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

Little Knight and Edward return: Hocus Focus!

hocus-focus_1Hocus Focus, by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, and Andrew Arnold, (Jan. 2017, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781596436541

Recommended for ages 7-12

I love the Little Knight graphic novels from First Second! The latest adventure has Little Knight and her ever-present and faithful steed, Edward, learning magic. Well, right now she’s peeling turnips, but the wizard swears it’s teaching her patience! When the wizard turns his back for just a second, Little Knight steals his magic wand and spell book to learn some magic on her own, and gets much more than she bargained for when her spell merges Edward with a worm to create a giant, hungry, horseworm!

If you’ve never picked up a Little Knight graphic novel, there are a bunch to choose from, but don’t worry – you don’t need to read them in any kind of order. Each story has a young knight, her faithful horse, and a fun adventure. That’s all you need to know! The lesson in this book is all about patience; something Little Knight learns about after rushing her magic lessons. The art is cartoony and fun, bright and bold. The endpapers have the usual goofy how-to-draw tutorials, including Little Knight as a tuba player, Edward busting some sweet dance moves, and the Wizard’s Magical Mix-‘Em-Up Cauldron of mashups.



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

Ape and Armadillo TAKE OVER THE WORLD… Maybe.

ape-arm_1Ape and Armadillo Take Over the World, by James Sturm (Sept. 2016, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 978-1-943145-09-6

Recommended for ages 6-8

Ape and Armadillo want to take over the world, but the whole plan seems a lot more fun for Armadillo – the ringleader, naturally – than it will be for Ape. While Armadillo gets to sneak in and get all the work done, Ape is stuck fighting spitting serpents, an army of robots, and escape through sewer tunnels – YUCK! Armadillo needs to learn how to compromise, or he may lose a friend and fellow Agent of Evil.

Kids will love this graphic novel that touches on a situation very familiar to kids: the bossy friend who wants everything done his or her way. Ape decides that he’s not going to be the flunky any more, and Armadillo has to adjust his own point of view and work – together with Ape – on a game that they can both play and enjoy equally. It’s a fun resolution, loaded with armor, magic wands, magical creatures, and butter pecan ice cream. Secondary Ape and Armadillo comics run at the bottom of each page, providing more insight into these characters and leaving me hoping we’ll meet this dynamic duo in more adventures to come.


This is a good book to use when talking about feelings and playing nicely with others; the dialogue and art treats the audience respectfully and examines a potentially frustrating situation with honesty and humor. It’s a TOON Level 3 book, considered a chapter book comic for advanced beginners, so ages 6 and up will dig right in. TOON includes parent resources at the end of each book, including tips on reading comics with your kids, and levels breakdown: Lexile, Guided Reading, and Reading Recovery, and appropriate grades. There’s a Teacher’s Guide in progress, so check the Ape & Armadillo page on the TOON site to get yours when it’s ready.

I love James Sturm’s books. He just knows how to create great stories for kids, and get his messages across in a fun, bold way. He’s also written the Little Knight books with his fellow Adventures in Cartooning compatriots, and he’s written Birdsong: A Story in Pictures for TOON.

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

Little Knight is back in Ogres Awake!

ogres_1Ogres Awake!, by James Sturm, Alexis Frederick-Frost, Andrew Arnold (July 2016, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781596436534

Recommended for ages 5-10

Little Knight and her faithful steed, Edward, are back for another installment! This time, the two discover that ogres are sleeping in the castle courtyard! Knight rushes to the castle’s defense, but finds out that there’s already an army assembled, and they’re wielding potato peelers and spoons instead of swords and shields. Knight and the gnome army have a LOT of stew to make before the ogres wake up… HUNGRY.

This is the fourth outing for the Drawn and Quarterly gang; the third Little Knight Adventure. I love this series: it’s a great way to introduce graphic novels to young readers and they’re fun stories that have a little bit of drawing instruction, a la Ed Emberley’s old step by step books, that I used to love when I was a kid.

Little Knight is a kid that kids will recognize: she’s excited, she wants to jump right in and be in the center of the action, and learns a valuable lesson in each outing. This time around, she learns that not every confrontation needs to be handled the rough way. Sometimes, an act of kindness is all you need to avoid things getting ugly. It’s a great message, communicated with fun, bold, cartoony art and witty writing. Add this series to your shelves; your kids will love you for it. I read this with my 3 year-old, who thoroughly enjoyed it; if you’ve got preschoolers in your life, curl up with them and read it! It’s a great opportunity illustrate sequencing and talk about doing nice things for people: even ogres.

Make sure to check out Gryphons Aren’t So Great and Sleepless Knight, the other Little Knight books by Sturm, Frederick-Frost, and Arnold, as well as Adventures in Cartooning, where we first meet Little Knight and Edward. Don’t forget to check out Drawn and Quarterly, too! Take a look at a few pages from Ogres Awake right here:

ogres_3 ogres_4