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Graphic Novel Reviews | March 2009 | School Library Journal

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Elementary and Middle School

AOKI, Ume. Sunshine Sketch. vol. 2. tr. from Japanese by Satsuki Yamashita. 116p. (Sunshine Sketch). Yen Pr. 2008. pap. $10.99. ISBN 978-0-7595-2902-1. LC number unavailable.

Gr 7–10—This quaint, softhearted tale presents small snapshots of four students attending a high school for the arts in Japan and of their lives as seemingly simple events strengthen their friendship. Hiro, Miyako, Yuno, and Sae go on a field trip to the zoo, sketching animals for a class project. The book continues as they visit a bathhouse, attend a sports festival, and participate in a play. The story is jumpy and lacks a plot. It delves no deeper than what the teens will have for dinner or how to lose weight. The art is sure to attract faithful readers, but the format deviates from typical manga, reading in columns down and then from left to right. Each column of four panels is on a different topic, which only adds to the incoherent, often nonexistent plot.—Ann Bailey, Wilde Lake High School, Columbia, MD

APPIGNANESI, Richard, adapt. As You Like It. illus. by Chie Kutsuwada. 207p. (Manga Shakespeare Series). Abrams/Amulet. Mar. 2009. pap. $10.95. ISBN 978-0-8109-8351-9. LC number unavailable.

Gr 7 Up—Shakespeare’s romantic comedy takes place in a contemporary setting in which Asian characters reside in the forest of Ar-Den. Full-color images accompanied by a brief Shakespearean quote provide a delightful introduction to the multiple players who will encounter one another in the forest. These vibrant pages conclude with a spread of the final romantic attachments, leaving no doubt about the happy conclusion. Many aspects of this play work especially well in a manga format. The story is vividly brought to life as readers observe the emotional tension between Oliver and Orlando; the close relationship between Rosalind and Celia; and the high-action wrestling match between Charles and Orlando. Readers are made aware that this is an intelligent woman who knows her own mind. Using an entirely different style of graphic art for Jacques’ famous “All the world’s a stage” speech, Corin’s account of the slaying of the deer and Oliver’s retelling of Orlando’s encounter with the l
ion help readers visualize these “stories within the story.” Teens unfamiliar with the original may require supplemental material to appreciate this comedy fully because of its complicated plot, multiple characters, mistaken identities, and cross-dressing. Those who have prior exposure to it or who are willing to invest in some background preparation will enjoy this delightful re-creation of Shakespeare’s exploration of the tractable nature of the human heart and the delights of love.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

CRADDOCK, Erik. Pirate Palooza. Bk. 2. illus. by author. 96p. (Stone Rabbit Series). Random. 2009. PLB $11.99. ISBN 978-0-375-95660-7; pap. $5.99. ISBN 978-0-375-85660-0. LC number unavailable.

Gr 2–5—This book will give those children who love the ridiculous just what they want: a zany, mile-a-minute graphic novel. When a living-room wrestling match results in a broken coffee-table leg, Stone Rabbit and his wolf friend, Andy, think they’ve found the perfect fix—a genuine pirate’s peg leg. After attaching it to the table, they are visited by its previous owner, Barnacle Bob. The ghost pirate takes Stone Rabbit and Andy aboard his vessel, the Biscotti, and makes them part of his crew. When Andy is in danger of getting thrown overboard, Stone Rabbit has to decide if he is a heartless pirate or a friend. His decision sends the two pals to a showdown with the ghost pirates in the local comic shop. The bold illustrations are bursting at the seams with energy. Occasionally, quick changes in perspective require some extra effort from readers to follow the action, but many children will be delighted with the book’s quick pace, cheeky dialogue, and pop-cultur
e references.—Travis Jonker, Dorr Elementary School, MI

HAYNES, Stephen, retel. Macbeth. illus. by Nick Spender. ISBN 978-0-7641-6140-7. LC 2007938484.
MACDONALD, Fiona, retel. Frankenstein. illus. by Penko Gelev. ISBN 978-0-7641-6057-8. LC 2006937854. ea vol: 48p. map. photos. reprods. chron. further reading. index. Web sites. Barron’s. 2008. Tr $15.99.

