Category Archives: Graphic Novel

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



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 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


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

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Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani. October 3, 2017. First Second, 176 p. ISBN: 9781626720886.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 2.9.

Priyanka Das has so many unanswered questions: Why did her mother abandon her home in India years ago? What was it like there? And most importantly, who is her father, and why did her mom leave him behind? But Pri’s mom avoids these questions―the topic of India is permanently closed.

For Pri, her mother’s homeland can only exist in her imagination. That is, until she find a mysterious pashmina tucked away in a forgotten suitcase. When she wraps herself in it, she is transported to a place more vivid and colorful than any guidebook or Bollywood film. But is this the real India? And what is that shadow lurking in the background? To learn the truth, Pri must travel farther than she’s ever dared and find the family she never knew.

In this heartwarming graphic novel debut, Nidhi Chanani weaves a tale about the hardship and self-discovery that is born from juggling two cultures and two worlds.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts


Book Trailer


Booklist (October 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 4))
Grades 6-10. Priyanka is deeply curious about her mother’s past in India, but she won’t tell her daughter anything, not even Pri’s father’s name. Meanwhile, Pri finds a beautifully embroidered pashmina hidden in a closet, and when she puts it on, she’s transported to a fantastical version of India, full of colorful scenes, magical creatures, and delicious food, which only amplifies her desire to visit the country. A family crisis causes her mother to reconsider her stance, and soon Pri embarks on the journey she’s been dreaming about. Yet when she arrives in India, it’s nothing like the visions the pashmina has offered, but tracking down the garment’s origin helps illuminate both Pri’s relationship to India and her better grasp of her mother’s perspective. Chanani’s stylized cartoons shift from a palette of gray, black, and white when depicting Pri’s life in California to bold, vibrant color when the pashmina transports its wearer to a fantastical reality. Although some plot mechanics are a little murky, Chanani’s debut is a lively, engaging exploration of culture, heritage, and self-discovery.

Horn Book Magazine (January/February, 2018)
In this debut graphic novel, comics-loving teen Priyanka doesn’t know much about her mom’s old life in India–or about her dad (“that subject is permanently closed”). Then Pri finds a beautiful pashmina in an old suitcase. When she wears it, Pri has visions of a vibrant India, complete with talking animals and an ominous shadowy figure. When Pri travels to India herself, she solves the mystery of the shadowy figure and the pashmina’s origins (the goddess Shakti gave it the power to “allow women to see their choices”). Pri learns that even though the true India isn’t the enchanted land she envisioned, that doesn’t make it any less special: an aunt tells her, “Do not look at the dirt. Look at the people.” Pri also learns that she and her mother are crucially connected through their shared experiences with the pashmina. Chanani’s rounded figures give the illustrations accessibility, and colors are used to great emotional effect. Contemporary reality is shown in grayscale; the past in sepia hues; and Pri’s imagined India in rich colors that radiate off the pages. Priyanka is a realistically complex, sometimes moody character, with depth shown through her varied interests and inquisitive musings. Although the protagonist is in high school, younger readers (especially fans of Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost, rev. 7/11) will have no trouble reading up. elisa gall

About the Author

Nidhi Chanani is an artist and author and the owner of Everyday Love Art. Her debut graphic novel, Pashmina, releases in October 2017. She recently illustrated Misty – The Proud Cloud, a children’s book by Hugh Howey.

Nidhi was born in Calcutta and raised in suburban southern California. She creates because it makes her happy – with the hope that it can make others happy, too. In April of 2012 she was honored by the Obama Administration as a Champion of Change.

Nidhi dreams and draws every day with her husband, daughter and their two cats in the San Francisco Bay Area. Her website is

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Pashmina on Amazon

Pashmina on Goodreads

Pashmina Publisher Page

The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.

The Doughnut Kingdom by Gigi D.G.. October 10, 2017. First Second, 187 p. ISBN: 9781250158031.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 4.0.

What happens when an evil queen gets her hands on an ancient force of destruction?

World domination, obviously.

The seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a legendary hero. Instead, they’ll have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician who just wants to go to school. As destiny would have it, he and his way more heroic sister, Almond, must now seek the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Queen Cordelia’s Nightmare Knight.

Can these bunny siblings really save the world in its darkest hour?

Sure, why not?

Part of Series: Cucumber Quest (Book 1)

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Body humor



Kirkus Reviews (September 1, 2017)
Little sisters can’t save the day—or can they? When the nefarious Queen Cordelia takes over Caketown Castle in the Doughnut Kingdom, a hero is needed. Cucumber, a white rabbit with an orange pageboy and a penchant for learning, is chosen, however, he’d rather go to school as planned; indeed, his spunky little sister, Almond, seems better suited for the job. Unfortunately, the Dream Oracle rejects her: “Little sisters aren’t legendary heroes.” Despite parents and oracles, the siblings set out to prove that a hero need not be male. Over the course of their quest in the pastry-themed kingdom, the bunnies meet a silly assortment of similarly food-inspired characters, including a toothless gummy bear and three knights named Sir Bacon, Dame Lettuce, and Sir Tomato. Originally a webcomic created entirely in Photoshop, D.G.’s candy-colored charmer is imbued with a delightfully snarky humor, helping to offset the profusion of cuteness. Gender roles are explored, affirming the notion of staying true to oneself rather than capitulating to the expectations of others. The worldbuilding is cleverly conveyed in bright and dynamic illustrations. Although populated almost entirely by bunnies, they are diversely hued, ranging from light ivory tones to deep, warm browns. Playful aftermatter includes a Q-and-A with the characters, character bios, and a map. An auspicious series opener. (Graphic fantasy. 7-12)

Publishers Weekly (September 11, 2017)
In this first volume in the Cucumber Quest series (originally published as a webcomic), Cucumber the rabbit’s plans to attend Puffington’s Academy for the Magical Gifted (and/or Incredibly Wealthy) are put on hold when the evil Queen Cordelia makes a play for world domination, forcing Cucumber to embark on a heroic quest instead. Cucumber’s younger sister, Almond, is much better suited to questing, but she is constantly underestimated by adults because of her age and gender (comments like “Little sisters aren’t legendary heroes” pop up often). Almond isn’t content to sit at home, of course, so she and Cucumber take on Queen Cordelia, facing off against foes like Sir Tomato, Dame Lettuce, and Sir Bacon as a team. Though Cucumber is ostensibly the central character, Almond steals the show. Comics artist D.G.’s cartooning aesthetic is soft, creamy, and colorful, with an inherent bubbliness that pairs well with the silliness of the story; the stakes don’t feel especially high. Overall, this is a light, charmingly illustrated adventure that successfully introduces Cucumber, Almond, and a humorous supporting cast while setting up future tales. Ages 8-12.

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

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Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly

Poppies of Iraq by Brigitte Findakly. September 5, 2017. Drawn & Quarterly, 120 p. ISBN: 9781770462939.  Int Lvl: AD; Rdg Lvl: AD; Lexile: 830.

A personal account of an Iraqi childhood

Poppies of Iraq is Brigitte Findakly’s nuanced tender chronicle of her relationship with her homeland Iraq, co-written and drawn by her husband, the acclaimed cartoonist Lewis Trondheim. In spare and elegant detail, they share memories of her middle class childhood touching on cultural practices, the education system, Saddam Hussein’s state control, and her family’s history as Orthodox Christians in the arab world. Poppies of Iraqis intimate and wide-ranging; the story of how one can become separated from one’s homeland and still feel intimately connected yet ultimately estranged.

