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Flop to the Top!
by Eleanor Davis and Drew Weing; illus. by the authors
Primary TOON 38 pp.
9/15 978-1-935179-89-4 $12.95
Wanda is a superstar — in her own mind. Oblivious to her family’s dismay, she forces everyone within arm’s reach to endure invasive photos, rude orders, and diva-like dismissals. After posting a selfie taken with her droll and droopy-faced dog, Wilbur, she scores millions of online likes. Hordes of admirers fill her street, and Wanda receives her fandom, only to be swiftly snubbed by the crowd. They want “FLOPPY DOG!” Wilbur is swept away to party with the celebrity du jour, Sassy Cat, and Wanda, jealous, tails the duo. The blinged-out dog is offered a contract to leave his “old life behind,” but instead decides to devour the document after a heartfelt apology (of sorts) by Wanda. Wife-and-husband team Davis and Weing share author-illustrator duties (“Can you tell who drew what? They bet you can’t!”) for this expertly paced — and funny and topical — early-reader comic. The digitally rendered art is a departure from the pen-and-ink cartooning of Davis’s Stinky (a 2009 Geisel honoree) and more closely related to her Matisse-like work for adults. It is infused with so much warmth, color, and whimsy that young readers will gladly see this book through to its pleasing reversal of fortune.
I am not sure how I found out about Leaf by Daishu Ma but I am glad I did. Such a gorgeous book. Have you heard of it?
Leaf is a picture-only graphic novel that tells the story of a leaf, or rather the story of a young man who finds an unusual leaf while out walking one autumn day. He journeys around his town trying to find the tree from which this leaf came but without success. He finds a woman who studies leaves and she does not know anything about it either. She puts the leaf in a special jar to preserve it. The young man carries the jar with him everywhere. But then an accident and the jar breaks and the leaf gets sucked up into a place where leaves from all over are collected and sent to be burned for electricity. He chases down the leaf, trying to save it. And something beautiful happens, I won’t say what, you will have to read the book and find out.
Because this is a story told completely without words, the art is extremely important. From small panels to large panels, from multiple pictures on a page to one picture that covers both pages, the detail is amazing. The pictures are done in pencil, mostly gray graphite, but then there are colors blended in to highlight: pale blue and yellow. These are used sparingly and create a richness and magic that is delightful.
The book itself is a lovely thing. Large-format, about the size of a piece of A4 paper, hardcover with thick matte-finished paper. The cover of the book has a cutout in the shape of a leaf through which the title and the author’s name appears.
For a taste of this book, visit Daishu Ma’s website. I don’t know much about Ma, only that she is Chinese. She completed a business degree in the UK before deciding to follow her childhood passion by attending Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. As far as I can tell, she does a lot of illustration but this is her only book.
Leaf doesn’t take long to read and that means you can read it several times. I recommend multiple readings and with much lingering over your favorite drawings. Also, if you have children around, I bet it would be really fun to read with them and ask them to tell you the story. It is clear what the story is, but at the same time there is lots of room for imagination. Don’t miss this book if you can help it. And let’s hope Ma gives us more.
I don’t know how I came across Anders Nilsen’s graphic collection Poetry is Useless. I do know I waited quite a while for it from the library. I don’t usually read author bios an this collection doesn’t have and “about the author” paragraph anyway so I was quite surprised when nearly at the end of the book one of the comic panels mentions a tiny independent bookstore in Minneapolis that specializes in progressive/radical literature, Boneshaker Books. How the heck does Nilsen know about them? Off to the interwebs! Where I discover that he lives in Minneapolis! Local boy!
Maybe that’s why I found his off-beat and sometimes dark sense of humor so funny? I read most of the collection before bed and I’d start laughing and Bookman would look up from his own book inquiringly, which of course is an opening for me to pepper him with all the funny things. He was very tolerant and even obliged me with a laugh now and then.
Here’s a couple examples of the humor:
Oh snowflake, how I wish to caress you. But every time you melt.
The benefit of having alienated God, having offended him, driven him away so that the two of you are no longer speaking is that at least he’s not telling you what to do all the time.
It’s also been said, however, that I am not flammable. In general this is true, except for my hair. My hair burns readily. In fact, once alight it is quite difficult to put out again.
You get the picture.
The art in this collection is really interesting. Each page is mostly what appears to be a scan of Nilsen’s notebook, a moleskine by the looks of it. The scans are surrounded by lots of white page space and sometimes this space has drawings or comics on it too. There is very little color, most things are in black and white. There are comic panels and these generally feature a single silhouette with a speech bubble in each frame. Sometimes there are two silhouette’s talking to each other.
Then there are pages of strange, abstract looking drawings that look kind of like root balls or plumbing gone wrong or some sort of weird organic alien spaceship. There are also representational drawings, most of people and these people sometimes have speech bubbles as Nilsen has overheard them taking in a cafe or on an airplane. People say some really weird things when they think no one is eavesdropping.
I liked the book and all its strangeness. Because it is made up mostly of scans from his notebook, there are errors in the text that Nilsen blacked out and even white-out and shadowy lines where the sketch originally began but then got changed. This tends to make it feel raw, unfinished, like a rough draft and I found that irritated me sometimes, which is kind of weird. But I think that is the whole point. This is a book that doesn’t want you to feel comfortable even when it makes you laugh. It is definitely a different kind of reading experience.
In our November/December issue, reviewer Shoshana Flax asked Barry Deutsch about the third entry in his graphic novel series about “11-year-old time-traveling Jewish Orthodox babysitter” Mirka. Read the full starred review of Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fishhere.
Shoshana Flax: We hear more about the modern world in this third installment. What do you think the neighbors think of Hereville?
Barry Deutsch: I can honestly say no one’s ever asked me that before! The people in the next town over are pretty suspicious of Hereville. There are a lot of weird rumors flying around, as you’d expect. (The Hereville folks tend to be pretty insular.) But in real life, one of my neighbors has become a big Hereville fan! We sometimes talk about it on the bus.
Hereville: How Mirka Caught a Fish
by Barry Deutsch; illus. by the author; backgrounds by Adrian Wallace; colors by Jake Richmond
Middle School Amulet/Abrams 141 pp.
