Posted in Fantasy, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Middle Grade Mermaid Stories!

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.

The Little Mermaid, by Metaphrog, (Apr. 2017, Papercutz), $13.99, ISBN: 9781629917399

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.

Fish Girl, by Donna Jo Napoli/Illustrated by David Wiesner, (March 2017, Clarion), $17.99, ISBN: 978-0547483931

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.

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Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Intermediate

Barbie and her sisters are having a puppy party!

barbieBarbie Puppies #1: Puppy Party, by Danica Davidson, (Dec. 2016, Papercutz), $7.99, ISBN: 9781629916088

Recommended for ages 6-10

Barbie’s got another graphic novel out, and this time, she’s having a puppy party! She and her younger sisters are planning an adoption event for the local shelter, and it’s also their puppies’ birthday! The puppies are worried they’ll be forgotten about, but would Barbie and her sisters let that happen? No way!

This is an adorable addition to Papercutz’s Barbie graphic novel line. The art is sweet, colorful and bright, the story is all about doing good for others and shines a light on pet adoption.

A good buy for Barbie fans and large graphic novel collections – I know I’ll be getting this for my library!

Posted in Animal Fiction, Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Historical Fiction, Intermediate, Middle Grade

Geronimo Stilton goes to the ends of the earth in his latest graphic novel adventure

geronimo-stiltonGeronimo Stilton #18: First to the Last Place on Earth, (Nov. 2016, Papercutz), $9.99, ISBN: 9781629916033

Recommended for ages 6-10

Journalist mouse and time traveler Geronimo Stilton’s latest adventure takes him and a group of friends (including his younger sister, Thea!) back to 1911, where they join explorer Roald Amundsen’s expedition to the South Pole. They have to beat the awful Pirate Cats, who plan to sabotage the expedition and ruin history, so Geronimo will need to stay extra sharp!

The Geronimo Stilton graphic novels are fun because they’re another addition to the Stilton family of storytelling. The stories are original – no rehashes of the chapter books here! – and offer kids some interesting facts mixed in with their fun. Geronimo is insanely popular, as are all his spinoff titles; your intermediate and middle grader readers will gobble these up. You won’t even need to booktalk this book – just put it out and stand back.

Want to use Geronimo to promote your exploration titles? I don’t blame you. Talk up Ernest Shackleton’s 1914 Antarctic expedition; Matthew Henson’s exploration of the North Pole, and the lost Franklin expedition of 1845. Nomad Press’ Mysteries and Mayhem: Survival is a good book to talk up, and the I Survived series will always get kids listening and reading.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Middle Grade, Science Fiction, Teen, Tween Reads

Block and Jam! Trish Trash: Rollergirl of Mars!

trish-trash_1Trish Trash #1: Rollergirl of Mars, by Jessica Abel (Nov. 2016, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781629916149

Recommended for ages 10+

About 200 years from now, Trish “Trash” Nupindju lives with her aunt and uncle on a Mars-based moisture farm. Mars is colonized, but settlers live and work under brutal conditions and live in abject poverty. Trish cuts school one day try out for the Novas, a hover derby team – think roller derby, but a little more off the ground – because she wants to become a star and leave this red rock already. She finds herself on the wrong side of hover diva Hanna Barbarian, but she lands a spot as team intern. Life’s starting to look up, until Trish discovers a weak and injured Martian, whom she takes in.

Rollergirl of Mars is the first in a new science fiction trilogy by Harvey Award-winning author Jessica Abel. It’s a promising beginning, but I’ve got a few questions; the biggest one being, does living on Mars age humans differently? Trish is supposed to be 7 1/2 years old, but looks and acts like a teenager. I hope this gets fleshed out in future issues. I love the idea of hover derby (I’ve mentioned being a frustrated derby girl when I’ve reviewed derby books here in the past), and the match in the first issue has energy that readers will enjoy. We’ve got a diva conflict setting up, and some family drama on the horizon, so there are quite a few elements set up here to move future narratives forward. I love the diversity reflected here, too. Give this to your Roller Girl readers who are ready for some more realistic, gritty art and storytelling, and talk this up with your teens. There’s a great Trish Trash section on Jessica Abel’s author page, too.

 

Posted in Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Middle Grade

Oh No! The Lunch Witch is Knee Deep in Niceness!

lunch-witchThe Lunch Witch #2: Knee-Deep in Niceness, by Deb Lucke, (Oct. 2016, Papercutz), $14.99, ISBN: 9781629915036

Recommended for ages 8-12

In this sequel to 2014’s Lunch Witch, Grunhilda is still pulling shenanigans at the school cafeteria – lately, she’s been putting chopped-up pink erasers into the ham and beans – but there’s a soft spot on that black and crusty heart of hers. She tries to hide it from her ancestors and her familiars: she gets a letter from Madison, the student she kinda sorta befriended in the first book, and keeps it hidden under her mattress. But Mr. Williams, her dog, knows something’s up, and finds the letter. Distressed, he talks the familiars into finding a cure: a meanness potion from the book that IS NOT TO BE USED BY ANYONE OTHER THAN WITCHES. What could go wrong, right? Right.

Mr. Williams mixes up a positivity potion, further illustrating why the spell book is NOT TO BE USED BY ANYONE OTHER THAN WITCHES. The positive vibes spread to the whole town; the ancestors are aghast, and Brunhilda has to fix things before her own black and crusty heart gives way to the shiny happy people business that’s running rampant.

The first Lunch Witch novel is still hugely popular – it’s still circulating here in my library, and kids are still asking for it by name. Wait until I put this one up. I love the rainbow beam, almost capturing Brunhilda in its happy rays on the cover. The interior art is still wonderfully bleak, in its blacks, browns, and washed out whites; the occasional splashes of color are fun and add effect (and humor, especially when Mr. Williams has to wee). Add this one to your graphic novel collections and give a copy to your Lunch Witch fans; they’ll lap it up.

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Teaching Lunch Witch in your classroom? There’s an Educator’s Guide on the Papercutz website – I hope they add one for the new book, but you can always expand on the first one by creating new vocabulary lists and creating some discussion questions about the new story. Visit The Lunch Witch’s website for “recipes”, character profiles, and a Bad Advice section.

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

Barbie goes graphic via Papercutz: Fashion Superstar #1

barbie_1Barbie: Fashion Superstar, by Sarah Kuhn/Illustrated by Alitha Martinez, (Oct. 2016, Papercutz), $7.99, ISBN: 9781629915876

Recommended for ages 6-10

Papercutz continues their graphic novel license domination with every little girl’s (okay, just about every little girl) best friend, Barbie. In this first graphic novel under Papercutz, we get a brief history of Barbie comics (first published by Dell in 1962, later, in the ’90s, by Marvel) and an original Barbie story where she tackles a big fashion show panic with her enthusiasm and quick thinking. Her best friend, Liz, helps Barbie make everything fall right into place, and mega-fashion designer Whitney Yang is grateful when the dynamic duo save the day.

Alitha Martinez’s art is on point. It’s bright, fun, and looks consistent with other Barbie illustrated books and media. The friends talk about what inspires their creativity, embrace science (Barbie even creates a special ink to help her combine her doodling and fashion design), and think on their feet to solve problems. A diverse cast of characters makes this an all-around fun read for Barbie fans to enjoy. There’s a preview for the second volume of the Papercutz import series, Sisters, at the end.

I’ll add this one to my shelves – Barbie has a strong fan following here at my library; I can think of two sisters in particular that will be thrilled to see this appear on my graphic novels shelf. I may buy one copy for now, just to get it on the shelves, but invest in the hardcover copy when it’s published in January.

Posted in Fiction, Fiction, Graphic Novels, Humor, Intermediate, Middle Grade, Tween Reads

Papercutz brings The Sisters to the USA

sister_cover_01_RGBThe Sisters, Vol. 1: Like a Family, by Christophe Cazenove/Illustrated by William Maury (June 2016, Papercutz), $9.99, ISBN: 9781629914930

Recommended for ages 8-12

Wendy and Maureen are sisters who adore one another as much as they drive each other crazy – like most siblings. They both have strong personalities, are independent, and have firmly established likes and dislikes. Wendy is a teen who’s discovering makeup, boys, and cute actors, and Maureen is school-age, tries to emulate her sister (even when she thinks she’s a little weird), and can’t stop trying to break into Maureen’s secret diary.

This first volume of stories about Wendy and Maureen features a series of short vignettes about the two siblings, giving us a little look into their life: we meet some of their friends, their parents (whose faces we don’t see), and most importantly, we see the girls together. Even when they’re at their worst and separated by their parents, they want to be together. And that’s the sweetest part about The Sisters: it’s a fun, upbeat look at siblings and family life. The series was originally published in France; Papercutz is giving the girls their U.S. debut.

Give this book to your Raina Telgemeier fans and your Amelia Rules fans. They’ll love you for it. Take a look at some more of the book courtesy of the Papercutz website.

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