February 23, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Graphic Novels: America Chavez, Alex Rider, and a Soccer King | February 2018 Xpress Reviews

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Clare, Cassandra. The Mortal Instruments. illus. by Cassandra Jean. 208p. Yen. Nov. 2017. Tr $13. ISBN 9780316465816.

Gr 7 Up –This graphic novel version of the first volume in Clare’s “Mortal Instruments” series remains true to the spirit of the original story about a teenage girl who discovers a fantastic world that’s invisible to most humans. Clary is out at a club one night when she notices a strange man and woman nearby. She follows them and stumbles upon an ambush. When she cries out to stop the attack, everyone is surprised that she can see them. Clary discovers that creatures such as demons, vampires, angels, and fairies exist and that they live alongside humans, who usually can’t see them. She also learns that she and her mother are inextricably linked to this fantastic world, which means that they are both in danger. Jean’s artistic style makes the characters look angular and ethereal, like manga with a touch of the TV series Æon Flux, and is very well suited to the absorbing narrative. VERDICT Fans of “The Mortal Instruments” (the book, film, and TV versions) will appreciate this latest interpretation of these characters, but newcomers will also enjoy it.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

Hale, Nathan. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Raid of No Return. illus. by Nathan Hale. 128p. bibliog. maps. Abrams/Amulet. Nov. 2017. Tr $12.99. ISBN 9781419725562.

Gr 3-7 –Presented in the author’s instantly recognizable artistic and storytelling style, this new series installment centers on the Doolittle air raid over Japan during World War II. The book starts with a brief explanation of events pre–Pearl Harbor (and an even briefer, information-packed history of Japanese military history); soon after, the action begins with a literal bang. Hale describes the bombing of Pearl Harbor from Japanese and American points of view. In response, the U.S. military set up a supersecret counterattack organized by stunt pilot Jimmy Doolittle. Pilots and crew manning 16 planes trained to bomb targets over Japan. Their fate after the attack is harrowing and no detail is left out. While small, the panels are readable, and the graphic novel’s small size makes it portable. Though works of history might not fly off the shelves, Hale’s tendency to incorporate character commentary, infographics, and fun facts will draw readers. VERDICT Purchase for all libraries, and give this title to readers interested in action-packed graphic novels, especially patrons aging out of the “Magic Treehouse” books.–Morgan Brickey, Arlington Public Library, TX

Horowitz, Anthony & Antony Johnston. Eagle Strike. illus. by Kanako Damerum & Yuzuru Takasaki. ISBN 9780763692568.

––––. Scorpia. illus. by Emma Vieceli & Kate Brown. ISBN 9780763692575.

ea vol: 176p. (Alex Rider). Candlewick. Aug. 2017. pap. $14.99.

Gr 4-7 –Being a teen spy isn’t easy, and being a teen spy on vacation is even harder. Alex Rider is having trouble relaxing during his time off from MI6. Unfortunately, he’s right to be worried. No matter where he goes, trouble seems to follow. And this time, it’s a little too close to home. His friends’ parents are injured, and he learns surprising truths about his family. Alex doesn’t know whom to trust. He infiltrates the enemy organization, Scorpia, in search of answers—but does he really want to find them? These effective graphic novel adaptations of the fourth and fifth installments in the “Alex Rider” series immerse tweens in Alex’s world. Reluctant readers will enjoy this series for the fast pace, engaging narrative, and action-packed artwork. VERDICT Strong additions to graphic novel shelves, especially where the series is popular.–Rena Gibson, Ralph Ellison Library, Oklahoma City

Poe, Edgar Allan. The Stories of Edgar Allan Poe. adapted by Stacy King. illus. by various. 308p. (Manga Classics). Udon. Dec. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781772940206; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781772940213.

Gr 7 Up –This latest addition to the “Manga Classics” series adapts several of Poe’s most famous creations into graphic novel format, including his poem The Raven and his stories, “The Masque of the Red Death,” “The Cask of Amontillado,” “The Tell-Tale Heart,” and “The Fall of the House of Usher.” The volume retains much of the original writing, and the design and manga-style illustrations will help readers understand the narratives and navigate Poe’s language. Even those who are familiar with the classic horror author will welcome the visual depictions of confusing aspects, such as the bust of Pallas in The Raven or the walls that are “encrusted with nitre” in “The Cask of Amontillado.” Though each entry is illustrated by a different artist, all are heavily stylized with chilling close-ups and plenty of shadows. The striking images will help old and new readers appreciate these tales on multiple levels. VERDICT An excellent addition to graphic novel collections and a great way to introduce newcomers to some of Poe’s most chilling works.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

Rivera, Gabby. America Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez. illus. by Joe Quinones. 136p. Marvel. Oct. 2017. pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781302908812. POP

Gr 9 Up –America Chavez, aka Ms. America, previously highlighted in Marvel’s “The Avengers” and “The Ultimates,” gets her own solo comic in this rollicking, high-energy offering from Gabby Rivera (Juliet Takes a Breath). In this volume, which collects issues #1–6, the frosh at Sotomayor University battles aliens, heartbreak, uber-fans, and her past with attitude, a galaxy-bending fist, and the help of her close friends Hawkeye and Prodigy. Marvel readers will be intrigued by the many adventures of the Latinx superheroine and will chuckle at the cameos made by Captain Marvel, Peggy Carter, the X-Men, Moon Girl, and many more. The tale is powered by themes of unity, girl power, friendship, and family. Sometimes the dialogue is a bit on the nose and the action sequences feel slightly haphazard, but America’s search for her identity and roots will resonate with many teens. The vivid art accentuates the frenetic pace of the narrative and truly packs a punch. The Spanish phrases sprinkled throughout add another layer of authenticity and nuance. VERDICT A strong choice for most collections. Purchase where there’s a devoted comics following. –Shelley M. Diaz, School Library Journal

redstarRubin, Sean. Bolivar. illus. by Sean Rubin. 224p. Archaia. Nov. 2017. Tr $29.99. ISBN 9781684150694.

K-Gr 3 –Eight-year-old Sybil lives in Manhattan, on West 78th Street, next door to Bolivar, the world’s last dinosaur. Bolivar loves corned beef sandwiches, bookstores, museums, and jazz—but he hates attention. That’s why he lives in the most frenetic city in the world, where everyone is much too busy to notice him. That is, everyone except Sybil. Despite Sybil’s efforts, no one believes in Bolivar’s existence. But when the dinosaur must sort out an unjust parking ticket, his privacy slips, and he and Sybil must deal with the consequences. This hybrid picture book/graphic novel relies on a combination of text, speech balloons, comic panels, and panoramic illustrations. The speech balloons are all color-coded, making it easy to tell who is talking, and the narrative is divided into five chapters each about the length of a traditional picture book. Detailed images feature lots of crosshatching and many hidden delights. The characters are appealing and made distinct by wonderful use of color; Sybil stands out with her bright yellow school uniform, and gray-green Bolivar easily blends in with the scenery. VERDICT This brilliantly drawn story will resonate with a wide audience. Read it aloud chapter by chapter with younger kids, who will enjoy pointing out the hidden details, or give it to independent readers. Pair it with Nadja Spiegelman’s Lost in NYC and Zack Lieberman and Louis Neubert’s Max & Charlie for a trio of titles that burst with lovely artwork and a wealth of affection for New York.–Kelley Gile, Cheshire Public Library, CT

Simon, Eddy. Pelé: The King of Soccer. illus. by Vincent Brascglia. 144p. First Second. Oct. 2017. Tr $19.99. ISBN 978-1626729797; pap. $15.99. ISBN 9781626727557.

Gr 7 Up –Pelé, widely known as the greatest soccer player of all time, was born Edson Arantes do Nascimento, a wiry little village boy from Brazil. With his lightning-speed knack for dribbling and shooting, he quickly ran out of children to play with— but his father, a former professional player, encouraged his son to embrace the game. Pelé earned his nickname as he became a professional soccer player at 15 and won a spot on the national team only a year later. He was dubbed “O Rei” (or “king”), helped Brazil win three FIFA World Cups, and became the all-time leading goal scorer in the history of Brazilian soccer. Simon acknowledges that Pelé’s life isn’t all awards and international fame—the graphic novel covers corrupt sports officials, an authoritarian dictatorship that tries to control Pelé as its national treasure, and family strife. However, the focus is on Pelé’s tremendous impact on soccer internationally and his efforts to improve social conditions in his homeland. The book’s linear trajectory is easy to follow, though it spans many years and the political intrigues hint at a much more complicated backstory. Readers who aren’t sports fans may find the play-by-play tedious at times, but the dialogue never becomes too technical. The artwork is active and graceful—occasionally frenetic, depicting what Pelé called “the beautiful game.” VERDICT A great addition for graphic novel collections and a good way to attract reluctant readers.–Michael Marie Jacobs, Darlington School, GA

Twain, Mark. The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. adapted by Crystal S. Chan. illus. by Kuma Chan. 320p. (Manga Classics). Udon. Oct. 2017. Tr $24.99. ISBN 9781772940169; pap. $17.99. ISBN 9781772940176.

Gr 7 Up –This installment of the series takes on Twain’s subversive adventure of a boy named Huckleberry Finn and a runaway slave named Jim. After faking his own murder to escape his drunken father’s cruelty, Huck flees on a raft with Jim along the Mississippi River. What begins as a reasonably harmonious life for the two is soon disrupted by the Duke and the King, two crooks who commandeer the raft. As the group struggle in their attempted cons, Huck faces moral dilemmas. He decides he must do the right thing and use his wits to find the way to freedom with Jim. Character designs are clean, attractive, and distinguishable. While the art tones down graphic scenes (the King and Duke’s punishment is depicted in silhouette; the fallout of a shooting is bloodless), the dialogue is mostly faithful to the original text. There are some helpful resources throughout, such as an explanation of the dialects, a guide to the differences between this adaptation and the source material, and a chart on how to read manga. VERDICT This strong adaptation stays true to Twain’s satirical storytelling while also turning it into a digestible introduction for readers. Use it to help students think critically about race and class.–Kimberly Castle-Alberts, Akron-Summit County Public Library

This article was published in School Library Journal's February 2018 issue. Subscribe today and save up to 35% off the regular subscription rate.

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