11/15 978-1-4197-0800-8 $17.95
Mirka is stuck babysitting her pesky six-year-old half-sister Layele while the rest of the family is away from their all-Hasidic community. Fruma, Mirka’s stepmother, leaves strict orders to stay out of the woods, where bizarre magic always seems to happen (Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword, rev. 11/10; Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite, rev. 11/12) and where Fruma saw “things” when she was Mirka’s age. Of course, Mirka does go into the woods, dragging Layele with her, and before long she’s wheedled the troll from the first book out of a hair elastic with time-travel capabilities (the illustrations denote the time travelers by superimposing them onto the landscape in transparent purple and white). The girls encounter a wishing fish, the same one who lost a battle of wits with a young Fruma (then called Fran and dressed in modern garb) and who now has a wicked plan to gain power by controlling and kidnapping Layele. Though the expressive and often humorous illustrations in this graphic novel do much to convey each scene’s tone and highlight important characters and objects, words make the world go ’round here. (Check out Mirka’s punctuation-marked skirt!) Speech bubbles wind in and out of the variably sized panels, and the eventual solution involves verbal gymnastics as much as heroics and compassion.
This year’s ALA honorees El Deafo and This One Summer show that graphic novels and comics continue to soar in popularity and critical acclaim. In their article “Comics Are Picture Books: A (Graphic) Novel Idea,” Elisa and Patrick Gall urge audiences to look at the form with fresh (and less intimidated) eyes; and on our Writer’s Page, Matt Phelan provides a glimpse into his creative process. Below are some more recommended graphic novels from the fall 2015 Horn Book Guide.
Associate Editor, The Horn Book Guide
Colossal, Eric Rutabaga the Adventure Chef
128 pp. Abrams/Amulet 2015 ISBN 978-1-4197-1380-4
Paperback ISBN 978-1-4197-1597-6
Gr. 4–6 Chef Rutabaga’s portable kitchen; his anthropomorphic sidekick, Pot; and his love of foraging for unique ingredients (e.g., “sweetened blood berries” and “pop-shrooms”) may encourage readers to be more adventurous with their own culinary pursuits. The quirky series-starting graphic novel includes easy-to-make recipes and uses comic vignettes to concisely introduce such entertaining characters as sword-slinging Winn and comrades Manny and Beef.
Fred The Wild Piano: A Philemon Adventure 45 pp. TOON 2015 ISBN 978-1-935179-83-2
Gr. 4–6 Toon Graphic series. To save his friend the well-digger, Phil returns to the parallel world of alphabet-named islands in the Atlantic Ocean. Landing on the letter N causes him to inadvertently break the law, and he’s sentenced to battle a wild piano, matador-style. This vibrant graphic novel first published in France in 1973 brims with Little-Nemo-meets-Alice-in-Wonderland whimsy. Back matter explains some of the story’s references.
Hugo, VictorLes Misérables
60 pp. Candlewick 2015 ISBN 978-0-7636-7476-2
Gr. 4–6 Retold and illustrated by Marcia Williams. Colorful detail and an adroit comic-book layout make this retelling especially charming and eminently humane. Along the borders of each page, cats chase mice and rats frolic in sewer sludge in echo of Valjean’s long journey to escape Javert and provide a home for his beloved Cosette. As it condenses an immensely complicated novel, brevity is both this volume’s greatest feature and its limitation.
Liniers Macanudo #2
96 pp. Enchanted Lion 2014 ISBN 978-1-59270-169-8
Gr. 4–6 Translated by Mara Faye Lethem. This collection of comics is by turns contemplative and slapstick. Characters such as a girl and her cat, Fellini; Oliverio the Olive; and Z-25, the Sensitive Robot, float in and out of the pages, putting on performances that range from Godot-like to foolish and seemingly pointless. The cartoonist uses a light touch in rendering his drawings, which make observations about life that are worth savoring.
Maihack, Mike Cleopatra in Space: The Thief and the Sword
190 pp. Scholastic/Graphix 2015 ISBN 978-0-545-52844-3
Paperback ISBN 978-0-545-52845-0
Gr. 4–6 Five months after being zapped from ancient Egypt to the distant future in book one, Cleo, the hotheaded “savior of the galaxy,” tries to nab a thief, discover more about the prophecy she’s fulfilling, and navigate new friendships — all while attending school (and, ugh, the winter dance). Panels of crisp, jewel-toned art showcase the graphic novel’s blend of action and humor.
Proimos, James III Apocalypse Bow Wow
215 pp. Bloomsbury 2015 ISBN 978-1-61963-442-8
Ebook ISBN 978-1-61963-443-5
Gr. 4–6 Illustrated by James Proimos Jr. Spouting hysterically funny dialogue, two dogs await their people’s return. Eventually desperate, they break out of the house, discover that all humans have disappeared, and make a grocery store their home. Challenged by some tough animals, they win because of a tick who dispenses military advice. Black-and-white comic panels add quirky humor, although it can be difficult to tell the characters apart.
Smith, Jeff Bone: Out from Boneville: Tribute Edition
175 pp. Scholastic/Graphix 2015 ISBN 978-0-545-80070-9
Gr. 4–6 New ed. (2005). Color by Steve Hamaker. Greedy Phoney Bone is run out of town, and his cousins, Fone and Smiley, join him. This tenth-anniversary edition of the comics collection includes Smith’s “An Ode to Quiche,” nine pages of “Pinup Art” from the book, and a “Tribute Gallery” by sixteen comics artists, including Dav Pilkey, Dan Santat, and Raina Telgemeier.
TenNapel, Doug Nnewts: Escape from the Lizzarks
186 pp. Scholastic/Graphix 2015 ISBN 978-0-545-67647-2
Paperback ISBN 978-0-545-67646-5
Gr. 4–6 Color by Katherine Garner. Herk, a Nnewt, is separated from his family during a covert mission to rout the Lizzarks, scaly reptilian bipeds, who have been spying on Nnewtown. Though “just a little fry,” willful Herk learns the true meaning of hope when an ancestor helps him. The spunky Nnewt’s journey is characterized by offbeat humor and portrayed through dark panel illustrations.
From the November/December 2015 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, please click here.
I just got around to reading Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson (Penguin/Dial Books for Young Readers, 2015) and boy, was it awesome!
This great graphic novel for middle-grade readers follows twelve-year old Astrid, who is inspired to join a summer youth roller derby camp after her mother takes her to a Rose City Rollers derby match. Astrid immediately falls in love with the sport and aspires to be like the rad roller ladies, whose colored hair, witty names, and rainbow socks absolutely scream cool. Unfortunately, Astrid’s best friend Nicole doesn’t seem quite so impressed by the roller derby. Soon after Astrid discovers that her bestie will be spending her summer at ballet camp with one of her not-so-favorite people, Rachel. So begins Astrid’s summer of growth as she learns that sometimes friendships change and that skating is not quite as easy as it looks.
