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

Graphic Novel Roundup, CYBILS edition

The games have begun! Round 1 CYBILS Judges are clearing the shelves in our libraries and homes, wherever we can find the books in our categories. This is my second year as a Round 1 Graphic Novels panelist, so I’m reading all the graphic novels I can find! The CYBILS nomination period is still going strong, so please consider nominating your favorite J and YA reads this year. If you need some inspiration, or the books you’ve liked are already nominated, check out this Padlet for suggestions.

That said, I’ve got some graphic novels to gush about here – maybe this will inspire you. I’ll note any CYBILS nominees on this list.

Glam Prix Racers, by Deanna Kent/Illustrated by Neil Hooson, (May 2021, imprint), $10.99, ISBN: 9781250265388

Ages 7-10

My gushing for this book is so long overdue, I’m embarrassed. Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson, co-creators of one of my favorite middle grade series – the Snazzy Cat Capers series! – have begun their foray into intermediate graphic novels with Glam Prix Racers. Described as “Mario Kart meets My Little Pony”, this book is like a video game in graphic novel form. There are vibrant colors, expressive, kid-friendly fantasy characters, and a fun storyline that relies on teamwork and friendly competition. It’s race season on Glittergear Island, and Mil the Mermaid and her monster truck, Mudwick, get sidelined on their way to take their Glam Prix team photo. They suspect the Vroombot Crew is up to no good, but what can they do? The Racers have to band together to cross the finish line first! This is the first in a planned trilogy; the second book is due out in January, and anything Deanna Kent and Neil Hooson collaborate on is gold in my book.

Visit Deanna and Neil’s website for Glam Prix (and Snazzy Cat!) freebies all in one place; find coloring sheets here, an activity kit here, and digital resources, including wallpapers, a STEM kit, and videos, here.

Glam Prix Racers is a first round CYBILS nominee.

 

 

Mayor Good Boy, by Dave Scheidt/Illustrated by Miranda Harmon, (Aug. 2021, RH Graphic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593124871

