Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

4.5 stars Graphic Novel

She could have eaten Good Dog but Snap was hoping that they’re wrong. The kids called her a witch but that didn’t scare Snap.  Snap threw open the door where she discovered her dog, lying down on the floor. It must have been that dark image that came in behind her that made her twitch. Or was it that question, which was thrown at her, for which Snap knew there was no good answer.  It was a reflex that had her, grabbing Good Dog and running like lightning off the porch and into the freedom of light.   

I found Snapdragon to be a spunky girl.  She did her own thing within limits. It was sad that she didn’t have any friends but I liked that she was okay with it.  She didn’t dwell on the fact that she’s not popular and she’s doesn’t worry about what others think. I hated it when she was bullied, besides all the obvious reasons, she had no one to talk to about it.  

Later, Snap ends up going back to the woman’s house as she needs her and they strike up a deal.  Snap and Jacks are now going to be helping each other.  Snap finally has a friend and she begins to learn more about the person that her peers think is a witch.  I liked how Jacks sparked issues and subjects inside of Snap.  Snap’s enthusiasm and energy soared when she was learning.

Snap has a close encounter with Louis and I enjoyed Louis’ innocence. He was the perfect friend for Snap.  I think they both benefited from their relationship. The scenes where they were watching the horror movie together were comical.

There were many relationships in this book, having great moments and moments that all true connections with another person have.  I enjoyed these relationships and I look forward to seeing where some of these will go in future books.  The only issue I had with this graphic novel was, I thought some of the transitions between the story lines were rough.  I had a hard time knowing where one story stopped and another one began.  I look forward to the next book in this series. 4.5 stars

When Stars Are Scattered by Victoria Jamieson

5 stars Graphic Novel

I loved this graphic novel.  I could feel the dedication and love throughout this book.  I still get teary-eyed thinking about this graphic novel and the situations that these young boys went through.  It is such a fantastic book; I cannot say enough about it but I highly recommend that you read it.  Read it yourself, read it to your children, buy a copy for your classroom and even buy a copy and donate it to someone as this story needs to be told.

They used to live in Somalia.  Now, they live in Kenya, in a refugee camp called Dadaab.  Individuals who want to live come here from Sudan, Ethiopia, and other African area, this is home.  Dadaab is a huge camp, so large that they divided it into 3 separate camps.  Omar came here with his little brother, Hassan.  They’ve been there for seven years.  Yes, I said seven years!

Where’s their parents? Good question and one the boys want to know.  Who is taking care of them? Omar is taking care of Hassan as best as he can for a young brother.  He’s been missing out on school to take care of his brother. They’ve also been assigned a woman (like a foster mother) Fatuma, to help them. This woman was amazing too, she truly cared for these boys like they were her own.  Inside the camp, the boys have their own tent across the way from Fatuma.  Many days, the boys were hungry.  Hassan only says one word yet the brothers communicate. 

When Omar finally gets the chance to go to school, he is torn.  Leaving his brother behind, Omar worries for his brother yet he knows this opportunity for him will open doors for their future.  The boys still question their parent’s whereabouts and their village.  They wonder about returning home yet Omar knows the danger that lies outside the camp.

With bright, colorful illustrations and easy-to-read font, I was emerged into the brother’s story.  It was captivating, interesting, and powerful.  Omar fought for a better life, there were wonderful successes and moments of frustration and struggles yet he continued on. 

Fantastic graphic novel.  Definitely read the afterword that is located at the back of the book. I went through many emotions reading this book and I highly recommend it.    

Crossover: graphic novel by Kwame Alexander

5 stars Graphic Novel

This was fantastic!  You could really feel the energy and the emotions in this graphic novel which is an adaptation of the original novel with the same name.  I think kids will love this book.

This is not your typical graphic novel with text boxes, this graphic novel’s illustrations and text fill up the entire page.  Whether the page includes one illustration or four, it is the exact amount that is needed to get the point across.  With varying sizes of text, you will find yourself catching the rhythm of the book, as the story unravels. Using only shades of orange, black, and white, throughout the book, it’s amazing how captive you will become to Josh’s story.

