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Category Archives: Graphic novels

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.

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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

 

Can’t, I’m booked

After spending a few days away from home without time to read, I’m excited to say that this week will be some much needed and hotly anticipated time with books that have been patiently waiting. Here’s what’s on the agenda.

BooksAreCalling

  • Twisted by Hannah Jayne
  • The Darkest Corners by Kara Thomas
  • Currents by Eva Moraal
  • Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig
  • The Whispering of Trees by C.Y. Bourgeois
  • Lumberjanes: Beware the Kitten Holy by Stevenson and Co.
  • Paradise Lost by John Milton
  • Traitor Angels by Anne Blankmann
  • Once Was Lost by Natalie Richards

I look forward to being able to update everyone on my favorites and the disappoints (if there are any!) in the coming week! Until then, what’s on your TBR list?

 

A sight to see

After finishing up a long holiday weekend where the biggest spectacle is beautifully-colored fireworks with the right amount of boom and pace to inspire awe that’s the thought I had when I finished The Stonekeeper, the Amulet series’ first book by Kazu Kibuishi. No2016-06-29 19.36.46t only will I continue to ride this adventure wave of a series, I look forward to the stunning visuals that Kibuishi provides. It’s a true visual treat and I’m not one to slow down to engage with the pages as much as I probably should, yet I did with this one.

Memorable character: I’m going to throw out to you that my favorite character isn’t actually the kids or fun robotic characters or Miskit, it’s actually Emily and Navin’s mom. The woman loses her husband, then with moans and groans from her kids, realizes that the best place to bring her kids is an old family home both to save money and I’m sure to find something to hold on to. I loved her can-do attitude in getting out the pails and Pine-sol to spruce up the creaky place and her willingness, always, to protect her kids, even when she’s gobbled up by a blob. No wonder her kids are so eager to save her because I certainly know a few kids who’d look the other way and continue on their adventure.

Memorable Scene: When the house moves! How gorgeous a visual even with little to no color in the scene, but this is exactly the type of creativity and adventure that makes this series worth investing in. Even the previous scenes when Miskit, disguised as a boatman, ferries the kids across the water are luscious and rich. Mmmmm!

I can’t wait to put the rest of the series on my TBR pile and be sure to order enough copies to handout like it’s my job. Oh wait, it is my job!

 

 

I’ll take it sunny-side up too

You know that feeling when you clutch a book to your chest and relish in the delight of reading something so lovely and wonderful and graceful? Yes, that just happened today when I finished reading Jennifer and Matthew Holm’s Sunny Side Up, a graphic novel set in the 1970s featuring Sunshine aka Sunny. I’m not surprised that it’s winning accolades and ending up on recommended reading lists.

In the vein of Raina Telgemeier and Victoria Jamieson, our main chSunnySideUparacter is tween/teen and dealing with life. The realistic, down-to-earth kind of story that makes it an “every person” book, not for a specific subset of readers. In addition, like the other graphic novels’ illustrations, I am on board with the vivid coloring and rounded illustrations that are in stark contrast to darkly explored stories in black and white.

Sunny is staying with Grandpa in Florida for the summer and while it’s not the best fun, meeting the groundskeeper’s son who is fanatical about superheroes, provides an avenue for Sunny to find her voice. After a summer of sleeping on a squeaky, uncomfortable pull-out bed, eating dinner at 4pm, finding her grandfather’s stashes of cigarettes, and feeling like she separated her family, Sunny’s shining moment is when it all comes out. She confesses her frustrations to which her grandfather responds with the most-appropriate sentiments: he’ll stop smoking, they’ll go to Disney World, find a different bed, and that her brother’s issues are not her fault. And as their summer comes to an end, he reminder her to “keep her sunny side up”, which is an endearing sentiment that plays both on how attitude is everything and on her unique, hippie name.

Everyone should remember to keep their sunny side up.

 

Graphically speaking

DonBrown

Simply looking at the two covers of Don Brown’s graphic nonfiction books allow a glimpse into the talent Brown has in illustration. But the story and storytelling are equally evocative. In fact, a reader learns as much through the text as they shown by turning the pages of these accessible stories providing perspective on two disasters that affected Americans.

The Great American Dust Bowl showcases the man-made tragedy of dust storms sweeping the west during the early 1900s after the land was taken from Native Americans and turned over to farmers who, without proper knowledge, farmed the land to excess. This led to dust storms that brought financial ruin, health issues and death, and environmental devastation. And with little dialogue and a precise narrative, the shocking story is ripe for discussion about what actions were taken (or not) which prolonged the problem.

Likewise, Brown makes the issue of action– or lack of it– central to Drowned City about Hurricane Katrina: trains that left stations without passengers, buses that were never called upon on top of politicians that would have known more if they turned on the television rather than from their own administrations, and the lack of basic necessities at the Superdome and local hospitals.

Brown makes you think and react because his visual art is stunning and rich. There are images etched in my brain and facts that I can quickly recall that make his work thoughtful and enriching.