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Reviews and Recommendations 2010

Page history last edited by Jason 9 years, 5 months ago

Reviews and Recommendations 2009                                                    Reviews and Recommendations 2011


October 25, 2010


Mr. Badger and Mrs. Fox: The Meeting by Brigitte Luciani and Eve Tharlet


One of the good ideas Graphic Universe has had lately has been to import foreign comics to the U.S. Besides Mr. Badger and Mrs. Fox, they are also publishing Nola's Worlds, which I have not read yet, but heard good things about. Both were originally published in French. The Meeting is the story of how Mrs. Fox and her daughter came to live with Mr. Badger and his two sons, and how the children come to a grudging but blossoming respect for each other. There is a party, yes, and a "dog loose in the wood"- but really, the plot takes a back seat to dialogue- interactions of the characters with each other and the development of their relationships. This is striking, actually, because children's stories- much less comics- tend to err on the side of too much action and too much movement, at the expense of characterization. So how do you keep a child's interest? Well, the near incessant arguing and one-upmanship among the three primary characters, the fox daughter and the badger brothers, is a source of plenty of laughs and entertainment. And the arguing is just like real arguing: chaotic, non-linear, and staccato at times. It's almost like a chatterering brook, their voices burbling under and on top of each other almost all at once. The reader gets carried along by it, and before you know it, you're at the end of the story and you can't wait to get your hands on the next one.

The art assists the brook metaphor- thin lines and soft watercolors create an idyllic forest landscape, replete with earthy greens and browns, that almost seems to move. The Meeting is pleasing to the eye and engages the mind, making it an excellent book for middle readers and comics fans of all ages.

Currently there are two volumes out- The Meeting and A Hubbub, with a third due in April 2011.


Reviewed by Jason


October 14, 2010


Chicagoland Detective Agency No. 1: The Drained Brains Caper by Trina Robbins and Tyler Page


Wow, what a huge disappointment. After a great setup, the story descends into cliches and tired storylines. It's a shame, because it starts with a bang: thirteen-year-old Megan bursts into a pet shop and asks to buy a tarantula. The unsuspecting young man at the counter- Raf- informs her that they don't actually sell animals at this pet store, and the foundation of an eventual friendship is laid. Megan is sent to a summer prep school, tellingly named the Stepford Preparatory Academy, and thus begins the descent into mediocrity. OF COURSE the students are being brainwashed and OF COURSE it's because the school cook is drugging the food and OF COURSE she's disguised as the school doctor and principal and OF COURSE there's a talking dog who learned English by watching old Private Eye movies and OF COURSE the boy and girl join forces and defeat the bad guy with a COMPUTER PROGRAM that WIRELESSLY DELETES FILES IN THE HUMAN BRAIN. Bleah bleah bleah.

The art is nice, however. Clean lines and bold inks. This is apparently going to be a series. I hope it gets better.

Note: "Drained brains" isn't even an accurate description of what the villain does to her victims- she actually performs a partial lobotomy and injects sheep genes into their skulls. Which, of course, is scientifically ridiculous. And which, of course, is miraculously reversed when Raf uses his delete program. Ugh. Such sloppy storytelling. And condescending to the book's audience.


Reviewed by Jason


Johnny Boo and the Mean Little Boy by James Kochalka


Squiggle wants to play with Johnny Boo, but Johhny's got plans to play with Rocky the Rock, so he encourages Squiggle to play with his other friends. The problem is that Squiggle doesn't have any other friends! He tries to make friends with a butterfly, but then he's mistaken for a butterfly by a little boy who puts him in a jar, despite Squiggle's protests. When the mean little boy leaves to go pee, Johnny finds Squiggle and gets him out of the jar and scares away the mean little boy.

The appeal of this series is certainly its simplicity. Not much happens in each story, but the reader gets a little more insight into the main characters and their relationships with each other. Once again, bold lines, bright colors, and easy text will appeal to younger readers and keep them coming back for more.


Reviewed by Jason


October 13, 2010


Dragon Puncher by James Kochalka


The author of Johnny Boo strikes again with Dragon Puncher, a straightforward story about a hairy boy-creature, a superhero-cat creature, and a dragon creature. The boy wants to help the cat-hero fight the dragon, but the cat-hero fights alone! Despite the cat-hero's protests, the boy-creature is able to help in a unexpected way and the dragon is defeated.

