Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Brave Enough confronts monsters… and humans!

Brave Enough, by Rob Justus, (Feb. 2022, Page Street Kids), $17.99, ISBN: 9781645673491

Ages 4-8

Little Brother sees monsters everywhere, and would rather stay inside and read about them – hey, forewarned is forearmed! – but Big Sister thinks monsters are just “a bunch of phoney-baloney fantasy make-believe”! She’s determined to teach Little Brother how to be brave enough… until that moment when they discover an honest-to-goodness MONSTER! Luckily for Big Sister, Little Brother has done his reading and knows how to handle monsters (that are just as scared of humans). With some stomping and stamping, and some clapping and snapping, everything is going to be just fine. Lively and bright illustrations pair with upbeat, everyday conversational text to make this a fun readaloud. Illustrations bring the lighter side of the story to light as Big Sister tries to get a rise out of her brother, putting him in a bright yellow cape (to match her flashy yellow boots!) and infuse him with confidence; the book titles also clue readers in to the Monster’s own fear of humans, with titles like “Humans and Loud Noises”, “What’s with Pants?”, and “Bumps in the Day”; mirroring Little Brother’s monster-related reading. The characters have exaggerated facial expressions so there’s no question as to how to read this story: with as much fun as you can muster! The moral of the story: understanding crosses barriers: even between monsters and humans (but maybe not vampires). Pair this one with Ed and Rebecca Emberley’s If You’re a Monster and You Know It for musical fun.

Visit author Rob Justus’s webpage for more of his illustration work.

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

Margo Maloo is back in The Tangled Web

Time for another graphic novel roundup! I’ve been reading and tearing through both my new and pre-existing TBR, and work’s kept me on my toes, so please forgive the spotty posting schedule as of late.

The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo: The Tangled Web, by Drew Weing, (Dec. 2021, First Second), $15.99, ISBN: 9781250206831

Ages 8-12

The third Margo Maloo adventure is full of heart and humor, and introduces some new drama. Monsters’ hiding places are being discovered and they’re being run out by ghost-hunting teens, kids, and developers, who want to raze old buildings to make way for expensive new luxury housing (sound familiar?). There’s tension building between Margo and Charles, her assistant in monster ambassadorship, because Charles’s background as a monster journalist makes him a little sus in her eyes. A setup leads to a big misunderstanding between the two friends, but they have to put their differences aside when a family of giant spiders need to be saved from a factory about to be blown up!

Drew Weing has given us such fun, insightful characters in the Margo Maloo stories, and manages to address very real-world problems in the frame of a fantasy. He’s addressed diversity and prejudice in previous Case Files, and takes on gentrification and affordable housing this time around. Even Echo City’s human residents are feeling the stress as Charles’s superintendent dad fixes up the apartments in their building, expecting the rents to go sky high and price them out of their homes. Readers will be happy to see familiar characters, including Kevin Charles’s neighbor and friend, and Marcus, the Battlebeenz-playing monster. Drew Weing also starts an interesting new subplot that brings a shady new element into the story and causes strife between Margo and Charles. I can’t wait to see how this develops. Don’t miss this fun series.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Uncategorized, Young Adult/New Adult

Wishes aren’t free: The Well

The Well, by Jake Wyatt/Illustrated by Choo, (Apr. 2022, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626724143

Ages 14+

A seaside village is attacked by a monster. A woodcutter, his wife and mother in law, two powerful witches, join forces to battle it, and disappear, leaving behind their child and her grandfather, to raise her. Thirteen years later, Lizzie is a teen who helps her grandfather by selling their wares at the local market, but when she needs money to cover her passage home, she grabs money from the sacred well and awakens a spirit that urges her to repay her debt. Lizzie must grant wishes, but every wish comes with a price; some are painful to bear. In her quest to cover her debts at the well, Lizzie will learn about the magic that almost destroyed her family.

The Well unfolds like a fairy tale: a monster, a tragedy, a child left behind, and a legacy of magic to be discovered. The moral – every wish comes with a price, and having a wish granted isn’t always what it seems – runs through the story, reminding readers to think before they act, even before they wish. The artwork is dreamlike, with vibrant color and fantastic monsters. A must for your fantasy fans.

