22 December 2011

22 December 2011–Nina in That Makes Me Mad!


Image Courtesy of Toon Books

Adapted and Illustrated by: Hilary Knight, Written by: Steven Kroll
Toon Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-935179-10-8 (Hardback)
$12.95 Ages: 6 - 8
Nina, a precocious little girl, explains different things that make her angry, and then acts them out with her family. Originally written by the late Steven Kroll, This story has been a popular one for kids since its original publication in 1976, as it allows young readers to identify with Nina in different situations. In the end, Nina also explains that the best way for her to cool off is to talk about what makes her mad.
A fun and funny book for young readers, Nina gets into situations that the majority of children can feel familiar with. The end is also a great way to impart the idea that “talking it out” is a preferred method of conflict resolution. Knight’s artwork is top notch (as always), and the amount of respect he has for the original work is evident in this version. Sadly, Mr. Kroll was unable to see the latest edition reach publication, but his memory (and multitude of other works) continue to delight and inspire children the world over.
Final Thoughts
Knight (whose artwork is immediately recognizable) does an amazing job on this book, which by itself should be a good reason to read it alone, but combined with a story that emergent readers can identify with, this becomes a definite must-read. Parents can benefit from this book especially, as they can discuss with their children the different issues Nina faces throughout the book.

21 December 2011

21 December 2011–Romeo & Juliet


Image Courtesy Stone Arch Books

Written by: William Shakespeare; Retold by: Martin Powell, Illustrated by: Eva Cabrera
Stone Arch Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4342-3448-3 (paperback)
$6.95 Ages: 10 - 14
Shakespeare’s classic tale of two star-crossed lovers in adapted to graphic novel format for younger readers. Two feuding families, the Montagues and the Capulets have been fighting each other for who knows how long, over slights long forgotten to history. When the only son of Montague and the only daughter of Capulet fall in love, will their devotion to each other be able to transcend their families bloody war?
Shakespeare has long been considered a staple of Western Literature, and with good reason. With 38 plays, 154 sonnets, universal stories that transcend time, and controversies that continue to circle around him to this day, it’s not that hard to understand why he is so popular. However, most kids find him incredibly dull and boring, mostly due to the insistence of most publishers to stick to the original wording used in the 1600s. Powell wisely updates the language to modern English and keeps the story moving at a brisk pace – not too fast you can’t get attached to the characters, but not so slow as to make you fall asleep either. As the story sticks to the original ending, be forewarned you may have some unhappy or emotional readers at tales end.
Final Thoughts
I’ve always liked Shakespeare, and this new adaptation is one of the better ones I’ve seen over the years. While not as in depth as some readings, I feel that it strikes a nice balance between the crux of the story and keeping the target audience enthralled to the last pages of the book. Cabrera does a fantastic job of bringing the characters to life, showing both the delight as well as heartache between the characters in ways that text struggles to convey. This is a definite recommend for an introduction to Shakespeare in middle school classes (Stone Arch also currently covers Macbeth, Julius Caesar, and A Midsummer Night’s Dream), and for parents who would like to introduce their kids to the classics, you could do much, much worse than this.

20 December 2011

20 December 2011–Nursery Rhyme Comics

nursey rhyme comics

image courtesy :01 Second

Written & Illustrated by: Various; Edited by Chris Duffy
:01 Second Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-59643-600-8
$18.99 Ages: 3 - 8
Having long been a staple of children’s literature, nursery rhymes have been around for quite a while. In this newest collection, 50 rhymes have been interpreted and illustrated by 50 of the most talented comics artists working today. From such classics as “One, Two, Buckle My Shoe” to “Pat-A-Cake”, this collection is guaranteed to delight young and old readers alike, offering up new (and sometimes surprising) interpretations of these age old standards. As a bonus, noted children’s literature historian Leonard S. Marcus provides an introduction that explains what is so enchanting about these specific rhymes in this book.
While there have been innumerable collections of nursery rhymes over the years, I have yet to see one with the heart, intensity or sheer enjoyment that literally pours out of this book – be it the delightful precociousness of Jack’s response to the narrator in “Jack Be Nimble”, the stunningly beautiful artwork of Craig Ferguson in Edward Leer’s “The Owl and the Pussycat”, or even the  surprising reinterpretation of “Hickory, Dickory, Dock”.  Major names are in abundance in this book, from Stan Sakai, Jules Pfeifer, Raina Telgemeier,  Dave Romaine and even Gahan Wilson all lend their talents to this book.
Final Thoughts
Buy this book. It’s as simple as that. This has been one of my greatest acquisitions this year, and I cannot recommend this enough. Teachers, especially kindergarten teachers will find this book indispensable, libraries will struggle to keep it on the shelf, and parents, if you’re looking for a fantastic bed time storybook, you need this book!

19 December 2011

Back Up and Running


So, after time off to work on my degree, I have returned from the trenches, battered, bruised, and bowed, but not beaten. While I have one more semester to go, I got some exciting news to pass along.

1) I am in the process of writing a paper that I intend to submit for conference at the Pre-con at the DCC (Denver Comic Con) this summer.

2) I have been in contact with the guys at the DCC, and they have expressed an interest (as have I) in my participation on some panels.

3) One of my professors has asked me to come and speak to her Children’s Lit class next semester about graphic novels as Children’s Lit.

4) The good folks at both Capstone Publishing and Toon Books were kind enough to send me review copies, so be on the look out for those reviews coming soon.

5) Because of the backlog that I managed to build up, I'm going to be increasing my output of reviews for the time being, starting with the one immediately following this post (you’ll find it below)

So, that’s where I am currently sitting. I’m also working on my list of picks for 2011, and will post by year’s end. If you have any questions, concerns, complaints, please contact me!




