Category: Elementary School

3 Graphic Novels with Girl Power

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All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson (9780525429982)

The author of the popular Roller Girl returns with a book about Impy, a girl who has been homeschooled until this year. Impy has grown up with her parents working at the Renaissance Faire and this year she is also starting work as a squire at the faire for the first time. Public school though is different than Impy thought and though she quickly makes friends, they may not be the right group for her. As Impy starts to make bad decisions at school and at home, her life starts to fall apart. Still, Impy is a knight in training and has people around her to help put her back on the path to being a hero! Appropriate for ages 9-12. (ARC provided by Dials Books)

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Spinning by Tillie Walden (9781626727724)

This memoir graphic novel shares a look at a girl’s life in ice skating, moving to a new city and discovering oneself as an artist. It is also a look at knowing that you are gay and finally coming out to those around you. But most of all, it’s about loneliness and the need to connect and find people around you who love and support you. Throughout the book there is an aching loneliness that pervades the story. The memoir is beautifully unstructured, events passing the way that days in a life do. They are filled with moments, some small and some critical. Walden shares them all, showing an incredible skill for storytelling and art as a young author. Get this into the hands of Lucy Knisley fans. Appropriate for ages 12-15. (Review copy provided by First Second)

Swing it, Sunny

Swing It, Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm (9780545741705)

Sunny is headed for middle school in this graphic novel that shows her returning home after her summer with Gramps in Florida. Her older brother Dale is now at boarding school and Sunny can’t figure out how to connect with him at all even when he comes home to visit. Set in the mid-1970’s, the book is filled with the pop culture of those times like Jiffy Pop popcorn, the Six-Million Dollar Man, Gilligan’s Island and TV dinners. This second book in the Sunny series tells the story of a family struggling with handling drug abuse but also the small moments that make up a life. Appropriate for ages 9-12. (ARC provided by Scholastic.)

 

 

3 Great New Graphic Novel Fantasies for Kids

Here are my favorite fantasy graphic novels coming out in September. So very different from one another, each one is a separate world between two covers!

Castle in the Stars The Space Race of 1869 by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 by Alex Alice (9781626724938)

Released September 12, 2017.

Translated from the original French, this graphic novel explores an alternative history where the mysterious element of aether is being quested for in the heights of the atmosphere by going up in balloons. Seraphin’s mother was lost after such a quest. Now Seraphin and his father are invited to build a gigantic balloon vessel to continue her search. Told in beautiful watercolor images with fine details and nods to Japanese manga, this large graphic novel invites readers into a new world. With a dynamic mix of historical detail, science and steampunk, this graphic novel is exceptional.

The Dam Keeper by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi

The Dam Keeper by Robert Kondo and Dice Tsutsumi (9781626724266)

Released September 26, 2017.

Pig lives in the dam that holds back the darkness. It was built and designed by his father who taught Pig to maintain the dam. Then he disappeared, going through the forbidden door and out into the darkness. Now it is up to Pig to continue maintaining the dam even as the rest of Sunrise Valley ignores the threat of the darkness. As the darkness begins to behave differently, Pig and two of his friends are swept into the world outside of the dam and must figure out how to survive before the darkness claims them too. With unique and fabulous artwork, this graphic novel is based on the Oscar-nominated film.

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke (9781626722668)

Mighty Jack returns in his second book from the author of Zita the Spacegirl. Jack must venture into the world of the monsters who have taken his younger sister. He is joined by Lily, a neighbor girl who has been trained in fighting with swords and has trained Jack as well. The two of them are soon separated from one another and each take a very different path to the final battle. One becomes Goblin King along the way and the other battles rats and is helped by strange creatures living in the plumbing. As always, Hatke surprises and delights this time as he twists the classic Jack and Beanstalk into a tale with dragons and goblins along with the giants!

(Review copies provided by First Second)

 

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C Perez

The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Pérez (9780425290408, Amazon)

Malú doesn’t want to move with her mother to Chicago, even if it is only for a couple of years and not permanently. She knows her mother wants her to be much more of a proper Mexican young lady just like her. But Malú is much more into punk rock and creating zines. When they get to Chicago, Malú finds herself in a very diverse middle school where she manages to violate the dress code on the very first day. As she struggles with the rules of the new school, Malú starts a punk rock band of other kids who don’t fit in. They enter the school talent contest but don’t get any further than the audition and then are rejected for the performance. Now Malú has to channel her own punk attitude to stand up and be heard.

This is such a winning and cleverly built novel that one can’t really believe it’s a debut book. Pérez captures the push and pull of middle school and being a person with unique interests struggling to find friends. Pérez also weaves in the main character’s cultural heritage throughout the book, making it a vital part of the story and playing it against the rebellion of punk rock. That play of tradition and modern attitudes is a strength of the book, allowing readers to learn about Mexican culture and also about rock and roll.

Malú is a great protagonist, filled with lots of passion and energy. She has a natural leadership about her even as she is picked on by another girl at school. Still, Malú is not perfect and it’s her weak moments when she despairs or lashes out where she feels most real. Her zines are cleverly placed in the book, thanks to the skills of the author who also publishes zines.

A fresh and fun new read that blends Mexican Americans with punk rock in a winning formula. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

 

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick

The Secret Sheriff of Sixth Grade by Jordan Sonnenblick (9780545863209, Amazon)

Released August 29, 2017.

