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

Graphic Novel Biographies: Nat Love and Bluma & Felix Goldberg

Best Shot in the West: The Thrilling Adventures of Nat Love – The Legendary Cowboy!, by Patricia C. McKissack and Frederick L. McKissack, Jr./Illustrated by Randy Duburke, (Aug. 2022, Chronicle Books), $9.99, ISBN: 9781797212517

Ages 10-13

Originally published in 2012, this graphic novel biography of Nat Love, also known as Deadwood Dick, one of the most famous African-American cowboys in the Old West. Based on Love’s 1907 autobiography, The Life and Adventures of Nat Love, Better Known in the Cattle Country as “Deadwood Dick,” Best Shot in the West‘s adaptation by children’s literature greats Patricia and Frederick McKissack is told in Love’s voice, from his 1854 birth into slavery in Tennessee; his leaving home to find work as a cowpoke and his adventures across the country, and his decision to marry and work as a railroad porter in his later years. The McKissacks created a faithful adaptation that appeals to a younger readership, and Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe Award Winner Randy Duburke’s painted work brings Love’s work to life, with gray wash over color to add a sepia-toned aging to the artwork. A good purchase for libraries with robust graphic novel biographies and historical U.S. collections. Pair with books like Black Heroes of the Wild West and Bad News for Outlaws for a display on the Wild West your readers didn’t learn about!

 

 

We Survived the Holocaust: The Bluma and Felix Goldberg Story, by Frank W. Baker/Illustrated by Tim E. Ogline, (Sept. 2022, Imagine & Wonder), $19.99, ISBN: 9781637610206

Ages 14-18

In 2000, Holocaust survivor Felix Goldberg handed media literacy educator Frank W. Baker a copy of the speech he’d just delivered to a South Carolina synagogue and asked him to “do something with this”. Baker worked with the Goldberg’s children and illustrator Tim E. Ogline to bring Felix’s and Bluma’s stories to the world. Rendered in stark black and white, their stories unfold: Felix’s and Bluma’s early lives in Poland parallel the growing wave of hate and rage running through Germany; the antisemitic propaganda that dehumanized and turned a nation against a people; the explosion of violence that began the Holocaust. Felix and Bluma experienced untold horrors across concentration camps and death marches, losing family members but finding one another in a displaced persons camp, and arriving in America to begin a life together. It is an moving and powerful story, and a strong book to put on shelves next to Maus. Back matter includes a timeline of events; a glossary; recommended resources for further reading, and an index. You can find a Readers Guide at the Stories of Survival website.

 

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Two Books to Read This Shabbat

Kalaniot Books has been putting out some great books representing Jewish culture. I’ve been reading them, enjoying them, and sharing them with my library kids. Here are two to take home to read this Shabbat.

The Candy Man Mystery, by Rabbi Kerry Olitzky/Illustrated by Christina Mattison Ebert, (Sept. 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-1-7350875-2-8

Ages 4-8

Josh and Becky enjoy going to synagogue, and Mr. Sharansky – The Candy Man – makes it even more special, handing out candy after services every week! When Mr. Sharansky isn’t at Temple Shalom this week, Josh and Becky are worried and determined to get to the bottom of this mystery. When they find Mr. Sharansky, it’s a sweet reunion in every way. A touching story of faith and multigenerational friendship, The Candy Man Mystery is a great readaloud on empathy and sharing. Josh and Becky connect with members of their synagogue community, and we learn something about everyone they come into contact with, including a child learning a prayer in American Sign Language (ASL), so he can say them with his mother, who is deaf. The congregation is invested in one another, and the Rabbi is a warm figure who respects children and adults alike. Back matter includes a word on the Shema, a glossary, and how to use ASL to sign the Shema. A lovely addition to Jewish culture and empathy-focused collections.

Visit Kalaniot’s webpage to download a free educator’s guide for The Candy Man Mystery.