The story felt very authentic to me, capturing the sort of girl drama that can blossom between friends, especially during those difficult and emotional middle-school years. Jamieson herself is a roller girl, skating with the real-life Rose City Rollers under the name “Winne the Pow” (how cute is that?!). Jamieson’s personal experience provides readers with a realistic glimpse into the world of women’s roller derby, while her bright, colorful illustrations bring this world to life. This book just may inspire readers to seek out their local derby team and become roller girls themselves!
Roller Girl is a stand-out graphic novel and an impressive debut from Jamieson. I look forward to seeing what she comes out with next! This title is a perfect book to put in the hands of Raina Telgemeier fans or young tweens who may feel like outsiders looking for their own place to fit-in. I might even use this title for a future tween graphic novel book club meeting, as there is plenty to talk about and relate to for girls and boys alike.
I was very much looking forward to the second volume of Lumberjanes having enjoyed the first one so much. I didn’t love the first one but I quite liked it and was hoping volume two would see the story hitting its stride and really doing something. But instead it just got really weird.
At first it seemed like Rosie, the tattooed and somewhat mysterious owner of the camp would get more story time as she goes off with her axe and leaves counselor Jen in charge. Jen wants to make sure everyone stays safe and isn’t all that confident she can manage it so she keeps all the girls in camp making friendship bracelets. But trouble does not take long to find Jo, April, Mal, Molly and Ripley. Molly needs to go to the outhouse and when she arrived there is an out of order sign on the door. She opens the door anyway and out burst three — velociraptors? Through teamwork and ingenuity the girls are able to neutralize the dinosaurs and save the day.
Rosie returns with some kind of mysterious crystal and doesn’t blink when she learns about what happened. The crystal of course turns out to be important later.
There is a rousing game of capture-the-flag. Jo might be some kind of alien or something. She has a magical amulet she buries in the woods that turns out to be important for later. Of course.
Then everything gets really weird as we learn that fellow camper Diane is really Diana/Artemis and she is in a race against her brother Apollo who has the boys’ camp in his thrall to put together all these artifacts in order to be gifted with all kinds of power from Zeus.
The friends of course save the day and Jo is not an alien and the best thing about this story was Bubbles the raccoon.
It was all very disappointing. I am not certain I will read volume three if there is going to be one. The art remains marvelous but the story just had too many elements to it that seemed to be there just to add some craziness. And while I am all for craziness, craziness for its own sake just doesn’t do it for me. Oh well.
Comics might just be the perfect medium for non-fiction. Words and pictures can combine with a narrative to allow for better communication. Graphs, photos, maps, schematics… all can be used to great effect. Couple this with the reader’s ability to set the pace of reading and comprehension, and the option of referring to previous pages and […]
Comic books are everywhere. Customers are purchasing them, readers of all ages are devouring them, teachers are using more and more of them in their classrooms, and they’re winning awards like crazy. Some people have applauded recent book-award committees’ open-mindedness to the comics format, while others remain conflicted. The recurrent question of whether ALA should sponsor a graphic novel award has taken up energies and attentions, with extra considerations to the Caldecott criteria and how a picture book is defined. Many claim that comic books and picture books have strong differences at their cores, and that the kidlit world needs to keep the two separate in order to protect and uphold that which distinguishes each from the other. We don’t see it this way. We believe that comic books and graphic novels (which we’ll refer to as “comics” from here on out) are picture books, and that there are many types of picture books, from those for the earliest readers to those intended for young adults and beyond.
The Caldecott criteria define a children’s picture book in part as “one that essentially provides the child with a visual experience.” In Children’s Picturebooks: The Art of Visual Storytelling, Martin Salisbury and Morag Styles write that a picture book is “defined by its particular use of sequential imagery, usually in tandem with a small number of words, to convey meaning.” According to comics theorist Scott McCloud (inspired by the work of comics legend Will Eisner), comics have a similar definition: they are “sequential art.” Definitions aside, picture books (including comics) share characteristics: they use the momentum of the page-turn, they have moments where text and image are interdependent (if there is text at all), and they afford readers the opportunity to construct meaning when words and images clash.
Picture books (including comics) come in various sizes, genres, styles, page lengths, color palettes, and intended audience age ranges. A single title can fall into multiple categories. Anna Kang and Christopher Weyant’s Geisel-winning You Are (Not) Small is both a picture book and an easy reader in the same way that Eleanor Davis’s Stinky, which was a Geisel honor book and an Eisner Award nominee, is both an easy reader and a comic. A book’s nominal literary format doesn’t limit its ability to succeed in another.
Picture books (including comics) are worthy of serious analysis. Whether they’re full-fledged graphic novels or thirty-two-pagers, whether they’re for teens or toddlers, rendered digitally or hand drawn, we evaluate comics using the same questions we ask when critiquing all picture books. We don’t ignore the pictures or read the text in a vacuum. We look at the styles used by the artists and question if they feel appropriate to the stories’ themes. We consider how each book does its job given its audience, genre, and format.
And so it surprises us when picture book–loving colleagues say that reading comics feels like foreign territory. We’ve thought long and hard about what conventions might feel exclusive to comics—and perhaps intimidating to picture book traditionalists — and have arrived at two: paneled layouts and visual text features (the latter including word balloons, thought bubbles, and the like). By spotlighting how these conventions are used successfully in a variety of books (including true-blue comics and picture books not classified as such), we hope to show that through close reading they can be recognized and understood by even the most reluctant comics reader.
A panel often represents one moment in time, defined by a border. The sizes, shapes, and relationship of panels within a page and the relationship of that page to what came before and comes after are all part of layout. Panels can guide the reader through a story so subtly that they go unnoticed, while others are intended to be seen, emphasizing setting, characterization, and more. To illustrate this point, we will highlight compelling panel use in three picture books: a comic, a wordless picture book, and an easy reader.
In Nadja Spiegelman and Sergio García Sánchez’s comic, Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure, innovative page layouts inform readers about the characters’ roundabout paths, the city, and its subway. In a scene featuring narrow vertical panels running the length of the page, the two main characters, en route to the Empire State Building, hold on to the tall, skinny gutters as if they were subway poles. In moments of the story when the characters are in the midst of the chaos of New York City, time and movement are not expressed through numerous panels or page-turns; instead, the story advances via multiple images of the same characters thinking, talking, and moving about within one double-page spread. This complex, winding layout reinforces the kinetic energy of the setting as well as the characters’ experience of being overwhelmed by it.
A mixture of panels and full-page illustrations are used in JonArno Lawson and Sydney Smith’s wordless picture book Sidewalk Flowers. As a child picks wildflowers, shares them with others, and brings color to a black-and-white urban landscape, information is relayed through the ebb and flow of color between panels. This is especially effective in a scene featuring three panels stacked from top-to-bottom across a page. A distant house in the middle of the center panel (peach-colored, it is the first use of color on a building) cues readers that more color will be forthcoming after new flowers are picked; predictions are confirmed in the bottom frame by a sidewalk speckled with blues, reds, and oranges. The use of many panels within a single page allows for subtle shifts in color to be recognized immediately, as images can be compared simultaneously. In this instance, the paneled layout focuses readers’ attentions on a shift that might have gone unseen over the course of several page-turns.
In Mo Willems’s Elephant & Piggie easy readers, whole pages function the way panels in a comic do. In I Will Take a Nap!, for example, the page-turns and gutters imply passage of time in an immediately connected sequence. In a scene in which Piggie reveals to Gerald that the two are actually in a dream (“if you are not napping, how can I be floating?”), her statement — divided between two connected word balloons — crosses the gutter, bridging the gap between two separate moments as she begins floating away. Because the size of the pages is consistent, the passage of time between pages can be intuitively understood. This predictable, linear, left-to-right reading experience is akin to reading a newspaper comic strip, and it frames the brisk pace and page-turning dynamic that emergent readers crave.
Visual Text Features
Many think of visual text features — including word balloons, captions, thought bubbles, and sound effects — as the meat and potatoes of comics. Visual text features can elevate dialogue and establish atmosphere — pulling readers further into the narrative. The following three books — a young adult comic, a nonfiction picture book, and a traditional picture story book — include visual text features that achieve this effect.
In the YA comic March: Book Twoby John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell, word balloons and sound effects don’t merely communicate what is said or overheard; they also enhance meaning through their physicality. In moments of duress, word balloons become buzz saw–edged, while cold dismissals received by civil rights workers appear frozen over, like icicles. When Aretha Franklin sings “America” during the 2009 presidential inauguration, the lyrics dominate the double-page spread, contained within curvy, robust, heavy-lined word balloons that convey her emotive performance. Powell runs the “BRRRIIINNNNG” of a ringing telephone and the “VRROOMM” of a speeding pickup truck off the page, representing sounds that carry. When fire hoses are used against civil rights protesters, it is not the streams of water or the protesters that are reflected in Bull Connor’s glasses; it is letters in the sound (“FFSSHHHHHHHH…”) of the water. The sound effect no longer just supports the action; instead, it is an integral part of the action. How a sound effect is illustrated can carry as much meaning as the letters or words chosen to express the sound.
Borderless word balloons, with color-coded stems connecting text to each character, carry moments of dialogue in Mara Rockliff and Iacopo Bruno’s nonfiction picture book, Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery That Baffled All of France. The absence of attributives (such as “he said” and “she said”) throughout the book allows for seamless transitions between conversation and exposition in the true tale of how the scientific method was used to debunk Dr. Franz Mesmer’s pseudoscience. On a twisting and turning banner that weaves through a double-page spread, behind a character’s leg and out over a bridge, the murmurings of a crowd are featured (“HA HA HA MESMER HA HA HA BZZ BZZ BZZ”); part of the banner is blocked, evoking moments when one hears only bits and pieces of what is being said in a large group. When Franklin’s “blind”-test methodology is explained, the process is described within labels on old-timey medicinal jars and tubes. This presentation not only communicates the facts but also adds context and brings the historic setting to life.
In Audrey Vernick and Matthew Cordell’s picture book, First Grade Dropout, thought bubbles house the young protagonist’s memories, including the embarrassing moment when he accidentally called his teacher “Mommy.” While these memories are communicated mostly through pictures (and are sometimes enhanced by word balloons and sound effects of their own), the present-tense narration occurs in the form of traditional expository text. This approach clearly separates past and present, and it allows readers to interpret all that the boy remembers, thinks, and does. When a chorus of obtrusive “HA! HA! HA!”s spread across the page in multiple colors and sizes, the sound effects reinforce the boy’s inescapable shame. The “HA!”s break free from their thought-bubble boundary: the boy’s feelings of humiliation cannot be contained. Here, visual text features provide added insight into the character’s state of mind.
Comics might be where paneled layouts and visual text features are most commonly found, but these features are not unique to comics. The conventions (and definitions) of picture books and comics overlap greatly because they are part of the same whole. That’s why it is hard for us to separate comics from the rest of the picture book world. As Charlotte Zolotow wrote in the March/April 1998 Horn Book Magazine, “There are all sorts of picture books. There is a place for them all.” Zolotow was writing about diversity in content rather than format, but we like to think that the spirit is the same. The picture book umbrella is broad. That’s a good thing, because even though they may not know it, those who evaluate picture books have the skillset to read comics critically. They only need to recognize the value of their experiences, approach every work with an open mind, and think outside the panels once in a while.
Happy November! Just a quick list (no commentary) for this week’s books recap—my weekend is running away again.
I finished The Search for Delicious. The kids were glued to every page. Stay tuned for a Periscope in which I will discuss what book I chose for our next read-aloud and how I arrived at this choice. I’ll also talk a little bit about how I approach character voices.
Speaking of doing voices, Scott just started reading the first Harry Potter book to Rilla. His Dumbledore is magnificent.
This Orq (He Cave Boy) by David Elliott. We received a copy of this book from a friend at Boyds Mills Press and it became an instant hit. I booktalked it on Periscope on Thursday, if you’d like to hear more about why we fell in love with it. (The link will take you to katch.me where my scopes are archived, or you can scroll to the bottom of this post and watch the replay there.)
I’ve launched a series on Periscope. I’m calling it “Something Old, Something New, Something Borrowed, Something True” — this will be a regular feature in which I do my favorite thing: talk about books. A family favorite (that’s the “old”), a new gem, a library book, and a nonfiction title. I tried out the format last week and I think it’s going to work nicely! Here’s the first installment. I’ll announce future editions here and on Twitter.
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After 13 years, 14 Eisner Awards, 150 issues and almost 6,000 pages, the Vertigo comic book series Fables has reached its end. What began as a simple postmodern twist on fairy tales quickly evolved into a sprawling, beautiful, dark, engrossing, ambitious and occasionally frustrating saga. As I closed the cover on the final volume, I felt both exhilaration and the sad pang of loss. Under those circumstances, it seemed only fitting to introduce this tremendous grown-up comic series to a wider audience and also take the opportunity to explore the challenge of writing truly long-form stories.