19 December 2011–How Do We Stay On Earth?

image courtesy Capstone Press

Written by: Amy S. Hansen; Illustrated by: Korey Scott
ISBN: 978-1-4296-7174-3 (Paperback binding)
Capstone Press, August 2011
$5.95 Ages: 5 - 8
Kids have always been fascinated by the way the world works, but explaining such concepts as gravity can be difficult to explain without bogging little ones down in lots of jargon. In the new First Graphics series, Gravity and other heavy concepts are discussed in easily digestible chunks that younger readers can easily understand. In How Do We Stay on Earth? kids are introduced to gravity, what it is, how it affects us and how we can experience the effects of gravity here on Earth. In addition to teaching kids about basic science theory, it also introduces emergent readers to graphic literacy. Like other Stone Arch/Capstone Press books, it includes a glossary of terms specific to each book, along with internet links tailored for kids to find out more information.
While older audiences may find themselves bored very quickly with the subject matter, my test subjects (Mark, 6 and Patrick, 3) were absolutely enthralled with the book. While not strangers to the comic format, they didn’t have much prior experience with it. The layout of the book helped them to understand the concepts the book discussed, and positioned them to ask the right questions at the right time.
Final Thoughts
Capstone’s First Graphics series, while currently small, has a huge potential to really aid in teaching introductory concepts about complex scientific phenomena. The artwork is clean, colorful and engaging, while the writing fully engages its target audience and never talks down to them. While most parents will give this a pass, this series is definitely one that teachers should look into.

27 September 2011

This Was Just Too Good To Not Pass On


Posting note: I “borrowed” this from http://www.io9.com, who in turn copied it from Michele’s web site. I was going to get it directly from her site, but she’s been getting overtaxed with hits today.

I know folks out there are saying “Well, there’s two different versions of Starfire out there, a kid friendly version, and an adult version. I don’t agree with this – an adult version of Starfire would have her in explicit situations. This “new” version is strictly for the oh-so-popular “15 – 30 year old male horndog” demographic.

[Originally posted verbatim at http://io9.com/5844355/a-7+year+old-girl-responds-to-dc-comics-sexed+up-reboot-of-starfire]

Fantasy author Michele Lee has the most eloquent response so far to DC Comics' "sexed up" version of Starfire, the voluptuous alien member of the Teen Titans. Instead of ranting about the changes herself, Lee asked her seven-year-old daughter what she thought. The results are thought-provoking.

[Originally posted verbatim on Michele Lee’s blog at http://michelelee.net/2011/09/24/dear-dc-comics/]

I'm not going to rant like Comics Alliance (though you need to read it), or this one by Andrew Wheeler (also an excellent read), Ms. Snarky says it really well too (Go, read, DC editors. Take notes.)

Instead I'm going to hand over my forum and let someone else speak for me. Pay attention, DC. This is my seven-year-old daughter.

A 7-year-old girl responds to DC Comics' sexed-up reboot of Starfire

And for good measure this is my seven-year-old daughter, as she falls asleep most nights, reading:

A 7-year-old girl responds to DC Comics' sexed-up reboot of Starfire

They're both your books, DC. And furthermore she bought them both with HER money. Her allowance, her birthday and Christmas money. She gets at least one graphic novel and one book for major holidays. She buys superhero movies (we've managed to see all the major releases this year except Green Lantern and she's loved them all.) She has a full-sized cardboard cut out of Spiderman guarding her bookshelf.

Most importantly? Starfire is her favorite hero.

So today I showed her your rebooted Catwoman and Starfire. She is not happy with you DC.

"Why do you like Starfire?"

"She's like me. She's an alien new to the planet and maybe she doesn't always say the right thing, or know the right thing to do. But she's a good friend, and she helps people. She's strong enough to fight the bad guys, even when they hurt her. Even her sister tried to kill her, but Starfire still fights for the good side. And she helps the other heroes, like Superboy and Robin and Raven.

"She's smart too. And sometimes she gets mad, but that's okay because it's okay to get mad when people are being mean. And she's pretty."

A 7-year-old girl responds to DC Comics' sexed-up reboot of Starfire
"What do you think about her costume?" (Referring to the outfit on the left)

"Well, she's a grown up in that picture, not like in the Teen Titans cartoon, so if you're a grown up and you want to wear something like that you can. It's okay."

"Tell me about that Starfire."

"That's where she's starting the Teen Titans again. She's helping the kids learn how to use their power and not be as sad because their friends died. She even protects them from grownups who want to tell them what to do."

"Does that outfit make her pretty?"

"Well, no. It shows lots of her boobs though."

"What does make her pretty?"

"Her long, pretty hair."

Full size

"What about this Starfire? What do you think about her?" (Referring to image on the left from DC's reboot Red Hood and the Outsiders)

"I can see almost all of her boobs."


"Well she is on the beach in her bikini. But…"


"But, she's not relaxing or swimming. She's just posing a lot." *my daughter appears uncomfortable*

"Anything else?"

"Well, she's not fighting anyone. And not talking to anyone really. She's just almost naked and posing."

Full size

"Do you think this Starfire is a good hero?"

"Not really."

"Do you think the Starfire from the Teen Titans cartoon is a good role model?"

*immediately* "Oh yes. She's a great role model. She tells people they can be good friends and super powerful and fight for good."

"Do you think the Starfire in the Teen Titans comic book is a good role model?"

"Yes, too. She's still a good guy. Pretty, but she's helping others all the time and saving people."

"What about this new Starfire?"

"No, I don't think so."

"Why not?"

"Because she's not doing anything."

Full size

"Is this new Starfire someone you'd want to be when you grow up?"

*she gets uncomfortable again*"Not really. I mean, grown ups can wear what they want, but…she's not doing anything but wearing a tiny bikini to get attention."

"So, you know I'm going to put this on my blog right? (she nods) Is there anything else you want to say?"

"I want her to be a hero, fighting things and be strong and helping people."

"Why's that?"

"Because she's what inspires me to be good."

