Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Surviving the Wild: Remy Lai’s new graphic novel series!

I’ve been enjoying Remy Lai’s storytelling ever since I picked up an ARC for Pie in the Sky a few years ago. She creates a great mix of visual and prose storytelling, creates instantly memorable and lovable characters, and successfully weave humor and pathos into her stories to get at the heart of deep issues. She’s got a new graphic novel series, Surviving the Wild, that tells fictional animal stories based on true events, and calls attention to the effects of climate change and habitat encroachment on the animals we share this planet with. Let’s look at the first three stories!

Surviving the Wild: Star the Elephant, by Remy Lai, (Apr. 2022, Henry Holt & Co), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250784995

Ages 6-9

Star is a young elephant living in a herd with his mom and aunt, but the herd needs to find a new home because resources are becoming scarce. During the journey, Star is separated from his family and left to find his own way to safety and, hopefully, his family. Inspired by a 1990 story about bull elephants losing their home, Star’s story has some differences, noted in the back matter, but the heart of the story is the same: deforestation and human interference are causing animals to lose their homes. Star’s fear of humans is not without cause, but there’s some tension as readers worry that Star won’t be able to tell the difference between harmful humans and the humans who wants to keep elephants safe, bringing them to a sanctuary. Star reacts in a very relatable, childlike way to being separated from family and to stranger danger. The colorful artwork and dialogue makes for a very readable animal story; back matter includes deeper insight on the 1990 story that inspired Star’s tale, elephant facts, and ways kids can help keep the Earth livable for everyone.

Surviving the Wild: Rainbow the Koala, by Remy Lai, (Apr. 2022, Henry Holt & Co), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250785442

Ages 6-9

Rainbow is a young koala who’s enjoyed life in his mom’s pouch. When Mom tells him it’s time for him to go off and live on his own, he’s scared! It’s not as friendly out there when you don’t have your mom with you, and poor Rainbow can’t find a good tree of his own or a place where he can get water. It’s hot and the forest is dry, and the creek that he remembers mom taking him for water seems to be dried up. Thirsty, tired, and dispirited, he escapes humans and finds himself in the middle of an exodus: there’s a forest fire coming, and Rainbow is right in the middle of it. Rainbow’s story is inspired by the Australian bush fires of early 2020, which impacted over 60,000 koalas and millions of other animals and insects. Rainbow’s story hits hard; there are painful moments as he surveys the devastation around him and burns his own paws as he tries to find safety and shelter. Rainbow’s fear clearly comes through in his first-person narration, whether it’s through his speaking out loud to his mother as he struggles to survive in the wild, or to calm himself as he sees the forest burning around him. The stark, decimated landscape is heartbreaking in the aftermath of the fire.  Once again, we worry that Rainbow won’t understand that some humans – in this case, the rescuers searching the forest to bring animals back to animal hospitals and rehabilitation facilities. Back matter includes the story behind Rainbow’s tale, koala facts, facts about climate change and ways that kids can take action.

Surviving the Wild: Sunny the Shark, by Remy Lai, (Aug. 2022, Henry Holt & Co), $13.99, ISBN: 9781250785459

Ages 6-9

Sunny is an oceanic whitetip shark on the hunt for some food, but ends up the protector for a group of pilot fish who promise to keep her clean in exchange for food crumbs. Sunny isn’t sure she’s thrilled about having a group of chatty fish swimming around her, but she tries to be good-natured about it. One day, what she thinks is a yummy squid tentacle turns out to be a plastic ring, which wraps itself around one of her fins and impacts her movement. Since she’s a growing shark, that ring is going to get tighter and more uncomfortable as she gets bigger – and it’s already causing a problem for her when trying to eat. She’s got to find a way to break free of the ring, especially before the winter sets in. Will the oceanographers who tagged her be able to help? Inspired by a 2019 news story, back matter talks about the creative adjustments made to the original story while still bringing home the impact of pollution on our oceans and ocean life. Back matter also includes shark facts and ways kids can help keep plastic use down.

Each of these stories is such a strong statement on how humans are failing as stewards of the planet, yet filled with hope and awareness of how we can also be the change that puts things back in balance. Remy Lai creates characters that have much in common with readers, to foster a relationship between kids and the planet, and them empowers them with simple, powerful ways to bring about change. The Surviving the Wild series is a must for your graphic novel collections.

