Katie the Catsitter by Colleen A. F. Venable, illustrated by Stephanie Yue

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers

Image result for katie the catsitter amazon
Image result for katie the catsitter amazon

Summary:  Katie’s facing a boring summer when her best friend Bethany leaves for camp.  Hoping to join her for a one-week session, Katie advertises her pet-sitting services in her apartment building.  She’s hired by the mysterious Madeleine Lang to look after her 217 cats.  Every evening, Ms. Lang goes off to work until midnight, and Katie deals with the cats.  As she begins to learn the cats’ various amazing talents, Katie starts to suspect Ms. Lang’s true identity.  By the end of the summer, Katie’s interest in going to camp has been replaced with more heroic pursuits at home.  224 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  Hand this graphic novel to fans of Raina Telgemeier and company; they will be delighted by the magic realism of Katie’s world and the amazing cats whose individual personalities and superpowers are lovingly delineated.

Cons:  So many cats made me sneeze.

Five favorite graphic novels

My final list for 2020 is my favorite graphic novels, always a fun one for me! I’m going to post one more review tomorrow of the perfect new year’s book, then take a vacation for a few weeks and start to read some 2021 books. Happy new year to you all!

Class Act by Jerry Craft

Published by Quill Tree Books

Class Act: Craft, Jerry, Craft, Jerry: 9780062885500: Amazon.com: Books

Jerry Craft outdid himself in his sequel to last year’s Newbery Medalist New Kid. This one followed Jordan’s friend Drew, and asks some hard questions about race and inequality while keeping its light touch and kid appeal.

Fox & Rabbit Make Believe by Beth Ferry, illustrated by Gergely Dudás

Published by Amulet Books

Amazon.com: Fox & Rabbit Make Believe (Fox & Rabbit Book #2)  (9781419746871): Ferry, Beth, Dudás, Gergely: Books

I can’t wait to get back to school and start introducing the younger graphic novel fans to Fox and Rabbit. There’s plenty of gently humor and friendship stories that include a couple of great sidekicks. Look for book 3 in April 2021.

Shirley & Jamila Save Their Summer by Gillian Goerz

Published by Dial Books

Shirley and Jamila Save Their Summer (Shirley & Jamila): Goerz, Gillian:  9780525552864: Amazon.com: Books

I didn’t read many mysteries this year, but this one was a ton of fun, with a quirky nod to Sherlock Holmes and Watson.

Twins by Varlan Johnson, illustrated by Shannon Wright

Published by Graphix

Twins: A Graphic Novel (1): Johnson, Varian, Wright, Shannon:  9781338236170: Amazon.com: Books

Two years later, I’m still trying to recover from the fact that Varian Johnson didn’t win the Newbery for The Parker Inheritance. Thankfully, Mr. Johnson has moved on to produce this series opener about identical twins who begin to discover their differences in middle school and wind up running against each other for class president. It’s billed as book 1…here’s hoping there will be more.

Snapdragon by Kat Leyh

Published by First Second

Snapdragon: Leyh, Kat: 9781250171115: Amazon.com: Books

Kat Leyh packed a lot into this unique story, including gender and sexuality issues, domestic abuse, and a touch of magic. This is the fifth year running that at least one of my graphic novel favorites has been published by First Second, and I applaud their standards for high quality and innovation.

Witches of Brooklyn by Sophie Escabasse

Published by Random House Graphic

Witches of Brooklyn: Escabasse, Sophie: 9780593119273: Amazon.com: Books
Witches of Brooklyn: Escabasse, Sophie: 9780593119273: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  When Effie is dropped off at her Aunt Selimene’s home in the middle of the night, neither one is happy about it.  But Effie has nowhere else to go, and Aunt Selimene is her only living relative.  Selimene’s partner Carlota makes Effie feel welcome, and within a few days everyone is feeling better about the situation.  Selimene and Carlota claim to be herbalists and acupuncturists, but Effie soon discovers they are actually witches.  Before long, her own magical powers emerge, although she has difficulty controlling them.  When celebrity singer Tily Shoo shows up needing the witches’ help, her #1 fan Effie gets in on the case as well.  It’s Effie who makes a key discovery that will help Tily Shoo reverse the curse that has been placed on her.  Things wrap up with a happy ending, but there’s a preview of book 2 at the end, and the author’s biography says she’s working on a trilogy.  240 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  A fun graphic novel for anyone who likes school and family stories with a touch of magic thrown in.  There’s a lot of action and many characters, but the pace is good and the characters are well-distinguished in the illustrations, making it easy to follow what’s going on.

Cons:  There’s not much told about Effie’s previous life or what happened to her mother.

