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

Three graphic novels for dragon fans

Dragons have always been a popular subject in fantasy fiction, so their popularity in a visual medium like graphic novels makes complete sense: creators can let their illustrations soar, bringing these beautiful and exciting creatures to life. Here’s a potential graphic novel book bundle for you: three novels, three dragon stories; two are the first entries into new series.

Tidesong, by Wendy Xu, (Nov. 2021, Quill Tree), $21.99, ISBN: 9780062955807

Ages 8-12

This beautifully illustrated story is for the Studio Ghibli fans out there. Sophie is a young witch whose mother and grandmother send her off to her curmudgeonly great-aunt and cousin, to prepare for the entrance exams to witch school. Sophie’s never met these relations, but there’s history between her grandmother and her sister, Sophie’s great-aunt, and the tension is there right from the beginning. Auntie Sage is younger and friendlier, but they won’t let her actually study spells; Great-Auntie seems to be from the Mr. Miyagi school of study, giving Sophie chores upon chores to do to build character. Frustrated, Sophie sneaks off and attempts magic on her own, only to get herself into trouble; a young water dragon named Lir rescues her, but loses his memory and his ability to morph back into his dragon form. Sophie has to choose between proving herself on her own, or leaning on Lir’s magic to pass her exams, but to do that, she interferes with Lir’s chance to get his memories and his dragon form back. The artwork is breathtaking, the colors gentle, flowing from one panel to the next. Inspired by Chinese mythology and the myth of water dragons, this story has a magical family history, stirrings of first romance, and an introspective heroine with an internal conflict. Back matter has an author’s note on the dragons of Chinese mythology and the “ecological backbone” of Tidesong, encouraging readers to to learn about and respect our oceans.

Tidesong was selected for the November Kids’ IndieNext list. Wendy Xu, the award-nominated co-creator of Mooncakes (2019), has an author webpage where you can read her online comics and see more of her artwork.

By the way, since Tidesong publishes in November, it’s not eligible for the 2021 CYBILS awards… but you can keep it in your CYBILS 2022 wish list!

 

City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm, by Jaimal Yogis/Illustrated by Vivian Truong, (Sept. 2021, Scholastic Graphix), $12.99, ISBN: 9781338660425

Ages 8-12

This is the first book in a new graphic novel series, and I am all in for it. Grace is a middle schooler whose mother and stepfather move her to Hong Kong, where he works for a biotech company. Still grieving her father’s death from cancer three years before, she’s working on moving on and is happy that her mom has found happiness again, and her stepdad, Hank, seems like a good guy, even if it’s worthy of a little side-eye, knowing that he was her dad’s doctor at the time he died. Anyway. At a market, an old woman gives Sophie what looks like a lovely crystal egg, but when she wakes up the next morning, she discovers an adorable, blue water dragon hanging out in her bathroom! Sophie and her new group of friends are enchanted with the dragon, whom she names Nate after her father, but realize that the dragon’s power is more than a group of schoolkids can shoulder – especially when men in masks and suits start chasing them all around Hong Kong. Desperate to get Nate to safety and get to the bottom of who’s chasing them and why, Sophie is about to learn even more about Chinese mythology – and how it may not be all “fantasy” after all.

This is going to be an AMAZING new series. There’s action, a shadowy plot with far-reaching consequences, and a smart, likable group of characters on the run. Characters are multicultural, and Sophie is biracial (Asian and Caucasian). Throw in an adorable blue water dragon and eye-catching, colorful illustration with a manga influence, and this is a book I am booktalking to all my graphic novel readers (read: 99% of the kids at my library, and my own dragon-obsessed 9-year-old). Got Wings of Fire fans? They’re now City of Dragons fans, too. Trust me on this one.

Much thanks to Geo Librarian, who nominated City of Dragons: The Awakening Storm for the CYBILS; I hadn’t seen this one and would likely have missed out on it if it hadn’t been nominated!

 

Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly: The Coldfire Curse, by Jordan Quinn/Illustrated by Glass House Graphics, (Feb. 2021, Little Simon), $9.99, ISBN: 9781534475007

Ages 6-10

I can’t believe I didn’t hear about this series, either; the Wrenly chapter books are popular with my library kids. Shout out to Little House of Reading for the nomination that put this into my hands. A graphic novel for slightly younger readers, but by no means too young for the 8-12 middle grade sweet spot, The Coldfire Curse is another great book to talk up to your Wings of Fire fans and your Chis D’Lacey Dragon Chronicles readers. Ruskin is a dragon, but he’s more of a pet to the Prince of Wrenly. He lives the good life, and has no idea what’s in store for him when Cinder, a dragon from Crestwood shows up to ask for help. A curse is running rampant through Crestwood and will threaten all dragons in Wrenly if Ruskin can’t help him. Ruskin is in, and the two head off on an adventure that will be nothing like he’s ever experienced, especially when he discovers that he’s the target of a nefarious plot. Why is a pampered pet dragon the center of intrigue? Only one way to find out!

You don’t need to be familiar with the Wrenly chapter books to fall in love with this series; a love of dragons and adventure is all you’ll need. Vibrant colors, an epic storyline, and adorable characters that will alternately delight you and break your heart make this essential dragon reading.

There are five Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly graphic novels out right now, with a sixth one coming at the end of November. Update your order carts!

 

Posted in Early Reader, Fiction, Graphic Novels, I Read Stuff/Kiddo

Introducing… The Kiddo!

Hi all! I’ve been radio silent for a while, because I’ve been home enjoying my midwinter break vacation with my kiddos. Imagine my delight (and abject terror) when he announced that he wants to be a YouTuber, and that he wanted his first video to be about books. I went back and forth on this for a while, but here I go… I’d like to introduce you all to my kiddo, Gabe.