See, it's not about what they're wearing, though that can influence things. What makes a hero is WHO they are, the choices they make and the things they do. If my 7 year old can tell what you've done from looking at the pictures (there is no way I'm going to let her in on the whole emotionless random, amnesiac sex plot line) why can't you see the problem here?

If this is your attempt at being edgy and reaching out the huge female comic audience out here then I look forward to when this crap collapses around you so someone who gets it can take your place. We're looking for good stories and great heroes. This just isn't it.

Cartoon at the bottom via Shortpacked!.

This post by Wolf Heart author Michele Lee originally appeared at her blog.


IMHO, I think that young Miss Lee really hit the nail on the head. For generations, comics have been getting lambasted for stuff just like this. Companies have worked hard to throw off the prejudice that women are simply one dimensional object of lust – hell, when DC was doing the animated Teen Titans, they were working to quell that prejudice as well.

In closing, I would like to take a moment to send out a huge “Thank You!” to both Michele and her daughter for speaking up and speaking out about this latest idiocy DC has perpetrated.

14 September 2011

Notice of delay (again!)

I’ve been thinking a lot about how I’ve been doing the reviews on this site, and I’ve decided that the format that I currently use is not working the way I want it to, so I’m going to revamp how I do my reviews. It may take me a week or two to iron out the bugs, but I hope this new format will better explain and describe the books I review, and be more accessible as well. Hang in there folks, I promise the end result will be worth it!




P.s. that means no review this week. Sorry!

09 September 2011

This is so Cool!

Just a quick note – Couple of days ago, I contacted Stone Arch books (the folks who’s primary audience is  k – 8) for some review copies. Not only did they deliver, but they delivered in spades! I’ve got a box full of books, some I’ve already reviewed (which were digital editions) and others I can’t wait to review, so I might ramp up my reviews for the next couple of weeks to bi-weekly or so, and I’m also going to be having guest reviewers adding their two cents to the mix. So (as The Great Stan Lee says…) Stay Tuned True-Believers!

07 September 2011

7 September 2011–My Boyfriend is a Monster #4: Under His Spell


Written by Marie Croall; Illustrated by Hyeondo Park
ISBN: 978-0-76137-076-5
Graphic Universe, September 2011
Bethany Farmer is your average high school girl, who is only interested in her sport of choice (soccer), coffee, making sure her homework is done, coffee, staying single, and coffee. However, when a foreign exchange student appears shows up at her school, Bethany is knocked for a loop. Allein has it all, good looks, impeccable manners, (if the rumors are true), royal blood, and a cadre of eye-rolling pickup lines that are goofy, yet sweet.
Allein isn’t all that he’s cracked up to be however. Claiming to be from a foreign country still doesn’t explain how he knows nothing about coffee or soccer, but Bethany is willing to overlook these oddities. Swept off her feet by this handsome stranger, Bethany’s world is completely flipped upside down when Allein’s savage cousins show up, intent on making sure that Allein doesn’t make it back to take the throne.
There has long been a love affair with the supernatural, from Bram Stoker’s Dracula to Stephanie Meyer’s Twilight Saga, men and women falling in love with super natural entities is a common theme. The My Boyfriend’s a Monster series continues on in this vein, with this entry involving the fey folk. The story itself is nothing new, and the conventions stay close to agreed upon convention (elves cannot touch cold iron), but the story just seems flat and uninspired. The artwork, while at times is quite vibrant (especially when Bethany visits Allein’s home), feels flat and uninspired, with overtones of Superhero Anatomy mixed in (where the human body bends or moves in ways that are improbable at best, and impossible at worst). My biggest complaint is with Allein and Co.’s teeth. Elves have traditionally been presented as elegant, refined, and the epitome of high class. Allein and his race all look like descendants of land based sharks, and personally, if I were Bethany, I would think long and hard before putting my face anywhere near Allein’s for fear of him trying to nibble my lips off.
Final Thoughts
While I’m not a huge fan of contemporary fantasy/romance situations, I still feel that this is a decent book that Stephanie Meyers fans will appreciate and enjoy. It also works as a solid introduction to this type of genre for younger ladies who are wanting check out this type of story. Not a personal favorite of mine, but there is a definite market out there for this type of story, and is worth looking at for a library collection.

On a side note, here’s a second review from a different point of view: http://klearsreviews.blogspot.com/2011/08/under-his-spell.html (This is from August 16th 2011)

31 August 2011

8 reasons to let your kids read comics

A friend forwarded me this link today, and after checking it out, I just had to pass this along. Melissa Taylor does a fantastic job of laying out why comic books and graphic novels are such a phenomenal tool to engage young minds, and also lays out precautions for parents (which can never be stressed enough, parents can get a little strange when they find out the book they bought for their kids has cute animals on the cover but foul language, violence and/or nudity on the inside).

Anyways, This is an absolute must read for teachers, librarians, and especially parents.



29 August 2011

29 August 2011–Tricky Coyote Tales


Written by Chris Schweizer; Illustrated by Chad Thomas
ISBN: 978-0-76137-859-4
Graphic Universe, 2011
Combining Native American folklore and the super popular style of Choose Your Own Adventure books from the 80’s and 90’s, the Tricky Journeys series puts the reader in the role of Coyote, the trickster. Six different journeys reside in the book, will you fool Bear into giving you his lunch? Can you con the prairie dogs into inviting you to dinner? Just be careful, you could end up on the menu for someone else just as easily!
Kids love animal stories, and they also love being in charge of the story. The combination of the two sounds like a sure-fire recipe for a solid book, and in this instance, it hits on all cylinders.  While this is Schweizer’s first book for younger audiences, I think that he pegs his audience just right – it’s not too easy for most readers, but it’s not talking down to them either. Thomas’s artwork is phenomenal – engaging, entertaining and enjoyable, and it fits like a glove with Schweizer’s writing style.
The fact that the reader is put into the leading role always makes for engaging reading, and the story makes sure to not beat you over the head if you make a wrong decision (unlike a different series I mentioned earlier, which was a neat idea, but in retrospect, probably contributed to my neuroses), it gently suggests that you try something different the next time.
Now, this is not the first book that Graphic Universe has done in this style. A couple of years ago, they released Nightmare on Zombie Island, which was also a great book, but the artwork was a little too good for the book (I had nightmares from it!), but my eldest weathered it alright.
 Tricky Coyote Tales is the first in a six book series, each one dealing with a different trickster from folklore, so be sure to keep an eye out for those as well.
Final Thoughts
The Tricky Journeys series shows a lot of promise, especially for younger readers. Kids always enjoy being the center of attention, and they really get a kick out of being able to direct the story by making choices that change the outcome of the story, so this is definitely a series that I would highly recommend to anyone.

