June 17, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

8 Graphic Novels from Gene Luen Yang, Marissa Meyer, and More | March 2018 Xpress Reviews

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Ellis, Deborah. The Breadwinner. illus. by Cartoon Saloon & Melusine. 80p. Groundwood. Jan. 2018. pap. $12.95. ISBN 9781773061184.

Gr 6 UpThe Breadwinner, adapted from the animated film that was based on Ellis’s acclaimed book, follows Parvana, a young girl living with her parents in war-torn Afghanistan. Parvana’s father is arrested for harboring forbidden books, and his absence leaves the family without a male figurehead in a fiercely patriarchal society. Parvana disguises herself as a boy in order to work and make ends meet; her quest to track down her father is riveting. This tale consists of stills from the movie, which have been arranged into a panel structure. The movie’s animation style translates well to print format, but the dialogue has been reduced to simple sentences and limited conversations between characters, hindering readers’ ability to know them intimately. Many moments in the narrative, including the inciting incident, move too quickly for readers to emotionally process them. Those unfamiliar with the film will still appreciate Parvana’s triumph in the final pages, but they might also feel that there is some character depth missing. Similarly, fans of the original novel may find the lacking characterization and nuance disappointing. VERDICT An additional purchase for libraries where the source material is unavailable.–Matisse Mozer, Los Angeles Public Library

Flaherty, Louise. The Gnawer of Rocks. illus. by Jim Nelson. 56p. Inhabit Media. Nov. 2017. Tr $22.95. ISBN 9781772271652.

Gr 2-6 –When two girls venture from their home, following a trail of rocks, they and their two charges end up trapped within the cave of Mangittatuarjuk, a fearsome child-eating creature. With cunning, they are able to escape, fetch help, and stop Mangittatuarjuk from harming others ever again. This Inuit tale issues a fairly gruesome warning against wandering off—the rotting faces on the endpapers give readers a sense of what to expect. The author explains in the foreword that this is the version that she remembers hearing as a young girl. Atmospheric, painterly illustrations complement the text. The graphic novel layout works well, setting a good pace, and increasing tension as needed. Most of the story is told through straightforward explanatory narration rather than dialogue. The plain white speech bubbles awkwardly stand out against the other colors. A glossary transliterates and defines the Inuktitut words used. VERDICT A beautiful, accessible tale; for most folktale collections.–Rachel Forbes, Oakville Public Library, Ont.

Meyer, Marissa. Wires and Nerve: Vol. 2; Gone Rogue. illus. by Stephen Gilpin. 336p. (Lunar Chronicles). Feiwel & Friends. Jan. 2018. Tr $21.99. ISBN 9781250078285. POP

Gr 8 Up –In the second and final volume of “Wires and Nerve,” the graphic novel continuation of the best-selling “Lunar Chronicles” series, Kinney and android Iko must find Alpha Lysander Steele and the rogue wolf soldiers before it is too late. Despite the duo’s constant bickering, Kinney begins to see just how unique and “human” Iko is, and Iko learns more about her past. Meanwhile, Wolf tries to find the right moment to propose to Scarlet but surprises everyone by joining Steele as his Beta. Cinder reveals her plan to dismantle the Lunar monarchy in favor of elected leadership. However, after so many years living under tyranny, it will take a while for the people of Luna to trust one another and cooperate—and for people on Earth to view Luna in a new light. Steele’s quest for revenge threatens not only Queen Cinder and her friends but also the fragile peace between Luna and Earth. Fans of the first graphic novel will not be disappointed with the engaging, romantic, and thrilling conclusion. Gilpin’s art continues to shine, bringing life to Meyer’s beloved characters. The blue and white color tones fit the narrative well. VERDICT A first purchase for libraries with a “Lunar Chronicles” following.–Marissa Lieberman, East Orange Public Library, NJ

redstarPearce, Philippa. Tom’s Midnight Garden. adapted by Edith. tr. from French by Liz Cross. illus. by Edith. 100p. HarperCollins/Greenwillow. Apr. 2018. Tr $22.99. ISBN 9780062696571.

Gr 4-7 –When Tom is sent to his aunt Gwen and uncle Alan’s to be quarantined while his brother has the measles, he begrudgingly accepts his fate. But everything changes the night he investigates the mysterious grandfather clock, which has just chimed 13 times. Opening the back door, he discovers a magnificent garden, where he returns each night to enjoy its wonders and the friendship of a girl named Hatty. This gorgeously rendered adaptation of a classic work of children’s literature adeptly brings to life Pearce’s descriptive language, using a minimum of carefully chosen text. Each character is flawlessly captured—Tom, his serious uncle, his goodhearted aunt, and Hatty, who transforms from a vulnerable girl to a confident young woman. The use of colors (primarily gray, yellow, and green) is ideal, with muted shades for interior and nighttime settings and brighter hues outdoors. The shading is particularly impressive. VERDICT This excellent graphic novel adaptation will introduce the tale to a new generation of readers. A must-purchase.–Gaye Hinchliff, King County Library System, WA

