Category Archives: Graphic Novel

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol. April 24,  2018. First Second, 256 p. ISBN: 9781626724440.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 360.

In Be Prepared, all Vera wants to do is fit in—but that’s not easy for a Russian girl in the suburbs. Her friends live in fancy houses and their parents can afford to send them to the best summer camps. Vera’s single mother can’t afford that sort of luxury, but there’s one summer camp in her price range—Russian summer camp.

Vera is sure she’s found the one place she can fit in, but camp is far from what she imagined. And nothing could prepare her for all the “cool girl” drama, endless Russian history lessons, and outhouses straight out of nightmares!

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Body humor, Bullying; Sexual harassment

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (April 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 16))
Grades 6-9. Vera feels too Russian for her friends in Albany. She can never quite get the hang of sleepover birthday parties, and she’ll never have expensive toys like they do. So when she hears about a summer camp just for Russian American kids, she’s sure she’s finally found her place. But she’s much younger than her tent-mates, and—impossibly—she’s not Russian enough to fit in. She stumbles over the language, doesn’t know all the songs, and generally can’t quite get a handle on roughing it. But what’s more Russian than suffering? With fantastic pacing and poignant emotional turns, Brosgol’s winsome graphic memoir hilariously captures the lengths kids go to in order to fit in as well as the author’s growth from a girl desperate for a place to belong into someone confident enough to stand up for herself. Brosgol’s pitch-perfect art varies between serene, contemplative snapshot-like images of nature and comedic scenes between Vera—cartoonishly drawn with huge, goggle-eyed glasses—and her friends and campmates, all of whom appear in a relatively realistic style. Even though it’s rendered only in black, white, and olive green, Brosgol’s artwork has immense depth, from the facial expressions and gestures to the spot-on visual gags, and she strikes a perfect balance between heartfelt honesty and uproarious, self-deprecating humor. Perfect for fans of Shannon Hale’s Real Friends (2017), this will easily lodge a place in readers’ hearts, even as it has them rolling in the aisles.

Horn Book Magazine (May/June, 2018)
“This book is a true story. And also made up.” Brosgol’s (Anya’s Ghost, rev. 7/11; Leave Me Alone, rev. 9/16) fictionalized graphic memoir captures the ups and downs (let’s be honest—mostly downs) of a stint at a Russian Orthodox summer camp. Feeling like an outsider at school, Russian American preteen Vera is initially thrilled to attend camp with other Russian kids. Once there, however, she struggles to adjust to the strict rules, lack of modern electricity and plumbing, and drama involving her significantly older tentmates. The story’s visual narrative, exposition, and dialogue are in balance as inky illustrations fill smartly placed panels. The tone is accessible, vulnerable, and hilariously kid-centric (there are plenty of potty references). Angle brackets in the speech bubbles indicate dialogue spoken in Russian, and untranslated words and signs build atmosphere. A monochromatic palette using shades of army green reinforces the natural setting, and a cliffhanger ending leaves the door open for a sequel. Gaps between fiction and reality are clarified in an author’s note, which also includes primary documents: real-life photographs and a letter written by Vera to her mom (“Love, and homesick and crying, Vera. P.S. My stomach hurts every night. It does right now, too”). The story, both culturally specific and universal, is a welcome addition to the growing canon of comics by talented women cartoonists (Raina Telgemeier, Tillie Walden, Zeina Abirached, Cece Bell, and many others) based on their own lives. elisa gall

About the Author

Vera Brosgol was born in Moscow, Russia in 1984 and moved to the United States when she was five. She received a diploma in Classical Animation from Sheridan College, and currently works at Laika Inc. in Portland, Oregon drawing storyboards for feature animation.

She has done illustration work for clients such as Nickelodeon, Sony Computer Entertainment, and Simon & Schuster. Her first graphic novel, Anya’s Ghost, was published in 2011 by First Second Books.

She loves knitting, baking, and trying not to kill her plants. She hopes you are enjoying looking at her drawings!

Her website is verabee.com

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Be Prepared on Goodreads

Be Prepared Publisher Page

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Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle Weir

Archival Quality  by Ivy Noelle Weir. March 6, 2018. Oni Press, 280 p. ISBN: 9781620104705.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 380.

