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.