You see, they were twins, Josh and Jordan.  Great basketball players who did a lot together.  Their father was a legend, on the court, many years ago.  Lately though, Jordan’s eyes have not been on the ball so much.  His eyes are on a girl and Josh feels ignored/left out/abandoned. Josh wants his father to intervene but his father won’t. Dad has some health issues that mom has been riding him on but dad says he’s fine.  I love the word play this couple speaks to one another. 

You can feel the energy soaring through the pages, the pain that’s growing inside of Josh, and witness the relationship that’s building between Jordan and his new friend.  The words were carefully chosen, they fit, they fit like a glove to make this graphic novel pulse.  

Then, he does it.  Josh unleashes his frustration and I hope that he feels better because everyone else doesn’t.  He’s done more harm then good and the repercussions of his anger, he’s paid a price for it. 

Excellent graphic novel!  Very powerful and is one that is definitely worth reading.   

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk

3 stars Graphic Novel

Have you ever read a book and even though it stretches your imagination, you’re actually liking it, and then……bam, they’ve totally lost their minds and you wished, you could undo what you’ve just read?  That’s what I felt as I read Making Friends. This middle school graphic novel was dealing with some typical teen issues in a unique way when suddenly the main character cracked.

Dany’s Aunt Elma died, leaving the family to sort out her estate on their own.  Dany finds herself in the possession of one of her aunt’s sketchbooks, one of the few items the family didn’t fight over. Labeled, “handle with care,” Dany finds many of the pages empty and after a hard day at school, she begins to sketch in it.

Life was easier in elementary school when Dany had Joan and Leah at her side but now in middle school, it was getting more complicated.  Dany decides to draw Prince Neptune, yet she stopped after only drawing his head.  Neptune would protect her, if he was real.  Dany talks to her drawing as her pencil slides over the paper. Admiring her finished drawing, Dany is stunned when the image pops off the paper and becomes a living thing! Remember, she only drew his head so the Prince is now a talking head.

Prince Neptune is immediately head-over-heels in love with Dany and calls her Princess Dany and boy, how fun is this!? Dany is enchanted and scared at the same time.  What has just happened?  The prince is compassionate, caring, and supportive to Dany (even though, sometimes his ideas are a bit extreme) but you need to remember that he’s just a head, that was drawn to protect Dany and he doesn’t know that much about this world and then you’ll understand why he says what he does. 

Having the prince around does help Dany but it’s not like the prince can be out and around everyone else.  Dany wants other friends and she wants to fit in, but how? You guessed it!  She takes her pencil and she begins drawing in her aunt’s sketchbook. I see the dangers of this right away but Dany, she thinks it’s going to work out wonderfully.

Now, Dany is on a roll and she can’t stop now.  It’s as if someone has taken over this girl and she has become a different person, who is she? Dany is this loud, screaming individual who rants and yells. Her face takes up the whole text box.  Someone, please push her off button.  I was liking this book until Dany got greedy.

Overall, it was a fun book that I was enjoying until things got out of hand.  Why Dany had to go extreme, I have no idea but it was a turn-off for me. 

Best Friends by Shannon Hale

5 stars Graphic Novel Middle School

Are your actions and feeling based on how you actually feel or are they based upon how you’re supposed to feel?  It was all so confusing and to Shannon, it seemed that the rules keep changing. 

It’s their last year in elementary school and Shannon thought this year would be great yet it’s not starting out that way. She thought that she fit in with her girlfriends but now, she just doesn’t.  Why is it that there’s a difference between what Shannon thinks and what her girlfriends think now? How had they become so different? Shannon starts to second guess everything about herself and it’s painful to see how much she’s working at this. I had to wonder why Shannon was the only one who was excluded in this bunch of girls and why?  The girls, I thought, were mean sometimes to Shannon, yet she didn’t want to be excluded from this group so she worked harder to try to fit in.

I didn’t read the first book in this series but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this graphic novel. I could totally understand how Shannon felt in this book although, I’m not the targeted audience.  I believe many individuals understand this frustration.  It’s only when you start feeling comfortable and accept who you are, do you start doing your own thing and you don’t worry so much about fitting in. I’ve even met older women who still worry about what others think too much. 