After losing her job at the library, Cel Walden starts working at the haunting Logan Museum as an archivist. But the job may not be the second chance she was hoping for, and she finds herself confronting her mental health, her relationships, and before long, her grasp on reality as she begins to dream of a young woman she’s never met, but feels strangely drawn to. Especially after she asks Cel for help…

As Cel attempts to learn more about the woman, she begins losing time, misplacing things, passing out—the job is becoming dangerous, but she can’t let go of this mysterious woman. Who is she? Why is she so fixated on Cel? And does Cel have the power to save her when she’s still trying to save herself?

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Alcohol, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Harsh realities of asylum life

 

Reviews

Booklist (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. The Logan Museum is creepy, but Cel is desperate for a job since she lost her old library position under ambiguous circumstances. Despite an awkward interview, Cel becomes the archivist and spends the night shift cataloging materials from the Logan’s collections. But bumps in the night and weird dreams of a girl in an asylum set Cel on edge, especially since she’s worried about her own mental health. But the ghost girl’s hints that something suspicious is going on with the secretive board are hard to ignore. With the help of librarian Holly and curator Aba, Cel sets out to solve the mystery of the girl and perhaps get to the heart of the museum’s purpose. Steenz’s blocky, thick-lined artwork depicts a refreshingly diverse cast of characters in a wide variety of skin tones and body shapes. Though the pace drags in the middle, and the mysterious origins of the museum are disappointingly underdeveloped, Cel’s ultimate decision to finally seek out professional help for her mental illness is satisfying.

Kirkus Reviews starred (January 15, 2018)
In another time and in different societies, librarians and people with psychosocial disabilities held similar positions: namely guardians of human knowledge. The author, one of the American Library Association’s 2015 Emerging Leaders, reclaims this in Celeste “Cel” Walden, a woman of color fired from her library assistant job due to her multiply diagnosed mental illness. She interviews—and is hired—for an archivist gig at the Logan Museum, an 83-year-old institution housing “one of the largest collections of antique medical photographs, documents, and books,” according to the museum’s exceptionally groovy purple-and-blue–haired librarian, a black woman named Holly Park. With the job comes an apartment that archivists are strongly encouraged to live in due to the overnight hours. The museum also has an aloof, black chief curator named Abayomi Abiola, a history of use as a health facility of many sorts, and a mysterious board of directors…and a ghost connected to the time when the museum served as an asylum for people diagnosed with mental illness. The ghost spurs Celeste to seek justice for her and, in the process—with help from Holly and eventually Abayomi—helps Celeste seek wholeness for herself in terms of her condition. The author and illustrator bring a warm honesty, visually and narrativewise, to the characters, who are mostly people of color, as they navigate the complexities of mental illness, sexuality, love, and social responsibility. In their appealing protagonist, Weir and Steenz return both librarians and people with mental and emotional distress to their original, esteemed roles as keepers of truthful history. (Graphic fantasy. 12-adult)

About the Author

Ivy Noelle Weir has been writing stories for her entire life, and her essays on art, pop culture and librarianship have appeared in a variety of outlets. In addition to her writing, Weir is a visual artist and former librarian who studied photography at Parsons the New School for Design, art history at Goddard College, and holds an MLIS from Clarion University of Pennsylvania. A native of Philadelphia, she currently works in publishing and lives on a crooked old street in an apartment full of Halloween decorations with her partner and tiny dog.

Her website is www.ivynoelleweir.com.

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Archival Quality on Amazon

Archival Quality on Goodreads

Archival Quality Publisher Page

Brazen by Pénélope Bagieu

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu. March 6, 2018. First Second, 304 p. ISBN: 9781626728684.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 770.

Throughout history and across the globe, one characteristic connects the daring women of Brazen: their indomitable spirit.