 

The Rabbi and the Painter, by Shoshana Weiss/Illustrated by Jennifer Kirkham, (Sept. 2021, Kalaniot Books), $19.99, ISBN: 978-0-9988527-8-2

Ages 5-8

Based on the true story of the relationship between 16th-Century Venetian painter Tintoretto (also known as “Il Furioso”) and Rabbi Leon Modena (also known as Yahuda Araya), formed when the Rabbi was a boy who found a clay doll the painter used as a model. The Rabbi became fluent in both Italian and Hebrew, helping the Venetian government draft contracts in Hebrew as needed and eventually helping Tintoretto with one of his famous pieces, The Last Supper. The story explores the friendship between the two men while focusing on their individual talents, resulting in a story about how blending cultures can lead to great things. Back matter includes historical notes and further resources. Illustrations are engaging and focus on collaboration and creativity. A smart addition to historical picture books.

Download a free educator guide at Kalaniot’s website.

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

Jon Chad’s graphic novel history of Pinball is great for gamer historians

Pinball: A Graphic History of the Silver Ball, by Jon Chad, (Feb. 2022, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250249210

Ages 10+

Before there was Atari, there was pinball. The first pinball machine made its debut around 1930 and captivated players from the beginning: so much that banned for being a “racket that fleeces children” and drive them to petty thievery”. In 1976, champion player Roger Sharpe played the game in a Manhattan courtroom to prove that pinball was a game of skill, not chance. Graphic novelist Jon Chad ‘s (Science Comics) graphic novel Pinball is the graphic history of the game, tracing its roots back to the Court of King Louis XIV, through its scandalous era in the 1930s, and renaissance in the 1970s, all the way up to the present day. It’s like Science Comics and History Comics, all put together in great volume. Jon Chad examines not only the artwork and cultural significance of the game – gaming fans, and pinball fans in particular, know all about the collectible, incredible artwork that went into the back glass and the game floor itself – but the physics of the game, and what makes it a game of skill.

Jon Chad’s artwork is colorful, filled with movement and amazing detail. He writes with expert knowledge and a true love of the game. This is an essential purchase for nonfiction graphic collections and anyone with a gaming collection.

Read an interview with Jon Chad at ComicsBeat, visit his author webpage for more comics and teaching resources, and have your own pinball/STEM program with these PBS Kids instructions or this pizza box pinball PDF from the UK’s Science Museum Group.

Posted in History, Middle Grade, Non-fiction, Tween Reads

Honest History gives middle graders new perspectives

Publisher Gibbs Smith hit shelves in August with two history titles that are great gift ideas and lots of fun for your nonfiction collections: History is Delicious, and History is Inventive.

History Is Delicious, by Joshua Lurie/Illustrated by Laura Foy, (Aug. 2021, Gibbs Smith/Honest History), $19.99, ISBN: 9781736191903

Ages 8-12

History is Delicious is a colorful, tasty trip across world history through cuisine. Food plays a part in the cultural fabric; influenced by native cultures and colonialism, the book illustrates how food brings us all together. Organized into sections highlighting the Americas, Europe, Ethiopia (and their coffee breaks!), and Asia, sections include histories of each cuisine, etiquette tips for dining across cultures, popular and “must try” dishes, and a recipe for each region. Colorful illustrations make this attractive and accessible to kids everywhere.

 

History is Inventive, by Brooke Knight/Illustrated by Sophy Smith (Aug. 2021, Honest History/Gibbs Smith), $19.99, ISBN: 9781736191927

Ages 8-12

Next up, we’ve got History is Inventive, a look at inventions and their inventors that changed the world. Straightforward sections organize inventions into timeframes like “Inventions from Long Ago”, “Inventions from Not As Long Ago”, and “Inventions from Not Long Ago” to group inventions going from ancient ideas like gunpowder (9th century AD), to the piano (17th century), to wi-fi (1940s). There’s a section on famous inventors like Charles Drew, the first African American doctor to earn a Doctor of Science from Columbia University, and creator of blood banks. A “Fun Stuff” section gives readers the background and lists of materials needed to make a version of Galileo’s telescope. “Thinking it Over” sections after every profile offer thought-provoking questions. Colorful illustrations, great pacing and layout, and hands-on activities make this another great book to have in your history and STEM collections. I am looking forward to seeing what more Honest History books are coming down the pike!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Teen