Shannon tries to be cool like her friends, she tries to figure out the correct way to act and feel yet, just when she thinks she has it figured out, the rules change!  One minute it’s one way, another minute it’s another way – Shannon just can’t keep up!

It’s a terrific graphic novel with wonderful, colorful text boxes. The flow of the story was easy to follow also.  This graphic novel is definitely one that’s worth reading.   

The Witch Boy by Molly Knox Ostertag

5 star Graphic Novel

The cover of this graphic novel caught my attention while I was volunteering at the library and somehow, it made its way into my car. I love how these things happen yet; it pushes the other books I want to read further behind. A witch boy. The title was interesting as I always thought that boys who were witches were called warlocks, at least that is what I remember from the show, Bewitched. The illustration on the cover is fascinating too. The boy seems to be doing something secretive, crouching in a corner, candles burning, reading a book. That look on his face, it’s as if he’s been caught or hears something. Then, there’s that shadow peering down over him. Yep, that dragon doesn’t look like the friendly type.

Magic is in Aster’s blood. Boys grow-up to be shapeshifters and girls grow-up to be witches and that’s how it has always been. There’s a whisper amongst their family, about how one member of their family defied the system and the price that he paid for it.

Aster would rather spy on the girls and learn witchcraft than be a shapeshifter. He knows he’s not supposed to practice the craft, he’s heard what has happened in the past, yet this doesn’t stop him. He wants to see if he can actually cast one of the spells that he has overheard.

The illustrations in this book are wonderful. The big text boxes with their bright colors, look amazing on the glossy pages. I was immediately draw in as this story moves quickly along as Aster temptation gets the best of him and he tries to cast his first spell.

Realizing that he’s now good at something, he needs to keep this a secret. I liked how he met Charlie and how they developed their friendship. I enjoyed how they fit together and that things didn’t escalade between the two of them. I loved how Aster continued to spy on the girls repeatedly, even though he kept getting caught. It was comical how persistent he was in learning more about witchcraft, all the while he was trying to be a shapeshifter.

The story picked up speed when one of the shapeshifter boys comes up missing and no one can locate him. Aster believes that he can find him BUT he must use the witchcraft that he knows, to do so.

It was a fun, entertaining read and I’m glad that it found its way into my car. I found out that this is a series, so I will be looking for the other books in this series.

Go With the Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann

5 stars Middle School/YA

I also found this book while volunteering at the library and I’m glad that I picked this one up. Now, I know graphic novels touch on a variety of subject matter but this subject matter is a first for me in a long while (thank you, Judy Blume). As I read this book, the first thought I had was, where was this graphic novel when I was younger?

In this graphic novel, a small group of high school friends come together to provoke a change. Abby, the artist in the group, is preparing for the chance to have a display in an upcoming exhibit in the library. The show features feminist voices and activism. Abby doesn’t realize it but today, marks the beginning of her display.

The three girls find Sasha, a new student, in the hallway needing assistance. The girls immediately sweep in, take her under their wings like good Samaritans, and usher her into the bathroom. They’re nice and honest with her and they don’t leave Sasha until things are under control. It’s now that Abby discovers the injustice that marks the beginning of her art display and the movement that she leads with her friends. As Sasha tries to cope with what has happened to her, the girls try to resolve the issue(s) that they no longer want to ignore.

The three girls welcomed Sasha to their group immediately and they come together to try to change the way that their school handles an issue that has been ignored for quite some time. While this task is underway, the girls talk freely about menstruation. This talk is not restricted, they are very open and sincere, they cover quite a few important issues surrounding this topic, issues that aren’t just mentioned but provide great detail and meaning. I loved the honesty and the emotions that came through this graphic novel. No one held back as they provided feedback or told their own stories as each topic was discussed.

This is an important graphic novel, one that covers a subject some individuals find hard to talk about. Why, it’s hard to discuss? There are a lot of different reasons but in honesty, it’s a topic that should be discussed more openly and honesty. I know, they show the movies and have the discussions at school, but to have a fictional graphic novel that covers this topic, in detail like this one does, is fantastic! Kiddos, to the author for writing such a great book. I highly recommend it.

