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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: graphic novels, Most Recent at Top [Help]
Results 1 - 25 of 746
1. Thursday Review: SECRET CODERS by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes

Summary: I've been meaning to review this one for an embarrassingly long time. I had looked forward to reading it ever since first hearing about it—we are huge fans of our own (relatively) local Gene Yang here at FW and have not only interviewed... Read the rest of this post

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2. The First DNF of the Year

cover artOne of the books I currently have from the library is a graphic novel called The Explorer’s Guild. I borrowed it because one of the co-authors is the actor Kevin Costner. I wouldn’t call myself a huge Costner fan, he is a good actor but I haven’t seen all of his movies and have no plans to do so. I borrowed the book because I was curious.

The book looks really nice and sets the mood for the story. A heavy chunkster with an old-timey looking adventure story cover, when you open it the paper is a pleasant creamy “old book” color slightly darker around the edges than in the middle of the page. And the drawings a sort of monochrome palette and highly detailed laid out in a comic book fashion. There are also pages of text, usually one or two, integrated between the comic panels with little illustrations. It is a pleasing look and feel.

However, after one chapter I am not so sure I want to keep reading because I don’t really care for the story. It is made clear from the start that the Explorer’s Guild is made up of all men, mostly of the gentlemanly sort. And while the story takes place during WWI, I don’t know why the Guild has to be all men. Paging through the book there is a woman who appears much later, an actress known to have many affairs, so I am not certain what sort of role she has in the story.

Also, the story is set, at least in the beginning, in “Arabia” and the company of British soldiers is worried about being attached by two thousand “Turkmen” and angry looking “Mohammedan” armies wearing turbans and carrying scimitars. Um…

That this adventure story is set during a time of racism and colonialism is one thing, that it plays into it is bothersome to me. If I keep reading, maybe the story redeems itself in some way, but then it might not.

When I started writing this I thought perhaps it would end up convincing me to keep going for at least one more chapter. But now, I think I am going to mark it down as DNF and return it to the library. I fell better already.

Filed under: Books, Graphic Novels Tagged: DNF, Kevin Costner

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3. Disney Remasters Star Wars Once More, as a Graphic Novel!

star wars GN coverLast year, Marvel launched their new Star Wars comics by offering remastered editions of the original comic book adaptations. Well…  next March, Lusasfilm Press will release a brand new graphic novel adaptation of the original trilogy (AKA “A New Hope Strikes the Jedi”)! I can’t discover who made this; it’s listed as “LucasFilm Book Group”. Disney […]

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4. Next Fall, Papercutz Sends Mickey Mouse to Purgatory, and Teams Up Barbie With Puppies!

peyo pussycatPapercutz, the kids-friendly brainchild of Terry Nantier and Jim Salicrup, has announced 41 new titles for Fall 2016! They have an interesting mix: original graphic novels, imports from overseas, classics from decades past, and the occasional licensed property. So, what are the highlights? BARBIE! Yes, you might have heard and seen that Ms. Roberts has undergone a corporate […]

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5. Roller Girl

Roller Girl. Victoria Jamieson. 2015. 240 pages. [Source: Library]

Do I typically read graphic novels? Not really. I want to admit that from the very beginning of this review! I might average about two or three a year. And I usually just read the ones that are getting Newbery buzz or actually do get a Newbery or Newbery Honor. Roller Girl IS a graphic novel. It IS a Newbery Honor book for 2016.

Roller Girl is a coming-of-age graphic novel set mainly in the summer as the heroine, Astrid, goes to Roller Derby summer camp. Astrid is a bit angsty that her friend, Nicole, is no longer her best-best friend who wants to do every little thing with her. For example, Nicole does NOT want to go to roller derby camp, she wants to go to dance camp. She also wants to start hanging out with and dating boys. Astrid? Not really her thing--at least not yet. There is some jealousy mixed in with frustration. It isn't just that Nicole is interested in different hobbies. It is that Nicole is spending time--a lot of time--with other people. And one of those people she's now spending a LOT of time with is her nemesis, Rachel. Rachel and Astrid have some ancient history--way back in second grade, I believe?!

Astrid is confused and frustrated and moody and angry and DETERMINED. Roller derby is, by far, the hardest thing she's ever done--ever attempted. And it does not come easy. She is not a natural on skates--not by any stretch of the imagination. And it is physically, emotionally, mentally challenging to her. She WANTS it so bad that she pushes, pushes, pushes to improve. It is because she struggles that I believe she is so relatable.

I also liked how Astrid begins to make other friends outside of Nicole, and, that she is given the opportunity to find her own thing, to become her own person. True, part of that journey involves dyeing her hair BLUE. But having blue hair isn't the "worst" of her crimes--in the eyes of her mom. It is the fact that Astrid is less than honest. Still, I think the two are depicted as having a mostly-positive relationship. Which is nice to see in fiction. That Moms and daughters can get along and talk through their differences.