It’s his first, and he’s 7, but I think – in my very biased opinion – he’s adorable. I hope you enjoy hearing about kids’ books from an actual kid.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a big ol’ TBR to start writing up!

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

Newsprints blends steampunk with Newsies

newsprintsNewsprints, by Ru Xu, (Jan. 2017, Scholastic Graphix), $12.99, ISBN: 978-0-545-80312-2

Recommended for ages 8-12

In an alternate universe, a young orphan named Blue is a girl, disguised as a newboy. With seemingly constant war going on, girls are expected to help the struggling economy by baking cookies, but Blue has no interest in that. She loves She lives with her guardians, the father figure of whom happens to be the town Mayor, and she loves working as a newsie for The Bugle, the one newspaper that tells the truth in an environment of “fake news” (flashing light for extra relevancy alert, folks). It’s not always easy to keep her secret, but Blue lives in fear of being found out and losing everything she loves: her family, her job, her lifestyle. When she meets a strange kid named Crow, she brings him into the fold; Crow has secrets of his own, which Blue can respect. When government officials appear on the scene, in search of missing military technology, there are more questions than answers, and Blue’s determined to stick by her friend, no matter what his secrets may be.

Inspired by manga, Newsprints tells a relevant story on so many levels: we have truth in the media, gender identity, and the power of friendship. Blue is a girl who doesn’t wants to do what she wants to do, not what society is telling her that her gender should be doing. She enjoys the freedom afforded to newsies, and embraces the dangers that come with a life on the streets. She gets the Crow has secrets he wants to keep, motivated only by a desire to help a kindred spirit survive and be safe.

My biggest issue with Newsprint was what I saw as disjointed storytelling, but that is entirely my issue. I’m not a regular manga reader, and Newsprints seems to follow manga-type storytelling, which isn’t always linear. The kids in my library love this book – my two copies have been out since I put them out on the shelves – and the emerging themes in the story make this a strong selection for booktalking.

Scholastic has a 34-page excerpt available for free, if you want to take a look and decide whether Newsprints is for you. Ru Xu has a Tumblr with an author calendar and links to her webcomic, Saint for Rent, which updates three times weekly.

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

Dav Pilkey collaborates with George and Harold to bring us Dog Man

dogmanDog Man (Dog Man #1), by Dav Pilkey, (Aug. 2016, Graphix/Scholastic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780545581608

Recommended for ages 7-10

Remember George and Harold, the dynamic duo who “write” Captain Underpants an Ook and Gluk? Well, get ready – the twosome rediscovered a comic they wrote back when they were in Kindergarten, spruced it up, and give us the story of a cop whose origins are slightly Robocop-like, with a little bit of K-9 thrown in for good measure. Dav Pilkey presents: Dog Man.

Officer Knight and his canine partner, Greg, were critically injured while defusing a bomb set by the evil feline mastermind, Petey. Officer Knight’s head was dying, and Greg’s body was dying; to save these two brave officers, doctors did what they had to do: sewed Greg’s head onto Officer Knight’s body, giving us the next name in law enforcement: Dog Man. This first volume contains four adventures, including Dog Man’s origin story.

If you love Captain Underpants, you’re going to love Dog Man. It’s a graphic novel with all the elements we’ve come to love in a Pilkey book: the flip-o-rama action, the drawing lessons, the bathroom humor, and the overall sense of fun and play. Pilkey is pure escapism, and I love him for it; he uses his childhood struggles with dyslexia to fuel his mission to create playful illustrated books for kids; he gives kids characters like George and Harold to empower kids to create their own comics; he makes his books read like they were created for kids, by kids.

When kids walk into my library – boys and girls alike – they overwhelmingly ask for Captain Underpants (and Wimpy Kid). I can’t wait to show them Dog Man and watch them go crazy.

Having Captain Underpants in your collections is a no-brainer. So is having Dog Man on your graphic novel shelf. Show kids how much fun reading is, and then print out some comic book templates to let them tell their own stories. Dav’s author website offers a downloadable PDF biography – that’s a great way to get kids telling their own stories!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate

Bird & Squirrel on Ice – A New Adventure!

bird and squirrel on iceBird & Squirrel on Ice, by James Burks (Sept. 2014, Scholastic Graphix), $8.99, ISBN: 9780545563185

Recommended for ages 7-12

Bird & Squirrel is an adorable, fun graphic novel series for younger readers. The series follows the adventures of two friends: Bird, a bright yellow bird, and his buddy, Squirrel, a blue squirrel with an acorn hat. Bird seems to blunder into things, and Squirrel plays the voice of reason.

In the second book in this series, Bird & Squirrel on Ice, the two friends find themselves in the South Pole, befriended by a group of penguins that swear Bird is their Chosen One – he will fight the giant killer whale that bullies them, threatening to eat them if they don’t make an offering of food to him. They’re going to starve if they need to keep feeding this whale! Bird is only too thrilled to bask in the accolades, but Squirrel knows something’s up – and sure enough, it’s a doozy. With the help of their new penguin friend, Sakari, maybe they can just make it out after all.

This book is an adorable look at friendship. It uses the “Odd Couple” model, with two contrasting personalities, but who ultimately fit together nicely. It’s a sitcom, set in a graphic novel: the situation is set up, the problem introduces itself, and the resolution plays out. There’s some fun dialogue, and the cartoon art is adorable and eye-catching, with bright colors that will draw all readers in.

This is a great addition to graphic novel collections for younger readers: there’s a plucky female heroine, and there are strong themes about friendship and honesty. Pick this one up when it publishes in September, and check out the first book, Bird & Squirrel on the Run.