November 17, 2017

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Graphic Novels: New Titles from Liniers, Jen Lee, & More | October 2017 Xpress Reviews

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Daley, Matthew & Arlene Daley. The Not-So Secret Society: Tale of the Gummy. illus. by Wook Jin Clark. 128p. KaBOOM! Aug. 2017. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781608869978.

Gr 3-5 –This graphic novel features the Not-So Secret Society, a crew of ragtag 12-year-olds who seek adventure, though trouble often finds them first. Madison, Dylan, Emma, Aidan, and Ava stay up all night to work on a last-minute science project that’s worth most of their grade. Their idea is a flop, but there’s still time to come up with something new for the science fair. Determined not to lose to their class rivals, the 5Zs, the Not-So Secret Society come up with their greatest innovation yet—a machine that brings candy to life. They animate a gummy bear who before long is running wild. The Not-So Secret Society must race against the clock to save the town Halloween festival before their creation can destroy it. The characters are diverse and likable, and eye-catching cartoon artwork matches the light, fun tone. However, the story is rushed and somewhat underdeveloped, so there isn’t much opportunity to get to know the members of the Not-So Secret Society. VERDICT A promising start to an entertaining series. An additional purchase for libraries seeking graphic novels in the vein of “Lumberjanes” or “Goldie Vance” but for the younger set.–Chantalle Uzan, New York Public Library

Dwinell, Kim. The Secret of Danger Point. illus. by Kim Dwinell. 236p. (Surfside Girls). Top Shelf. Jul. 2017. pap. $19.99. ISBN 9781603094115.

Gr 4-6 –Twelve-year-old Samantha and Jade are best friends and surf buddies in this summery graphic novel. When Sam stumbles (or rather, dives) across a mystery in a sea cave on Danger Point, the girls begin investigating and taking notes in their Journal of Weird. Danger Point’s ghostly residents—including a heroic elderly man, a crush-worthy pirate boy, a family who appear to be Indigenous, and a friendly rabbit—ask Sam for her help in preserving the land from development into a resort and yacht pier. Jade, who cannot see the ghosts at first, is skeptical but steadfast in her support of Sam. The friends spend most of their time in board shorts and flip-flops, skateboarding, surfing, biking, swimming, and kayaking as well as doing research on laptops and cell phones. Jade and Sam rally their community to halt the development in a predictable but still satisfying ending that leaves room for a sequel. Dwinell’s animation background shows in the sunny, full-color watercolor panels. Moments of goofy humor keep the tone light. However, the presence of the Indigenous ghosts, who aren’t named and who don’t speak, is a problematic element to an otherwise solid graphic novel. VERDICT A cheerful friendship story with just a hint of romance, this will tide over eager comics readers until the next Jenni Holm or Raina Telgemeier publication.–Sarah Stone, San Francisco Public Library

Evans, Kate. Threads: From the Refugee Crisis. illus. by Kate Evans. 176p. Verso Bks. Jun. 2017. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781786631732.

Gr 10 Up –Evans’s graphic account of the modern Syrian refugee situation is an earnest though flawed portrayal of a humanitarian crisis and a rallying cry to action. In 2015, Evans, her husband, and their friends traveled to Calais, France, where many camps have popped up as refugees make their way to the UK. The author/illustrator weaves together the tragic stories of individuals she met and the frustrating bureaucracy of humanitarian aid efforts. Teens who are familiar with the political climate in Europe over the past two years will get more out of this title than those who are less aware. The episodic storytelling is complemented by the scrapbook style of the book. Panels are trimmed with the lace Calais was apparently once famous for, putting the harsh realities depicted within the panels in stark relief. The sketchy pencil drawings are tender and rough, heightening the urgency. The volume is peppered with simplistic arguments Evans has encountered against her volunteer work, immigration, and aid of any kind. While Evans acknowledges her privilege as a white woman who can afford to travel, hire childcare, and take time away from work to participate as a volunteer, she does little to fully explore her position. Indeed, she discusses visiting a friend, a refugee, who cooks for Evans and her husband in his shack. Though the laughs and kindness they share are genuine, readers may look askance at these scenes in which a refugee serves two well-off individuals. VERDICT A vividly human but limited supplement to curricula on modern immigration.–Anna Murphy, Berkeley Carroll School, Brooklyn

Filippi, Denis-Pierre. Gregory and the Gargoyles. illus. by J. Etienne & Silvio Camboni. 96p. Humanoids. Aug. 2017. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781594657986.

Gr 3-5 –When Gregory discovers a magical medallion hidden in the floor of his new home, he soon finds himself traveling back in time to the 17th century. He encounters gargoyles, griffons, fairies, elves, and other magical creatures. Gregory makes new friends, saves some dragons, and is rewarded with a magic feather that allows him to fly, become invisible, and move back and forth in time. He quickly learns that the world of magic is in peril, and he is stirred to action. Danger lies in the newly opened portal between worlds, threatening all. Gregory agrees to train as a magician, giving him access to magic and enlisting him to guard the balance between the magic realm and the human one. Featuring animated, colorful illustrations and an action-packed story line this is an enjoyable, appealing romp. VERDICT Recommended for fans of magic and adventure.–Lisa Gieskes, Richland County Public Library, Columbia, SC

redstarLiniers. Good Night, Planet. illus. by Liniers. 36p. Toon. Sept. 2017. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781943145201; Spanish Ed. $12.95. ISBN 9781943145218.