Gr 5–8—These visually appealing, full-color adaptations introduce each title with a well-known quotation from the original work on an illustrated spread that captures the mood and setting of the piece. The stories are retold in panels with text containing an explanation of the characters’ motives and a summary of the action taking place positioned beneath each panel. Brief snippets of quotations are enclosed within a few simple speech bubbles. Actual wording from the original works is very limited. Headings at the top of the spreads distill the plot essentials contained on those two pages. Macbeth uses extensive footnotes on each page to define and clarify Shakespearean language. Dramatic outdoor scenes are done in vivid colors, contrasting with night scenes rendered in gray tones. Unique features include historical information on the real King Macbeth and theatrical superstitions associated with what many actors consider an “unlucky play.” A somber palette of grays
and muted colors sets the mood for Frankenstein. Back matter includes a map of Europe marking the travels of Frankenstein and a chronology of medical and scientific discoveries between the years of 1747 and 1834. These titles might be useful to introduce classics to young readers in a formalized instructional setting.—Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY

HUNTER, Erin & Dan Jolley. The Rise of Scourge. illus. by Bettina M. Kurkoski. 82p. (Warriors Series). Tokyopop. 2008. pap. $6.99. ISBN 978-0-06-147867-3. LC 2007935239.

Gr 4–7—This adaptation provides a look at the origins of the cat Scourge, the evil leader of the Bloodclan. Tiny is a fearful house kitten who is the runt of the litter. Once he strikes out on his own, though, he renames himself Scourge and vows to take revenge on the wild forest cats who once attacked him. Though drawn and laid out in a manga style, the illustrations are more detailed than typical manga drawings and effectively bring out the cats’ personalities and characters. This is not a cuddly animal tale: there are some vicious attacks, one ending in a death.—Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

HURCHELLA, Elizabeth, adapt. Bakugan Battle Brawlers: The Battle Begins! illus. by Tomás Montalvo-Lagos. 96p. Del Rey. 2008. pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-345-51368-7. LC number unavailable.

Gr 1–4—The Bakugan Battle Brawlers are children from around the world who met online and invented a game: each one holds a “battling beast” that comes to life when thrown down on their magic Bakugan cards. However, Bakugan is more than a game. It’s connected to a battle taking place in an alternate world, between Earth and the planet Vestroia. The glossy pages, bright colors, and large text should appeal to young readers. The book will also certainly attract fans of the television show, as well as fans of Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!—Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

JUNGHYUM, Uhm. Forest of Gray City. vol. 2. tr. from Korean by HyeYoung Im. illus. by author. unpaged. Yen Pr. 2008. pap. $10.99. ISBN 978-0-7595-2880-2. LC number unavailable.

Gr 8 Up—In the conclusion to this short, romantic manhwa, roommates Bum-Moo and Yun-Ook revisit the family drama that led him to move in with her in the first volume. This includes the death of his mother and stepfather, his relationship with his stepsister, and her jealous husband. The first third of the book is a flashback that follows up on a revelation from the close of the previous book. And with the exception that it doesn’t really introduce Yun-Ook, this second book could almost stand alone. It’s also startlingly efficient storytelling, depicting the key moments between Bum-Moo and his stepsister with rapidity, selecting only the most important events and their emotional echoes. The last two-thirds return to the hesitant, nascent romance between the two roommates, evoking with finesse the delicacy of their differences in age, experience, and expectation, as well as some of the tension inherent in simply occupying space with someone you’re not sure of, romantically. While
the visuals, placement of narration, and emotional content are surefooted, the conclusion meanders a little. Such missteps pale in comparison to the effective way in which the artwork makes readers feel, though; the dreamy shojo layouts do precisely what they are intended to.—Benjamin Russell, Belmont High School, NH

LABATT, Mary. Dracula Madness. Bk. 1. illus. by Jo Rioux. 96p. (A Sam & Friends Mystery Series). Kids Can. Mar. 2009. Tr $16.95. ISBN 978-1-55453-418-0; pap. $7.95. ISBN 978-1-55337-303-2. LC C2008-903253-5.

