Snow Day = Graphics Day

We had a snow day Friday, which is much different in South Carolina than it was in Illinois. First off, they called it at about 6pm the night before (unheard of), and we didn’t get snow until late Friday night, although the freezing rain and sleet all day did make the unsalted roads fairly treacherous. I’m not complaining, to be clear. Plus, I had been forewarned by my new coworkers to expect it, so I took home a whole stack of new graphic novels we got in this past week, and put my snow day to good use!

51vjlju6ullDrowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans, by Don Brown (2015)

Opening line: “An unremarkable wind leaves Africa and breezes toward the Americas.”

Don Brown, gaining a reputation for his graphic non-fiction for young people following The Great American Dust Bowlpresents a graphic representation of the most horrific natural disaster our country has seen so far this century: Hurricane Katrina. His artwork is haunting, and he will give students new to this topic a lot of surprising and jarring details about this disaster. I wanted to love this one, but found myself having trouble connecting one panel to the next, and also found some of his details confusing or strangely placed. I wished for a more cohesive narrative. And although written for a slightly older audience, I loved A.D.: New Orleans after the Deluge much more.  1.5 stars

51p2bmkuorjlLost in NYC: A Subway Adventure, text by Nadja Spiegelman, illustrated by Sergio Garcia Sanchez (2015)

Pablo is new to NYC, and although he is used to new places (as his family moves a lot), he’s not at all used to the NYC subway system. He quickly becomes separated from his class on their field trip to visit the Empire State Building, and has to navigate the crazy colors and numbers to get himself to the right place. A very quick read, but the drawings are full of rich and fun details that could easily let you spend a long time on each page. 2 stars

51fryuowq-lThe Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: Volume 1, by Ryan North and Erica Henderson (2015)

Opening line: “Squirrel Girl, Squirrel Girl! She’s a human and also a squirrel!”  (sung to tune of the SpiderMan theme song)

I don’t read a lot of superhero comics, but Squirrel Girl is one I can get behind. Doreen (aka Squirrel Girl) is starting college at Empire State University, simultaneously trying to blend in as a regular college student (although stuffing her enormous tail into her pants gives her a hiney rivaling Kim K’s), and jumpstart her career as an awesome superhero. As part squirrel, Doreen can climb and leap with the best of them, but her real power lies in her ability to communicate with and instruct squirrels to do her bidding, besting even the strongest of villains. Plus, she and her sidekick Tippy Toe are generally hilarious. I’m a big fan. 2 stars

41vjt-xeoalTrickster: Native American tales, A Graphic Collection, ed. by Matt Dembicki (2010)

This is a compilation of more than 20 Native American trickster tales, adapted into graphic novel format. Each story is collected from a different Native American storyteller or author, and is illustrated by a different artist. I have to say, with the vast variety of stories and artists, some I liked better than others. A couple of my favorites included the brightly-colored “Mai and the Cliff Dwelling Birds” and the dark and haunting “Coyote and the Pebbles.” There were others, however, that I did not enjoy, like “When Coyote Decided to Get Married” (in which everyone was turned to stone because Coyote was pissed that one of the maidens he sent for was tarnished goods) and “Paupaulenalena” (which combined a hard-to-read font, creepy pictures, and a super bizarre story). I don’t know. I guess I feel good that we have it in my library, but it was not my favorite of the pack, to be sure. (1 star)



I love this one to (Reese’s) pieces

Better Nate Than Ever, by Tim Federle (2013)

Opening line: “I’d rather not start with any backstory. I’m too busy for that right now: planning the escape, stealing my older brother’s fake ID (he’s lying about his height by the way) and strategizing high-protein snacks for an overnight voyage to the single most dangerous city on the earth.”

Sometimes when the author reads his/her own audiobook, it’s not great (see: Lord of the Flies). But sometimes it is. And this is one such example. So, so great. (And the Odyssey Award committee agreed.)

Nate is a budding actor. He loves musical theater and has been working for the past two plus years with his bff Libby to develop into the next Broadway star. When Libby tells him about the newest show to head to Broadway, E.T. the Musical, is looking for young male actors for the role of Elliot, Nate is willing to do whatever it takes to get that job. Including hightailing it out of Jankburg, Pennsylvania without his parents’ knowledge or permission and hitting the Big Apple all on his own. Of course, things don’t go exactly how he and Libby had planned, and hijinks ensue. But all along the way, Nate maintains his A-plus attitude readers can’t help but love.

There is some hi-LAR-ious writing in this book, and I basically never stopped grinning throughout the entire thing. The tween dialogue between Libby and Nate is spot on and I found myself wanting to be able to have Nate as one of my students. Loved it to pieces, and probably need to read the sequel now, Five, Six, Seven, Nate.

2.5 stars

Speakeasies and Creepy Crawlies

The Diviners, by Libba Bray (2012)

Opening Line: “In a townhouse at a fashionable address on Manhattan’s Upper East Side, every lamp blazes.”

Guys! My wish was granted! I’ve found a Libba Bray book that I loved! I should probably read more mysteries (maybe specifically paranormal mysteries?) because it seems like every time I do, I eat them up.

The prologue sets the stage in this one, with a delightful seance gone terribly wrong. Using a trusty old Ouija board, the members of this party conjure the spirit of Naughty John, our villain for the tale. Now, my friends were seance experts growing up, hosting at least one at just about every sleepover for the years between 1999-2001, but we never used a Ouija board. I don’t know if I could have handled the pressure.

Chapter 1 brings us to our sort-of main character, Evie O’Neill, outgoing party girl recently banned from her little town in Ohio to go live with her uncle in New York City, right at the height of the roaring 20s. (Hindsight for Mr. & Mrs. O’Neill – sending your naughty daughter to the Big Apple where all the speakeasies are might not have been the best move.) Uncle Will, more affectionately known as “Unc” is the proprietor of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult, known to the masses as The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies. As someone with a special knack for the supernatural, Evie is worried that Unc will discover her secret talent, her ability to divine truths about someone just by touching an item belonging to them. But when a young woman is found murdered in a particularly gruesome scene, and Will is called in to help, Evie starts to think her talent might just be useful.

What makes this book so great — besides the SUPER CREEPY murder scenes and delightful time period elements — is the vast cast. I said “sort-of main character Evie O’Neill” because there are multiple main characters at play here. As opposed to many third-person narratives that focus on one primary character’s perspective, we get the perspectives of a whole slew of people, and they all seem equally important. I can’t wait to see how they continue to connect and overlap throughout the series. Book two, Lair of Dreams, hit shelves a couple weeks ago.

This one reminded me a lot of a couple others I’ve loved in the past year, The Lockwood & Co. series and The Shades of London series.

2.5 stars