Review: Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner

Fake Blood by Whitney Gardner (9781481495561)

AJ just doesn’t feel like he fits in with his two best friends anymore. They are always daring each other to do things and have fantastic lives where they take big risks and brag about them. In contrast, AJ feels short and dull. But then he decides to take a big risk and start talking to a girl he’s had a crush on for years. He’s just not sure how to get Nia’s attention. He knows she is way into vampire novels, so he starts to read them too. Perhaps all it will take is some fake blood around the gums to get her to notice him. However, when Nia does notice AJ, she thinks he’s a real vampire and she has dedicated her life to slaying them. What none of them can see though is that there is a real vampire in their midst! Something they might figure out too late.

This graphic novel for teens and pre-teens is just right for both Twilight fans and Twilight haters. Getting it into the hands of Buffy fans would also be a great choice. Gardner wisely plays on the tropes of vampire novels, using similar character names and book titles. Throughout there is a sense that the reader is in on the broader joke of it all, something that is entirely charming.

Readers will figure out that there is a real vampire long before the characters do and Gardner then lets that play out delightfully. There is no attempt to conceal it, either through the storyline or the art work. And the art work is excellent, offering large panels in a colorful vampire-filled world. It has a cartoon feel to it that makes it approachable and then the humor completes it nicely.

A great pick for fans and haters alike, this one would make a great graphic novel to book talk to middle-schoolers and teens. Appropriate for ages 11-15.

Reviewed from library copy.

Review: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

graveyard book

The Graveyard Book Graphic Novel, Volume 1 by Neil Gaiman, adapted by P. Craig Russell

The first volume in a two volume graphic version of the award-winning novel by Neil Gaiman, this book celebrates the original story as well as several top graphic artists, who each take a chapter in the tale.  True to the written story, this graphic version has a wonderful creepy vibe and does not shy away from the horror elements.  The story is brought vividly to life by this new format and also brings it to new readers who may not have read the written work.

Thanks to the signature illustration style of each of the artists, the book takes different views of the graveyard, the characters and the story.  With each change in artist, there is a sense of refreshment and wonder anew.  At the same time, the illustrators adhere to certain elements, so that Bod looks like the same character throughout the book as do other main characters.  The various ghosts glow on the page, Silas is a gaunt dark figure who commands attention, and Bod himself is a luminous child that is the center of the story both visually and thematically.

Beautifully and powerfully illustrated, this new version of the book is a masterpiece.  Readers will wait eagerly for Volume Two.  Appropriate for ages 9-12.

Reviewed from copy received from HarperCollins.

Sharp Fangs of Vampire Authors

fangs

In a perfect story for Halloween, Interview with a Vampire author Anne Rice takes a fanged snap at Stephenie Meyer’s new version of the vampire mythos via Rice’s Facebook page:

Lestat and Louie feel sorry for vampires that sparkle in the sun. They would never hurt immortals who choose to spend eternity going to high school over and over again in a small town —- anymore than they would hurt the physically disabled or the mentally challenged. My vampires possess gravitas. They can afford to be merciful.

After almost 2,000 comments that went back and forth between fans of the different vampire series, Rice attempted to clarify that it was all meant in humor. 

In the end, she offered an olive branch:

I very much love the new vampire authors, no doubt of it. I have unqualified praise for the originality of Charlaine Harris and Stephenie Meyer and for their success. This is fun, guys, all these new vampires roaming the fantasy world. And a little humour about it is not out of place.

 

Photo credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/mazdotnu/5363098271/

New Halloween Books

Here are some newly released Halloween books that are sure to mix shivers and giggles:

skeleton meets the mummy

Skeleton Meets the Mummy by Steve Metzger, illustrated by Aaron Zenz

Sammy is looking forward to trick-or-treating with his best friend on Halloween night.  His mother catches him before he can leave and asks him to run some soup to his grandmother.  To get there, he has to head through the woods.  He gets scared along the way by a bat, the wind, and even a tree that looks like a monster.  So he’s already jumpy when he hears the footsteps behind him and sees the mummy chasing him!

Told in straight-forward prose, the illustrations are a large part of the appeal here.  They are crisp, clean and vivid.  The characters glow against the dark Halloween backgrounds.  This is a story with a funny twist, plenty of appeal and even a couple of bumps in the dark.

sleepless little vampire

The Sleepless Little Vampire by Richard Egielski

Little Vampire can’t figure out why he is having trouble falling asleep.  It could be the spitting spider.  It could be the flitting bats.  Maybe the cockroaches crawling on the floor?  Or the werewolf howling?  More and more Halloween characters enter the story and create their own noises:  a witch, skeletons, ghosts.  But none of them are the reason he can’t sleep.  Nope, it was just that he was trying too sleep too early.  It wasn’t morning yet!

Egielski bridges the pages brilliantly, moving from one possible cause of being unable to sleep to another.  The final reason will surprise most readers, though as they see the sky lighten they will be able to guess the ending on the final page.  The illustrations get increasingly busy as more characters enter.  The detail makes this a better pick to use one-on-one or with a small group of children. 

frangoline

Frangoline and the Midnight Dream by Clemency Pearce, illustrated by Rebecca Elliott

Frangoline was a perfect child, neat and clean.  Until the deep of night, when she put on her black cape and escaped the house.  The moon tried to warn her about being in bed, but Frangoline replied, “I’ll do exactly as I please!  I’m Frangoline!”  She climbed down the tree outside her window, ran across the lawn, blew raspberries.  She woke the forest animals but then yelled so loud that she scared them all away rather than them ever scaring her.  She danced and pranced in the graveyard and woke up the ghouls.  When they chased her up the church steeple, she finally got worried.  But where can she go if she’s cornered up there? 

There is a wild delight in this book and in the naughtiness of a little girl having such fun alone in the middle of the night.  The moon plays a big role in the book, warning her of the dangers but also being a sort of parental figure on each page.  The story is silly, clever and has the dark night creepiness along with the ghouls.  But nothing is drawn in a particularly scary way, instead it stays inviting with a strong sense of fun.

All three books are appropriate for ages 4-6. 

All were provided for review by Scholastic.

CCBC Shorts

Librarians here in Wisconsin know just how lucky we are to have the CCBC in our state.  The CCBC (Cooperative Children’s Book Center) offers insight into new books with a great eye for multicultural gems and great children’s poetry books. 

They have started a new service for librarians called CCBC Shorts which are book recommendations via Blip.tv.  Wisconsin librarians can watch the webinars live (here is the upcoming schedule) and everyone out of state can watch the programs once they are launched on Blip.  The first Short covers titles for Halloween and new books of note from 2009. 

Dear Vampa

Dear Vampa by Ross Collins

When the Wolfsons move in next door to the Pires, the differences are clear.  The Pires are amazed when their neighbors stay up all day and complain when there is noise at night.  The pets of the two families don’t get along at all.  And when the Pires take to the sky as bats, the Wolfsons shoot them out of the sky.  That’s was it.  The Pires moved away much to the surprise of the Wolfsons who just may not be as normal as readers may have thought.

Collins’ art is wonderful.  You can see more of it on the Harper Collins website where several of the pages are available.  The use of black, white and red for the Pire family is striking against the full-color world of the Wolfsons.  The stylized colors are carried throughout the book to great effect, especially on the pages with both families in the same room.  Collins has a knack for humor both in his understated and brief prose and in his illustrations which really tell the full story. 

This is a great addition to any Halloween story time.  It has vampires but is much more about the neighbors than about any scary aspects.  Appropriate for ages 4-6.

Reviewed from library copy.