Posted in Fiction, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery is keeping watch

The Turnkey of Highgate Cemetery, by Allison Rushby, (July 2018, Candlewick Press), $15.99, ISBN: 9780763696856

Recommended for readers 9-12

Flossie Birdwhistle is a ghost, but that’s beside the point. She’s got a very important job as Turnkey at London’s Highgate Cemetery; making sure her fellow souls are at rest and cared for. She’s a young ghost – she’s only 11- and while some may have something to say about that, she’s good at her job. Right now, her big concern is World War II, currently raging over Britain, and disturbing her dead neighbors. Flossie encounters the ghost of a German soldier up to no good, so she starts investigating, and learns that he’s somehow managed to bridge the gap between the worlds of the dead and the living. She has got to stop him before he – and the enemy army – can destroy Britain!

This is thoroughly enjoyable historical fiction with a nice dose of the supernatural. Flossie has a nicely sketched out backstory, and we learn just enough about her fellow ghosts and familiars to keep us satisfied and turning pages. I like how author Allison Rushby incorporated Hitler’s well-documented fascination with the supernatural into the story, making this a “what if” type of alternate history novel for younger readers, and I like Flossie’s determination and ability to think while under (often literal) fire. Mystery and ghost story fans will enjoy meeting Flossie and friends. Want to give readers a fun website? Let them visit the actual Highgate Cemetery’s webpage, where they can find war graves (including soldiers from WWII), take a virtual tour of the cemetery, and visit a few luminaries.

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Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Teen

Three new graphic novels coming your way in May!

There are some good graphic novels coming out in May. There’s manga-influenced work, an animal tale that brings Watership Down to mind, and a gripping story about being an undocumented immigrant. Let’s see what’s up!

 

Snails are Just My Speed!, by Kevin McCloskey, (May 2018, TOON Books), $12.95, ISBN: 9781943145270

Recommended for readers 3-7

The latest in Kevin McCloskey’s Giggle and Learn series of graphic novels takes a look at snails! They live in their shells! They like to eat together! They make a LOT of mucus! (So. Much. Mucus.) This latest easy reading, nonfiction graphic novel is perfect for pre-k and Kindergarten science groups and animal lovers. It’s loaded with fun facts, much of it mucus-related, which will make this a guaranteed hit with kids who love to squeal and shriek at “gooey” stuff. I love the infographic, built into the story, of all the animals that are faster – and slower! – than a snail, and the different types of snails that exist, including a hairy snail and a “glass” snail with a see-through shell. There’s a quick drawing lesson at the end – great way to end a storytime or science group session! – and the TOON website always has great teacher’s resources available for download. Kevin McCloskey is aces in my book!

 

Animus, by Antoine Revoy, (May 2018, First Second), $16.99, ISBN: 9781626721838

Recommended for readers 12+

This is a creepy ghost tale/mystery surrounding a ghost destined to haunt a playground. Schoolmates Hisao and Sayrui meet Toothless, a ghost who tells them that the playground is magic: the swings let you look into people’s dreams; the sandbox brings your worst fears to life, and the slide has the power to give or take years from your life, depending on the direction you go. When another friend goes down the slide, rapidly ages, and develops dementia, the two friends must save him – and to do that, they must discover who Toothless really is, and how he came to haunt the playground.

Heavily influenced by Japanese and French comics, this black-and-white graphic novel is eerie and unsettling; a strong noir story with ghostly elements woven throughout to create a story that will stay with readers.

 

Chasma Knights, by Boya Sun & Kate Reed Petty, (May 218, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626726048

Recommended for readers 8-12

Beryl is a Neon Knight in the fantasy land of Chasma, where toys “catalyze” with a touch and come to life, merging with their owners and imbued with special abilities. But the thing is, in Chasma, being a Neon Knight isn’t that great – it’s kind of a joke. Neon Knights can’t catalyze; Oxygen Knights do. But Beryl has a talent all her own: she’s an inventor that can repurpose broken toys into new creations. Coro, an Oxygen Knight, meets Beryl at the Toy Market, and the two strike up an initially cautious friendship.