Gr 3–5—This entertaining story, based on Labatt’s Spying on Dracula (Kids Can, 1999), blends mystery with gentle spookiness to create a satisfying whole. Samantha is a charmingly self-centered sheepdog who fancies herself a detective. After moving to the small town of Woodford with her owners, she quickly bonds with Jennie, the 10-year-old next door, who has the unique ability to hear Sam’s thoughts. When Jennie and her friend Beth take Sam to the scariest house in town, inhabited by the reclusive McIver, the trio begins to investigate the man’s odd behavior. It isn’t long before his actions, and Beth’s imagination, lead them to believe that he’s Dracula. As is often the case with childhood fears, the facts are not as mysterious, or as spooky, as they appear. The black-and-white artwork is anime-inspired. While not remarkable, the crisp, effective illustrations pair nicely with the well-paced writing, giving the story a smooth flow. The presence of three intelligent, brave female characters will make this title appealing to girls.—Travis Jonker, Dorr Elementary School, MI

LANDOWNE, Youme & Anthony Horton. Pitch Black: Don’t Be Skerd. illus. by authors. unpaged. photos. CIP. Cinco Puntos. 2008. Tr $17.95. ISBN 978-1-933693-06-4. LC 2007019444.

Gr 8 Up—After meeting on a subway platform in New York City, Landowne and Horton share a conversation about art and life while riding uptown and downtown. Youme listens carefully as Anthony tells his story of living on the streets after being abandoned by his adoptive family. At first he stayed at a homeless shelter where he witnessed, “things no kid should ever see.” He discovered a city below the city when one day the police chased him into a subway tunnel. In these dark passageways, Anthony built a makeshift home and found a canvas for his artwork. After showing Youme his life six stories below the city, the two artists begin a collaboration that ends in this beautiful, gritty biography. Both Youme and Anthony contributed text and art to the book-their black and gray watercolors are tender and raw, their words spare and poetic. This book’s unflinching look at homelessness and the ability to find hope and inspiration in the dark will appeal greatly to teens.—Lauren An
duri, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

LIM, Surt. Kasumi. vol. 1. tr. from Japanese by Harumi Ueno. illus. by Hirofumi Sugimoto. unpaged. Del Rey. 2008. pap. $10.95. ISBN 978-0-345-50354-1. LC number unavailable.

Gr 7–9—Kasumi, 16, lost her mother when she was very young, and her father, a plant researcher, has moved frequently in an attempt to ward off his unhappiness. Exploring a new forest with him, the teen encounters a mysterious glowing tree that gives her the ability to become invisible when she holds her breath. This attracts the attention of Ryuuki, a moody, attractive student at Kasumi’s new, snobby school. He has special powers, too, and may be the answer to Kasumi’s questions about hers. Kasumi is a likable character, and her growing crush on Ryuuki, as well as her interactions with the cruelly exclusive students and Otaku Ken, her nerdy new admirer, will resonate with younger teens. The skillful illustrations are drawn with flowing, confident lines and often spill out of angular panels, effectively heightening the drama. This humorous fantasy with elements of realistic young adult fiction should find wide appeal among fans of shojo and fantasy.—Lisa Goldstein,
Brooklyn Public Library, NY

MARTIN, Ann M. The Baby-Sitters Club: Claudia and Mean Janine. Bk. 4. illus. by Raina Telgemeier. 162p. (The Babysitters Club Graphix Series). CIP. Scholastic/Graphix. 2008. pap. $8.99. ISBN 978-0-439-88517-1. LC 2007036125.

