real details about Lucy Knisley’s farm years, complete with photos. Her storytelling style makes readers feel like they’re reading her journal or diary; her artwork is cartoony realistic, perfect for Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jameson fans. You’ll love the farmer’s market scenes, where Jen finally asserts herself and owns her talent, and the nature scenes make you realize why Jen’s mother packed up and left the city for greener pastures. Pick up Stepping Stones if you’ve never read a Lucy Knisley book before, then look up her other books for yourself.

Dungeon Critters, by Natalie Riess and Sara Goetter, (Sept. 2020, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250195470

Ages 9-13

If your Dungeons & Dragons campaign was made up of furry animal friends, you’d have Dungeon Critters. A group of animal adventurers are on the case to uncover a mysterious plant and a sinister plot, all surrounding Chirp – one of the adventurers, and a member of the royal family – and longtime rival, The Baron. Go on dungeon crawls, dance at fancy balls, and join the Dungeon Critters on their quests for adventure, as they figure out their complicated feelings for one another. It’s a fun adventure, cartoony, colorful artwork, frenetic energy, and tons of jokes. Gender and sexuality are fluid – Chirp, for instance, has she/her pronouns but is a prince; Rose and Juniper are two Dungeon Critters who have she/her pronouns and are crushing on each other. A positive, diverse, fun adventure for middle graders.

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

March Graphic Novels Roundup

I haven’t done a roundup in a while, but I’m actually a little ahead of the game, so let’s do it! Here’s what’s good for March.


Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang, (March 2020, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781626720794

Ages 12+

Gene Luen Yang is back, and Dragon Hoops is a memoir of a year following the basketball team during the 2014-15 season at the high school where he taught, Bishop O’Dowd High School in Oakland, California. Gene wants to write a new graphic novel – at the same time he’s being courted by DC Comics to write a new Superman story – and he’s wracking his brain, coming up with options. He isn’t really a sports guy, but he decides to explore the Bishop O’Dowd varsity basketball team, after hearing all the buzz in the school hallways. He approaches the men’s varsity coach, Lou Richie, and starts writing the story of the team, the story of the young men on the team, and the pursuit of the California State Championships.

I’m not a big sports fan, and you don’t need to be to read Dragon Hoops. It’s the story of the people behind the team, and it’s exciting to read about these diverse young men, their stories, and their drive. It’s great to see Gene Yang’s journey from someone who has zero interest in sports to becoming a rabid fan of the team, because of the connections formed with the players and Coach Lou. It’s also very much Gene Yang’s story as he struggles with a work-life balance, whether or not to take on the extra work – and excitement! – that Superman would bring, and his struggle to address a difficult chapter in Bishop O’Dowd’s history.

The artwork is realistic with a cartoony feel, and the dialogue and pacing is great. Gene Yang gets readers excited for each game, and builds relationships between reader and players/coaches by interspersing biographical chapters and pivotal games in the race for the championship. He has a powerful thread through each personal story, too: each character, including Yang, has a moment when they step outside their comfort zone to pursue something greater; something Yang uses a literal “step” to illustrate. Yang steps across the street from the classrooms to the gym to meet with Coach Lou; Coach Lou steps across the street to go from public school to Bishop O’Dowd as a teen; Sendra Berenson, the inventor of women’s basketball in in 1892 took a step into a gymnasium to teach the young women in her care a new sport she’d read about; player Jeevin Sandhu, a student and practicing Sikh, takes a step into a Catholic high school so he can play basketball. Gene Yang includes the evolution of basketball from its creation to the present, and the big role of Catholic schools in high school basketball; both things I knew nothing about and found really interesting. Back matter includes comprehensive notes and a bibliography. Catch a preview of Dragon Hoops, courtesy of EW magazine.


The Phantom Twin, by Lisa Brown, (March 2020, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626729247

Ages 12+

This eerie tale of twins, sideshows, and hauntings is perfect for tweens and teens who love their books on the creepier side. If you have readers who loved Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book and Coraline, or loved Mary Downing Hahn’s books, this is the book to hand them.

