Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A fairy tale retelling of the Japanese “Cinderella” within the Eva Evergreen universe

Alliana, Girl of Dragons, by Julie Abe, (Aug. 2022, Little, Brown Books for Young Readers), $16.99, ISBN: 9780316300353

Ages 8-12

In a Cinderella-inspired Japanese fantasy tale, Alliana is an orphan living with her cruel stepmother and stepsiblings, with only her Grandmother Mari providing any affection. When Grandmother Mari dies, Alliana is bereft and alone in a hostile home, until she rescues a baby nightdragon and meets Nela, an apprentice witch. Alliana and Nela become fast friends and the nightdragon, whom Alliana names Kabo, give her hope of escaping her home living the life she dreams of: attending the Royal Academy. Alliana, Girl of Dragons is set in the world of Julie Abe’s Eva Evergreen universe and is filled with rich fantasy worldbuilding and elements of Japanese culture. Fairy tale readers will recognize elements of the Cinderella tale, including references to Alliana being a “girl of dust”, a royal ball, and Alliana’s secret attendance. The story explores friendship and found families, resilience, and greed. Readers do not need to be familiar with Eva Evergreen – I wasn’t! – to enjoy this adventure. Filled with dragons and magic, Alliana, Girl of Dragons is a great book to recommend to fantasy readers, readers who enjoy new takes on classic fairy tales, and anime and manga fans, who will also enjoy the manga artwork that sets off every chapter and places readers in Abe’s world.

 

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A middle grade horror classic gets a graphic novel retelling: Wait Till Helen Comes

Wait Till Helen Comes Graphic Novel, by Mary Downing Hahn/Illustrated by Meredith Laxton, (Sept. 2022, Clarion Books), $12.99, ISBN: 9780358536895

Ages 8-12

A classic work of children’s horror gets its day in graphic novel form.  Siblings Molly and Michael have tried time and again to bridge the divide between them and their 7-year-old stepsister, Heather, but Heather only seems to want to make their lives miserable. She lies to get them in trouble, she spurns any overtures from Molly, Michael, and their mother, and wants 100% of her father’s time. When the family relocates to an old church with a graveyard in back and sets up residence, things become even worse: Heather claims to have made a new friend: Helen, the ghost of a girl who died in a fire years ago, and who will make Molly and Michael pay when she comes. Wait Till Helen Comes is a chilling ghost story that receives an equally chilling graphic adaptation, with creepy imagery and a chilling blue and purple palette. Meredith Laxton maintains the spooky atmosphere that Hahn masterfully creates with her words. Characters are realistically human, all presenting as white.

With the current trend of popular novels being adapted into graphic novels, Wait till Helen Comes Home is about to reach even more readers. A great add to graphic novel collections.

Written in 1986, Wait till Helen Comes has won multiple awards and garnered a 2016 film adaptation.

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

CYBILS graphic novels check-in

The CYBILS Round One reading goes on. I’ve read 60 of 107 nominees so far, and my shortlist… well, it’s pretty long. I’ll be going through my shortlist a few times and talking books with my other Round One judges before we can provide the next round with a shortlist to go to, but it won’t be easy. There’s been some good stuff written and illustrated this year. While I can’t go into too much detail, since these are more nominees, I didn’t want them to be missed. Enjoy.

Stepping Stones, by Lucy Knisley, (Sept. 2020, RH Graphic), $20.99, ISBN: 9780593125243

Ages 8-12

I am a Lucy Knisley fan, and I’m excited that she’s writing graphic novels, in her autobiographical style, for middle graders. This is her first middle grade book, a fictionalized story of her life when she and her mom moved to a farm with her mother’s boyfriend. In the story, Jen is not happy about leaving her life in the city to live on a farm with her mom, her mom’s bossy boyfriend, Walter, and Walter’s two daughters, Andy and Reese, who spend every weekend with their dad. Jen thinks Andy is bossy and a know-it-all, like her dad, and Reese is weepy and cries for her mom. Gradually, the three girls become friends – stepsisters, even – as they start talking and discover that they’re not worlds different, after all. An author’s note gives readers the real details about Lucy Knisley’s farm years, complete with photos. Her storytelling style makes readers feel like they’re reading her journal or diary; her artwork is cartoony realistic, perfect for Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jameson fans. You’ll love the farmer’s market scenes, where Jen finally asserts herself and owns her talent, and the nature scenes make you realize why Jen’s mother packed up and left the city for greener pastures. Pick up Stepping Stones if you’ve never read a Lucy Knisley book before, then look up her other books for yourself.

Dungeon Critters, by Natalie Riess and Sara Goetter, (Sept. 2020, First Second), $14.99, ISBN: 9781250195470

Ages 9-13

If your Dungeons & Dragons campaign was made up of furry animal friends, you’d have Dungeon Critters. A group of animal adventurers are on the case to uncover a mysterious plant and a sinister plot, all surrounding Chirp – one of the adventurers, and a member of the royal family – and longtime rival, The Baron. Go on dungeon crawls, dance at fancy balls, and join the Dungeon Critters on their quests for adventure, as they figure out their complicated feelings for one another. It’s a fun adventure, cartoony, colorful artwork, frenetic energy, and tons of jokes. Gender and sexuality are fluid – Chirp, for instance, has she/her pronouns but is a prince; Rose and Juniper are two Dungeon Critters who have she/her pronouns and are crushing on each other. A positive, diverse, fun adventure for middle graders.