Graphic Novels to add to your Fall carts

I’m still reading graphic novels by the bunch: I’ve even applied to be a CYBILS Graphic Novel judge this year, because I had such a great time being one last year! There are such good books coming out for middle grade and YA, and with a new focus on early reader graphic novels picking up strength, I can honestly say we comic book fans have inherited the earth and it feels good. Here are a few more to add to your Fall order carts.

In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers : The Seconds, Minutes, Hours, Days, Weeks, Months, and Years after the 9/11 Attacks, by Don Brown, (Aug. 2021, Clarion Books), $19.99, ISBN: 9780358223573
Ages 12+
This year is the 20th anniversary of September 11th. Award-winning author and illustrator Don Brown’s graphic novel takes readers into the moments directly after, the attack, and follows the ramifications of that day, still felt in 2021. Don Brown helps put readers into the middle of that day, with quotes from survivors and family members, to help contextualize the events September 11th and its effect on global history and politics. It’s respectful, never melodramatic, thought-provoking, and a strong tribute to the people that we lost, and those we left behind. Artwork is bleak, rendered in shades of brown and grey, with periodic red-orange flames, illustrating the Ground Zero landscape. Back matter includes source notes, statistics, citations, and an afterword. An important addition to your nonfiction collections.
In the Shadow of the Fallen Towers has starred reviews from Horn Book and Publishers Weekly.
Witch for Hire, by Ted Naifeh, (Aug. 2021, Amulet Paperbacks), $12.99, ISBN: 9781419748110
Ages 12-15
High school freshman Cody is sent immediately to the loser table by a cruel sibling, where she meets Faye Faulkner; a goth chick with a witch hat and a group of “losers” that are accomplished students who don’t fit the “mean girl/jock” mold. When a series of pranks go from amusing to outright dangerous and destructive, Faye’s on the case – and the trail leads to Cody. Faye has to decide whether or not to reveal her true identity – she really is a teenage witch! – to Cody and help release her from a very bad deal, or to keep to herself, affecting her usual social distance? I love a good goth tale, and who better than Eisner Award-nominated series Courtney Crumrin’s creator, Ted NaifehWitch for Hire goes beyond the usual mean girls high school story and masterfully weaves a tale of social media, influence, and manipulative magic. Faye Faulkner is your next favorite character; cool beyond compare, with witch powers, excellent baking skills, and who doesn’t give a good gracious fig about what you, or the cool kids, think of her. But she has a heart, and she cares, and that’s what makes her an endearing, interesting character. I hope this is a fun new series I can look forward to; my Courtney Crumrin trades need a break!
Treasure in the Lake, by Jason Pamment, (Sept. 2021, HarperAlley), $12.99, ISBN: 9780063065178
Ages 8-12
Two friends discover a long-lost city and friendship on an adventure of their own in this debut middle grade graphic novel. Iris is a bookworm who craves adventure outside of her tiny town, while Sam seems to like the comfort of small town life. They discover a dry river while exploring one day, and from there, happen on an ages-old mystery that involves a hidden city, and, possibly, a ghost or a time traveler. The key to Iris’s and Sam’s friendship is tied into this adventure, and the two have to get to the bottom of the mystery in time to salvage their own relationship. The artwork is the champ in this beautifully illustrated graphic novel; wordless panels and spreads let readers absorb the beauty of the artwork.
Treasure in the Lake has a starred review from Kirkus and is an IndieNext Children’s Pick.
Nightmare in Savannah, by Lela Gwenn, Rowan MacColl, & Micah Myers, (Nov. 2021, Mad Cave Studios), $17.99, ISBN: 9781952303265
Ages 14+
Alexa is a teen, sent to live with her grandfather in Savannah, Georgia, while her parents serve prison sentences. Word gets out – it always does – and Alexa immediately finds herself an outcast at her new school before she’s even shown up. She falls in with a group of fellow outcast teens – Chloe, Fae, and Skye – and discovers, after a night of partying too hard, that they’ve become Fairies. And not the cute, Tinkerbell-type, winged little dots of light, either. Fairies of legend; changelings who steal human babies, cause trouble, that sort of thing. I was excited to pick this book up – the art is fantastic, with loads of shadows and goth overtones; as a fan of The Craft (1996), it spoke to my post-college soul – but I never quite got onto an even footing with the pacing. I loved Alexa, who emerges as a strong female character, and Fae, who has the Fairuza Balk influence for a new generation. It’s a book I’ll put into my collection – I know I have readers who will love it – but this one wasn’t quite my book.
Posted in Early Reader, Uncategorized

