November 17, 2017

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Graphic Novels: The Origin of Buddhism & Outlandish Academic Adventures | August 2017 Xpress Reviews

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redstarMoore, Kieron. Buddha: An Enlightened Life. illus. by Rajesh Nagulakonda. 160p. Campfire. Jul. 2017. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9789381182291.

Gr 8 Up –This phantasmagoric and dreamy graphic novel follows the life of Siddhartha Gautama and the spread of Buddhism, from the ancient city of Kapilavastu to all over the world. As the powerful rulers King Suddhodana and Queen Maya welcome a son into the world, the wisest elder predicts he will be one of two things: a mighty king or a great spiritual leader. Determined that his son become a Chakravarti, a “King of Kings,” Suddhodana ruthlessly shelters Siddhartha from the outside world, and the boy grows up with no concept of sickness or poverty. Eventually Siddhartha learns the truth and leaves a world of luxury in pursuit of enlightenment. By the end of his life, he has transformed the lives of thousands and amassed followers who are destined to carry his message throughout history. The linear narrative is easy to follow, simplifying complex religious and philosophical concepts. The exquisite art complements this otherworldly tale. Nagulakonda’s intricate linework and masterly use of color are delightful. VERDICT A unique origin story of Buddhism and its creator. Highly recommended for any graphic novel collection and for those interested in spirituality or history.–Michael Marie Jacobs, Darlington School, GA

Preece, C.A. CheMystery. illus. by Josh Reynolds. 112p. Thunder Stone. Jun. 2017. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781634110082.

Gr 6-9 –An accident at a nuclear plant creates a radioactive monster for Suzie and her reckless cousin Diego to battle, but it also endows them with various superpowers, including the ability to see individual atoms and molecules at work. This story line, along with subplots in which Suzie befriends a goth loner and argues with Diego about the ethics of using their powers to crush bullies, is interwoven with high-level references to chemical and atomic processes—beginning at Suzie’s 13th birthday party, when Diego throws up an artist’s cadmium that he had swallowed in a round of truth or dare. He then has to undergo chelation treatment. The book includes molecular diagrams and representations of chemical reactions, and discussions of subatomic spin and the like are folded into the dialogue and Reynolds’s cleanly drawn sequential panels. Side disquisitions on such topics as the chemistry of making oil paints, “Cake Science,” and historical concepts of atomic structure shoulder in at opportune spots. A set of “Lab Reports,” printed in eyestrain-inducing white on green at the end, supply additional detail and analysis, along with geeky slogans (“Chemistry is anything but Bohr-ing!”), to this science-themed series opener. VERDICT This one definitely takes “Max Axiom” and similar graphic series to the next academic level. A strong option for those seeking a fun take on STEM.–John Peters, Children’s Literature Consultant, NY

Schigiel, Gregg. One Weirdest Weekend. 128p. Feb. 2017. ISBN 9781534301405.

––––. Too Super for School. 200p. May 2017. ISBN 9781534301566.

ea vol: illus. by Gregg Schigiel. (PIX). Crown/Image. pap. $12.99.

Gr 5 Up –Teenager Emaline Pixley, aka Pix, performs heroic feats with her ability to fly and superstrength. During a TV interview, Pix claims that she has powers because she’s a fairy princess, and the mean kids at school start to ridicule her even more than they did before. Pix is an admirable yet relatable protagonist who tries to save the day, be a good friend, and fit in. Though she makes an effort to avoid relying on her powers in an attempt to be “normal,” she can’t escape a destiny filled with talking animals, weird monsters, a pushy prince, and plenty of other adventures. Readers will be rooting for this sweet, funny heroine to find a way to reconcile the ordinary and extraordinary sides of her life. The cartoonlike artwork bursts with color and is bound to appeal even to the most reluctant readers. VERDICT A fast and funny superhero story with lots of heart.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

This article was published in School Library Journal's August 2017 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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