Maus: a Survivor’s Tale- Part 1 by Art Spiegelman

4 stars Graphic Novel

I’ve been meaning to read this graphic novel as I’ve heard many great things about it so when our bookclub announced it for this month’s read, I was pretty excited.  This book afterall, was a graphic novel and it pertained to WWII, so what could go wrong?

This graphic novel is presented in black-n-white and written by the son of a Jewish Holocaust survivor.  The son, an illustrator, visits his father and inquiries about his life in Poland around the time of WWII.  His father’s memory is quite good as he recalls this tragic event in history. 

I was amazed at how well Vladek recalls the names of places and individuals as he reaches back in time to relive his life. As the story unfolds, his journey was quite extensive.  I have a hard-enough time remembering what I did yesterday and Vladek memories include quite a bit of detail.

This novel provides more than just his father’s flashbacks during this father and son interview, we learn about other individuals who play a role in their lives.  We learn about other relationships, past and current, including the relationship between the father and his son.  I thought the some of these relationships were quite interesting and I was amazed at the connections that Vladek had. 

I do feel that there were times that the language in the book felt stiff and off for me.  I think it was how the book was translated that threw it off for me.  As I read, during Vladek days of trying to survive, I went through many emotions.  A good read will provoke that in a reader. 

I appreciate Vladek for sharing his story and for his service.  I also appreciate that Art wrote this graphic novel about his father.  It’s a momentous piece of history told from one who survived.

The Red Zone: An Earthquake Story by Silvia Vecchini

3 stars Children’s

This graphic novel addresses the issues an earthquake has on young children. Torn from their homes, these children have to deal with the issues of the unknown as their community tries to rebuild.

I liked how the novel immediately begins with some powerful action. Mother Nature begins unleashing her power upon the community, leaving its citizens left to fend for themselves. We follow Matteo, Giulia, and Federico as they learn to live with the aftermath of the destruction.

The devastation from the quake is massive. The citizens are warned not to enter the “Red Zone” but to some that zone is their life and contains everything they have. How can you tell someone to stay away from the only possessions they have?

A make-shift school is immediately constructed while the community tries to rebuild. Why is it taking so long to move forward? What are they supposed to do in the meantime? Each family tries to rebuild their lives and get some structure into their lives, to the best of their ability, but it’s hard when all your possessions are in the “Red Zone.”

I really liked the idea of this graphic novel and I thought, the illustrations were fantastic. We are experiencing more weather-related catastrophes lately and having children understand them is important. The illustrations were bright, colorful and had a great flow. I liked everything about this novel but I thought it was missing a few things. I really had no connections to the characters as I had no background on them. I wished I had known something about them and/or their relationships with other individuals in the novel, so I knew exactly the emotional toll this disaster played on their lives. I know that any tragedy is hard but I felt that my character and emotional connection was not fully engaged while reading this novel. I think this is a good novel to share with children, it’s a good starting point.

The Okay Witch by Emma Steinkellner

3.5 stars Middle School

I thought this graphic novel was okay. I liked the characters and I liked how things were progressing but there was something about the flow of the story that didn’t feel right. 

Moth doesn’t fit in and she’s basically accepted that.  She’s now thirteen-years old and suddenly things start to change for her on Halloween.  No one has told her the truth about her mom and that Moth’s obsession with witches might have something to do with her mom but now, someone might have to.  Moth was born a half witch but suddenly now, she’s showing her powers.  Moth is excited about her new identity but her mother, a witch herself, tells her that it’s not such a great thing. 

There’s some time travel as Moth learns about the craft and its history.  We find out how old mom really is and what mom has been through.  Mom has told Moth not to practice her new craft yet Moth feels she wants to help her friend and does so without anyone knowing.  

I liked that there was this emphasis on family and friendship in the book.  I liked how Moth tried to do things on her own and make her own decisions which at thirteen, has its positive and negative aspects. I thought the book at times felt too wordy.  It felt heavy and the flow felt off.  I thought the illustrations were well done and I liked how the cat was used in the book.