Women to Know: The Statue of Liberty – Let Liberty Rise!

Let Liberty Rise! How America’s Schoolchildren Helped Save the Statue of Liberty, by Chana Stiefel/Illustrated by Chuck Groenink, (March 2021, Scholastic Press), $18.99, ISBN: 9781338225884

Ages 5-9

The Statue of Liberty is an American icon now, but back when she was first gifted to the U.S. from France, things were quite different. America needed to build a pedestal in order to hold up all 350 pieces of Lady Liberty, once she was assembled, but money was tight and the American people weren’t happy about ponying up the cash for it. Newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer caught wind of Lady Liberty’s dilemma, and used his newspaper, the New York World, to make an Americans an offer they couldn’t refuse: every donor to the pedestal fund would get their name printed in The World. Every. One. Donations began pouring in, many from schoolchildren who took up collections, saved candy money, and found ways to put aside a penny, a nickel, or more. On August 11, 1885, The World‘s headline announced that 120,000 donors raised $100,000, and the pedestal was built, allowing Lady Liberty to be freed from her crates and put together, in New York Harbor, where she stands today. Chana Steifel is straightforward yet fun in her storytelling, concentrating on how Americans – particularly schoolchildren – came together in a joint effort to accept France’s gift in style. Chuck Groenink’s light-hearted illustrations are show groups of children gathered together alongside quotes from actual letters received with donations; he makes Lady Liberty resplendent in her shining bronze glory. Comprehensive back matter includes a Statue of Liberty timeline, facts about the Statue, a bibliography, and photos from Lady Liberty’s construction. A necessary inclusion to your history collections!

Let Liberty Rise! has a starred review from School Library Journal. Chana Stiefel has a free curriculum guide available on her author webpage.

Posted in Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Authors explore an explosive year in 1789

1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change, edited by Marc Aronson & Susan Campbell Bartoletti, (Sept. 2020, Candlewick Press), $22.99, ISBN: 9781536208733

Ages 12+

America wasn’t the only one feeling growing pains in 1789. Marc Aronson and Susan Campbell Bartoletti, who edited and contributed to 2018’s 1968: Today’s Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change, have put together another stellar examination of a contentious year in global history with 1789: Twelve Authors Explore a Year of Rebellion, Revolution, and Change. All-star authors, including Aronson and Bartoletti, Tanya Lee Stone, Steve Sheinkin, Joyce Hansen, and Cynthia Levinson and Sanford Levinson, take on the big events and questions that rocked the world that year: what does “The Rights of Man” mean? White men? Nobles and kings? What about enslaved people and indigenous people? The Bill of Rights was ratified in the United States while France burned toward revolution; fishwives took to the streets and Marie Antoinette’s portrait artist captured the human side of an untouchable royal. Sailors mutinied, slaves told their stories, and mathematicians calculated the digits of pi. Organized into sections entitled “Exhilaration”, “Abomination”, “Inspiration”, and “Conclusions”, essays cover the excitement of change and discovery, the horror of enslavement, and the journey toward progress. It’s a truly holistic view of a pivotal year in history, and each essay broadens the reader’s world as they connect the dots to come away with a full picture of how one event can, like a snowball rolling downhill, engulf all in its path.

