Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

DC Original Graphic Novel Rundown

There’s a new batch of DC original graphic novels coming up, and trust and believe these will be on my shelves (and if my Kiddo has anything to say about it, my home shelves are included).

Shazam! Thundercrack, by Yehudi Mercado, (Feb. 2023, DC Comics), $9.99, ISBN: 9781779505026

Ages 8-12

Yehudi Mercado is the perfect author/illustrator to bring this fun Shazam tale to comic book life. Beginning with Billy Batson’s arrival at his new foster family home and bonding with his new foster brother, Freddy, the main plot kicks in pretty quickly: as Billy and Freddy tests the limits of Billy’s power when he’s Shazam, they realize that even when he’s in Billy’s form, he’s got some power moves – and that leads him to join the school football team. The only thing is, Billy isn’t much of a team player. He just doesn’t have that kind of trust in others, so when the chips are down for the team, why should Billy come through? Maybe because a rival school is using biotech experimentation that makes them very, very dangerous? Maybe because Billy’s foster dad drops some wisdom on Billy? Thundercrack is fun, easy reading that captures the light spirit of the 2019 movie (and the upcoming movie, Fury of the Gods). Mercado is at the top of his game when he’s writing everyday family comedy that balances with a pathos that understands each character’s backstory. Having the story take place within the DCU timeline has a nice link for readers who are versed in the cinematic universe; Freddy is a strong Number 1 to Billy and has his own spirited journey in the story, with vlog entries and commentary running through the story. Add this one to your middle grade graphic novel collections – kids aren’t getting nearly enough Shazam! in their comic book diets.

 

Bruce Wayne: Not Super, by Stuart Gibbs/Illustrated by Berat Pekmezci, (March 2023, DC Comics), $12.99, ISBN: 9781779507679

Ages 8-12

Another middle grade luminary takes the reins for this Bruce Wayne-Before-Batman story. Batman: Not Super is all about Bruce Wayne, who attends a super-special school. No, really, all the students have superpowers except for Bruce, who’s only there because his parents paid for the school to be built before they passed away. He’s rubbing shoulders with superhero elite here, but he’s not the most popular kid in school; he hangs out with an 11-year-old named Dick Grayson, whose gymnastic abilities got him into the school. He’s bullied by Clark Kent, who uses his x-ray vision to see through Bruce’s clothes and tell everyone what underwear he’s wearing that day. Things change when bully Jack Napier steals Dick’s ice cream money, though: Bruce has found his mission, and it’s to be a vigilante! Now, to just figure out how to get around his guardian, Alfred, who won’t let Bruce undertake any dangerous missions. Even when Dick overhears Jack telling Bane that they’re going to rob all the lockers while everyone is at the big game. Fast-paced dialogue and swiftly moving action come together with jokes and humor. Pekmezci’s artwork is a feast for superhero-loving eyes as the DC Middle School Universe unfolds in front of them: Harley Quinn and Poison Ivy are canoodling by the lockers; Penguin and Selina Kyle are here; Arthur Curry is more AquaKid than Aquaman, but he’s talking to the fish in the school fish tank, and Wonder Girl Donna Troy is Diana Prince’s younger sister. Sharp-eyed comics fans will catch some deep cuts, like Polka Dot Man, and comics fans of a *cough* certain age will appreciate the Bat Shark Repellent joke that finds its way into most Bat-humor. Bruce Wayne: Not Super is another home run for middle graders. Put this one on your shelves.

 

Teen Titans: Robin, by Kami Garcia/Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, (March 2023, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781779512246

Ages 13-17

The third in the Teen Titans series from Kami Garcia and Gabriel Picolo, Teen Titans: Robin is the fourth Teen Titans story that includes Raven, Beast Boy, and Beast Boy Loves Raven. Joined by Damian Wayne and Max Navarro, the group is on the run from Slade Wilson and H.I.V.E.; Dick Grayson leaves Gotham to find his younger brother, Damian. Damian resists getting to know his adopted brother, feeling like his father, Bruce, attempted to replace him, but Grayson just wants to get to know his brother and keep him and his friends safe. With equal emphasis on character growth, developing relationships, and action, this is a great addition to the series. Picolo does so much storytelling through his color changes and shading; he takes each color that readers and viewers familiar with the Titans will recognize and makes them part of the story, leaving Slade Wilson’s story gray and desolate. This one’s for the middle and high schoolers, but upper grade elementary schoolers may be interested, too.