I love the idea of having tweens and teens create their own fairy tales, and The Well is a great way to introduce a program like that. Invite readers to volunteer fairy tale elements they see in the story. Outback Aussie Teaching has a planning template on Teachers Pay Teachers, to help writers organize their thoughts; the Bilingual Language Institute has a Spanish/English picture board with options for characters, setting, problems, solutions, and magic powers to help give readers a flow to work with.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads, Toddler Reads

Spoooooky Books for your Halloween Displays!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Halloween is my FAVORITE holiday. It’s a celebration of fun, all things spooky and weird, and candy.

If you’re going to have a seasonal, Halloween, or spooky book display up, consider some of these fun new books!

Poultrygeist, by Eric Geron/Illustrated by Pete Oswald, (Aug. 2021, Candlewick Press), $16.99, ISBN: 9781536210507

Ages 4-8

This cautionary tale is worth a giggle or three at storytime. When a chicken crosses the road without looking both ways, he reaches THE OTHER SIDE. No, not *that* other side, The Other Side: he’s a ghost chicken now… a POULTRYGEIST. The fun play on words brings us into a story where other ghostly animals try to pressure our poor chicken into scaring others, but Poultry doesn’t want to do that! The peer pressure continues until Poultry asserts himself, proving that even the friendliest ghost can show a little “pluck”. Smart wordplay, a fun story, and a strong messages about peer pressure and standing up for oneself let readers know that it’s okay to say “no” to bullies. The digital artwork is a Halloween delight, with sprawling midnight blue and black landscapes and shimmery, colorful ghostly animals. Spooky eyes dot the landscape, giving a tummy tickle to the littles. A free teacher tip card offers tips on introducing wordplay, homophones, and puns to students.

Poultrygeist has starred reviews from Kirkus and School Library Journal.

 

 

This Book is NOT a Bedtime Story, by Eoin McLaughlin/Illustrated by Robert Starling, (Sept. 2021, Pavilion Children’s), $16.95, ISBN: 9781843655060

