August 12, 2017
A few weeks ago, we recommended a couple of terrific new graphic novels for tweens. We’ve extended our fascination with the genre and can’t resist adding a couple more recommendations, guaranteed to keep you cool as you sip lemonade and seek shelter from the sun.
Mighty Jack by Ben Hatke
You don’t have to read more than a few pages to understand that Mighty Jack is based on the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk. But in this contemporary retelling, the old tale takes a decidedly compelling twist. First, there are the modern characters: Jack, who is dreading summer, since he has to care for his sister Maddie while his single Mom works; Maddie, who is autistic and never speaks–until she does one day! At the flea market, she tells Jack to trade their mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds. Yikes! Big mistake–or is it? What happens when the garden that he plants from the seeds runs amok? And when a dragon enters the scene? We love the cliff hanging elements throughout the book, and the thoughtful themes that make the adventures and humor even more compelling. Great storytelling, wonderful artwork. . .this is the start of a not-to-miss series of books. Watch for Mighty Jack and the Goblin King, due out this fall.
Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNapel
It’s particularly hard on Ely when his dog Tommy, his best friend is hit by a car. A summer with his Grandpa is what Ely needs to have the space to grieve and recover. He spends hours exploring a local cave–and discovers a friendly, not to mention fully grown, Tyrannosaurus Rex! As their friendship deepens, word of the dinosaur gets out and brings the mean-spirited mischief of one of the local kids, Randy. Adventure, drama, and comedy abound in this fine graphic novel, and of course the full-color artwork is just right. You may shed a tear or two, as there are some sad moments, but the sadness also includes themes of friendship and kindness.
August 4, 2017
The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog By Adam Gidwitz, illustrated by Hatem Aly
Do you–and the young readers in your life–like adventure? Enjoy the Middle Ages for a setting? Love beautiful illustrations? Like to keep up with award-winning children’s books? If the answer is yes, we have a recommendation for you! Prepare for a fascinating tale of 3 children, set in the year 1242. Not only are they held captive by knights, they travel across France, work with a king, and even save the land from a farting dragon! The trio of heros are three children: William, an oblate on a mission from his monastery; Jacob, a Jewish boy who has fled his burning village; and Jeanne, a peasant girl who hides her prophetic visions. The dog of the title is Jeanne’s loyal greyhound Gwenforte . . . recently brought back from the dead. We love the way the story is told in multiple voices, a bit like The Canterbury Tales. There is plenty of action, humor, rich fantasy, and complex themes for the whole family. A terrific read-aloud as well as a sure-fire hit for all.
July 28, 2017
Rudas: Niños Horrendous Hermanitas by Yyu Morales
Remember Niño Wrestles the World, the 2014 winner of the Pura Belpre Illustration Award? Love that book! And so do kids I’ve shared it with–and who’ve shared it with me. Well, Niño is back, and so are his sisters, Las Hermanitas! They are the Lucha Queens, with their amazing moves and tag team strategies. No one can forget their Poopy Bomb Blowout or their Pampered Plunder Diversion. But their brother Niño has some moves of his own. What happens in this wild and crazy wrestling adventure? You’ll have to read it to find out!
July 21, 2017
The Unwanteds by Lisa McMann
I’ve always been fascinated by the tween and teen dystopia novels. Recently, of course, there have been The Hunger Games and Divergence. But before that, there was The Tripod Trilogy by John Christoper, the Matched series by Ally Condie, The Giver by Lois Lowrie, and more. There’s something riveting about peering into these dysfunctional and frightening universes, and seeing the strengths of the heroes who fight to create better worlds.