Pilkey, Dav. Dog Man and Cat Kid. illus. by Dav Pilkey. 256p. (Dog Man: Bk. 4). Scholastic/Graphix. Dec. 2017. Tr $9.99. ISBN 9780545935180. POP

Gr 1-4 –George and Harold, the (fictional) elementary schoolers who created Captain Underpants, present their fourth “Dog Man” comic book, this time with a Hollywood twist. Dog Man, a cop with a canine’s head, is assigned to the security detail of the new superhero movie The Dog-Man, based on his own daring deeds. Unfortunately, he is quickly banned because of his canine tendencies: napping, eating the props, and chewing costumes. Meanwhile, bad guy Petey, fresh out of Cat Jail, along with the kitten clone he created in A Tale of Two Kitties, L’il Petey, is intent on bringing the movie down. Elements of George and Harold’s reading assignment, John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, find their way into the plot and into visual gags. The drama centers on the question of destiny and free will, a surprisingly moving theme for a work that features as many fart jokes as this one does. Petey insists that his clone must follow in his footsteps: “I’m evil, so you have to be evil, too! You don’t have any choice in the matter!” L’il Petey agrees to wear a supervillain costume but chooses his own path, helping to save the day as Cat Kid. While the format and humor make this a natural choice for new or reluctant readers, even those who feel they may have outgrown the series will come back for the groan-worthy puns, thrills, and “laffs.” VERDICT Enthusiastically recommended for all collections.–Jennifer Costa, Cambridge Public Library, MA

Seaton, Eric Dean & David Ellis Dickerson. Legend of the Mantamaji: Bloodlines. illus. by Brandon Palas. 156p. And Action Entertainment. Oct. 2017. pap. $14.99. ISBN 9781930315068.

Gr 8 Up –Elijah Alexander returns as the intrepid Mantamaji in this exhilarating graphic novel that features an all-black cast. After the events of Legend of the Mantamaji, a three-volume collection detailing the Mantamaji’s battle against the villain Sirach, Elijah struggles to balance his job as assistant district attorney and his role as one of New York City’s up-and-coming superheroes. The story kicks off with a failed heist to save a collection of sacred texts. Elijah’s girlfriend, Sydney, a member of the Sanctuants—a powerful, all-female team drawing upon their own set of special abilities (and one of the strongest elements of the comic)—is having doubts about her role in the group. When the president of Al’La-Makan, a fictional African country, makes a rare public appearance and he and his daughter come under siege, Elijah and Sydney must work together. The artwork is thrilling and the color work exceptional, though the action scenes can occasionally be a little hard to follow. Readers will be eager to discover what happens in the next installment. VERDICT A strong addition to teen comic collections.–Gretchen Hardin, Sterling Municipal Library, Baytown, TX

Winick, Judd. Waking the Monsters. illus. by Judd Winick. 208p. (Hilo: Bk. 4). Random. Jan. 2018. Tr $13.99. ISBN 9781524714932. POP

Gr 2-5 –The adventures of Hilo and his friends DJ and Gina continue in this latest, satisfying installment of the series. Humanoid robot Hilo is joined by his sister, Izzy, who has a talent for creating functioning automatons. When giant, menacing robots start rising from the ground, Hilo and his friends must stop them. Izzy’s ridiculous inventions, such as a skunk that makes popcorn, will have readers laughing. Like earlier volumes, this story is a perfect blend of excitement, mystery, and empowerment, with a strong but never preachy message of self-acceptance. Though Izzy is described as weird, she is embraced for her quirks; Gina works up the courage to stand up to her mother. Colorful and action-packed illustrations paired with easy-to-follow dialogue make this an excellent choice for readers just beginning to explore graphic novels. A surprise ending will leave fans anxiously anticipating the next book. VERDICT A fantastic addition to elementary graphic novel collections. Purchase where the series is popular.–Ashley Leffel, Griffin Middle School, Frisco, TX

Yang, Gene Luen. New Super-Man: Vol. 2: Coming to America. illus. by Billy Tan & others. 144p. (Rebirth). DC. Oct. 2017. pap. $16.99. ISBN 9781401273903. POP

Gr 7 Up –The Chinese government wants superheroes of its own, so it creates or recruits versions of famed U.S. crime fighters. Kong Kenan was hardly superhero material before the Ministry of Self-Reliance used technology to turn him into the new Super-Man of China. But just because he’s a superhero doesn’t mean he knows how to act like one. In this second volume in the series, Kong learns about some of his new talents, although he must decide if he wants to access them the easy way (with the help of a suspiciously helpful Lex Luthor) or the hard way. Readers also get a closer look at Kong’s cohorts, such as Wonder Woman and the Flash, and there’s a gripping story featuring the Chinese Bat-Man. This book centers on flawed characters who are imitating the original heroes, both failing and succeeding to follow in those famous footsteps. But even when they falter, they learn from the experience, growing as people and as heroes. Yang’s storytelling skill is well matched by the artwork, which is filled with plenty of bright colors and kinetic energy. VERDICT This inspired interpretation of an iconic character will appeal to new and old fans alike.–Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library

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

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