The most unique aspect of this story is the layout. Each of the main characters (boy, hero, dragon) are cartoon drawings with photographs for faces. The props are all cartoons, but the background is also a photograph (of a field). This juxtaposition creates a unique reading experience that will appeal to kids.

The photographs of the principal figures are those of Kochalka, his son, and their cat. The adult reader picks up pretty quickly that the story might be based on some fantasy play-act between the author and his son, so it feels very personal- like an inside joke that the reader is not completely a part of. That said, however, the plot is simple and the humor is an age-appropriate bullseye, so beginning readers will likely have no complaints.


Reviewed by Jason


September 10, 2010



Gettysburg: the Graphic Novel by C.M. Butzer


Gettysburg summarizes the fateful Civil War battle with two-tone blue and gray (how fitting) illustrations. The battle itself only takes up half the book; the last twenty pages are the Gettysburg address verbatim with, obviously, accompanying illustrations. Butzer doesn't idealize or minimize the violence that is necessary in depicting one of the bloodiest battles in our nation's history- this makes it appropriate for older elementary-aged readers. But the emphasis is definitely on Lincoln's famous speech and its lasting impact. Despite a few concessions made for storytelling purposes (which are clearly outlined in notes at the end of the book), Gettysburg is surprisingly nonfiction (true nonfiction is difficult to accomplish in comics when dealing with historical narrative) and I will be putting it in the nonfiction section of our collection. The art is compelling- during the battle, Butzer uses few words and lets the action speak for itself. He takes text directly from a number of primary sources (again, noted at the end of the book), and based a number of panels on Timothy O'Sullivan's photographs. Overall an excellent complementary educational resource.


Reviewed by Jason


June 25th, 2010


Wonderland by Tommy Kovac, illus. by Sonny Liew


This one was ok - I didn't love it. The artwork is really stylized, and I think this type of thing is always going to really appeal to some people and really repel other people. It's very hit-or-miss. I was more on the side of not liking the artwork, because a lot of the characters reminded me of Lady Elaine Fairchilde from Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, and she always gave me a vague sense of unease when I was a kid. On the plus side, though, is the fact that Kovac does something completely different with the Alice in Wonderland story. I'm of the camp that believes that if you're going to re-do a classic story like that, you better do something different and creative with it. Some people have an intense aversion to literary adaptations that really change the original story, but I don't look at creative re-interpretation as a negative thing at all. Reading this book was way more interesting than reading a scene-by-scene recreation of Carroll's original. Although, now that I think about it, how will reading this book impact kids if they aren't familiar with the original story? I, myself, have not read the original Alice in Wonderland, but I'm familiar enough with the story to know that Wonderland really changes it up. Does it matter if kids don't know that Wonderland takes the story in a completely different direction? I'm not sure. They could just view it as a wacky, surreal adventure, and I suppose that would be ok, too. Literary adaptations are always going to be a bit sticky, no matter how well done.

Overall, I don't think I would particularly recommend this one. Objectively, I think it was fairly well done - I just had kind of a personal aversion to the artwork, and I'm not sure that something so stylized would appeal to a majority of kids. Here are some quotes from the book that I really liked, though:

"Look at them so cute and tiny, like little baby dolls!" "Let's make a little nest for them out of pencil shavings and mold!"

"I thought she was you at first!" "Thought she was me?" "Well, she was a girl like you, and was wearing some sort of dress, and she had some sort of hair on her head -- I DON'T KNOW!"

"Mary Ann, just think of all the regulations you could impose...all subjects must wipe feet before entering any abode! Dishes must keep themselves clean at all times or be subject to fines and imprisonment! All animals, no matter how small and cute, must wear pants indoors!"

Reviewed by Amy


June 14, 2010


Amelia Earhart: This Broad Ocean by Sarah Stewart Taylor and Ben Towle 


Very engrossing and a very quick read. Details Earhart's historic flight across the Atlantic. Told from the perspective of a girl named Grace, who is very interested in Earhart's endeavors. Interestingly, since the story is told from Grace's perspective, we only get to experience what happens before the flight, and then we see Grace's jubilation when she learns that Earheart has landed safely on the other side of the Atlantic. There is nothing about the actual flight. I wonder why that is, because Earhart wrote a whole book about that flight, so there's no shortage of factual information to draw from. The story ends by fast-forwarding to several years later, with a grown-up Grace discovering that Earhart has disappeared during her attempt to circumnavigate the Earth by plane. I felt like this totally opens up an avenue for Taylor and Towle to continue - and complete - Earhart's story. As for the art, I thought it was interesting how the only color used is this light blue color. It represents the sky, obviously, but I also felt like it was referencing the ocean; the ocean was important to Earhart because her crossing of the Atlantic was what made her famous, and because she ultimately disappeared over the ocean. I like when artists use the medium to convey some kind of message. Overall, I really liked it and would definitely recommend it.