I’ll be honest, this one left me scratching my head – I didn’t always quite get what was going on, but I did appreciate the kid-friendly artwork and storyline: who wouldn’t want to read about toys coming to life? I booktalked this to a few of my library kids – all big manga fans – and they seemed to have a better grasp on the concept than I did, so go them! My best advice? It’s a fun, bright, kid-friendly graphic novel. Let your audience be your guide.

And two that are already out, but that I just read…

Chloe, Vol. 1: The New Girl, by Greg Tessier and Amandine, (May 2017, Papercutz), $9.99, ISABN: 9781629917634

Recommended for readers 10-12

Originally published in French, the Chloe graphic novels are fun stories about a fashion-fabulous teen named Chloe as she navigates high school, friendships, and relationships. Her family mortifies her, and the mean girl fashionistas at school are mean to her – in other words, she’s totally relatable. In this first issue, Chloe starts high school and tries to get in with the in crowd. The artwork is fun and the subject matter is light.

Chloe, Vol. 2: The Queen of High School, by Greg Tessier and Amandine, (October 2017, Papercutz), $9.99, ISBN: 9781629917634

Recommended for readers 10-12

In this second volume, Chloe is back for her second year of high school and taking things by storm. She’s got a cute new boyfriend, a fashion blog, and a group of friends to call her own. She’s still got embarrassing parents and mean girls at school, but she’s taking it all in stride.
There are four Chloe volumes in total available. These would be good for Summer Reading groups, maybe even in conjunction with a blog project for tweens!
Posted in Graphic Novels, Teen, Young Adult/New Adult

Archival Quality is SO GOOD, and not just because I’m a librarian.

Archival Quality, by Ivy Noelle Weir/Illustrated by Steenz, (March 2018, Oni Press), $19.99, ISBN: 9781620104705

Recommended for readers 14+

First, the scoop: Cel Walden is a young woman who loves working with books. But she loses her library job, because she’s also dealing with crippling anxiety and depression. She finds another job, this time as an archivist, at the Logan Museum, where she’s responsible for putting records in order and digitizing them. Sounds pretty cool, right? (You know it does.) She meets Abayomi, also called Aba, the secretive curator, and the fabulous Holly, librarian extraordinaire. Cel starts scanning and archiving, but notices strange things afoot at the library and the archivist’s apartment on library property; she also starts having some strange dreams about a young woman who needs Cel’s help. Cel becomes consumed with finding out this woman’s identity and what happened to her, which puts her job, relationship, and possibly, her mental health, at risk.

Now, the raving: Archival Quality is a great story on so many levels. It’s a ghost story; it’s got secrets; it takes place in a library – where better to have a ghost story?!; and it takes a strong and sensitive look at mental health and takes an hard look at mental health treatment in the past. Cel is on a mission to find out what happened to the ghostly girl who shares her initials and her mental health challenges. The ghost’s story gets under Cel’s skin because she empathizes; she understands, and she wants to help put an uneasy, persecuted spirit to rest: and that certainly has a double meaning, as we see the toll this takes on Cel through the story.

The characters are wonderful. Cel stands on her own as a fully realized character, and her friends: the mysterious Aba has his own fears and frustrations to work with, and Holly is strong and witty. Holly and Aba are characters of color and Holly’s got a girlfriend whose family has its own ties to the Logan Museum, giving us a tertiary character that has a realistic connection to the story and isn’t just there to be window dressing for Holly. Archival Quality is a solid story that works to bash away at the stigma of depression and anxiety. I love it, and I can’t wait to get it into the hands of the readers at my library. I’d hand this off to my upper-level middle schoolers and high schoolers, and keep copies handy for the college kids.

Ivy Noelle Weir and Steenz also happen to be former librarians. See? LIBRARIES ROCK. Check out Ivy Weir’s webpage for more webcomics (with Steenz) and general awesomeness. Check out Steenz’s Tumblr for more art.

 

Posted in Fantasy, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Non-Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Graphic Novel Rundown: Memoir, Coders, and Fantasy

There are a bunch of good graphic novels out, so let’s jump right in – there’s something for everyone!

