Displacement by Kiku Hughes

Displacement cover image

Displacement by Kiku Hughes (9781250193544)

This historical graphic novel takes a modern-day teen and puts her back in time. Kiku is vacationing with her mother in San Francisco, when she first travels through time back to World War II. As the mists form around her, she finds herself watching her grandmother play her violin as a teen. It happens again the next morning, when Kiku finds herself joining the line of Japanese-American people heading for the internment camps. Those experiences were shorter. But then Kiku finds herself back in time for a longer period as she experiences the internment camps herself. She lives near her grandmother, but can’t bring herself to actually meet her face to face. As Kiku witnesses and actually lives the experiences of Japanese-Americans in the internment camps, seeing how they suffered, the restrictions, the injustice but also the communities that were formed in the camps.

Hughes uses a dynamic mix of modern and historical in this graphic novel. She takes the sensibilities of a modern teen and allows readers to see the world through Kiku’s eyes. When Kiku is stuck in time, readers get to experience the full horror of the internment camps and what our country did to Japanese-Americans. Hughes ties our current political world directly to that of the camps, showing how racist policies make “solutions” like internment camps more likely to happen. She also keep hope alive as well, showing Kiku making friends and also developing a romantic relationship with a girl she meets.

The art is done in full color throughout. The color palette does change between modern day and the internment camps, moving from brighter colors to more grim browns, grays and tans. Hughes uses speech bubbles as well as narrative spaces that let Kiku share her thoughts. There are no firm frames here, letting colors dictate the edges of the panels.

Timely and important, this is a look at what we can learn from history and stop from happening now. Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from copy provided by First Second.

Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom

Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom

Big Papa and the Time Machine by Daniel Bernstrom, illustrated by Shane W. Evans (9780062463319)

When a child doesn’t want to go to school because he’s scared and nervous, he talks with his grandfather. His grandfather understands exactly how his grandchild is feeling and takes him on a ride in his car which is also a time machine. It takes them both to see when he left his mother back in 1952 and had to be brave himself. They stop in 1955 to see him working up high on buildings, needing to get beyond being so scared. In 1957, Big Papa had to get over his fears to ask a lovely girl to dance, a girl who would eventually marry him. They then head to 1986 when the child was left with Big Papa. He wasn’t sure if he could take care of a baby all on his own. All about bravery in spite of being scared and nervous, this book shows that it is those moments that define a life.

Bernstrom takes readers on a real ride through history through the eyes of this African-American family. Generations appear and their clear love for one another is evident. Even with a baby being left behind for a grandparent to raise is shown as a chance to save a life and find a new way forward. Children in smaller non-nuclear families will recognize the connection between a sole adult and their child in these pages. It’s particularly lovely to see an African-American man in this role.

Evans makes the pages shine with light as he uses bright yellows and mystical swirls and stars to show the passing of time. Every page is saturated in color, glowing with the connection of the two characters. The child is never declared to be a specific gender in either the text or illustrations, making the book all the more inclusive.

A bright and vibrant look at why to be brave. Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.

The Time Museum by Matthew Loux

the-time-museum-by-matthew-loux

The Time Museum by Matthew Loux

Released February 21, 2017.

Delia thinks she is just heading to her uncle’s house for the summer, but instead finds herself competing for an internship at the Time Museum, a museum that contains items from across human history. There are other teens competing against her, including a girl from future Japan who loves robots, a boy from ancient Rome, and a boy from the far past. While the internship at first seems to focus on physical fitness and school work, quickly the missions become real time travel. Each mission judges the interns individually as competitors, but they quickly learn that they need to work together to survive traveling through time!

Loux is the author of several award-winning graphic novels. In this latest work, he has created a world where history and the future mingle. Time travel wristbands, magical stones, and body-free brains all appear on the pages, each more wonderful than the last. It’s a setting where you are never sure what the next adventure will contain and that makes it immensely appealing.

Loux’s art adds to that appeal. His characters are vibrant and charming. Even the villainous character is complicated and has a clear history with others in the story. Delia herself is perhaps the most straight-forward character which makes the book an exploration of those around her even as Delia discovers her own bravery and ingenuity on the page.

Clearly the first in a series, this graphic novel has mass appeal and plenty of smarts. Appropriate for ages 10-13.

Reviewed from copy received from First Second.