Gr 4–8—Seventh-grader Claudia Kishi is a talented artist and a dependable baby-sitter, but those things don’t seem to matter to her parents, who keep comparing her to her brainiac older sister. When school ends for the summer, Claudia is looking forward to art classes and running a morning day camp for the neighborhood kids with her friends. Everything changes when her beloved grandmother has a stroke. Suddenly, Claudia finds herself taking on more and more responsibilities at home, while Janine gets to focus on her summer classes. Readers will relate to Claudia’s struggle to understand her sister and cope with the changes in her family. This installment in the series adapts the seventh title in Martin’s original sequence, and the story and characters still feel fresh nearly two decades later. Telgemeier’s black-and-white illustrations are crisp and clear, while concise narrative passages keep the focus on the dialogue and action. Here and there, a wordless panel conveys m
uch more than a simple description; if a picture is worth a thousand words, then the portrait of Louie the collie after the day-camp kids “make him look beautiful” must be worth a chapter or two alone. A concluding “Making of” chapter provides a peek into Telgemeier’s process when adapting the original novels, which will be especially interesting to readers thinking of developing their own comics. The well-developed characters and familiar struggles with friends, family, and school will keep kids coming back to these books.—Beth Gallego, Los Angeles Public Library, Panorama City

O’DONNELL, Liam. Ramp Rats: A Graphic Guide Adventure. Bk. 2. illus. by Mike Deas. unpaged. CIP. Orca. 2008. pap. $9.95. ISBN 978-1-55143-880-1. LC 2008928577.

Gr 3–6—In this second installment in the series, Marcus is ready to fight small-town corruption and share his knowledge of skateboarding with his stepbrother Bounce, a scrappy boy who is tired of being pushed around by the local skate-park bullies. While preparing for the big skate showdown against this band of meatheads, Marcus, Bounce, and his friend Pema provide step-by-step instructions on how to execute fancy moves, such as a 50-50 grind and a tailslide. Some of these tutorials verge on being too complicated and abstract for those lacking in actual skate experience. Unlike the wilderness survival skills dispensed in Wild Ride, the first in the series, these skating tips aren’t quite as universal or of interest to as wide an audience. Nevertheless, the book’s fun, stylish art and underdog story will appeal to many readers.—Lauren Anduri, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

POE, Marshall. A House Divided. illus. by Leland Purvis. 119p. (Turning Points Series). S & S/Aladdin. 2009. pap. $8.99. ISBN 978-1-4169-5057-8. LC 2008929317.

Gr 5–7—When Owen and Amos Bennington’s abolitionist parents are murdered in 1856, each brother takes a different path toward ending slavery. Owen goes to Springfield, IL, to work on Abraham Lincoln’s election, while Amos joins John Brown’s campaign. Scenes of violence against abolitionists effectively illustrate the risks involved in fighting slavery, and this fictional account helps to dramatize and highlight a part of history that needs attention. The dialogue is occasionally pedantic: definitions of political parties and the Fugitive Slave Law are awkwardly inserted into conversation. The illustrations are expressive and assured, however, and the handwritten lettering gives the story an informal feel. There is no bibliography to assure readers of the accuracy behind the story’s history. Still, this is an accessible introduction to the period, and a light supplement to more substantial texts on the topic.—Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

SEO, Kwanghyun. Croquis Pop. vol. 2. tr. from Korean by JiEun Park. adapt. by Arthur Dela Cruz. illus. by Jinho Ko. unpaged. Yen Pr. 2008. pap. $10.99. ISBN 978-0-7595-2962-5. LC number unavailable.

Gr 8 Up—Aspiring comic-book artist Da-Il is starting his training under the supervision of Ho-Go, an experienced creator. Ho-Go’s former student Ga-In arrives to help out on the latest issue, but when Da-Il finds himself in an alternate reality that seems to resemble Ga-In’s memories, he soon realizes that weird forces are at play. Could the death of Ga-In’s friend be the cause of the angry ghost that Da-Il and his coworkers are now forced to battle? Does Da-Il have the power to “draw” and “erase” reality? Unlike most manga/manhwa titles, there is no introduction to the characters or summary of the preceding volume’s plot, so readers are forced to guess about the characters’ relationships and the story line: slice-of-life interactions between particular characters are followed by drawn-out battles between others without any explanation as to how the two scenarios relate to one another. Although Croquis Pop does have well-done artwork and an intriguing art-based premise, l
ibraries without a strong manhwa audience can skip it.—Dave Inabnitt, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

SIHYUN, Ha. Comic. vol. 3. tr. from Korean by HyeYoung Im. adapt. by Arthur Dela Cruz. illus. by author. unpaged. Yen Pr. 2008. pap. $10.99. ISBN 978-0-7595-2909-0. LC number unavailable.

Gr 7 Up—In this manhwa series, readers will savor the rich graphics and interesting love story in spite of the trite dialogue. It seems that only Alice is distressed about her high school’s sudden bankruptcy and the subsequent merger with an all-boys’ school. While her friends are giddy over the prospect of attending class with Patrick Kang, the hot manhwa artist dubbed the “DiCaprio of Seomoon,” Alice is nervous about seeing Patrick (her love-hate romantic prospect) outside the studio. When Alice’s former teacher and current crush goes to Taiwan, he leaves Alice a note enlightening readers about their complicated teacher-student relationship. While much of the book focuses on Alice’s turmoil over her intense and conflicting feelings for Mr. Hwang and Patrick, it is Alice’s sexy, beautiful friend Daria who stands out in this story and is featured on the cover. Her inexplicable ability to calm the violent tempers of the mysterious men who arrive at the girls’ school will intrigue
readers. Teens will ignore such lines as “Why so glum chum?” or “There you go again! Big-mouthed frog!” and instead appreciate the art.—Kimberly Garnick Giarratano, Rockaway Township Public Library, NJ

THOMPSON, Jill. Magic Trixie. illus. by author. 94p. CIP. HarperTrophy. 2008. pap. $7.99. ISBN 978-0-06-117045-4. LC 2007024298.

Gr 3–5—With a charming amount of sass, Magic Trixie starts her week on the wrong side of the bed. First, her baby sister ruins her chance for cloudberry pancakes. Then she finds out she has to do show-and-tell at the end of the week. As time goes on, Trixie frets about what to take to school. Finally, she decides to take her sister and show everyone a neat disappearing spell. That would solve two problems at once. Frantic, silly, and earnest, Trixie is a delightful little witch. Her dead-on expressions will leave all kids laughing in the aisles, quick to share her stories. The playful art and bright colors splashed on the page bring the child and her supernatural friends to life.—Sadie Mattox, DeKalb County Public Library, Decatur, GA

High School

B., David. Nocturnal Conspiracies: Nineteen Dreams from December 1979 to September 1994. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. illus. by author. 124p. NBM/ComicsLit. 2008. pap. $14.95. ISBN 978-1-56163-541-2. LC number unavailable.

Gr 10 Up—This title offers 19 surreal tales based on dreams the author had between the ages of 20 and his mid-30s. Each one features its own sinister element, whether terrorists planning to blow up Paris, a brutal massacre in an African desert, or French Gestapo agents tracking down and killing members of the Resistance. Like dreams, each scene does not always flow cohesively into the next, resulting in gaps in the story and unconnected elements that leave much to readers’ imaginations. Although the dreams pull readers in with their strangeness, along with plenty of action and suspense, the real strength of this graphic novel lies in the images. David B. has a distinct style that uses heavy black inks combined with grays and blues. His detailed drawings complement the text and carry it through each panel. The results are captivating. Although this book is less likely to enjoy the widespread appeal of his autobiographical Epileptic (Pantheon, 2005), followers of his work w
on’t be disappointed.—Lara McAllister, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia

BAKER, Kyle. Nat Turner. 208p. Abrams. 2008. pap. $12.95. ISBN 978-0-8109-7227-8. LC 2008006911.

Gr 10 Up—Originally self-published in four installments, Nat Turner follows the dark legacy of the Virginia slave rebellion and subsequent murders of at least 55 white slave owners and their families in 1831. Baker presents a cinematic reel that integrates beautiful sepia-toned panels, newspaper headlines in period font, photographs, and historical texts; most heavily drawn from is the recorded Confessions of Nat Turner. The book begins with the brutal capture, mistreatment, and direct and indirect murder of native Africans by white fortune seekers, with disturbing detail such as the sharks following slave ships for the plentiful corpses thrown overboard. These images, as described by a young Turner to his astonished first-generation relatives, were apparently some of the first in a number of “visions” that the staunchly religious man experienced throughout his short life. Turner is presented as a fiercely intelligent, angry, yet steadfast individual whose potentia
l was dashed in an era of hate and inhumanity. Those characteristics are mirrored in the actions of the slaves’ rebellion, in illustrations that are not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach. The ideas brought forth here are sure to ignite debate and discussion, and this book would be a most interesting companion to other studies of antebellum history such as Edward P. Jones’s The Known World (HarperCollins, 2003).—Shannon Peterson, Kitsap Regional Library, WA

BANNO, Negi. S.S. Astro. vol. 1. tr. from Japanese by Stephen Paul. illus. by author. 118p. Yen Pr. 2008. pap. $10.99. ISBN 978-0-7595-2898-7. LC number unavailable.

Gr 10 Up—In both appearance and antics, the new homeroom teachers of Asashio High, all graduates of the school, are barely recognizable from their students. The physical education teacher, Izumi Maki, cannot seem to stay awake or remember the teens’ names. Her cohorts include a competitive school nurse, a seriously formal Japanese teacher with a ravenous appetite, and a smitten foreign-language teacher. The artwork is sharp (the overly expressive eyes common to shojo manga serve the characters well) but constricted to uniform, square panels throughout most of the book. This format, coupled with a lack of fluidity between each episode, makes for a confusing read. Although notes are provided, they are at the end of the volume, so cultural references about food, video games, and gender-bending practices often get lost in translation. Still, this is altogether a fluffy, at times funny, romp, with some risqué poses and a bout of drunkenness that make the story best suited for ol
der readers.—Joanna K. Fabicon, Los Angeles Public Library

GERTLER, Nat. The Licensable Bear™ Big Book of Officially Licensed Fun! illus. by Mark Lewis, et al. 144p. About Comics. 2008. pap. $11.99. ISBN 978-0-9790750-6-3. LC number unavailable.

Gr 10 Up—This collection of comics is sometimes darkly humorous and sometimes downright sad. Licensable Bear™ is an adorable but Machiavellian character who is obsessed with marketing himself. Sometimes that works out well, as when he goes to Japan and his innate cuteness has him rolling in yen without even saying a word. Other times, people learn that those big dark eyes are empty indeed, and they instinctively shy away from him. The bear doesn’t think twice about inviting reporters to a ribbon-cutting ceremony that serves no purpose, or putting his name on shoddy products, or even taking Santa Claus to court. While several of the story lines are engaging, the most memorable story arc involves Marketable Moose. When Licensable Bear™ sees him at a convention and notices that his antler is falling off, he discovers that Marketable Moose is the latest incarnation of another marketing icon that has fallen from grace. The artistic style varies throughout this book from c
omputer graphics to hand-drawn images, depending on the artist. The tone also changes from story to story; while some selections are moving and profound, others are witty and/or intellectually stimulating, as Licensable Bear™ takes on topics like trademarks and brand recognition.—Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

MODAN, Rutu. Jamilti and Other Stories. illus. by author. 120p. Drawn & Quarterly. 2008. Tr $19.95. ISBN 978-1-897299-54-8. LC number unavailable.

Gr 10 Up—Modan’s graphic novel Exit Wounds (Drawn & Quarterly, 2007) was set in Israel. This title is a collection of seven short stories that were written earlier and are set in various times and places. Subjects range from political violence to personal moments and fantastical interludes. One story involves a rock star who travels to England believing that he is going to get a boost in his career. Well written and surprising, “Jamilti” features a Palestinian fighter and a nurse. The volume contains both color and black-and-white art. In contrast to the author’s later work, the character representations here are less refined and often have exaggerated features and expressions that help to illustrate Modan’s narrative points. The backgrounds also tend to be less detailed, which helps to draw readers’ eyes back to the characters and their emotions.—Kelliann Bogan, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH

MURPHY, Justin. Cleburne. illus. by Al Migrom & J. Brown. 208p. Rampart. 2008. pap. $24.95. ISBN 978-0-9799579-0-1. LC number unavailable.