Signs of an oppressive regime permeate a seemingly normal life: magazines arrive edited by customs; the color red is banned after the execution of General Kassim; Baathist militiamen are publicly hanged and school kids are bussed past them to bear witness. As conditions in Mosul worsen over her childhood, Brigitte’s father is always hopeful that life in Iraq will return to being secular and prosperous. The family eventually feels compelled to move to Paris, however, where Brigitte finds herself not quite belonging to either culture. Trondheim brings to life Findakly’s memories to create a poignant family portrait that covers loss, tragedy, love, and the loneliness of exile.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Strong language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, War, Violence, Criminal culture, Terrorism, Religious fanaticism, Discussion of rape



Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 5-8. Growing up in Mosul right before the reign of Saddam Hussein, memoirist Findakly recounts stories from her childhood in a country undergoing radical changes. Beginning with family picnics and short vignettes of her Iraqi father’s dental practice and her French mother’s slow acclimation to life in a country very different from hers, the focus shifts to more sobering tales: the casual censorship of everything from magazine articles to phone conversations; students being sent to mandatory work camps; a cousin being disfigured on the battlefield. Each story arc is punctuated by family photos and cultural notes that help bring the family to life and make their experiences personal. Findakly is never naive or sentimental, recounting her life in Iraq with the innocence of a child but the cognizance of an adult. The illustrations by her husband, acclaimed cartoonist Lewis Trondheim, complement that innocence, staying true to the political upheaval described, while keeping much of the trauma offstage. A moving tribute to familial love in times of war.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 15, 2017)
From the daughter of a French mother and Iraqi father comes a touching memoir of childhood in Iraq. Writing with her husband, Findakly strings together memories and facts from her family’s past and present as well as from Iraqi culture, as if she is sharing herself with readers over tea. She begins with happy childhood moments in Iraq and her school days, her parents’ backgrounds and how they met, and introductions to other family members and neighbors. Especially poignant are the portrayals of her French mother’s successful adjustment to Iraqi society over 23 years and Findakly’s own process of growing apart from Iraqi society after her father decides they should move to France when she is a teenager. Trondheim’s charming cartoon drawings, colored by Findakly, help readers envision the worlds the family straddles, while occasional pages of family photographs remind readers of the author’s historical reality. Readers feel they are getting an inside look into an impenetrable world with cultural and historical notes on pages titled “In Iraq” interspersed throughout the book. This personal portrayal of the impact of war and societal upheaval on one family will help many Western readers to see how the past half-century of conflict has devastated a region rich in ancient culture. Small in size but large in impact, this intimate memoir is a highly relevant and compassionate story of family, community, prejudice, and the struggle to love when the forces of the world push groups apart. (timeline) (Graphic memoir. 10-adult)

About the Author

Co-writer and colourist Brigitte Findakly was born in Mosul, Iraq, in 1959 and lived there until 1973. Cartoonist Lewis Trondheim was born in Fontainebleau, France in 1964. They have two children and live in the south of France.

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Poppies of Iraq on Amazon

Poppies of Iraq on Goodreads

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Poppies of Iraq  Publisher Page

Raid of No Return by Nathan Hale

Raid of No Return by Nathan Hale. November 7, 2017. Amulet Books, 128 p. ISBN: 9781419725562.  Int Lvl: 3-6; Rdg Lvl: 5.4.

Nathan Hale tackles a topic fans have been asking about for years: World War II.

On December 7, 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, officially bringing the United States into World War II. A new generation of pilots were recruited to fly bombing missions for the United States, and from that group, volunteers were requested for a dangerous secret assignment. For the first time in American history, Army bombers would be launched from an aircraft carrier. Once at sea, they were told their mission was a retaliation strike against targets in Tokyo. But on the day of the raid, a Japanese patrol boat spotted them and they had to launch early, with barely enough fuel to get them past their target.

After the bombing, some pilots crashed, some were captured, and many ended up in mainland China and were carried to safety by Chinese villagers, being hunted by Japanese forces all the while. With tales of high-flying action and bravery, Raid of No Return is a story of heartbreak and survival during wartime.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Violence, Alcohol, Harsh realities of war



About the Author

Nathan Hale is the New York Times best-selling author/illustrator of the Hazardous Tales series, as well as many picture books including Yellowbelly and Plum go to School, the Twelve Bots of Christmas and The Devil You Know.

