Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Croquette & Empanada: An adorable graphic novel romance

Croquette & Empanada: A Love Story, by Ana Oncina, (June 2019, Andrews McMeel), $16.99, ISBN: 9781449497064

Ages 14+

This adorable graphic novel works as a YA crossover. Inspired by her relationship with her boyfriend, Croquette & Empanada: A Love Story is a series of slice-of-life glimpses into the relationship between an adorable potato croquette and an empanada. We see them at the beginning of their relationship and as they progress; we see them endure traveling together and putting up with annoying hostel-mates; figure out so-sleeping, and work being a couple at social events.

The artwork is mainly black and white, with peach accents. The characters move in a world inhabited by both human beings and other sentient food. There is sweet humor everywhere – During a romantic dinner, Empanada offers croquette a bite of her favorite food, which he declines. It’s a croquette. Later, she takes a bite out of Croquette’s backside. Empanada says of long-winded Croquette at a party, “He repeats more than garlic” – and who strolls in, but Garlic, who sits down to chat with Croquette, to Empanada’s amusement. Relatable moments abound, from the clean apartment visit at the beginning of a relationship to the more “lived-in” look of a partner in a comfortable, established one; Croquette plans on a productive day… as soon as he takes a quick nap.

A cute graphic novel for teens and adults alike. Light and fun, with sweet and relatable humor and adorable artwork.

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Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

The Iliad goes graphic: Gareth Hinds interprets the epic into a graphic novel for teens

The Iliad, Adapted and Illustrated by Gareth Hinds, (March 2019, Candlewick Press), $27.99, ISBN: 9780763681135

Ages 13+

A companion to 2010’s award-winning adaptation of Homer’s The Odyssey, Gareth Hinds adapts Homer’s epic and manages to capture the breathtaking scale. The Iliad is the first part of the epic poem that recounts The Trojan War, introducing readers to legendary characters including Achilles, Hector, Paris, and Odysseus. Hinds gives readers a dramatis personae of important Greeks and Trojans; he also provides illustration of the cantankerous, trouble-making Greek gods, dividing them up between Titans and children of Zeus.

Flowing the story as dialogue between an omniscient narrator (Homer) and the characters is a big help to readers who may be cowed by the epic poem in its original form; Gareth Hinds brings life to the characters and creates landscapes and battle scenes that really engage readers. The drama is more intimate when one feels like a bystander as Hector and his wife, Andromache, say their goodbyes as he goes off to fight Achilles; seeing the gods interfere in the outcomes of battle will have some readers yelling at the book like we yell at our TV screens (okay, the reader in question is me). There’s just so much material to interact with here: an epic story that’s endured for millennia; maps, and notes all come together to make this a great volume to keep on hand for your students, kids, and patrons.

Gareth Hinds’s The Iliad has starred reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and The Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books. You can find tour dates for Gareth Hinds’s Iliad tour on his website. Candlewick Press has a free, downloadable educator’s guide available.

Gareth Hinds is an award-winning graphic novelist who has some great, epic classics to his credit, including Beowulf, Macbeth, and the works of Edgar Allan Poe. ELA teachers and librarians, get copies of his work into your students’ hands!

 

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

DC Ink: Top name YA authors and reimagined origin stories. Sign me up!

DC Ink is a fairly new (little over a year) DC Comics imprint, dedicated to middle grade and YA original graphic novels. I only had a sneak peek at Harley Quinn’s upcoming book, Breaking Glass, and haven’t read Mera’s book, Tidebreaker yet, but I received ARCs for both Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, and Teen Titans: Raven, and had to dive in.

As with the YA novels in the DC Icons line, every book DC Ink is written by YA royalty, so you just know you’re getting good stuff before you even open the book. They’re illustrated by graphic novel rock stars, so  you’re going to get some phenomenal artwork. Put it all together, and you’ve got a can’t-miss group of graphic novels coming your way. Let’s check ’em out.

