Review: The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang

shadow hero

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.

Review: Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt


Sleepyheads by Sandra J. Howatt, illustratedc by Joyce Wan

Head out on a journey in the night to find out where different creatures are sleeping.  Each one is tucked into the space they like best at bedtime.  There is the bear in his cave, the otter rocking back in the water, the pig in the hay, and many more.  Then the owl is on the page, not sleepy at all.  The book then turns to the house and the pets sleeping, but the little human bed is empty!  Where can that last little sleepyhead be?  Safe asleep in Mama’s arms. 

Simple and beautiful, this book has a gentle rhyme that soothes also with a rhythm that is like rocking to sleep.  Young listeners will get to identify the different animals as the pages turn, since the book leaves that up to the reader.  The quiet mystery of where the last sleepyhead is found is a wonderful little twist at the end, just right as children snuggle down to their own beds.

Wan’s art is dark and beautiful.  The night is lit with fireflies and the moon, the darkness deep and velvety but not frightening at all.  As the reader visits each dark page, there is always a source of light beyond that in the sky so that the characters themselves shine on the page. 

A wonderful bedtime read, this one shines with moonlight and dreams.  Appropriate for ages 1-3.

Reviewed from copy received from Beach Lane Books.