Through the Woods by Emily Carroll
This graphic novel is haunted by authors like Neil Gaiman and the Brother Grimm. The tales here are gruesome in the best possible way, frightening and oozy and delightful. Our Neighbor’s House is a strange tale of a family that disappears one by one into the frigid snow following a man in a wide-brimmed hat until there is only one girl left. A Lady’s Hands Are Cold tells of a women married into a loveless marriage who begins to hear voices calling from the walls and floors of the house. His Face All Red is a story of murder and the undead. My Friend Janna tells of what happens when fakery of the occult becomes real and dangerous. The Nesting Place will have your skin crawling, or perhaps it’s what lurks behind your skin. Each story is a gem, strange and beautiful and entirely horrific.
Carroll does both the stories and the art here and they are married together so closely that they could not be extricated. Though they are all clearly done by one person, the art changes from one to the next, definitively showing that you are entering a different place with different people. There are old stories with coaches, horses and corsets as well as more modern tales too.
Yet though they are clearly different, you start each one with that unease in your stomach that Carroll seems to be able to generate through her use of colors and the way that her characters gaze from the page. Something is wrong in each of the stories and you can’t finish until you figure out exactly what it is. The effect is haunting, haunted and wildly exhilarating.
A true delight of a read, this graphic novel for teens is completely disturbing and filled with horror. In other words, it’s perfection for horror fans. Appropriate for ages 12-14.
Reviewed from copy received from McElderry Books.
Comics Squad: Recess!
Released July 8, 2014.
Join your favorite children’s graphic novel authors as they romp together in a celebration of recess! This graphic novel has been contributed to by authors like Jennifer and Matthew Holm, Jarrett Krosoczka, Dan Santat, Gene Luen Yang, and Raina Telgemeier. Favorite characters like Lunch Lady and Babymouse make an appearance in their own stories as well as appearing throughout the book with a little commentary. In other stories, new characters make their first appearance which will delight young fans.
It’s hard to be too enthusiastic about this title, since young readers are sure to adore it. The release in mid-summer is ideal since this will make great summer reading, though it will also be a great addition to any school library or classroom. Put together cleverly, the book has a nice flow to it and a brisk pace that will have even reluctant readers eagerly turning the pages.
Get multiple copies of this one, since it’s sure to be a hit! Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Random House and Edelweiss.
The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang, art by Sonny Liew
Released July 15, 2014.
The Green Turtle first appeared in comics in the 1940s, the Golden Age of Comics, for a short run. He was the first Asian-American super hero. Now he has been given a back story by acclaimed graphic novelist, Gene Luen Yang. Hank was the son of a Chinese immigrants. His father was a grocer, who also carried within him a turtle spirit unbeknownst to his wife and son. His mother was a cleaner of rich people’s homes. Hank was a normal kid who grew into a normal young adult, until his mother though being a super hero would be the best career path for Hank. She sewed him a costume, tried to get him special powers through a variety of techniques, and then had him train in fighting with someone. But it took Hank awhile to find his super hero mojo, perhaps it was finding a man who rules China Town with an iron and greedy fist or perhaps it was vengeance. Whichever it was, Hank grew to become the Green Turtle.
This is one graphic novel that does not take itself too seriously, making for great reading. Fans of comic books will love the irreverent humor here that plays up the stereotypical origin stories of most super heroes. That is matched with a clear respect for immigrants, the difficult choices they have to make, and the desperate need at times for a hero to save them. It makes for a book that dances the line between drama and humor skillfully and to great effect.
Liew’s art has a freshness that both hearkens back to old comics but also forges ahead with a modern vibe. The colors are used carefully, often more muted and subtle and then popping into bright colors when important events happen. It’s very cleverly done.
An amazing and complex superhero arrives in this graphic novel that both pays homage and reinvents the first Asian-American super hero. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from digital copy received from NetGalley and First Second.
This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki
Rose goes to Awago Beach every summer with her parents, but this summer things don’t feel quite the same. Rose’s friend Windy is also there and the two of them hang out together just like every other summer. But Rose’s parents are always arguing and her mother won’t go swimming with them at all. Rose and Windy find their own way to escape the fighting, they rent horror movies from the local shop. While they are there picking out and returning their movies, they watch a summer of teenage drama unfold in front of them. This is a summer unlike any others, one where secrets are hidden and revealed and where sorrow mixes with the summer sun.
