Category Archives: Graphic novels

Cover Love

Covers are integral for selling a book without having to say a word (as well as titles, but that is a blog post for another day). If put on the spot, the kind of covers I drool over are Sarah Cross’ Beau Rivage series, Ellen Hopkins hardcovers, George O’Connor’s Olympains graphic novels, and standalones that capture the mood of the book like Out of Darkness and And We Stay.

So I took the opportunity to capture the beauty of a new book to be released in October that I had an advanced copy for, E.K. Johnston’s (Exit, Pursued by a Bear) That Inevitable Victorian Thing. Not only is the cover art gorgeous, when you really look at it, the artist understood the book as well. Plus, the content is an intriguing alternate history with GLBTQ characters, picturesque settings, and lovable secondary characters.

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Teens will keep interested in the content, but likely what will draw them in if a librarian isn’t there to recommend it is the cover. What other covers do you adore? I can say for certainty that I would poster-print Cross’ covers and hang as wall art if I had the wall space. Well… we are remodeling our house, so maybe this is a real possibility.

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Then, what’s really underneath it all, too? Anne Blankman shared her love for the hardcover where publishers put thought into what’s underneath. Understandably I now strip all my hardcovers to see what’s underneath. Ever done it? You should, you might be a winner! Pun intended– because the last book that I fell in love with was You May Already Be a Winner for it’s navy hardcover with a complimenting golden ribbon along the spine.

Your mission next time you’re holding a book in your hands is to take a few minutes to appreciate the design of the cover. And if it’s a hardcover, see what’s underneath it all *wink wink*.


Red, white, and blue titles


Not necessarily red, white, and blue covers, but sharing American experiences. I realized I could write multiple posts on favorite titles (both fiction and nonfiction) that discuss the American experience, but I’ll share a few that highlight different time periods in the history of the United States of America.

Laurie Halse Anderson’s Seeds of America trilogy

Last year I reviewed the final book in the series, Ashes, as an appropriate, haunting, and gorgeous finale to her series highlighting the American revolution. The sisters Isabel and Ruth and the most vivid character, Curzon, delve into the harshness of the revolution, especially along color lines and the reality of those that fought for freedom and those that they left at home.

The Red Bandanna by Tom Rinaldi

This is a young reader’s edition both sentimental and uplifting of Welles Crowther, a young man who helped rescue people inside the Twin Towers after the planes struck on September 11th. Crowther died when the towers fell, but it’s the signature red bandanna given to him at a young age that survivors were able to identify after the fact, making him a national figure that then-President Barack Obama knew. Rinaldi’s nonfiction account recognizes Crowther’s heroism and bravery.

Don Brown’s graphic novels Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans and The Great American Dust Bowl 

These graphic novels demonstrate the power of a graphic novel in that both provide a visual narrative of traumatizing and debilitating events in different parts of our country. And Brown’s rich style breaks readers’ hearts through pictures of grief and loss with several panels so bold that they’re mesmerizing.

I’ll certainly revisit the idea of books about American history in future posts, but in the meantime, learn about the revolution, dust bowl, 9/11, and Hurricane Katrina with these titles in a variety of genres and formats.


Book hug


I had an experience when I read Page by Paige, the graphic novel by Laura Lee Gulledge. It’s one of those books that I was reading, then looked up to realize no one was experiencing the euphoria I was feeling at that moment. It was the beautiful illustrations and the perfect encapsulation of every introverted, self-doubting girl (read: basically every girl that has ever gone through puberty). And oftentimes it wasn’t the words but how the illustrations and words connected with each other that made me hug the book when I was finished: and hugged like the best friend you haven’t seen in a year.

2016-12-09-20-04-47Memorable character: Unequivocally Paige. She is the star of the show and the title character and it wouldn’t be the book about her battle with herself, being in her head, being her every single moment of every single day. Her emotions pour out on the page through the skilled hand of Gulledge to create pages like the ones included through this post. She’s someone who is growing and maturing and reflecting, even when it’s difficult. See all of her huddled around her head? (Don’t mind all of the post-it’s sticking out of the side. We’ll get to some of the others in a moment…

Memorable quote: It wasn’t so much what she said or was thinking, but the collision of 2016-12-09-20-04-59“notice me” in her eyes when she happened upon her love interest. Everyone who has begun to fall in love has felt this way, yes? The perfect marriage of creativity and empathy for Paige.

Memorable scene: Her taking the plunge. Ready to move forward even with her self-doubt, even after confronting her mother, worried about her continued relationship, being sure she remains true to herself, being a good friend, putting her artwork out there, being vulnerable. It’s the plunge that made readers love Paige even more than we already had. She speaks to everyone and it doesn’t have to be “as a girl”, but really every teenage experience feels the same way be it in love, artistic or academic expression, in relationships with family. 2016-12-09-20-06-30Gulledge succinctly interweaves this fear when she’s holding her heart in her hands hoping not to step on the hundreds of banana peels that litter the floor.