He is the illustrator of the Eisner-nominated graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge and its sequel, Calamity Jack. He also illustrated Frankenstein: A Monstrous Parody, The Dinosaurs’ Night Before Christmas, Animal House and many others.

His website is

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Raid of No Return on Goodreads

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Raid of No Return Publisher Page

Poe: Stories and Poems by Gareth Hinds

Poe: Stories and Poems by Gareth Hinds. August 1, 2017. Candlewick Press, 120 p. ISBN: 9780763681128.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA; Lexile: 960.

In a thrilling adaptation of Edgar Allan Poe’s best-known works, acclaimed artist-adapter Gareth Hinds translates Poe’s dark genius into graphic-novel format.

It is true that I am nervous. But why will you say that I am mad?

In “The Cask of Amontillado,” a man exacts revenge on a disloyal friend at carnival, luring him into catacombs below the city. In “The Masque of the Red Death,” a prince shielding himself from plague hosts a doomed party inside his abbey stronghold. A prisoner of the Spanish Inquisition, faced with a swinging blade and swarming rats, can’t see his tormentors in “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” a milky eye and a deafening heartbeat reveal the effects of conscience and creeping madness. Alongside these tales are visual interpretations of three poems — “The Raven,” “The Bells,” and Poe’s poignant elegy to lost love, “Annabel Lee.” The seven concise graphic narratives, keyed to thematic icons, amplify and honor the timeless legacy of a master of gothic horror.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Bloody images


Book Trailer


Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 8-11. Veteran illustrator Hinds breathes vivid life into seven of Edgar Allan Poe’s most well-known stories and poems in his latest adaptation. Faithfully preserving the gothic tone of the original texts, from the macabre endpapers filled with symbols of death to the twisted anguished faces found throughout its pages, the author never shies away from the darkness found there, instead distilling Poe’s fascination with madness, death, and terror into single haunting images: a sliver of lamplight shines on a milky blue eye in “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and a shadowy black raven haunts a solitary figure reminiscent of Poe in its namesake poem. Color is used to full effect in each story; the garish colors of an ill-fated party foreshadow impending doom, while the saturated red surrounding a man about to die only serves to heighten the emotional intensity. Title pages include a key to the main themes and year of publication, while an author’s note provides an overview of Poe’s life and insight into each story and poem. A welcome addition for fans of graphic horror.

Horn Book Magazine (November/December, 2017)
Graphic novelist Hinds (The Odyssey, rev. 11/10; Macbeth, rev. 3/15) continues his tour through the classics as he takes on the work of Edgar Allan Poe, adapting three poems (“Annabel Lee,” “The Bells,” and “The Raven”) and four stories (“The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Pit and the Pendulum,” and “The Tell-Tale Heart”). A “Poe Checklist” at the beginning enumerates a dozen common themes and tropes (e.g., “creepy animals,” “premature burial”), and the title page for each entry lists those that are pertinent. As always, Hinds’s adaptations lean heavily on the original language of the text with an eye toward accessibility for the modern reader and an understanding that the illustrations will carry a good portion of the narrative. Hinds’s varied illustrations are a good match for Poe’s atmospheric blend of horror and mystery. The pictures are often dark and shadowy, but color is used judiciously throughout to great effect; “The Masque of the Red Death” has abundant flourishes of red, for example, while “The Raven” is in black and white. Striking imagery, too, catches the eye and the imagination. The final spread of “The Bells” looks up into a bright full moon to see not just the church bell but also the ghouls looking like veritable gargoyles come to life. An appended author’s note gives general background on Poe and additional insight into each story or poem. jonathan hunt

About the Author

Gareth Hinds is the acclaimed creator of the graphic novels Macbeth, The Odyssey, Beowulf, Romeo and Juliet, The Merchant of Venice, and King Lear. Gareth Hinds lives near Washington, D.C.