Reviewed by Amy


June 10, 2010


The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan


GORGEOUS artwork in this one!  It definitely deserves to be on the list simply for this reason.  It looks to me like watercolor and pen, primarily.  The use of color is fantastic - the Dust Bowl scenes are all muted, neutral colors, while scenes from the past or from the imagination are vibrant.  Also, is there a certain irony in using watercolors to tell this story?  i.e. Phelan tells a story of dust, dryness, and drought with a medium that needs water to come alive.  Wonder if this was a conscious decision on his part?  As for the story, it was pretty good.  Phelan uses text sparingly, choosing to tell the story primarily with pictures rather than words.  I scratched my head a little at the ending - the whole thing with the Rain King carrying a storm in an old satchel didn't make total sense to me, but then Jason convinced me not to think about it too literally and to just enjoy the story.  That said, I DID enjoy this book - immensely!  Recommended.

Reviewed by Amy


June 7, 2010


The Adventures of Daniel Boom AKA  Loud Boy by D.J. Steinberg


This one could go in the "Superheroes" category.  Four misfits band together, turning their flaws into superpowers.  They are fighting Old Fogey, who is trying to rid the world of sound - particularly the sound of loud children.  I would really like to give this one to every person who complains about kids being noisy in the library!  Like Daniel, a lot of times they can't help it - they're just exuberant.  I digress.  This one was cute and I liked it well enough, but it's not up to the same level as, say, Amelia Rules or G-Man.  I would purchase it for my library, but wouldn't necessarily put it on the booklist.  I'm interested in what other people think of it.

Reviewed by Amy


May 7, 2010


Peach Fuzz: Volume 1 by Lindsay Cibos and Jared Hodges


Amanda reaaallly wants a pet, and her mother makes the dubious decision to let her choose any animal that she wants from Super!Pets. Amanda chooses a sweet, sleepy ferret. She seems so innocent at first, but when she fully wakes up she becomes a holy terror. One of the interesting aspects of this book is that part of it is told from Amanda's perspective, and part of it is told from Peach's (the ferret's) perspective. Even though Peach's viewpoint is fictionalized (obviously), I liked that this approach encourages kids to think about what animals might be feeling. This might help kids to treat their pets more responsibly. The book was far from didactic, though - it's not actively trying to teach kids anything. Most of it is really funny and cute, and kids might learn a thing or two as a bonus. Overall, I really liked this book. It has an interesting concept, and kids will be entertained by Peach's flawed, sometimes overblown, views of herself and her world. This is a series that ideal for several different kinds of kids: younger readers who want to try manga; kids who are just looking for a good comic book to read; and kids who are really interested in animal fiction. Recommended!

Reviewed by Amy


May 5, 2010


G-Man: Learning to Fly by Chris Giarrusso


The G Family lives in a town where superheroes are the norm - kind of like the Incredibles.  Mom and Dad don't seem to have any super powers, but brothers David and Mikey use the family's magic blanket to help them fly.  Flying seems awesome at first, but awesome things don't come without their drawbacks.  David and Mikey get into quite a few pickles while trying out their newfound ability, much to the reader's amusement.  There's also a healthy dose of sibling conflict, which will also have readers laughing.  There are a couple of longer stories broken up by shorter one-page "Comic Bits" as well as "Mean Brother, Idiot Brother" comics.  It was a nice balance - quite likely to keep kids interested, I think.


So funny! I especially loved the part about the evil Christmas tree stealing the car, and then using it to fly to the North Pole to get a job with Santa. He talked like Cookie Monster, which totally won me over. If you you're a comics person and need any more reasons to read this book, let me just tell you that I was literally "lol-ing" and slapping the table during certain parts. It was one of those books that kept making me want to show other people the funny parts, which, I think, is the sign of a successful comic! Highly recommended!