Ages 3-6

This rhyming tale turns into a hilarious dialogue between a monster who sees himself and his friends as terribly terrifying monsters, and the woodland animals who have questions. Lots of questions. A red, stripey, fairly adorable monster tells us straight from the start that he’s got teeth, claws, and big roars, but everything else points to the contrary. He claims  that his middle name is “Terror”, but his Scary Monster Society card reveals that his full name is “Fluffy Terry McFluff”. He calls in his “horrible bunch” of monster friends, but their monster stew is a tasty recipe they’re too happy to share, and their spooky hauntings are really quite sweet. As the story progresses, we see that the monsters have their own concerns and fears, and they’re getting just a little bit sleepy. Illustrations are colorful, kid-friendly, with kindly, cute monsters that readers will want to snuggle with, not run from. A monster story for kids who aren’t really crazy about monsters, this fits nicely with Rebecca and Ed Emberley’s Go Away, Big Green Monster and If You’re a Monster and You Know It. The rhyme scheme and fun spreads that break the fourth wall make this a great readaloud candidate. There’s no need to worry about these monsters – if they’re under your bed, they’re fast asleep!
Tiny T. Rex and the Tricks of Treating, by Jonathan Stutzman/Illustrated by Jay Fleck, (Sept. 2021, Chronicle Kids), $7.99, ISBN: 9781452184906
Ages 2-4
Tiny T. Rex is all about Halloween, and he’s ready to share with us what it takes to be a Treat-master! This delightful board book lays out the Six Tricks of Treating, according to Tiny T. Rex and his best friend, Pointy. Kids will love the step-by-step process, from costumes (try them all on!) to staying warm, to trick or treating with friends. Tiny makes sure to remind little Treaters to be kind and gracious, and that candy shared is much better than candy eaten alone. Tiny is cheerful and upbeat; the sentences are simple and to the point, injected with humor and kindness. Illustrations make this book a win – I can’t read Tiny books without squealing as I turn to each spread – with Tiny and friends dressed in adorable costumes. Cute details throughout, like Pointy’s and Tiny’s experimentation with bubble gum, and the costume montage, will have readers heading for this book again and again. A wonderful introduction to Halloween for little ones.
Owl Has a Halloween Party, Illustrated by Jannie Ho, (July 2021, Nosy Crow), $8.99, ISBN: 9781536217346
Ages 0-4
This cute little story about an Owl throwing a Halloween party for his friends is loaded with durable pull-tabs that babies and toddlers will play with for hours! Owl is having a Halloween party, and readers can help him look for his friends. Each page features a pull tab that reveals owl’s friends, hiding in costume. An astronaut monkey and princess frog peek out from behind pumpkins; a pirate lion and flowery bear hide behind treees. Tabs stick out from the book, showing a variety of friendly animals peeking out in all directions. Simple sentences are good for emerging readers and for a little lapsit storytime. Let your little ones play hide and seek with the animal friends, and identify who each could be; point out colors; count bats and pumpkins: there are so many great ways to extend the fun here.
My First Pop-Up Mythological Monsters, by Owen Davey, (Oct. 2021, Candlewick Studio), $17.99, ISBN: 9781536217643
Ages 3-7
Owen Davey introduces young readers to the world of mythological monsters in his follow-up to My First Pop-Up Dinosaurs (2019). Taking readers all around the world, My First Pop-Up Monsters encounters 15 faces familiar and new, as each spread reveals bold and colorful creatures rising off the pages, with a brief descriptive note and country of origin. Kids will likely recognize Greece’s Cyclops and the Minotaur, but have they met the Ushi-Oni from Japan, or Sarimanok from the Philippines? Absolute fun, with beautiful illustration and detail; this is a great book for kids and grownups alike.
Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Middle Grade, Middle School, Tween Reads

More Graphic Novels!

I’ve got more graphic novels! Let’s get to it.

Nori, by Rumi Hara, (May 2020, Drawn & Quarterly), $24.95, ISBN: 978-1-77046-397-4

Ages 10+

Three-year old Noriko – Nori, for short – lives in Japan’s Osaka suburbs and spends most of her time with her grandmother while her parents are working. Set in the 1980s, Nori is all about a little girl’s adventures as she explores the world around her, accompanied by her best friend: her grandmother. The book contains five short stories and is infused with Japanese culture; the events of World War II still reverberate with the adults around Nori, and cultural festivals bring the excitement of the city alive in the pages. Nori brings childhood memories alive for readers: a part in a school play; chasing rabbits and watching neighborhood kids play with crawfish and beetles; she even wins a trip to Hawaii for herself and her grandmother, which leads to a healing moment for a family who’s lost their own matriarch. Black and white artwork has one-color moments for contrast and interest. Nori is a celebration of childhood and the special relationship between a child and grandparent and middle school-aged readers and young teens will especially love this.

Nori has a starred review from Publisher’s Weekly. Read an interview with Rumi Hara on We Need Diverse Books, and visit her website for more information about her work. Nori is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

 

Marge’s Little Lulu: The Fuzzythingus Poopi, by John Stanley, (Sept. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $29.95, ISBN: 9781770463660

Ages 6+

This collection takes me back to my childhood in the best of ways. I used to read Little Lulu reprints when I was growing up, alongside issues of Richie Rich, Casper, and Archie, to name a few. Little Lulu comics were all about the adventures of Little Lulu Moppet and her best friend/frenemy, Tubby; originally published by Dell Comics in the 1940s and 1950s, they’re all about childhood adventures like having snowball fights, trying to gain admission to the “No Girls Allowed” clubhouse, telling stories to a sick friend, and various – hilarious – money-making schemes. This is Drawn and Quarterly’s second Lulu collection, and is filled with reprinted Lulu and Tubby comics, “Lulu’s Diry” diary pages that ran in individual issues, and a cover gallery. The stories are loaded with imagination, like the clip where Lulu houses a ghost who’s been ousted when the house they haunt is torn down; imagines herself in a desert and has to retrieve a nickel from a sewer grate (still in the desert!) by using strands of her hair, leaving her bald. She foils a burglar claiming to be Santa Claus because “he didn’t have a twinkle in his eye!”, and rallies the neighborhood girls together to fight back when they find themselves targeted for snowball attacks by the boys.

