I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Released May 26, 2015.
This is the first YA novel by Priest, a well-known fantasy author for adults, and it’s a treat. May and Libby have been friends for years, the best of friends after meeting in fifth grade on a playground. The two of them wrote comics together about Princess X, a katana-wielding heroine. But then one day, Libby was gone, dead after a car crash from a bridge. Three years later, May has returned to their hometown and notices an image of a princess holding a katana on a sticker, a sticker that is brand new. May tracks down the image to a web comic where she realizes there are real similarities to the story that she and Libby had created. How can that be? And how strange is it that some of the stories seem to have messages only May could understand hidden inside of them?
There is a real joy in finding a book that does digital life so very well. The online elements of the story and the web comic are clear and make perfect sense. The hacking and dark net also work well in the way they are portrayed where there is information to be found but often it’s not legal to access it. That aspect alone, so often mismanaged in novels, is worth this read. But add to that a determined friend who quickly believes that her dead friend is still alive, an online and real life quest for information, horrible bad guys, and the exploration of Seattle both above and underground. It’s a book that is a searing fast read thanks to its pacing and the need to find out the truth.
The online comics are shared as comic inserts in the book, and were not completed in the galley that I have. The first couple of comics were available and add to the drama of the book. The mix of words and images works very well here with Priest using it both to move the story forward and to show the drama and appeal of the comic itself.
Smartly written with great characters and an amazing quest for the truth, this book is satisfying, surprising and impressive. Appropriate for ages 12-15.
Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.
Supertruck by Stephen Savage
There are many brave and hard-working trucks in the city. There are trucks that help put out fires. There are trucks that tow. There are trucks that fix power lines. And then there is the quiet little garbage truck that just picks up garbage. Then one day a snow storm hits the city. All of the trucks are stranded in the snow and unable to move. All but one little truck, who takes off his glasses and trades in a snowplow. The little garbage truck heads off to save the day!
This very simple picture book has a radiant appeal to it. It combines very cleverly the appeal of trucks and superheroes without it feeling forced at all. With just the right amount of text for toddlers, even the youngest of children will find lots to love here.
A lot of the appeal of this picture book is in the illustrations which are bold and colorful. The boxy trucks are shown against silhouettes of the city, allowing them to really shine. Perhaps the best touch are the large glasses on the garbage truck before he transforms into Supertruck. Fans of Superman will find that little touch completely endearing. And am I the only one who can see a line of toys coming straight out of these illustrations?
Clever, dynamic and heroic, this picture book will please little truck and superhero fans alike. Appropriate for ages 2-4.
Reviewed from copy received from Roaring Brook Press.
The Day I Lost My Superpowers by Michael Escoffier, illustrated by Kris Di Giacomo
Told in first person, this picture book celebrates the super hero in all of us. The child narrating the book learned that they had superpowers when they were first able to fly (tossed in the air by a parent) and from there kept working and practicing to develop their superpowers more and more. Making things disappears works sometimes on things like cupcakes, but sometimes doesn’t on things like peas. Going through walls and walking on the ceiling can get you into trouble. But sometimes you wonder where your powers came from. Does your mother have powers too? Just wait until you see the incredible power of the mother in this book!
I love picture books where the narrator is telling a different story than the pictures, and this one works particularly well. Escoffier has created a great protagonist here, a child who sees the potential for wonder everywhere, particularly in themselves. Just take a lot of imagination and anything at all is possible, even turning invisible.
Di Giacomo’s illustrations tell the real story here. The child is often destructive, never really displaying powers, and at the same time is clearly telling the truth from their own point of view. The illustrations allow the child to be androgynous and the text keeps them that way too. This is a book that celebrates being whatever you want to be in both images and words.
Funny, honest and a treat, this picture book will be celebrated by any child who owns their own cape. Appropriate for ages 3-5.
Reviewed from copy received from Enchanted Lion Books.
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.
Sidekicks by Dad Santat
Captain Amazing is so busy saving the world from evil villains that he doesn’t have time for his pets back at home. But Captain Amazing is also getting older, so he decides he needs a sidekick to help out. His dog, hamster, lizard and even his lost cat decide to audition for the position. As they vie for the position, rifts develop between them. But when Captain Amazing finds himself in true peril, his pets must rise to the occasion and put their differences aside. It will take all of their new skills, fantastic abilities, and their teamwork to save the day.
This graphic novel is inventive and great fun. It is an appealing mix of superhero, animals and friendship stories. Santat’s art (which I look forward to seeing in full color, rather than the partial color I got to see in the ARC) is engaging and modern. Yet it plays directly back to traditional comic books with the battle scenes in particular. Santat’s story is well paced and even controlled despite the wild antics of its characters and the vibrant action scenes.
Get this in the hands of young graphic novel readers and you will be a superhero too! Appropriate for ages 7-12.
Reviewed from ARC received from Arthur A. Levine Books.
Check out the trailer:
Also reviewed by 100 Scope Notes and Fuse #8.
Eliot Jones, Midnight Superhero by Anne Cottringer, illustrated by Alex T. Smith
Eliot is a very quiet child by day. He reads books and feeds his fish. But when midnight strikes, Eliot becomes a superhero! He has all sorts of adventures: returning lions to the zoo, saving ships, and recovering the crown jewels. Tonight he has to stop a huge meteor that is heading right for earth! In a series of adventures and mishaps, the question becomes whether he can save earth in time.
Imagination to the rescue! Eliot has great classic adventures that will appeal to children. His quiet identity at home is also a classic superhero alter-ego, which will be appreciated. The text is written to be read aloud with fonts that call for crashing noises, loud explosions, and even quiet. Smith’s illustrations are a great mix of collage and drawing, creating an exciting setting for each of Eliot’s adventures. They are clever, wry and very silly, perfection for the book.
Recommended for children who have their own capes, this book will fly into eager hands. Appropriate for ages 4-7.
Reviewed from library copy.