Reviewed by Amy


April 30, 2010


Goosebumps Graphix: Creepy Creatures by R.L. Stine, adapted by various authors


Includes adaptations of three Goosebumps books: The Werewolf of Fever Swamp, The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight, and The Abominable Snowman of Pasadena. This was actually a very cool book, because each story is adapted by a different comic book artist. This gives each story a very different feel, and it gives the reader the chance to experience various styles of artwork. My favorite was definitely The Scarecrow Walks at Midnight. The art is very realistic, and it was interesting because each panel looked like a painting. It just seemed like a different style for comic book art, and I appreciated the variation. Plus, something about the photo-realism of the art make the story that much more creepy. The way Ruth rendered the old farmhouse and the scarecrows was downright scary. Which leads me to a caveat - I thought that this was a very cool book, but it's definitely for older kids. I probably wouldn't give it to anyone under the age of 10 or 11, and even then you'd have to take into account the individual child and how easily they get scared. But I'm still going to recommend it, because it's something else to offer kids who ask for scary stories - besides the old mainstays like Alvin Scwartz's Scary Stories series.

Reviewed by Amy


April 29, 2010


Amelia Rules: The Whole World's Crazy by Jimmy Gownley


Amelia's parents are recently divorced, and Amelia and her mom have moved from New York City to "Middle of Nowhere, Pennsylvania."  Amelia is having a hard time coping with her parents' split, but she meets a group of misfits that help take her mind off things, at least a little bit.  The group gets into more than a few scrapes, including a brush with a couple of "zombies" and an attempt to expose Santa and his fraudulent charade.  The book ends with everyone going on a camping trip with Amelia's dad, but it goes sourly because Amelia is resentful that she doesn't get alone time with him.  Things are said, issues come out, and the trip concludes with Amelia feeling a lot better about everything.  Best of all, she comes away with the empowering knowledge that she has control over how crappy or awesome her life is, regardless of the stuff that happens to her.


Loved it! Reminded me a lot of Calvin & Hobbes, both in terms of the style of the artwork and in terms of the cleverness of the humor. There's definitely a nod to Charles Schulz and the Peanuts, too (Pajamaman totally reminded me of Marcie, and Rhonda seemed like a combination between Peppermint Patty and Lucy).  Some of the humor will go over kids' heads, but there's still plenty that they will find funny. Recommended! 

Reviewed by Amy


April 21, 2010


Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures vol. 1


A bit difficult, but not impossible, to follow without prior knowledge of the characters. Each story had a clear-cut moral, which I liked, but the book as a whole felt insubstantial. I also wasn't crazy about the artwork - it was very angular, in the same vein as the artwork from Salt Water Taffy. I liked some aspects of the art - like when creatures or objects glowed. That was a cool effect. Overall, though, I was pretty underwhelmed by this book. I would recommend it pretty much strictly to Star Wars fans, not people who are looking for a great comic book to read.

Reviewed by Amy


March 22, 2010 

The Manga Bible: Names, Games, and the Long Road Trip by Young Shin Lee


I have to say, I really liked this book. Not for outstanding artwork or masterful storytelling, but for the fact that it makes the Bible stories about a million times more palatable and understandable. I would like to read the Bible eventually, just because it's about the most influential/well-known book ever...but I'm not quite at a place where I'm ready to do that. In the meantime, the books in this series will help me be a little less dumb about Bible knowledge! Recommended both for kids, and for adults who want an easier way to digest the Bible.

Reviewed by Amy


Sardine from Outer Space by Emmanuel Guibert


Comprised of short vignettes that detail Sardine's adventures as a space pirate. I didn't like it all that well until Jason & I had a discussion about it, and then I realized I had to keep an eye out for funny, weird details. It's stuff that's totally inconsequential to the story, but the weirdness of it made me like the book better.  Also, Shana mentioned how this book might be a good recommendation for kids who like Captain Underpants.  I think that is a great point, and it swung me over to a "yes" vote for this one.