At the turn of the 20th century, Isabel and Jane are conjoined twins, sold to a sideshow by their family, where they find a family among the “freaks” in the freak show. The two sisters are opposites, with Jane being the dominant personality. Where Iss would rather stay home, Jane wants to go out, and since she has more motor control over their shared body, Iss finds herself dragged along. Jane starts dating a surgeon who wants to separate them; despite Iss’s misgivings, Jane agrees: but doesn’t survive the surgery. Iss is left to face life on her own, but feels the phantom of her sister ever-present, like a phantom limb. Iss returns to the carnival, desperate for familiarity and to rebuild her life. Jane, still the dominant personality, tries to assert herself, and Iss finds herself rebelling against her sideshow family and her sister’s memory, as she tries to negotiate a life on her own and free of others’ expectations.

The Phantom Twin is fabulously creepy with an upbeat twist. It’s a feminist tale and a story of life on the fringes as much as it’s a story of grief, loss, and starting over. Back matter includes an author’s note on sideshows, carnival lingo, and more resources for further reading.

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

Last Pick: Born to Run continues the alien invasion story

Last Pick: Born to Run, by Jason Walz, (Oct. 2019, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728936

Ages 10+

In last year’s first volume of Last Pick, we encountered an earth under occupation by aliens who dragged anyone deemed “useful” away to an unknown fate, leaving the very young, very old, and disabled to endure the aliens’ cruel rule on earth. Sam and Wyatt, twin siblings, were separated when Sam was taken; Wyatt, her special needs brother, was left behind, and has since gone to work embedding himself with a resistance group of survivors: the very young, the very old, the disabled, the angry, the fed-up. Operating under moniker “Bird One” they find ways to throw casual little wrenches into the aliens’ day-to-day operations, and have something bigger in the works. Meanwhile, Sam is laboring offworld with the other imprisoned humans, forced into terrorizing other alien races in their overlords’ quest to rule. The only bright spot in her days is Mia, a fellow prisoner, whom Sam finds herself developing feelings for.

Most of this installment’s story works with Sam and his resistance group, including his own crush, a deaf girl named Harper, and a burgeoning alliance with one of the aliens. The aliens here are cruel, yet amusing because they’re so influenced by American pop culture, particularly Westerns. (Interesting: Josef Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Osama bin Laden all loved American Westerns. Coincidence?) The resistance is ragtag, but never count anyone out: it’s the aliens’ overconfidence and belief that the survivors are “useless” that leaves them ripe for a butt-kicking by Bird One. Jason Walz is a solid storyteller, continuing to build on the world(s) he created in the Last Pick’s volume one. The storyline stays strong, developing characters introduced in the first book and bringing in new characters. There are unexpected alliances and underdog heroes, with something to appeal to everyone.

Both volumes in the Last Pick trilogy have starred reviews from Kirkus. Sci-fi fans, dystopian fans, and adventure fans will love this story.

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Women's History

Stories of Fearless Females – First Second’s got you covered!

First Second consistently puts out great graphic novels for readers, no matter what age. Fiction or non-fiction, kids, teen, or adult, if it’s coming from First Second, I read it, love it, and get it on my shelves. This spring, there’s something for everyone, with some amazing ladies taking the reins and heading up their own books – plus, a nonfiction collection profiling women who broke the rules and beat the daylights out of the mold-maker, while they were at it.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World, by Pénélope Bagieu,
(March 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626728691
Recommended for readers 12+

First up is Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World; profiles of 29 outstanding women from across time, across the world. We know many of their names, but did you know their accomplishments? Did you know that Margaret Hamilton, who defined Wicked Witch with her portrayal of the Wicked Witch of the West in The Wizard of Oz, embraced her terrifying alter ego  – and used her as a bargaining chip for higher pay in Hollywood? How about Temple Grandin, whose research on farm animals led to major changes in the factory farming industry and a push toward animal well-being? Not bad, for someone whose father wanted her institutionalized when she was diagnosed with autism as a child.