Maverick knows that sixth grade is going to be his year. This year he’s going to make a difference. He’s going to help those smaller than him, if he can find anyone shorter than he is. He’s going to stand up to bullies, particularly Jamie and Bowen, who have tormented him for years. But being a hero is not as simple as carrying the plastic badge that his father left him. Every time that Maverick tries to help, things turn out worse, often for him. He can’t stand up to his mother’s abusive boyfriend, can’t get his mother to stop drinking so much, and can’t seem to stop ending up in the assistant principal’s office. Can you be a hero when your own life is endless trouble?

Sonnenblick’s take on sixth grade is wonderfully dark and funny. He looks straight at bullying in middle school and clearly understands it. This book grapples with serious subjects such as physical abuse, abandonment, alcoholism and the loss of a parent. Happily, Maverick is a character who somehow manages to look at these troubles with a sarcastic wit that allows readers to cope as well. When looked at without Maverick’s lens on things, his home life is not only terrible but dangerous as well. Sonnenblick manages to use humor not to minimize these issues but to allow readers to see them clearly without pity but with lots of empathy.

Sonnenblick’s take on school administration is equally successful. He creates a pair of horrors for students: The Bee who is the terrifying assistant principal and The Bird who is the awful school nurse. The Bee turns out to have a heart of gold and to be aware of what is happening in the halls almost before the students are. The Bird on the other hand wields Lysol spray as antiseptic for cuts.

A triumphant story of a young hero who finds help in unlikely places on his journey. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Scholastic.

Forest World by Margarita Engle

Forest World by Margarita Engle

Forest World by Margarita Engle (9781481490573, Amazon)

Released August 29, 2017.

Edver isn’t pleased to be headed to Cuba to meet his father for the first time since he was a baby. Now that the laws have changed, families can once again be reunited with people who escaped to the United States from Cuba. Edver has to leave behind the Internet and his favorite video game and cope with power outages and a lack of transportation and other technology. When he gets to Cuba, Edver discovers that he has an older sister that he’d never known about. Luza had stayed with her father in Cuba, wondering why her mother left her behind. Both of their parents work to protect endangered species. Their father protects one special forest in Cuba while their mother travels the world to find newly rediscovered species. As Luza and Edver start to become siblings, they find that a poacher has come to Cuba, drawn by an email they sent to try to get their mother to come. Now it is up to them to protect the forest they both love.

Engle is a master of the verse novel, writing of difficult subjects and using the poetic format to dig deeper than prose would allow. She tells the story in alternating poems in the voices of Edver and Luza as they discover the poverty of Cuba, the wealth of America, and the fact that there are different types of wealth in life like parental attention, grandparents and a sense of home.

Engle explores the world of Lazarus animals and protecting endangered species in this novel. The subject works in a lovely parallel to Cuban Americans being reunited with their families. There is a sense of delicacy and care, a feeling of finding the right habitat suddenly, and a sense of exploration and discovery heightened with surprises.

Another adept verse novel from a true master, this is a book that explores home, habitat and family. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from ARC received from Atheneum.

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh (9780062430083, Amazon)

Harper and her family have moved to Washington DC after she was injured during her stay at a hospital. Harper has no memory of how her injuries happened, but they may be the key to understanding the family’s new house. Harper’s little brother has been acting strangely since they moved in, speaking to an imaginary friend and then becoming almost another person. As Harper makes a new friend in the neighborhood, the two of them start researching what happened in the house in the past and discovering that the threatening presence that Harper feels in the house may be a ghost! In fact, Harper may be one of the special people who can sense ghosts in the world, but she has to figure out how to do so safely and who to trust with her secret.

Oh is the founder of We Need Diverse Books. She has crafted here a middle grade novel that has Korean-American main characters and uses their culture skillfully as an important part of the story and the solution to their haunting issues. She has also created a book that is pure scary fun. This is not a serious book about diversity and modern society, but instead a romp of delightful scares that make the book real fun to read.

The lightness of the book will have young readers loving it. Oh allows the young protagonist and her siblings and friends to be the real heroes of the book, even as the dangers they face grow in size. The pace of the book is key to its success as well, as Oh allows it to pick up pace towards the ending, controlling it just enough but also allowing it to get wild and zany.

A great pick for fans of Ghostbusters or scary stories, I look forward to more adventures with these characters. Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

A New School Year by Sally Derby

A New School Year by Sally Derby

A New School Year: Poem Stories in Six Voices by Sally Derby, illustrated by Mika Song (9781580897303, Amazon)

Six children, ranging in age from kindergarten through fifth grade, tell the stories of their first day of school. Each of them begins with the night before where readers will see that even children who are older worry about school and who their teacher will be. Arriving at school is busy and quick, though some have time to say hello to old teachers or to be the first to arrive and meet the class pet. They meet new teachers, say hello to old friends and make new ones too. Finally, they all head home to tell their families about their day, even if some aren’t home right away.

Derby writes in poems that wonderfully universal to the school experience. She moves this from being about starting kindergarten or starting a new school to a wider subject of returning to school and the fact that everyone feels similarly. Still, in making this a universal story, Derby makes sure to also speak to children of different backgrounds and races, children with different sizes of families and latchkey children.

Song’s illustrations highlight the individual children, moving with them through the day, each both a part of the overall school but also entirely themselves as well. The illustrations are simple and will work well shared with a class.

A great book to start the new school year with poetry. Appropriate for ages 5-9.

Reviewed from library copy.