26 August 2011

Excuses, excuses

To all my loyal readers out there, I want to apologize for the lack of updates this week. I’ve gone back to school to finish up my degree, and the first week is always the hardest. Now that I’m through it, I’ll be updating as regularly as possible. Keep an eye out!

21 August 2011

Free Entertainment, For Life

Just saw this on the CNN.com website:


“The cult and culture of newness in our society has made us too willing to believe that "new" automatically equates to "good." A book that was stirring and lovely when it was written -- whether 15 years ago or 60 years ago or 150 years ago -- does not lose its power just because it sits on a library shelf for decades at a time with no one pulling it out. The great majority of books in any city or small-town public library are not currently being discussed on television or radio talk shows; the authors are not on tour. But, years ago, someone decided for a reason that those books were meant to be bound between hard covers. The reason was that the writing inside was intended to last.” – Bob Greene


I just wanted to send out a huge THANK YOU! to Mr. Greene for his words. Libraries are a huge boon to communities, especially those communities with younger readers.


Please, be sure to visit your local library and tell them thank you for all that they do to make sure you get the books and periodicals you want to read.


Here’s a link to the full article:


18 August 2011

Kudos to Disney and First Book

Publishers Weekly just reported that Disney is donating $500K and eight Million books to the national nonprofit group First Book, who strive to get  new books into the hands of kids from low-income families. It’s been reported that on average First Book gives out an average of over 25,000 books a day. Last year alone, they distributed 7.5 million books to kids in need.

Hopefully, some of those eight million books will be graphic novels for younger readers, but regardless, this is great news for a worthy cause.

Full link below:


17 August 2011

Allan Say’s Drawing From Memory

From the American Library Association’s Facebook page comes this review of an utterly fascinating story about one of the preeminent cartoonist authors that came out of Japan.

Mr. Say’s book is a delightful tale of how he became an artist and I found the impromptu history lesson to be quite fascinating.

Here’s the link to the full review:


16 August 2011

16 August 2011– Star Wars: The Clone Wars–The Starcrusher Trap

Written by Mike Barr; Illustrated by The Fillbach Brothers
ISBN: 978-1-59582-714-2
Dark Horse Comics, 2011
Grade: 3 and up
During the clone wars, the Separatist Army develops a new warship that easily destroys any Republic ship that attacks it. When a cadre of Jedi attempt to destroy this new threat, they discover that it’s actually an elaborate trap to catch them!
The Star Wars franchise is now over thirty years old, and has managed to spawn a multi-billion dollar franchise with everything from toys to cereal. The downside to having such a successful franchise is that no matter how unique and fertile it is, after a while, new stories begin to peter out and concepts get recycled.
Barr (an industry veteran) does an exemplary job of making the story (that feels eerily familiar) work in such a way that will still keep readers enthralled, however older fans (especially those that grew up with the original trilogy) may take exception to the fact that the Jedi severely underestimate the machinations of the Separatist Commander. The artwork by The Fillbach Brothers fits in well with the current incarnation of characters from the Cartoon Network cartoon series of the same name (Star Wars: The Clone Wars), but there are a few times where it feels like they slip from character to caricature. Fortunately, this rarely happens at all, but it can be a little off putting.
With these concerns in mind, is this something the target audience will be concerned with? I seriously doubt it. The majority of readers who pick this book up are going to be more concerned with the story and pacing. My one major concern comes from two scenes where Darth Sidious smiles. It put me in mind of a demonic Abe Vigoda ( I actually lost a little sleep over that), so a little caution is urged for young readers.
Final Thoughts
The Starcrusher Trap is a good book for kids who love the Star Wars franchise or action stories. The plot really feels like nothing new, but for those kids who didn’t grow up with the franchise probably won’t notice (or care). People who are going to raise the biggest stink are the die-hard old-school fans, but their kids will enjoy the book.

08 August 2011

Notice of Delay

Due to illness, the weekly review is going to be postponed by a day or two. This head cold has really just knocked it out of me. Keep an eye open over the next day or two for a couple of reviews.

01 August 2011

1 August 2011–OBAMA: The Election of America’s 44th President

Written by Agnieska Biskup; Illustrated by Seitu Hayden
ISBN: 978-1-4296-7339-6
Capstone Publishing, 2011


Obama: The Election of America’s 44th President discusses the meteoric rise of our 44th president, Barak Obama, who also happens to be the first black president.
Any time a politically themed book comes out, one has to question the intent of the author, as well as checking their own biases at the door. Biskup’s latest book sets out to tell the tale of President Obama, from his “Politics of Hope” speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, all the way to his election to the office of president. In between these two events is lots of room (and fodder) to beatify or demonize Obama, but Biskup refuses to take sides in this book, merely laying out things as they happened.
Various “issues” (as they were touted in the media) are touched on, from the “…most famous fist bump in history” to Obama’s 30 minute promotion of his presidential bid are all treated the same – enough respect to alert the reader that there may be more to the incident, but not defaming or derogatory to participants either.
Final Thoughts
Given recent events in the real world, I had to really make sure my personal feelings about the subject matter did not taint my reading.
Doing that, I was pleasantly surprised to read a book that was real researched, well written and well illustrated. The artwork in particular deserves a special mention, as it stays as true as possible to how the participants look in real life, without over-exaggerating or insinuating a preference for people (I’ve seen several books that villainize the other contenders just through the artwork alone).
All in all, I found this book to be very illuminating, if a little dry, but well suited for the classroom or library. 