Gr 10 Up—Patrick Cleburne was an Irish immigrant and Confederate soldier who quickly rose to the rank of Major General. He is best known for his 1864 proposal that emancipated slaves should be allowed to join the Confederate Army, an act that marred his military reputation. He died soon after in battle. Cleburne’s story is well written as Murphy merges struggles on the battlefield with Cleburne’s courtship of Susan Tarleton, exploring their budding relationship and examining the war from her standpoint. The artwork is well defined and realistic, and the use of overlapping images in the skirmishes gives a chaotic feel to the battle scenes. The author brings a fresh perspective to the war, examining a part of it that is often overlooked. This graphic novel has high crossover appeal for any Civil War history buff and will help teens consider the many angles from which our past may be seen.—Kelliann Bogan, Colby-Sawyer College, New London, NH

RYUKISHI07. Higurashi When They Cry: Abducted by Demons Arc. vol. 1. tr. from Japanese by Alethea Nibley & Athena Nibley. illus. by Karin Suzuragi. 192p. Yen Pr. 2008. pap. $10.99. ISBN 978-0-7595-2983-0. LC number unavailable.

Gr 10 Up—In this adaptation of a popular computer game, teenager Keiichi Maebara has recently moved to the small, isolated village of Hinamizawa. He becomes friends with a group of flirtatious girls and settles into the daily life, becoming especially close to Rena. However, he suspects that the girls are hiding a dark secret when he finds out that every year, on the same day, one villager dies and one disappears. Is there a curse, or are the villagers behind the murders and the disappearances? Even worse, could Keiichi’s charming friends be demons? The story starts out quietly, but the horror steadily builds, aided by the expressive illustrations. In one memorable part, the black-and-white pages give way to a color insert in which Rena’s wide-eyed smile becomes a vicious scowl. Some of the violent murders are graphically depicted, and one girl’s character is mainly defined by her pride in her large bosom.—Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library, NY

SAIWAI, Tetsu. The 14th Dalai Lama. illus. by author. 224p. (BioGraphic Novel Series). photos. Emotional Content. 2008. pap. $15.95. ISBN 978-0-9817543-0-7. LC 2008930271.

Gr 10 Up—This manga biography reports on and interprets the Dalai Lama’s life, with great emphasis placed on his boyhood and youth. This period in Tibetan and world history included political changes in the relationship between China and its neighbors. These political matters take center stage, but the Dalai Lama’s spiritual teachings also receive attention. The history is accessible, and the characters—who are indeed historical figures—are differentiated by their physical details and personalities. Current idiomatic Americanisms are occasionally jarring, as when the 20-something Dalai Lama exhorts his companions to “Check this out!” but the occasional page of source photos reminds readers that the manga depiction is based closely on actual events. This is an excellent resource for teens in need of a biography and for teachers looking for a model of how history is interpreted.—Francisca Goldsmith, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia

SCHULTZ, Mark. The Stuff of Life: A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA. illus. by Zandor Cannon & Kevin Cannon. 160p. illus. glossary. Hill & Wang. 2008. pap. $14.95. ISBN 978-0-8090-8938-3. LC 2008033829.

Gr 10 Up—The Squinch, an asexual race from the planet Glargal, are suffering from a genetic crisis. In an effort to save them, interplanetary biologist Bloort 183 was transmitted to Earth to study the evolutionary success of its life. He is now back and presenting his findings to his planet’s leader. Much is packed into this book, which includes information on molecular and cellular life, the basic mechanics of genetics, key scientists who have made discoveries in genetics and DNA, and how they have been and are applying this knowledge. Touching on topics such as genetically altered foods and cloning, Schultz is careful to acknowledge controversial subjects while maintaining an unbiased view. His writing is informative, easy to follow, and infused with humor. The detailed black-and-white illustrations are a perfect match, offering images to enhance learning while adding to the humorous aspect of the book. If there is a fault with this volume, it is its physical size, which has r
esulted in various panels and pages seeming overcrowded—a potential turnoff for some readers. This title would do well as standard reading for science students.—Lara McAllister, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia