There are a bunch of good graphic novels out, so let’s jump right in – there’s something for everyone!
There are a bunch of good graphic novels out, so let’s jump right in – there’s something for everyone!
Phew! I may have overextended myself just an eensy bit with my own summer reading list, but it was all worth it. There are some great books out this Fall. Here’s a quick rundown of some graphic novels and illustrated nonfiction out this month (and one from June… it was a busy summer!).
Heretics!: The Wondrous (and Dangerous) Beginnings of Modern Philosophy, by Steven & Ben Nadler, (June 2017, Princeton University Press), $22.95, ISBN: 9780691168692 / Ages 16+
This nonfiction graphic novel tells the story of the 17th-century thinkers – Galileo, Descartes, Locke, Newton, and more – who fundamentally changed the way mankind saw society and ourselves. These philosophers and scientists challenged the church’s authority to prove that Earth was not the center of the universe; that kings were not divinely chosen to rule; that neither God nor nature makes choices: sometimes, things just happen. Period. The reader-friendly, cartoony drawings, combined with simple explanatory text helps readers understand the scandalous nature of these thinkers. Booktalk and display with the Action Philosophers collection.
Greek Myths: Three Heroic Tales, by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden/Illustrated by Carole Henaff, (Sept. 2017, Confident Readers), $12.99, ISBN: 9781782853497 / Ages 8-12
Three of the most famous Greek myths: Demeter and Persephone, Theseus and the Minotaur, and Orpheus and Eurydice – get the illustrated treatment here. Award-winning French illustrator Carole Hénaff uses a palette of deep and bright colors to create beautiful illustrations that would be as beautiful in a frame as they are in this book.
I love a good, spooky story, and if it’s a good, spooky graphic novel that I can share with my library kiddos, even better. Marion’s mom inherited an old family house. It’s got a private beach and overlooks the ocean. It’s too good to be true, right? Right. Marion discovers some strange rock carvings and that a chilling local legend may be coming to life. The artwork is beautiful, and the translation from the original French to English is seamless.
Recommended for readers 8-13
How do I even start my gushing over Shannon Hale’s memoir about family, friendship, and growing pains? I’m a Shannon Hale fan and a LeUyen Pham fan; their collaborations – like on one of my favorite chapter book series, Princess in Black – work so well, visually and literally, it’s a treat for the eyes, the imagination, the whole reader is satisfied.
Here, we see young Shannon’s life from Kindergarten through fifth grade in terms of her relationships; with her mother, a series of friends, her troubled and sometimes abusive sister, and with God. Primarily, this is a story of how Shannon struggled with The Group. We all know The Group. Mean Girls was a story about The Group; just about every high school or middle school movie or TV show has a Group. It’s the in-crowd, the girls who make lives miserable for everyone that isn’t part of their group – and sometimes, even for the people in the group. Shannon desperately wants friends, but with friends comes the stress of being part of The Group and putting up with the mind games and backstabbing that is aimed at her by another jealous group member. At home, she tries to navigate relationships with her large family, trying to give her temperamental sister, Wendy, a wide berth.
We see the effects of stress on Shannon, who develops OCD-type behavior and manifests physical ailments often associated with anxiety. We also see how Shannon copes by creating her imaginary worlds – she’s a Wonder Woman, a Charlie’s Angel, a secret agent, and she brings her friends along for the ride. This book is powerful for a girl who, like Shannon, grew up in the ’70s, disappeared into my own imagination, and struggled for years with Groups and backstabbing. I’m an only child, but Shannon could have been writing about me – and that’s how readers will feel reading this book, just like readers do when they read literally anything by Raina Telgemeier.
Readers will know this is their story, whether they’re an 8 year old kid or a 46 year old librarian and book blogger; maybe there’s a boy out there who, like Shannon or Kayla, another character, hides in the bushes so no one will see them crying and make fun of them. Real Friends is painful, real, and beautiful.
Real Friends received a starred review from School Library Journal, and Kirkus offers an interview with Shannon and Dean Hale. Wander over to Shannon Hale’s author page for information on her other books, games and quizzes, and more; LeUyen Pham’s webpage is loaded with neat things to see, including a free, downloadable Love: Pass It On poster, and links to her illustration, Facebook, and book pages.
This one is a no-brainer for collections. Display with Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl, Raina Telgemeier’s Smile, and Sisters, and novels like Jennifer L. Holm’s Fourteenth Goldfish, and Dana Alison Levy’s Family Fletcher books. If it’s a display or book talk on self-esteem and standing up to the crowd, make sure to include Kathryn Otoshi’s Zero, One, and Two.
Mermaid stories are insanely popular. Debbie Dadey’s Mermaid Tales series is always out over here; I have early readers and middle graders constantly asking me where they can find more mermaid books, and YA has a whole category of mermaid books. If you’re of a certain age (or your parents are), like me, you remember the movie, Splash, which is getting a reboot with Channing Tatum as a mer-guy now. There’s something fascinating about the world under the sea.
Award-winning graphic novelists and Eisner Award nominees Metaphrog – aka Sandra Marrs and John Chalmers – are award-winning graphic novelists who have crafted a graphic novel retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid. For those of you who only know the Disney version, heads up: this is not that version. There’s no happy singing crab, Bette Midler is not a fabulous underwater witch with killer vocal cords, and the ending is very different than you may expect. The Mermaid – unnamed here – falls in love with a young prince whom she saves from drowning, and makes a bargain with a witch in order to grow legs and be with him, but the price is high.
Metaphrog create beautiful art to tell the mermaid’s tale. With shades of blues and greens, they weave magic, loneliness, and mystery into their story. The waves seem to lap off the cover, beckoning the reader to come in and read their tale. This adaptation beautifully translates this powerful tale. Pair this one with Metaphrog’s graphic adaptation of Anderson’s The Red Shoes and Other Tales.
Another Little Mermaid retelling, Fish Girl tells a different, slightly darker tale. The Fish Girl is an attraction in a seaside exhibit; the proprietor refers to himself as Neptune, god of the oceans. As the story progresses, it becomes apparent that Neptune isn’t all that he claims to be, and the circumstances under which he keeps Fish Girl in captivity are unsettling, bordering on menacing. A girl visits the exhibit one day and catches a glimpse of the fish girl; the two strike up a secret friendship as Mia – the name Fish Girl’s friend bestows on her – wants more than life in a tank, and begins pushing her boundaries.
This is a more modern update of the classic fairy tale, with unsettling implications. Neptune is not a benevolent sea god; he’s not a loving father figure, and I found myself fighting a panicky feeling – most likely reacting as a parent – because I wanted Mia to get away from him. The story is intriguing, and will draw readers in, keeping them riveted until the last page is turned.
While I normally love David Wiesner’s artwork – Art & Max, Flotsam, Tuesday, you name it – this isn’t his usual artwork, where the colors blend and shade to provide depth and dimension. It’s still beautiful artwork, but it’s more flat here, really letting the story take center stage. His use of sea colors is lovely, and he creates a loving relationship between Mia and her guardian, the octopus.
I’d suggest these for higher middle graders – 5th and 6th graders – because the overall content may be upsetting to younger readers. Would I let my kids read them at that age? Yes, but that’s me. Read these first, and let that be your guide; make sure your younger readers know that these are different ways of telling the Disney story they may be familiar with.
The man behind Toon’s Easy to Read Giggle and Learn series is back again with his fun blend of science and art. Something’s Fishy teaches young readers about fish – from the ABCs (there’s a fish for every letter of the alphabet), to biology, to the history of keeping goldfish as pets, Mr. McCloskey uses his acrylic and gouache artwork to illustrate all kinds of fish. He also discusses responsible pet ownership by mentioning that some fish, while popular film characters, aren’t really supposed to be pets: they’re much happier in their natural environments. A just-about-actual-size rendering of a foot-long goldfish will make readers giggle… and learn!
I love the trend of graphic novels as nonfiction texts, and Kevin McCloskey’s work for young readers and listeners are among some of my favorites. We Dig Worms and The Poop On Pigeons are in constant rotation at my library, and I can’t wait to introduce kids to fish with Something’s Fishy. His books make for excellent nonfiction storytime reading and pair nicely with picture books. You can very easily pair Something’s Fishy with Rainbow Fish, Lois Ehlert’s Rain Fish, or any number of fish or sea life-related stories. This is a fun add to nonfiction collections and a great gift for your younger Nemo and Octonauts fans.
Recommended for ages 8-13
The latest volume of Science Comics introduces kids to bats. The information is pulled together with a story about a little brown bat whose wing is injured by humans on a nature hike. He’s taken to a rehabilitation center, where he meets bats of different species. Little Brown, as he’s called by the other bats, learns what the other bats eat, how they fly, live, and sadly, how their homes are invaded by humans. The information is comprehensive and there’s a call to conservation and preservation for kids, which I always appreciate.
I enjoy Science Comics because it’s easily an digestible, thorough introduction to a subject that doesn’t talk down to kids, nor does it speak over their heads. The illustrations are interesting and technically on point, and the fictional narrative that ties each volume together is interesting and fun, keeping the reader’s attention. I’ve got every issue of Science Comics (Coral Reefs, Dinosaurs, Volcanoes) so far, and Bats will join them on my shelves. I display mine with related series nonfiction, lest kids worry about a “comic book” not satisfying their research requirements, and I booktalk them every chance I get. If you’re a teacher, have these in your classroom and use them when you cover these topics – your kids will thank you.
Recommended for ages 7-11
Seven year-old Owen’s parents drop him off for a visit at Buffalo Bob’s Rootin’ Tootin’ Animal Circus. Uncle Bob’s his great-uncle, but he’s really not looking forward to this visit, no matter how cool these animals are supposed to be. A knife-throwing elephant? A jump-roping giraffe? They HAVE to be people dressed up as animals, right? Pfft. When Owen and his family arrive at the circus, they find chaos: Uncle Bob’s missing, and so are the animals. The number one suspect is Bob’s nemesis, Contorto, and his henchcreeps. Stuck in Uncle Bob’s office while the staff try to find Bob and calm the angry masses of circus-goers waiting to see animals, Owen discovers a box of magical animal crackers. Maybe this circus thing isn’t going to be so bad, after all, especially if he can help save the day with a little help from the magical cookies.
Animal Crackers is a fun story to give to younger readers. It’s a great way to turn kids onto graphic novels and sequential storytelling. Mike Holmes, the artist on Gene Luen Yang’s Secret Coders series, illustrates the wacky, fun hijinks going on in the circus. His characters, particularly Owen and his animals, have wonderfully exaggerated facial expressions and movements to match the story’s pacing. Scott Sava creates a fun intermediate tale that kids will enjoy, and with an Animal Crackers movie coming in March, this is going to be a hot book on shelves and on wish lists.