27 July 2011

27 July 2011–Good Vs. Evil Two-fer

The Awakening
Written by Donald Lemke; Illustrated by Claudia Medeliros
Stone Arch Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-1-4342-3444-5

Alien Snow
Written by Michael Dahl; Illustrated by Roberta Pares
Stone Arch Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-14342-3443-8
The AwakeningAilen Snow
Before I begin, I’m tweaking to format a little for this review, as I’m reviewing two books using the same hook (discussed at length in the analysis section)

The Awakening –
Set in 1984, the dual stories of a young man and an Oni (Japanese demon) are affected by music from a cassette tape.

Alien Snow – Early 2010 finds a boy discovering the spaceship toy he’s been looking all over for, while at the same time, an alien invader has discovered the next addition to its collection.

Two of the four inaugural books in the new Good Vs. Evil series from Stone Arch Books. Each book in the series follows the same format: two parallel stories that weave together, telling both sides of the story from different points of view.
One story is always the “blue story” (my definition), easily defined by the complete use of blue tones and hues to tell that point of view. The second story is always the “red story” (again, my definition), and is basically the same as the other story, except, as the name suggests, everything is red.
At the beginning of each book is the suggestion to read one story line, then go back and read the other story, then go back and read both stories together.
Seeing this at the start of the book, I was extremely excited to get right in and start reading. However, by the time I got halfway through the first read through, I was growing weary of forcing myself to keep my eyes to one story. After finishing the first read through, I felt a little dread and apprehension going into the second story – not that the writing is bad, but it’s so trying on the eyes to not roam all over the page.
Powering through the second story, I managed to catch a second wind, now excited to read the entire story.
The third read through put everything in perspective and overall, the story felt much more cohesive. The individual stories felt disjointed and incomplete, becoming difficult to read, as certain major aspects are addressed in the opposite story.
  Overall, the artwork is top notch, which always seems to be a given. Their artwork is always inviting and accessible to readers, while the writing is solid as well, but feels a little hampered by the format, however, at the same time, it feels a little liberated from conventional storytelling tropes.
Final Thoughts
While the format has the potential for some fascinating storytelling, the format setup is probably not going to set well with younger readers, and many will read both stories together, or just give up on the book all together.
All in all, I love the concept, but the execution still feels a little rocky and uneven. Currently, it’s a fascinating concept, and worth a look, but I fear it’s a little too far ahead of it’s time to catch on with target audiences.

Talk about coincidence

Earlier today, I mentioned Kibushi’s Amulet Book 4 going into post-production.

I just got an update from NPR in their My Guilty Pleasure segment, author Darin Strauss talks about how in spite of the fact he’s a self described “Book Snob” (capitals my emphasis), his “guilty pleasure” is Kazu Kibushi’s Amulet Book 1

I could point out all the backhanded compliments he pays the book, but I’d rather not waste your bandwidth. I’d just like to point out that he’s finally (hopefully) stepping down off of his high horse and realizing what a lot of us discovered a long time ago.

Just because it has pictures, doesn’t mean it doesn’t have literary or entertainment value. There are tons of great stories and series out there, and it really pisses me off that anyone would dismiss this genre out of hand.

O.k. before I go any further, I'm going to stop, because I’m getting really worked up right now, and I don’t want to say what I feel in my heart on this blog, thereby sullying my integrity.

News of the World

So, a quick heads up for those of you out there that are interested – Raina Telgemeier (of such awesomeness as The Babysitter’s Club graphic novel series, and the award winning Smile [more on that in a second] all from the Graphix! imprint from Scholastic) was just awarded the Eisner Award for Best Teen Publication! Congratulations to Raina on this prestigious award, you totally deserve it. Read all about it Here

In other news, Raina is currently hard at work on her new book “Drama” that is due out fall 2012, so be on the lookout for that.

Kazu Kibushi’s super popular Amulet series (Graphix!) is gearing up for post-production work on the fourth book in the series is due out 1 September 2011 from all major book sellers. This has been an amazing series, and I cannot wait to see what happens in the new book. Kazu has even said that he feels this is the best book so far.

They’ve even put together a trailer for the new book, you can see it Here.

Finally, I received some digital galleys from Dark Horse Comics, so with the volume of reviews that need to get done, I’ll probably be ramping up the reviews for a little while.

25 July 2011

25 July, 2011–Princess Candy: Tales of a Sugar Hero

Princess Candy: Tales of a Sugar Hero
Written by Michael Dahl & Scott Nickel; Illustrated by Jeff Crowther
Stone Arch Books, 2011
tales of a sugar hero
Halo Nightly is like any other 11 year old – her grandma drives a taxi, she’s starting to notice boys, she’s even got a nemesis, at least as far as 11 year olds go. She’s also got a secret – on her 11th birthday, she received a gift from her Aunt Pandora, who has allegedly passed.
Opening the package, Halo finds jars of candies and a note from her Aunt, stating that these are special candies, and must be used wisely. Examining the jars, Halo discovers that each jar is labeled with the Spanish name of an element (i.e. agua, fuego, aire, etc.). Always the inquisitive type, Halo eats a candy from the jar labeled “fuego”, commenting that “Fuego means ‘fire’”. Immediately, she reacts as if she had just eaten a super hot cinnamon candy, and promptly belches fire.
Halo discovers that each of the candies will grant her that elemental power for a limited amount of time, and thus begins the adventures of Princess Candy: A Sugar Hero.
The book contains four stories in it:

- Sugar Hero: Halo learns about her powers, and discovers why and how her nemesis is always doing so well in class.