With her characteristic wit and dazzling drawings, celebrated graphic novelist Pénélope Bagieu profiles the lives of these feisty female role models, some world famous, some little known. From Nellie Bly to Mae Jemison or Josephine Baker to Naziq al-Abid, the stories in this comic biography are sure to inspire the next generation of rebel ladies.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (February 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 12))
Grades 9-12. Step aside Susan B. Anthony and Joan of Arc! French graphic novelist Bagieu’s (California Dreamin’, 2017) latest turns standard feminist anthology fare on its head, introducing 29 lesser-known ladies of various backgrounds, time periods, skin colors, and sexualities. Kicking off with Clémentine Delait, a beloved bearded lady in early twentieth-century France, and concluding with Mae Jemison, the first black woman in space, Bagieu’s vivacious collection spotlights rebels such as Las Mariposas (revolutionary sisters!), Sonita Alizadeh (Afghan rapper!), and Nobel Peace Prize–winning Leymah Gbowee (Liberian activist!) along the way. Bagieu’s writing is clever and concise, and panels brim with sly subtleties; Bagieu delivers laugh-out-loud one-liners in bitsy speech bubbles, and summons tragedy with no words at all, and her fine-lined figures are by turns playfully expressive, fierce, and reverent. Additionally, each profile employs its own distinct color palette; Bagieu’s segment on Finnish illustrator Tove Jansson, for example, heavily features the bold blues, greens, yellows, and reds of Jansson’s signature Moomin comics. Bagieu’s dedication to Syrian activist Naziq al-Abid folds in the colors of the country’s flag. This dynamic paean to women’s flair for fearless resistance will have readers happily sifting through history—and tackling the future with renewed verve. Rock on, ladies.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 1, 2018)
This French graphic novel offers a satisfying collection of minibiographies about bold women—some contemporary, others from centuries ago—who overcame fearsome odds to achieve a variety of goals, becoming the first black woman in space, a rapper in Afghanistan, a pioneering volcanologist, and more.The lives of 33 women of varying geographical, ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds are highlighted in about 10 pages each of colorful, expressive, and often humorous cartoon panels—enough to serve as a catalyst for learning more. Some names are relatively recognizable, such as Temple Grandin and Nellie Bly, while others may be less so, such as Las Mariposas, Dominican sisters who became revolutionaries and human rights activists; Naziq al-Abid, a Syrian humanitarian and feminist; Agnodice, a fourth-century B.C.E. Athenian who disguised herself as a man in order to practice gynecology; and Leymah Gbowee, a Liberian social worker who escaped an abusive marriage and assisted other female survivors of violence. Bagieu delivers a pièce de résistance that succinctly summarizes the obstacles and victories of these daring women. Insightful and clever, at times infuriating and disheartening, this serves as a reminder that the hardships women face today have been shared—and overcome—by many others. (Graphic collective biography. 14-18)

About the Author

Pénélope Bagieu, (born 22 January 1982 Paris), is a French illustrator and comic designer.

Pénélope Bagieu graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Economic and Social studies, she spent a year at ESAT Paris, then at the National School of Decorative Arts in Paris and then at Central Saint Martins College of Art & Design. Multimedia and entertainment, where she graduated in December 2006.

Her website is www.penelope-jolicoeur.com.

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Brazen on Amazon

Brazen on Goodreads

Brazen Publisher Page

The City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott

The City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott. April 24, 2018. First Second, 224 p. ISBN: 9781250152558.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 2.9; Lexile: 300.

When a wealthy and sheltered young girl stumbles into a pitched war between two fairy kingdoms, the fate of San Francisco itself hangs in the balance!

The first decade of the twentieth century is coming to a close, and San Francisco is still recovering from the great earthquake of 1906. Isabel watched the destruction safely from her window, sheltered within her high-society world.