Astrid also finds a mentor--of sorts--in Rainbow Bite. Readers do learn a good bit about the sport of Roller Derby.

So overall, I enjoyed the characterization. I enjoyed the coming-of-age aspect of it. And despite the fact that it is a graphic novel, and, despite the fact that it is sports-focused, I did enjoy it. I read it quickly, in one setting.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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6. The Smithsonian is Getting Into Graphic Novels

9781588345417The Smithsonian is launching a new series of graphic novels next month, which will tie in with a different Smithsonian exhibits.

The first in the Secret Smithsonian Adventures series is called The Wrong Wrights. Written by Chris Kientz and Steve Hockensmith and illustrated by Lee Nielsen, the book is about a group of kids on a visit to the museum. “With the help of a museum ‘fabrications specialist,’ they travel through time to try and restore the Wright brothers to their well-earned place in history,” explains the website. “Along the way they also learn about aerodynamics and other aviation principles from a wise-cracking computer named Smitty.”

The title, which is aimed at middle school readers, drops on February 23rd.


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7. Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books for January

Our favorite books this month celebrate the differences that make us great, inspire us to believe and dream, reinforce the power of friendship (real or imaginary!), and take us on an epic journey with two supervillains.

Which of our five favorites will you read this month?

For Pre-K – K (ages 3-6)

happy in our skin children's picture book diversityHappy in Our Skin  By: Fran Manushkin

For families of all stripes comes a sweet celebration of what makes us unique—and what holds us together. Fran Manushkin’s rollicking text and Lauren Tobia’s delicious illustrations paint a breezy and irresistible picture of the human family—and how wonderful it is to be just who you are.


For Grades 1-2 (ages 6-8)

Dream Drum Girl Children's picture book diverse kids book on music

Drum Dream Girl: How One Girl’s Courage Changed Music  By: Margarita Engle

Girls cannot be drummers.

Long ago on an island filled with music, no one questioned that rule—until the drum dream girl. Inspired by the childhood of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a Chinese-African-Cuban girl who broke Cuba’s traditional taboo against female drummers, Drum Dream Girl tells an inspiring true story for dreamers everywhere.


For Grades 3-4 (ages 8-10)

Crenshaw kid's Book on HomelessnessCrenshaw By: Katherine Applegate

Jackson and his family have fallen on hard times.

Crenshaw is a cat. He’s large, he’s outspoken, and he’s imaginary. He has come back into Jackson’s life to help him. But is an imaginary friend enough to save this family from losing everything?



For Grades 5-6 (ages 10-12)

Bayou Magic Book

Bayou Magic By: Jewell Parker Rhodes

A magical coming-of-age story from Coretta Scott King honor author Jewell Parker Rhodes, rich with Southern folklore, friendship, family, fireflies and mermaids, plus an environmental twist.





For 7th Grade & up (Ages 13+):

nimona_noelle_stevensonNimona By: Noelle Stevenson

Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.


The post Monthly Book List: Our Five Favorite Books for January appeared first on First Book Blog.

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8. Say Hello to Your Friends*…in full color

In the heyday of Livejournal, several friends and I joined one of its fan communities: babysittersclub. For a while, it was quite an active community (and it still sees some activity). Its members, most of them probably ‘90s kids like myself who’d grown just old enough to be nostalgic, posted detailed questions and answers about Ann M. Martin’s Baby-Sitters Club series, announced books they were interested in buying or selling, shared excitement when they happened to see a street with one of the characters’ names…in short, fangirling and fanboying (yes, both) occurred in spades. I rarely posted myself, but commented regularly on others’ posts, and generally felt validated by this space that acknowledged how thoroughly cool it was to love the BSC.

telgemeier_kristy's great ideaIn 2006, the community was abuzz with the news that some of the books would be adapted into graphic novels. And then an FAQ post appeared from a Livejournal user with the handle “goraina.” Cheery, friendly Raina Telgemeier subsequently posted often enough to feel like part of the community, and other members embraced her four graphic novel adaptations. She made some changes, skipping some of the books so she could get to the meatiest possible story about each of the original four baby-sitters. (For instance, book #6, Claudia and Mean Janine, gives more insight into Claudia’s character than book #2, Claudia and the Phantom Phone Calls, so Raina skipped ahead and adapted #6.) Raina wasn’t some outsider brought in to create these graphic novels. She was a BSC fan, and she got it. She captured the characters’ enthusiasm. Kristy’s confidence. Mary-Anne’s naivete. Claudia’s famous crazy outfits.