My nieces Hazel and Charlotte are super-readers, and when they came to Portland to visit last month, they recommended reading The Unwanteds, which tells the tale of a world where 13-year-olds are sorted into Wanted, Necessary (who both get to stay in the Land of Quill), and for those unlucky ones deemed Unwanted, there is Elimination. And the Unwanted are the ones who show any spark of originality or creativity. Alex and Aaron are twins who face this uncertain future together, though both know the likely results. It’s hard for Alex to leave his twin behind, but Aaron immediately sets his heart to forgetting his brother, as the people of Quill expect him to. But instead of the “Death Farm” he expects, Alex discovers the magical and wonderful world of Artimé, where he and his fellow Unwanteds nurture their creativity and learn to use magic to enhance their talents. The twins have a hand in bringing the two worlds together in a strange, terrifying, and wondrous way–and with surprising results. The magic reminds me of Harry Potter at Hogwarts, and the world of Quill a bit of The Hunger Games. I’ve only read the first, but look forward to the whole series (seven books so far).
I’ve just recommended the series to Molly and Jacob and I’m awaiting their reviews. We’ll keep you posted!
July 14, 2017
Cleopatra in Space: The Golden Lion by Mike Maihak
Make time in your summer reading for the fourth in the graphic novel series CLEOPATRA IN SPACE. If you haven’t read the first three books, you might want to check out our reviews here and here.
Cleopatra is a unique and appealing character. And I especially love futuristic Egypt with its cool pyramid skyscrapers. The adventures continue in this latest episode, with Cleopatra venturing to the icy planet Cada’duun to battle with a new enemy who has been instructed ti destroy the Golden Lion. The Golden Lion, by the way, has been located on Cada’duun and Cleopatra has a difficult challenge, since the Lion itself is a star with immeasurable energy that could destroy them all if weaponized. Cleo herself is such a great superhero, not to mention her friends as well as the villains. The series just gets better and better!
July 9, 2017
The Hate You Give by Angie Thomas
Such an important new book! Not only is the plot line riveting, the characters believable and intriguing, and the writing engaging, the novel is important and topical, emotional and powerful. I’m not the first reader or reviewer that sees it as a soon-to-be classic. This gut-wrenching novel shows the battle for justice of a brave young woman, Starr, as she experiences the death of friends, racial stereotypes, as well as the support and care of a loving family. The book, inspired by the Black Lives Matter movement, humanizes situations that are portrayed in the media, from every angle. This is a masterful feat, as the story is told from one point of view, Starr’s, which makes it easier to be drawn into the compelling narrative. I recommend this book for every reader in high school and older. John Green’s review says it all: “Stunning, brilliant, gut-wreching. . .” To avoid spoilers, I am not going to summarize the plot–just trust me on this and get your hands on the book!
June 30, 2017
If you haven’t become addicted to the best of tween graphic novels, you have no excuse to wait. This year, two new additions have swept onto the scene, captivating young readers–and their older siblings and parents as well. Both books are memoirs in the same vein as Cece Bell’s El Deafo, exploring with truth, pathos, and humor the ups and downs of friendship and life at school with in and out groups. Shannon Hale is a well-known award-winning writer, turning to the genre of the graphic novel for the first time as she teams up with best-selling illustrator LeUyen Pham, while Terri Libenson makes her debut. We highly recommend both novels to start off your summer reading.
Real Friends by Shannon Hale, illustrated by LeUyen Pham
Shannon herself is the main character, of course, in this graphic memoir of best friends Shannon and Adrienne. Their friendship begins when they are very young and only heads into troubled waters when Adrienne starts hanging out with Jen, a”popular girl” and leader of a clique calling itself The Group. Hilariously–and poignantly–true-to-life. A wonderful mother-daughter book to read and discuss with upper elementary school girls. (And boys will enjoy it as well.)
Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson
Though this is her first book, Terri Libenson is no newcomer to writing and illustrating. (Check out her award-winning comic strip The Pajama Diaries.) Invisible Emmie is a wonderful companion book to Real Friends. It’s the story of two very different girls: one a popular extrovert and the other: well, the title says it all. Emmie feels invisible at her school and the graphics throughout the book complement the girls’ daily experiences, with Emmie mostly in black and white comic strips, and Katie in full color. The event of a note getting into the wrong hands is cringe-worthy–but leads to a cross-roads where the two girls lives intersect. There are some real surprises here as we experience through the novel the ups and downs, boredom and excitement, not to mention humor and humiliation, of the middle school experience. A stunning debut! I’ll be watching for more from Libenson.