Isabel isn’t the kind of girl who goes on adventures. But that all changes when she stumbles through the invisible barrier that separates the human world from the fairy world. She quickly finds herself caught up in an age-old war and fighting on the side of the Seelie—the good fairies.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Allusion to cannibalism, Depiction of severed heads

 

Reviews

Booklist (March 15, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 14))
Grades 4-7. Isabel loves San Francisco, even just a few years after the terrible earthquake. When she slips into an alternate fairy city, Isabel is caught up in a war that may tear apart both the fairy land and the world of humans. On the surface, Scott’s tale is a fairly standard story about a human caught in fairy business, but she and illustrator Robinson work hard to give their story its own personality. In addition to reflecting the realistic diversity of San Francisco—Latina Isabel makes friends with Filipino Benjie, for instance—Scott and Robinson include fairykind from different world cultures, as well as some they made up to reflect both the ancient and modern worlds. Robinson’s art is equally up to the task of drawing realistic humans or fantastical fairies, and the soft color palette is comforting, even when the action is tense. The result is a story where there aren’t many good or bad creatures but, instead, good or bad choices, making this adventure a fun story with a warm heart.

School Library Journal (March 1, 2018)
Gr 4-7-Isabel, a young Latinx girl in early 20th-century San Francisco, becomes embroiled in a war between the Seelie and Unseelie fairy courts in this historical fiction/fantasy graphic novel. After the disappearance of his daughter and heir, the Seelie king is losing the war, and he sends a messenger with a powerful and mysterious necklace that was stolen from Coscar, the Unseelie king. Meanwhile, in the human world, Isabel has been sent to the country to stay with her easily distracted artist father while her high-society mother travels in Europe. When Isabel stumbles into the fairy realm and finds the fatally injured messenger, she takes up the quest to find a Seelie general on the fairy side of San Francisco and deliver the necklace. Aiding Isabel in her mission are Button, a small, mushroom-headed Seelie fairy, and Benjie, a Filipino boy of uncertain loyalties who has moved between the fairy and human worlds since he was orphaned during the 1906 earthquake. The characters are nuanced for a mostly plot-driven adventure story, especially the Unseelie fairies, who develop beyond flat antagonists. The illustrations are dynamic, with panels varying in size and scale to keep up with the fast-paced plot. The detailed backgrounds are helpful in clarifying the switches between the more realistic human world and the whimsical fairy realm. –Kacy Helwick, New Orleans Public Library

About the Author

Mairghread Scott is an animation and comicbook writer specializing in action-comedy. Her animation work spans such titles as Guardians of the GalaxyUltimate Spider-ManTransformers: Robots in Disguise, and more. You can also read her work in comic book series such as: Marvel Universe Guardians of the Galaxy, Transformers: Till All Are One, Wonder Woman 75th Anniversary Special, and her creator-owned work Toil and Trouble. She is the author of the graphic novel Science Comics: Robots & Drones, also from First Second.

Her website is www.mscottwriter.com

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The City on the Other Side on Amazon

The City on the Other Side on Goodreads

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The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. February 13, 20187. First Second, 288 p. ISBN: 9781250159854.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 360.

Paris, at the dawn of the modern age:

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend? Jen Wang weaves an exuberantly romantic tale of identity, young love, art, and family. A fairy tale for any age, The Prince and the Dressmaker will steal your heart.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Discrimination, Transphobia

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 7-12. Frances, a seamstress living in Paris at the turn of the century, causes quite a stir when she designs a daring, avant-garde ballgown for a count’s daughter, who blithely asks to be dressed “like the devil’s wench.” Though the countess is displeased, her daughter is enchanted, and so is the crown prince, Sebastian, who immediately hires Frances with an unusual request: he wants her to make him a wardrobe of bold, glamorous gowns. Secrecy, of course, is paramount, but Frances loves having the freedom to design the dresses of her dreams, which are making quite a name for the prince’s au courant alter ego, Lady Crystallia. Wang’s buoyant, richly colored artwork beautifully envisions Frances’ designs against an already captivating background. It’s not that the de rigueur fashions are ugly or boring—rather, everything is beautiful—but Frances’ ensembles stand out stunningly. As Lady Crystallia gains notoriety, and Frances gets closer to meeting her idol, a designer of ballet costumes, elements of Frances’ designs trickle subtly into the wider fashion world. But fame brings attention, and Seb’s worries about being exposed surpass his loyalty to his friend. Though the conclusion is perhaps too rosy given the suggested time period, that’s an easy quibble to forgive, thanks to the gorgeously dense artwork, lively sense of movement, effervescent fashions, sweet romance, and heartwarming denouement.

