Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by Mariah Marsden, illustrated by Brenna Thummler

Published by Andrews McMeel

Summary:  The classic story of Anne Shirley has been adapted into a graphic novel, beginning with Rachel Lynde’s huffy visit to Mirella, with her dire predictions of what will happen when Mirella and her brother Matthew adopt an orphan.  Of course, everyone thinks the orphan will be a boy.  When Matthew arrives at the train station, he learns that a mistake has been made and their orphan is a girl.  Anne quickly wins their hearts, and goes on to win many more, including Diana Barry’s, Great-Aunt Josephine’s, and of course, Gilbert Blythe’s.  Their legendary feud continues for years, but by the last few pages, Anne has seen that Gilbert is a worthy suitor, and a romance seems to be blossoming.  232 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  I confess I am more familiar with the Megan Follows movie than the book, but I was happy to see most of my favorite episodes from the story included here.  The pastel artwork is lovely, perfectly capturing the beauty of Prince Edward Island.

Cons:  Diehard fans of the original novel will undoubtedly miss parts that have been excluded in this retelling.

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Spirit Hunters by Ellen Oh

Published by HarperCollins

Summary:  It’s a familiar premise:  Harper’s family moves into a creepy old house, rumored to be haunted, and before long her little brother Michael is talking to his “imaginary friend” and not acting like himself.  But this story has some interesting twists.  Harper was accused of starting a fire at her school and sent to a psychiatric hospital where she mysteriously wound up with two broken arms.  Her beloved grandmother is estranged from her mother, and Harper suspects she is the reason.  As the story unfolds, her memory begins to return in flashbacks.  She also starts to have visions of what happened in the house before her family moved there.  Finally, her grandmother defies Harper’s mother and returns, knowing that Harper and Michael need her and her Korean shamanic powers.  Harper discovers some powers of her own, and it’s up to her to get Michael back in a truly creepy scene, as the evil spirits of the house try to possess both children.  This book is billed as book 1, and the ending alludes to a haunted playground nearby, so horror fans can hope for a sequel in the near future.  288 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Keep the lights on when you read this one!  It’s not just about the scariness, though; there’s a cast of interesting characters including Harper, her family members, and her two best friends…one human and one ghost.  The best horror book I’ve read since The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier.

Cons:  After all that happens, the family decides to stay in the house in the end.  What?!

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Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani

Published by First Second

Summary:  Priyanka is struggling at school, where some mean girls make fun of her drawing, and at home, where her single mom refuses to tell her about her father or the family she left behind in India.  Pri discovers a pashmina, a scarf her mother brought from home, that transports her to a magical India (shown in color).  She’s guided by an elephant and peacock, who show her the beauty of the country, but won’t let her speak with a mysterious shadow who follows them.  When Priyanka wins $500 in a comics contest, she convinces her mom to let her visit India, where she stays with her long-lost aunt.  In India, the pashmina no longer has magical powers for Pri, but it does for her aunt.  The two of them set off on a journey to find out the origins of the magical scarf, and in the process, learn about themselves and their heritage.  Priyanka turns her discoveries into a comic book…entitled Pashmina.  Includes a glossary of the Indian words used in the story. 176 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  An enchanting story about finding your voice, with lots of female empowerment woven in.   Although the female characters struggle with inequality, they are all optimistic about change.  Chanani embraces both the romantic beauty and gritty poverty of India.

Cons:  The story unfolded at a somewhat dizzying pace, covering a lot of ground in 176 pages.

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Full of Fall by April Pulley Sayre

Published by Beach Lane Books

Summary:  “September sun is low in the sky/So long summer/Green, goodbye!” So begins this homage to autumn.  Each page has a few lines of poetry, describing the colors as leaves change from green to red and gold to brown.  Large, colorful photographs show the stages in detail, as well as animals often associated with the season, like squirrels and geese.  “Goodbye, leaf show/Winter is coming/Oh, hello, snow!”  The last page provides a perfect transition to check out a similar book by the author, Best in Snow.  Includes two pages that give more scientific information about what is happening on each page of the book.  40 pages; ages 3-8.