I could gush on and on about Brazen. It’s a must-add to your collections; display and booktalk right next to Sam Maggs’ Wonder Women, Jason Porath’s Rejected Princesses, and National Geographic’s Book of Heroines. Bagieu creates perfect, bite-sized biographies of these phenomenal women, making readers want to know more. A list of 30 more rebel ladies who rocked the world whets appetites at the end of the book, and we even get a little bio on our author/artist, Pénélope Bagieu. I’ve enjoyed her previous graphic novels, Exquisite Corpse (for grown-ups) and California Dreamin’, the story of musician Mama Cass. Don’t pass up putting Brazen in your teen space.


Star Scouts: The League of Lasers, by Mike Lawrence,
(March 2018, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626722811
Recommended for readers 8-12

The much-anticipated sequel to 2017’s Star Scouts is here! Avani Patel is rocking the Star Scouts, so much that she’s been invited to join a secret society of elite scouts: The League of Lasers. Sounds awesome, right? But there’s a catch: she has to survive her initiation challenge. While on her way to the planet where she’s supposed to undergo her challenge, her ship throws her off course and crash lands onto a strange planet. With a methane atmosphere. And she’s stranded with Pam, her nemesis. Together, the two Scouts have to figure out how to survive – and to do that, they need to put their differences past them.

I love this series for so many reasons: there’s a child of color leading the pack; there are messages about resilience and teamwork; and most importantly, it’s just so much fun! Mike Lawrence’s dialogue between characters is never slow and never dull, and always believable. He tackles middle grade situations like disagreements and jealousy between friends, but always makes sure to bring things to a resolution through talking and mutual understanding. The humor is smart and the artwork is engaging. Give this to all your Zita the Spacegirl fans and tell them to make space in their hearts for the Star Scouts.


Scarlett Hart, Monster Hunter, by Marcus Sedgwick/Illustrated by Thomas Taylor,
(April 2018, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781626720268
Recommended for readers 10-13

YA author Marcus Sedgwick (Saint Death, Ghosts of Heaven) writes for middle grade with the start of a new series about a teenage monster hunter following in her parents’ footsteps. Scarlett Hart is the orphaned daughter of legendary monster hunters, determined to carry on the family business. The only thing is, she according to the Royal Academy for the Pursuit and Eradication of Zoological Eccentricities (just call it The Academy), Scarlett’s underage, and hunting monsters is against the law. Luckily, Scarlett’s manservant, Napoleon, is there to help, driving Scarlett around London and acting as the face for her kills so they can get paid on hang onto their family estate. The sticky wicket is Count Stankovic, her parents’ – and now Scarlett’s – archrival, who always manages to show up and take credit for her work while threatening to rat her out to the Academy. Naturally, the monster situation gets out of control, and Scarlett roars into action, danger and the law be darned!

Scarlett Hart is a fun monster-catching adventure romp, with a dieselpunk feel and a spunky young heroine. Thomas Taylor is the original illustrator of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, and knows fantasy art. There’s humor, adventure, and fun to be had; a nice start to a new graphic novel series. Give these to your Delilah Dirk readers, and consider re-introducing readers to Shannon, Dean, and Nathan Hale’s Rapunzel’s Revenge and Calamity Jack.


The City on the Other Side, by Mairghread Scott/Illustrated by Robin Robinson,
(April 2018, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626724570
Recommended for readers 9-13

It’s early 20th-century San Francisco, and Isabel is bored. Her high-society mother expects her to be quiet, well-behaved, and flawless – clean, pressed, clothes in perfect repair. She’s shuttled off to her artist father for the summer, but he’s too wrapped up in his work to pay much attention to her, either. Taking matters into her own hands, Isabel explores the woods by her father’s home and stumbles into a fairy world: a world where two kingdoms are at war! She receives a magical necklace to keep safe, and, with the help of some new companions, sets off to end the war before it destroys the fairy world and our own world.


The City on the Other Side is high fantasy mixed with historical fiction, making for an exciting adventure for middle grade fantasy fans. The heroine is a girl of color, of Spanish origin; she’s smart, determined, and sick and tired of being treated like she’s an object for someone’s mantelpiece. She’s a good role model for readers who enjoy Zita, Avani from Star Scouts, and Maddy from Jewell Parker Rhodes’ Bayou Magic.