- The Marshmallow Mermaid: Marshmallows are disappearing at an alarming rate from the school, not to mention the star of the swim team (whom Halo likes) as well as the school nurse! It’s up to Halo to figure out why an angry mermaid has invaded the school.

- The Green Queen of Mean: Halo’s partner is hiding a big secret, one that could potentially destroy civilization in Nightly City! Can Halo show both Flora and Doozie that sometimes it’s better to realize the good that can come out of something, rather than the bad that caused it in the first place?

- The Evil Echo: Halo’s faced off against some tough opponents, but how is she going to be able to defeat an evil version of herself, especially when she’s denied access to her candy?

While super hero genres have seemingly examined every creation story out there (where the hero gets their powers), Halo’s story is a refreshing and exciting new take on the traditional tale. The villains are edgy enough to generate interest in young readers, but not scary enough to cause nightmares, and Halo is a bright, street-smart girl who  makes a great role-model for that age range.

Final Thoughts
Stone Arch has another winner on its hands. Reading through the book, it’s obvious that both Dahl and Nickel know their target audience. The stories are paced just right, they never get preachy (except maybe the bit with the nurse, which I thought was brilliant), and they are never condescending.
Crowther’s artwork fits the story perfectly as well. Never to realistic nor too cartoony, the visuals flow together with the story in such a way that makes it so much fun to read.
This is definitely one that should be picked up and prominently displayed in the children’s section of the library.

18 July 2011

18 July 2011, Brain Camp

Brain Camp
Written by Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan; Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
:01 Second, 2010
Summer camp has always been a bit of a jumping off point into adolescence. Spending time away from parents with a bunch of kids your own age can be both exhilarating and terrifying at the same time.
That sense of terrifying exhilaration is very evident in Brain Camp, the story of two kids from distinctly different backgrounds who both wind up at Camp Fielding abruptly. Once there, they discover that disturbing events are unfolding around them, and if they’re not careful, they might just become the next victims.
The main characters – Lucas, the street-smart, troublemaker who comes from a broken home, shows the typical qualities of a youth growing up in a severely dysfunctional home – ditching school, stealing cars, running with a bad crowd, etc. Jenna, on the other hand, is one of those kids who are basically normal, but come from an overachieving family. Both are seen as “failures” by their respective parents, so it comes as a big surprise when a representative from Camp Fielding appears on their respective doorsteps late one night. The next day, both Lucas and Jenna are unceremoniously dropped off at summer camp with little warning.
After a brief meeting between the two, they go their separate ways, fully believing the other to be a complete waste of space, only to come together again, joined by the fact that the camp is really strange.
Classes in advanced mathematics and chemistry are taught on a daily basis, with the expectation that the kids will just pick it up as they go along. All the campers are expected to run a maze daily, allegedly the fastest getting special treatment at meal times, and the councilors acting suspicious. Even the kids that seem to be complete failures at everything are turning it around overnight!
One night, Lucas can’t sleep. Hearing a noise, he ducks underneath his bed to hide, only to see the councilors enter the cabin with syringes, and then locking the doors to prevent anyone from getting in (or out).
Combined with Jenna’s discoveries, the two grow closer together, trying to get to the bottom of the strange goings on at the camp, ultimately facing a serious, and scary threat.

The story’s pace works well for the most part, and the scares and questions all seem to fall into the right places. Even Lucas and Jenna’s relationship grows organically, while their interactions with the other characters are believable.
Where I have problems is with the authority figures throughout the book. All of those people show little to no concern over their actions (except for one instance where the director has to make an emergency decision that is rather graphic) and how they affect the campers. I understand that from the kid’s viewpoint it seems as though the councilors don’t seem to really care, ultimately they feel like automatons going through the motions, or even enjoying what they’re doing.
The other issue I had with the authority figures was with the parents themselves. The kids both think that their parents were in on the conspiracy the entire time, but I don’t know any parent, no matter how dysfunctional, that would be willing to subject their kids to such a treatment.
“Yes, Mister and Misses So and So, what we aim to do is implant a creepy bird creature in little Suzie’s head. She’ll become super smart, but there’s a slight possibility it could kill her.” “Well, shoot! Let’s sign the little dumpling up!”

It just doesn’t wash.

Final Thoughts
For the most part, Brain Camp is an enjoyable, scary run through the fears of puberty and growing up (the whole ‘wet dream’ bit didn’t even register with me until the third read through’), and on those aspects it hits everything it aims at splendidly. However, I had problems enough with the portrayal of the adults to the point it became a distraction from the book. Overall, I think it’s target audience will enjoy it greatly, but outside of that audience, readers are either going to be too scared, or put off by the lack of empathy from the adult characters.

Jack: I liked the idea of a camp where you can become really smart, and the fact that they had to run through the maze every day. What I didn’t like was that the parents went along with the plan to put the kids in the camp.

11 July 2011

Slight change to postings

So I got to thinking about it, and I realized that if I’m doing reviews of the books, I should at least provide a link to the book if someone wants to purchase the book.

With that in mind, I’ve gone back through and linked all images to their respective amazon.com pages.

Since I live in Colorado, I am ineligible to make any money off of this, but I want the creators to be able to get as much exposure as possible. If you like a review, click on the picture, and please buy a book!