I doesn’t get any more Halloweeny than this, a new graphic novel from Legendary Comics tying in to the 2007 cult film. And apparently, there’s a sequel on the way. From the twisted imagination of Trick ‘r Treat creator Michael Dougherty (director of the upcoming Krampus and Trick ‘r Treat 2 and screenwriter of X-Men 2 and Superman Returns) alongside a top-notch team of creators including writers Todd […]
Every Thursday in October, we'll be celebrating Graphic Novels here on our blog. We are teaming up with blogger friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Assessment in Perspective, so you'll want to check out their blogs every week too! If you want to know more about our monthlong celebration, read our Nerdy Book Club post announcing it. We also hope you'll join our Google Community where the party will come together! We love Graphic Novels and we want to share that love with the world.
Last week while my students were taking a math test, I went from shelf to shelf around my classroom, gathering books for this post. That's right -- there's not a "Graphic Novels" shelf in one spot in my classroom. There are graphic novels shelved with autobiography and memoir, fables, mythology, and short stories. There are tubs for the graphic novel series (BabyMouse, Lunch Lady, etc.), but graphic novel fiction and fantasy are shelved by author's last name with the other fiction chapter books.
That's because graphic novels are a FORMAT and not a genre!
This is a history book that is not for the faint of heart. In the graphics, towns are erased by crashing waves, people and pets drown and starve, crowds are locked out of the SuperDome, and aid is slow in coming. In the same way that the images force us to see the truth of what happened in New Orleans, the text is completely straightforward and honest. In fact, when you get to the end of the book and look at Don Brown's source notes, you will see that nearly every (maybe every?) line of text is referenced to a primary source. This is an amazing mentor text for accurate journalistic writing. Don Brown didn't get emotionally involved in the story he was telling; he was simply the conduit to tell the story, to remind us about what went wrong so that hopefully we can get it right the next time. (Heaven forbid there's a next time.) And he told it true as a tribute "To the resilient people of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast" who have been working ever since 2005 to rebuild their cities and their lives.
With all the light-hearted, fun-to-read graphic novels that are available, you might think this is an odd choice for our give-away today, but this is an important book that will expand your notion of what a graphic novel can be and what graphic novels can do for readers.
I gotta come clean with you. Skeletons? I’ve got a thing for them. Not a “thing” as in I find them attractive, but rather a “thing” as in I find them fascinating. I always have. Back in the 80s there was a science-related Canadian television show called “Owl TV” (a Canuck alternative to “3-2-1 Contact”) and one of the regular features was a skeleton by the name of Bonaparte who taught kids about various scientific matters. But aside from the odd viewing of “Jason and the Argonauts”, walking, talking (or, at the very least, stalking) skeletons don’t crop up all that often when you become grown. So maybe my attachment to Human Body Theater with its knobby narrator has its roots deep in my own personal history. Or maybe it has something more to do with the witty writing, untold gobs of nonfiction information, eye-catching art, and general sense of intelligence and care. Whatever the case, it turns out the human body puts on one heckuva good show!
When a human skeleton comes out and offers to right there, before your very eyes, become a fully formed human being with guts, skin, etc. who are you to refuse? Tonight the human body itself is putting on a show and everyone from the stagehands (the cells) to the players (whether they’re body parts or viruses) is fully engaged and involved. With our narrator’s help we dive deep beneath the skin and learn top to bottom about every possible system our bods have to offer. When all is said and done the readers aren’t just intrigued. They’re picking the book up to read it again and again. Backmatter includes a Glossary of terms and a Bibliography for further reading.
I’ve been a big time Maris Wicks fan for years. It started long ago when I was tooling around a MOCCA (Museum of Comic and Cartoon Art) event and ran across just the cutest little paperback picture book. It couldn’t have been much bigger than a coaster and all it was was a story about a family taking a daytrip to the woods. Called Yes, Let’s it was written by Galen Goodwin and illustrated by a Maris Wicks. I didn’t know either of these people. I just knew the book was good, and when it was published officially a couple years later by Tanglewood Publishing I felt quite justified. But for all that I’d been a fan, I didn’t recognize Ms. Wicks’ work or name, at first, when she illustrated Jim Ottaviani’s Primates. When the connection was made I felt like I’d won a small lottery. Now she’s gone solo with Human Body Theater and the only question left in anybody’s mind is . . . why didn’t she do it sooner? She’s a natural!
Now for whatever reason my four-year-old is currently entranced by this book. She’s naturally inclined to love graphic novels anyway (thank you, Cece Bell) and something in Human Body Theater struck a real chord with her. It’s not hard to figure out why. Visually it’s consistently arresting. Potentially dry material, like the method by which oxygen travels from the lungs to the blood, is presented in the most eclectic way possible (in this case, like a dance). Wicks keeps her panels vibrant and consistently interesting. One minute we might be peering into the inner workings of the capillaries and the next we’re zooming with the blood through the body delivering nutrients and oxygen. The colorful, clear lined style certainly bears a passing similarity to the work of author/artists like Raina Telgemeier, while the ability imbue everything, right down to the smallest atom, with personality is more along the lines of Dan Green’s “Basher Books” series.
For my part, I was impressed with the degree to which Wicks is capable of breaking complex ideas down into simple presentations. The chapters divide neatly into The Skeletal System, The Muscular System, The Respiratory System, The Cardiovascular System, The Digestive System, The Excretory System, The Endocrine System, The Reproductive System, The Immune System, The Nervous System, and the senses (not to mention an early section on cells, elements, and molecules). As impressive as her art is, it’s Wicks’ writing that I feel like we should really credit here. Consider the amount of judicious editing she had to do, to figure out what to keep and what to cut. How do you, as an author, transition neatly from talking about reproduction to the immune system? How do you even tackle a subject as vast as the senses? And most importantly, how gross do you get? Because the funny bones of 10-year-olds demand a certain level of gross out humor, while the stomachs of the gatekeepers buying the book demand that it not go too far. I am happy to report that Ms. Wicks walks that tightrope with infinite skill.
One of the parts of the book I was particularly curious about was the sex and reproduction section. I’ve seen what Robie H. Harris has gone through with her It’s Perfectly Normal series on changing adolescent bodies, and I wondered to what extent Wicks would tread similar ground. The answer? She doesn’t really. Sex is addressed but images of breasts and penises are kept simple to the point of near abstraction. As such, don’t be relying on this for your kid’s sex-ed. There are clear reasons for this limitation, of course. Books that show these body parts, particularly graphic novels, are restricted by some parents or school districts. Wicks even plays with this fact, displaying a sheet covering what looks like a possible penis, only to reveal a very tall sperm instead. And Wicks doesn’t skimp on the info. The chapter on The Reproductive Cycle, for example, contains the delightful phrase, “ATTENTION: Would some blood please report to the penis for a routine erection.” So I’ve no doubt that there will be a parent somewhere who is offended in some way. However, it’s done so succinctly that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if it causes almost no offense during its publication lifespan (but don’t quote me on that one).
