Posted in Graphic Novel, Young Adult Lit

In Real Life, by Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang

In Real Life
By Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
4 Stars

Anda loves to play online games. When someone comes to speak to her class about an all girls gaming clan on Coursegold Online. She learns how to fight evil and be a leader in her game. Then she befriends a gold miner, a person who illegally collects gold and other valuable objects and sells it to players who don’t want to earn their rewards. She realizes that not everything is what it seems to be on the surface, and that each player is a person behind a computer. Can she manage to balance the real world and her gaming world?

I loved the illustrations in this book. They felt like a melding of Manga and more Americanized illustrations. I liked the story behind the illustrations as well. It can be easy to forget that content and personalities on the web have real people behind the front. I also enjoyed the bit of political content, and I believe that the internet is a very powerful tool for networking and spreading awareness. It did seem to be wrapped up quickly and neatly, which seemed a bit unlikely. But overall, I sped through this and ate it up.

Posted in Children's Nonfiction, Graphic Novel, Uncategorized

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, by Don Brown

22749725Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
Don Brown
2015 by HMH Books for Young Readers
ISBN – 9780544157774
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – Middle School
4.4 Stars

The story of Hurricane Katrina, the massive loss of human lives, pets, property, culture, and faith in our government and leaders is depicted beautifully in this graphic novel. From the simple yet powerful words, to the illustrations that describe a situation more than words ever could, we are taken on a journey that we all hope to never have to take. The illustrations do such a fantastic job of portraying the desperation, horror, and hopelessness that was felt by many. The colors used were very muted and dark. They were almost as dreary and sad as the topic itself. Not only do we get a glimpse at the storm, but the human reaction to the storm, and the very human solutions to aid in survival. It this book doesn’t pull on your feely strings, I’m not sure anything will. Breathtaking.

Posted in Children's Lit, Graphic Novel

Tommysaurus Rex, by Doug Tennapel

ToomysaurusTommysaurus Rex
Doug Tennapel
2013 by GRAPHIX (first published 2004)
ISBN – 9780545483834
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – Elementary School
4 Stars

After Ely’s beloved dog Tommy is hit by a car, he goes to live with his grandfather for the summer. Soon after the local bully starts bothering him, he comes across a very friendly dinosaur. They become the best of friends and get into all sorts of trouble together. Ely and his grandpa try to convince the town that a dinosaur is worth having around. I like Tennapel’s illustrations. They seem to have a certain bit of darkness to them. He also has a common theme of bullying, and he always seems to resolve this issue in a positive manner. Ely is relatable, and so is his situation. The book manages to be funny and serious all at the same time. I thought this book was great fun. What little boy or girl wouldn’t want a giant pet dinosaur, even with all of the concerns that go along with having one?

Posted in Graphic Novel

El Deafo, by Cece Bell

el deafoEl Deafo
Cece Bell
2014 by Harry N. Abrams
ISBN – 9781419710209
Genre – Graphic Novel/Biography
Age – Elementary
4.3 Stars

When Cece was four years old she contracted Meningitis. After her body was healed she was left deaf from the illness. This is the story of her struggles to accept her deafness. I really enjoyed this book. The illustrations were simple, colorful, and fun. In a way, they reminded me a little bit of the cartoon Arthur, which I love! I also think it is awesome that she likens herself to a superhero. It is a great and positive way for her to think of her differences as well as to have others think of her. Just because she is deaf does not mean she isn’t great. It is a wonderful and positive message to child and adults. I think this book teaches everyone that we all have our strengths and weaknesses in life, and it is how we use those that help define who we are. I enjoyed the Author’s Note at the end as well in which Bell talks about the different ways that deaf people identify themselves. Overall, I thought this was a wonderful book that not only taught me a lesson about deafness, but also a lesson about being human.

Posted in Children's Lit, Graphic Novel

Hidden, by Loic Dauvillier

Loic Dauvillier
Illustrated by Marc Lizano Color by Greg Salsedo Translated by Alexis Siegel
2014 First Second
ISBN – 9781596438736
Genre – Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction
Age- Elementary
4 stars

A grandmother tells her granddaughter her story of the Holocaust. When she was a young child, the world started being cruel to her and her family as well as some of her friend’s families. She was made fun of at school, her dad lost her job, and her parents seemed to be on edge. Suddenly she was told she had to hide in a closet, and when she came out of hiding her parent were gone. Her downstairs neighbors took care of her and kept her safe, they even fled the country with her. She loved her new family, but she dreamed of being reunited with her mom and dad.

This is a very emotional graphic novel. It is about several generations of love and loss. It is about teaching family history to all of the generations that follow, to always remember your history no matter how painful it was. I loved the imagery, and the way that you really felt each scene. Not only were the emotions clear on the faces, but in the colors that were carefully chosen. I liked the theme of protection through the generations. Dounia’s father protected her from the Nazi’s, while Dounia tries to protect her son from the horrors that she faced. I also really enjoyed that the Grandmother was able to tell her story after many years, with maturity, but somehow still through the lens of a little girl. She tells the story with innocence. She is hurt and sad, but not angry and vengeful. I think that this would be a good book to read as an introduction to the Holocaust. It conveys sadness and injustice, but is not too brutal for children to read.

Posted in Graphic Novel

Through the Woods, by Emily Carroll

woodsThrough the Woods
Emily Carroll
2014 Margarey K. McElderry Books
ISBN – 9781442465954
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – Middle School, High School
5 Stars

This graphic novel is a collection of short stories that are scary, creepy, bone chilling, and wonderful. The stories will not give you nightmares, but are clever and original in nature. I especially like the conclusion, which is a new lesson from Little Red Riding Hood and her Big Bad Wolf. The text of the story is a bit minimalistic, but this is not a negative to me. It is very poetic and adds to the chill factor. The illustrations are incredible. The pictures are beautifully done, and really leave you with a strange feeling. Many of the pictures were dark in color and in nature, which made the bright pages all the more impressive. I loved how the text appeared. It flowed throughout the pages and stories in different fonts and colors and in doing so, they managed to change the feel of the words and pictures. Fantastic!