Great for new readers who want fun, day-to-day stories of childhood and adults who grew up with Lulu, Tubby, and Alvin. This is a keeper. Read more about The Fuzzythingus Poopi and read an excerpt at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s page; discover the impact Little Lulu has had on comics, culture, and feminism through this Comics Alliance article and this New Yorker piece.

 

Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter, by Brea Grant, (Oct. 2020, Six Foot Press), $18.99, ISBN: 978-1644420294

Ages 12-16

Mary is perfect for every goth tween and teen you know. She’s the 5 times great-granddaughter of Frankenstein author Mary Shelley, and she’s from a family of overachieving women dedicated to that legacy. They’re all writers of renown, especially her superstar author mom, who can’t understand… Mary’s ennui? Lack of interest? The fact that she’s not an overachiever in school or life just yet? The thing is, Mary does have a very special family gift, and it makes its debut in these very pages. Mary can heal monsters. Actual, real-life monsters do exist, and Mary discovers that one night when she reattaches one walking dead guy’s foot. He tells his friends, and they tell their friends… and so on, and so on, and so on, as the old commercial goes. Monsters of all sorts show up at Mary’s with some amusing results, and Mary doesn’t know what to do with herself and this gift! Does she walk away from this gift, or does she embrace it?

Work with me: this is relatable! Teens feel the pressure to know what they want to do with their lives by the time they’re seniors in high school. Imagine the stress of being Mary Shelley’s descendant? When there’s a shrine to your many times-great grandmother, who wrote an enduring classic at the age of 19, in your very own home? Imagine discovering you are good at something… it just happens to be something unusual, or different, and the extra stress that can carry with it! Mary is a teen trying to find her way in a family of high-achieving, highly valued women, and isn’t quite sure that being known for healing monsters is what she wants to be known for. To accept her gift and embrace herself is a journey that most tweens and teens can get on board with. Brea Grant’s moody artwork gives great atmosphere to the story, and the dialogue is wonderfully snarky and introspective all at once. Please buy this for your collections and the readers in your life.

Don’t believe me? EW has an excerpt and article on it. Check it out.

 

The League of Super Feminists, by Mirion Malle/Translated by Aleshia Jensen, (Oct. 2020, Drawn and Quarterly), $16.95, ISBN: 9781770464025

Ages 12+

A fantastic guide to feminism for tweens, teens, and beyond, The League of Super Feminists explains the basics of feminism: YES! you can still enjoy princess movies! NO! You don’t have to hate men! What we need everyone – EVERYONE – to understand is how to critically evaluate the media that makes men knights and dragon slayers, and women damsels in distress. That women don’t come in one size: skinny, white, blonde. That women need to build one another up, not tear each other down. That boys and girls can be friends! Diving into such topics as gender, representation, inclusivity, consent, and beauty, The League of Super Feminists uses a range of characters to illustrate and explain these concepts and deconstruct myths and falsehoods for readers. Written like a conversation between the friends, the book is fun, upbeat, and playful, but always self-aware and smart. Mirion Malle never talks down to readers; it’s straight talk that lets everyone know that feminism is good for all, leads to healthy thinking and self-image. A great beginning to an ongoing conversation. See an excerpt on publisher Drawn and Quarterly‘s webpage. Aleishia Jensen’s translation from the original French to English is flawless and picks up all the nuances set forth by Mirion Malle.

Read more about The League of Super Feminists at publisher Drawn and Quarterly’s webpage, including an excerpt on representation. Read an interview with Mirion Malle on We Need Diverse Books.

Psst… makes an excellent holiday gift for the tween in your life. Just saying. The League of Super Feminists is a nominee in the 2020 Cybils Graphic Novel category.