If there is a problem with the book it may come right at the very beginning. Our skeleton hero introduces herself and from there you would expect her to jump right in to Human Body Theater with the bones. Instead, the storyline comes to a near screeching halt from the get go with a laborious explanation of cells, elements, and molecules. It’s not that these things aren’t important or interesting. Indeed, you can more than understand why they come at the beginning the way that they do. But as the book currently stands, this section feels like it was added in at the last minute. If it was going to preface the actual “show” then couldn’t it have been truly separate from the main event and act as a kind of pre-show entertainment?
What parent wouldn’t admit a bit of a thrill when their kid points to their own femur and declares proudly that it’s the longest bone in the human body? Or off-the-cuff speculates on the effects of the appendix on other body functions? We talk a lot about children’s books that (forgive the phrase) “make learning fun”, but how many actually do? When I wrack my brain for fun human body books, I come up surprisingly short. Here then is a title that can push against a certain kind of reader’s reluctance to engage with science on any level. It’s for the science lovers and graphic novel lovers alike (and lord knows the two don’t always overlap). More fun than it has any right to be. No bones about it.
October is one of my most favorite times of year for a variety of reasons. Crisp weather makes for perfect hiking, my scarf collection makes a triumphant return from the closet, and all things pumpkin can be found. The real reason October stands out for me though is the mysterious mood cast thanks to Halloween. As a fan of spooky stories of all sorts, this month provides the perfect opportunity to share some of my top picks for eerie and ghostly reads. The graphic novels highlighted below are not holiday specific, and would be great recommendations for readers year-round, but are especially fun during this season.
Cat Burglar Blackby Richard Sala. First Second; 2009. This quirky title by the talented Sala has it all- dangerous mysteries, weird characters, hidden treasure, and creepy settings. K was raised in an orphanage where the children were trained to be professional thieves and now finds herself at Bellsong Academy, a suspicious boarding school with barely any other students. I’ll be discussing this title with my tween graphic novel book club next week and I can’t wait to hear their thoughts!
Possessions: Unclean Getawayby Ray Fawkes. Oni Press; 2010. First in the Possessions series. Possessions is both laugh-out-loud hilarious and totally disturbing, in the most fun way. In Unclean Getaway, readers meet Gurgazon the Unclean, a demon who has possessed a 5-year old girl and is now bent on destroying the world…if she could only escape the Llewellyn-Vane House for Captured Spirits and Ghostly Curiosities. This is an ongoing series with the most recent title, The Final Tantrum, published in February of this year.
Photo by Nicole Martin
Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollowadapted by Blake A. Hoena. Stone Arch Books; 2014. Irving’s classic tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman is adapted for graphic readers in this colorful title. This version is great for readers who may be new to the story as it provides an introduction discussing the real Sleepy Hollow and how Irving may have stumbled across the legend, as well as a glossary of vocabulary words.
Hans Christian Anderson’s The Red Shoes and Other Talesby Metaphrog. Papercutz; 2015. The dark story of Anderson’s The Red Shoes is wonderfully retold in this graphic novel, along with Anderson’s The Little Match Girl and an original story titled The Glass Case. The sickly color palette exhibited throughout this book really gives these stories an extra layer of spookiness.
Johnny Boo: The Best Little Ghost in the Worldby James Kochalka. Top Shelf Productions; 2008. First in the Johnny Boo series. Johnny Boo and his ghost pet Squiggle take on the Ice Cream Monster in this introduction to the world of Johnny. This series is a good choice for young readers interested in something ghostly but not-so-scary.
Anya’s Ghostby Vera Brosgol. Square Fish; 2014. Anya’s Ghost mixes realistic young adult issues and a ghost story to make one awesomely scary graphic novel. Anya is part of a Russian family and is already having a hard time trying to fit in at school when she falls down a hole and finds herself face to face with a haunted skeleton. At first this ghost seems to be a friend to Anya, but quickly we learn that she is not to be trusted.
I suggest that these titles be read under dim lighting, while wrapped in a cozy blanket and sipping a mug of hot apple cider. Happy haunting!
Every Thursday in October, we'll be celebrating Graphic Novels here on our blog. We are teaming up with blogger friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Assessment in Perspective, so you'll want to check out their blogs every week too! If you want to know more about our monthlong celebration, read our Nerdy Book Club post announcing it. We also hope you'll join our Google Community where the party will come together! We love Graphic Novels and we want to share that love with the world. And don't forget to visit Kid Lit Frenzy today for your chance to win a prize!
Graphic Novels are quite popular in our classroom. Last week, I talked to my kids about this post and this monthlong celebration and asked them which 10 Graphic Novels they'd recommend to other 3rd graders. This is the list they came up with. These are the books that are being read like crazy in our class right now.
Every Thursday in October, we'll be celebrating Graphic Novels here on our blog. We are teaming up with blogger friends at Kid Lit Frenzy and Assessment in Perspective, so you'll want to check out their blogs every week too! If you want to know more about our monthlong celebration, read our Nerdy Book Club post announcing it. We also hope you'll join our Google Community where the party will come together! We love Graphic Novels and we want to share that love with the world.
Back at the end of August, Franki wrote about the AMAZING podcast that Colby Sharp and Travis Yonkers created, called The Yarn. Over the course of eight episodes, Sharp and Yonkers explored every aspect of the making of Sunny Side Up.
We both loved the book, and the podcast gave us fascinating insight into all kinds of back story from a variety of points of view. We couldn't wait to see how the book would be received by its intended audience -- middle grade readers.
Yesterday, I sat down with four of my 5th grade girls who have read the book and asked them what they thought of it.
Before I tell you what they said about Sunny Side Up, I should tell you about the class' conversation about our next read aloud. Earlier this week, we finished The Honest Truth by Dan Gemeinhart, and we were discussing the ending and the themes. Specifically, we were talking about the power of reading books with hard, emotional topics. I told them that perhaps I would choose a book that was emotionally a little lighter for our next read aloud, and they protested...LOUDLY. They clamored for another book that nearly broke their hearts, that made them sit on the edges of their seats gasping, that caused them to grapple with hard life issues. That was exactly what I hoped for with The Honest Truth. I wanted our read aloud and our classroom community to be a safe place to think about and talk about a book that wasn't all sunshine and roses. I never would have guessed, though, how hungry they would be for more of that after one book full.
