Category: Graphic Novels


Hamster Princess Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon

The author of the Dragonbreath series brings her signature humor and art to a new heroine. Harriet is a hamster princess though she hates the need to be ethereal and drooping. She’d much rather be going cliff diving and riding her quail. But the princess was cursed at birth by an evil fairy, sound familiar? When she turns 12, she will prick her finger on a hamster wheel and fall deeply asleep. But Harriet sees the curse in a more positive way. It means that she is invincible until she is 12 years old. So she heads off to have adventures, slay monsters, and have a great time. But then comes her twelfth birthday, and the Ratbone the evil fairy arrives in person to see it through. With an unbreakable curse on her head, how is a hamster princess to prevail? You will just have to read it to find out!

Vernon takes Sleeping Beauty and turns it around in this novel that is a mix of text and graphics. Princess Harriet is wonderful. She breaks all of the rules, insisting that since she is a princess and doing something therefore princesses must do it. She creates a reputation for herself throughout the region among the more snobbish kingdoms. At the same time though she has had a blast, keeping things from her mother even as she slays ogres and saves giants from meddling Jacks. Throughout the book, Vernon mentions different fairy tales, and even works the glass mountain directly into the story. Fans of fairy tales will find a lot to love here.

The illustrations are funny and wonderfully active. This is not a princess graphic novel that spends any time at all on daintiness. It is much more about great laughs, action scenes and interpreting what her quail meant by his latest “Querk!” The graphic novel elements play perfectly into the story, often being used to move the tale forward on their own. These are not graphic elements to be read on the side since they are so vital to the story itself.

A completely and wonderfully twisted fairytale, this graphic novel is sure to find fans thanks to its strong heroine and laugh-out-loud humor. Appropriate for ages 7-10.

Reviewed from copy received from Dial Books.

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

Honor Girl by Maggie Thrash

Released September 8, 2015.

Maggie attends the same summer camp that her mother did and her grandmother did. Camp Bellflower for Girls is one of the oldest camps in the South, and nothing has changed there since it was founded in 1922. Maggie spends her summer with friends she made there previous years. She hates the tether she has to wear to keep herself from sleepwalking at night and she’s really into the Backstreet Boys. Maggie lies the rifle range and finds herself getting better at shooting at least when she can stop herself from thinking too much. That gets a lot harder when she notices Erin, a counselor in the younger girls’ camp. Maggie struggles with her feelings for Erin and though she tries to disguise what she is feeling, other girls at camp notice. Some are supportive while others think that it is very wrong. As Maggie’s summer plays out, she finds ways to deal with the pressure of the rifle range, an angry rival, and also to explore her sexuality.

Thrash’s memoir is told with a broad humor about Christian summer camp and how it feels to be a girl different from most of the others there. At the same time, the humor is never pointed and the girls around Maggie are supportive most of the time and in their own ways. Some want to protect Maggie from her crush, others want to just tease. Yet there is no hate here, which is very refreshing. Thrash also does a nice job of allowing a crush to play out, naturally and tantalizingly. Their feelings for one another are clear even as they themselves feel confused by them. The result is a book about the confusion of being a teen, the tensions of both friendships and attractions with the added dimension of being a lesbian. It is a beautifully done memoir.

Thrash’s book is in full color, but the advanced copy I received is in black and white only. Even with that limited color palette, the illustrations are clear and clever. The characters are unique on the page, which is not easy to do with a camp full of teen girls. Each has a distinguishing feature and it all works so that heroine, her crush, her rival, her friend and others are easily recognized. Throughout the entire book, a river of humor carries through and that same humor is evident in the illustrations. This is a book that could have been heavy and still is emotionally charged. The humor helps that be bearable and makes the book a great read.