And one to look forward to!

 

Forever Home, by Jenna Ayoub, (Feb. 2021, Boom! Studios), $12.99, ISBN: 9781684156030

Ages 9-13

This sweet, funny haunted house story is perfect reading for kids who are big on comedy. Willow’s a girl who’s been raised all over the world: her parents are in the Army, and that means moving around every couple of years. She’s had to say goodbye to friends too many times, and she doesn’t want to move again! Her parents have just bought Hadleigh House, an old, pink house in need of some TLC, and Willow is happy to finally set down roots: but Gladys and Viola, the ghostly Hadleigh sisters, want their home all to themselves – and the two ghosts that live with them, the Lady and Thomas, a World War I veteran. The sisters raise a ruckus, but they don’t count on the fact that Willow can see and hear them, and she lets them know she isn’t going anywhere. A touching story of belonging and family, Willow is a smart kid who has no problem digging in her heels to stay in the home she loves; Viola and Gladys are delightfully mischievous ghosts, and The Lady’s habit of killing husbands and fiancees is played for laughs as it’s alluded to, never quite addressed. Thomas’s backstory is poignant, and he emerges as a sweet, almost tragic figure. Forever Home has a little bit of comedy, a touch of bittersweet, and enough affection to make this a sure bet for readers who get a kick out of spooky comedies like The Addams Family and The Boxtrolls. Good for middle grade, great for middle school.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Halloween March! The Ghosts Went Floating

The Ghosts Went Floating, by Kim Norman/Illustrated by Jay Fleck, (July 2020, Farrar Straus & Giroux), $17.99, ISBN: 9780374312138

Ages 3-6

Inspired by the classic favorite, “The Ants Go Marching”, The Ghosts Go Floating is a Halloween counting story where ghosts, skeletons, witches, mummies, zombies, and more all join a march by the light of the moon. Where are they going? You can only find out if you read the story!  Colorful, friendly ghouls and ghosts march across the pages with with rosy cheeks and friendly faces. The repetitive text lets kids jump in and be part of the storytelling, calling out the “Boo-Rah!” cheer and “moon, moon, moon”, which leads into the next group of monsters to join the dance: “The goblins galloped, six by six, / Boo-rah! Boo-rah! / while waving clubs and pointy sticks. / Boo-rah! Boo-rah! / The goblins galloped, six by six. / They dragged their knuckles on pointy bricks / and they all trooped up the hill, / in the chill. / by the light of the moon, / moon, moon, moon”.

Halloween fun, and a must for readalouds. Just make sure to have treats ready for your little goblins and werewolves! Pair with Tony Mitton’s and Guy Parker-Rees’s The Spooky Hour for Halloween Party fun.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

Halloween(ish) Stories: Do Not Go in There!

Do Not Go in There!, by Ariel Horn, (July 2020, imprint), $18.99, ISBN: 9781250189493

Ages 3-7

Two monsters. One door. One monster wants to go in, and the other is too afraid to consider it. Bogart and Morton are two best friends who see things a little differently. Where Morton is excited and ready to embrace the unknown, Bogart is terrified! So when a closed door presents the opportunity to go discover what’s on the other side, Bogart says no way: there could be wolves! Morton, on the other hand, is drawn to the shiny doorknob and the bright red door: what if it smells like candy? The two debate back and forth on what scenarios lay behind the door; Bogart imagining unknown terrors, Morton turning those fears around into exciting new adventures. Who will win out?

A fun look at optimism and pessimism, Do Not Go in There! also shows kids that we can all be different and still be friends. And where one friend is scared, another friend can soothe that friend and help them try something new. It also illustrates how our imaginations work, whether to overwhelm or take us away to new heights. The artwork is cheery and bright, and the text color changes to reflect Bogart’s and Morton’s sides of the conversation. Bogart and Morton are adorably fuzzy, gently colored monsters that kids will love. Invite readers to each adopt a character and read out loud, or imagine fun Halloween scenarios that would be behind the door: will there be witches flying on lollipop brooms? Werewolf puppies? Teachers Pay Teachers has free, adorable Halloween clipart that you can invite readers to use to illustrate their story. A perfect not-so-scary story for preschoolers!