Fast-forward a few years, and a familiar style popped up among the Boston Globe–Horn Book Awards, specifically in 2010 Nonfiction Honor Book Smile. I, of course, had a copy signed for a friend who was also a babysittersclub community member on LJ. Raina recognized my friend’s username. Fandom is a wonderful thing.

If you’ve followed kids’ graphica, you know what happened next. Raina’s work grew more and more popular with Drama and Sisters, both of which I would’ve loved with or without the BSC connection, though I might not have discovered them as quickly. The phrase “graphic novel” used to only conjure up images of superheroes and adventure stories; Raina’s funny realism is much more my thing — I mean, I did grow up reading The Baby-Sitters Club — so her work was a perfectly-tailored way into graphica.

martin_claudia and mean janinePresumably because of her later books’ popularity (there’s another one coming, you guys!), the BSC graphic novels are being re-released in full color (with color by Braden Lamb, who was also the colorist for Sisters). The first one, Kristy’s Great Idea, came out in April of last year, soon followed by The Truth About Stacy and Mary Anne Saves the Day. And today, Claudia and Mean Janine, the fourth and final entry in the graphic series, hits bookstore shelves in its full-color incarnation. Check out Raina’s blog post for a look back at her process — and some BSC fanart from her childhood!

Realistic graphic novels, especially middle-grade ones about girls, are more common these days, and though I don’t know enough to say for sure that Raina started the trend, she definitely played a role in its popularity. And as any BSC fan will tell you, that’s dibbly fresh.

*Who remembers this theme song?

The post Say Hello to Your Friends*…in full color appeared first on The Horn Book.

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9. A Woodland Wedding

Owl Diaries #3 A Woodland Wedding. Rebecca Elliott. 2016. Scholastic. 80 pages. [Source: Review copy]

A Woodland Wedding is the third book in Rebecca Elliott's Owl Diaries series. I have found each book adorable and enjoyable. I find the main character, Eva Wingdale, to be a joy to spend time with for the most part. In this book in the series, Eva is super-super excited that her teacher is getting married, and that she has invited the entire class to help her with her wedding preparations. In addition to all the wedding talk, this one has a bit of a mystery too.

If you or your child have enjoyed the previous books in the series, this one is well worth reading. As far as early chapter books go, it is entertaining. I like the bright, colorful illustrations. And it's a nice balance of text and illustration.

© 2016 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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10. Graphic Novel sales up 22% in bookstores in 2015

Despite ongoing worries about periodical sales for comics, graphic novels seemed to do just fine in 2015, according to figures reported at Publishers Weekly. Graphic novels sales were up 22% with 10,591,000 copies sold, up from 8,669,000 in 2014.

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11. Child Soldier and the Refugee Experience

I just finished the great graphic novel Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys and would encourage everyone reading this to pick it up. The story recounts how 5 year old Michel was kidnapped near his school by rebel militiamen in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He eventually escapes, but not after being forced to commit violent acts which haunt him. The book does cover very difficult territory, but does a good job of explaining the history of the conflict and not exhibiting images too disturbing or violent for it’s intended audience. This is an important story to tell and equally important to get into the hands of tween and teen readers. The book begins with Michel arriving in North America, and ends with more details about his journey to safety. He was first a refugee in Uganda, then years later in Canada, and touches upon what it was like to feel as if people here didn’t care about the issues in other countries.

Image from http://www.kidscanpress.com/products/child-soldier.

Image from http://www.kidscanpress.com/products/child-soldier.

This graphic novel sparked me to contemplate what role we can serve and what titles we can provide for children who come to the library looking for something that relates to the refugee experience. These books may not only be sought out by children who identify with such experiences, but may also be of interest to curious readers who want to better understand what it may mean to be a refugee. With the current Syrian refugee crisis making news headlines worldwide, young people may be itching for answers. Libraries are safe, inviting places to ask about what it means to be a refugee.

The UN Refugee Agency has a downloadable children’s booklist full of great titles covering the topic.  Below are some of my favorite recent titles for children that discuss the refugee experience.

  • I Lived on Butterfly Hill by Marjorie Agosín.  Atheneum Books for Young Readers;  2014.
  • The Red Pencil by Andrea Davis Pinkney. Little, Brown Books for Young Readers; 2014.
  • Azzi in Between by Sarah Garland. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books; 2013.
  • Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys. Kids Can Press; 2015.
  • Two White Rabbits by Jairo Buitrago. Illustrated by Rafael Yockteng. Groundwood Books; 2015.