My appreciation for this book is the same giddy happiness I had when I finished Lucky Penny by Ananth Hirsh. Classically executed with readable font, mesmerizing illustrations, likable characters with the right amount of unselfish vulnerability inside of a great story. If it’s been sitting on the shelf since it’s 2011 publication date without a lot of movement, dust it off and put it on the top of the shelf. If it’s not in the collection, purchase it. If you have a teenage girl to buy for for Christmas, you’re done– wrap this one in a ribbon and bow– that’s just my advice! But seriously, go out and cuddle up with it next to a fire and live or re-live those years of epic self-doubt ruled the psyche.






With our large English as a New Language learners population at our high school as well as the students who are not reading at grade level, our library is a smorgasbord of reading options that include picture books through college-level academic texts and everything in between. And recently I have been enjoying the array of simple graphic, semi-graphic, or textual fiction and nonfiction for a range of reading abilities.

Take the “A Wicked History” series detailing the lives of “wicked” rulers, tyrants, and dictators with a format that makes learning history cool while creating smaller and shorter chapters with pointed information that give perspective to their “wickedness”.

I also enjoyed several of the Scholastic Branches’ series including the Dragon Masters, Owl Diaries, Lotus Lane, Monkey Me, and The Notebook of Doom. With the right amount of character development, setting, story, and illustrations, these series books are not boring or tired, they actually get better.

Likewise, Orca’s graphic adventure series and the Jason Strange by Stone Arch Books are equally engaging, with my new favorite the graphic adventure series that both teaches and entertains.

So whether you’re a high school library looking to diversify reading ability in your texts or a middle school or elementary school making sure you have the right stuff on the shelves, these are all perfect options with a built in audience and quantity that will keep the students coming back for the others. I advise that they be on every bookshelf.



Obsession continues

It can only be described as binge reading. In one afternoon, I read through the seven books that I had my hands on in George O’Connor’s Olympians graphic novel series. I’m one short, with Apollo having come out in January, yet it’s not in our collection yet (oh, it will be). The next one scheduled is for 2017.

In order, the series showcases thus far2016-08-03 13.44.44

  1. Zeus: King of the Gods (2010)
  2. Athena: Grey-Eyed Goddess (2010)
  3. Hera: The Goddess and Her Glory (2011)
  4. Hades: Lord of the Dead (2012)
  5. Poseidon: Earth Shaker (2013)
  6. Aphrodite: Goddess of Love (2014)
  7. Ares: Bringer of War (2015)

But, because O’Connor is dynamic, the books focus on the central figure while introducing readers to others, both god and mortal along with the world in which they inhabit or fight for. The stories are concise and focused with beautiful images, simple text, and a story arch. But as an adult reader and high school librarian, I find the additional information after the story to rival the actual graphic novel. There are profiles of some of the main characters that could literally be posters hung on a wall (hint, hint :01 First Second). Then there are “Geek notes” that add the R above “geek” for a dash of humor, additional resources, discussion questions, and if that wasn’t enough, an author note which allows a glimpse into O’Connor’s world: his favorite gods and goddesses, the writing and illustrating process, and embarking on this monumental task. It’s a lesson in passion and perseverance. He serves the middle grade/YA reader along with the librarians and teachers who could use his content. As a package, it shows his mission is not to simply tell a good story, but to serve a larger purpose and that’s to educate kids about these mythical people and creatures with respect and research.

Memorable character: Without having read Apollo yet, the most memorable character was Persephone, highlighted in Hades’ story. Her transformation is like any teenager who fights with her mother and tries on many identities until she comes into her own. Having been whisked away by dark horses to the underworld, her reluctance is turned into acceptance as she creates an image and a name for herself (literally as her name was Kore until she named herself Persephone) as Hades’s wife. I’m also a fan of Demeter’s story in mythology anyway, so knowing that the focus of Hades’ story is almost about everyone else except him demonstrates that most do not know Hades because he chooses to remain elusive. He seems to prefer to be misunderstood.

Memorable scene: Like the Robert Frost poem in which “two roads diverged in a yellow wood”, Heracles had a decision to make, take the harder and more dangerous path with a woman waiting cloaked in darkness or the easier one with a beautiful woman standing bathed in sunlight. Heracles chose the darker path, on a road to become a god, but having to complete twelve labors before coming close enough. The language and imagery was among my most memorable thus far.

Memorable quote: In Aphrodite’s story, she brings to life Pygmalion’s statue named Galatea whom he created in Aphrodite’s likeness but who fell in love with his ivory statue and instead of offering it to her at her temple, asked that she may live. And Aphrodite willed it and attended his wedding to Galatea where she was cloaked. When he stopped at her feet with his new wife, Galatea felt compelled to thank her and her reply was “There is nothing to thank me for. Love like your husband has is love that must be shared. Be happy together. You were made for each other.” Oh how true that was!

I advise that everyone include this series on their shelves, whether it’s in mythology or graphic novels. It should make a rotation on end caps, in booklists, and book trailers. I’m glad I came to the party a bit late on these ones as I don’t think I could have waited each year for a new one to come out (like I’ll have to for the last ones in the series), but good things come to those who wait.