Her website is

Around the Web

Poe: Stories and Poems on Amazon

Poe: Stories and Poems on Goodreads

Poe: Stories and Poems on JLG

Poe: Stories and Poems Publisher Page

Castle in the Stars by Alex Alice

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 (Book 1) by Alex Alice. September 12, 2017. First Second, 64 p. ISBN: 9781626724938.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.5.

In search of the mysterious element known as aether, Claire Dulac flew her hot air balloon toward the edge of our stratosphere―and never returned. Her husband, genius engineer Archibald Dulac, is certain that she is forever lost. Her son, Seraphin, still holds out hope.

One year after her disappearance, Seraphin and his father are delivered a tantalizing clue: a letter from an unknown sender who claims to have Claire’s lost logbook. The letter summons them to a Bavarian castle, where an ambitious young king dreams of flying the skies in a ship powered by aether. But within the castle walls, danger lurks―there are those who would stop at nothing to conquer the stars.

In Castle in the Stars, this lavishly illustrated graphic novel, Alex Alice delivers a historical fantasy adventure set in a world where man journeyed into space in 1869, not 1969.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Guns, Mild language, Violence, Alcohol, Smoking, Criminal culture



Booklist (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. What do you get when you mix steampunk, historic scientific theories, Jules Verne-style adventure, and King Ludwig II of Bavaria? A rollicking good time, that’s what. In 1869, a year after Seraphin’s mother disappeared in her hot air balloon while in search of the mysterious energy source called Aether, an unsigned letter arrives in which the writer claims to have found her logbook. On their way to Bavaria to claim it, Seraphin and his father become entangled with Prussian spies who are also on the hunt for the logbook, hoping that the secret of Aether will help them overthrow King Ludwig II and take over the world. The romantic setting of the iconic Neuschwanstein Castle is the perfect backdrop for this steampunk adventure story, and the author and artists use both interior and exterior views to good advantage. Done in soft watercolors, the illustrations are gorgeously detailed and alive with color and motion, giving the whole book a cinematic feel. This series starter ends on an extreme cliffhanger, so readers will be eager for the sequel.

Kirkus Reviews starred (July 15, 2017)
Some people will love this fanciful tale of a 19th-century space race so much they never finish it. This graphic novel is filled with distractions. Every scene has a new detail to focus on, usually off in the corner of a panel: a watercraft decorated with golden cherubs or an airship shaped like a swan. When one character holds up a book of blueprints (for a craft that travels “through aether”), readers may be tempted to crane their necks to get a better view of the tiny drawings. The artwork, which combines loose pencil outlines with elaborate watercolors, is that spectacular. Many panels could be framed as paintings, and it would be easy to ignore the text and just stare at the pictures of cloud banks. But that would be a mistake, as it’s a terrific adventure story with disguises and air chases and a plot against Bavarian royalty in the late 1800s. The story is full of digressions, though, and the digressions are the best part, as when the main character (a schoolboy named Seraphin) explains why there must be dinosaurs on Venus. In another, the royal architect shows off the orchestra pit on an airship. This is bad science and bad history (and surely not everyone in Bavaria was white), which makes it fantastic steampunk. Like the best steampunk, this story is one excellent distraction after another, with enough blueprints to hold people’s attention while they’re waiting for Book 2. (Graphic steampunk. 10-16)

About the Author

Alex Alice is a French graphic novelist, working in France and sometimes the U.S. His works have been translated into more than fifteen languages.

Born in 1974, he grew up in the south of France and had the chance to travel around Europe, where he developed a lifelong passion for the ruins and castles of the medieval and romantic ages. This experience influenced his art, from the grim setting of his esoteric thriller The Third Testament (co-written with Xavier Dorison and published by Titan Comics) to the primeval, mythic world found in Siegfried, an operatic re-telling of the northern saga of the great dragon slayer (published by Boom Entertainment). In Castle in the Stars, he draws on Jules Verne and nineteenth-century romanticism to create a watercolor world of adventure and wonder to enchant adults and younger readers alike.

His website is

Around the Web

Castle in the Stars on Amazon

Castle in the Stars on Goodreads

Castle in the Stars on JLG

Castle in the Stars Publisher Page

Older than Dirt by Don Brown

Older than Dirt by Don Brown. September 5, 2017. HMH Books for Young Readers, 112 p. ISBN: 9780544805033.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 5.4; Lexile: 730.

Almost 14.5 billion years ago, it all started with a BIG BANG and what began as a cloud of gas, dust, and rock eventually took shape and bloomed into a molten sphere. Battered by asteroid collisions, ice ages, and shifting tectonic plates, our fledgling planet finally pushed forth continents. But if you think the earth has calmed down since then—think again! Geological activity continues to sculpt the earth’s landscape, sometimes with terrible consequences for its inhabitants: earthquakes, volcanoes, and tsunamis.     In this one-of-a-kind, wild, but true history of Earth, the Sibert Honor medalist Don Brown takes on big concepts with humor and ease.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: None



Booklist starred (July 2017 (Vol. 113, No. 21))
Grades 5-8. In 100 fact-crammed but surprisingly zippy pages, nonfiction graphic novelist extraordinaire Brown covers 14 billion years of Earth’s development. From the big bang to our planet’s origin to landmass formation to the appearance of life, Brown and scientific consultant Perfit provide an astonishingly comprehensive overview and manage to humanize it with witty asides from the woodchuck and worm who serve as surrogate teacher and student, as well as quick visits with important historical scientists. Brown’s art—loose, easy lines but clear, vivid representations—also strikes a necessary balance between friendly accessibility and accurate portrayal. Comics are not a form naturally inclined to delivery of hard facts, and the speed with which information is conveyed here doesn’t make it ideal for, say, supporting a long-range science curriculum. But comics have always held a strong suit in high accessibility for young readers, and this could serve as a good beginning research source and will be a nifty opportunity for burgeoning geologists or anyone looking for a deeper way to explore the real world. A word of warning, though, that between climate change, gradual landmass upheavals, and the eventual cooking of the planet by the sun, things don’t wrap up on a particularly hopeful note. Appended with three helpful illustrated diagrams and extensive source notes.

Kirkus Reviews (July 1, 2017)
A groundhog and her worm sidekick offer a concise tour of the Earth’s history from the Big Bang to climate change with a glimpse of the bleak, sun-dried future to come—all lightened by frequent humorous asides. Born of the partnership between geology professor Perfit (Univ. of Florida) and prolific graphic novelist Brown, this highly engaging overview briefly introduces a broad range of scientific topics in a vivid and accessible way, for example describing magma as “rock that is so hot that it’s gooey, like chocolate fudge.” Clear illustrations effectively complement the text, rendering the array of subjects memorable and easy to grasp: a cross section of an apple indicates the relative thinness of the Earth’s basalt crust, while a plaid blanket hovering above the planet illustrates the effect on temperatures of excessive carbon dioxide. The groundhog is utterly endearing, and the worm is remarkably expressive considering the absence of limbs and most facial features. Readers will be entertained, informed, and inspired to learn more about whatever piques their curiosity, whether it is uranium, continental drift, glaciers, or one of the featured scientists, such as Marie Tharp. A lengthy bibliography and detailed source notes are an added bonus. A guaranteed hit with science lovers and a best bet for convincing skeptics that science is indeed a grand and exciting adventure. (Graphic nonfiction. 9-14)

About the Author

Don Brown is the award-winning author and illustrator of many picture book biographies. He has been widely praised for his resonant storytelling and his delicate watercolor paintings that evoke the excitement, humor, pain, and joy of lives lived with passion. School Library Journal has called him “a current pacesetter who has put the finishing touches on the standards for storyographies.”

He lives in New York with his family. His website is

Around the Web

Older than Dirt on Amazon

Older than Dirt on Goodreads

Older than Dirt on JLG

Older than Dirt Publisher Page

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson. September 5, 2017. Dial Books, 248 p. ISBN: 9780525429982.  Int Lvl: 5-8; Rdg Lvl: 3.6.