Kirkus Reviews (December 1, 2017)
Once upon a time, there was a prince who felt fabulous only in exquisite gowns. Prince Sebastian’s parents, like fleets of fairy-tale progenitors before, are myopically focused on getting their kid hitched. Rendezvous with potential brides rattle Sebastian, and not just because he’s only 16 and averse to icky matrimony. It’s because he dresses in couture gowns and is petrified of facing what a reveal would mean to his parents and potential wife. Weary of donning his mother’s duds, he hires Frances, a seamstress with an avant-garde flair. Their friendship quickly evolves as she harnesses her talent and he becomes empowered to make public appearances as his alter ego, Lady Crystallia. When Lady Crystallia becomes a fashion plate du jour—and secrecy verges on revelation—Sebastian and Frances are at a crossroads: can they remain true to themselves, each other, and the world? Wang’s linework has as much movement and play as Crystallia’s frocks, and her palette seamlessly wanders from petit-four brights to the moody darks of an ombre swatch. This is preindustrial Paris, so the cast is white, with the only otherness being class differentiation. Sebastian’s story shouldn’t be taken as a testament to how easy it is for one to reveal one’s true self to one’s parents, particularly if one is LGBTQIAP: Sebastian meets acceptance far too easily, particularly for such a public figure in such a conservative age. Sebastian’s summation of Frances’ aesthetic underscores the ultimate blueprint: fantasy and drama. A biblio bias-cut whose shimmer is welcome despite its optimistic shortsightedness. (Historical graphic fiction. 12-18)

About the Author

Jen Wang is a cartoonist and illustrator living in Los Angeles. She is the co-author of the New York Times Bestselling graphic novel IN Real Life (First Second) with Cory Doctorow, Koko Be Good (First Second), and The Prince and the Dressmaker (First Second/February 2018). Her work has also appearred in Los Angeles Magazine, Hazlitt, Slate, McSweeney’s, and Portland Mercury. She is the co-founder and organizer of the annual festival Comic Arts Los Angeles. Her website is www.jenwang.net

Around the Web

The Prince and the Dressmaker on Amazon

The Prince and the Dressmaker on Goodreads

The Prince and the Dressmaker Publisher Page

The Ripple Kingdom by Gigi D.G.

The Ripple Kingdom by Gigi D.G.. February 27, 2018. First Second, 240 p. ISBN: 9781250159823.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 3.2; Lexile: 350.

The quest to save Dreamside continues! After a surprise attack at sea, Cucumber finds himself in the Ripple Kingdom, home to white sand, blue waves . . . oh yeah, and the giant, terrible squid monster holding Almond and Sir Carrot captive. Can our so-called “legendary hero” rescue his companions from the nefarious Splashmaster?

Nah, probably not.

Good thing Princess Nautilus is here! With her wit, charm, and positive attitude, there’s no way they can lose. But saving the day won’t be as simple as it seems once a 500,000-year-old secret comes to light . . .

Adapted from Gigi D.G.’s popular webcomic series of the same name, Cucumber Quest: The Ripple Kingdom is the second book of a clever, adorable, and hilarious four-volume heroic adventure that is sure to make you hungry for sweets and action.

Sequel to: The Doughnut Kingdom

Part of Series: Cucumber Quest (Book 2)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Body humor

 

Reviews

School Library Journal (January 1, 2018)
Gr 2-5-D.G. presents a second print installment based on her hit webcomic Cucumber Quest. This leg of the quest centers on the watery Ripple Kingdom (one of the seven realms of Dreamside), where bunny siblings Cucumber and Almond have been separated. Almond is a fighter but finds herself at the mercy of Splashmaster, a giant squid with an abysmally low intelligence score. Reluctant hero Cucumber has washed ashore and rescues Princess Nautilus from a mob of crabs. Cucumber and Almond eventually reunite to defeat the Splashmaster, who is one of the henchmen of the Nightmare Knight, the “big bad” summoned once every 5,000 years to help a greedy mortal bent on world domination. With the help of a hilarious supporting cast, Cucumber and Almond must save the land of Dreamside once and for all. D.G.’s comic has transitioned from web to page beautifully, with the exception of a few scene transitions that aren’t quite clear. Readers looking for high action and ridiculous comedy will devour this tale. While this title can stand alone, those who are familiar with the first installment will get more out of it. Soft lines and saturated color convey light and emotion perfectly, creating a style sure to draw elementary and middle grade readers alike. VERDICT Jump in! The water in Ripple Kingdom is just fine, even if it is chock-full of sassy crabs and one giant vacuous squid. A recommended purchase for all graphic novel collections.-Taylor Worley, Springfield Public Library, OR