I’ve been such a fan of these YA and middle grade books since they launched a few years ago. By bringing original graphic novels to kids and finding authors and illustrators that are standout names, they’re investing brand new generations of readers into comics and graphic novels.

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

Fight Back illustrates the fallout of domestic abuse – and one victim’s redemption

fightbackFight Back, by Brent R. Sherrard (2015, Lorimer), $9.95 CAD, ISBN:9781459408586

Recommended for ages 12+

Tyler has been his father’s punching bag for as long as he can remember. After his mother takes his younger sister and abandons him to his abusive father, he sustains a beating that gets him removed from the house and placed with his grandmother, who doesn’t really want much involvement in Tyler’s life, either. Tyler becomes a street kid, fighting and getting into trouble, angry at life, until his grandmother wants him out, and he’s placed into foster care with the Conway family, a husband and wife who’ve raised their own kids and open their home to Tyler.

While staying with the Conways, Tyler has no idea how to accept the kindnesses they give him. He’s afraid to open a birthday gift from them, so he sleeps with the box, not wanting the moment to end. Mr. Conway is finally able to reach Tyler by introducing him to the world of boxing.  A former boxer himself, Wayne Conway is able to train Tyler to fight his problems and get his head clear in the boxing ring, not out on the street. With the discipline of training giving Tyler a new lease on life, he’s got the tools to fight his demons, but he has one last fight left – the one inside himself.

This is another great selection from Lorimer’s Side Streets line of Hi-Lo fiction. Tackling the gritty life of a street kid and examining the abusive environment that spawned him, Tyler is a sympathetic character that risks being passed through the system until someone steps up and cares. Teens may recognize themselves or friends and family in Tyler. Adults may see someone they know in Tyler, and step up to do something. Make resources available to teens reading this book, including information on domestic violence and programs that offer an escape, whether it be information on shelters, academic programs, or athletics. Know the teens in your life and get this book into those hands.

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

Oblivion – a mystery about identity and secrets

oblivionOblivion, by Sasha Dawn, Egmont USA (2014). $19.99, ISBN: 9781606844762

Recommended for ages 16+

Calliope Knowles is a 16 year-old graphomaniac. For her, writing isn’t just a hobby – it’s something she’s compelled to do. When the mania hits, she needs her notebook and a red felt-tipped pen; she writes, in a trance, and the words, while almost poetic in structure, are unsettling. Possibly because they may be subconscious clues – Callie’s father is missing, along with a 12 year-old girl named Hannah. Callie was found in an abandoned apartment writing, “I KILLED HIM” all over the walls. Her mother is in a mental institution, after stabbing her abusive father only weeks before the disappearance.

Her father, a reverend at the Church of Holy Promise, was popular with his congregation, but was not a good man. Now, Callie, living with a foster family, is haunted by faulty memories that her subconscious is fighting to access. At the same time, she has a foster sister that she adores, but finds herself attracted to the same guy as she; she has a team of police and a therapist working with her to unravel the threads of her memory, and her mother seems to have a lot of secrets.

I thought this was a great book. I love a good mystery and I like an unreliable narrator/main character, because it keeps me guessing. Sasha Dawn has created an amazing series of layers for this story, with a main plot and several subplots running throughout, and always manages to keep all the balls in play. When revelations hit, time and time again, I was bowled over. This is a great summer read for teens who appreciate a good mystery and a story about identity. There are references to abuse, sex, and drug use, so I’m going to recommend an age of 16 for this one. If parents feel their child is mature enough to handle this subject matter at an earlier age, I’ll suggest age 14, but I really wouldn’t go younger. The book hits shelves on May 27, so put this one on your summer reading list.