 

Posted in geek, geek culture, Graphic Novels, Guide, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, picture books, Preschool Reads

Find gift ideas here!

It’s another roundup: you’ll find a few more ideas here, I hope, if you’re in “just one more person… gift… book” mode, or, if you’re like me, you’re eyeballing your December book budgets and in “I’ve got a little bit more left, I can fit one more book in this cart” mode. Either way, I hope you enjoy.

‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, by Clement C. Moore/Illustrated by PJ Lynch, (Nov. 2021, Candlewick Press), $17.95, ISBN: 9781536222852

Ages 3+

The latest release of Clement C. Moore’s classic 1823 Christmas poem, PJ Lynch imagines a sweeping Christmas tale, with watercolor and gouache illustrations rendered in shades of greens and blues to set the sleepy, evening mood. Saint Nick arrives on the scene, bringing warm reds and oranges. Lifelike artwork brings the team of reindeer to life, with texture and movement as they dance across the sky, carrying Santa and his sleigh full of toys. This telling of Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas is set in what looks like pre-Victorian England, in the time the poem was written. The artwork beautifully captures the stillness of Christmas Eve and St. Nicholas’s Christmas magic.

Every Christmas Eve, I read two stories to my own kiddos (yes, one is 22 and one is 18, but they still humor me): Chris Van Allsburg’s The Polar Express and Clement Moore’s A Visit from St. Nicholas. I’m looking forward to reading PJ Lynch’s version this year.

 

I Wish I Had a Wookiee And Other Poems for Our Galaxy, by Ian Doescher/Illustrated by Tim Budgen, (Sept. 2021, Quirk Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9781594749629

Ages 6+

Ian Doescher – Star Wars fans will recognize the name as the scribe of William Shakespeare’s Star Wars saga – is here to delight readers with his Star Wars poems created especially for kids (of all ages). He celebrates fandom with over 100 poems, complete with illustrations by Tim Budgen, whose artwork will appeal immediately to readers familiar with Jeffrey Brown’s Jedi Academy graphic novel series. He covers each of the three trilogies and embraces all the characters – and fans – of the Star Wars Universe, with poems like “Resourceful Sith”, where a child gets hold of supplies to make themselves into Darth Maul; “Snow Day on Hoth”, where kids enjoy a snow day in the greatest of ways: “My sister was a rebel leader, / And I was Luke in my snowspeeder. / The neighbor twins were Empire troops, / Approaching us in AT-AT groups”. He remembers us parents with poems like “Dad’s Luke Skywalker Figurine”, “Mom, the Medic Droid”, and “Old Mr. Jones and His Star Wars Collection”. Illustrations in black, white, and color are on almost every page. Put this right next to your Shel Silverstein and Jack Prelutsky books, and make sure to have some fun Star Wars coloring pages available. For all of us who imagined their rooms as the Millennium Falcon’s cockpit, this book’s for you.

 

 

Jop and Blip Wanna Know #1: Can You Hear a Penguin Fart on Mars?: And Other Excellent Questions, by Jim Benton, (June 2021, HarperAlley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062972927

Ages 6-10

Jop and Blip are two robots with an insatiable thirst for knowledge. They have the deep questions here in this first volume of Jop and Blip Wanna Know, a new series from graphic novelist Jim Benton. Here, they take the science apart to learn whether or not we could hear a penguin fart on Mars; if one could eat a dragon sandwich, and why we have two of sensory organs like nostrils, eyes, and ears. Panels are vibrant and the back-and-forth dialogue is fun to follow: kids who love the Elephant and Piggie books will jump right in here. The sillier side of science inspires these questions, sure, but the reasoning is solid and there’s so much to learn packed in here, including the origin of the sandwich, what dinosaurs really looked like, and yes – whether or not we can hear a penguin farting on Mars. This first book is organized into three chapters, each exploring a different question, with an activity at the end of each. Like Blip says, “…everything is worth knowing”! Think of this as a Science Comics series for your newly independent readers, and add it to your collections.

Fun learner-led program: If you have access to World Book Online through your library, check out the Webquests in the Educator Tools area. They’re printable activities on different topics that challenge readers to follow step-by-step directions to navigate the database and learn about the topic by watching videos, seeing images, and reading the text (which can also be read out loud via the database). While there are no “farting penguins” Webquests (yet), it’s a fun way to introduce research and navigating databases. This Dinosaurs Webquest is a good place to start.