Pros:  Another gorgeous book about the seasons from April Pulley Sayre (see also Raindrops Roll).  Combine this with In the Middle of Fall by Kevin Henkes (see my 9/22 review) for a perfect autumn story hour.

Cons:  All that raking.

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The Ember Stone (The Last Firehawk book 1) by Katarina Charman, illustrated by Jeremy Norton

Published by Scholastic

Summary:  Although Tag is small, he is determined to become one of the Owls of Valor, practicing fighting with a dagger and shield until he is exhausted.  When he and his friend Skyla the squirrel rescue a mysterious egg, they inadvertently get the chance to prove their courage.  The egg hatches with a fiery bang, and produces a baby firehawk, an animal thought to be extinct.  Firehawks were once the guardians of the Ember Stone, which protected the animals from the evil magic of Thorn, a vulture who controls the dark magic of the forest.  Tag, Skyla, and the firebird are sent by Grey, leader of the Owls of Valor, to try to find the missing stone.  They recover a piece of it, but their journey to find other pieces will continue in the next book.  89 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  Readers too young for animal fantasy series like Warriors will enjoy this latest entry in the Scholastic Branches imprint.  It’s a surprisingly interesting, somewhat complex tale, told in 89 illustrated pages, and written at a level appropriate for primary-level reader.

Cons:  A dagger and shield seem like inefficient weapons for an animal with talons, a beak, and wings.

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Wishtree by Katherine Applegate, illustrated by Charles Santoso

Published by Feiwel and Friends

Summary:  Red is an oak tree that has stood for over two centuries.  He has seen many animals come and go, and quite a few humans, too, in the two houses that he faces.  Samar and Stephen live next door to each other in those houses, and Samar wishes for Stephen to be her friend.  Like many humans have done before, she ties the wish to Red’s branches.  Red and his crow friend Bongo do what they can to help with this wish, but their plans don’t work.  And when a teenager with a screwdriver carves the word “Leave” in front of Samar’s house, it looks like her wish will never come true.  Francesca, the owner of the two houses, decides it’s time to cut down Red.  But Wishing Day is coming, and sometimes the magic of all those wishes can be enough to bring some unexpected changes.  224 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  Another beautiful, thoughtful story by Katherine Applegate.  This would make a perfect classroom read-aloud.  There is plenty to discuss, the illustrations are adorable, and there’s even a good dose of tree humor.  To me, the story isn’t quite enough to warrant a Newbery, but I’m sure there will be some consideration.

Cons:  By the end of the story, I felt guilty for considering cutting down the three oak trees in my backyard.  A few days of raking leaves and acorns will most likely take care of this.

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After the Fall (How Humpty Dumpty Got Back Up Again) by Dan Santat

Published by Roaring Brook Press

Summary:  Yes, Humpty Dumpty got put back together again, but “there were some parts that couldn’t be healed with bandages and glue.”  Humpty is now afraid of heights–he sleeps on the floor rather than in his top bunk, and is forced to buy Bo-Rings cereal rather than the enticing Sugar Bunny and Rainbow Bites that are stocked on the top shelves.  Worst of all, though, he misses the birds he used to watch from his perch atop the high wall.  Inspired by a paper airplane, Humpty creates a flying bird, but is dismayed when it lands on top of his old wall.  Determined, the egg overcomes his fear, and slowly climbs up the ladder on the side of the wall.  At the top, he cracks again…only this time, a beautiful bird emerges and soars into the air.  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  Dan Santat tells a remarkable story, making a fairy tale connection and using humor that preschoolers will enjoy, but conveying a message for all ages.  The illustrations may be worthy of another Caldecott for the illustrator.

Cons:  The “Sad Clown” cereal that is one of Humpty’s options on the grocery store’s lower shelf.

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