Tag Archives: Graphic Novel

The Agony House by Cherie Priest

The Agony House by Cherie Priest. September 25, 2018. Arthur A. Levine Books, 272 p. ISBN: 9780545934299.  Int Lvl: YA; Rdg Lvl: YA.

Denise Farber has just moved back to New Orleans with her mom and step-dad. They left in the wake of Hurricane Katrina and have finally returned, wagering the last of their family’s money on fixing up an old, rundown house and converting it to a bed and breakfast.

Nothing seems to work around the place, which doesn’t seem too weird to Denise. The unexplained noises are a little more out of the ordinary, but again, nothing too unusual. But when floors collapse, deadly objects rain down, and she hears creepy voices, it’s clear to Denise that something more sinister lurks hidden here.

Answers may lie in an old comic book Denise finds concealed in the attic: the lost, final project of a famous artist who disappeared in the 1950s. Denise isn’t budging from her new home, so she must unravel the mystery-on the pages and off-if she and her family are to survive…

Potentially Sensitive Areas: Mild language

 

Book Trailer

Reviews

Booklist starred (August 2018 (Vol. 114, No. 22))
Grades 7-10. Following up on a successful collaboration with Kali Ciesemier in I Am Princess X​ (2016), Priest pairs with O’Connor to neatly weave together the history of comic books and contemporary concerns about gentrification into an eerie ghost story set in a ramshackle house that’s as much a character as the people living in it. Denise, her mom, and her stepdad have just moved into a nearly destroyed, once-beautiful house in New Orleans, and almost right away, Denise starts noticing odd things. First, they’re harmless, if creepy, but later, unexplained, dangerous accidents happen as the family renovates the house. But the comic book manuscript Denise finds carefully hidden in the attic (pages of which appear throughout the novel) is the key to the source of the poltergeists. Meanwhile, Denise’s neighbors are uneasy about outsiders capitalizing on cheap property in New Orleans, and Priest does a great job of skillfully including the important conversations Denise and her family have with their new community. At its heart, though, this is a ghost story, and Priest excels at building palpable atmosphere: Denise’s parents’ anxiety about their shoestring budget, the sweltering New Orleans summer heat, the disrepair of the house (“soggy plaster fell from the studs like wet cake”), and the increasingly terrifying haunting. Dynamic characters and a surprising mystery round out this sharp, satisfying, and engrossingly spooky story.

Kirkus Reviews (July 15, 2018)
A white family’s attempts to renovate a storm-wracked Victorian New Orleans house are complicated by bitterly contending ghosts. The resident spirits aren’t particularly reticent either, readily manifesting not only to 17-year-old Denise and her newlywed mother and stepfather, but to visiting neighbors as well—as a whiff of perfume, creeping shadows, a falling ceiling, and other ominous portents. But rather than being a stereotypical screamer, Denise has much in common (characterwise, at least) with intrepid, gun-toting Lucida Might, girl crime fighter and star of a 1950s manuscript comic Denise finds in the attic. Priest (Brimstone, 2017, etc.) ably weaves contemporary issues and a feminist strand into this fantasy as, while briskly fending off ghostly visitations and searching out clues to the house’s violent past, Denise makes new friends and encounters pushback from some St. Roch neighbors rightfully leery of white gentrifiers. Highlighted by a wonderfully melodramatic climax, the author brings her plotlines to upbeat resolutions with a thrilling discovery, a revelation about the comic’s author, and a degree of general community acceptance of Denise and her family. Nearly every character’s race, white or black, is carefully but unobtrusively specified. O’Connor (The Altered History of Willow Sparks, 2018) inserts multiple pages from the comic and atmospheric stand-alone illustrations all printed in haint blue. Conflicts, ectoplasmic and otherwise, laid to rest in a deliciously creepy setting. (Graphic/novel hybrid ghost fantasy. 11-13)

About the Author

Cherie Priest is the author of I Am Princess X, her debut young adult novel which earned three starred reviews and was a YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Young Adult Readers. She is also the author of more than a dozen adult science fiction, fantasy, and horror novels, including Boneshaker, which won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel.

Her website is www.cheriepriest.com/

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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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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

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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

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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

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The Prince and the Dressmaker on Goodreads

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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/

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Speak: The Graphic Novel on Amazon

Speak: The Graphic Novel on Goodreads

Speak: The Graphic Novel 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

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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

Reviews

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 www.everydayloveart.com

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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

 

Reviews

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 cucumber.gigididi.com

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The Doughnut Kingdom on Amazon

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The Doughnut Kingdom on JLG

The Doughnut Kingdom Publisher Page