Shark Summer by Ira Marcks

4 stars Middle School graphic novel

What a great adventure! Gayle had led her team to the Championship but now, the star pitcher was nursing her wrist and reflecting back on that flyball that landed her in the emergency room.  With her mother’s dream on hold, Gayle’s shoulders felt heavy with guilty. Her mother would now have to seek employment at a hotel and the doors to the Black Cat Creamery would stay shut.  Gayle’s medical bills needed to be paid off before she could continue on with the store’s grand opening.

I liked how honest Gayle’s mother was, how responsible Gayle felt and how Gayle wanted to help remedy the situation.  Gayle being a teen, sees beyond herself while at the same time, she acts like a kid.  When Gayle comes across a flyer for a contest, she’s determined to win the cash prize, and she begins putting in motion, what she has to do to get that accomplished.  

To win this contest, it’s not as easy as it first seems.  In their effort to win, the small group discovers an old mystery which they attempt to solve……….

There’s a lot of activity in this graphic novel.  This being said, I think that they did a great job with the panels in this book.  They provided a variety of sizes to keep the story interesting and to keep the story flowing smoothly.  There’s just enough detail in the artwork and the color choice was on the darker side, which added to the mystery and drama of the story.  I enjoyed how this new group of friends worked together also.  

Harrow County, Vol. 1: Countless Haints by Cullen Bunn

4 stars Graphic Novel

If you’re looking for an interesting, eerie story, I might have found the right one for you.  I picked up this graphic novel based on the illustrations, which as a horror fan, I thought they were fabulous.  I can see how some readers though, might find some of them disturbing.  When you’re discussing ghosts, torturing a witch, a skinned boy, and a corpse, there’s bound to be some interesting illustrations.  I felt that the storyline jumped a round a bit but that didn’t stop me from enjoying this story. 

They didn’t just hang Hester in the tree, but they beat, shot, and stabbed the witch before finally setting her body on fire, to make sure that she would finally leave this world once and for all.  As Hester’s body scorched the tree from which she hung, she told those in attendance that she would return and they should be ready, a vow that would hang over them.  

Emmy lives with her Pa and in a few days, she’ll be turning 18.  Is it a coincidence that Emmy has dreams of a tree and she sometimes feels that there’s something beside her?  There’s something special about Emmy, she has a gift and I wasn’t quite sure what this was until I read further but I knew that she was using it for good.   Emmy begins to wonder if she should find herself a man, now that she’s turning 18, which makes sense. Her Pa knew something and was suggesting that she stay with him on the farm as he needed help.   Wait, wait, wait……what the heck is Emmy doing now?  This is some twisted stuff and why is that all happening.

https://harrowcounty.bandcamp.com/album/harrow-county-vol-1

Sweet Emmy was such a nice person and now all this!?!  Leaving me with a cliffhanger was not good either.  I absolutely loved the illustrations in this graphic novel and then, just when I finally got the storyline all in sync, I now, have to find the second volume in this series.  4 stars

They Call Us Enemy by George Takei

5 stars Graphic Novel

This book is a true account of George Takei’s experience in internment camps during WWII.  I read a lot of WWII books and it was shocking to read about these camps here in the U.S. 

When Pearl Harbor was attacked by the Japanese in 1941, the President signed a proclamation stating that every adult Japanese citizen in the United States was now an Alien Enemy.  This meant that George’s father, after living 23 years in the U.S., was now an Alien Enemy and under strict rules.  Speaking to Congress, the President declares War not long after that.  California’s Attorney General decides that he’s going to start excluding Japanese individuals around certain areas.  He begins to round them up and house them together.  This made me angry as I read about his agenda, as there was no reason behind his actions, besides his own agenda. Many individuals were stripped of their own possessions and they were left with nothing. How was he able to do this?  The restrictions became tighter and tighter as he pulled on their reigns.

As George’s family was moved around, the illustrations in this graphic novel did an excellent job portraying the author’s attitude at what was happening in his life. Just looking at the illustrations, you can sense how things are with the family as they try to adjust.  Mother carried with her hope, as she made her way to the camps.  Her forbidden item had to be heavy as she lugged it around but she was determined to bring it.  She did, “not want to leave it behind” and she was also looking out for her children.  I liked how his father stepped up and made the best of his situation at the camps also.  His family was definitely a bright spot in the camp.  I found this graphic novel very interesting and educational. It one that you should look into if you like this type of book.  I appreciate George sharing his story with others.  