Jop and Blip Wanna Know: Can You Hear a Penguin Fart on Mars? has a starred review from Kirkus.

Where’s Waldo? Santa Spotlight Search, by Martin Handford, (Sept. 2021, Candlewick Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781536220131

Ages 5-9

The holiday season brings a new Waldo adventure. The Spotlight books are fun because they add a little more detective work into the mix; dark plastic “winter scenes” on each spread call for a special Spotlight Searcher to slip in and shed a white background against the searching area. There are 6 scenes (including the one on the opening spread) to search, and every challenge calls for readers to search the crowds for Santa, Waldo and friends, and a changing list of objects, from a hatless Santa Claus to solving a jumble by finding letters on building blocks. Visit a Santa Meet and Santa’s Workshop; go Christmas Shopping; enjoy some Festive Baking; join a Jolly Jamboree, and get ready for Christmas Eve. A great learner-directed book to have in a Waldo Corner in your children’s room, and a great way to keep kids busy during Christmas gatherings.

Brightly has Where’s Waldo? printables available, and Nerd Craft Librarian, whose blog I miss, had a great Where’s Waldo? Scavenger Hunt that you can still be inspired by here.

 

Do You Know? Space and Sky, by Virginie Loubier/Illustrated by Robert Barborini, Audrey Brien, Hélène Convert, Christian Guibbaud, & Cristian Turdera (Oct. 2021, Twirl Books), $16.99, ISBN: 9782408029166

Ages 5-8

I really enjoy this Do You Know? series for intermediate and middle grade readers, and Space and Sky – the latest – is another hit. Organized into four areas – The Sky, The Solar System, Studying the Universe, and Exploring Space – Space and Sky takes a lot of information and makes it readable and organized for younger learners. Space and Sky covers everything from Earth’s water cycle, weather, and seasons to the planets, space exploration, and how we use technology to study the earth. It’s a funnel type of learning, going from the small to the large, and it helps readers understand where we are in relation to our universe. Let’s Review pages at the end of every section provide learning activities, and colored boxes at the bottom of right hand pages direct readers to related topics in the book. Colorful artwork throughout provides fun images of people and nicely detailed maps and infographics. A full index helps readers locate what they’re looking for.

If you have a puzzle area in your children’s room, consider a Space Day and display Space and Sky along with books like Stacy McAnulty’s planets and space series, Nat Geo Kids’s Space Encyclopedia, and a fun puzzle, like the NASA puzzles (if you have the space) or Melissa & Doug’s Solar System puzzle (we use a lot of Melissa & Doug at my library – so sturdy!).

 

 

 

Posted in awards, Graphic Novels

Eisner Nominees Announced!

The 2021 Eisner Nominees were announced! Diamond Book Distributors has a great graphic showing them off, with links to the Eisner catalog on Edelweiss.

 

Get a breakdown of the titles at Diamond’s website. Get a full list of Eisner nominees at the Comic Con website.

What am I excited about? Glad you asked!

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 8)
  • Bear, by Ben Queen and Joe Todd-Stanton (Archaia/BOOM!)
  • Cat Kid Comic Club, by Dav Pilkey (Scholastic Graphix)
  • Donut Feed the Squirrels, by Mika Song (RH Graphic/RH Children’s Books)
  • Kodi, by Jared Cullum (Top Shelf)
  • Lift, by Minh Lê and Dan Santat (Little, Brown Young Readers)
  • Our Little Kitchen, by Jillian Tamaki (Abrams Books for Young Readers)

I’ve read all but Lift and Our Little Kitchen, which I’m requesting from my library as we speak. Cat Kid is adorable and hilarious, but I live in a Dog Man household, so I may be biased. I loved every one of these, but for early calls, I have to lean toward either Bear or Kodi for now: but talk to me after I read the last two I need to get.

Best Publication for Kids (ages 9-12)
  • Doodleville, by Chad Sell (Knopf/BFYR/RH Children’s Books)
  • Go with the Flow, by Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Mister Invincible: Local Hero, by Pascal Jousselin (Magnetic Press)
  • Snapdragon, by Kat Leyh (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Superman Smashes the Klan, by Gene Luen Yang and Gurihiru (DC)
  • Twins, by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright (Scholastic Graphix)

Okay, have to read Mister Invincible to finish this category. What do I think has a lock on the win? Snapdragon. What am I leaning toward voting for? It’s a hard toss-up between Go With the Flow, Superman Smashes the Klan, and Twins.