Under the Moon: A Catwoman Tale, by Lauren Myracle/Illustrated by Isaac Goodheart, (May 2019, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8591-3

Ages 13+

We all know Selina Kyle, aka Catwoman, has a multitude of origin stories (the comics, Gotham, Batman Returns, The Dark Knight Rises), but it’s because she’s such a captivating character: authors want to tell ALL the stories, and we want to read them! Selina can be anyone, from anywhere; her fluidity makes her a longtime fan favorite, and in Lauren Myracle’s hands, we get an entirely new Selina: a 14-year-old, living with her mother and her revolving door of awful boyfriends. The current one, Dernell, has been around for a while, and seems to be the absolute worst. He’s verbally and physically abusive, and Selina’s mother won’t say a word against him. When he goes too far in “punishing” Selina one night, she has had enough: she runs away and lives on the streets, stealing what she needs to survive. And she finds that not only is she good at it, but she enjoys it. A group of homeless kids adopts Selina, despite her desire to be a loner; she’s drawn in by Rosie, a selectively mute young girl who bonds with Selina. But Rosie goes missing, and Selina finds herself in an awkward situation as she tries to track Rosie down and keep her safe.

Under the Moon is such a good origin story. The consistent thing about Selina is that she’s always capable, always collected, and always at odds with her desire to be a loner and her desire to help those less fortunate then she is. Her vulnerability is her heart, but you’ll never know it (unless you’re a third party reading her book, amirite?). Bruce Wayne is a supporting character here, and it’s fun to see him and his perfect hair in high school; it’s also nice to see he and Selina verbally spar even back in the day. There’s also an interesting murder mystery subplot, because it’s Gotham City.

The artwork is largely subdued purple-blue and white, with sound effects rendered in yellow for effect. The artwork makes excellent use of movement, perspective, and body language. Grab this one for your YA collections, but use caution if you’re thinking of handing it off to younger readers: there’s domestic violence and profanity in here, so much younger readers will be much better off with Superhero Girls trades.

Lauren Myracle is the author of the New York Times bestselling Internet Girls series, which includes ttyl and ttfn, all of which are written in textspeak. Isaac Goodhart is an illustrator whose graphic novel cred includes Postal and Love is Love. He also has an amazing sketch of Hawkeye and Kate Bishop on his Instagram.

 

Teen Titans: Raven, by Kami Garcia/Illustrated by Gabriel Picolo, (July 2019, DC Ink), $16.99, ISBN: 978-1-4012-8623-1

Ages 12+

Teen Titan’s Raven speaks to my wannabe goth girl soul. I love her on the original Teen Titans cartoon from the early 2000s, and I crack up watching her on Teen Titans GO! now. Who else could write this character but Kami “Beautiful Creatures” Garcia, who also speaks to my inner wannabe magic-using goth girl? Raven’s orphaned at age 17 when her foster mom is killed in a car accident. Raven moves in with her foster mom’s sister, who seems to know something about Raven that Raven either can’t remember or doesn’t know. She and her foster sister become fast friends, and a cute guy named Max is interested in her, so things should be settling down for Raven, but weird occurrences start happening. When Raven thinks something, it happens: a mean girl trips and falls, just as Raven wishes she would. She can hear what people are thinking. She’s having nightmares. A sprinkling of good, old school Nawlins voodoo and a Deathstroke appearance make Raven’s origin story A-plus reading.

The artwork is mainly black and white, with some color pages splashed here and there. Raven’s trademark purple and black hair shines off the page, and – Raven fans, are you ready? – she wears adorable narwhal pajama pants at one point. There are little DC winks and nudges throughout, including Raven holding a Wonder Woman doll as a child, and there are some amusing girl power-message tees.

Kami Garcia is a bestselling author and cofounder of YALLFest, the biggest teen book festival in the U.S. Gabriel Picolo is a comics artist who’s worked with Blizzard, BOOM! Studios, and DeviantArt.

Get the Raven book. Get all the DC Ink books. Your readers will be glad you did. And really, you should sit down and read through them, too.