About the Author

Gigi D.G. is a comic artist from Southern California who does concept work for animation and video games. She started creating Cucumber Quest in 2011, and it is her first published work. Her website is cucumber.gigididi.com

Around the Web

The Ripple Kingdom on Amazon

The Ripple Kingdom on Goodreads

The Ripple Kingdom Publisher Page

Speak: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson

Spaek: The Graphic Novel by Laurie Halse Anderson. February 6, 2018. Farrar, Straus and Giroux Books for Young Readers, 374 p. ISBN: 9780374300289.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4.

The modern classic Speak is now a graphic novel.

“Speak up for yourself-we want to know what you have to say.”

From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless–an outcast–because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. Through her work on an art project, she is finally able to face what really happened that night: She was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Racial taunts, Violence, Underage drinking, Smoking, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Rape, Attempted sexual assault, Self-harm, Realities of mental illness and PTSD

 

Video Review

Reviews

Booklist starred (January 1, 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 9))
Grades 8-12. Anderson’s searing debut novel, Speak (1999), about Melinda, a high-school freshman dealing with the traumatic aftermath of rape, is filled with deep feeling, empowering triumph, and moments of startling horror. Not only is Melinda trying to forget her rape—a challenge when her rapist freely wanders the halls of their school—she’s flailing in her classes and an outcast among her peers, until an art-class assignment and some slow-building friendships give her the courage to speak up. Carroll, well-known for her horror comics, does an excellent job of bringing the vignettes of Anderson’s novel to the graphic format. In fine-lined grayscale artwork, Carroll powerfully evokes moods with creeping, smudgy shadows; faces with missing eyes and mouths; and jagged panel borders. Grasping hands reach down from tree branches until trees and hands are tumbled together in a juddering haystack of overlapping lines. Those moments are striking, but they’re even more striking when set against scenes of Melinda’s quiet, isolated day-to-day reality, as well as her gradual growth and steps toward recovery. Carroll strikes a deft balance, gracefully juggling the acute terror of Melinda’s rape, the pernicious paranoia that follows her in its wake, the swirling rumors and bullying surrounding her, and glimmering moments of hope and comfort. With spellbinding artwork, this exceptional adaptation masterfully does justice to its source material while adding new depth and nuance.

Kirkus Reviews starred (February 15, 2018)
Anderson’s timeless and important tale of high-school sexual assault and its aftermath undergoes a masterful graphic novel transformation.Melinda, a nascent freshman, is raped at a party shortly before the beginning of school. In an attempt to report the crime, Melinda calls 911, and the party is shut down. When the semester begins, Melinda has become a pariah who spends her days silent. In addition to internalizing the emotional aspects of the assault, Melinda is relentlessly bullied by her peers and often runs into her attacker—a popular senior—who delights in terrorizing her. Although Anderson’s novel came out nearly 20 years ago, this raw adaptation feels current, even with contemporary teenage technological minutiae conspicuously absent. Melinda relies upon art to work as a vulnerary; this visual adaptation takes readers outside Melinda’s head and sits them alongside her, seeing what she sees and feeling the importance and power of her desire to create art and express herself. Carroll’s stark black-and-white illustrations are exquisitely rendered, capturing the mood through a perfectly calibrated lens. With the rise of women finding their voices and speaking out about sexual assault in the media, this reworking of the enduring 1999 classic should be on everyone’s radar. Powerful, necessary, and essential. (Graphic novel. 13-adult)

About the Author

Laurie Halse Anderson is the New York Times-bestselling author who writes for kids of all ages. Known for tackling tough subjects with humor and sensitivity, her work has earned numerous ALA and state awards. Two of her books, Speak and Chains, were National Book Award finalists.