Reviewed by Amy


March 12, 2010


Smile by Raina Telgemeier


Raina tripped and fell in sixth grade and seriously damaged her two front teeth. What followed was a more than three year ordeal involving root canals, retainers, fake teeth, braces, head gear-- all during the most difficult years of growing up. The story of her teeth remains the strong focal point, but of course it serves as a metaphor for the pain of making the transition from childhood to adolescence. Besides the extra drama involving her mouth, Raina wrestles with having a positive self-image, has crushes on boys, and (finally) stands up to her friends when they disrespect her. Smile also appeals to a broad range of readers. Whether you're about to embark upon the journey to adolescence, whether you're in the middle of it, or whether you're looking back with fondness but (mostly) relief, you'll find something to love about Raina's story. Autobiography/memoir is common in comics, but the type that appeals to younger readers is more rare. Smile doesn't only tell an interesting story, it also encourages and inspires anyone who can relate to it-- Raina comes out on top, and you can, too.

The art is similar in style to Telgemeier's work in the popular comics adaptations of the Babysitter's Club books- the coloring here is particularly nice. Highly highly recommended for all collections.


Reviewed by Jason


March 5, 2010


Two Minute reviews by Jason





Star Wars- The Clone Wars: Colossus of Destiny by Jeremy Barlow and the Fillbach brothers. Mace Windu travels to Simocadia, recently invaded by separatists, to help an old friend, the Empress's son Prince Yojan. Yojan doesn't want the Separatists or the Republic on his homeworld so he plans to reawaken a mechanized colossus that has lain dormant underground for many years and make it fight for him. Windu must choose between his friendship and his loyalty to the Republic: the decision he makes is not an easy one, and doesn't lead to a "happily ever after." It's nice when comics can introduce age-appropriate but complex ethical situations for kids to mull over, all while telling an exciting, action-packed story. Recommended.


Manga Claus: The Blade of Kringle by Nathaniel Marunas and Erik Craddock. Santa Claus, who apparently had trained under a samurai over a century ago, has to dust off his swordfighting skills when a disgruntled elf magically animates a ninja nutcracker to wreak havoc on the toy factory. It's a fun premise and it's executed capably, but it doesn't really make any kind of lasting impact. Erik Craddock's art is better represtented by his Stone Rabbit series. Spend your money on those rather than this. Not recommended.


Binky the Space Cat by Ashley Spires. Binky has never been to outer space (read: outside) and decides to build a spaceship to take him there. Flies are aliens, and he eats them regularly to save his humans from them, even though the flies give him gas sometimes. Funny and cute. Recommended.


Soccer Sabotage: A Graphic Guide Adventure by Liam O'Donnell and Mike Deas. O'Donnell continues his skill-building mystery series with a story about a soccer team, a jealous tournament organizer, and a cute assistant coach who may have some ulterior motives that could seriously affect London Lions' chance at the championship. O'Donnell inserts little tips on how to play soccer here and there as the plot thickens. It's odd, because you don't see that sort of thing in comics, but it flows pretty well with the story and you learn a thing or two. There are two others in the series as well: Wild Ride and Ramp Rats. Recommended.


Star Wars Adventures: Luke Skywalker and the Treasure of the Dragonsnakes by Tom Taylor and Daxiong. Luke is given a special task by Yoda during his training on Dagobah: to confront the king of the dragonsnakes in his lair and bring back to Yoda the mysterious object guarded by this fearsome king. He'll likely learn something about the force along the way. Not as good as the first two in the Star Wars Adventures series, Han Solo and the Hollow Moon of Khorya and Princess Leia and the Royal Ransom, but good enough. Recommended.


Mouse Guard: Winter 1152. In the wake of Midnight's treachery (see volume 1), guard mice are sent throughout the territories to gather representatives for a summit to improve communication among the mice towns, as well as to gather supplies and medicine for Lockhaven, the Mouse Guard headquarters. As if the brutal weather was not enough, the mice have to ward off fearsome predators and negotiate the spooky abandoned tunnels of Darkheather, the weasels former kingdom. Add to that an attempted poisoning in Lockhaven with the perpetrator on the loose and you've got an adventure that won't let you put it down. The story is excellent; the art is absolutely stunning. Get this and the first one- Mouse Guard: Fall 1152. Highly recommended.


The Graphic Novel: Jack and the Beanstalk retold by Blake Hoena and Ricardo Tercio. I read a positive review of this in Booklist or some such, so I bought it sight unseen. It was pretty disappointing.  Hoena doesn't really add anything new to the tale, and the art, which tries to be stylized, just looks sloppy. The colors seemed rushed as well. It's published by Stone Arch, whose graphic novels all tend to feel quickly put together. Seems like they jumped on the comics bandwagon, thinking they'd make quick sales off mediocre material. Compared to something like the TOON Books imprint, and this stuff just looks sad. Not recommended.