 

Taproot A Story About a Gardener and a Ghost, by Keezy Young, (Sept. 2017, Lion Forge), $10.99, ISBN: 9781941302460
Recommended for readers 13+

Lighter Than My Shadow, by Katie Green, (Oct. 2017, Lion Forge), $19.99, ISBN: 9781941302415
Recommended for readers 13+
Katie Green’s graphic memoir details her years of abusing disorders, abuse at the hands of the therapist who was supposed to help her, and her recovery and reclamation of self. It’s devastating and inspirational; a life that we can all see in ourselves: cruel teasing, parental threats at the dinner table, a career you’re shoehorned into. Lighter Than My Shadow is a memoir of anxiety and depression, told in shades of grey, black and white. We see the physical manifestation of Green’s hunger and depression: a growing mouth in her stomach, a black scribble over her head, threatening to split her open. It’s an incredible story, and one that must be shared and discussed.
Secret Coders: Robots and Repeats, by Gene Luen Yang & Mike Holmes, (Oct. 2017, First Second), $10.99, ISBN: 9781626726062
Recommended for readers 8-12
The Coders are back! Dr. One-Zero is a bane to their existence, especially with his new “Advanced Chemistry” class, where he only teaches them to make Green Pop. Hopper’s paired up with an obnoxious classmate who knows nothing about chemistry; Josh is fostering a kinda, sorta crush, and Eni’s sisters are following him around the school, reporting his every move to his overprotective parents, who want him to cut all ties with his fellow Coders. The Coders are still working together, though, and make a new discovery: The Turtle of Light. They also discover someone they’ve been looking for: Hopper’s dad, who’s under the influence of the evil Green Pop! This fourth installment is still good fun and has more coding challenges for readers; most notably, working out pattern repeats. The fifth book, Potions and Parameters, is coming in March.
The Tea Dragon Society, by Katie O’Neill, (Oct. 2017, Oni Press), $17.99, ISBN: 9781620104415
Recommended for readers 9-13
If you loved Princess Princess Ever After as much as I did, you are in for a treat with Katie O’Neill’s newest graphic novel, The Tea Dragon Society. Greta is a blacksmith’s apprentice who wonders whether her mother’s craft is even relevant anymore. She learns about another art form when she rescues a young tea dragon in a marketplace: the care of tea dragons; they’re dragons, who grow tea leaves out of their horns and antlers. The cast is beautifully illustrated and diverse; we’ve got a plethora of relationships depicted, and a storyline every fairy tale and fantasy reader will love. The backgrounds, the characters, every single piece of this graphic novel is just incredible artwork. Buy two copies for your shelves, and a copy or two for readers you love. Do. Not. Miss.

 

Posted in Graphic Novels, Middle School, Teen, Tween Reads

A boy deals with his grief in Cast No Shadow

Cast No Shadow, by Nick Tapalansky/Illustrated by Anissa Espinosa, (Oct. 2017, :01FirstSecond), $16.99, ISBN: 9781596438774

Recommended for ages 12+

Greg and his friends live in Lancaster, in a town that’s lately become obsessed with tourist traps. This latest one is a giant hairball. No lie. Greg is kind of an attraction on his own: he was born without a shadow. He’s normal in every other way; he just doesn’t have a shadow, which just makes him one more quirky thing in a town full of quirks. When Greg explores an abandoned mansion just outside of town, he meets Eleanor, who could be the perfect girl for him – “smart, beautiful, funny, and man, she totally gets me” – if only she weren’t dead. Eleanor is a teenage ghost, living in her family’s old mansion, and chasing out the creepy living that go in and mess up her home, but she has a soft spot for Greg.

Greg’s got a lot going on in his home life, too: his dad’s girlfriend, Joyce, has just moved in, and Greg isn’t happy about it. He doesn’t want anyone taking his dead mother’s place. As he deals with the frustration of having a new person in the house, and a girlfriend who can’t leave her haunt, something is set in motion; Greg has unwittingly set a dangerous entity loose on his town. What are the chances he can save his town, smooth over his relationship with his father and Joyce, and have a happily ever after of his own?

Cast No Shadow is a touching exploration into grief and loss. Greg retreats from the world to cope with his mother’s loss and his father’s subsequent relationship; aside from his female best friend, the strongest relationship that emerges in the book is with a dead girl. Greg’s suppressed feelings find another way to emerge, causing destruction and danger for everyone around him. It’s a great story to put into older tweens’ and teens’ hands, helping them cope with feelings that may be too overwhelming to confront head-on. The black, white, and gray illustrations add a nice, ghostly feel to the story and come in handy when finer plot points fall into place.

A nice addition to middle school and teen graphic novel collections, and a good secondary reference for kids dealing with grief and loss. Find more of author Nick Tapalansky’s work at his website, and illustrator Anissa Espinosa’s work at her Tumblr.

Posted in Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Dark middle grade fantasy: Room of Shadows

Room of Shadows, by Ronald Kidd, (Aug. 2017, Albert Whitman), $16.99, ISBN: 9780807568057

Recommended for readers 10-13

David finds himself with a lot of anger lately. I mean, it’s justified: his dad abandoned his mom, and they’ve been forced to move into this creepy old house. When a school bully messes with him on a bad day, David beats him up, earning some in-house grounding from his mom. That’s where he discovers the room: a secret room with an old desk and a carving of a Raven, signed, “EP”. The weird dreams start shortly after. When the incidents start at school, all involving people who David’s tangled with, everyone starts looking at him differently, including his mom and the police. How can David prove he isn’t The Raven – the person responsible for the incidents, who leaves a signed note each time? And how can he keep himself safe from The Raven, who’s fixated on him?

With a background in Edgar Allan Poe’s history, I dove eagerly into Room of Shadows. The author takes Poe into very dark territory here, for reasons that become clear as the story progresses. It’s an interesting concept, but one I had a hard time with. I didn’t really get to know David or his best friend, Libby; I felt like their character development took more of a backseat, allowing the Poe storyline to drive the plot. I did like the nod to some of Poe’s greatest hits in the story, including The Tell-Tale Heart, The Black Cat, and The Pit and the Pendulum; it’s always great to discover Poe in new fiction. This one wasn’t my book, but middle grade horror fans who are ready for something weightier than Goosebumps and Haunted Mansion may sit down with this one.

Posted in Fiction, Horror, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

A spooky Book Birthday to Spirit Hunters!

Spirit Hunters, by Ellen Oh, (July 2017, HarperCollins), $16.99, ISBN: 9780062430083

Recommended for readers 9-13

Harper Raine is not happy about her parents’ decision to move them from New York to Washington, D.C. She can’t stand the creepy house they’ve moved into, especially when she hears the rumors about it being haunted. When her younger brother, Michael, starts talking about an imaginary friend and undergoes a radical personality change, Harper knows she has to act, even if no one else believes her. The thing is, some of Michael’s behaviors ring familiar bells for Harper, but she can’t put her finger on why. She’s missing chunks of memory from a previous accident – can things be connected?

Ellen Oh’s the founder of the We Need Diverse Books movement, and Spirit Hunters gives readers a wonderfully spooky story, rich in diversity. Harper and her siblings are half Korean; as the story progresses, subplots reveal themselves and provide a fascinating look at Korean culture, and the conflicts that can arise between generations. Harper’s new friend, Dayo, and a helpful spirit named Mrs. Devereux are African-American; Mrs. Devereux in particular provides a chance for discussion on race relations, and how racism doesn’t necessarily end with one’s life. Told in the third person, we also hear Harper’s voice through her “stupid DC journals”; journal entries suggested by her therapist, to help bridge her memory gaps, that show up between chapters. The characters are brilliant, with strong backstories, and two mystery subplots emerge that come together, with the main story, to give readers an unputdownable story that will dare them to turn the lights off at night.

I can’t say enough good things about Spirit Hunters, and neither can other reviewers: the book has starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Booklist.