The author of Roller Girl is back with a graphic novel about starting middle school, surviving your embarrassing family, and the Renaissance Faire.

Eleven-year-old Imogene (Impy) has grown up with two parents working at the Renaissance Faire, and she’s eager to begin her own training as a squire. First, though, she’ll need to prove her bravery. Luckily Impy has just the quest in mind–she’ll go to public school after a life of being homeschooled! But it’s not easy to act like a noble knight-in-training in middle school. Impy falls in with a group of girls who seem really nice (until they don’t) and starts to be embarrassed of her thrift shop apparel, her family’s unusual lifestyle, and their small, messy apartment. Impy has always thought of herself as a heroic knight, but when she does something really mean in order to fit in, she begins to wonder whether she might be more of a dragon after all.

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language, Racial taunts, Discrimination, Negative attitudes toward differing mental abilities, Body humor, Bullying, Discussion of sex


Book Trailer


Booklist (September 15, 2017 (Vol. 114, No. 2))
Grades 4-7. After years of homeschooling, Imogene is excited to start public school for the first time. Plus, she finally gets to perform in the Renaissance faire, where her mom has a shop (or, shoppe) and her dad plays a knight. Imogene doesn’t have much trouble sliding into her new role at the faire, but middle school is another story. Rules about who to sit with, what to wear, and how to fit in are confounding, especially when she’s getting some seriously mixed messages from the popular girls in her class and realizing how different her family is. Jamieson’s appealing, naturalistic artwork, full of warm tones, realistic-looking characters, and saturated colors, playfully incorporates medieval imagery along with Imogene’s more mundane homelife, particularly when Imogene fears that her misbehavior at home, thanks to frustrations at school, makes her more of a dragon than a knight. Jamieson masterfully taps into the voice and concerns of middle-schoolers, and the offbeat setting of the Renaissance faire adds some lively texture. Kids who loved Jamieson’s Roller Girl (2015) will adore this one, too.

Kirkus Reviews starred (August 1, 2017)
A home-schooled squireling sallies forth to public school, where the woods turn out to be treacherous and dragons lie in wait.Imogene Vega has grown up among “faire-mily”; her brown-skinned dad is the resident evil knight at a seasonal Renaissance faire, her lighter-skinned mom is in charge of a gift shop, and other adult friends play various costumed roles. As a freshly minted “squire,” she happily charges into new weekend duties helping at jousts, practicing Elizabethan invective (“Thou lumpish reeling-ripe jolt-head!” “Thou loggerheaded rump-fed giglet!”), and keeping younger visitors entertained. But she loses her way when cast among crowds of strangers in sixth grade. Along with getting off on the wrong foot academically, she not only becomes a target of mockery after clumsy efforts to join a clique go humiliatingly awry, but alienates potential friends (and, later, loving parents and adoring little brother too). Amid stabs of regret she wonders whether she’s more dragon than knight. In her neatly drawn sequential panels, Newbery honoree Jamieson (Roller Girl, 2015) portrays a diverse cast of expressive, naturally posed figures occupying two equally immersive worlds. In the end Imogene wins the day in both, proving the mettle of her brave, decent heart in finding ways to make better choices and chivalric amends for her misdeeds. Readers will cheer her victories, wince at her stumbles, and likely demand visits to the nearest faire themselves to sample the wares and fun. (Graphic fiction. 10-13)

About the Author

Victoria Jamieson is the creator of the Newbery Honor winner Roller Girl. She received her BFA in Illustration from the Rhode Island School of Design and worked as a children’s book designer before moving to Portland, Oregon and becoming a freelance illustrator. She has also worked as a portrait artist aboard a cruise ship, and has lived in Australia, Italy, and Canada. She maintains a not-so-secret identity as Winnie the Pow, skater with the Rose City Rollers roller derby league and has a not-so-secret past as a Renaissance Faire groupie.

Her website is

Around the Web

All’s Faire in Middle School on Amazon

All’s Faire in Middle School on Goodreads

All’s Faire in Middle School on JLG

All’s Faire in Middle School Publisher Page