 

Review: Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos

saving lucas biggs

Saving Lucas Biggs by Marisa de los Santos and David Teague

When Margaret’s father is sentenced to death, she can’t believe it since she is certain he is innocent.  But this is what happens when someone tries to stand up to the company that owns the entire town.  It’s also the company that owns Judge Biggs.  The only way that Margaret can see to save her father is to change Judge Biggs’ mind.  According to Grandpa Josh, her best friend’s grandfather, Judge Biggs used to be a good person until his father was accused of murder and hung himself.  The only person who can change the course of time is Margaret who has to use her family’s forbidden power of time travel.  But history resists change and Margaret only has a few days before history rejects her to make the necessary changes to save her father.

De los Santos and Teague have written a book that takes on time travel in a very refreshing way.  The idea that history actively resists change and that there is a physical toll on the time travelers makes for frustrating time travel.  Yet it feels right and also creates tension in the story at just the right moment.  The authors also explore company towns and how workers tried to stand up to unfair business practices.  Here there is plenty of action in that fight, including murder and gunfire as well as quiet desperation. 

Margaret is a winning character, one who travels in time very reluctantly but is given little choice when she is the sole person who has a chance of saving her father.  The story dives into complexity, never making things easy or simple.  One aspect of this is the way that redemption is viewed.  Characters are seen as changeable, able to be rescued from what happened to them even in their elder years.  This book is about getting chances to make the right choice in the end, forgiveness for poor choices earlier, and friendships that stand through time and betrayal. 

A rich and vibrant look at time travel, this fantasy will also appeal to history buffs.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Review: Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman

fortunately the milk

Fortunately, the Milk by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Skottie Young

When Mum left to give a presentation on lizards, she made sure that Dad knew just what he had to do.  One item on the list was getting milk, but that didn’t happen.  So when the family woke to dry cereal and no milk for tea, Dad headed out to get the milk.  He didn’t return for a long, long time.  But when he came back he had quite a story about why he was late.  It involved time travel, a brilliant dinosaur, pirates who don’t have a plank to walk, wumpires with long teeth, and lots and lots of silliness.

Gaiman is a chameleon of an author, keeping us guessing what his next book will be like because one never knows what style he will try next.  Here he is in pure farce mode, something that will enchant young readers even as they can’t read because they are giggling too much.  The humor here is nonstop, one maniac moment after another until you can’t quite tell which way is up.  It’s a grand adventure filled with outright one-liners and puns.

Young’s illustrations are such a part of this book, it is like Gaiman illustrated it himself.  The results are wacky and purely funny.  The father character seems to me to be a marvelous mix of several Dr. Who characters with his dangling striped scarf, wild hair and rather dapper approach to things. 

Hilarious, wacky and wonderful, get this into the hands of elementary aged kids now.  Appropriate for ages 6-8.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

obsidian blade

The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman

This is the dazzling first book in a new trilogy by veteran author, Hautman.  It is the story of Tucker, a teen boy from Hopewell, Minnesota who sees his minister father suddenly disappear into a disk that hangs in mid-air.  His father returns an hour later, changed.   He looks older, his clothes are worn, and his feet are covered in odd blue boots.   But the most significant change is that he no longer believes in God.  After his father returns, Tucker’s mother begins a slow descent into madness.  She stops cooking, stops getting dressed, and her hair turns from red to pure white.  Tucker longs to return to the days when his family was not falling apart, but before he can even begin to hope for that, his father disappears with his mother.  Tucker knows they have both entered the disk again, looking for a cure for her.  This book blends family relationships, technology, time travel and religion into one intoxicating mixture that is impossible to sip slowly.

This book would definitely be categorized as science fiction, but that definition does not fit quite so easily here.  With its detailed look at modern life and families, the audacity with which it explores faith and religion, and the wrenching take on modern technologies, this book is far more than that narrow genre might imply.  Hautman has created a work that transcends simple definition, reaching quickly beyond them. 

Hautman whirls readers through time, creating places that read like Narnia, others that seem more like an Indiana Jones film, and then slows down to take in the crucifixion.   It is a trip through our shared past and future, dancing back and forth across the line until the reader is unsure which is which.  Hautman excels at asking impertinent questions, taking great risks, and exploring the lines that teens themselves like to toy with. 

The book is beautifully written.  The character of Tucker is well done, though others may need time in the upcoming books to come more fully to life.  The book is plotted tightly, picking up pace until by the end, you simply cannot read fast enough to figure things out.  And the final trick is the end of this first book, which is just like stepping through a diskos of your own.  

A triumph of a first book in a series, this reminds me strongly of the wonder of Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness.  I’d suggest getting it into the hands of teens who enjoyed that series which had the same complexity both in terms of storyline and ethics.  Appropriate for ages 14-17.

Reviewed from ARC received from Candlewick Press.