 

Posted in Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

YA in dual narratives: Between Before and After

Between Before and After, by Maureen Doyle McQuerry, (Feb. 2019, Blink), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0310767381

Ages 12+

Told in two narratives across two timespans, Between Before & After is the story of Elaine, a girl raising her younger brother, Stephen, after losing her mother and baby sister to the 1918 Influenza Pandemic and her grief-stricken father to a drunken brawl, and Elaine’s teenaged daughter, Molly, as she tries to unravel her mother’s secret past. The narratives shift between fourteen-year-old Elaine’s story from 1918-1920, and Molly’s in 1955. Molly sees her journalist mother as an enigma, going so far as to create a “biography box” to hold clues to her mother’s story. Elaine’s story is a heartbreaking one, beginning with her mother and baby sister dying, and her father’s spiral into alcoholism and neglect and ending with his death. When Elaine finds work reading to a blind man in a wealthy family, she is relieved at being able to support her and her brother, but a turn of events separates Elaine and Stephen. In 1955, past and present converge when Stephen finds himself at the center of a religious controversy that shines a spotlight on the family.

Between Before and After is a solid piece of historical fiction that examines social class and mental illness. The subplot involving Elaine’s brother Stephen was interesting, but only served a small plot forwarding device for Elaine’s – and, to a degree, Molly’s – story. The characters drew me right in, and anything about New York in the early 20th Century gets my attention. I enjoyed Maureen Doyle McQuerry’s storytelling, especially Elaine’s story; she was a fully realized character.

If you have historical fiction readers, this is a good pick for you. There’s much to discuss about social class, stigma, and childhood poverty here, making this a good extension/book discussion choice for social studies/history classes.

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Springtime reading: April Graphic Novels

Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America, by Box Brown, (Apr. 2019, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250154088

Ages 14+

Award-winning graphic novelist Box Brown is back with the real story of how cannabis – weed, marijuana, reefer – went from being a plant used for spiritual purposes to being labeled a gateway drug that caused “reefer madness”. How did it happen, you say? Racism. Politics. Propaganda.  Scare tactics. The usual song and dance. Box Brown has done his research and, combined with his minimalist artwork, presents a tale that will have you seeing the politics of marijuana (the origin of that name is in here, too, and it’s a doozy) in an entirely new light.

The War on Drugs started long before Nancy Reagan went on Diff’rent Strokes and told kids to “just say no”, and the fallout has targeted minorities – primarily young black men – and left thousands imprisoned for minor infractions. Studies have purposely included falsified data and allowed Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to perpetuate his war against narcotics by weaponizing moral outrage and using propaganda to get the plant a schedule 1 classification, putting it on par with heroin.

Ignatz Award winner Box Brown has a gift for nonfiction. While he’s primarily done biographical graphic novels thus far, including Andre the Giant, Andy Kaufman, and the rise of the video game Tetris, Cannabis is a thoroughly researched, fully realized, history of marijuana, from its earliest recorded uses through the present day. It’s a good add for your young adult/new adult collections and could be a good selection for a book group, especially with its increasing legality and medicinal usage.

Peter and Ernesto: The Lost Sloths, by Graham Annable, (Apr. 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626725720

Ages 6-10

It’s the return of my favorite sloth buddies! Peter and Ernesto are back, and they’ve got a new adventure when a hurricane blows their beloved tree away! Peter, Ernesto, and the rest of their sloth friends must set out to find a new tree. A great tree. A tree just like the one they had, preferably. As they journey through the jungle, there are new dangers to brave: angry ants, slithering snakes, running pigs, and a very hungry jaguar! Ernesto is up to the challenge, but poor Peter… well, Peter’s going to need his best friend next to him as they lead their friends to a new tree. And maybe, a new friend or two along the way.

I love this new series! The two friends are like the Bert and Ernie of sloth civilization, with idealistic, upbeat Ernesto and cautious, nervous Peter acting as counterbalances to each other. The new animals the group meets as they venture through the jungle are hilarious, and the twist near the end will have your readers cheering. It’s emotional to see the sloths survey the damage to their tree, and it adds a depth to Peter’s and Ernesto’s characters as they take on the responsibility of shepherding their group to a new home. It’s just as emotional to see them find a new tree and the final resolution will just make you feel good. Peter and Ernesto is feel-good reading, and who doesn’t need more of that?

I can’t wait to see where life takes them next. Add this to your graphic novels collections and talk them up! Make a Best Friends display and make sure to include Frog & Toad, Elephant and Piggie, Narwhal & Jelly, and Duck and Porcupine.