Because of this, I wasn't at all surprised that my readers loved Sunny Side Up. They absolutely got that although it is a full color graphic novel with the word SUNNY on the cover, it's actually the story of a dark time in a family's life. They knew why Sunny was in Florida with her grandpa (they could turn to the exact page in the text where the reader is told outright). And they could name specific chapters that they loved -- one cited "Terrific" because her mom had told her about "old fashioned things" like the "Gee, Your Hair Smells Terrific" ad campaign from "a long time ago," another turned right to the chapter, "Big Al" where Sunny leaves the golf course pond in quite a windmilling walk-on-water hurry after meeting the local alligator while salvaging lost golf balls for 25 cents apiece. One girl loved the flashbacks that slowly revealed why Sunny and her family aren't going to the beach house as planned (and I loved her for knowing, as a 10 year-old reader, how Jenni Holm had structured her narrative).
None of the girls read the authors' note in the back of the book, so they had only wondered if maybe this was a true story; they hadn't realized it was memoir until I told them. But I don't think that mattered to their understanding.
If you haven't read this graphic novel, you simply must. If you haven't listened to the podcast, you simply must. This is an amazing time to be a middle grade reader, and even if you're long past that age, you owe it to your younger self to dive into the books you didn't know you were missing, but that you would have loved. Sunny Side Up is definitely one of those.
Sunny Side Up. Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm. 2015. Scholastic. 224 pages. [Source: Review copy]
Sunny Side Up is a graphic novel, a coming-of-age story starring Sunny Lewin. It is set in August 1976. It wasn't Sunny's first vacation choice to go visit her grandfather in Florida. The family had planned on a beach vacation, a vacation where Sunny's best friend could come too. But family troubles--troubles concerning Sunny's older brother--changed everything. Now Sunny is on her own for this trip and visiting her grandfather in his retirement community. Flashes reveal much in this one, readers learn about Sunny's life in Pennsylvania: her friends, her family, and what led to this vacation.
I liked this one. I did. I don't read many graphic novels per year--at most three or four. But I am SO GLAD I read Sunny Side Up. I loved the setting. I love stories featuring grandparents and the senior community. I love the main character, Sunny. I loved, loved, loved how by the end of vacation she had found her voice and REALLY opened up. I also loved that she made a new friend and had a few adventures with someone her own age. I loved that she discovered comic books and super heroes. Some of the pages devoted to her discovering super heroes were among my favorites. And I LOVED the ending.
Overall this one is oh-so-easy to recommend. Even to readers who don't typically read graphic novels.
These graphic novels have wide appeal, as you can see by the range of ages enjoying them at my house—kids ages six through fourteen, this week! One morning this week, I left Huck home with Jane while I took the other kids on an outing. Now, normally Huck would jump at the chance for a whole morning of undivided attention from his big sister, but on this day I returned home to find him sitting on the couch, engrossed in the third Zita book. “The entire time you were gone,” said Jane, answering my inquisitive glance. “He read the whole series, one after the other.” When a six-year-old boy gives up the chance to trounce his grown sister in Mario Kart, you know you’ve got a winning series.
On to picture books. I never manage to track them ALL, because the boys read them in bed at night. You should see the stack on their floor right now. Actually, no you shouldn’t, it’s a mess.
Beanie and Rilla have been using this book for inspiration and instruction for at least a couple of years now. Seems like it is ALWAYS out on a desk or table beside a pad of paper. Has to be their favorite how-to-draw resource. I’ve been trying to add more pictures to my bullet journal and I decided (inspired by Sailor Mimzy, XX, and XX on Instagram) to try to design chibi figures for our whole family. Naturally I turned to my resident experts for advice. I’m still a rookie compared to my girls, but I’m getting there.
Another beloved graphic novel. Sara Varon illustrated my friend Cecil Castellucci’s wonderful Odd Duck, a great favorite around here. Bake Sale is a quirky story about friendship. Yes, that’s an eggplant and a cupcake making…cupcakes. Rilla almost missed our Saturday night art date because she didn’t want to put this one down. (I’m seeing an absorbing-graphic-novel trend this week.)
I guess I didn’t mention this one last week or the week before, but I should have! This is Rilla’s history spine. We read a couple of chapters a week, with Huck listening in—one of our narration texts. This week was the Trojan War.
Oh, I just love this book so much. I asked Beanie to reread it as context for our early 20th-century studies. Betsy’s tour of Europe involves a romance in Venice, a long stay in Germany, and a hurried departure for home from England when the Great War begins. The final chapters involve one of my favorite moments in all of literature. I mean that without any hyperbole at all. It’s even better than the end of Pride and Prejudice.
Dancing Shoes by Noel Streatfeild. Read by: Wonderboy (in progress).
This book makes the list twice this week! Rilla and I are still listening to the audiobook (below) during our Saturday-night art dates. I pulled out the hard copy to check how much we had left, and Wonderboy wanted to read it. He’s slowly making his way through. Fun fact about the edition pictured here: I’m pretty sure this was the first book I ever wrote cover copy for.
Storm Thief by Chris Wooding. Read by: me (in progress).
Rose asked me to read this—one of her favorite books. I’m only a chapter in so far, but it’s gripping. I’ll report back later.
My bedtime Kindle reading is this fictionalized tale of Virginia Woolf and her sister, as told by Vanessa. So far: fascinating and fraught. After I finished To the Lighthouse I was hungry for background on Woolf, and I found this in my queue of digital review copies. Perfect timing. More to come on this one too, I’m sure.
Books Continued from Last Week:
Beanie’s lit class (which I teach) finished a two-week discussion of An Old-Fashioned Girl. Alcott is so funny—this is such a heavy-handed, moralistic book, quite preachy in places, with absolutely zero subtlety in its contrast of simple, wholesome, “old-fashioned” ways of bringing up children (especially girls) and the unhealthy “modern” practices she observed in the middle- and upper-middle class East Coast society of her day. And yet…despite the many anvils she drops all over the place, I am drawn in, I get wrapped up in the characters’ ups and downs. My group of 14-year-old girls found much to discuss in the contrasting upbringings of Fanny and Polly, and in the vision Alcott paints of a “future woman”—”strong-minded, strong-hearted, strong-bodied, strong-souled,” she says—envisioning us, the girls and women of generations to come.