A strong and important graphic memoir, this book belongs in every public library graphic novel collection for teens who will enjoy meeting such a strong protagonist. Appropriate for ages 12-14.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

Baba Yagas Assistant by Marika McCoola

Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola, illustrated by Emily Carroll

A modern teen meets the legendary Baba Yaga in this graphic novel that mixes traditional Russian folklore with modern-day mixed families. Masha was raised primarily by her grandmother who told her stories of her own time with Baba Yaga in her house that walks on chicken legs as well as stories of other children who lived with the old witch. So when Masha sees an ad in the paper for an assistant, she sets off to take the job with some confidence, a lot more than she feels about her father’s new girlfriend and her daughter. Baba Yaga sets Masha through a series of tests like outwitting a huge bear, cleaning the filthy house, and even getting inside in the first place. But when the daughter of her father’s girlfriend shows up as one of the children ready to become Baba Yaga’s dinner, Masha intervenes and saves all of the children, even if they don’t want her help. But that act alone may have cost her the assistant position and her adventures with Baba Yaga.

McCoola’s story is a dark and dangerous tale, one that does not laugh at the legends of Baba Yaga, but instead makes her all the more frightening. Still there is a great sense of humor throughout. The story closely relates to other tales of Baba Yaga and her house. In fact, the characters refer to other tales, other adventures and use that knowledge to escape their situation. It’s a clever use of traditional stories to create a robust modern tale of adventure and magic.

The illustrations by Carroll embrace the darkness of the story. My advanced reader copy was entirely in black and white, so I can’t speak to the colors of the final version, but the drawings have a modern edge to them that makes them exciting and fresh. A different style is used when there are flashbacks to the other stories, making sure that readers know that it is a different tale. The final pages of my copy contain some character studies for the illustrations that make for fascinating reading too.

Dark, dramatic and great fun, this graphic novel is a memorable mix of old and new into something amazing. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.

What a year for teen graphic novels!

The 2015 Eisner Award Winnes have been announced and some of my favorite teen graphic novels of the year won in categories that are not limited to younger ages! Here are the winners that are either specifically for books for children and teens or that were won by those books:

BEST NEW SERIES

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke A. Allen

 

BEST PUBLICATION FOR EARLY READERS (up to age 7)

20518978

The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke

 

BEST PUBLICATION FOR KIDS (ages 8-12)

El Deafo

El Deafo by Cece Bell

 

BEST PUBLICATION FOR TEENS (ages 13-17)

Lumberjanes, Vol. 1

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson and Brooke A. Allen

 

BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM – NEW

This One Summer

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki & Jillian Tamaki

 

BEST GRAPHIC ALBUM – REPRINT

Through the Woods

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll

 

BEST WRITER

Avatar: The Last Airbender: Smoke and Shadow, Part 1 (Smoke and Shadow, #1) The Shadow Hero

Gene Luen Yang for Avatar the Last Airbender and The Shadow Hero

 

BEST WRITER/ARTIST

Sisters

Raina Telgemeier for Sisters

Mad Scientist Academy The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott

Mad Scientist Academy: The Dinosaur Disaster by Matthew McElligott (InfoSoup)

Released July 7, 2015.

In this graphic novel for elementary-aged children, facts about dinosaurs mingle with a great adventure. A new class of young monsters are enrolled at the Mad Scientist Academy. On their first day of school, they meet Dr. Cosmic, a teacher at the academy who has managed to lose the school pet, Oscar, a dinosaur. The children are sent to find Oscar and set off on an adventure through the various exhibits that Dr. Cosmic has been working on. The focus of the exhibits is dinosaurs and there are mechanical dinosaurs throughout who are set to be tame. Unfortunately, their setting is accidentally set to live mode and all of the dinosaurs start acting as if they are real. It is up to the students to figure out how to escape the rampaging T-Rex and find Oscar too.

McElligott has a great feel for pacing and humor in this graphic novel. There are small touches of humor throughout the book, from one students stinky lunch to the out-of-control exhibits that have too much lava and are a bit too effective in showing meteors. The book is thoughtfully designed too with each monster character having characteristics that come into play in the story line. The lizard boy uses his long tongue to reach something, the insect girl uses her wings to remove smoke from the room, and much  more. The insertion of the dinosaur information is done in a light way and includes plenty of illustrations to keep the information accessible and fun.

The art is very effective throughout the book. The characters are diverse enough to be recognizable even in images where they are smaller. Double-page spreads of the full exhibit show the largeness of both the exhibit and the dinosaurs too. Dramatic moments are nicely captured and the timing of funny events is done very effectively.

Get this into the hands of children growing out of Magic School Bus books. The mix of graphic novel, information and fantasy elements will find lots of young fans. Appropriate for ages 6-9.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Crown Books for Young Readers and Edelweiss.

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

Released May 26, 2015.

This is the first YA novel by Priest, a well-known fantasy author for adults, and it’s a treat. May and Libby have been friends for years, the best of friends after meeting in fifth grade on a playground. The two of them wrote comics together about Princess X, a katana-wielding heroine. But then one day, Libby was gone, dead after a car crash from a bridge. Three years later, May has returned to their hometown and notices an image of a princess holding a katana on a sticker, a sticker that is brand new. May tracks down the image to a web comic where she realizes there are real similarities to the story that she and Libby had created. How can that be? And how strange is it that some of the stories seem to have messages only May could understand hidden inside of them?

There is a real joy in finding a book that does digital life so very well. The online elements of the story and the web comic are clear and make perfect sense. The hacking and dark net also work well in the way they are portrayed where there is information to be found but often it’s not legal to access it. That aspect alone, so often mismanaged in novels, is worth this read. But add to that a determined friend who quickly believes that her dead friend is still alive, an online and real life quest for information, horrible bad guys, and the exploration of Seattle both above and underground. It’s a book that is a searing fast read thanks to its pacing and the need to find out the truth.

The online comics are shared as comic inserts in the book, and were not completed in the galley that I have. The first couple of comics were available and add to the drama of the book. The mix of words and images works very well here with Priest using it both to move the story forward and to show the drama and appeal of the comic itself.

Smartly written with great characters and an amazing quest for the truth, this book is satisfying, surprising and impressive. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.

Dragons Beware by Jorge Aguirre

Dragons Beware! by Jorge Aguirre, illustrated by Rafael Rosado

Released May 12, 2015.

Join Claudette on her second quest as a warrior. This time it is Claudette’s father who heads out alone into battle, attempting to get his sword back from the dragon who swallowed it along with his legs and one of his arms. But Claudette is determined not to be left behind in town and heads off with just her dog with her. Her best friend Marie and her little brother Gaston join her a little later. Together they are all captured by the evil wizard Grombach and his army of stone gargoyles. Grombach has encased the entire town army in amber, using his ability to turn things to stone. When he is distracted by the Apple Hag, the children rescue people along with the Apple Hag who in turn is the one who finds the Gaston could be a magic user. The children continue on toward to dragon’s lair, managing to sneak past the dragon’s offspring and deep within the mountain. There they discover Claudette’s father trapped by the dragon and set out to rescue him. But it will take more than the power of the sword and fighting to get them out alive.

I adore Claudette, a girl who wants to be a warrior and never shrinks away from any battle no matter how outnumbered she is. She is entirely herself, proud to be the girl she is. At the same time, I love that she has Marie as her counterpoint. Marie is a girl who loves pretty dresses and worries about her hair, but she too heads into battle in her own distinct way, this time with diplomacy. Then there is Gaston, the boy who loves to cook but also wants to make his father proud so he’s working on warrior skills like creating swords. He’s not very good at it.

These three protagonists make this book a marvelous adventure. It is filled with their large personalities, laugh-out-loud funny puns and one-liners, and lots and lots of adventure, danger and battles. Claudette’s father fights despite being in a wheelchair and characters of all colors appear in the story. This is a celebration of diversity on the page thanks to the art by Rosado which ranges from completely silly to blazing fight scenes.

A very strong female protagonist is the center of these books and she will thrill children with her bravery. Appropriate for ages 8-11.

Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and First Second.

lumberjanes

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, and illustrated by Brooke Allen

The Lumberjane scout camp is for “hardcore lady types” who celebrate “Friendship to the max!” Five friends are spending their summer together here and they are in for unexpected adventures as they earn their badges. When they head out to get their nighttime badge, they encounter the first of the supernatural monsters, a pack of three-eyed wolves. Luckily the friends, Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley, are also elite fighters so they manage to defeat the wolves. Back at camp, their counselor marches them to the office for discipline, but the head of the camp seems more intrigued than surprised by their find. As the summer progresses, the girls face hipster yetis, polite boy campers with a dark side, stone statues that come to life, and plenty of traps. Summer camp has never been this full of wild creatures and epic battles, all done by a group of amazing girls.

I first heard about how wonderful this comic book was when it was not yet a graphic novel, and I am so thrilled that the first four comics have been turned into this novel that is perfect for libraries. I had high expectations for this comic and was still dazzled by it and rather twitchy to get my hands on the next one. The characters are phenomenally well done, each girl having her own distinct personality and style. Add in the delight of finding a budding lesbian love story and it’s pure magic. I love kick-ass heroines, and this series has FIVE to fall for.

The art is well done too with its own vibe. It has the friendly feel of a Telgemeier combined with more edge that make the battle scenes really work. There is plenty of action and humor to make the book race along. I love the addition of extra art at the end done in a variety of styles. It invites fans of the characters to draw them and create their own stories about these great girls.

This is a graphic novel to devour in one sitting and immediately turn to the beginning and start again. Pure girl-power perfection. Appropriate for ages 12-16.

Reviewed from library copy.

2015 Eisner Award Nominations

The nominations for the 2015 Eisner Awards have been announced. These awards are for the best in comics and graphic novels and include specific categories for youth. Here are the nominees in those categories:

Best Publication for Early Readers (up to age 7)

BirdCatDog A Cat Named Tim and Other Stories

BirdCatDog by Lee Nordling & Meritxell Bosch
A Cat Named Tim And Other Stories by John Martz

Hello Kitty, Hello 40: A 40th Anniversary Tribute Mermin Volume 3: Deep Dive

Hello Kitty, Hello 40: A Celebration in 40 Stories edited by Traci N. Todd & Elizabeth Kawasaki Mermin, Book 3: Deep Dive by Joey Weiser

20518978

The Zoo Box by Ariel Cohn & Aron Nels Steinke

 

Best Publication for Kids (ages 8-12)

Batman: Li'l Gotham #2 El Deafo

Batman Li’l Gotham, vol. 2 by Derek Fridolfs & Dustin Nguyen
El Deafo by Cece Bell
I Was the Cat Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland #1

I Was the Cat by Paul Tobin & Benjamin Dewey
Little Nemo: Return to Slumberland by Eric Shanower & Gabriel Rodriguez

Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse

Tiny Titans: Return to the Treehouse by Art Baltazar & Franco

 

Best Publication for Teens (ages 13-17)

12724844 The Dumbest Idea Ever!

Doomboy by Tony Sandoval
The Dumbest Idea Ever by Jimmy Gownley

Lumberjanes #1 Meteor Men

Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, & Brooke A. Allen
Meteor Men by Jeff Parker & Sandy Jarrell

The Shadow Hero The Wrenchies

The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang & Sonny Liew

The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple

lunch witch

The Lunch Witch by Deb Lucke

What is a witch to do when no one believes in magic anymore? She has her family’s potion recipes and cauldron, but that’s about it. Then she realizes that there is one perfect job for someone who creates horrible brews – being a lunch lady! So Grunhilda becomes a lunch lady, one who scares all of the children. But Madison isn’t scared of Grunhilda despite the fact that she is the one person who knows that she is not what she seems. Madison has enough knowledge to blackmail the witch, but that’s a dangerous course even when the witch wants to help you. Grunhilda finds a kinship with Madison, but her horrible ancestors are maddened to find their magic being used for good, so they step in and cause all sorts of trouble for both Madison and Grunhilda.

Lucke’s story is a delightful mix of horrible potions, bats that don’t listen, nasty dead ancestors with too many opinions, and amazingly also two people who may just become friends through it all. Lucke creates a story around Grunhilde that offers her back story and makes her transformation to an almost-good witch believable and organic. Madison too has her own story, one that also makes the story work well and makes her own role and connection ring true.

The art of this graphic novel is gorgeously strange and wild. Each chapter leads in with a differently stained page, from oily splotches to actual tomatoes. The pages too are dark and stained, as if Grunhilda herself had been using the book in her kitchen. Against that the white of aprons and speech bubbles pops. Other subtler colors are also used and create a subtle effect against the dark page.

A funny and heartfelt story of unusual friendships created during the most unusual of times. Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from library copy.

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