Posted in Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

A whodunit with a twist: The Color of Lies by CJ Lyons

The Color of Lies, by CJ Lyons, (Nov. 2018, Blink YA Books), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0-310-765356

Ages 14+

This is one heck of a mystery. High school senior Ella lives with her grandmother and Uncle Joe after an accident orphaned her as a toddler. Her father’s best friend and business partner, Darrin, treats her like a favorite niece and has cultivated her father’s business into a solid foundation to keep Ella safe and comfortable. That all changes when Max shows up: Max, the journalism student consumed with Ella’s story, because what Ella’s been told isn’t how it happened. Max knows, because Max was there that night, too.

This is a wild ride. You think you know what’s going on, and CJ Lyons politely smirks and shakes a finger in your literary face, crafting a plot that left me dumbfounded. Adding a main character with synesthesia – a condition that wreaks havoc on the senses, and, in Ella’s case, allows her “read” people through their colorful auras – adds nice depth to the characters. There is a lot of storytelling here – at times, to the detriment of pacing – but overall, this is a good mystery, with a touch of romance, that teens will like.

CJ Lyons’s author webpage includes medical and forensic links and the opportunity to download some of her work for free.

Posted in Graphic Novels, Realistic Fiction, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

February Graphic Novels bring big feelings

PTSD, by Guillaume Singelin, (Feb. 2019, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781626723184

Ages 16+

A veteran home from an unpopular war, Jun is an outsider whose fate is similar to many of our own vets in the here and now. She’s mentally and physically broken, finding relief in the drugs she’s addicted to. When she connects with a single mom running a food booth, and a fellow vet and his dog, Red, Jun begins to heal and works toward helping her fellow vets heal.

Set in a fictional, Hong Kong-inspired city, PTSD chooses a gritty, urban futuristic landscape to tell the story of a veteran who went off to fight a war, and came home to indifference. Jun gives us a chance to glimpse into a vet’s psyche: beaten down, haunted by her memories, and physically broken, she’s been left behind by the people she thought she went off to defend. She’s angry, she’s in pain, and the only thing that seems to take the edge off is drugs. Basic human kindness angers her – she initially rebuffs the woman who runs a food stand, because she’s so unused to humane gestures. Readers will see our vets reflected in Jun and her fellow homeless vets.

The story is strong, although I struggled with the artwork. The manga-inspired artwork is dark and often muddy. It’s atmospheric, but often left me struggling to figure out what was going on and where. Manga fans will snap this up, and booktalk this with books like Elizabeth Partridge’s National Book Award nominee, Boots on the Ground. This is a young adult and up-level graphic novel with language and content that may be too rough for middle grade readers.

Bloom, by Kevin Panetta/Illustrated by Savanna Ganucheau, (Feb. 2019, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250196910
Ages 13+

This YA/New Adult graphic novel is a gentle love story. High school is over, and Ari can’t wait to move out of his hometown. He and his bandmates are planning on a big move to the city, where they can get more gigs and make their names – now, all Ari needs to do, is convince his dad to let him quit his job at the family bakery. At the same time, Hector comes to town to wrap up his deceased grandmother’s affairs and sell her house. He loves to bake as much as Ari is sick of it, and he ends up being the perfect replacement for the struggling bakery: even Ari’s dad loves Hector! But as Ari works side by side with Hector, getting him up to speed on the bakery, the two fall in love… until disaster hits, in more ways than one. Can Ari’s family recover when their business and home burns to the ground, and can Hector and Ari ever work out their relationship?

Created with soft blue and white artwork, Bloom is a sweet story of first love, identity, and independence. Ari can come off as pretty whiny, but his friends are even worse. Hector is the strong, silent type that pulls Ari out of himself and helps him discover who he is – and that he doesn’t need his friends in order to give him an identity. Bloom also explores consequences: Ari has to make big choices in this book, and not every choice is going to be the best one for him. It’s part of growing up, and growing up can be painful. It’s how you work through it that matters. Bloom is a good add to your YA/New Adult graphic novel collections and a love story that will give readers the warm fuzzies.