Lift by Minh Le

4.75 stars Children’s Picture Book

Ha! This picture book is definitely a fun one and one you could have a good time with.  Iris got mad when things changed in her normal routine but then, she found a solution.  Little did she know that solution would lead her on magical journeys that began in her own bedroom. 

Iris loved to push the elevator buttons in the apartment building that she lived in with her family.  It always made her happy and she could count on it to cheer her up.  Whenever they needed to push one of the elevator buttons, Iris would step right up and DING, she’d push the correct button.     

She doesn’t know what happened that Thursday but once her family got inside the elevator to go up to their apartment, her little brother reached right over and pushed the elevator button before Iris had a chance.  WHAT!! Her brother was so proud and excited and her parents, well…. they had the same reaction.  Iris, she was mad! Then, on Friday when they left their apartment and again, got inside the elevator, her brother reached over and pushed the button AGAIN!  Oh, the look on Iris’ face!  I loved this part!!  She doesn’t hold back her anger, nope! What does she do? Yell? Scream? Iris reaches over and she pushes all the buttons and her family stops on all the floors.  This, my friend, I can see happening.  How does everyone on the elevator feel now?  I liked this part of the book as it shows through the text and the illustrations a lot about the characters.

When they finally reach the lobby, there’s a repair man fixing the other elevator. He’s currently replacing the elevator’s wall button and Iris notices when he throws the broken button in the trash can.  Ah!  Yep, Iris quickly grabs the broken elevator button and she shoves it into her coat pocket.  I liked how most of this activity is told without words. Following the text boxes, the illustrations tell the story.  Once home and safety behind her bedroom door, Iris takes the broken elevator button out of her pocket.  After grabbing some tape, she tapes it up on her wall.  She pushes the button (just for good measure)and starts to walks away when “DING!”

Don’t you love it?  I would love to read this to a child or to a classroom and see what they think is going to happen next because it’s time to turn the page and then, Iris has an amazing adventure.  Iris does return to her family’s apartment for just a bit and then, Iris is ready and we hear a DING!

I really loved this book and I have to get a copy of this.  I love how it opens up the avenue for discussions and possibilities.  I liked how Iris got angry and how she dealt with it, it was honest and representative of how some children might handle that situation, I think.  I wished her parents would have said something to her about her behavior, not a lecture but something to address it.  I thought her adventures were fun and entertaining and I think, children will like them too.  The illustrations in this book are fantastic. The detail and the colors really bring out the story.  It’s a mixture of a story book and wordless book as there were pages that didn’t have any words and you just had to follow the pictures to understand the storyline.  Iris’ feelings towards her brother were fitting and her actions at the end of the book were really sweet.  This is definitely a good book to read to the children in your life.  4.75 stars  

The Giver: Graphic Novel by P. Craig Russell

5 stars YA

I have to warn you that The Giver is one of my favorite books of all times.  Ever since reading it in one of my Elementary Education classes in college, I have loved it.  I was apprehensive about reading this version of the book, as I was worried that everything that I had felt and imagined, would be destroyed as I turned these pages.  This was a graphic novel afterall, there would be illustrations and the text would be modified, would it all fall into place?

Jonas lived in a world full of structure. They had strict rules that everyone had to follow including age-specific guidelines which started at birth.  It didn’t seem that anyone questioned these rulings.  The whole community seemed to be moving on automatic pilot.  When I read this novel years ago, I remember there were tons of questions floating around in my head.  Their behavior and their acceptance of following in someone else’s footsteps in their nice, neat community seemed too robotic and bizarre to be normal to me. 

This graphic novel was really good.  I enjoyed the way the characters were shown and the way that special features were handled.  Although this graphic novel didn’t give an in-depth account of the story based on the novel, it did provide an incredible account of the story.  With plenty of text boxes, filled with text and illustrations, I felt that by seeing the storyline come alive, I wasn’t missing a thing. 

I was surprised at how emotional I was still was, at certain places in this graphic novel.  I feel that this is a powerful book that unleashes some strong emotions and that it’s not a book for everyone due to its content. I really enjoyed this graphic novel and I highly recommend it.   

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.