Publisher Candlewick offers a sample chapter on their website as well as an educator’s guide. Back matter includes comprehensive author notes, source notes, and a bibliography. 1789 has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in Intermediate, Non-Fiction, picture books

Codebreaker Elizebeth Friedman gets a book and a giveaway for Women’s History Month!

Code Breaker, Spy Hunter: How Elizebeth Friedman Changed the Course of Two World Wars, by Laurie Wallmark/Illustrated by Brooke Smart, (March 2021, Abrams), $18.99, ISBN: 9781419739637

Ages 7-9

This picture book biography on code breaker Elizebeth Friedman is a great way to kick off Women’s History Month!  Beginning with her early years as a Shakespeare-loving student and working for an eccentric millionaire, she meets fellow code aficionado and scientist, William Friedman. The two marry, and their expertise in codes and ciphers led to their groundbreaking work in cryptology during World War I. Friedman traveled two worlds, raising her family away from the city and answering the government’s call for help, whether it was to break smuggler’s codes during Prohibition or ferreting out Nazi spies and Japanese spies during World War II. The FBI took credit for the work she and her team did, and she was sworn to secrecy. Her secrets were declassified 35 years after her death in 2015. Laurie Wallmark, a STEM/STEAM biographer for women in STEM, has written several books I’ve brought to my Girls Who Code sessions, including Grace Hopper: Queen of Computer Code (2017) and Ada Byron Lovelace and the Thinking Machine (2015). She has a great way of factual storytelling that show each of her heroines breaking barriers while juggling the weight of societal expectations. Ms. Wallmark does Elizebeth Friedman a great justice and brings her story to a new generation of girls.

Brooke Smart’s watercolor and gouache paintings sprinkle Friedman quotes throughout and have humorous moments, including a page where a line of coded language wraps itself around an angry group of Nazis as Friedman gazes off sagely on the companion page; one spread has Friedman leading a team of young men through ticker tapes, curling all over the page, likely pointing out how to break codes. She combines the realistic with the imaginative, encouraging readers to let their minds go where coding takes them. Back matter includes an explanation on codes and ciphers, cryptography, and a crack the code exercise, along with a bibliography and timeline of Friedman’s life. An excellent biography on a ’til-now virtually unknown figure in history.

Check out the Code Breaker, Spy Hunter book page on author Laurie Wallmark’s webpage where you’ll find a trailer, cool activity sheets, and more!

 

Award-winning author Laurie Wallmark has written picture-book biographies of women in STEM fields ranging from computer science to mathematics, astronomy to code breaking. Her books have earned multiple starred reviews, been chosen as Junior Library Guild Selections, and received awards such as Outstanding Science Trade Book, Cook Prize Honor, and Parents’; Choice Gold Medal. She is a former software engineer and computer science professor. She lives in Ringoes, New Jersey. You can find her at lauriewallmark.com.

On Twitter: @lauriewallmark

Facebook: @lauriewallmarkauthor

Instagram: @lauriewallmark

 

Brooke Smart loves telling stories through her illustrations, especially stories about brave women from history. She has always loved to read, and growing up she could be found nightly falling asleep with a book on her chest. Illustrating books as a professional artist is a lifelong dream come true. She is living the busy, tired, happy, wonderful dream in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, their three kids, and their naughty cat named Sunshine. Learn more about her at brooke-smart.com.

Instagram: @bookesmartillustration

 

 

One lucky winner will receive a copy of Code Breaker, Spy Hunter courtesy of Abrams Books for Young Readers (U.S. addresses). Enter this Rafflecopter giveaway!