11 July 2011–Sidekicks

Written & Illustrated by Dan Sanat
Arthur A. Levine Books, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-439-29819-3
Captain Amazing has been the hero of Metro City for a long time. He’s also an animal lover, as evidenced by his pets – Roscoe the dog and Fluffy the Hamster.
Being the only real superhero in the city means that Captain Amazing is forced to spend most of his time thwarting the machinations of various villains, so much so that he never noticed his pets had developed super powers of their own.
After Captain Amazing is laid low due to a peanut allergy (during a fight with some villains), he comes to the realization that he needs a new sidekick.  Hearing this news, both Roscoe and Fluffy decide to become Captain Amazing’s new sidekick, even though he explicitly stated “no pets”.
Now, Roscoe, cocky and self-assured to a fault, and Fluffy, who’s three inches of furry fury are going to prove they can be good sidekicks. Their only problem is that they have no real training. So, in order to prove himself, Fluffy and Captain Amazing’s newest pet, a chameleon named Shifty venture out one night to fight crime. After they run afoul of some feral alley cats, they’re rescued by a shadowy character who goes by the name of The Claw, a feline vigilante.
Fluffy and Shifty return to the same alley the next night with a peace offering for The Claw, who turns out to be Manny, Captain Amazing’s first sidekick and former roommate to Fluffy and Roscoe. Fluffy figures that with Manny in his corner, he’ll be a great superhero.
Manny, who has been a vigilante for several years now, takes Fluffy and Shifty under his paw and teaches them the ins and outs of being a superhero. However, when the trio runs into Metal Mutt (Roscoe’s alter ego), old wounds are reopened, and ugly truths are revealed.
When Captain Amazing is blind-sided by a villain who is virtually unstoppable, and hell-bent on wiping the super hero out permanently, will Roscoe, Manny, Fluffy and Shifty be able to set aside Their issues long enough to work together, much less save Captain Amazing?
Nathan -
When I first picked up this book, I thought the artwork felt familiar, but I just couldn’t place my finger on it. There was a nagging feeling that  I knew what it was, but not where I knew it from, until I read the author’s biography.
Sanat is the creator of the popular Disney cartoon, The Replacements. With that in mind, I re-read the book, enjoying it so much more the second time.
Not only has Sanat created a great story that stays with the reader long after the story is over, but the artwork adds an extra dimension that truly brings the story to life. The characters are believable, personable, and enjoyable.
Jack – I liked the fact that Captain Amazing’s (A.K.A. Harry) pets have superpowers and can talk, as anthropomorphism is a great tool for drawing in reluctant readers.
Nathan -
The story reads strictly by the numbers, no major surprises here. However, taking into account the target audience and the sheer enjoyment Sanat infuses into this story makes this a non-issue. Only the most jaded and soured of readers would have an issue with the straightforwardness of the story.
Jack – I didn’t like the fact that Harry had a sidekick that ran away, as it can cause anxiety in some kids, especially if they’ve lost a pet.

05 July 2011

July 5-Missile Mouse Twofer

Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher
Written and Illustrated by Jake Parker
Graphix, 2010
ISBN: 978-0-545-11715-9
Dressed in a smart yellow jumpsuit, with the Diplomacy of Indiana Jones and the subtlety of Robocop, Galactic Security Agent Missile Mouse (MM) is every bureaucrat’s nightmare. Charged with retrieving a mapping device from a far flung sector of space, Missile Mouse is betrayed by his guides, and looses the map to Gurne, a bounty hunter who apparently has history with MM.
Back at headquarters, Missile Mouse first gets yelled at for causing mayhem, and then, as if that’s not enough, he’s assigned a new partner! Missile Mouse and Agent Hyde have been tasked with rescuing an alien scientist who holds the entire knowledge base of his race’s ancestors in his head.
The only thing between them and the scientist? The Rogue Imperium of Planets (RIP), who plan on using the information found on the mapping device along with the knowledge in the scientists head to recreate The Star Crusher, a device so devastating that it can create a black hole on demand. If that wasn’t bad enough, Missile Mouse also has to deal with Gurne, as well as a shocking discovery that could jeopardize the entire mission.
  With the fate of the known universe hanging in the balance, Will Missile Mouse be able to save the scientist, prevent the destruction of the universe, and learn to trust his partner?
Pros: Nathan - Reads just like the great action movies of the 80’s, with lots of excitement and edge-of-your-seat thrills will entertain readers. It is well written, the story moves fluidly, and once picked up, it is extremely difficult to put down.
Jack – I liked the characters and the artwork.

Nathan - Two issues come to mind: the potential of some parental groups feeling that Missile Mouse could prove to be a bad role-model (also reminiscent of 80’s action cinema); and controversy regarding “God Imagery” that happens late in the book.
Jack – I didn’t like the idea that a single machine can destroy half of a galaxy. It’s just crazy!

All-in-all, Missile Mouse: The Star Crusher is one of those “must have” books that should be required for any children’s/young adult program. In fact, get two copies – this one is going to be in high demand.
Missile Mouse: Rescue on Tankium3
Written and Illustrated by Jake Parker
Graphix, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-545-11717-3
Missile Mouse 2
Missile Mouse is back, and this time around, he’s got even more to deal with. In between recovering a fugitive and dealing with a new (robotic) partner, Missile Mouse uncovers a planet-wide slavery ring. To compound his problems, he’s also got to deal with a wicked, amoral bounty hunter with a strong affinity for fire, and a crime boss that feels vaguely similar to Jabba the Hutt.
After Missile Mouse narrowly rescues the fugitive he’s been chasing from a murderous bounty hunter, he discovers that the fugitive was a dupe, tricked into committing crimes he’s not even aware of. This sets off a chain of events wherein Missile Mouse, his new partner, Agent 44, and Lasukus (the former fugitive) must travel to Tankium3 to break up a planet wide slavery ring.
Once on Tankium3, Missile Mouse runs afoul of the local crime boss, King Bognarsh, who forces MM into slavery as well! With the help of Agent 44, and Lasukus, will Missile Mouse be able to break free of his servitude? Will the group be able to defeat King Bognarsh? Will Missile Mouse ever learn to trust a partner? Will the bounty hunter Blazing Bat fry the good guys to a crunchy crisp?
As an added bonus, Parker includes a guide to missile mouse’s universe, including maps of planets, an over view of both Missile Mouse’s and Blazing Bat’s weaponry, defenses and outfits.
Pros: Nathan - Familiar characters make this book real easy to slip into. The artwork stays engaging and exciting. As always, the story flows quickly and cleanly, wrapping up the way action movies should.
Jack – The artwork still is a great draw, and the characters are fun.