The Challenger Disaster: Tragedy in the Skies by Pranas T. Naujokaitis

Published by First Second

Amazon.com: History Comics: The Challenger Disaster: Tragedy in the Skies  (9781250174307): Naujokaitis, Pranas T.: Books
History Comics: The Challenger Disaster | Pranas T. Naujokaitis | Macmillan

Summary:  A group of kids going to school on board a 24th century spacecraft has an assignment to research the Challenger disaster.  Each presents one aspect of the event, including the history of the space shuttle, the crew, the launch, and the investigation of what went wrong.  The kids are all certain that Carmen, the slacker among them, hasn’t done her research, and when it comes time for her to present, it turns out they’re right.  But she’s been so moved by what she’s learned that she makes an emotional case for continuing to explore the universe, even though tragedies sometimes happen as part of those explorations.  The day ends with A plus grades for everyone, and the teacher musing to herself that she believes the future is in good hands.  Includes an author’s afterword and a list of additional Challenger facts.  128 pages; grades 4-6.

Pros:  A moving look at many different aspects of the Challenger explosion that includes holographic images of each crew member giving an introduction to his or her life and career.  This is part of a new series called History Comics that will undoubtedly have wide appeal, particularly for fans of books like Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales.

Cons:  The detailed descriptions of the space shuttle in the first third of the book may lose a few readers.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Measuring Up by Lily LaMotte, illustrated by Ann Xu

Published by HarperAlley

Measuring Up: LaMotte, Lily, Xu, Ann: 9780062973863: Amazon.com: Books

Summary:  Cici is anxious about her family’s move from Taiwan to Seattle, particularly when she learns that her grandmother, A-má, is staying in Taiwan.  The move goes smoothly, with Cici making two new friends almost immediately and getting the A’s in school that her parents expect.  But she misses A-má and wants to figure out a way for her grandmother to celebrate her 70th birthday with the family.  When Cici learns of a kids’ cooking contest with a grand prize of $1,000, she thinks she’s found the solution.  A-má has taught Cici a lot about Taiwanese cooking and Cici is sure she can win.  On the first day, she’s paired up with Miranda, an expert chef whose family owns a restaurant, but whose aspirations lie elsewhere.  While Cici’s dad thinks cooking is just a hobby and academic achievement is the most important thing, Miranda’s dad believes her cooking should take precedence over everything else.  Both girls have plenty to learn about the culinary arts, each other, and themselves as they make their way through the rounds of the contest to find out who will be the top chef.  208 pages; grades 3-6. 

Pros:  Part immigrant story, part friendship story, part cooking reality show, this graphic novel is sure to please a wide variety of readers.

Cons:  Cici’s transition to American life seemed a bit unrealistically easy.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Astronauts: Women on the Final Frontier by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

Published by First Second

Interior Image

Summary:  Real-life astronaut Mary Cleave narrates the story of how women clawed their way into the space program, beginning with a group of women called the Mercury 13 who tried to be part of the first group of astronauts.  Although they were qualified, and their smaller size would have been a plus on early space missions, they were eventually passed over for the all-male Mercury 7.  Meanwhile, in the Soviet Union, Valentina Tereshkova became the first woman to travel to space.  It wasn’t until 1983 that Sally Ride broke the barriers at NASA, and many other women have succeeded there in the decades since.  The final section of the book is a detailed narrative of Cleave’s own journey aboard the space shuttle in 1985.  Includes photos of a diverse group of astronauts, an author’s note, and a lengthy bibliography.  176 pages; grades 5-8.

Pros:  As I’m writing this review, my daughter is sitting at the dining room table taking an orbital mechanics final for her graduate program in astronautics at Stanford, so I can’t help but be grateful for how far women have come since Sally Ride burst on the scene during my own college days.  This book gives a humorous but honest account of the hard work those early women had to do, and the ridiculous sexism that made it so difficult for them to become part of the space program.  The artwork is appealing, and the detailed illustrations of life aboard the space shuttle are truly remarkable. 

Cons:  The beginning, with its whirlwind history of the early days of the space program in both the U.S. and USSR, is a bit confusing, with a big cast of characters, and a lot of switching back and forth between the two countries (the Russian scenes are cleverly shown with a font resembling Cyrillic script).

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

InvestiGators (Book 1) by John Patrick Green

Published by First Second

Amazon.com: InvestiGators (InvestiGators, 1) (9781250219954): Green, John  Patrick: Books
InvestiGators | John Patrick Green | Macmillan

Summary:  Alligators Mango and Brash find themselves investigating multiple cases: first up is the mysterious disappearance of Chef Gustavo.  The two don fake mustaches, then head for the restaurant where Gustavo worked.  When the oversized cake they bake there shows up after a huge explosion in a science lab, it seems as though an even more nefarious plot is afoot.  It’s up to these two reptilian detectives to crack a series of cases, catch the villains, and get the good chef back to his bakery where he belongs.  Includes instructions for drawing Mango, Brash, and C-ORB.  First in a series, book 2, Take the Plunge is also available.  208 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  The whole time I was reading this, I kept envisioning 8-year-old kids coming up to me to share some goofball passage that would be totally cracking them up.  I mustache you to consider this guaranteed crowd-pleaser for your own library.

