Elementary and Middle School
Ayuko. The Earl and the Fairy. Vol. 1 . illus. by author. 182p. Viz Media. 2012. pap. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4215-4168-6.
Gr 7 Up–This book has the look and feel of a true manga title, complete with two battling men and a flustered female who wishes she were stronger. Lydia is wide-eyed and innocent, described as having hair the color of “rust,” while Huxley and Edgar are smoldering, with long bangs and serious eyes. Edgar is most likely the good guy, but that could change throughout the plot. Huxley is a thief, with a band of brothers on the prowl, who abduct Lydia, a fairy doctor who may know how to find the famous Star Sapphire. Edgar, claiming to be the descendant of the Blue Knight, a fairy ruler and friend of the king, swoops in to rescue her. However, he also wants the Star Sapphire to prove his claim to the Earldom his father left. Lydia and her talking cat (a fairy in feline form) are stumped by the good guy/bad guy scenario as well. The story has hints of romance, plenty of fantasy, a bit of violence, and just enough Pride and Prejudice-style manners to interest female readers. As the book ends with a cliff-hanger, libraries need to commit to buying the whole series.–Sarah Knutson, American Canyon Middle School, CA
DESPEYROUX, Denise, adapt. Dark Graphic Tales by Edgar Allan Poe. illus. by Miquel Serratosa. Sept. PLB $30.60. ISBN 978-0-7660-4086-1. LC 2011034273.
RODRÍGUEZ, Pedro, adapt. Chilling Tales of Horror: Dark Graphic Short Stories. illus. by adaptor. Aug. PLB $30.60. ISBN 978-0-7660-4085-4. LC 2011034194.
SIERRA, Sergio A., adapt. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley: A Dark Graphic Novel. illus. by Meritxell Ribas. Aug. PLB $25.26. ISBN 978-0-7660-4084-1. LC 2011035826.
ea vol: 96p. (Dark Graphic Novels Series). further reading. websites. CIP. Enslow. 2012.
Gr 6 Up–Dark Graphic Tales includes “The Gold Bug,” “The System of Doctor Tarr and Professor Fether,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” Poe is a master of the grotesque, a purveyor of insanity, and elements of his work are well suited for visual depiction. Serratosa’s emotive, eerily colored line drawings, cryptography, bugs, buried treasure, pirates, insane asylums, and crypts make for a creepy crawly delight. Chilling Tales contains Guy de Maupassant’s “The Hand,” Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s “Sir Dominick’s Bargain,” Edward Lucas White’s “The House of Nightmare,” John William Polidori’s “The Vampire,” Catherine Crowe’s “House B… on Camden Hill,” Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Body Snatcher,” and Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Black Cat.” Rodríguez precedes each story with a brief biography of the writer, which is beneficial to horror fans who otherwise might not have encountered these 18th – and 19th- century authors. One possible drawback to this work is Rodríguez’s cartoon portrayals, which can defuse highly emotional moments and distract readers from otherwise good horror fiction. Most exceptional is his treatment of “The House of Nightmare.” His rendering of the ghost boy will haunt readers long after the final scene. Horror and sci-fi fans alike will enjoy Sierra’s interpretation of Frankenstein. This adaptation holds true to Mary Shelley’s classic story and, with it, her desire to “speak to the mysterious fears of our nature.” Readers witness young Frankenstein’s perilous desire to make “miracles realities” and his efforts to unlock the secrets of death. Ribas’s black-and-white illustrations work well to drive the story and create an overwhelming sense of alienation and loss.–Lisa Gieskes, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC
JEFFREY, Gary. Centaurs. illus. by Alessandro Poluzzi. ISBN 978-1-4339-6751-1; ISBN 978-1-4339-6753-5. LC 2011022845.
–––– . Firebirds. illus. by Sara Cappoli. ISBN 978-1-4339-6755-9; ISBN 978-1-4339-6757-3. LC 2011022843.
–––– . Unicorns. illus. by Dheeraj Verma. ISBN 978-1-4339-6767-2; ISBN 978-1-4339-6769-6. LC 2011025303.
ea vol: 24p. (Graphic Mythical Creatures Series). photos. reprods. glossary. index. CIP. Gareth Stevens. 2012. PLB $23.95; pap. $8.15.
Gr 3-6–Each book includes a two-page introduction to the creature to root its appearance in history and mythology, as well as a graphic-novel-style story about it and a page about related stories from other countries or mythological traditions. While this spare approach forces much information to be left out of individual titles, the books as a whole include a wide range of stories, from Greek myth to Russian fairy tales to medieval legends, so readers of all three volumes will get a feel for the wide range of the myths, something readers of individual titles only might miss. The stories chosen include “Hercules and the Centaur”; “Prince Ivan, the Firebird, and the Wolf”; and “Therese and the Unicorn” and are action packed and character driven, matched with artwork reminiscent of superhero comics. Characters, rather than creatures, are the prime focus of the stories in most cases, in terms of plot and imagery. Hercules, Ivan, and Therese are frequently depicted as the main image in each panel, supported by detailed scenery and accurate figure drawing. Readers should be engaged by this treatment.–Heather Talty, formerly at Columbia Grammar & Preparatory School, New York City
KIPLING, Rudyard. How the Camel Got His Hump: The Graphic Novel. ISBN 978-1-4342-3202-1; ISBN 978-1-4342-3879-5.