Done by the pair that did Skim, this is an amazing graphic novel for teens. It deals with that fragile moment in life where children are becoming teens and everything around them is changing. These two girls are suspended in that time during the summer, learning about themselves, about their parents and witnessing events around them in a new way. The use of a summer vacation to capture that moment in time is superb. Yet this book is not a treatise on the wonder of childhood at all. It deals with deeper issues, darker ones, ones that the two girls are not ready to handle yet. And that’s what makes it all the more wondrous as a book.
The art in the book is phenomenal. The two girls are different physically, one a little stouter than the other and both are real girls expressing real emotions. And the larger of the two girls is not the shy, meek one. She has a wonderful sassiness to her, an open grin, and rocks a bikini. Hoorah! The art captures summer days, the beach, what a face of sorrow looks like and how it tears into ones entire physique. Done in blue and white, the images are detailed and realistic.
A glimpse of one summer and what happens during it, this book is about capturing a moment in time, one that is filled with depth, despair and desire. Appropriate for ages 13-16.
Reviewed from digital copy received from
When I opened the box that contained The Return of Zita the Spacegirl, I squealed and jumped around (a little bit, ok a lot) and my youngest son arrived to investigate. He is 12 years old and has loved Zita for years. The first Zita book traveled around with him for some time. It was one of those beloved books that went into every school bag, rode on any long car ride, and was tucked under his arm just in case he got bored. Upon seeing the new book, he immediately pounced, pulled it out of my hands and made to dash off with it. But no, I had a review to write and he could not have it. I nestled it onto my book table and went to do laundry.
I was gone a few minutes and came back into the room to see my older child, now 17 years old, getting ready to curl up with the new Zita book that I thought I had secured! I once again wrestled it out of eager hands (something that feels so wrong as a librarian but fine as a book lover) and told them that they had to wait until my review was finished to read it.
So that is my favorite thing. My favorite thing is the eagerness that this book series creates in readers. Everyone knows that Zita will have a great adventure, that there will be plenty of humor, cute and strange creatures, lots of danger, and even some old friends. It is the type of series that spans from childhood to teen years, cool enough to carry around proudly and beloved enough to curl up with at bedtime even at age 17.
I too have adored Zita the Spacegirl from the very first book. Now the final book in the series is coming out and I am both saddened to see Zita coming to an end and also heartened to have a great series end with such a terrific book.
I will spoil nothing for you here. Suffice it to say that both of my children found it worth the wait to read it as did I. After all, Zita is one amazing heroine who solves problems both on her own and with her friends. This is girl power at its best!
And I can’t wait to see what Ben Hatke does next, can you?
Hidden: A Child’s Story of the Holocaust by Loic Dauvillier, illustrated by Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo
Translated from French, this graphic novel delicately but powerfully explains the impact of the Nazis on a child. Told by a grandmother to her granddaughter, this is the story of Dounia, a young Jewish girl whose life changes when the Nazis come to Paris. First she has to wear a yellow star, then she stops attending school, and finally her parents are taken away and she is sheltered by neighbors. She has to call the neighbor woman “mother” even though she doesn’t want to. The two flee Paris and head to the countryside where Dounia is able to live comfortably with enough food, but worries all the time about whether she will ever see her parents again. This is a book about families but also about those people thrown together by horrors who become family to one another to survive.
Dauvallier first offers a glimpse of what Dounia’s life was like just before the Nazis arrived. Quickly though, the book changes and becomes about persecution and the speed of the changes that Jews in France and other countries had to endure. Isolation from society was one of the first steps taken, the loss of friends and mentors, then the fear of being taken away or shot entered. But so did bravery and sacrifice and heroism. It is there that this book stays, keeping the horrors at bay just enough for the light to shine in.
The art work is powerful but also child friendly. The characters have large round heads that show emotions clearly. There are wonderful plays of light and dark throughout the book that also speak to the power of the Nazis and the vital power of fighting back in big ways and small.