Mother of four and wife of one, Laurie lives outside Philadelphia. Her website is http://madwomanintheforest.com/

 Around the Web

Speak: The Graphic Novel on Amazon

Speak: The Graphic Novel on Goodreads

Speak: The Graphic Novel Publisher Page

The Gnawer of Rocks by Louise Flaherty

The Gnawer of Rocks by Louise Flaherty. November 30, 2017. Inhabit Media, 56 p. ISBN: 9781772271652.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

While everyone is busy preparing for the coming winter, two girls wander away from their camp, following a path of strange, beautiful stones. Each stone is lovelier than the last, and the trail leads them farther and farther away from camp. But what starts out as a peaceful afternoon on the land quickly turns dangerous when the girls find themselves trapped in the cave of Mangittatuarjuk—the Gnawer of Rocks! Based on a traditional Inuit legend, this graphic novel introduces readers to a dark and twisted creature that haunts the Northern landscape and preys on unsuspecting children…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Allusion to cannibalism, Depiction of severed heads

 

About the Author

Louise Flaherty grew up in Clyde River, Nunavut. Early on, Louise was fortunate to be surrounded by great storytellers. Her grandparents instilled in her a passion for Inuktitut, and an understanding that speaking Inuktitut is a fundamental part of Inuit identity. In 2005, Louise co-founded Inhabit Media Inc., an independent publishing house dedicated to the preservation and promotion of Inuit knowledge and values, and the Inuktitut language. Inhabit Media has since published dozens of books and Inuktitut resources that are used in classrooms throughout Nunavut.

Around the Web

The Gnawer of Rocks on Amazon

The Gnawer of Rocks on Goodreads

The Gnawer of Rocks Publisher Page

The Altered History of Willow Sparks by Tara O’Connor

The Altered History of Willow Sparks by Tara O’Connor. March 6, 2018. Oni Press, 152 p. ISBN: 9781620104507.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 300.

What happens when you can finally get everything you ever wanted?

Willow Sparks and her best friend Georgia Pratt are at the bottom of the social ladder at Twin Pines High School, just trying to get through each day relatively unscathed. But when Willow finds a mysterious book that allows her to literally change her life, it feels like her luck is finally turning. As she becomes more and more popular with each entry into the book, her old life, including her friendship with Georgia, seems miles away. Yet as Willow will discover, every action has a reaction, and the future has unusual—even dangerous—ways of protecting itself

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Violence, Underage drinking, Bullying

 

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (October 15, 2017)
Relentlessly bullied by the popular clique, the titular protagonist discovers an unexpected way to change her future.Plagued with tragically uncool hair and unfortunate acne, Willow Sparks certainly is not a member of the popular crowd. However, her two best friends, Georgia and Gary, are loyal, and together the trio navigates the social atrocities of their high school. While at her job at the local library, Willow finds herself cornered by her mean-girl nemeses and, after a violent episode, unearths a secret library within the library that’s filled with unusual books. She finds a mysterious tome bearing her name that allows her to write her own future—but with devastating effects. While the semi-Faustian trope certainly is not new, O’Connor’s graphic-novel spin on it is fun and captivating. Her art is expressive and deftly captures all the angst and action through a cinematic lens. However, as Willow’s self-conceived plans unravel, the plotting goes with it, leaving the strong beginning floundering through a hasty resolution. While Willow is fully fleshed out, the secondary characters—including best friend Georgia and Willow’s librarian boss—are frustratingly not as well-developed. Despite these quibbles, O’Connor’s offering is an enjoyable and quick dip into the dark side of wish fulfillment. Main character Willow is white, as is Gary, and Georgia is Asian. An intriguing and incisive plot that starts promisingly but ultimately falls flat. (Graphic fantasy. 12-16)