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)
  • Check, Please! Book 2: Sticks & Scones, by Ngozi Ukazu (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Displacement, by Kiku Hughes (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Dragon Hoops, by Gene Luen Yang (First Second/Macmillan)
  • Fights: One Boy’s Triumph Over Violence, by Joel Christian Gill (Oni Press)
  • A Map to the Sun, by Sloane Leong (First Second/Macmillan)
  • When Stars are Scattered, by Victoria Jamieson and Omar Mohamed (Dial Books)

I’ve read all of these! I’m really pushing for When Stars Are Scattered, but Fights, Displacement, and Dragon Hoops are all in the running for my vote.

 

Talk to me! What are you loving? What are you voting for?

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

Kid-Friendly graphic novels for younger readers

I told you, this is a graphic novel summer! I’m so happy to see graphic novels coming out with younger and newer readers in mind: they helped develop a love of reading in my own kiddo, and I know the littles in my library love them as much as my middle graders do. Let’s take a look at what’s good.

Magic Tree House: Dinosaurs Before Dark Graphic Novel, by Mary Pope Osborne, Adapted by Jenny Laird, Illustrated by Kelly Matthews and Nicole Matthews, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593174715

Ages 6-9

Jack and Annie are headed to graphic novels! The Magic Tree House books have been a staple in libraries for decades; now they’re transitioning to more visual storytelling mediums with graphic novels, starting with the first Magic Tree House adventure, Dinosaurs Before Dark. Jack and Annie discover a treehouse loaded with stacks of books, make a wish to see dinosaurs, and discover that they’re been transported back in time to the prehistoric era! Annie befriends a couple of plant-eaters, they run from a T-Rex, and try to figure out how to get home again. The story translates wonderfully to a graphic novel medium, and the artwork has a manga influence, which makes for big facial expressions; the artwork is colorful and eye-catching. Less dense text relies on visual storytelling, making this even more appealing to emerging and struggling readers. This series is going to be a hit.

Be sure to check out the Magic Tree House Classroom Adventures website, where you can find lesson plans and more resources. The Magic Tree House website has resources for kids and parents, including a Mission Game and Kids Adventure Club.

Fitz and Cleo, by Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox, (May 2021, Henry Holt), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250239440

Ages 6-9

The dynamic duo behind the Llama Destroys the World series is doing graphic novels now!! Fitz and Cleo are sheet-wearing ghost siblings who find and adopt a cat they name Mr. Boo. There are 11 bite-sized stories in this first volume; perfect for newly confident readers to pick up and spend time with. Fitz sports a baseball cap and glasses and is more interested in science than cats; Cleo wears a head bow, is cheery and fun, and is always there to support her brother. The two are best friends, with Mr. Boo adding comic relief with his antics, usually aimed at Fitz. Adorable, fun, Fitz and Cleo is a great early graphic novel to add to your younger reader shelves. Download a Fitz and Cleo activity kit right here!

 