 

Posted in Science Fiction, Steampunk, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Delightfully eldritch, creepy storytelling from Frances Hardinge: Deeplight

Deeplight, by Frances Hardinge, (Apr. 2020, Amulet), $13.99, ISBN:  978-1509897568

Ages 12+

(This review and ISBN are the paperback version. The hardcover was released in October 2019.)

Taking place in a time and world where gods were earthbound monsters who killed themselves in battle, Deeplight is set on an island named for one of these gods, Lady’s Crave, where the inhabitants scavenge the waters for pieces of the gods, referred to as “godware”, imbued with small but noticeable power. Hark, a 14-year old orphan, and his best friend, Jelt, are petty crooks who get involved in schemes of varying illegality. Hark is caught and sold to a godware “expert’, Dr. Vyne, as an indentured servant; she puts him to work in a home for the aging priests, to find out what he can about the gods and where key pieces and archives remain. Meanwhile, Jelt hasn’t let go of his hold on Hark, and convinces him to go on one more expedition, where Hark discovers a pulsing piece of godware that has healing powers. But nothing comes without a cost, and healing Jelt sets events into motion that will have huge repercussions.

I love Frances Hardinge’s work. She creates wonderfully creepy stories; Deeplight adds a level of eldritch horror with a dash of steampunk and takes the conversation to a new level, throwing in themes of idolatry, greed, and the part fear plays in holding onto belief. Each character is fully realized, with backstory and motivation; whether or not they’re likable is entirely up to you – but you will never forget them. I’ll be gushing about this book for a long time. Frances Hardinge is the author you give your Mary Downing Hahn fans when they’re ready for more. Give this to your horror fans, your steampunk fans, and slide it in front of any HP Lovecraft fans you may have come across.

Deeplight has starred reviews from Kirkus and Publishers Weekly.

Posted in picture books, Preschool Reads

A monster slayer never sleeps! Poesy the Monster Slayer

Poesy the Monster Slayer, by Cory Doctorow/Illustrated by Matt Rockefeller, (July 2020, First Second), $18.99, ISBN: 9781626723627

Ages 4-6

Cory Doctorow always knows how to make me smile, whether he’s writing about gamer uprisings (Little Brother) or unionizing MMORPG gold farmers (In Real Life). His newest book, Poesy the Monster Slayer, is an illustrated picture book about a little girl who’s got to contend with her parents giving her a bedtime when she’s got far bigger things to worry about: monsters. Dad reads her trusty book on monsters to her every night, so Poesy is prepared and waiting when the slew of monsters arrive throughout the evening: werewolves, Great Old Ones, vampires, even Frankenstein’s monster all face off against Poesy’s skills, and she deftly navigates dispatching the monsters with carefully selected toys in her room while putting up with her parents’ constant interruptions as they tell her to go to bed.

Illustrated in comic book style, with panels and word bubbles, Poesy is a fun story about a smart little girl taking on bedtime and those irksome bedtime monsters. Shades of black, purple, and blue set a nighttime feel for the story, and the monsters are comically menacing, meeting their defeats at the hands of Poesy and her room full of carefully selected toys. Parents will love the relatability of trying to get one’s little one to stay in bed: I know I feel like I log more steps in the hours from 9-12pm than I do most of the day!

Absolute fun for storytime; keep this one handy for bedtime, too – just don’t blame me if your little ones add fighting Great Old Ones to their list of nighttime activities!

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

#BooksfromQuarantine: Graphic Novels You May Have Missed

The graphic novel devouring continues as I raid my laptop hard drive and rediscover books I downloaded with the intention of getting to, but apparently needed a pandemic lockdown to provide the time. If you’ve missed out on these, revisit them. There’s good stuff here.