Crafty Cat and the Great Butterfly Battle, by Charise Mericle Harper,
(April 2018, First Second), $13.99, ISBN: 9781626724877
Recommended for readers 8-10

The third Crafty Cat comic book has Birdie – whose alter ego is crafty superheroine Crafty Cat – ready to take the lead role in her school play about bugs. The problem is, everyone wants the role: it’s a butterfly! Anya is back, and she wants to be the butterfly, too – and Anya always seems to get her way. Looks like a job for Crafty Cat!

I really enjoy the Crafty Cat series, and so do my library kids. Birdie is a likable character who always manages to find a way to make the best of a lousy situation; she uses crafts – and by extension, her superhero identity as Crafty Cat – to help her focus and see different possibilities. Crafty Cat is an optimistic book with an upbeat character, and it’s great fun for kids to have as a go-to on the shelves. This volume comes with five butterfly-related crafts, including a butterfly with moving wings, a hair clip, and a bookmark.

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

Box Brown gives us the real story of Tetris, the most addictive game EVER

tetris_1Tetris: The Games People Play, by Box Brown (October 2016, First Second), $19.99, ISBN: 9781626723153

Recommended for ages 12+

If you spent the better part of the early ’90s glued to your keyboard/gaming console/handheld, immersed in the video game Tetris, you’re not alone. I have logged many hours in front of my NES, rotating those little blocks to achieve the perfect fit. Box Brown’s graphic novel tells the story behind Tetris: the men who created it, and the game developers that almost went to war over bringing it to the masses.

We meet Alexey Pajitnov and his colleague, Vlad Pokhilko, computer scientists at the Moscow Academy of Science. In 1984, Alexey created Tetris in his spare time; it began life as freeware, being passed from friend to friend, coworker to coworker. This game was a phenomenon waiting to happen: it was addicting from the start; people were mesmerized. One story in the book illustrates a manager providing copies to his workplace colleagues, only to take the discs back and destroy them when office productivity declined.

We see the struggle between game developers and the tangled weave of rights for the game: Nintendo, Atari, and Sega all wanted it, and rights 0wnership was downright sketchy, with miscommunication and under the table deals leading to lawsuits. The story reads like an international thriller in parts, with all the trips to Moscow, international dealings, and theft and intrigue.

The story unfolds in two-color art, with game screen renderings and simple character drawings keeping readers focused on the story and the complexity of the game itself. In the story of Tetris, Box Brown also gives us the story of gaming: the pursuit of fun, and the role of gaming in art, culture, commerce, and intellect. From Lascaux cave paintings, which depict games, to artifacts of gaming pieces rendered in bone, to Senet, an Ancient Egyptian board game, to dice games, and finally, to smartphone gaming (where Tetris still lives on), the pursuit of fun, the joy of gaming, is part of human history.

This will go over well with gamers and history fans, graphic novel fans and anyone interested in business. There’s some good advice for businesses in the story of Tetris, especially for anyone interested in international licenses. Box Brown’s graphic novel is multilayered and well-rounded, with an abundance of information presented in an interesting and easy to digest format.

Box Brown is a New York Times–bestselling author. He wrote the best-selling graphic biography, Andre the Giant: Life and Legend. Take a look at some more of Tetris here, and head over to Box Brown’s author webpage and see more of his illustration work.

tetris_2 tetris_3 tetris_4


And now, you can’t get the Tetris music out of your head, either. You’re welcome.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Everyone has their purpose. What’s Hippopotamister’s?

hippo_1Hippopotamister, by John Patrick Green (May 2016, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626722002

Recommended for ages 6-10

Things haven’t been exactly bustling at the zoo. The habitats and the animals need maintenance, the zoo is a little dingy, and no one is really breaking down the rusty gates to get in and see the zoo. Red Panda takes off to see the world, and tells great stories of life on the outside. One day, Hippopotamister decides he’s going to join Red Panda; the two friends set out to find their fortunes. The only problem? They can’t seem to hold a job for long! When the two friends return to the zoo to visit the other animals, Hippopotamister discovers the perfect job for him.