Tiny Tyrant- Volume One: The Ethelbertosaurus by Lewis Trondheim and Fabrice Parme. King Ethelbert is a child regent with absolutely no redeeming qualities. He is spoiled and conniving and self-centered. He gets in and out of all kinds of predicaments, and never learns the moral of the story. I'll admit that I am slightly biased towards Trondheim- I really love his work. And I'll admit that the fact that Ethelbert never truly reaps what he sows kind of bugs me. But that's why something like this will always appeal more to kids than adults. We grownups are always looking for the lesson in our children's literature- it justifies any specious ethics presented in the story that might be a "bad example" to our impressionable youth. But there's none of that here. Just a nasty kid and a lot of funny situations. What's there not for a kid to love? Recommended.


Yakari and the Stranger and Yakari: Island Prisoners by Derib and Job. Cinebook has been translating French comics from the seventies and eighties that have previously not been available in the US. Their flagship series seems to be Lucky Luke (of which I have not yet read any, but stay tuned), but another series I liked (in addition to this one) is Yoko Tsuno, a Japansese-French girl who solves Nancy Drew-type mysteries. Yakari is a little Native American boy with a mind for adventure. In Yakari and the Stranger a Pelican with a cold shows up and needs to be cared for. Yakari won't give up on it even though the beavers and the otters and his fellow Indians all get tired of being kept awake by the Pelican's sneezing. In  Island Prisoners, Yakari and his friend Rainbow get stranded on a peninsula that turns into an island after a day and night of heavy rainfall. They end up having to protect a baby moose with a broken leg from a hungry wolverine. Both stories are simply told, with colorful and detailed drawings. Themes of kindness and friendship feature prominently but are not preachy at all. These stories are quite lovely- I plan to get as many in the series as I can (I believe there are currently 8 out so far). This series will need to be hand sold, as many kids won't be familiar with it, but I am convinced that they'll eat these stories right up once they know where they are. Highly recommended.

 February 23, 2010


T-Minus: The Race to the Moon by Jim Ottaviani (writer) and Zander and Kevin Cannon (artists)


I've read and enjoyed thoroughly two of Ottaviani's book- Fallout and a biography of Neils Bohr. Ottaviani has an incredible knack for making complex science very approachable through story. I found myself reading about topics I would not have otherwise pursued had it not been for their presentation in comics form. T-Minus is the first book he's written that is accessible to younger readers. It's basically the story of the space race between America and Russia to see who would get to the moon first. There is an abundance of detail, including possibly every attempted flight into space by both countries. By my best estimation, the details that have been changed have been largely personnel-related: scores of scientists are reduced to a few primary characters who are credited with most of the action. Ottaviani readily admits this at the end, and I for one am grateful for this simplification, as the information presented is dense enough as it is. Is it too dense? On the one hand, the book will appeal off the shelf to a very specific audience with specific interests, unfortunately a somewhat narrow audience. On the other hand, what makes the book impressive is this attention to detail. Kids should have access to it, even if they don't know they need to read it. This book is a perfect example of using comics to educate, as I could see this easily fitting into an upper elementary science curriculum. Will there be enough teachers who know about and are on board to actually bring that about? I can only hope that someday that will be the case. Definitely recommended for larger collections.


Reviewed by Jason

January 23, 2010


To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel by Siena Siegel


Lovely little book! It made me wish I could dance...at the very least, it made me really want to go to the ballet. There were some aspects of her career as a ballerina I wish she had touched on, though - like the constant pressure to look a certain way. I also really wanted to know why she decided to stop ballet and go to college. Still, I loved the book - Mark Siegel does a great job of capturing the gracefulness of a ballerina's movements - and would say that it belongs in most comics collections.


Reviewed by Amy

January 20, 2010


Indiana Jones Adventures, Volume 1 by Philip Gelatt (script) and Ethen Beavers (art)


It's refreshing to see a series based on a popular property that is appropriate for kids yet not dumbed down. I appreciate, for example, the Marvel Adventures series making popular heroes like Spider-Man and the Hulk accessible for younger readers, but the quality of the writing (and sometimes the art) leaves something to be desired. They're passable, and they circulate well enough, but I'm still waiting for them to evolve into something more deserving of their audience. There is some hope, as the latest Marvel Adventures Spider-Man issues by Paul Tobin have been considerably more engaging than their forebears.