Cons: Nathan - Characters feel a little one-dimensional at times, and Missile Mouse’s change of heart about mechanical agents felt slightly forced. Blazing Bat is extremely intense, and may cause nightmares in young readers.
Jack – A few of the characters from Rescue on Tankium3 look a lot like characters from The Star Crusher. There seem to be more than passing similarities between Blazing Bat and Agent Hyde, while Lasukus looks awfully familiar to the scientist.

Ultimately, Rescue on Tankium3 retains the excitement and fun of the series, and definitely leaves it wide open for sequels (honestly, how cool would it be for Missile Mouse to face off against Blazing Bat again?)

02 July 2011

Quick update


I’m going to fiddle with the way  I do reviews starting with my next one. Not necessarily the overall format of the layout, but more with the presentation of content. I’m also going to be adding reviews from my cadre of readers who are more “age appropriate” to the book in question. Be on the lookout for the next review (it’ll be a two-fer) that should be posted no later than Tuesday (due to the Holiday). If you’re wanting a hint as to what I’ll be reviewing, The initials are “MM” and they’re action books.

27 June 2011


Well, apparently a certain software publisher didn't bother to extend certain save functions to previously saved files in Live Writer. With it being late, late, late this morning, and not wanting to format a whole new post, I recycled the template for Pilot & Huxley.
What I was not aware of was the fact that when I loaded the old file and started the review for this week, IT OVERWROTE THE OLD FILE. Still, figuring that this website would save a copy of it, I soldiered on. After uploading it, I checked the site, only to discover that not only did my original review of Pilot & Huxley disappear from my hard drive, but from the blog as well (including the back-up post).
With that in mind, I will take more time in the future to make sure this does not happen again, and I will do a second review this week to make up for the mess.

19 June 2011

27 June 2011–Bone Trilogy: Quest for the Spark bk 1

Bone Trilogy: Quest for the Spark bk. 1
Written by Tom Sniegoski
Illustrations by Jeff Smith
Graphix, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-545-14102-4
$ 10.99

  Twenty years ago, Jeff Smith created three small, humanoid looking creatures with large, bulbous noses called Bones, and dumped them in a land of talking animals, dragons and magic. Smith’s series would go on to be named one of the greatest graphic novels of all time, winning awards and accolades like they were as commonplace as receiving email. In fact, Bone is a series that is very near and dear to my heart, and one that I have shared with my eldest (who incidentally became a massive fan himself). I intend to share it with my other kids when they are old enough to enjoy it, so there’s a good chance I’ll be doing a review of the series sooner or later.

  I feel it prudent to point out right off the bat that this is a novel, as in traditional prose writing, not a graphic novel. Normally, this would preclude the book from review, but due to the source material, and the fact that I chose the material to review, this is one that deserves a nod.

  As a sequel of sorts to the original series, Quest for the Spark bk 1 introduces us to Tom Elm, a 12 year old resident of the Valley, and his best friend (and Bone supporting character) Roderick, a raccoon whose parents had been eaten by Rat Creatures. As the story begins, something sinister is invading the Valley – something that visits Tom in his sleep, and attempts to keep him there. The only thing that saves him is his “lucky rock” around his neck. Waking from his nightmare, Tom spends the day distracted and disturbed by what he witnessed in his dream. The next night, in his dream he wanders into the woods outside his house, only to meet a woman who tells him of a great evil that has awoken – the Nacht. Before she can tell him more, he is attacked, forcing Tom to awake from his dream.  Unwilling to go back to sleep, Tom and Roderick go out to start harvesting turnips, only to stumble into the woods – and the woman in Tom’s dreams.

  The woman, Lorimar, is actually a forest spirit, the last of her kind. Explaining that Tom was chosen by the Dreaming, she relates the story of the Nacht, a dragon that had been a servant of the Lord of Locusts, that had survived the original imprisonment of Mim by escaping into the Dreaming. Now, with the Lord of Locusts destroyed, Nacht seeks to conquer both the Dreaming and the Waking Worlds. After hearing this, Tom ventures back to his house to discover that his family has succumbed to the sleeping sickness (for lack of a better term), in which those affected cannot be roused from slumber.

   Now teamed up with three new Bones (The great explorer Percival Bone, his niece Abbey and nephew Barclay), Randolf, a Veni Yan Warrior, the forest spirit Lorimar, and the fan-favorite  ‘Stupid, Stupid Rat Creatures’, Tom and Roderick must travel across the Valley, seeking the missing shards of the Spark – the only item that stands a chance against the all-consuming evil that is the Nacht.

Pros:  Fans of the original series will thoroughly enjoy another visit to the Valley, as well as seeing their favorite characters again. Sniegoski has managed to successfully translate the feel of Smith’s original series into a prose format, allowing readers to slip into the series comfortably.
Cons: A lot of the enjoyment comes from familiarity with the original series. While it’s not required to read Smith’s Bone series, it greatly enhances the enjoyment of Quest for the Spark. There were points in the book that I personally felt would have been more successfully conveyed had they been illustrated, but that is mostly due to wanting to see more of Smith’s artwork.

18 June 2011

Seemingly required first post

Hello, and welcome to The Graphic Novel Reader, my new blog that reviews graphic novels and related items for younger and/or reluctant readers. My most important information can be located on the left side of the page, but if you have any questions, concerns, complaints or suggestions, please do not hesitate to contact me.
As I am just starting out with this, updates will occur weekly on Mondays. This may change accordingly, dependent on what materials I have to review. Also, depending on what materials I get, I might be able to have some contests from time to time. So, stay tuned, and if you have anything you would like me to review, please let me know. there's a link on the right-hand side for contact information.