Blue, Barry & Pancakes: Escape from Balloonia, by Dan & Jason, (June 2021, First Second), $12.99, ISBN: 9781250255563
Ages 4-8
The second Blue, Barry, and Pancakes adventure is just as wacky and fun as the first. Blue and Barry want a day just for themselves, but Pancakes has other plans: she’s made a rocket, and a planet made of balloons, and before Blue or Barry can say a word, they’re zooming off into space, where they’ll find themselves facing a giant Balloonian – a resident of Balloonia, naturally – named Balloon Kong. Will the trio ever get home? Will Blue and Barry ever get their quiet day? You have to read it to find out! This is such a fun series that you can easily start reading with preschoolers. The humor is light, laugh-out-loud funny, and the characters are endearing and adorable.
Scaredy Squirrel in a Nutshell, by Melanie Watt, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593307557
Ages 6-9
Popular picture book friend, Scaredy Squirrel, makes his graphic novel debut in Scaredy Squirrel in a Nutshell. Scaredy has successfully secured his tree from wooly mammoths, woodpeckers, lumberjacks, and aliens, but now he’s faced with a seemingly insurmountable foe: his new neighbor, a friendly bunny named Ivy. Scaredy has to weigh all the potential risks and plan for every scenario before deciding whether or not to invite Ivy to share his takeout pizza, and he discovers that having a friend can be pretty fun, after all. If you’re familiar with the Scaredy books, you’ll give a hearty chuckle at seeing Scaredy’s familiar lists for everything. If you’re new to Scaredy, you will be quickly enchanted by how funny and sweet he is. The artwork is adorable, expressive, bold, and eyecatching; there are three easy-to-navigate chapters that advance the story and give readers easy spots to put the book down for a break if they need to. Scaredy Squirrel is a great choice to bring to graphic novels!
Shark and Bot #2: Sleepaway Champs, by Brian Yanish, (June 2021, Random House Books for Young Readers, $9.99, ISBN: 9780593173381
Ages 5-8
The two besties are back in their new adventure, where they head off to sleepaway camp (much to Bot’s chagrin: he wanted to go to Space Camp). Camp Sweet Sunshine is not what the friends expect: Bot is put in a giant bubble because “everyone swims at Camp Sweet Sunshine”; they’re glitter-bombed by another camper, and the bathroom may be haunted. But they have a talent show to practice for, and it’s the one place that has enough privacy! Sleepaway Champs is a funny, cheerful story about summer, friends, and trying new things, sure to make readers smile. The book is organized into 8 chapters, making for easily paced reading with breaks. Author Brian Yanish’s website has loads of resources for caregivers and educators, including a video on how to draw Shark and Bot. Back matter includes instruction on how to draw Batty, Shark’s stuffed wombat, and amusing and interesting facts about wombats.
Posted in Animal Fiction, Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

Quick Takes: Graphic Novels

This is a graphic novel summer: so many good ones hitting shelves week after week! Perfect for Summer Reading and anytime reading, there are some gorgeous, fun, fantastic stories to be found.

Ham Helsing #1: Vampire Hunter, by Rich Moyer, (June 2021, Crown Books for Young Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593308912

Ages 8-12

Ham Helsing is a young descendant of a long line of vampire hunters who never seem to live quite long, usually because they make rather silly decisions. Ham was always content to let his older brother, Chad, wear the monster hunting mantle; he preferred more creative pursuits, like painting and poetry, but Chad’s daredevil acts led to… well, Ham is the new monster hunter in the family, so he’s off to hunt a vampire. The only problem is, the vampire he’s out to get isn’t what you’d expect. Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter is the first in a planned trilogy and is a fun, not-at-all scary story about learning that people aren’t always what they seem, and that it’s always good to have friends to back you up. The action is animated, the dialogue is fun and witty, and there are robotic knights, sight gags, a toddler werewolf, and animated bacon. What more can you ask from a graphic novel?

Author Rich Moyer’s website has links to more of his illustration work, social media, and school visit information. Get a look at some more of Ham Helsing at Random House’s website.

 

 

Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo Book 3: Battle of the Bards, by James Parks & Ben Costa, (Apr. 2021, Knopf Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780399556203

Ages 11-14

A fantasy more geared toward middle- and high schoolers rather than middle graders, the third volume of the Rickety Stitch and the Gelatinous Goo book continues the adventures of the skeletal bard and his jelly-like friend, Gelatinous Goo. In this adventure, Rickety Stitch – an animated skeleton who retains his love of music and his gentle soul, despite having no memory of who he was when he was alive – and Goo travel with an acting troupe to perform in a music competition, but Rickety discovers another performer, a woman named Canta, who brings back memories of his past. It becomes clear that the competition is a distraction from some seedy behavior underneath the city, and Rickety and Goo find themselves right in the middle of the action. The story is full of action and adventure and manages to tug at readers’ heartstrings with Rickety’s genuine tale of loss and memory. Middle schoolers and early high schoolers in particular will love this great wrap-up to a fantasy tale. It helps to read the first two before beginning the third; you may feel lost otherwise, as there is a lot of world-building and character development that’s gone on thus far. Great for your fantasy section.

Check out the Land of Eem website for Rickety Stitch and Eem-related role-playing games and sign up for a newsletter!