Six sensational books I enjoyed… because they’re similar to others I’ve enjoyed

How’s that for a mouthful of a title? Recently I’ve been on a tear reading both in traditional and e-book formats digesting as much as I can while enjoying the summer sun, the pool, the quiet of everyone else being in bed. And of course with the pace at which I read, it’s inevitable that I’d compare books to each other. So here are a few recent reads that I enjoyed in part due to their similarity to others (that you should also read if you haven’t). 26LettersArranged

  1. The Girls by Cline similar to an all-time favorite of mine The Virgin Suicides by Eugenides
    • The almost indifferent narration of Evie’s life with “the girls” on a cult compound conjuring the Manson family is eerily similar to the Lisbon sisters. Both also include an opportunity for readers to step off the pedal of emotion: in The Girls, Evie’s time with the girls are flashbacks while the present life she leads is reflected off of a stoned son of a former boyfriend and his girlfriend while the neighborhood boys look on from the Lisbon household drawing conclusions about them based on what they see.
    • Memorable character: There’s a reason I named my first dog Lux because I wanted to be reminded of the most memorable sister (for me) of the Lisbon girls. The one that was the most daring, she wanted with a passion.
  2. Every Falling Star by Lee similar to A Long Way Gone by Beah
    • I just posted about Lee’s book and it’s similarities to the narrative of a boy soldier from Sudan as first-person stories about their trials in working toward freedom, though Every Falling Star is a rarer look as he’s defected from North Korea.
  3. Last Seen Leaving by Roehrig similar to Wink Poppy Midnight by Tucholke 
    • There’s a glut of self-discovery that happens in both. Flynn is confused about his newly ex-girlfriend’s disappearance as much as Midnight is confused about Poppy’s actions especially when Midnight’s attentions turned to Wink. Everyone needs to admit things they don’t want to admit about themselves and others and this is hard. This struggle is tangible in both stories where the characters are the sole focus and the mysteries that surround them are secondary. A lovely look at human behavior.
  4. Lucky Penny by Hirsh similar to the Lumberjanes series by an array of authors including Stevenson
    • There’s so much girl empowerment in both. Penny’s luck has run out and she’s been fired from her job and lost her apartment, but resourceful Penny moves into her friend’s storage unit, lands a laundromat gig, and falls in love with the boy at the gym where she needs a cheap (or free) membership to shower.This is all helped along by powerfully graphic images as with the girls from the camp for hardcore lady types.  Penny is willing to kick butt too when she needs, along with a vivid imagination and a sense of humor.
    • Memorable Scene: When Penny is standing in her hamburger underwear doing her wash at the laundromat where she works when her young boss walks in.
  5. Bubonic Panic When Plague Invaded America by Jarrow similar to her first in the series Red Madness: How a Medical Mystery Changed the Way We Eat 
    • Informational texts like these making learning science so accessible, but it also makes us appreciate how far science has come and makes us wonder what the future holds, too. There’s a systematic approach to her stories that showcase the advancement of medicine through the tribulations of disease (at times annihilating whole villages and half of a city’s population). But it’s the slow and measured way that scientists explore and test their theories that always provides the breakthrough.
    • Memorable quote: Spoken by the Frenchman Alexandre Yersin in the 1880s, “To ask for money for treating the sick is a bit like telling them, ‘Your money or your life,” which is why he stuck to working in a lab rather than taking on a private practice.
  6. Awkward by Chmakova similar to Drama by Telgemeier
    • Another pair of graphic novels, the innocence of middle school and figuring out where you fit it is hard business. Both deal with being members of clubs, too. The battle rages in Awkward between the art club and science club while Callie is a member of the drama club in Telgemeier’s story. Both artfully demonstrate the crazy world of middle school from weird teachers and those that drink the tears of students to those who are discovering their sexuality, interests, and abilities. We all remember those days.

A good romp

Repeat after me

What the junk?

I seriously love that phrase, I love visiting the camp for ‘hardcore lady types, I love the dynamic between the girls: April, Jo, Mal, Molly, and Ripley, and I find the pun-tastic writing so phenomenally empowering and kick-ass that I want everyone to love it too.

Find Lumberjanes, the brainchild of creators Brooke Allen, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Shannon Watters.

So far, I’ve read the first three volumes, consisting of four issues each. Currently, there are twenty-seven issues published, though only four volumes that combine four issues each. However you’d like to get your Lumberjanes fix, do it sooner than later. It’s a combination of the adventurous spirit in all of us with the insane antics of a camp 2016-07-18 20.54.42where the girls fight mythical beings and dinosaurs while earning their badges and being their awesome selves where “friendship to the max” is celebrated. And because the illustrations and coloring is equally as formidable as the writing and character development, it has lasting power. The design of the issue is static with an introduction of the badge the girls will be earning overlaid with scrapbook-style pictures of the girls’ adventures before the action begins. This repetition is comfortable before you buckle up for the ride.

Hats-off to the creators geniuses who bring the girls and the counselors alive graphically. They are as beautiful on the page as they would be in real life. This is a testament to its ingenuity and creativity.

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Posted by on July 21, 2016 in Authors, Fiction, Graphic novels, Young Adult