Cons:  Since I’m not eight, this was just a bit too goofball for me.  I prefer Green’s Kitten Construction Company and Hippopotameister.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

King of the Birds (Arlo and Pips, book 1) by Elise Gravel

Published by HarperAlley

Amazon.com: Arlo & Pips: King of the Birds (9780062982223): Gravel, Elise,  Gravel, Elise: Books
CanLit for LittleCanadians: Arlo & Pips: King of the Birds

Summary:  When Pips meets Arlo, the crow immediately sets out to impress the smaller bird with his many abilities: he can count, he has a big brain, and he can do imitations.  He’s new to the city, and Pips offers to show him around.  As they explore, Arlo continues to share the amazing things he (and all crows) can do.  His love of shiny objects leads the two birds on a trip to the beach, where Arlo demonstrates his ability to outwit the seagulls they meet there.  The two birds part ways at the end, with Arlo wondering, “Who am I going to brag to now?”  Guess we’ll find out in book 2, advertised on the final page, but not yet listed on Amazon.  64 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  Marketed to fans of Narwhal and Jelly (Ben Clanton raves, “This book will fly off the shelves!” on the front cover), this new series will be popular with younger graphic novel fans.  Arlo’s bragging is funny, and there’s quite a bit of information about crows woven into the text.

Cons:  I found Arlo kind of obnoxious, and Pips a bit nondescript, neither quite matching the charm of Narwhal and Jelly.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Max Meow, Cat Crusader by John Gallagher

Published by Random House Books for Young Readers

Amazon.com: Max Meow Book 1: Cat Crusader (9780593121054): Gallagher, John:  Books

Summary:  Max is a pretty ordinary cat keeping things real on his podcast for his 12 followers.  He decides to interview his friend Mindy the scientist for his next show.  They have a good time at her lab, learning about her new inventions, until they’re interrupted by an odd robot. The reader knows this robot is working for the evil Agent M, trying to steal the giant meatball that Mindy found in outer space.  In the midst of the struggle, Max accidentally ingests part of the meatball, and discovers it gives him superpowers.  How he uses those powers becomes a source of contention between Max and Mindy, and the two stop speaking.  But Max needs Mindy’s scientific mind, and his superhero deeds begin to fall apart without her.  The two manage to reconcile in time to take down one of the villains…but the other two are still at large, and a couple exciting twists at the end promise a fun book 2.  Includes instructions for drawing the Cat Crusader.  240 pages; grades 1-5.

Pros:  The Cat Crusader will not spend much time curled up on the library shelves, as this goofy, action-packed graphic novel is sure to appeal to Dog Man’s legion of fans.

Cons:  No Flip-o-Rama.

If you would like to buy this book on Amazon, click here.

Fancy Friends (Bunbun & Bonbon) by Jess Keating and Fish Feud (Squidding Around) by Kevin Sherry

Published by Graphix (Scholastic)

Amazon.com: Fancy Friends: A Graphic Novel (Bunbun & Bonbon #1) (1)  (9781338646825): Keating, Jess, Keating, Jess: Books
Fish Feud! (Squidding Around #1) - Kindle edition by Sherry, Kevin, Sherry,  Kevin. Children Kindle eBooks @ Amazon.com.

Summary:  Two new graphic series exploring friendships.  Bunbun the bunny doesn’t have a friend until he meets Bonbon, a bonbon (candy).  The two of them discover their mutual love of fancy music, fancy food, and fancy friends and decide to throw a fancy garden party.  By the end they are celebrating the beginning of a best friendship.  In Fish Feud, Squizzard is a squid who likes to be the class clown, but his shark friend Toothy doesn’t always appreciate his jokes and bossiness.  When Squizzard takes things too far, he has to figure out a way to apologize and win back Toothy’s friendship.  64 pages and grades 1-3 (Bunbun); 96 pages and grades 2-5 (Squidding)

Pros:  Watch as these new series openers from Scholastic Graphix fly off your shelves.  They’re cute, funny, and graphic…what’s not to like? Bunbun is simpler in both language and illustrations, while Squidding is more of a real chapter book and includes bits of information about the ocean and its inhabitants.

Cons:  While fun, these aren’t quite the graphic masterpieces that some of the Graphix series are (e.g., Bone, Amulet, Baby-Sitters Club).

If you would like to buy Bunbun on Amazon, click here. For Squidding Around, click here.