But I digress. Volume 1 of Indiana Jones Adventures is lighthearted and fun, but also contains a plot that involves actually paying attention to get the most out of it. Indiana Jones is in Sweden trying to find an ancient Norse ring that will help him to procure funding from his museum for more expeditions. Unfortunately, an attractive (of course) female doctor from the British Museum is looking for the same thing. Events unfold in typically Indy fashion, and of course the Nazis get involved before all is said and done. The narrative is resolved mostly by the end, but a few loose ends are dangled before the reader, who, the publisher hopes, will read volume 2 (which is also currently available).


The art is well done, and panels are appropriate for the digest-sized book-- sometimes art is shrunk from standard comic book dimensions, and panels become too small and crammed for the smaller format. I'd definitely recommend this series (if the rest continue to be this good) for all collections. Besides being inexpensive, they provide a kid-friendly alternative to other Indiana Jones comics reprints, which are more well-suited for older readers.


Reviewed by Jason


Amulet Book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi


Navin and Emily's father died in a tragic car accident several years ago, and now they - along with their mother - are starting a new life in an old house out in the country. Navin accepts the move with an easy-going good nature, but Emily is more resistant. To her, the change feels like running away. Nevertheless, neither child can deny that the house they are moving into is pretty cool. It has been in their family for generations, and is filled with a treasure trove of bizarre objects on account of the previous owner's occupation as a puzzle-maker. On their first day in the house, Emily discovers a strange amulet, which she immediately claims as her own. The amulet is far from being a harmless trinket, though - it seems to have opened to door to a parallel universe. A slimy, tentacled beast emerges from this other dimension and promptly steals their mother. Now Navin and Emily must navigate this unfamiliar world to reclaim their mother. The amulet will give them some guidance, but it's really Emily's choices and actions that will determine the outcome. Will she succeed?


Probably the best J comic I've read since Into the Volcano. Love the color illustrations, and I love the almost constant action. Very gripping and very moving (especially the first scene, where the car accident occurs). Leaves with a huge cliffhanger, which is definite assurance that readers will continue on to volume 2. Highly recommended!


Reviewed by Amy

January 9, 2010


Stinky by Eleanor Davis


Stinky Seymour is the stinkiest, most foul swamp monster you will ever meet. He is king of the swamp, and nothing scares him - except for kids. They are just so clean, and they don't love any of the dirty things that make Stinky so happy (or so Stinky thinks). Stinky is content in his swamp, until one day when - *gasp* - a child starts building a treehouse in *his* tree! Something must be done! Stinky tries everything he can think of to get rid of the child, but - to Stinky's surprise - he isn't afraid of gross, scary things. Are these two opposites destined to be enemies, or are they actually more similar than Stinky thought? 

LOVED this one! Charming artwork, with lots of fun details. My favorites were the clothspins on the birds' noses (because Stinky smells so bad), and the way little hearts popped up around the frog's head when she was feeling affectionate towards someone. I also really liked how this book is accessible to beginning readers, but has the feeling of a "real" comic book. Kids who are early readers will have a real sense of accomplishment when they read this book. Best of all, they won't feel like they're reading because they have to; they'll love Stinky, and that will make reading fun. Definitely recommended.


Reviewed by Amy


Nancy Drew, Girl Detective: The Demon of River Heights by Stefan Petrucha


I didn't really like this. At all. The writing was decently witty at times, but at other times the script cut from one scene to another with no transition, which left the story feeling choppy. Some of the artwork was cool, like the backgrounds that were done with a computer (I don't know all the technical terminology), but I thought that some of the character renderings were downright shoddy. It looked like the artist just scribbled out the drawings in about two seconds. Furthermore, the book was just too short to make it a really good mystery; there wasn't enough time for the author to include red herrings and twists and turns and all those good things that make a mystery really yummy. I would suggest this one ONLY to libraries with large comics collections or a big Nancy Drew following.


PS - It annoyed me that Nancy wore a shirt that said "ND." That's pretty egotistical, isn't it? It's like someone from a band wearing their own band tshirt. Lame.


Reviewed by Amy


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