February 21, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Graphic Novels Xpress Reviews | January 2017

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1701-gn-xpressrevGravel, Elise. The Great Antonio. illus. by Elise Gravel. 64p. Toon. Oct. 2016. Tr $12.95. ISBN 9781943145089.

K-Gr 2 –Antonio Barichievich (1925–2003) was a Croatian-born strongman who lived a fascinating life. Antonio weighed 460 pounds, could eat 25 chickens and a dozen doughnuts in a sitting, and pulled trains and busses—with his hair! He wrestled bears, sang opera, and, in the end, lived at a doughnut shop. Author and illustrator Gravel highlights this little-known, real-life person in an imaginative and engaging way. The comic book–style format provides emerging readers with many opportunities to explore the relationship between text and image. As with all Toon Books, this title offers educators and caregivers concise tips on how to read and use comics with kids. VERDICT A fine addition for chapter book and early graphic novel collections.–Lindsay Persohn, University of South Florida, Tampa

Laff, Becky. Joseph the Dreamer. illus. by Becky Laff. 48p. Kar-Ben. Aug. 2016. Tr $17.99. ISBN 9781467778459; pap. $7.99. ISBN 9781467778503; ebk. $6.99. ISBN 9781512409352.

Gr 1-4 –The biblical story of Joseph is recast as a graphic novel populated by anthropomorphic animals. The tale has been somewhat condensed and the violence and sex glossed over, but the essence of the story comes through. Joseph, his father’s favorite son, is an interpreter of dreams. His older brothers resent him and sell him into slavery in Egypt, where he undergoes hardship but ultimately becomes a powerful man. When his brothers come from Canaan to Egypt seeking food during famine, Joseph tests them and finds them changed, leading to a happy reunion for the whole family. The text offers themes of betrayal and forgiveness, the complications of family dynamics, and the desire to belong. Laff’s colorful layout gives the ancient story a modern feel and offers a good scope for the visual nature of the tale with its many settings and characters. The Hebrews (rabbits), traders (dogs), and Egyptians (cats) add a playful touch. The panels are small and busy, better for individual readers than for group presentation. The format will appeal to children. VERDICT Jewish and Christian libraries will want to add this title to their collections.–Heidi Rabinowitz, Congregation B’nai Israel, Boca Raton, FL

McCuminskey, Gavin. Shackleton: The Voyage of the James Caird—A Graphic Account. 96p. chron. Dufour Editions. Dec. 2016. pap. $16. ISBN 9781848892811.

Gr 5-8 –This graphic novel chronicles the 22-month journey Ernest Shackleton and a crew of 27 men undertook in 1915 in an attempt to be the first to cross Antarctica via the South Pole. An introductory note brings readers up to speed and depicts Shackleton as a seasoned Antarctic explorer who is making this trip during World War I. The South Georgian station master has warned of a particularly harsh winter ahead. Within a month, Shackleton’s ship becomes trapped in pack ice in the Weddell Sea, and so begins the quest to survive. Shackleton’s crew squares off against nature in the harshest setting on Earth. Half-dead, they endure lethal conditions, expending far more energy than they gain through food and rest. Miraculously, the entire expedition survives and are welcomed home as heroes. The dynamic storytelling turns a historical event into a page-turning, life-and-death battle of man vs. nature. The illustrations resemble a crew member’s journal sketches, and the layout of the panels and chapter breaks give this title a scrapbooklike feel. Scenes of violence fade to black (for instance, shooting the pets aboard the ship and eating them), and the narrative switches back and forth between diarylike narration and panels of live action in which crew members fight to live. VERDICT A great read-alike for fans of Nathan Hale’s “Hazardous Tales” series and an absorbing, incredible account of survival.–Samantha Lumetta, Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County, OH

Riess, Natalie. Space Battle Lunchtime: Vol. 1: Lights, Camera, Snacktion! illus. by Natalie Riess. 120p. Oni. Oct. 2016. pap. $12.99. ISBN 9781620103135.

Gr 3-5 –Peony, a talented Earthling baker, is beamed up to space to compete in Space Battle Lunchtime, an intergalactic cooking contest broadcast all over the universe. Peony is up for the challenge against five aliens, but something terrible may have happened to the chef she replaced. In spite of fierce competition, Peony finds joy in concocting new dishes out of unfamiliar ingredients like Mars Goop and Moon Butter, and she discovers the importance of friendship over feuds. The delicate, almost scrawled line drawings and handwritten lettering resemble dreamy doodles. A colorful but light, washed-out palette reflects the gentle tone: this is a story about finding friends, not enemies. This quirky mix of outer space and cooking contests not only entertains but also provides insight into the importance of friendly competition. VERDICT Give to fans of cooking comics such as Eric Colossal’s “Rutabaga the Adventure Chef” and Takashi Hashiguchi’s “Yakitate!! Japan.”–Lisa Goldstein, Brooklyn Public Library

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

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