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 picture books, Preschool Reads

Santa Baby: Ho, Ho, WHOA

Santa Baby, by Jonathan Stutzman/Illustrated by Heather Fox, (Sept. 2020, Henry Holt & Company), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250255617

Ages 4-8

Jonathan Stutzman and Heather Fox make magic together. The Llama books are some of my favorite picture books ever. Don’t Feed the Coos is hilarious. And now, Santa Baby, gives us a laugh-out loud look at a Christmas wish gone terribly, hilariously, wrong. Santa is tired, folks. He’s feeling every bit of his hundreds and hundreds of years old, and he just doesn’t have the Christmas spirit these days.

We can totally get on board with this, right, grownups? If we’re all feeling 2020, imagine what it’s like to be SANTA. No pressure.

So Santa decides, for once, to make a Christmas wish for himself: He wants to be young again. But, like most wishes, you have to really be specific, or the Powers That Be are going to mess with you. Sure enough, Santa progresses back through time, ending up as a baby. Elves freak out, but Santa, at first, is just fine. But when he tries to communicate this to the elves, all he can blabber is baby talk! He’s a baby, he’s eating the Naughty and Nice list, and the elves are stressed. Santa Baby pulls it together enough to brainstorm a grand plan with the elves to save Christmas, but when Santa falls stumbles down a chimney and falls on that diapered behind, he almost loses it: until Christmas magic shows up, in the most magical of moments, to save the night. A story about the true magic of the season – connection and empathy – makes this a readaloud you’ll want to return to again and again. Jonathan Stutzman’s prose is witty and silly, with a gentle final scene that makes the laughs and stumbles all worth it. Heather Fox’s artwork is a joy, from the stinky Santa diaper to Santa’s regression from old guy, to shirtless lumberjack, to disaffected youth. Illuminated letters add that whimsical holiday wink to the story. Last minute shopping? Put this in your basket, and visit the author and illustrator’s website to download free printable goodies.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Brace Yourselves. The Alpacalypse is Here.

Last year, there was a great disturbance in the Force (or something like that) when a Llama ate too much cake, which led to the destruction of the world. This year, Llama, in his quest to avoid housework, has unleashed something so great, so much bigger than all of us, that there may be repercussions for years to come.

Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse, by Jonathan Stutzman/Illustrated by Heather Fox,
(May 2020, Henry Holt), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250222855

Ages 3-6

I am slightly obsessed with picture books, I’ll be the first to tell you. Llama is one of my latest obsessions. The first book, Llama Destroys the World, is HILARIOUS. Like, my Kiddo and I attempt to read it together where I’m the narrator and he’s the Llama, and we can’t get through it in one shot because we’re laughing so hard. So when I had the chance to receive a copy of Llama Unleashes the Alpacalypse from the publisher, you bet your bippy I said yes. And it is every bit as laugh-out loud funny as the first book.

Llama wakes up one day and decides to make a big breakfast, but with big breakfasts, comes big messes (Llama, Llama, you clean as you go!). Not really on board with cleaning up, he instead creates the Replicator 3000 and invites his friend, Alpaca, who happens to love cleaning, over for lunch. You follow where I’m going? Oh yes. With a mighty ZOOP!, there are two Alpacas. But why stop there? Llama keeps pressing buttons, and Alpacas keep replicating, filled with scrubbing, sweeping, vigor. They take to the streets! They storm the town! No one is safe! The Alpacalypse is here! What will Llama do? And will he have learned his lesson by the end of the book? You have to read it for yourself, but trust me: this is comedy GOLD. Kiddo and I read this one out loud together, too; he cackles his way through both Llama and Alpaca’s voices, and I giggle through the narration. It’s never going to get old, mark me.

The artwork is just so much fun. Big-eyed Llama and Alpaca dance across the pages, their expressive faces really making the text come across even funnier, and the wild, cartoony, bold artwork just invites readers into the fun. Pizzas and cake decorate the endpapers. The only way this would be even more fun is to print out Llama coloring sheets and activities, courtesy of the author and illustrator.

I can’t wait to see what Llama has in store next. A must-add to your storytime collections and heck, your personal ones, even if you don’t have littles. Read it to yourself, you need a laugh today.