Posted in Middle Grade, Non-fiction, picture books, Tween Reads, Uncategorized

Great Rivers of the World teaches geography, history, and culture

Great Rivers of the World, by Volker Mehnert/Illustrated by Martin Haake, (March 2023, Prestel Junior), $19.95, ISBN: 9783791374703

Ages 8-12

A companion to Prestel Publishing’s Great Ports of the World (2018) and Great Streets of the World (2019), Great Rivers of the World is a picture book tour of 18 of the world’s greatest rivers, from the Danube in Germany, to China’s Yangtze River, to the Egyptian Nile. Beautiful full-color spreads combined with informative facts about the rivers, with special attention to conservation efforts: the rain forests of the Congo, for  instance, are threatened due to environmental encroachment, mining of natural resources, and hunters. A foldout section on the Nile River discusses the environmental impact the citizens of Egypt face by polluting their river. There are great historical facts that would flesh out geographical and historical reports. A great additional nonfiction resource!

Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Middle School, Non-fiction, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

I’m back with more graphic novels!

Hi all! I gave myself a mental health break for the holidays. I didn’t get anything done around my home, as I’d hoped, but I did take a break, knit, and read for a bit, and it was nice. I hope you all had warm and happy holidays, and are safe and well. Let’s finish this year strong and look forward to a better 2021.

In the meantime, I’ve got some graphic novels to crow about.

The Great Gatsby, by F. Scott Fitzgerald/Illustrated by K. Woodman-Maynard, (Jan. 2021, Candlewick Press), $24.99, ISBN: 9781536213010

Ages 12+

The Great Gatsby is getting lots of graphic novel love lately; Fred Forham’s vision was a 2020 CYBILS graphic novel nominee. K. Woodman-Maynard’s envisioning of the Fitzgerald classic is much more surreal, with dreamlike watercolors and narration blended into the background: Nick’s words wander around rugs and through lightbulbs, run over sidewalks, and curl into cigarette smoke. The story of Jazz Age love and murder feels like a series of beautiful watercolors, but a large chunk of the story is missing, making this hard to follow for readers who haven’t read the original story. In her author’s note, Woodman-Maynard even states that she was excited by the metaphors in the story, and it was not her intent to be “an exact literal interpretation of the novel”. As a surrealistic exploration and companion to the original, Woodman-Maynard’s book certainly provides a compelling look. Get a look at a chapter excerpt here, thanks to publisher Candlewick.

 

Beetle & The Hollowbones, by Aliza Layne, (Aug. 2020, Atheneum Books for Young Readers), $21.99, ISBN: 9781534441538

Ages 9-13

First, I have to make a huge apology here: I was invited to a blog tour for Beetle back in August, which also happened to be a point where things were falling apart here, and I blew the date. I am still embarrassed and mortified, because I really work to keep to things like that. So I hope this post makes up, in some way, for the oversight. That said, Beetle & Hollowbones is adorable! A homeschooled goblin-witch named Bettle befriends Blob Ghost, a blobby ghost that inhabits space at the local mall in the town of ‘Allows. Blob Ghost – or, BG, as Beetle calls them – is relegated to the mall, so Beetle happily visits, and is sad when she has to leave. Beetle’s old friend Kat shows up for a sorcery apprenticeship with her intimidating Aunt Hollowbone, and Beetle is fascinated: Kat’s cool, she’s social media famous, chic, and great at magic, to boot. The two start spending time together, to BG’s disappointment, but when Aunt Hollowbone’s awful plan to raze the mall becomes public news, Beetle realizes she has to save BG and find a way to release the mall’s hold on them.

A story about friendship, doing the right thing, and standing up for yourself, Beetle & The Hollowbone’s illustrations are beautiful and vibrant, with adorably creepy creatures that I could easily envision in an animated series. This is the kind of story my library kids love: warmth, family, and friendship, with some magic to infuse the tale.

Beetle and the Hollowbones has starred reviews from Kirkus, School Library Journal, Publisher’s Weekly, and Booklist. It is also a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee.