 

Apple of My Pie, by Mika Song, (June 2021, Random House Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9781984895851

Ages 5-8

The follow-up to last year’s Donut Feed the Squirrels, the newest Norma and Belly adventure is an adorable romp to save Pops, who falls onto a truck and heads to the apple orchard where he may end up in a pie! Norma, Belly, and their friend, B, are on the case in this sweet story, perfect for newly confident readers. The watercolor artwork is colorful but not overwhelming, with lots of calming earth colors and cute animal artwork. A school trip to the orchard provides some extra fun as the squirrels dash around the kids on their race to find Pops first.

Mika Song’s website has all sorts of treasures for readers, including extra comics, a newsletter signup, and printable activity sheets! Great to bundle with other graphic novels for young readers, like Narwhal and Jelly, Blue Barry and Pancakes, Fox and Chick, and Shark and Bot. You can also mix up the formats and include other books, like Mo Willems’s Unlimited Squirrels series, or Mélanie Watt’s Scaredy Squirrel series (graphic novels are forthcoming, too: future post!).

Apple of My Pie has a starred review from Kirkus.

 

Much, much more to come: let these three start you off!

Posted in geek culture, Graphic Novels

Free Comic Book Day announces their full line-up!

Free Comic Book Day is a little different this year: it’s taking place in August, rather than May, but hey! You can go get your books in person this year! There are 50 great titles up for grabs this year, and there are more kids’ books than ever – Bailey School Kids! Who Was HQ! The Last Kids on Earth! So many favorite book series are making their way to graphic novel formats! I can’t wait to tell my library kids that graphic novel count more than ever!

While you wait for August 14th, watch the video and make sure you note which books you’re going to want. Prefer to view the list rather than watch the video? Visit the Free Comic Book Day website.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, professional development

YALSA announces Great Graphics Novels for Teens!

Diamond Comics’s Bookshelf email is a great resource for anyone who loves and/or works with graphic novels. This week, they reminded me that YALSA released their Great Graphic Novels for Teens list, along with a great graphic of the Top Ten. Clicking graphic will link you directly to the article on Diamond’s Bookshelf page.

I read six out of the top 10 this year, and 36 out of the total 125. This is a solid list; really happy with it. And now that I’m seeing the Wonder Twins is up here? Ridiculously excited; I just requested it and had to restrain myself from requesting about 25 more right off the bat. For the total list, click here, and consider signing up for Diamond’s emails, if you don’t already get them. You can visit the site here and see for yourself.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads, Young Adult/New Adult

Graphic Novels for Tweens and Teens

I’m back with more graphic novels! It’s an all-consuming joy of mine; I love them all. I’ve got some newer and up-and-coming books, and some backlist that shouldn’t be missed. I’ve got books for middle grade/middle school, and I’ve got teen/YA, so let’s see what’s good!

Sylvie, by Sylvie Kantorovitz, (Jan. 2021, Walker Books US), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536207620

Ages 9-13

An autobiographical graphic novel that really hits the sweet spot for middle schoolers but will also appeal to upper elementary and high schoolers, Sylvie is the story of the author and illustrator’s life, quirks and all. She grows up in a school where her father was principal. She loves art from an early age, but her mother is focused on her pursuing a career in math or science. The book follows her family as they add more children to the family and Sylvie’s mother doggedly pushes her academically. As she grows in confidence, and seeks her father’s council, Sylvie takes control of her own future. Artwork is cartoony and friendly, and easy-to-read, first-person narration makes Sylvie readers feel like they’re talking with a friend. Discussions about racism and anti-Semitism in ’60s and ’70s France sets the stage for discussion.

Candlewick/Walker Books US has a sample chapter available for a preview.

 

Tell No Tales: Pirates of the Southern Seas, by Sam Maggs/Illustrated by Kendra Wells, (Feb. 2021, Amulet), $21.99, ISBN: 9781419739668

Ages 10-14

Another middle school-geared book, Tell No Tales is a fictionalized account of pirate Anne Bonny, pirate Mary Read, and their female and non-binary pirate crew. They have a growing reputation, but a privateer is on their heels: Woodes Rogers, a failed pirate turned pirate hunter for the Crown, has sworn to wipe the stain of piracy from the seas. There are strong positive female and non-binary characters, based on characters from history, but the overall story falters, leaving readers to look for the thread in between the individual stories of Bonny’s crew, all of which are fascinating. The artwork is colorful, manga-inspired, and will grab viewers. Back matter includes a word on the real-life exploits of Anne Bonny and Mary Read, notes, and a bibliography.