Publishers Weekly (November 20, 2017)
Willow Sparks just wants to get through high school without students in popular cliques harassing her and teachers embarrassing her. After bullies show up at the library where she works and push her down a flight of stairs, she discovers a secret underground wing-and a book with her name on it. By writing in the book, she can reshape her future, and soon she’s ditching her best friends Georgia and Gary to hang out with the cool kids. The pale lavender-gray coloring of O’Connor’s two-tone cartooning fits the eerie, brooding atmosphere of this magic-inflected cautionary tale. But although O’Connor’s talents as an artist aren’t in question-the torments that Willow and her friends face in gym class, school bathrooms, and elsewhere feel painfully real-the overall story is rushed and too-tidily resolved. Even considering the influence of the magical book, the speed with which Willow drops her friends is jarring, and their own subplots get short shrift (Georgia is moving out of town, and Gary is nervously starting to come out to family and friends). It’s an intriguing story that doesn’t have enough space to reach its full potential. Ages 13-up. (Feb.)

About the Author

Tara is a cartoonist currently residing in the New Jersey wilderness. When she’s not drawing comics, she’s teaching them. She drinks way too much tea and coffee, and on any given day there’s a 90% chance that every meal she had was cereal.

 

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The Altered History of Willow Sparks on Amazon

The Altered History of Willow Sparks on Goodreads

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The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis

The Breadwinner by Deborah Ellis. January 1, 2018. Groundwood Books, 80 p. ISBN: 9781773061634.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 4.3.

This beautiful graphic-novel adaptation of The Breadwinner animated film tells the story of eleven-year-old Parvana who must disguise herself as a boy to support her family during the Taliban’s rule in Afghanistan.

Parvana lives with her family in one room of a bombed-out apartment building in Kabul, Afghanistan’s capital city. Parvana’s father — a history teacher until his school was bombed and his health destroyed — works from a blanket on the ground in the marketplace, reading letters for people who cannot read or write. One day, he is arrested for having forbidden books, and the family is left without someone who can earn money or even shop for food.

As conditions for the family grow desperate, only one solution emerges. Forbidden to earn money as a girl, Parvana must transform herself into a boy, and become the breadwinner.

Readers will want to linger over this powerful graphic novel with its striking art and inspiring story.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: War, Violence, Misogyny

 

Movie/Book Trailer

Reviews

Kirkus Reviews (January 1, 2018)
A graphic-novel adaptation of Ellis’ heartwarming story of Parvana, a young girl in Afghanistan who cuts her hair and dresses as a boy to earn money for her family when her father is imprisoned by the Taliban.Adding a layer of remove from the original, this graphic novel is an adaptation of the upcoming film version, and it varies significantly from the original book. Notable deviations include the absence of helpful Mrs. Weera, who provides so much support to Parvana and her family in the original book, and two new details: a grudging former student who tattles on Parvana’s father and Parvana’s solo visit to rescue her imprisoned father. Much story is lost as a result of the numerous deviations, which also sadly promote Western views of Afghanistan, such as rampant corruption and violent men. Even as a stand-alone title for readers not familiar with the book, the storyline is bumpy, moving in fits and starts. At one point, Parvana’s mother decides to abandon Parvana and leave for the neighboring village but then changes her mind midway. Another disappointment is the book cover, which shows Parvana selling chai, something she does not do in either story (although her friend does). The only redeeming factor is the beautiful artwork, stills from the film, with its vivid use of colors to display context, such as use of red for war and black for the Taliban rule. A rather unsatisfying graphic novel, sure to disappoint fans of Ellis’ book. (Graphic historical fiction. 10-14)

About the Author

Deborah Ellis has achieved international acclaim with her courageous and dramatic books that give Western readers a glimpse into the plight of children in developing countries.

She has won the Governor General’s Award, Sweden’s Peter Pan Prize, the Ruth Schwartz Award, the University of California’s Middle East Book Award, the Jane Addams Children’s Book Award and the Vicky Metcalf Award.

A long-time feminist and anti-war activist, she is best known for The Breadwinner Trilogy, which has been published around the world in seventeen languages, with more than a million dollars in royalties donated to Street Kids International and to Women for Women, an organization that supports health and education projects in Afghanistan. In 2006, Deb was named to the Order of Ontario.

Her website is www.deborahellis.com

Around the Web

The Breadwinner on Amazon

The Breadwinner on Goodreads

The Breadwinner Publisher Page