Here at the ALSC blog I’ve been excited to see two posts from fellow librarian bloggers just this week that touch on this discussion of the refugee experience and libraries. We learned about a great new bilingual flier from REFORMA inviting Spanish-speaking immigrants and refugees to visit the library. You can see the flier here. It was created as part of their Children in Crisis project, which is a truly wonderful initiative that aims to help the thousands of Spanish speaking children who are crossing the southern border into the United States. Read more about it on their website if you are unfamiliar with the project, it is inspiring! We also learned about the IBBY Silent Books exhibit, another amazing project.

What are some of your favorite books that help discuss this difficult topic with young readers? Are you currently serving any refugee families at your library? Please share in the comments!

The post Child Soldier and the Refugee Experience appeared first on ALSC Blog.

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12. The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl

cover artLooking for an off the beaten path superhero comic? The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume One just might be the ticket. Squirrel Girl is in the Marvel Universe of comics and was actually first introduced back in 1991. Back then she was fourteen, in high school and crushing on Tony Stark (aka Iron Man), kind of scrawny and looked so 1990s. Thank goodness she has gotten an update! Current Squirrel Girl even comments on her past poor fashion choices.

Now heading off to college Squirrel Girl, also known as Doreen Green, is a full-bodied young woman. Her

Original Squirrel Girl - scary!

Original Squirrel Girl – scary!(credit)

tail is much fluffier and squirrelier, she has a much better outfit and she no longer has black diamonds around her eyes that make her look like an evil clown. She wears a squirrel ears headband, acorn earrings, has a bit of a buck-toothed smile and her squirrel friend Tippy-Toe wears a pink bow around her neck. When Squirrel Girl is incognito as Doreen, she tucks her tail into her pants which gives her a rather round and pronounced booty, much to her delight.

Technically, Squirrel Girl falls into the mutant class of superheroes but doesn’t want to have anything to do with the X-Men. She is half squirrel, half girl which means she has the proportional speed and strength or a squirrel. She also speaks squirrel and she and Tippy-Toe are frequently helped by their squirrel friends when fighting evil.

Doreen is majoring in computer science at college and her first day there doesn’t quite go as planned. her roommate is ok but when they go to orientation Doreen doesn’t get a chance to sign up for a single club because she has to rush out in order to save the earth from being destroyed by Galacticus, Devourer of Worlds.

Squirrel Girl is confident, smart, sassy, and fun. Being part squirrel she kind of acts like one, zipping here and there, never staying still for more than a minute or two and constantly chattering about something. She is strong but she is not the kind of superhero who solves things by throwing punches. She is tricksy and in fact manages to defeat Galacticus by turning him into a friend.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl is not a thinker. There are no lessons to be learned. It is nothing but pure frenetic squirrel entertainment. I enjoyed the comic so much that my antipathy for real-life squirrels may have slipped a little. I’m not about to run out to the garden and try to make friends with them, only, perhaps, I can appreciate their daredevil antics a little more than I did before.

Filed under: Books, Graphic Novels, Reviews Tagged: Iron Man, squirrels, Tony Stark, X-Men

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13. Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Sunny (real name: Sunshine) is spending the summer in Florida with her grandfather. It's the first time she's been away from her family for such a stretch of time, and hanging out with retired folks in Snoozeville is not exactly how she envisioned her summer. Luckily, her lively grandpa has lots of activities planned for them - like going to the grocery store! hanging out with the neighbors! eating dinner super early! His sunny disposition gives his granddaughter a newfound appreciation for the simple joys in life. Sunny also makes a friend in Buzz, a boy her age who introduces her to the wonderful world of comic books. Together they dream up fun and easy ways to help others and earn some pocket money.

Throughout the story, flashbacks to the previous year reveal important things about Sunny's home life with her parents and two brothers. It's easy to keep track of the then and the now thanks to simple text tags with the month and year as well as a different haircut for Sunny - longer hair last year, shorter hair this year. The dialogue is simple and straightforward, allowing this to be a quick read for kids who naturally fly through books or a more contemplative journey for kids who really sink into the story and/or pay attention to the details in the illustrations. When Sunny discovers her grandfather is "trying" to quit smoking, it brings up a problem with another one of Sunny's relatives, forcing her to confront a family secret that's been bothering her for a while.

Some books shy away from tackling issues like substance abuse and smoking in an effort to 'protect' young readers, but the truth is, kids are aware of these issues, especially if someone in their immediate family is battling addiction or similiar problems, and this book can potentially help kids deal with those in-house secrets and perhaps make them confident enough to broach the subject with their parents, teachers, or other trusted adults. Sometimes, it is easier to deal with something you're going through when you see it presented in a fictional setting, be it a book, a film, or a TV show. Those stories can encourage readers and viewers to ask for help or get closure (if possible) on something that's been hurting or haunting them. This is just as true for adults as it is for kids.

