El Deafo by Cece Bell
Author/illustrator Cece Bell has created a graphic novel memoir of her loss of hearing as a child. At age four, Cece contracts meningitis and the disease takes away her ability to hear. At first Cece attends school with other children who have hearing loss and wear hearing aids, but then she is sent to first grade with a new super-powered hearing aid, the Phonic Ear. Her new teacher has to wear a microphone, one that she sometimes forgets to take off (even when she uses the bathroom) which leads to some rather interesting sounds! But along with these superpowers come some ethical questions and some technical problems. As Cece copes with her hearing loss, she is also living the normal life of a child, attending school, making new friends, all with a big hearing aid on her chest.
Bell writes with a great honesty here, revealing helpful hints about what deaf people need to help them read lips and understand people better, things that other people can help with. There is plenty of humor throughout the novel, making it very appealing. Also adding to the appeal is Bell’s transformation from human to bunny in the illustrations, sending herself as an imaginary superhero flying upwards with her long ears.
While this is a book about a disability, it is much more a book about Bell and how her creativity helped her through times that required a real strength of character. Her sense of humor also helped immensely, and it is her positive take about her hearing loss that makes this such an incredible read.
A top graphic novel for children and libraries, this is a must-read and a must-have. Appropriate for ages 7-10.
Reviewed from ARC received from Amulet Books.
Sisters by Raina Telgemeier
Released August 26, 2014.
The exceptionally talented and incredibly popular Raina Telgemeier returns with a sequel to her beloved Smile. This is the story of Raina and her little sister, Amara. Raina was desperate to have a little sister, but Amara is not working out the way she had pictured. Now Raina is stuck on a road trip with her sister, little brother and her mother. They are all stuck in a van traveling from San Francisco to Colorado for a family reunion. The relationship between the two sisters is tense, not only because they have very different personalities but also because they are both artists. Then you add in the clear issues of Raina’s parents and you have a dynamic view of a family on the brink of big changes. It’s just up to Raina and Amara as to how their relationship with one another will change.
Telgemeier has created another breathtakingly honest graphic novel for elementary and middle grade readers. Through her illustrations and humor, she shows a family at the crux of a moment that could change things forever. The book though focuses on flashbacks showing the family and how relationships have altered. Readers may be so focused on the story of the two sisters that they too will be blindsided along with Raina about the other issues facing their family. It’s a craftily told story, one that surprises and delights.
As always, Telgemeier’s art is fantastic. She has a light touch, one that invites readers into her world and her family and where they long to linger. Her art is always approachable and understandable, more about a vehicle to tell the story than about making an artistic statement on its own. It is warm, friendly and fantastic.
Highly recommended, this book belongs in every library that works with children. A dynamite sequel that lives up to the incredible first book. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.
The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell
The first volume in a two volume graphic version of the award-winning novel by Neil Gaiman, this book celebrates the original story as well as several top graphic artists, who each take a chapter in the tale. True to the written story, this graphic version has a wonderful creepy vibe and does not shy away from the horror elements. The story is brought vividly to life by this new format and also brings it to new readers who may not have read the written work.
Thanks to the signature illustration style of each of the artists, the book takes different views of the graveyard, the characters and the story. With each change in artist, there is a sense of refreshment and wonder anew. At the same time, the illustrators adhere to certain elements, so that Bod looks like the same character throughout the book as do other main characters. The various ghosts glow on the page, Silas is a gaunt dark figure who commands attention, and Bod himself is a luminous child that is the center of the story both visually and thematically.
Beautifully and powerfully illustrated, this new version of the book is a masterpiece. Readers will wait eagerly for Volume Two. Appropriate for ages 9-12.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.
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.