Category: Graphic Novels


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.

dumbest idea ever

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

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:

16231347 Boxers & Saints Boxed Set 

The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks

Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Dogs of War March (Book One) MIND MGMT, Vol. 1: The Manager

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 Rust Volume 2: Secrets of the Cell Strobe Edge, Vol. 1 (Strobe Edge, #1)

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 Will & Whit

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon McKay and Daniel Lafrance

Will & Whit by Laura Lee Gulledge

tippy and the night parade

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.

little fish

Little Fish: A Memoir from a Different Kind of Year by Ramsey Beyer

This graphic novel takes real journals, collages, lists and drawings to show the author’s transitional first year of college.  Ramsey grew up in very small Paw Paw, Michigan.  She was an artist from a young age and worked very hard at it, earning a spot in one of the top art schools in the country.  This meant moving to Baltimore and making new friends for the first time since she was a young child.  It also meant that she would no longer be the best artist around, she would be challenged as an artist in her classes, and she would have to find her own way in this new setting.  Beyer’s novel shows the difficulties and triumphs of a freshman year of college, and is sure to encourage other little fish to try their luck in the big city.

Beyer’s use of her own personal real-life work that comes directly from that time in her life makes this entire novel work.  It carries a weight that it would not have without that honest voice of youth at its core.  The mixed media format also makes the entire book compulsively readable.  Since you never know what is on the next page or what format it might be in, there is a constant desire to find out more and read longer.

Beyer’s art is done entirely in black and white in the book.  She plays with light and dark throughout, capturing both the loneliness of the first days at college and also the dynamic friendships and love interests that come later.  Her work is humorous and yet poignant.

This is a very strong, dynamic look at the first year of college.  Teens will enjoy looking into their own future plans with a little laughter and lots of optimism.  Appropriate for ages 13-16.

Reviewed from library copy.

battling boy

Battling Boy by Paul Pope

This is the first book in a new graphic novel series.  Monsters are attacking Acropolis but they are protected by the hero Haggard West, until he is killed.  Now their fate is in the hands of a young twelve-year-old sent from outer space.  He has powers of different animals that he accesses by wearing different t-shirts.  He can fight, but the monsters are cunning and strong.  Teens from his planet go rambling, but few return.  Battling Boy must not just save Acropolis, he has to prove his worth, make a cunning plan, fight epic battles, and survive.

The reader is quickly thrown into the story in this graphic novel which lays very little background at all.  That approach is perfect for this fast-paced storyline where everything is explained on the fly and the reader has to pick up on clues to put it all together.  Even as the reader is wondering about some things, the action has picked them up and moved them onward.  The result is a brawling book that is a surprisingly engaging read.

Pope’s art has a wonderful vintage comic feel.  The storyline also has its vintage moments but also bursts of surprises.  The melding of steampunk, deities, outer space and monsters makes for a fresh read.

Young fans of graphic novels will find a lot to love here: big battles, a young hero and a mashup of genres.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from library copy.

explorer lost islands

Explorer: The Lost Islands edited by Kazu Kibuishi

This second book in the Explorer series again takes a single theme and has short illustrated stories that center on that.  The book is a collection of different illustrators and authors, so one story to the next is very different both in the story itself and in the style of the art.  It makes for a very compelling book to read.  I had several favorite stories in the book, including The Mask Dance by Chrystin Garland where the setting is dark and looming and people are disguised by masks.  The reveal of the truth is great fun while still being dark and eerie.  Another favorite was Desert Island Playlist by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier.  Readers of Smile and Drama will enjoy seeing another piece of work by Telgemeier.  This story too has a mystery at its heart all set on a desert island.  This is another strong graphic novel that young readers are sure to enjoy.

This second book loses some of the darkness and wonder of the first which was a masterpiece.  At the same time, it is a book worth getting because it displays such a wide range of art styles and story types.  Both books in the series are like unwrapping presents when you turn to a new story, you are sure to be surprised.

Amulet fans, graphic novel readers and students interested in art should all find something to love in this new collection.  Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from copy received from Abrams.


March: Book One by John Lewis and Andrew Aydin, illustrated by Nate Powell

This is the first book in a planned series of graphic novels that follow the life of Congressman John Lewis and his work in the civil rights struggle.  This first book opens with President Obama’s inauguration day and then flashes back to critical points throughout Lewis’ life.  It tells the story of his connection to animals on the farm, particularly chickens.  It also shows him as a young minister and his determination to stay in school and then to attend college.  Readers get to witness the violence of the opposition to the Civil Rights Movement including many pivotal moments in history like the sit-ins at Nashville lunch counters. 

This is one powerful graphic novel.  The writing is sterling and strong.  It shines with an honest portrayal of historical events from someone who did not just witness them, but fought the battles personally.  The book clearly explains the world of the 1950s and 1960s, making sure that modern readers understand the dangers of the times and the differences.  It is both a historical book but also one that is important for modern teens to understand how far we have come and how far we have to go.

Powell’s art is stellar.  It is stirring art that evokes history with a fresh eye.  He creatively uses light and dark, playing with words across it at times, other times allowing the darkness to take control.  There is a sense of witnessing history throughout the book in both the words and the art. 

An impressive graphic novel for teens, this book shines light on the Civil Rights Movement.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

misadventures of salem hyde

The Misadventures of Salem Hyde: Spelling Trouble by Frank Cammuso

This is the first book in an upcoming graphic novel series for children in elementary school.  Salem Hyde is a witch, so sometimes she misunderstands what the other kids at school are talking about.  She insists she is a good speller and goes on to prove it by casting a spell.  Unfortunately, the spell turned a teacher into an enormous dinosaur.  After that, Salem’s family decide that she needs an animal companion.  Salem thinks a unicorn would be perfect, but she gets a cat instead: a cat named Percival J. Whamsford III.  As his name indicates, he has a very different personality than Salem.  Let the fun begin!

Done in black and white illustrations, this graphic novel has the feel of a traditional comic strip rather than a graphic novel.  That is not a complaint, in fact I enjoyed the more Calvin and Hobbes feel to the book with moments that stood on their own and the whole telling a full story.  Cammuso’s art has a traditional vibe to it, one that will have mass appeal.  The humor is slick, funny and age appropriate offering silly moments galore.

A strong beginning to a new series, Salem Hyde should be welcome at all libraries as long as she doesn’t try to “spell.”  Appropriate for ages 7-9.

Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet Books.


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