Publishers Weekly has an interview with Sam Magga and Kendra Wells. 

Fantastic Tales of Nothing, by Alejandra Green & Fanny Rodriguez, (Nov. 2020, Katherine Tegen Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062839473

Ages 8-13

One of the most beautifully illustrated graphic novels I’ve ever seen, Fantastic Tales of Nothing is one of heck an epic fantasy for middle graders and tweens, and early teens. Nathan is a human living what he considers a pretty ordinary life until that fateful day when he wakes up in the middle of nowhere and meets a being named Haven and a race of shape shifters called the Volken. As the unlikely group find themselves on a quest, Nathan also learns that he isn’t that ordinary – he has mysterious power in side of him, and the fate of Nothing lies in his hands. Vivid color, breathtaking fantasy spreads, and solidly constructed worldbuilding lays the foundation for what could be a groundbreaking new fantasy series for middle graders, with nonbinary and Latinx representation to boot. Where are the starred reviews for this book?

Tales of Nothing received IndieNext Honors. The website has more information about the characters, authors, and upcoming projects.

 

Poems to See By: A Comic Artist Interprets Great Poetry, by Julian Peters, (March 2020, Plough Publishing House), $24, ISBN: 9780874863185

Ages 12+

Illustrator Julian Peters has taken 24 poems by some of the most recognizable names in the art form, and brought them to life using different art forms, from manga to watercolor to stark expressionist black and white.  Organized into six areas of introspection: Seeing Yourself; Seeing Others; Seeing Art; Seeing Nature; Seeing Time, and Seeing Death, Peters illustrates such master works as “Caged Bird” by Maya Angelou, “Annabel Lee”, by Edgar Allan Poe, and “Juke Box Love Song” by Langston Hughes. It’s a great way to invite middle school, high school, and college students to deep dive into some of the greatest works of poetry.

Marvin: Based on The Way I Was, by Marvin Hamlisch with Gerald Gardner/Adapted and Illustrated by Ian David Marsden, (Feb. 2020, Schiffer Kids), $12.99, ISBN: 9780764359040

Ages 9-13

This graphic adaptation of PEGOT (Pulitzer, Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, Tony) winner Marvin Hamlisch’s biography is one I did not see coming! The legendary musician, composer, and conductor discusses his family’s flight from Hitler’s Austria and settling in America, Hamlisch’s admittance to Julliard at the age of 6, and the intense anxiety that plagued him before every performance. He tells readers about attending high school with Christopher Walken and Liza Minelli, and playing the piano for Judy Garland as a teen; about composing pop radio hits and learning to compose music for a motion picture as he went along. By the time he was 30, he’d won his first major award. Hamlisch’s voice is funny, warm, and conversational throughot, and Marsden’s realistic art has touching moments, particularly between Hamlisch and his father. A great read for theatre and music fans – this one is going to be my not-so-secret weapon.

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

A CYBILS graphic novel rundown

I know, being on the CYBILS first round, I can’t give TOO much away about graphic novels I’m reading, but I did have these on my TBR before I was nominated to judge, so… I’ll just talk them up a wee bit. To whet your appetite for what’s coming.

Softies: Stuff That Happens After the World Blows Up, by Kyle Smeallie, (Oct. 2020, Iron Circus Comics), $15, ISBN: 9781945820489

Ages 10-14

This is sort of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, with a dose of stuffed animals tossed in for good measure. Earth blows up: kablooey, just like that. But there’s a survivor! Kay, a thirteen-year-old girl, is floating around in space when she’s rescued by Arizona, an alien space-junk collector, and his cybernetic pet Euclid. Arizona looks like a cuddly pink space stuffie that you’d find on the shelves in Target, and Euclid would definitely have his own action figure. There are laughs to be had, especially when Kay explains where she’s from, time and again, to blank faces – we’re not that well-known in the universe after all – and the levels of bureacracy that pop up time and again, as the new friends make their way through space. Softies is comprised of short stories, put together into one volume. The artwork is cartoony and very kid-friendly; the material is probably better suited for higher middle grade to middle school. There are some chuckleworthy moments and some sweet moments as Arizona and Kay try to figure things out together in this new relationship they’re forging. The storytelling has some lags, but overall, kids will get a kick out of it. Good to have for those tough-to-pin-down middle school collections.