Next up for this group: Sarah Orne Jewett.
We’re nearing the end of Charlotte’s Web—too soon, too soon! When we left off, the crickets were singing about the end of summer, and everyone’s preparing for the county fair. “Summer is over and gone,” sang the crickets. Good-bye, summer, good-bye, goodbye!”
I must apologize for not remembering on whose blog I first learned about Through the Woods by Emily Carroll because I owe that blogger a big thank you. Through the Woods is a short story collection like no other I have ever read. Why might that be? It is a book of graphic short stories.
When I got it from the library I didn’t remember about the graphic part of it and I worried that perhaps I had made a mistake. How can you do a book of graphic short stories? Novel, memoir, biography, but short stories? But you know what? It totally works and it is great!
The stories are of the very short and ambiguous kind and they are successful because the art and the text work so well together to move the story along. They have a fairy tale quality to them and they all felt vaguely familiar because of that but they are completely original. They all feature girls or young women. They are about things like a cold snowy winter and dad has to leave his three daughters alone. He tells them if he isn’t back in three days they are to go to the neighbor’s house. Of course he doesn’t return. The eldest daughter refuses to leave, insisting that dad will be back any time. The youngest doesn’t really seem concerned about anything in particular. And the middle daughter, the one telling the story, insists they follow their father’s wishes because if they don’t they will be completely snowed in and without food. And then during the night someone comes to the door and the eldest sister goes with that someone and doesn’t come back. The night after that, the youngest sister goes with the stranger. The middle sister is left all alone. The food is gone. She walks most of the day through the deep snow to the neighbor’s house and…
Another tale is about a father marrying off his beautiful daughter to the richest man in the county. The house is huge and gorgeous but something is not right. Someone keeps her up at night singing a strange song. Her husband tells her she’s hearing things that aren’t there. One night while her husband is away, she goes looking for the source of the song and discovers more than she bargained for.
The art in this book is amazing. Stark, deeply saturated color in a limited palette of black, white, scarlet red and deep blue, creates high contrast and a rich lushness that magnifies the creep factor of the stories. I raced through them all in less than an hour one evening before bed. The final story gave me such chills that I told Bookman if I have any nightmares Through the Woods is at fault.
A perfect RIP Challenge read for sure, but guaranteed excellent for any dark night or stormy afternoon no matter what time of year.
By Victor Van Scoit Marisa Acocella Marchetto’s name might be most familiar as a cartoonist for the New Yorker or as the author of the acclaimed graphic memoir Cancer Vixen. Her newly released graphic novel Ann Tenna tells the story of Ann Tenna, an influential gossip columnist who because of a freak accident meets her […]
YO-KAI WATCH WILL PREMIERE ON DISNEY XD MONDAY, OCTOBER 5.
Ever have a day where nothing goes right? Was it bad luck? Nope! That was the work of the Yo-kai, beings who cause life’s daily annoyances. With the Yo-kai Watch on his wrist, Nate, an average fifth grader, along with his Yo-kai companions Jibanyan and Whisper, can now communicate with the Yo-kai. There’s just one problem – they’re everywhere, and they love to cause mischief!
The wildly popular Japanese animated comedy series Yo-kai Watchis set to make its U.S. debuton Disney XD. Viewers will be treated to a new episode each day during the premiere week, Monday, October 5 through Friday, October 9, before it begins ongoing weekly debuts on Monday evenings at 5:00 p.m., ET/PT.
Are you an anime fan? Will you be watching? Tell us in the Comments.
Last year, I devoured the first Cemetery Girl graphic novel, The Pretenders, in one sitting. I am not always "into" stories in which the main character has amnesia - I am impatient and want to know what happened to the character, and I also really wish I could help them/heal them/restore their memories immediately - but the quick pace of this story offered intrigue and action rather than hemming and hawing, plus I liked the full-color illustrations...and I still felt the urge to help the protagonist and learn more about her.
Today sees the release of Book Two in the Cemetery Girl trilogy, Inheritance.Here's the cover summary:
She calls herself Calexa Rose Dunhill. She has been living - hiding out - in Dunhill Cemetery ever since someone left her there to die. She has no idea who wants her dead or why, but she isn't about to wait around for her would-be killer to finish the job.
Despite her self-imposed isolation, Calexa’s ability to see spirits - and the memories she receives from them - guarantees she'll never be alone, even among the deceased. The only living people she allows herself to interact with are Kelner, the cemetery's cantankerous caretaker, and Lucinda Cameron, an elderly woman who lives in an old Victorian house across the street. With their friendship, Calexa has regained a link to the world beyond tombstones and mausoleums.
Until the night she witnesses a murder that shatters her life - a life now under a police microscope - as their investigation threatens to uncover Calexa’s true identity...
Cemetery Girl: Inheritance was written by Charlaine Harris and Christopher Golden and illustrated by Don Kramer.
Sunny Side Up
by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; illus. by Matthew Holm; color by Lark Pien
Intermediate Graphix/Scholastic 218 pp.
9/15 978-0-545-74165-1 $23.99
Paper ed. 978-0-545-74166-8 $12.99 g
e-book ed. 978-0-545-74167-5 $12.99
Set largely during the summer of 1976, this semiautobiographical graphic novel from the brother-and-sister team behind the Babymouse series includes an amiable grandfather, U.S. bicentennial festivities, and a trip to Disney World — but it is much more than a lighthearted nostalgia piece. Ten-year-old Sunshine “Sunny” Lewin had been looking forward to spending August at the shore as usual, but her parents have suddenly sent her to Florida to stay with “Gramps” instead. Her less-than-thrilling days at the retirement community, complete with early-bird specials and trips to the post office, improve after she befriends the groundskeeper’s son, comics-obsessed Buzz. The two spend their time doing odd jobs for spending money and mulling over age-old superhero dilemmas (“But they’re heroes. Why can’t they save the people they love?”). These discussions, and the series of flashbacks they often elicit, ultimately lead readers to the truth surrounding Sunny’s visit: back home in Pennsylvania, her teenage brother is struggling with substance abuse, and Sunny is convinced that she made the problem worse — a misconception Gramps lovingly corrects. Matthew Holm’s loose, less-is-more cartooning is easy to read and expressive, if occasionally unpolished. Straightforward dialogue, captions establishing time and setting, and extended wordless scenes swiftly propel the narrative and will be appreciated by Raina Telgemeier fans. An affirming author’s note delves further into the Holm siblings’ personal experience with familial substance abuse and encourages young readers sharing a similar struggle to reach out (as Sunny eventually does) to the responsible adults in their lives.