Ages 7-10

The town of Greenwood has a new Mayor, and he’s a very Good Boy! He’s Mayor Good Boy – a talking dog who wants to do good things in his home town.  Not everyone is thrilled about the new mayor, though, so when some disgruntled citizens start trying to make trouble for the newly elected pup, siblings Aaron and Abby intervene and get hired on as junior aides. While Mayor Good Boy is all about kindness and finding ways to help make his town better, people are plotting to bring him down by releasing fleas all over the town so that he’ll get the blame! Aaron and Abby have to save the day AND find the culprit, and keep Mayor Good Boy’s good reputation intact. With likable characters, friendly art, and loads of fart and stinky feet jokes, this is warm-hearted comedy gold for intermediate and middle graders. The story touches on themes of diversity. advocacy,  and activism, as Abby gives a great speech about being able to create change, even as a kid; back matter includes how to draw instructions for Good Boy, Aaron, and Abby, plus the Mayor Good Boy Pledge and a side comic starring the two siblings on how to contact one’s representatives. Social consciousness, a great message about friends, working together, and a cameo by a comic favorite (I see you, Steenz!) make Mayor Good Boy a graphic novel series you won’t want to miss. There are adventures planned for 2022 and 2023, so keep your carts ready to load.
Mayor Good Boy hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS yet, so maybe this is one you want to suggest.
Death and Sparkles, by Rob Justus, (Oct. 2021, Chronicle Books), $22.99, ISBN: 9781797206356
Ages 10-14
Big themes and hilarious writing make this a macabre, middle school winner. Death is… well, Death. He touches things, they die, he doesn’t discriminate. Sparkles is a self-obsessed social media celebrity who also happens to be the last unicorn. His manager loves making money off of Sparkles, which turns out pretty poorly for Sparkles, who discovers some hard and fast truths about friendship when he and Death meet. Sparkles, seemingly immune to Death’s touch, is stuck on Death in the most hilarious of ways, leading to the two becoming the unlikeliest of friends. On one hand, there are fart jokes aplenty. On the other hand, there are incredible discussions about the pervasiveness of social media, the cult of influencers, and the fake friends that follow celebrity. There’s an ecological subplot that I expect will come back in future books that shows how even the most genuine intentions can get lost in the murky social media waters, causing a vicious cycle where getting attention for a necessary issue feeds into the popularity machine, leading to the distortion of the message. Thought- and discussion-provoking, yet laugh-out-loud funny, Death and Sparkles is a good start to a new series. Download a free activity kit and enjoy a cupcake.
Death and Sparkles is a CYBILS first round nominee.
Bedhead Ted, by Scott SanGiacomo, (Aug. 2021, Quill Tree Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780062941305
Ages 8-12
Fourth grader Ted has is a bully target because of his “overactive hair follicles”, which give him a head of wild red hair and the nickname, “Bedhead Ted”. Taunted on the bus and in school, he and his best friend, a boy named Stacy, are on the lookout for The Brookside Beast, a fabled giant raccoon in their neighborhood. As if Ted wasn’t feeling bad enough, two of the boys’ tormentors decide to join Stacy’s Brookside Beast Research Center, causing Ted to distance himself from his best – and only – friend. Just as Ted is feeling his lowest, frustrated with his bullies, his friendship, and his hair, he discovers something incredible: his hair has superpowers! When Stacy disappears during the school’s ice cream social, Ted just knows he’s gone to track down the beast, and follows him: Ted’s hair may just save the day. Themes of bullying, appearances, friendship, and the rumor mill are all addressed in this smartly written, funny story about a kid and his hair. A fun mystery leads to a sweet conclusion, and I loved the subplot involving Ted’s family tree. Mixed media illustrations give life to Ted and his super-powered hair; as bullies throw things at him, readers will see various utensils, writing tools, paper airplanes, and more sticking to his hair as he goes through his day. His family is supportive and doesn’t ignore his bullying, checking in with him throughout the story and leading to his grandmother’s reveal. Visit Scott SanGiacomo’s webpage for Ted-related printables, draw-along videos, and more artwork.
Bedhead Ted hasn’t been nominated for a CYBILS award yet… you know what to do!
Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Pizza and Taco, together again!

Pizza and Taco: Super-Awesome Comic!, by Stephen Shaskan, (Aug. 2021, RH Graphic), $9.99, ISBN: 9780593376034

Ages 5-8

The third outing for BFF duo Pizza and Taco is all about the creative process, and the disagreements that can throw a wrench into the works. The two friends decide to work on a comic together: Pizza is the writer, Taco’s the artist, but they don’t really see eye to eye on things. Taco’s superhero sketches make him look like a musclebound superhero, but Pizza’s superhero wizard looks a tad… scrawny. Pizza’s superhero backstories make Pizza “Pizza Supreme:” with superpowers like “super everything”, while Taco’s superpowers include “onion breath” and “super farts”, and works at a bank. Deciding to work separately, they realize that something’s missing… each other! They reunite, setting ground rules before they launch back into their story of superhero wizards who do karate to save the universe! The story has hilarious dialogue that kids will love and laugh at as they learn about working through differences, compromise, and creating working agreements in order to work with others. Great for emerging readers, the book is organized into chapters that prepare readers for bigger books like the Wimpy Kid series, Dog Man, and Captain Underpants. Give to your Narwhal and Jelly, Fox and Chick, and Shark and Bot readers. Make sure to do the Best Friend dance with your Kiddos – they’ll love it.

Visit author Stephen Shaskan’s webpage for great printables, too!

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade

The Ocean Strikes Back in Super Sidekicks #2!