Posted in Children's Lit, Graphic Novel

Cardboard, by Doug TenNapel

Doug TenNapel
2012 by GRAPHIX
ISBN – 9780545418737
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – Middle School
3.8 Stars

It’s Cam’s birthday, but his father has no money to buy him a present. He ends up bringing him home a cardboard box, hoping that Cam will enjoy building something with it. Cam excitedly asks to construct a boxer, with big red gloves and all. Cam realizes how great his present really is when his boxer named Bill comes to life! They even figured out how to produce more magic cardboard, to make more beings. Then things get sticky when his bullying neighbor, Marcus, catches wind of this magic cardboard. Marcus somehow manages to steal the magic cardboard maker, and begins to build his own diabolical underground cardboard world full of monsters! Can Cam and Bill stop the monsters before they infiltrate the above ground world?

I really enjoyed this book. The illustrations were pretty neat, although they could be a bit scary for the younger readers. They also seemed to be a bit monotonous in their coloring, but what else can you expect in a book titled Cardboard? I thought this was a pretty creative endeavor, that seemed to have good underlying themes and messages. I like that it addressed bullying as well as poverty. It seemed to demonstrate that bad things can happen, without sucking the hope out of children everywhere. Cam and his dad are also grappling with the incredibly hard loss of his mother/wife. While we all realize that this hurt doesn’t go away, it shows that there are positive ways that we can deal with the pain of losing someone. I felt like this book accomplished the task of being funny, imaginative, a little scary, and fairly personal. I will definitely put TenNapel’s other graphic novels on my list.

Posted in Children's Lit, Graphic Novel

The Lost Boy, by Greg Ruth

17265276The Lost Boy
Greg Ruth
2013 Graphix
ISBN – 9780439823326
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – Middle School
3.5 Stars

Nate and his family have just moved to a new place, and while he is not happy about this, he still begins to explore. When he finds a tape player under the floorboards of his new bedroom, he enters into quite an adventure. The original owner of the tape player disappeared from town many years ago, it’s actually the town’s most famous mystery. As Nate and his new neighbor friend learn more about what happened, they find that there are some others that would also like to uncover mysteries of the past. Unfortunately these others are not the most friendly of beings!

This book was decent. I’ll be honest, it took quite an interesting and unexpected turn about halfway through. I’m not super into graphic novels, but every so often I attempt to branch out. Honestly, I really enjoyed the art. It was not simple, but not hugely detailed either. The best way I can describe it is gritty. It had a realistic yet dark feel to it, that complimented the story and theme really well. I did not feel that the characters in the book were very fleshed out or had much depth to them, which was disappointing. Still, this would be great for reluctant readers that enjoy fantasy as well as adventure.


Posted in Graphic Novel

The Great American Dust Bowl, by Don Brown

16158179The Great American Dust Bowl
Don Brown
2013 Houghton Mifflin
ISBN – 9780547815503
Genre – Graphic Novel, Nonfiction
Age – High School, Middle School
4.5 Stars

It was a clear and sunny Sunday when an enormous dust storm picked up. Temperatures dropped, people and animals ran for their lives, but the story of the dust bowl started much earlier. The story of the 1930’s in the Great Plains of America is described in harrowing words, and intense imagery. This graphic novel tells the before, the during, and the after, the whole story. It simply tells what series of events led up to the tragedy and hardships that farmers in America experienced. It tells about life, loss, and great endurance. It also explains about how the president and the government helped to end the struggle.

The images, which are mainly in browns and yellows, really add to the feel of the story and the gravity of the events. Not only can you see the sheer size of the storms, but the fear, and exhaustion on the faces of the farmers and their families. The story is a fast read, but it not an easy one (emotionally.) It is great for reluctant readers who want to learn about the dust bowl or who have to complete a school assignment. The writing is clear, and paints a complete (although short) picture. I was surprised by how much I learned in this read/view.

Posted in Graphic Novel, Young Adult Nonfiction

War Brothers: The Graphic Novel by Sharon E. McKay

16276856War Brothers: The Graphic Novel
Sharon E. McKay
2013 Annick Press
ISBN – 9781554514885
Genre – Graphic Novel
Age – High School
3.5 Stars
Jacob is a fourteen year old boy who lives in Uganda. He is sent away to a boy’s school that will be safe for him in a time when young boys are being abducted and forced to fight in a gruesome civil war. Despite the assurance that they are safe, the rebel army breaks into the school in the middle of the night and captures the boys. As they march in the jungle their life becomes a matter of kill or be killed, and it is all they can do to survive each and every day. After a while some of the boys manage to escape, and must fight for their lives to reach safety.

This graphic novel is based on a true story, one that is filled with sadness and horror. The images and situations can be quite disturbing and are certainly not recommended for the faint of heart. That aside, I think it is important for teens and adults alike to know this story, to know the way in which young minds and bodies were manipulated and used for evil. Although I am not generally a huge fan of reading graphic novels myself, I believe that this story truly benefits from the imagery provided (even if it is disturbing.) Sometimes images affect a reader more than words ever could. That being said, the art was great. It was detailed but the background faded to the back. It allows our eyes and minds to focus on the major aspects of each frame. I liked that the colors of the pages changed with the environment. When Jacob was safe at home, the pages were white. When he was with the rebel army the pages were black. It helped to drive home the good versus evil settings throughout the story. I liked that the text did not over shadow the brilliance of the pictures, they perfectly complemented the story told in graphics.