 

The Last Dragon, by Jane Yolen/Illustrated by Rebecca Guay (Sept. 2011, Dark Horse Comics), $12.99, ISBN: 9781595827982

Ages 12+

Kids who grew up with Jane Yolen’s picture books, like the How Do Dinosaurs…? series, will be thrilled to read her fantasy graphic novel, The Last Dragon, illustrated by Rebecca Guay (who also does gorgeous Star Wars art). Two hundred years after dragons were driven out of the islands of May, a lone dragon hatches and grows, and dreams of blood. As the dragon starts a reign of terror, a group of boys from the village seeks out a hero. Someone who can save them. Who they find is a man who looks the part, but his heroic acts like mostly in his gift for exaggeration. When he arrives on the scene and realizes what he’s up against, he realizes he’s bitten off far more than he can chew. He’ll join forces with Tansy, a healer’s daughter, and discover that the most unconventional of ways may be the only way to survival and victory.

Beautifully illustrated in a dreamlike, fairy-tale style, and written with a combination of dialogue balloons and narrative storytelling, The Last Dragon is a good choice for fairy tale fans who like their fairy tales a little grittier, a little darker.

 

Kaijumax Season 1: Terror and Respect, by Zander Cannnon, (Sept. 2016, Oni Press), $9.99, ISBN: 9781620102701

Ages 16+

This book has been going strong for a few years now; the collected trades for Season 4 published in late 2019, so I expect we’ll see a Book 5 sometime this year? Maybe? Anyway, the series is written by two-time Eisner Award winner Zander Cannon, and it centers of the lives of Kaiju – giant monsters, a la Godzilla and Friends – in lockdown on a prison island. Think Pacific Rim meets Oz. In Season One, Electrogor is a loving Kaiju single dad who goes out to get some radioactive waste for his kids to eat, gets nabbed, and sent off to Kaijumax, where he experiences all the prison horror: he gets shanked, meets corrupt guards, and has run-ins with gangs that run the prison.

I’ll be honest, I was expecting a lighter-hearted co@lionforgemic. The artwork is bright, the monsters and guards’ Ultraman-inspired uniforms are amazing to look at, and, come on: it’s monsters! On a prison island! I didn’t expect things to be so heavy, so if that’s not your jam, watch Pacific Rim one more time. It was entertaining for me, and I know older teens who will love this, but I just felt so bad for poor Eletrogor and his kids while I read this. So if you’re a mush like me, you’ve been given notice. Kaijumax was a Best New Series nominee in the 2016 Eisners. When I finally get back to my library, I’ll order the first four trades, because I am confident that these will move.

Witchy, by Ariel Slamet Ries, (Sept. 2019, Lion Forge), $14.99, ISBN: 9781549304811

Ages 11+

Witchy is a webcomic that just got its first print run last year. Perfect for middle school and up, it’s glorious fantasy storytelling that smashes gender stereotypes. Nyneve is a young witch living in the kingdom of Hyalin, where the length of your hair determines your magic power. Witches deemed too powerful are taken away and killed – it’s called a “witch burning”, and this is what happened to Nyneve’s father. Keeping her hair pinned up so no one can tell its true length, she withstands the laughs and bullying of her classmates, until conscription time rolls around and she makes the choice to run away rather than serve or risk being on the kingdom’s hit list. Nominated for the 2015 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Online Comic, Witchy is just great storytelling. It moves along at a good pace, letting readers enjoy the worldbuilding and meet the characters; there’s always something happening, so there’s no lag time. The colorwork is beautiful, and the magic arts really stand out in the book with sweeping magical gestures and bursts of color and movement. This one was a hit, and it was one of the last books I ordered, just on what I’ve read about it; I’m so glad this turned out to be everything I hoped it would be.

Witchy by Ariel Ries was nominated for the 2015 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Online Comic, and it still ongoing at Witchycomic.com. It’s also part of the Library of Congress’s Small Press Expo Comic and Comic Art Web Archive, and the Queer Comics Database has a great entry on Witchy. You can find a Witchy Discussion Guide here, courtesy of the publisher.

There’s more to come! Enjoy and keep reading!