This full-color graphic novel written by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm, and colored by Lark Pien is a great fit for Scholastic's Graphix line. The bright colors in the Florida pictures really pop, while the panels and pages that feature comics are lovely tributes to both the superheroes and their enthusiastic fans.

I recommend Jennifer L. Holm's novels as well as her collaborative efforts with her brother Matthew. Click the links below for my reviews of other Holm works!

Related posts at Bildungsroman
Review: The Creek by Jennifer L. Holm
Review: Middle School is Worst Than Meatloaf by Jennifer L. Holm and Elicia Castaldi + Matthew Holm
Review: Eighth Grade is Making Me Sick: Ginny Davis's Year in Stuff by Jennifer L. Holm and Elicia Castaldi
Interview: Jennifer L. Holm

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14. Oh Nimona, How I Love You!

cover artWell I’ve seen Nimona by Noelle Stevenson making its rave review way around the book blog world and it was finally my turn to have a go at it. I expected I would like it very much but there was a little voice niggling just behind my left ear causing me a bit of worry. What if I am that person? The one that hates the book everyone else loves? I didn’t want it to be me.

Well, it turns out there was no cause for concern. From the first page to the last I loved this book. Briefly, it is a graphic novel. Nimona is a teenage girl and a shapeshifter. She shows up at the villain Ballister Blackheart’s lair to become his sidekick. Blackheart is not looking for a sidekick but Nimona gives herself the job anyway, and pretty soon Blackheart couldn’t get rid of her even if he tried so it’s a good thing he takes a liking to her. Blackheart is the nemesis of Goldenloin who works for The Institution. The two used to be best friends but past events changed that and now they are always fighting each other but there are rules and it is obvious the hatred doesn’t run all the way to their cores. Nimona’s arrival upsets the balance because she refuses to play by the rules. She wants to be evil but it turns out the bad guys are the good guys in this story.

The book is funny and fast-paced, the art is fantastic. Nimona is not a little twig-girl, has a mostly shaved head and the hair she does have is pink and then later purple. She makes no apologies for who she is. Sometimes she tells the truth, sometimes not, but she is always trustworthy. She is eager to do and please like a puppy, but don’t cross her or she will turn into a dragon and burn you to a crisp without regret.

The world the story takes place in is a recognizable fantasy world with knights in armor and jousts and swords. But then shake in a liberal dose of rule-breaking and you also get taser guns and electric whips, a science expo, video chat screens, and a zombie horror movie night with popcorn. You’d think such a mash-up would create chaos but Stevenson makes it work without question.

Nimona is a great rollicking good time but there are also some good lessons lurking under it all. But lessons is the wrong word because that makes it seem like the book is didactic and moralistic and it is not. Themes maybe? Friendship most definitely. And what friendship means, like support and encouragement but also accepting someone for who they are no matter what and not trying to turn them into someone else. Also, forgiveness.

The story in itself is complete but it is left open at the end just enough to suggest we might see Nimona again sometime. I sure hope we do!

Filed under: Books, Graphic Novels, Reviews, SciFi/Fantasy Tagged: Noelle Stevenson

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15. Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson

Twelve-year-old Astrid is often dragged to "enriching" events by her mom, who calls them "evenings of cultural enlightenment," aka ECEs. Thankfully, Astrid's best friend Nicole is usually by her side, making it possible for her to endure the opera or poetry reading or whatnot. One night, Astrid's mom brings them to the roller derby. Astrid is immediately taken by it; Nicole is less enthused. When the girls learn about a roller derby summer camp, Astrid can't wait to sign up, while Nicole, who has been taking ballet for years, would prefer to stick with dance camp. There, she hangs out with Rachel, a former classmate that Astrid cannot stand. For the first time in years, the girls are separated, and the distance between them grows wider as the summer goes on.

The first week at roller derby camp, Astrid falls down - a lot. She is frustrated and bruised and she wishes she was as skilled at the sport as the other girls. She starts writing anonymous notes to Rainbow Bite, an adult derby player she admires who shares the same practice space. Bite responds to the notes with advice and support, keeping Astrid's spirits up with the going gets tough.

And Astrid toughens up: she makes an effort to get better, to get stronger; she puts in extra practice time; she learns more about the sport and about the skills necessary to be a good player and a good teammate. Even though she's not the best one on the team, she's having fun, and that's what's important. Along the way, she makes a new friend in her teammate Zoey and makes some changes in her own life.

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson is a realistic and refreshing read. If this graphic novel was a person, I would give it a high-five. Bonus points for the diverse cast, characters of all different colors and shapes brought to life by lively full-color illustrations that show both action and emotion. Many characters have strong spirits, including Astrid's mother, a Puerto Rican single mom who works hard to put a roof over her daughter's head and food on the table. She works as a librarian at a college so that her daughter can attend that school in the future. Astrid has hand-me-down clothes and rents some of the required sports equipment rather than buying it outright, and these things are never regarded as shameful; I deeply appreciated that. I also loved the roller derby names (Rainbow Bite was my favorite, because the original Rainbow Brite rocks!), Astrid's determination and focus, and Zoey's love for musical theatre.