 

Galileo! Galileo!, by Holly Trechter & Jane Donovan, (Aug. 2020, Sky Candle Press), $13.99, ISBN: 978-1939360083

Ages 8-13

Narrated by the historical Italian astronomer Galileo Galilei, Galileo! Galileo! is the story of NASA’s mission to Jupiter. We get a brief recap of Galileo’s life, for an understanding of why the mission bore his name; the narrative then moves into a comprehensive, illustrated lesson on the history of aeronautics and space missions. Holly Trechter’s time as a NASA Ames History Archives intern provides great insights, including a peek at Carl Sagan’s letter-writing campaign that saved the Galileo after budget cuts by the Reagan administration. Holly Trechter and Jane Donovan make Galileo Galilei a cartoony, amiable character who explains the science and politics of space travel in friendly, understandable terms, and the artwork is colorful and includes diagrams, maps, and colorful illustrations. Back matter includes discussion questions. Give this to your Science Comics and History Comics readers for sure. Galileo! Galileo! is a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee.

 

Bear, by Ben Queen & Joe Todd-Stanton, (Aug. 2020, Archaia), $24.99, ISBN: 978-1684155316

Ages 7-12

This is another CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee that I really enjoyed. An original graphic novel from Pixar writer Ben Queen and illustrator Joe Todd-Stanton and published by BOOM! imprint, Archaia, Bear is the story of the relationship between a guide dog and his human. Bear is service dog who lives with Patrick, the blind man he takes care of. Bear and Patrick are happily living together, but when Bear suddenly loses his vision; he worries that he’s lost his purpose. He gets separated from Patrick while trying to get advice from a raccoon, on getting his vision back, and ends up on a grand adventure where he’ll meet bears, run through the streets and subways in Manhattan, and try to find his way back to Ulster Country. Bear is gentle and noble; he will do anything for Patrick, and in turn, Patrick will stop at nothing to find Bear. I loved the relationship between these two, and I thoroughly enjoyed the raccoons, largely played for comic relief, and Stone, the bear who takes it upon himself to keep Bear safe on his travels. The story is also a positive portrayal of a blind character: Patrick repairs vending machines, is a passionate reader and “a decent athlete” who applies for a guide dog in order to pick up more machines on his service route; he hears that having a guide dog will allow him to travel faster than walking with a cane.  The book also gently corrects ableist language; when Patrick mentions having a “seeing eye dog”, the trainer responds that they are called “guide dogs”.

Beautifully illustrated with gentle colors and empathetic characters, Bear will make my graphic novel  shelves when we reopen. Until then, I’ve handed this one to my Kiddo. Results to come.

 

Twins, by Varian Johnson/Illustrated by Shannon Wright, (Oct. 2020, Graphix), $12.99, ISBN: 978-1338236132

Ages 8-12

Twin sisters Maureen and Francine share a room and a life, but starting sixth grade is BIG. Francine, the more extroverted, can’t wait for the chance to start meeting new people and having new experiences, but Maureen is more introverted, more hesitant. She misses dressing like her twin, and she’s really not thrilled that she has no classes with her; when Francine starts calling herself “Fran”, Maureen doesn’t know who this alien who took off with her sister is! Maureen is also intimidated by her school’s Cadet Corp, especially her instructor, Master Sergeant Lucinda Fields. Maureen, the straight-A student, is frustrated by her difficulty in getting marching in formation down and the overwhelming experience of middle school, so discovering that Francine and their parents were behind the decision to put the girls in separate classes AND enroll Maureen in Cadet Corp makes her take action: she decides to run against her sister in the race for Class President. A story of growing up and facing adolescence with all its challenges, Twins features main characters of color in a strong family and a relatable story that anyone with siblings – and close friends – will recognize. It’s hard enough growing apart from one’s best friend, but what happens when that best friend is your sister – and a person you share a friendship group with? I loved the story, the relationship between the sisters and the relationship between family members, the realistic frustration of sharing friends when you have a falling-out, and the challenges of taking on new experiences. Give to your Varian Johnson readers and your graphic novel fans that loved the Invisible Emmie, Becoming Brianna, New Kid, Class Act, and the Nat Enough books.

Twins has starred reviews from The Horn Book, School Library Journal, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, and Booklist. Twins is also a CYBILS 2020 Graphic Novels nominee. See the full list of honors at Varian Johnson’s webpage.