Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki (InfoSoup)
The award-winning Jillian Tamaki returns with a collection of comics that she has been serializing online for the last few years. Set in a boarding school for magical mutant teens, this graphic novel is filled with an engaging mix of fantasy, science fiction and teen angst. Various characters appear in different strips. There is the self-absorbed lizard-headed Trixie who mourns her lack of a modeling career. Marsha is unable to speak about her crush on Wendy, her best friend. Everlasting Boy continues to both escape to death but also embraces what makes life amazing. Other characters appear with moments of touching nuance juxtaposed against others that produce laughter because of how real they are.
Tamaki completely captures what it feels like to be a teenager, magical or not. She twists in the superhero and magical tropes, cleverly playing against the Avengers and Harry Potter experiences into something more realistic and heartfelt. Even in her most fantastical moments, she creates universal themes. Riding brooms becomes a chance to look up someone’s skirt. Magic wands are the key to removing pimples. It’s all a beautiful mix of reality and fantasy.
I deeply appreciate a book that embraces gay and lesbian characters this clearly. Not only is Marsha a main lesbian character grappling with how to come out to her best friend, but there are two male friends who are clearly attracted to one another and act on it. Throughout there is also a sense of connection to the world, the deep depression of high school, and capturing fleeting moments in time.
Teens will love this book and those who play D&D will find a world where they fit right in effortlessly. This graphic novel was love at first sight for me and I’m sure it will be for many kids who are outsiders in high school. Appropriate for ages 14-18.
Reviewed from library copy.
Bear and Duck by Katy Hudson (InfoSoup)
Bear doesn’t want to be a bear anymore. He’s sick of sleeping during the winter, his fur is too hot in the summer, and there are all of those angry bees. Then Bear notices a family of ducks walking along and decides that he could be a duck instead! So he joins their line and starts acting like a duck. But when the adult duck notices Bear in the line of ducklings, he gets sent away. Bear does get a book on how to be the perfect duck. So he starts to work on it. The first step is building a nest and sitting on an egg. But Bear loses his egg in the twigs. Second step is swimming, but Bear splashes too much. The third step is flying, ouch! Bear is thoroughly discouraged and climbs up a tree to hide. From there, he starts to show both himself and Duck the good things about being a bear after all.
This is Hudson’s first book. It has a great freshness to it and an exceptionally light touch. The humor in the book feels unforced and natural. In the middle of the book there is a change to the format focusing on the rules of being a duck, which creates its own pacing and energy. The ending feels organic and real as both Duck and Bear together discover the joy of climbing trees and sharing a treat with a new friend.
Hudson’s illustrations are ink and watercolor which combine into friendly images of flowering meadows, furry bears and swimming ducks. They have the fine details of ink and then the washes of watercolor paint. Hudson enjoys the visual humor of Bear in the line of ducklings and then other times creates touching moments where you can see the characters forming new bonds.
This is the second picture book about bears and ducks trying to live together that has been released this year. Pair it with Room for Bear by Ciara Gavin for a double duck and bear treat. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.