–––– . How the Leopard Got His Spots: The Graphic Novel. ISBN 978-1-4342-3223-6; ISBN 978-1-4342-3881-8.
ea vol: retold by Louise Simonson. illus. by Pedro Rodriguez. 40p. (Graphic Spin: Rudyard Kipling Stories Series). glossary. Stone Arch. 2012. PLB $22.65; pap. $4.95.
Gr 2-5–These adaptations are divided into categories to look like research logs. “Research” features a brief profile of the camel or the leopard, its habitat, and natural prey or nearby animals. “Kipling’s Observation” is a highly abridged version of the “Just So” story, supplemented by cartoon bubbles that extend the action and add humor. The ending poem in each story appears in full, followed by a more extended profile of the character. A “Learn More” segment features terms, discussion questions, and opportunities for further exploration. The final section profiles Kipling and the author and illustrator. Overall, fans of Kipling won’t find much of his original story here, but the power of the graphic novel to move readers into further exploration of an author’s work could rectify that. The over-the-top depictions of wide-eyed animals with exaggerated expressions will please fans of the film Madagascar or Disney’s Aladdin , à la Dinn. The log format does little to add to the books’ appeal but discussion questions and further research opportunities are always welcome.–C. J. Connor, Campbell County Public Library, Cold Spring, KY
MCDONALD, John, adapt. A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Graphic Novel: Original Text . PLB $24.95. ISBN 978-1-907127-44-1; ISBN 978-1-907127-28-1.
____. A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Graphic Novel: Plain Text. ISBN 978-1-907127-75-5.
____. A Midsummer Night’s Dream: The Graphic Novel: Quick Text. ISBN 978-1-907127-30-4.
ea. vol: illus. by Jason Cardy and Kat Nicholson. 144p. photos. reprods. Classical Comics. 2011. pap. $16.95.
Gr 5 Up–Shakespeare’s classic play about fairies, humans, and mismatched lovers is adapted into three different versions to accommodate different reading levels. “Original Text” uses Shakespeare’s original iambic pentameter. “Plain Text” adapts the language into modern-day English. And “Quick Text” simplifies the language even further, suitable for middle-grade students’ reading level. Each version contains a short biography of Shakespeare, a history of the play, information about the Globe Theatre, and an overview of the graphic novel’s creation. The colorful and eye-catching illustrations bring this classic play to life for young readers. These different versions will be extremely valuable for educators working with students of different reading and interest levels.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library
NEEL, Julien. Secret Diary. Bk. 1. ISBN 978-0-7613-8776-3; ISBN 978-0-7613-8868-5; ISBN 978-1-4677-0099-3. LC 2011026432.
–––– . Summertime Blues. Bk. 2. ISBN 978-0-7613-8777-0; ISBN 978-0-7613-8869-2; ISBN 978-1-4677-0100-6. LC 2011037042.
ea vol: tr. from French by Carol Klio Burrell. illus. by author. 48p. (Lou! Series). CIP. Lerner/Graphic Universe. 2012. PLB $27.93; pap. $8.95; ebook $20.95.
Gr 5-9–These first two installments in this series introduce a scrappy mother/daughter duo who deal with life’s problems with sarcastic humor, resiliency, and their own brand of love. Lou is a precocious 12-year-old growing up with a single mother who, with an addiction to video games and her dinner-burning antics, sometimes acts more like a child than her daughter does. (The story of Lou’s missing father is explained in the second book and becomes a point of suspense for future titles.) The happily unconventional family dynamic works for them, and Lou navigates through first crushes, helping her mom get a date with their cute new neighbor, and dealing with her grumpy grandmother on vacation, all with the help of her best friend and a comfortingly lazy cat. The plot moves in scenes that are broken down, but not differentiated; each spread has its own mini-story, but they are all connected and in a general sequence. There are some mature themes, such as alcohol use by the mother, but they are dealt with in a realistic manner that fits in the context. The art is cartoony and cheerful, but also illustrates emotion as necessary. Readers, especially girls, will enjoy these strong, funny characters and the true-to-life dilemmas that they face and overcome.–Rita Meade, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
TORRES, J. Jinx. illus. by Rick Burchett and Terry Austin. 112p. Archie Comics. 2012. Tr $16.99. ISBN 978-1-936975-00-6; pap. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-879794-91-7.
Gr 6-9–Spinning off from the character Lil Jinx, Jinx follows a feisty teenager on her first days of high school. Her circle includes her long-suffering dad, Hap; her male best friend, Greg; and her friends Roz and Gigi, who only hang out with one another because they love Jinx. There is also a stumbling, bumbling boy named Charley who is interested in her. Jinx faces the challenges of high school–what to wear, where to sit for lunch, and how to handle divorced parents. The story is sweet and simple, a good choice for middle school girls looking ahead to the high school transition. The graphics are bright and colorful, much like the original “Archie” series, but with modernized clothes and a more diverse cast. Part of a long-standing series, Jinx will likely continue for a while, but this title is much more of a comic book than a graphic novel, and librarians should consider whether it is a good fit for their collections.–Sarah Knutson, American Canyon Middle School, CA
ARAKI, Hirohiko. Rohan at the Louvre. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. illus. by author. 128p. NBM Publishing. 2012. PLB $19.99. ISBN 978-1-56163-615-0.
Gr 9 Up–Rohan, a young manga artist, tracks down a cursed painting at the Louvre and unleashes dangerous powers. Painted with the darkest ink known, the work of art attacks its viewers with the vicious ghosts of their ancestors. This melodramatic horror story should be popular with manga fans, especially with those who are also manga artists. While more detailed and realistic than most manga, the artwork has a stiff, amateurish quality that may actually endear it to beginning artists. The black-and-white drawings are bathed in pastel shades of pink, blue, and lavender, adding to the otherworldly tone of the story. Published in a large, hardcover format, this unique title should find an audience.– Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library, NY
JAIME, Everett. Baby Don’t Smoke. illus. by Eliot R. Brown. 40p. websites. Kalindi Press. 2012. pap. $9.95. ISBN 978-1-935826-20-0. LC 2011039896.
Gr 6 Up–Maria, a young mother, falls asleep while smoking and dreams about a public-service announcement about a fire and the dangers of cigarettes. The dream sequence has some inventive ways to reinforce the fact that smoking is bad, with metaphoric representations of its monetary, hygienic, and health costs, and the pervasive cultural pressure to light up is fairly well illustrated. It’s all considerably over-the-top, including absurdly unrealistic dialogue chock-full of statistics unlikely to change any minds. Brown has made a career out of detailed and realistic diagrams of superhero props and weapons; his character work here is much less sure-handed, especially in the more fanciful visuals. However, any success he may have had is significantly undercut by the computer coloring, which is garish and artificial and removes any possibility of aesthetic appeal. The volume closes with eight pages of facts, quizzes, and related URLs. Well-meaning, factually sound, oddly fanciful, and utterly fruitless, this book will likely reach no one.–Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH
TOMORI, Miyoshi. A Devil and Her Love Song, Vol. 1. tr. from Japanese. illus. by author. 200p. Viz Media. 2012. pap. $9.99. ISBN 978-1-4215-4164-8.
Gr 7-10–Maria is a talented vocalist who is forced to enroll at the local public high school, and she soon discovers that her reputation precedes her. The rumors have already started about why she got expelled from her prestigious private school. Students are staying away from her, but not making an effort to hide their preconceived impressions. They gather in groups and whisper things about her while she is walking by, making it clear that they already don’t like her. Yusuke and Shin, however, are intrigued by the mystery that is Maria. Did she really beat up a teacher? Where does that amazing voice come from and why is she singing “Amazing Grace?” The art is crafted in a way that shows that Maria stands out not only in talent, but also in looks, creating yet another reason for the girls to be jealous of her. While her reputation makes her sound spiteful and capable of cruel things, she is illustrated as sweet and innocent. The story ends leaving readers wanting to know the truth about her; they are sure to ask for future volumes in the series.–Jessica Lorentz Smith, Bend Senior High School, OR
YAKIN, Boaz. Marathon. illus. by Joe Infurnari. 186p. CIP. First Second. 2012. pap. $16.99. ISBN 978-1-59643-680-0. LC 2011030472.
Gr 9 Up–As a young boy, Eucles wins a foot race and is granted Athenian citizenship, but because he did this at the cost of the pride of King Hippias, his parents are executed. Years later, the king, now exiled, is using the might of the Persian army to try and conquer Athens. Eucles must swallow his desire for personal vengeance and race to deliver communications between Athens, Sparta, and the battlefield of Marathon. Historical accounts of the run between Sparta and Marathon vary significantly, and Yakin has been free with interpretation. He establishes motivation for Eucles, making him singularly inspirational and instrumental in not just delivery of information, but in turning the tide of the Battle of Marathon itself. This has the effect of making the events very personal, and therefore imbued with dramatic tension. Also, it helps provide a lens to focus the action, which is necessary as the cast is sprawling and the narrative is nonlinear. The characters are given nicely varied names, helping somewhat with sorely needed identification, as armor and intensity help make a morass of who is whom. The artwork is drawn in a sketchy, energetic style, a kinetic messiness that helps underscore the blood, dirt, and movement. Spot color gives the main action a parchment glow, and a cool gray helps indicate flashbacks. Interestingly complex for a story about a series of runs, and aesthetically compelling, this story will grip readers, who will fight through its occasional muddles along with its protagonist.– Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH