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. 

Middle School Misadventures by Jason Platt

3 stars Graphic Novel

The illustrations were great but I just couldn’t get into the story. The colorful, brilliant illustrations really jumped off the pages and I really thought this graphic novel was going to be a hit. It was the story itself that just didn’t make any sense to me as I read it but I continued reading it, as I liked the illustrations.

Let’s begin with the story and then, end this review on a positive note, the illustrations.  The story was about a middle-schooler Newell who is signed up for his school’s first talent show. Newell spends countless hours trying to come up with a talent that he can showcase and its really painful, as he can’t find anything.

Why doesn’t he just cross his name off the list?  If he doesn’t perform, he’ll have to attend summer school.  Yes, I found this weird.  The principal is offering the students the opportunity to exchange the academics of summer school or the punishment of detention, if they perform in this show. Newell was scheduled for Summer School, so he’s excited to do something/anything for this show but he needs to find something worthy.

The book is funny and sometimes, I thought, just a bit on the weird side. I wanted Newell to just move on, perhaps experiment with something(s) and let’s see how he does instead of just talking/thinking about it[S1] .

The illustrations are action-packed and tell a great deal of the story.  A variety of text fonts add a great deal to the action. The colors are vivid and the rich in detail and burst from the page.

I feel there’s a lot of talent here and I would like to see what else this author can provide to us readers in the future.  


 [S1]

Big City Otto by Bill Slavin

4 stars Graphic Novel

I enjoyed the quick-paced story and the thought the illustrations were amazing.  It you take this story for what it is, a story, it’s a wonderful adventure and kids will think so too but if you have to analyze, you’ll probably be able to find a few things wrong with it, so just enjoy it.  It reminds me of some of the comics I used to read when I was younger.

Otto, the elephant misses his chum, Georgie. Georgie, (a monkey) was taken out of the jungle by the man with a wooden nose and Otto, like most elephants never forgot anything about the whole ordeal. Crackers, (parrot) his friend, helps Otto remember what happened that day and the two friends set off to try to find Georgie in America.

Aboard the metal bird (airplane), after being wrapped as a special and oversized package, the two land in America and begin their hunt.  Sure, they get some attention but it seems that spotting an elephant and a parrot on the streets, of a big city in America, is not that unusual.  The big question is, will they be able to find Georgie amongst all these people?

It was the adventure that these two friends had trying to locate Georgie that made this book so enjoyable.  Otto’s size caused quite a few crashes and their lack of understanding was humorous to me yet others didn’t see it that way.  Their love for one another was felt as they watched out for one another throughout their trip and they tried to fit in to their new surroundings, the best that they could. I loved how Crackers pushed and pushed to squeeze Otto into some of the smallest places for an elephant and I thought Otto’s allergy was extreme but I can see how kids would love it and laugh as the final scenes of this book processed.  The illustrations are bright and colorful, they really add to the story.

This was a fun and entertaining graphic novel designed for children.  Filled with interesting and humorous characters, I think young kids will enjoy this book.  If you’re ready for some childish, make-believe fun, pick this book up and be ready for anything.

CatStronauts Space Station Situation by Drew Brockington

4 stars Child’s Graphic Novel

I love cats and I’ve been looking at these graphic novels for a while now.  The CatStronauts are just what they sound like, cats who are astronauts.  Weird, yes but feasible in a kid-friendly world.  I enjoyed all the subtle cat references, the friendships, the easy flow of this graphic novel, and their adventure.

In this mission, Pom Pom is finished helping colonize Mars and is now meeting up with his team on the Space Station. The team will now try to repair the Hubba Bubba Telescope. Sounds easy enough for the CatStronauts until transmission problems arise and they can’t talk to ground control.  They discover that meteor showers are causing all the interference.  The problems just continue for the team as they try to fix one problem after another, until they discover that if they don’t act quickly, destruction on a massive scale is in their future. 

“What the fish is going on?!” These references were just part of the text, which made me smile as I read this book.  References to the kitty box, tuna, kitties, etc., caught my attention, although there really weren’t a whole lot of them.  I felt that they added to the charm of the book and to the characters, themselves. 

This graphic novel had a good flow to it.  There was enough action to keep me engaged and the illustrations were detailed and they complemented to the story.  I’m often asked what would be a great graphic novel to give to a young child and I think this one would fit the bill.  It’s a great child’s graphic novel for any level, I believe.  I’m going to pick up other books in this series to see what these cats are up to.

“Meow, meow, meow.”

The Ferret’s a Foot by Colleen Af Venable

4 stars Graphic Novel

Sassypants and Harnisher are at it again!  They saw Mr. Venezi put a sign in the window advertising for an assistant and they want to put a stop to that.  Working together they correct all the pet-shop signs but a little bit later the signs have all been messed with.  Someone(s) has changed all the signs and now the duo needs to figure out who has done it and why?

This book was funny but I didn’t think as funny as the previous books that I have read by these famous detectives.   I thought the fish were hilarious and Herbert, the turtle.  I like how they talk about the animals and how the animals all want to be together.  The illustrations are easy to follow and their facial expressions are sometimes really funny.  It’s a crazy, mixed-up pet shop which is owned by a Mr. Venezi, who doesn’t quite know what to put in his pet-shop nor does he know how to name what he does have. 

I like how the book introduces information about the pets and later, at the back of the book, there is a two-page section titled, “Hamsiher Explains….” and here the author explains what was introduced in this graphic novel.  There is also a one-page dictionary of terms that were used in the book including that word used in a sentence.  This is a cute, entertaining, graphic novel series and I hope the author continues to write them.  

Fish You Were Here by Colleen Af Venable

4 stars Children’s Graphic Novel

Mr. Venezi is looking for an assistant for his pet shop and at first his interviews aren’t going so well.  Mr. V. needs to find someone who can handle the day-to-day operations of his pet shop and one who can handle, the quirky Mr. V..

When Viola walked in the door, they all thought she was perfect and she was hired on the spot.  She made everyone happy at first and then, Viola took an unexpected turn.  The animals felt that Viola wasn’t doing her job and to make matters worse, what happened to Mr. Venezi? 

When the owner doesn’t arrive to work at his normal time, the animals start to panic and you don’t want that to happen.

I thought this was a cute story as Sasspants, the guinea pig, and Hamisher, the hamster, come together to try to solve this case.  There are a lot of text boxes, with plenty of words, in this graphic novel so keep that in mind when selecting this book.  I liked how the creatures worked together and how they pieced together the mystery to solve things.  It was a fun story.   

And Then There Were Gnomes by Colleen A.F. Venable

4 stars Graphic Novel

I thought this little graphic novel was funny.  This is the second book in the series, I haven’t read the first book yet. The satire comments and the story were laced with comical moments that had me laughing out loud as Harnisher, the hamster, tried to get Sassypants, the guinea pig, to put on his detective hat and get back to work.

Harnisher was just plain funny as he tries to light a fire under his friend Sassypants so he’ll start being a detective again. Living inside Mr. Venezi’s pet shop, Harnisher comes up with some very creative mysteries that Sassypants must solve. He seemed like a great friend and a positive person to be around yet Sassypants was not liking it.  Sassypants claims though that he’s not a detective but Harnisher is not listening. 

When Mr. Venezi’s arrives to open the shop wearing shorts, Harnisher starts in. Determining there’s something peculiar going on, Harnisher tries to enlist the help of Sassypants.  Someone needs to help Mr. V recover the rest of his pants!  I thought this was really funny as Harnisher’s excitement filled the air. 

The pet shop owner has mislabeled all the animals and now the mice are disappearing.  A group of children come to the shop to purchase pets for themselves and notice the problem which leads to some interesting conversations.   Can someone find the missing mice before they all disappear?   

The illustrations in this graphic novel are super cute and there aren’t a lot of characters in it.  I feel that there’s a lot of text to read in this graphic novel yet the text itself is not hard.  It’s a fun, creative graphic novel that I enjoyed.  I put a hold on the next couple books in this series.

Magic Trixie by Jill Thompson

4 stars Children’s Graphic Novel

I came across this graphic novel at the library as the cover caught my attention.  Trixie is a little witch that attends Monstersorri School with a Frankenstein Monster, twin vampires, a werewolf, and a mummy, their teacher is a ghost. Next week, is Show-and-Tell week and Trixie’s day is Friday.  She’s told all of her friends that she’s going to bring something different, something that none of them could ever bring!  The problem is, Trixie has no idea what that is.

It seems that Trixie’s friends have seen everything that she can do “a million times” already, so when they inform her of this, she gets angry.  Yelling at them, she announces that she’s bringing something special yet when she gets home, she whines to her cat, that she has no idea on what to bring. 

Her anger and frustration are felt at home then, when she doesn’t get the attention that she desires. Her new baby sister is in the limelight and Trixie isn’t used to sharing the stage. It’s kid drama at its finest.  I had to laugh a few times as it’s so typical of children and their siblings. Some of the facial expressions and the comments out of Trixie’s mouth were priceless.  Trixie needs to get herself under control by Friday or her Show-and-Tell day will be a disaster.   

I loved the illustrations, for being a children’s book, they were full of detail and so colorful.  I didn’t find the illustrations of Trixie with her mouth open very attractive and unfortunately, there were a bunch of them inside this graphic novel.  I think it’s because she’s missing too many front teeth. The ghost illustrations were fantastic!  I liked the story and how Trixie figured things out on her own.  There are some harder words in this book (multi-tasking, Jeepers Creepers, cauldron, gentlemen, Velcro) so be aware that your reader might need assistance.  I think children will enjoy reading about Trixie.    

Age of License

2 stars Nonfiction

This was not what I expected.  When I thumbed through it and read the synopsis, I expected something like a graphic novel, a novel and journal rolled into one. Yet, that isn’t what I read.  The book started out fine but after a while I lost interest.  It was the great illustrations that kept me turning the pages till the very end.

I really had a hard time with this synopsis and the beginning pages of this book. They didn’t seem to follow what happened in the book.  The synopsis said there would be “descriptions of culinary delights” and “cute cat cameos” but I really had a hard time finding these. In the beginning pages, Lucy talks about her month-long trip to France, how she’ll be traveling alone, and how excited she is. I was excited to see France with Lucy, go on some adventures but that wasn’t what I read.    

Lucy’s mother and her friends had rented a house in France and Lucy wanted to go too. That’s how she ended up in France. Lucy said she was traveling alone, so I figured, she’d go off and do her own thing whenever she wanted.  Well, not exactly. Most of the time, Lucy spent with her mom or with her new friend, Henrik.  She just met Henrik at a party, before she left on vacation, as Henrik was visiting Lucy’s friend Lonnie.  Henrik lives in Stockholm.  

Lucy was usually with someone and the time she was alone, she was either contemplating life or doing activities as a writer.  I liked seeing the writer side of Lucy, the entertainment side and the obligations.  She met up with Henrik in Stockholm and they got alone, very well. They really hit it off!  I thought she latched onto Henrik and I was surprised how much the book included him.  I thought this book was more about her feeling towards him and her emotions than anything.  Not really what I expected.

I really enjoyed the illustrations.  I liked how some were colored and some were black-and-white.  I thought they included a lot of detail and they were fun to look at, including the different text fonts that were used in them. 

This book didn’t keep my attention. I guess I was expecting one thing and it delivered something else.  It felt flighty to me, not a good book for me.