Super Sidekicks #2: Ocean’s Revenge, by Gavin Aung Than, (July 2021, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593175125
Ages 8 to 12, Grades 3 to 7
The second book in the Super Sidekicks graphic novel series is all about the sidekicks standing on their own. The world’s leaders and the superhero grownups have been captured by The Mother of the Sea, who’s sick and tired of the damage us humans are wreaking on the planet, and it’s up to Junior Justice (JJ), Flygirl, Dinomite, Goo, and Ada, the most intelligent belt buckle in the universe, to save things and start the world on a better path. Mother of the Sea has put together a Trash Titan – a giant monster created out of all the trash from the Pacific Ocean – and wants to destroy all the land dwellers, so talking her down is going to take all of the skills the Sidekicks have at their disposal!
This is a perfect series for readers who are moving up from chapter books. It’s a fast-paced adventure story with fun superheroes who show the adults a thing or two about respecting kids and the planet. Illustrations are colorful, and the beginning of the story carries incredible weight: drifting trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch; seagulls feeding plastic bottle caps to their babies; a sea turtle swimming with a plastic soda ring around its neck. Watching the Trash Titan form from the tons of junk polluting the waters, you kind of want to root for the Mother of the Sea. Naturally, the adults are all clueless, but the kids know what’s up! Empowering kids to save the world one piece of junk at a time, Super Sidekicks: Ocean’s Revenge includes tips on reducing our trash footprint, and tips on how to draw Dinomite and Goo.
Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Be Careful What You Wish For: Mel the Chosen One

Mel the Chosen One, by Rachele Aragno/Translated by Carla Roncalli Di Montorio, (Aug 2021, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9780593301234

Ages 8 to 12

Mel is a kid who just wants to grow up already. Adults don’t listen to kids, after all, and Mel is fed up with not having a say in where she lives, what she wears, what she eats, or where she goes to school. Things change, though, when Mel discovers a magical world where she can make her own choices – and meets Otto, an old man who was just recently a young boy with the same wish. He cautions her that growing up quick isn’t all it’s cracked up to be: there are consequences, after all. Mel and Otto go on an adventure to make things right again, and Mel discovers that taking the time to enjoy childhood may be the better choice after all (because adults feel just as ignored by kids).

Random House Graphic has been bringing some great graphic novels in translation to American shores. I loved The Runaway Princess (2020) and Aster and the Accidental Magic (2020), both originally published in French; Mel the Chosen One was originally published in Italy in 2019 as Melvina. The story is engaging and addresses that need to grow up and be independent that so many kids have. Rachele Aragno acknowledges and respects Mel’s point of view, and gently introduces, through her storytelling, the reality behind the fantasy: rushing through life does no one any favors. Adults feel just as ignored as kids do. Maybe it’s time we all took a deep breath and started enjoying the moment, while actually hearing one another? It’s a magical story that brings home that age-old saying, “Be careful what you wish for… you just might get it.” Middle graders will understand, and hopefully share with the adults around them. Rachele Aragno’s artwork is expressive, and creates fanciful settings like magical animals, including a monocle-sporting fox and an owl sporting a top hat; a headless princess; a cheery graveyard filled with children yet to be born, and enchanted forests. Fun for your fairy tale fans and fantasy readers.

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

Pacey Packer – a new spin on unicorns for middle graders

Somehow, I missed out on Pacey Packer when her first book arrived last year, but I’m remedying that right now. For any readers that think unicorns are froofy, rainbow-pooping, and sickly-sweet, I submit to you the Pacey Packer graphic novel series.

Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker Book 1, by J.C. Phillipps, (August 2020, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9781984850546
Ages 7-10
Pacey is an older sister left in charge of her younger sister, Mina. Mina just wants to spend time with Pacey and have tea parties, but Pacey isn’t the greatest older sister, until she discovers Mina on the back of an actual unicorn, leaving her room! Pacey chases Mina across a rainbow and into a land called Rundalyn, where she learns that unicorns are real, and that Mina’s stuffed unicorn Slasher, is real, too. She also learns that Slasher used to be a real, full-sized unicorn, until his powerful brother, Arkane, turned him into a plush and left him in the world of humans. Arkane is a cruel leader who turns kids to stone for kicks, and Slasher has led Mina and Pacey right to him! As Slasher turns Mina into stone, Pacey decides to fight back, and Slasher, with a change of heart, joins her in the fight. Pacey learns what it means to be a good sister, and that “…you stick by family, even if they drive you up the wall sometimes”, and Slasher discovers that his home is no longer Rundalyn, trying to get back in his brother’s good graces. A fun adventure with a fantastically snarky unicorn, Pacey Packer: Unicorn Tracker is an adventure you’ll want on your Summer Reading list. Artwork is purple-black 2-color with plenty of expressive cartoon characters.
Summer Reading idea:  Travel theme! You’re in Rundalyn, do the unicorns have run of the whole place? What other kinds of fantastic animals and plants live there? Get a unicorn stamp for passports.
Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker 2: Horn Slayer, by by J.C. Phillipps, (June 2021, RH Graphic), $12.99, ISBN: 9781984850577
Ages 7-10
Picking up where the first adventure left off, Mina and Pacey, now known as “The Horn Slayer”, are planning to free the statue children in Arkane’s palace, encountered in the first book, when Lucky, the dog the girls are watching for a neighbor, gets loose. The girls and Slasher run after Lucky, encountering Carlos – the first of the statue children and Slasher’s old friend – in a forest. The group returns to Rundalyn, where Pacey has a plan to save the statue children. She has to rely on Slasher to guide her in using the power of Arkane’s horn to free the kids, all the while trying to stay out of Arkane’s way, because he is REALLY mad at her. While not absolutely necessary to read the first book in order to know what’s going on – an illuminated manuscript-like retelling begins this volume – I found I enjoyed the second reading much more after I read the first book. There are parallels between Arkane and Pacey being neglectful and self-centered older siblings, helping us see Pacey’s character growth across the two novels. New characters add some extra friends, and the conflict between Pacey and Slasher helps readers understand that blundering into a situation without all the facts is not always the best way to success. The story ends with an open storyline, getting readers ready for the next book in the series, which hits shelves in 2022. Back matter includes a drawing lesson for Loomi, one of the new characters. Way too much fun and a good adventure tale; no sophomore slump here.
Some bundling/display ideas: Grumpy Unicorn Hits the Road by Joey Spiotto, where we learn that “inside every grump is a happy person that’s just having a bad day”. The adorably cranky unicorn story is loaded with sight gags and a story of friendship that assured me that, even when I’m feeling my most unlovable, someone out there is willing to see past that. There’s also Pip Bird’s Dave the Unicorn series. Dave is not like your usual unicorns. He farts, loves doughnuts, and doesn’t really pay attention as much as he should. Mix and match books, formats, and add some fun unicorn-type printables or crafts to your giveaways.
Posted in Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Non-fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

#HomesCool: Career Day, Playing with Words, Women’s History, and ICK!

More #HomesCool fun as I catch up on my Summer Reading TBR! Here’s what’s good this week:

Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of, by Natalie Labarre, (Apr. 2020, Nosy Crow), $19.99, ISBN: 9781536212198

Ages 9-12

Welcome to Career Day! What do you want to be when you grow up: a librarian? Teacher or doctor? How about… a Train Pusher, or a Pet Preservationist? If the usual Career Day job list is leaving you with a case of the blahs, Incredible Jobs You’ve (Probably) Never Heard Of is the book for you and your kiddos. Oversized and illustrated in full color, this book spotlights jobs that are off the beaten path: sure, kids may have heard of an Egyptologist, but do they know that a Body Farmer uses the bodies of folks who’ve donated their bodies to science to recreate crime scenes or do scientific research? Or that a Chief Sniffer smell-checks anything going on a spacecraft launch? How about creating works of art from cheese, like a Cheese Sculptor? There are so many great jobs in here, kids will never look at Career Day the same way again. Illustrated with upbeat, fun artwork, and bright blue endpapers that give nods to all sorts of careers waiting inside, this is way too much fun, and a brand new take on the question, “So… what do you want to be when you grow up?”.

