March 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Graphic Novels Xpress Reviews | March 2017

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1703_Xpress_GNAtwood, Margaret. Angel Catbird: Vol. 1. illus. by Johnnie Christmas & Tamra Bonvillain. 112p. ebook available. Dark Horse. Sept. 2016. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781506700632.

Gr 7 Up –With her graphic novel debut, acclaimed author Atwood tells the story of Strig, an ordinary man who mutates into a strange owl/cat/human hybrid because of a secret formula. Featuring familiar tropes—an unlikely superhero and an evil villain who laughs maniacally as he plans to take over the world—the tale is reminiscent of classic superhero comics. Added to the mix are Cate, Strig’s coworker and love interest, and an entire underground community of hybrid creatures. The artwork is colorful, vibrant, and filled with action. Atwood’s introduction explains how and why this book was created, touching on her childhood interest in comics and her adult pursuit of bird conservation. Overall, this is a well-intentioned book that sometimes feels too purposeful. There are pieces of statistical information and website links about cats scattered throughout. Often, these facts feel preachy and overly educational (for instance, a reminder of “The Importance of Fixing Your Cat”), and the placement is at times jarring, breaking up the narrative flow. VERDICT An attractive but sometimes disjointed offering; for larger collections with superhero fans seeking additional materials.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

Himekawa, Akira. Ocarina of Time. illus. by Akira Himekawa. 378p. (The Legend of Zelda). Viz Media. Nov. 2016. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781421589596.

Gr 9 Up –Himekama transports readers to the magical world of Link and Zelda, in true manga form. It’s a classic return to an old favorite, made fresh for a new generation. The story follows Link from his origins and details the destiny he’s meant to fulfill. Accompanied by the fairy Navi, he must find three spiritual stones and bring them to Zelda, the princess who rules over Hyrule, but the villainous Ganondrof stands in his way. The art is a fun callback to the video game. Illustrations on each panel are highly detailed and full of action and convey the complexity of Link’s mission. Violence and some scantily clad female characters, while typical of most manga, may make this title appropriate for more mature readers. VERDICT Bound to appeal to lifelong Zelda devotees. Fans of Masashi Kishimoto’s “Naruto” series and Kyoko Hikawa’s “From Far Away” will particularly enjoy this title.–Chantalle Uzan, New York Public Library

Humphries, Sam. Jonesy: Vol. 1. illus. by Caitlin Rose Boyle & Mickey Quinn. 112p. ebook available. Boom! Studios. Oct. 2016. pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781608868834.

Gr 6 Up –This volume collects the first four issues of the colorful comic. Jonesy is a self-described “cool dork,” who makes zines that nobody reads, watches anime, and listens to riot grrrl bands. She has also recently discovered that she has the power to make others fall in love. The teen uses her abilities to varying effect, often leaving chaos in her wake. In the first issue, she receives a white flower instead of the much-sought-after pink flowers on Valentine’s Day. Popular girl Susan makes fun of her, and after some advice from her abuelita, Jonesy decides to get even. Eventually, the two frenemies become true friends, especially as the title character tries to get the girl Susan is crushing on to love her back. The secondary characters, such as Jonesy’s doughnut-making, joke-cracking father and her relentless, not-so-clueless principal, are memorable. The absurd stories are reminiscent of the high jinks–filled classic “Archie” comics, and the Technicolor art, filled with hearts and magenta-tinged hues, elevates the comical but sometimes cheesy narrative. While this has the makings of a fun series and the intersectionality of the protagonists will resonate with readers, the book sometimes straddles the line between mocking and paying homage to adolescent girls. Still, the heroine, with her voluminous hair and baggy clothes, is an unforgettable, highly expressive, and mostly charming protagonist. VERDICT Fans of Adventure Time, Steven Universe, and “Lumberjanes” will gravitate to the rambunctious, star-crossed Jonesy. A general purchase for most YA and upper middle grade graphic novel collections.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

Millar, Mark. Huck: Vol. 1: All-American. illus. by Rafael Albuquerque & Dave McCaig. 160p. ebook available Image Comics. Jul. 2016. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781632157294.

Gr 7 Up –Huck, abandoned at birth and adopted by a kind couple, is a Good Samaritan with a penchant for deeds that range from random acts of kindness to superhero feats of heroism. Huck lives a low-key existence until his good works become public knowledge; soon everyone is seeking assistance from him. Like all superheroes, Huck becomes the target of a villainous plot to destroy him. Written by Millar (Kick Ass) and illustrated by Albuquerque (American Vampire), this title follows the superhero origin trope of abandonment and self-discovery. Albuquerque’s illustrations, which use background colors to convey mood, add to the pacing of Millar’s story. Although readers are likely to note similarities and draw comparisons between Huck and superheroes, such as Captain America and Superman, Huck is an everyman hero with extraordinary abilities—and without the suit. VERDICT Recommended for young adult comic book fans.–Tamela Chambers, Chicago Public Schools, IL

Telgemeier, Raina. Fantasmas. tr. from English to Spanish by Juan Pablo Lombana. illus. by Raina Telgemeier. 256p. Scholastic. Dec. 2016. Tr $10.99. ISBN 9781338133684.

Gr 4-8 –A Spanish translation of Telgemeier’s Ghosts. Catrina, or Cat for short, comes from a multicultural family—she has a white father and a Mexican mother. Cat reluctantly moves with her family to Northern California for the health of her younger sister, Maya, who has cystic fibrosis. In their new town of Bahía de la Luna, the sisters meet Carlos, a neighbor kid who tries to convince them that ghosts exist. Cat is skeptical, but Maya is a believer. When Carlos takes the girls to an old mission, Cat accepts the possibility that the spirits of one’s ancestors can, in fact, communicate with the living. Everything culminates at the Day of the Dead festivities, during which Cat learns beyond a doubt that Carlos was right about the ghosts all along. Lombana has done an outstanding work in translating the original English text into Spanish. Spanish speakers will find this an accessible and faithful adaptation of the original and should appreciate the colorful art. The dark side of California’s mission’s history is overlooked. Pair with Duncan Tonatiuh’s Funny Bones for a wider perspective of Day of the Dead. VERDICT A thoughtfully designed, well-translated version of the popular graphic novel.–Tim Wadham, Children’s Literature Consultant, Puyallup, WA


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