February 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Graphic Novels Xpress Reviews | September 2016

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For more of this month’s
Xpress Reviews:

Arnold, Tedd, Martha Hamilton, & Mitch Weiss. Noodlehead Nightmares. illus. by Tedd Arnold. 48p. Holiday House. Feb. 2016. Tr $15.95. ISBN 9780823435661.

Gr 1-3 –The one in the red shirt is Mac, and the one in the yellow shirt is Mac. They are noodleheads: walking, talking noodles, most likely macaroni, whose brains are as hollow as their heads. In a series of silly shorts, referred to as “noodle” tales, the brothers encounter their nightmares during their daily routines. While most of their fears are typical, their methods for coping are not. This graphic novel is inspired by themes commonly found in folktales, specifically those featuring fools. Like other famous fools, Mac and Mac make decisions that land them in trouble, and when they try to resolve the problem, their unique brand of logic doesn’t quite work. In this colorful cartoon, there is no underlying message or lesson; the book is purely meant for entertainment. The easy-to-read dialogue is ideal for new readers. Fallacy, exaggerated gestures, and slapstick are the main techniques used to elicit quick laughs. VERDICT This modern take on the foolish folktale is full of goofy humor; great fun for newly independent readers and graphic novel newbies.–Rachel Forbes, formerly at Oakville Public Library, Ontario, Canada

Mizuki, Shigeru. The Birth of Kitaro. illus. by Shigeru Mizuki. 200p. (Kitaro). Drawn & Quarterly. May 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781770462281.

Gr 7 Up –Originally published in magazines between 1966 and 1968, these humorous and spooky entries introduce readers to one of the most famous characters in Japan. The book focuses on the character of Kitaro but includes lots of different yokai (monsters and other mysterious beings), which make these stories exciting and surreal. In Kitaro’s origin story, readers learn that he is the last member of the Ghost Tribe, he was born from his mother’s grave, his late father’s eyeball follows and protects him, and he can use his own hair as a weapon. The other selections present different human and yokai characters and expand Kitaro’s story as he helps to fight the evil creatures with powers of his own. The illustrations range from cute and cartoony to finely detailed, and they add to the action and energy. Readers will see why Kitaro has been a popular character for decades in Japan and will want to read more volumes to discover the rest of his adventures. The book concludes with a history of Kitaro, an overview of yokai, and several puzzles featuring the characters. VERDICT For fans of manga, monsters, and extremely weird stories.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

Sorese, Jeremy & Ian Jones-Quartey. Steven Universe Original Graphic Novel Vol. 1. illus. by Asia Kendrick-Horton. 160p. (Steven Universe). KaBOOM! Apr. 2016. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781608867714.

Gr 3-6 –Based on the Cartoon Network series, this original graphic novel explores what happens when homeschooled Steven follows his friend Connie to school. Wherever Steven goes, chaos soon follows, and an innocent show-and-tell activity goes terribly wrong, requiring his three magical alien guardians, the Crystal Gems, to swoop in and save the day. The story reads like an extended television episode, which fans should enjoy. The artwork starts off well enough, but some strange departures in style occur later on. The characters have expressive faces and animated movement, and the backgrounds are well rendered, but as the narrative continues, the line work abruptly becomes less delicate and the characters appear awkward and flat. There are also inconsistencies in the costuming and eye color of the characters. The text itself needs a great deal more editing and some heavy proofreading throughout. It’s a fun book in concept diminished by sloppy execution. VERDICT This graphic novel is funny and warm and has much of the same charm that attracts viewers to the television show, but it is difficult to recommend it as a purchase with so many errors and discrepancies.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

Stevenson, Noelle & Shannon Watters. Out of Time. illus. by Brooke Allen. 128p. Bk. 4. Jul. 2016. ISBN 9781608868605.

––––. A Terrible Plan. illus. by Carolyn Nowak. 112p. Bk. 3. Apr. 2016. ISBN 9781608868032.

ea vol: (Lumberjanes). Boom! Studios. pap. $14.99.

Gr 4-8 –The Lumberjanes quintet return in these two adventure-filled volumes of the girl power graphic novel series. Friendships and romances are tested in A Terrible Plan as Mal and Molly embark on their first-ever semidate. Hoping to escape their usual madcap, monster-driven outings, the teens set out to have a quiet picnic but are duly interrupted by the Bear Woman, a magical portal, and dinosaurs. Meanwhile, the other girls, led by a determined April, hope to earn badges for “normal” camp activities, like scrapbooking and cake decorating. Their efforts are often met with disaster. Multiple art styles are used by various artists in this installment, some more successful than others. In Out of Time, the team’s camp counselor Jen is separated from them during a freak snowstorm and her charges desperately try to locate her with Camp Director Rosie’s help. Jen is rescued by a former camper who has her own malicious agenda. This volume most explicitly explores the costs of friendship and the tension that can arise from differences in opinion and bullying. A subplot involving Jo and Barnes (a boy from the neighboring camp) reveals Ripley’s own insecurities and hints at her identity as a trans girl. Secrets from the past are revealed via sepia-tinged flashbacks, adding suspense. Both titles feature rambunctious illustrations that pop off the page and the sparkling dialogue with feminist leanings that fans have grown to expect. VERDICT Must-have selections for all middle school collections, especially where the previous entries are popular.–Shelley Diaz, School Library Journal

Vaughan, Brian K. Paper Girls. illus. by Cliff Chiang, Jared K. Fletcher, & Matthew Wilson. 144p. Image Comics. Apr. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781632156747.

Gr 9 Up –The book opens with a 12-year-old girl named Erin having an incredibly vivid and confusing dream. She wakes up and starts her paper route. Because it’s November 1, there’s a lot of residual Halloween weirdness out on the streets, and soon she finds herself the target of some teenage boys who are wearing costumes while vandalizing the neighborhood. Erin is rescued by several newspaper delivery girls who are traveling together for safety, and then the narrative takes a surreal turn. Some folks in the neighborhood start disappearing, and people who appear to be wearing Halloween costumes seem to be from different times or places. The papergirls try to figure out who is attacking them and why, who are their allies or enemies, and just what on earth is going on. The tale ends with a striking cliff-hanger that will let readers know that the girls’ adventures are far from over. Vaughn’s reputation has already skyrocketed with the success of graphic novels like Saga, and this title helps to showcase his abilities as the author of far-out fiction that will make readers think. Colorful and captivating, the artwork expertly captures the strange qualities of this memorable outing. Strong language makes this more appropriate for mature readers. VERDICT An awesome selection for older teens and adults looking for an exciting sci-fi tale with unexpected twists.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library


This article was published in School Library Journal's September 2016 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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