A powerful graphic novel, this book personalizes the Holocaust and offers the story of one girl who survived with love and heroism. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from First Second.
The Dumbest Idea Ever! by Jimmy Gownley
This graphic novel memoir focuses on one idiotic idea that changes comic-creator Gownley’s life forever. At 13, Gownley was on top of the world. He was popular, getting great grades, and was top-scorer on the school basketball team. Then he got chicken pox and he had to miss the championship game. But that wasn’t the end of his bad luck, he followed the chicken pox with a bout of pneumonia and missed more school. Soon Jimmy wasn’t a basketball star and his grades were getting bad. Jimmy did have one thing going for him though, the dumbest idea ever! It was an idea that would make him money, get him popular again, find him a girlfriend, and even impress a very stern nun. And let me tell you, it takes one amazingly stupid idea to accomplish all that!
Gownley reveals how he became a cartoonist in this graphic novel. It is cleverly done with a strong story arc that keeps the entire book sturdily structured. Gownley has a wonderful self-deprecating humor that works particularly well in comic format. His humor is smart and very funny, often conveyed with ironic twists of eyebrows or sarcastic facial expressions. The book is a quick read thanks to the format but also to the fast pacing that will have readers happily turning page after page.
Get this into the hands of Smile! fans who will appreciate the humor, the honesty and the art. Appropriate for ages 10-13.
Reviewed from library copy.
Okay, Andy! by Maxwell Eaton III
The author of the Max and Pinky books returns with a new duo, Andy and Preston. Andy is an alligator and Preston is a young coyote. The two of them make an unlikely team but one that works incredibly well for humor. Preston often can’t figure out what is really going on. So when Andy is hunting a rabbit, Preston thinks it is a game of tag. In the next chapter, Preston wants to take every thing they find, though Andy holds onto a stick for himself. Andy is so distracted that he doesn’t see the cliff coming and then he lets loose his anger on Preston. Then it is up to Andy to make things right, if he can. In the final chapter, Andy is trying to sleep when Preston wants to have him guess what kind of animal noise Preston is making. This quickly descends into a merry chaos and then the book comes full circle back to the rabbit in a very satisfying ending.
This is a graphic novel perfect for beginning readers. Eaton tells the story in just a few words, letting the illustrations carry most of the story rather than the words. He uses repeating words too, making it even funnier and also making it easier for the youngest readers to decipher. Filled with silly action, the book does speak to the ins and outs of friendship. Eaton’s art is clear and clean, his thick black lines filled with simple colors. The result is a graphic novel that is simple, easy and cheerful.
A great pick for beginning readers, children will enjoy the graphic novel format and the humor. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from digital galley received from Edelweiss and Blue Apple Books.
YALSA has announced their choices for Great Graphic Novels 2014. Selected from 122 nominations, the list has 78 graphic novels for teens ages 12-18 that are that special mix of quality literature and teen appeal.
They also named a Top Ten:
The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks
Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox
March: Book 1 by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin and Nate Powell
MIND MGMT v. 1: The Manager by Matt Kindt
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks
Rust v. 2: Secrets of the Cell by Royden Lepp
Strobe Edge v. 1-6 by Io Sakisaka
War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon McKay and Daniel Lafrance
Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge
Tippy and the Night Parade by Lilli Carre
Released February 11, 2014.
In the morning when she wakes up, Tippy’s room is a complete mess. But all Tippy remembers is falling asleep, how did this all happen? The next night, she goes to bed as usual after cleaning up her room. And then readers get to see exactly what happens when Tippy goes sleepwalking along a pier, across the garden, hopping on lily pads, lost in the fog and trees, down a hole, into the desert, up a mountain and back down to her window. Just to wake up the next morning again without knowing what happened.
Carre lets her images tell the majority of the story in her debut graphic novel. And the images are a smart mix of modern with a vintage flair. They have a flatness to them that adds a quirky quality to the book. They also have a great sense of humor as the parade builds in length and more animals are included. My particular favorite is the rotund bear. And what a parade it is, sharp-eyed readers will enjoy looking at the mess in her room and matching the animals that had joined her walk back home.
Funny and quirky, this parade is one worth marching along with. Appropriate for ages 4-6.
Reviewed from copy received from Toon Books.