March 21, 2018

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Graphic Novels: Romance, Roller Derby, and River Spirits | December 2017 Xpress Reviews

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Lyfoung, Patricia. The Scarlet Rose: I Knew I’d Meet You. tr. from French by Joe Johnson. illus. by Patricia Lyfoung. 96p. (The Scarlet Rose: Bk. 1). Papercutz/Charmz. Sept. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781629918273; pap. $9.99. ISBN 9781629918266.

Gr 7 Up –Maud is the teenage daughter of a village smith in France in a time of horse-drawn carriages, powdered wigs, and elaborate corsetry. Her indulgent father has trained her to fight with a sword and praises her independence and skill. When he is murdered, Maud vows to avenge his death and protect the travel diary that the killer was apparently seeking. She goes to live with her grandfather, the Count de Laroche, who is determined to make her into a “proper lady” and marry her off, but she is more interested in swordplay and strategy than embroidery and etiquette. She admires the efforts of The Fox, a masked stranger who steals from the rich and gives to the poor, and falls in love with him at first sight. In secret, Maud becomes The Scarlet Rose and begins her own Robin Hood–type campaign. The characters are drawn with the big eyes and wide-mouthed smiles (or grimaces) typical of some shoujo manga. Well-done adventure sequences are full of motion and shifting perspectives, and color effectively sets the tone. However, the characters are one-dimensional, and the story falters. Maud fluctuates between independent or swoony; her grandfather is either cruel or kind. Readers will guess the true identity of The Fox before it is revealed but may be confounded by an undeveloped plotline that refers to the Knights Templar and “the Ottoman people.” These loose threads suggest further volumes may be planned. VERDICT An additional purchase for middle school libraries where action romance is in demand.–Jennifer Costa, Cambridge Public Library, MA

Ribon, Pamela. SLAM! illus. by Veronica Fish. Vol. 1. 112p. BOOM! Box. Aug. 2017. Tr $14.99. ISBN 9781684150045.

Gr 10 Up –Athletic and brainy Jennifer Chu and recently dumped and anxious Maisie Huff meet at roller derby tryouts and become best friends. While the two young women bond over the hard-hitting and rough-and-tumble struggles of making the team while balancing their personal lives, they grow more confident in their skills and appreciative of the sport. However, Jennifer and Maisie are chosen for rival teams and their relationship may not survive the competition. This volume collects the first four issues of the girl-powered comics celebrating roller derby and female friendship. Moana screenwriter Ribon’s snarky humor and biting dialogue perfectly complement Fish’s (“Archie”) fresh, dynamic art. The design and variation of the panels bring to life the frenetic pace of the high-energy sport. The diverse cast includes women of all sizes, sexual orientations, and cultural backgrounds, and the art and text work together seamlessly to make each of the characters multidimensional. Teens who are ready to graduate from Victoria Jamieson’s Roller Girl, John Allison’s “Bad Machinery,” and the “Lumberjanes” comics will gravitate to this series. VERDICT Purchase where Allison’s “Giant Days” and Brian K. Vaughan’s “Paper Girls” are popular. An excellent choice for sports collections and graphic novel shelves for older teens.–Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

Whyte, Campbell. Home Time: Under the River. illus. by Campbell Whyte. 228p. Top Shelf Comics. Aug. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781603094122.

Gr 6 Up –On their way home on the last day of eighth grade, twins David and Lilly discuss their big plans for the summer (December in Australia). Yet when they fall into a river and land in another world along with a rogues’ gallery of friends, adventures (and witty banter) await. The young humans are understood to be spirits, treated as special guests and emissaries, and generally exposed to the strange “peach” culture they’ve accidentally stumbled upon. Whyte employs different illustration styles. While the artwork is beautiful, the story is incredibly lengthy and may not suit reluctant readers used to more accessible graphic narratives. Standout panels include the layout of a magic tree house, handwritten diary entries, and detailed pictures of the flora and fauna in the new realm. VERDICT With an interesting narrative and age-appropriate characters, this title has plenty to offer patient readers. A strong additional purchase for middle and upper school libraries.–Erinn Black Salge, Morristown-Beard School, NJ

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

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