PrS-Gr 2 –After a day of playing in the leaves with her deerlike stuffed toy Planet, a little girl gets ready for bed. When the child falls asleep, Planet comes to life, gives her a kiss, and wanders downstairs. Fun ensues, including a romp with Elliot the spaniel, a midnight snack of cookies, and, with Bradley the mouse’s help, an attempt to wrangle the biggest cookie of all: the moon. Relying on intricate linework and shading, ink and watercolor images capture the joys of a crisp fall day and the quiet pleasure of a nocturnal adventure. Planet and his pals are undeniably adorable, yet the art is sophisticated, blending the cartoonish with the elegant. Part Maurice Sendak’s In the Night Kitchen, part Kevin Henkes’s Kitten’s First Full Moon, this stunning graphic novel for beginning readers conjures up a cozy, slightly surreal world, devoid of adults. Multiple panels of varying sizes convey the passage of time and create drama. Liniers keeps the text brief, allowing the images to tell the story. At times, the dialogue borders on philosophical (when Bradley remarks that Planet is a big name for a little creature, Planet replies, “Every animal, big or small, is a whole universe”). VERDICT A beautiful, original work for one-on-one or independent reading, and an excellent bedtime tale. Pair with Emily Jenkins and Paul O. Zelinsky’s Toys Meet Snow for another take on the inner life of a beloved plaything.–Mahnaz Dar, School Library Journal

Hunt, Julie. KidGlovz. illus. by Dale Newman. 288p. Allen & Unwin. Sept. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 9781742378527.

Gr 4 Up –As a result of the gloves he never removes, child prodigy KidGlovz has an almost supernatural ability to play the piano. His controlling guardian forces him into a grueling schedule of practices and performances. When a young thief named Shoestring offers to help KidGlovz escape, the boy agrees. But his freedom is short-lived, and his life takes several unbelievable turns. In this surreal, fairy tale–like story, the lines between fantasy and reality blur as the duo, and readers, embark on a voyage of discovery. Reminiscent of the artwork in Brian Selznick’s The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Newman’s soft-focus black-and-white illustrations add to the dreamy tone. However, though Hunt and Newman adroitly weave a haunting tale, some readers may find it slow and at times bewildering. VERDICT A haunting, evocative, and immersive fantasy for patient readers eager to lose themselves in a book. An additional purchase.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

Kipling, Rudyard. The Jungle Book. adapted by Crystal S. Chan. illus. by Julien Choy. 324p. (Manga Classics). Udon Entertainment. Apr. 2017. Tr $24.95. ISBN 9781772940183; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781772940190.

Gr 5 Up –Most readers are likely familiar with the story of Mowgli, who grows up in the jungle surrounded by friendly and ferocious animals. But those who know only the film adaptations may be surprised to learn that Kipling’s book contains additional material, such as “The White Seal,” the poignant tale of a seal who becomes aware of the dangers of hunters, and “Rikki-Tikki-Tavi,” which centers on the epic battle between two cobras and a heroic mongoose. Populated by strong, loyal, and fierce creatures, these action-packed selections all stand alone and are inspiring in different ways. Choy’s expressive, manga-style artwork is full of emotion and makes effective use of light and shadow. VERDICT For fans of animals, adventure, and tales of heroism and courage.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

redstarLee, Jen. Garbage Night. illus. by Jen Lee. 72p. Flying Eye/Nobrow. Jun. 2017. Tr $18.95. ISBN 9781910620212.

Gr 5 Up –This continuation of Lee’s previous short graphic tale “Vacancy” (included at the end of this book) is a compelling work of friendship and survival in a confusing postapocalyptic world. Simon, a domesticated dog, and his wild friends, Cliff the raccoon and Reynard the deer, spend their days scrounging for food in a dismal, abandoned suburban wasteland, waiting for the return of fresh food in the form of “garbage night.” When the trio meet a tough stray dog named Barnaby, they decide to travel with him to a nearby town where humans supposedly still live and garbage is plentiful. The world-building is outstanding. Every page features subtle verbal and background clues for readers to carefully assemble into a chilling backstory. Most will find it difficult not to care for these expressive anthropomorphic teen animals, in their ragged streetwear and sneakers. Loneliness and desperation saturate their every action and conversation, and speech bubbles are placed with great care for maximum impact. The bold usage of color distinguishes this graphic novel. Abrupt vivid color changes marking the passage of time and heightened tensions and action help to move the plot along, sometimes seemingly at breakneck speed. VERDICT A gripping, first-rate book. The dystopian theme will draw readers in, while hints of a sequel will have them hoping for more.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

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

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