This is a great story about finding your own groove. Hippopotamister is a nice guy who is actually really good at almost everything he sets out to do; Red Panda is a free spirit who wants to does his own thing, his way, but most of the time, his own thing is kind of a mess. Still, Hippo sticks by his buddy, wandering off with him to the next adventure. Once they return to the zoo to visit, though, Hippo sees that all of his adventures have really been training him to take on the job that’s perfect for him: running the zoo.

Hippopotamister is a good friend, always ready with an encouraging word, and a positive outlook: when one job falls through, he’s ready to go find another. He’s flexible, willing to try different jobs and industries, and he’s a smart cookie: he recognizes things he can fix, once he returns to the zoo, and embraces his calling. There are good morals for kids here, the main one being, everyone has their purpose. Sometimes, you need to wait until you discover yours.

This is a great independent read for readers who are ready to take on a little more of a challenge, but it’s a great storytime snuggler, too. My 3 year-old loved it, and was easily able to work out the humor in the story by using the cues in the pictures (patient wrapped in dental floss at the dentist, the bone house vs. the dinosaur skeleton in the museum). I love comics for young learners because it’s a great way to work out sequences and cause and effect, and Hippopotamister is a great book to use for this kind of discussion.

Take a look at some of Hippopotamister below, and make sure to get yourself a copy! Great for young reader graphic novel collections.

hippo_5 hippo_6



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.

nameless city_8 nameless city_9

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Tween Reads

Delilah Dirk returns in Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling

delilah dirk coverDelilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, by Tony Cliff (March 2016, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626721555

Recommended for ages 10+

Delilah Dirk is a swashbuckling, 19th century heroine who travels the world in search of adventure. In her first graphic novel, Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, we met Delilah and Selim, the Turkish lieutenant whose life she saved. Salim is now bound to travel the world at her side.

Delilah and Selim’s latest adventure puts them in the sights of the English army. When Delilah identifies a traitor to the crown, he turns the tables on them: and now the twosome are on the run after being accused of espionage. Where do they end up? Back in London, naturally. Delilah’s got a reputation to clear, and nothing’s going to keep her from it: even if it means going up against the traitor, sword to sword, all by herself. But while they stay at her mother’s home, Selim has the unenviable task of posing as her footman, and Delilah has to knuckle down and be girly, to keep up appearances. Dresses and tea rather than sword-slinging and trousers? Heavens, no! Selim is about to discover that there are a lot of things he doesn’t know about his friend, too: for instance, who’s Alexandra?

This is the first Delilah Dirk adventure I’ve read, and I enjoyed it. The adventures are self-contained, so you can pick this book up without really knowing much about the series thus far. You’ll catch up quickly and lose yourself in the adventure. Delilah is a fun, strong female protagonist, and Selim is a friend, a compatriot, and a long-suffering partner. There’s no romantic relationship here; it’s a buddy movie, complete with wacky moments and smart comebacks.

The art is colorful and fluid; lots of movement drawn nicely by writer/artist Tony Cliff. Delilah is always in motion, and her billowing dresses and slashing swords move with the character. Middle schoolers and up will enjoy the adventure-packed series, which you can also read for free online: the Delilah Dirk webpage presents part of The King’s Shilling in serialized format, and will be available and updated until March 8th, when the book is available for purchase and the first chapter will conclude. After the first ninety pages, the remaining one-hundred-and-seventy-six will only be available in the book. The first 80 pages of The Turkish Lieutenant, and a free ebook, Seeds of Good Fortune, are available on the site, too.

Take a look at more of Delilah Dirk and The King’s Shilling below, then go check out the website and add this book to your graphic novel wish list!

delilah dirk_1 delilah dirk_2

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

YALSA releases their 2016 list of great graphic novels!

Great news! Last week, YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) published their 2016 Great Graphic Novels for Teens list. There are some brilliant titles on the list, making gift purchases and library collection updates a lot easier, by the way. I was really excited to see so many great books on the list, from a diverse mix of major publishers and smaller independents.

Some highlights:

Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War. By Michel Chikwanine & Jessica Dee Humphreys/Illus. by Claudia Davila. Kids Can Press, $18.95, (9781771381260). A young man tells the story of his kidnapping by rebel militants and his time as a child soldier in the Congo.

Doomboy. By Tony Sandoval. Illustrated by the author. Magnetic Press, $24.99, (9780991332472). A teen with an active imagination and a love of heavy metal mourns his girlfriend the best way he can: through his music.

Hellboy and the B.P.R.D.: 1952. By Mike Mignola and John Arcudi. Illustrated by Alex Maleev. Dark Horse Books, paper, $19.99 (9781616556600). Hellboy goes on his first mission.

Human Body Theatre. By Maris Wicks. Illustrated by the author. First Second, $14.99, (9781596439290). A skeleton teaches the reader about the human body and its functions.

Last of the Sandwalkers. By Jay Hosler. Illustrated by the author. First Second, $16.99, (9781626720244). A tribe of insects goes on a voyage of discovery to explore the land beyond their borders.

Princess Ugg, vol. 1. By Ted Naifeh. Illus by the author. Oni Press, paper, $15.99, (9781620101780). Warrior Princess Ulga attends the prestigious Princess Academy at her dead mother’s request.

Roller Girl. By Victoria Jamieson. Illustrated by the author. Dial Books for Young Readers, $12.99, (9780803740167). A tween signs up for roller derby camp and learns about herself, friendship, and sacrifice.

The Scarlet Letter. By Nathaniel Hawthorne, Crystal Chan, and Stacy King. Illus by SunNeko Lee. Udon Entertainment, hardcover, $24.99, (9781927925348). A manga retelling of the classic story of a Puritan woman caught in adultery and forced to publicly bear her shame.

The Suspended Castle: A Philemon Adventure. By Fred. Illus by the author. TOON Graphics, hardcover, $16.95, (9781935179863). Bartholomew has been rescued from an alternate dimension but now misses it and wants to go back, little suspecting the adventure in store for him and Philemon.

Now, go forth and read graphic novels, and check out the rest of YALSA’s list!

Posted in Graphic Novels, History, Tween Reads

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust tells a powerful tale, gently for younger readers.

Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust, by Loic Dauvillier (First Second, 2014), ISBN: 978-1-59643-873-6, $16.99

Pub Date: April 1, 2014

hiddenRecommended for ages 8-12

Hidden is a graphic novel, tells the story of the Holocaust as it stormed through Vichy France, from a child’s eyes.

Elsa is a little girl who discovers her grandmother deep in thought one night. She curls up on her lap, and her grandmother tells her why she’s been feeling sad. Doumia, Elsa’s grandmother, has had a nightmare, and proceeds to tell Elsa about her life as a little girl.

Doumia was a happy child, living in France, going to school, and had friends and a loving family. One day, her father tells Doumia that they are to become “a sheriff’s family”, as her mother sews yellow stars on their clothing. She later learns, when her friends and her own teacher ignore her, that the yellow star is not a sheriff’s star, but the mark of being a Jew. Nazi soldiers harass people in the streets; Doumia’s father loses his job, and, fearing for her safety, Doumia leaves school to be homeschooled by her parents.

Doumia’s parents scramble to hide her when the Nazis come for them. She is discovered by a neighbor, who, with a network of the French Resistance, change her name and send her, along with her neighbor, to a farm to wait out the danger. When the War ends, we wait, as Doumia does, to learn her parent’s fate.

This is a powerful, emotional, story of the Holocaust because it is told through a survivor’s eyes, but the eyes of a child. We hear this story, as Elsa does, in the safe, warm embrace of a  grandparent, with Marc Lizano’s and Greg Salsedo’s gentle cartoon art, with subdued colors, easing younger readers into history. Where is difficult in parts, there are bright spots to keep younger readers interested and happy – Doumia living safely in the French countryside with women who care for her; the farm animals she helps care for, reunions with lost family members. It’s a safe place to talk about a horrific event.

An afterword by Hellen Kaufmann, the President of AJPN – an organization dedicated to telling the stories of rescue and solidarity during World War II – gives us an overview of Vichy France during World War II.

This is a fantastic pick for younger readers, particularly with the difficult task of finding interesting, captivating, non-fiction to fit with the Common Core Learning Standards. The book is a valuable teaching tool for parents and educators alike.