 

The Magic Fish, by Trung Le Nguyen, (Oct. 2020 Random House Graphic), $23.99, ISBN: 9780593125298

Ages 12+

Told in parallel narratives between fairy tales and real life, The Magic Fish is the story of Tiến, a Vietnamese teen who loves his family but lives with a secret that he fears will change things. He’s gay, and doesn’t quite know how to come out to them. He shares stories with his parents, particularly his mother, and we can see the story within the story here: each is about suffering, and eventually, rising above difficult circumstances, which mirrors not only Tiến’s life, but his mother’s escape from Vietnam to America and her longing to be with her mother. The artwork itself is breathtaking; the fairy tale scenes are incredible, dreamlike; Tiến’s reality is realistically drawn with fleshed-out characters and expressive body language. Sensitive, beautifully drawn, and perfect for teen collections. The Magic Fish has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Kirkus, and is an Indie Next pick.

Witches of Brooklyn, by Sophie Escabasse, (Sept. 2020, Random House Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593119273
Ages 8-12
I LOVED this magical story! Effie is a kid whose mom has passed away, and she’s brought to Brooklyn to live with her aunt, Selimene; a woman she’s never met before. Selimene and her partner, Carlota, are two “herbalists” who just seem plain weird to Effie, until she discovers that the two women are… shhhh… witches. Good witches, to be sure, but witches! And shortly after arriving, Effie discovers her hands start glowing and that she’s a witch, too! Could this day get better? You bet – she makes two great friends in school, and when she arrives home, discovers that her favorite pop star, Tily Shoo, is in her house in need of Selimene and Carlota’s help. Everything is fun about Witches of Brooklyn, which also has wonderful storytelling and statements about family. Great artwork, great character development and storytelling, and  – let’s hope – more to come. Give this to your Lumberjanes readers and while you’re at it, hand them a copy of Emma Steinkellner’s graphic novel, The Okay Witch.
Swamp Thing: Twin Branches, by Maggie Stiefvater/Illustrated by Morgan Beem, (Oct. 2020, DC Comics), $16.99, ISBN: 9781401293239
Ages 12+
Twin brothers Alec and Walker Holland are sent off to spend their last summer before college with their rural cousins after catching their father having an affair. Alec, the studious one, buries himself in a lab where he continues working on a project that takes everything in him – a bit literally – to keep going, while Walker hits the social scene. The two brothers find themselves diverging this summer, with tensions and memories forcing their way between the two. And the swamp… well, that’s just waiting for someone, isn’t it? Maggie Stiefvater is an amazing YA writer, and Morgan Beem has a nice list of comics illustration to her credit. She creates an eerie atmosphere with her green and murky artwork, giving Maggie Stiefvater’s creepy storytelling a wonderfully oogie vibe. I’ll be honest, the story dipped for me a few times when Alec gets caught up in his botany discussions, but the overall storytelling is strong and macabre; very American Gothic.
Posted in awards, Cybils, Graphic Novels

Cybils Check-In: Graphic Novels

Yesterday was the closing date for the 2020 Cybils nominees: did you get your picks in? So now, the reading begins. Actually, the reading’s been going on; I’m a first-round judge in Graphic Novels this year, so my Holds list runneth over with all sorts of great nominees.

This year, because of… well, 2020 being 2020, Graphic Novels is collapsed into one category, and we’re reading both YA and Middle Grade graphic novels, which fits perfectly in my wheelhouse. I’m thrilled with the graphic novel storytelling happening these days; there are great autobiographical stories, like Robin Ha’s Almost American Girl, and great realistic fiction, like Nat Enough. Fun fantasy stories, like Dungeon Critters, and all the superheroes you can imagine, thanks to DC’s middle grade and YA original graphic novels. I’m proud of this medium and what it’s accomplished: there’s a lot of respect for the power of sequential storytelling now, and being part of the Cybils Graphic Novels panel means so much.

No spoilers here – I won’t be writing about the novels we’re discussing, but full disclosure, several novels were on my review list before they were Cybils nominees. I’ll review those as I normally would, mention that they are a Cybils nominee, and that’s it.

 

I’ve got a stack of books to get to, so I’ll close here for now. More to come!