I recommend Roller Girl to all ages, especially for tweens who are making the transition from elementary school to middle school. If you liked Raina Telgemeier's graphic novels like Sisters, Smile, and Drama, you will definitely like Roller Girl.

Related booklists:
Hey There, Sports Fan!
Set in School and Transition Times

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16. INTERVIEW: Gene Luen Yang on Being Named National Ambassador of Young People’s Literature

photography by Albert Law : www.porkbellystudio.comThe author of American Born Chinese sits down to talk with us about his new role as the first comics alumnus to hold the prestigious position of ambassador of young people's literature.

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17. Roller Girl, by Victoria Jamieson -- the bumpy road of adolescent friendships (ages 9-13)

It's no secret that my students love graphic novels, but many parents and teachers are still reluctant to see these as stories worth reading. Yet I would argue that Roller Girl presents a compelling story with interesting, well-developed characters who struggle with friendship issues -- and does so better than many of the more traditional novels I've read this year.

Astrid and her best friend Nicole have been best friends since 1st grade, but things begin to change as they head toward middle school. When Astrid's mom takes them to see a roller derby match, Astrid thinks it's the coolest thing ever--the players looked really tough, with weird hair, crazy names and creepy makeup. When she sees a flyer announcing a summer camp, Astrid knows she just has to go -- she is totally determined to become a roller girl.
Life isn't so neat and simple. Even though they've always done everything together, Nicole decides to go to ballet camp instead of roller derby camp. Astrid doesn't let this sway her, and heads off to roller derby camp on her own. The summer is full of ups and downs, twists and turns as Astrid navigates friendship issues and learns how to play roller derby.

Jamieson creates characters who are likable but flawed in a way that rang true with me. Astrid is strong and determined, but she jumps to conclusions at times -- and ends up coming close to ruining friendships as a result. When she grows apart from Nicole, she assumes that mean-girl Rachel is going to take her place. I especially liked the way that Jamieson shows the complexities of friendship and avoids a sugar-sweet ending. 

Learning how to play roller derby takes grit and determination. Astrid falls down time and time again. But she's inspired by her hero Rainbow Bite, who encourages her to practice and practice if she wants to get playing time. Throughout, Jamieson weaves themes of determination, honesty and friendship without overpowering the plot or making it feel didactic.

Today we discussed Roller Girl and 8 other books in the Heavy Medal Mock Newbery discussion. The rules for the Newbery Award instruct committee members to focus on the words and not the pictures--and so for many years I had considered graphic novels difficult to consider in the same way as other books. But today I had the realization that I want to look at the whole book that the author has created. 

The Newbery rules (see the Newbery terms and criteria online) instruct committee members to consider the following criteria: theme, information, plot, characters, setting and style. And so I want to start encouraging my students to think about graphic novels in terms of these criteria as well. In my view, Roller Girl is distinguished in the way it presents themes for children as they transition from childhood to adolescence. The roller derby setting is exciting, thoroughly developed and compelling. The characters are fully developed in nuanced, authentic ways. I want to focus on the overall story, as I read and talk about books with children, instead of just trying to focus on the words.

As I reflect on this story, I am reminded of the power of talking about books. We grow through our chance to share and reflect together. I entered today's discussion liking Roller Girl, but unsure how to compare it to other books. Today's discussion helps me see why my students return again and again to books like Raina Telgemeier's Smile and Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet series. It isn't just their visual appeal, it's their overall literary appeal as stories that speak to children in powerful ways.

The review copy was kindly sent by the publisher, Dial / Penguin. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2016 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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18. The Marvels

cover artWhat a beautiful book is Brian Selznick’s new graphic novel The Marvels! The cover is gorgeous, all blue and gold. The edges of the pages are gold too. The book is big and fat and heavy. The paper inside is thick and glossy. None of that of course makes a good story but when the story is good, all of it certainly enhances the reading experience.

And what a reading experience it was! The first half of the book is nothing but pencil drawings. No text. But the drawings manage to tell the story of several generations of the Marvel family from how they began in the theatre, made it famous as actors, and then a tragedy the ending of which we do not get to know because the drawings stop and text without drawings begins.

The text tells a different story. Joseph Jervis was sent to boarding school by his parents at a young age. They travelled a lot and found their son difficult and thought boarding school in England would be the best thing for him. They ship him off and rarely bother to call or write to him (it’s 1990). Feeling neglected and lonely, Joseph finally makes a friend, Blink, and they plan to run away together to London where Joseph has an uncle he has never met. But Blink’s dad takes him out of school and Joseph has no idea where they have gone. So, having planned out running away to London already, Joseph gets up his courage and runs off from school at the Christmas break without telling anyone where he is going.

He shows up unannounced at his uncle’s house. Albert Nightingale is himself a lonely man but he prefers it that way. Or at least he has convinced himself he does. He is not pleased at Joseph’s disruptive appearance in the middle of the night in a freezing rain. If the boy wasn’t obviously feverish he would be tempted to leave him out on the street to make his own way as he could. But Albert takes him in. Between Christmas and New Year’s both their lives are changed for the better as Joseph refuses to accept Albert’s silence on their family history.

Are they related to the Marvels? If so, how? Uncle Albert is apparently living in their house, there are clues everywhere and Joseph, along with Frankie, short for Frances, who lives a few houses away, try to put the pieces of the puzzle together.

What we ultimately get is a wonderful story about stories, family, desire, friendship, grief and love. It is all packed in there and even though Selznick writes for a younger audience, he is very subtle on many points and doesn’t slap you in the face with them. For instance Uncle Albert is gay and his partner, Billy died a few years ago of AIDS. And Albert himself is currently being treated for AIDS. But this is not dwelled on except very briefly when Frankie asks Joseph whether he knows Albert is sick. But it doesn’t need to be made more explicit, all the clues are there for anyone paying attention. However, younger readers who know nothing about the AIDS epidemic will very likely miss this aspect of the story.

There is a refrain that runs throughout, Aut visum, but non, you either see it or you don’t. And that is how Selznick has written the book, you either see the clues and put the pieces together or you don’t. By the end it is all crystal clear and I found myself loving every character in the book and wanting a happy ending. But, like Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale, which weaves its way throughout the story, endings are rarely completely happy or completely sad and often turn into beginnings.

After the text, we go back to just the pencil drawings again that pick up where they left off. This final section is short in relation to all that has come before, but the drawings speak more than words ever could.

Selznick based The Marvels on a real life house and some real life people whose story is as beautiful and touching as the one Selznick wrote. If you liked The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonder Struck, you are guaranteed to love The Marvels.

Filed under: Books, Children's Books, Graphic Novels, Reviews Tagged: Brian Selznick, Dennis Severs, The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Wonder Struck

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19. Jane, the Fox and Me

cover artWhen Smithereens wrote about a graphic novel called Jane, the Fox and Me by Fanny Britt, I immediately requested it from the library. There were others who wanted it too so I had to wait. But the wait was worth it.

A graphic novel for younger readers, it is the story of a girl named Hélène who is being tormented by some mean girls at school. The girls leave graffiti in the bathrooms and talk and laugh about her where large groups of her classmates can hear. They say things like Hélène is fat or Hélène has BO. None of it is true but under the onslaught of meanness and due to a lack of friends, Hélène begins to believe what they say about her.

When her entire class is set to go to camp for a week, she doesn’t want to go. She can’t get out of it though. Her mother takes her shopping for a swimsuit and Hélène decides that she looks like a sausage. Once at camp she gets sorted into the “outcast” cabin with a few other girls who have no friends and lots of awkward quirks.

Throughout all of this the thing that sustains her is the book she is reading: Jane Eyre. Jane is plain but smart. Jane has troubles but she overcomes them. In spite of everything, she is loved.

One evening when she is sitting alone and depressed outside her cabin, a red fox appears and Hélène feels as though a miracle has occurred. Not long after that a new girl moves into the outcast cabin. She has been kicked out of the cabin she was in by the girls because she refused to play along with some mean thing they said or were planning. She is a breath of fresh air and charms them all. Soon Hélène finds she has a real friend and everything is transformed.

Not only is the story wonderful and real, the art is fantastic. Hélène’s world is gray pencil on white and light tan. It is dreary and sad like Hélène. But when she reads Jane Eyre, Jane’s story is in bold color, a sharp contrast between the two. When the fox appears, it is red, the only color amidst the gray. And eventually, as the book ends and Hélène escapes from the oppression of the mean girls, her world becomes colorful.

It is a simple but effective story and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I can imagine it might really resonate with girls in that pre-teen/tween age range who love books and feel like they don’t quite fit in with their peers. And it is pretty good for grown-ups too.

Filed under: Books, Children's Books, Graphic Novels, Reviews Tagged: Jane Eyre, Mean girls

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20. Marvel Announces Their New Graphic Novels for May-August 2016!

MARVEL BOOK PREVIEWS 9 2016Marvel has released their latest catalog, featuring trade titles for May – July 2016. There are a few interesting titles, otherwise, these are collections of the periodical comics being published now. Marvel doesn’t have any covers available, so this post is rather dry.  Here’s what I found interesting: Little Marvel Standee Punch-Out Book The Unbeatable […]

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21. Wait…WHAT?! Shirley Jackson’s Graphic Short Story to Become a Graphic Novel

Miles Hyman Saint MarksAnd yet another surprise from Macmillan, this time from their Hill and Wang imprint: Hyman, Miles SHIRLEY JACKSON’S “THE LOTTERY” A GRAPHIC ADAPTATION Fiction , October 2016 (proposal available) Shirley Jackson’s short story THE LOTTERY is a classic of American literature that continues to thrill and unsettle readers nearly seven decades after it was first published. By turns puzzling and […]

2 Comments on Wait…WHAT?! Shirley Jackson’s Graphic Short Story to Become a Graphic Novel, last added: 12/10/2015
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Summary: Some time ago I reviewed the first collected volume of the new (and surprisingly awesome) Ms. Marvel comic, starring the rebooted main character Kamala Khan: an ordinary American teenage girl from Jersey City who just happens to be a... Read the rest of this post

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23. Bring the Gift of Geek to You and Yours in the Beat Holiday Shopping Guide

51aFJFiPf7LContrary to what the Northeastern United States' relatively mild weather would tell you, winter is here and the holidays are swiftly blowing towards us. The many stresses of the season include college finals, the encroachment of no-longer-so-distant relatives on our homes, and the strangely loaded task of gift giving. While we at The Comics Beat cannot save your grades or your pantries, we can make it a little bit easier for you to find the perfect gift for the geek in your life. It's The Comics Beat Holiday Shopping Guide 2015!

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24. Ms Marvel, Generation Why

cover artI read and very much enjoyed Ms Marvel, Volume One, No Normal earlier this year so I was really looking forward to volume two, Generation Why. And I wasn’t disappointed!

What I love about Kamala and the whole Ms Marvel thing is that she is not a white, blonde super-babe with curves and cleavage. And more than any other superhero comic, this one is real in a way they others often aren’t. Kamala struggles to figure out who she is and what kind of person she wants to be. She has to find a balance between being a good daughter, a good Muslim, a good student, a good friend and a superhero. She has a friend who knows about her abilities but she keeps it a secret from everyone else. And since she doesn’t want to put her friend in danger, she thinks she has to do the superhero stuff by herself.

In volume two Kamala learns an important lesson, that you need allies and most of all, sometimes you need help. Wolverine from X-Men shows up and there is some giggle worthy fan girl moments when Kamala tries not to squee but utterly fails. We also learn a little about the green mist that gave Kamala her abilities and I know just enough about the Marvel Universe (Agents of Shield! Avengers movies!) to have enjoyed a shiver of recognition.

Kamala is also being watched over, and even rescued, by the mysterious Medusa, ruler of New Attilan and Queen of the Inhumans. Medusa sends a gigantic teleporting dog named Lockjaw to keep an eye on Kamala and be her companion. Lockjaw is the best sidekick ever!

Along with her do-gooding, Kamala also offers up a healthy dose of inspiration and encouragement. In this story problem teens are being kidnapped and used as a power source for the evil villain’s killer robots. The “worthless” teens have all been convinced that being used as a power source will allow them to do something good instead of being parasites. Kamala of course sees things differently. She needs their help to defeat the villain and convinces them that they should not give up on themselves or their generation.

What is it with adults telling teens that their generation is no good? When I was your age, blah blah blah. They are only kids! How can anyone know what they will do when they are older? As a member of Gen X I recall hearing over and over how my generation was nothing but a bunch of cynical, do-nothing, slackers. Barack and Michelle Obama are in the gray area between generations but I’m claiming them for X. Same with Mark Zuckerberg. Google co-founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin are definitely Gen X. So is Angelina Jolie. No one would dream of calling any of them slackers.

Ok, veering back on course now.

Ms Marvel is a wonderful comic series and I wish comics were like this when I was a kid. I would have gobbled them up for sure. The nice thing is though that even not being a kid anymore, I can still enjoy them. And if you are looking to try an entertaining, well-written and empowering comic, you really can’t go wrong with Ms Marvel.

Filed under: Books, Graphic Novels, Reviews Tagged: Avengers, generational stereotype rant, Inhumans, Ms Marvel, When is there going to be a Black Widow movie?

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25. Must read: the last decade of graphic novel publishing and the next five

As we wrap up our big picture look at where it’s at, here’s a piece that Calvin Reid and I put together for Publishers Weekly called From the Fringes to the Mainstream: Ten Years of Growth In Graphic Novel Publishing where we surveyed a bunch of super smart industry folks on the past ten years […]

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