 

Alphamaniacs: Builders of the 26 Wonders of the Word, by Paul Fleischman/Illustrated by Melissa Sweet, (Apr. 2020, Candlewick Studio), $19.99, ISBN: 9780763690663

Ages 12+

Looking like an artist’s journal, filled with colorful, mixed media illustrations in bold, wild colors, Alphamaniacs is a book for those of us who love words and language. Twenty-six profiles fill this book, but they’re not the kind of wordsmiths you may think of: Simon Vostre, the 15-century publisher of religious books who wrote book curses to protect his works from careless readers and handlers: “Whoever steals this Book of Prayer / May he be ripped apart by swine, / His heart be splintered, this I swear, / And his body dragged along the Rhine”; Corín Tellado, the prolific author whose writing career left us with over 4,000 novels; and Daniel Nussbaum, the creator of “PL8SPK” – vanity license plates that retell the classics – are all here, as are other word artists and lovers. The book is perfect for tweens and teens who love a good word-related joke, and can be used in ELA classes to show how much fun it is to play with language. Any language!

Alphamaniacs has starred reviews from Kirkus and the Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books.

 

Noise Makers: 25 Women Who Raised Their Voices & Changed the World, by Kazoo Magazine, Edited by Erin Bried, (Jan. 2020, Alfred A. Knopf), $25.99, ISBN: 9780525580171

Ages 9-14

This book is AMAZING. It’s a graphic novel look at 25 women who made history, written and drawn by some of the most outstanding names in comics and graphic novels today, including Lucy Knisley, Maris Wicks, and Kat Leyh. Collected by the editors at Kazoo Magazine, every woman profiled here gets star treatment: a biographical spread with a picture, summary paragraph, and bullets points, inviting readers to see what they have in common with these women (talk about inspiring!), and a short graphic novel story from the woman’s life. Eugenie Clark, the “Shark Whisperer” (and Shark Lady, according to Jess Keating), is here; Wangari Maathai, who planted trees in Kenya, is here, too. Junko Tabei, the first woman to reach the peak of Mount Everest; artist Frida Kahlo, and musician and spy Josephine Baker are all here, too. Their stories are beautifully told and in a way that links reader, writer, and subject. Noise Makers organizes profiles under six areas: Grow (women who worked with nature); Tinker (entrepreneurs and inventors); Play (those with more physical accomplishments); Create (artists and creators); Rally (advocates and activists); and Explore (pioneers and explorers). This is essential, joyful, reading. Each contributing artist has a profile in the back matter. Put a copy on your Biography shelves and a copy on your Graphic Novels shelves.

 

 

Ick! Delightfully Disgusting Animal Dinners, Dwellings, and Defenses, by Melissa Stewart, (June 2020, National Geographic Kids), $14.99, ISBN: 9781426337468

Ages 7-13

You have got to love NatGeo Kids for having their finger on the pulse of what kids like. Ick! celebrates the grossest stuff in the animal world: caterpillars that camouflage themselves to look like dung, birds who build their nests with spit, a wasp who builds her nest inside her prey; it’s all here, with full-color photos that will make readers squeal with macabre delight. Organized into sections on Disgusting Dinners, Disgusting Dwellings, and Disgusting Defenses, readers learn all about the ways animals live, eat, and protect themselves. Callout facts and stats feature throughout the book, as do “Extra Ick!” sections with even grosser facts! Birds, bugs, mammals, fish, lizards, every type of animal can be found here: 45 of them, to be precise. A glossary, selected sources, and index round out the back matter.

Pair this with NatGeo Kids’ and Anna Claybourne’s Don’t Read This Book Before Dinner for an all-out squeal fest. And check out the Ick! section of author Melissa Stewart’s webpage, which includes a great interactive teaching presentation!