Pigs Might Fly by Nick Abadzis and Jerel Dye

Published by First Second

Summary:  Young pig Lily Leanchops is frustrated that her father won’t take her work seriously.  She’s secretly built a working airplane, an accomplishment her father has been unsuccessfully attempting for some time.  After a few aerial encounters with the pigs’ enemy, the warthogs, she ends up as a prisoner in their kingdom.  He father’s old apprentice, Ham Trotters, is revealed to be their leader, and the second half of the book takes Lily deeper and deeper into the warthogs’ world, in which ancient magic exists side by side with modern science.  Lily and her cohorts are able to defeat Ham and unite their two countries peacefully, but a surprise on the final page indicates the evil has not been completely eradicated and a sequel may be necessary.  201 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  Fans of the Bone and Amulet series will undoubtedly enjoy this new graphic novel featuring a rich imaginary world inhabited by a variety of swine in a 1920’s-era setting.  There is plenty of adventure and a strong cast of both female and male characters to appeal to a wide audience.

Cons:  I found myself skipping rapidly through some of the battle scene pages.

The Great Art Caper by Victoria Jamieson

Published by Henry Holt

Summary:  GW the hamster and his class pet friends Sunflower and Barry are back for another adventure, this time in the art room. GW wants to make a special gift for his friend Carina, one of the girls in the classroom where he lives.  The three pets sneak into the art room one night in search of inspiration.  They find some, but before their projects are complete, they are attacked by Harriet and her minions.  These evil mice have hatched a plot to sabotage the school art show, and they won’t let three pesky rodents get in their way.  When GW finds out that Carina is one of the winning artists, nothing will stop him from taking down the mice and saving the day. There’s a happy ending in store for all, and a hint of another adventure ahead.  64 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  I don’t usually review sequels, but I so loved The Great Pet Escape that I wanted to see what the furry friends were up to next.  No disappointments, the humor is just as sharp as in the first book, and the pets are as irrepressible as ever.

Cons:  Sunflower, who was hilarious in the first book, had a much smaller role here.

Lights, Camera, Middle School (Babymouse: Tales from the Locker) by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm

Published by Random House

Summary:  Our little girl is growing up:  Babymouse has started middle school, and she finds some of the universal difficulties: bad cafeteria food, mean girls, and difficulties managing her curly whiskers.  Things start to look up, though, when she joins the Film Club and is chosen to direct the club’s first movie.  Backed by a remarkably supportive group of friends, Babymouse dives into the process with her usual enthusiasm, extracting herself from one embarrassing situation after another.  The final screening is an unexpected hit with the middle school crowd, but when Babymouse is introduced as the director, she trips over her new dress and falls on her face as she tries to get onstage.  Typical.  Much of this new series is a regular chapter book, but there are plenty of illustrations, as well as occasional comics.  208 pages; grades 2-6.

Pros:  Babymouse fans will cheer at the advent of a new series, and the format will allow readers to move up a notch from the graphic novels.

Cons:  Librarians will have a tough time deciding whether to shelve this with graphic novels or regular fiction.

Wordplay by Ivan Brunetti

Published by TOON Books

Summary:  What’s a compound word?  When a class of kids gets assigned the task of making a list of compound words for homework (hey, there’s one), imaginations start going wild.  Annemarie (whose name is a compound word!) pictures a couple of houses doing construction work when she hears the word “homework”.  “Mailman” conjures up a picture of a letter delivering the mail, and “football” is accompanied by an image of a boy tossing a foot.  The fun continues when Annemarie goes home and asks her parents for more suggestions.  Finally, it’s bedtime (!), but the next morning she’s still going strong, and can barely tear herself away from the list to turn it in to her teacher.  Then, it’s time for one more compound word…goodbye!  40 pages; ages 4-8.

Pros:  An appealing cartoon introduction to compound words that will have kids creating lists of their own.  The compound words are half red and half black to make them easy to identify.

Cons:  I was hoping there were more language arts books by TOON, but this seems to be the only one.

Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid by Metaphrog

Published by Papercutz

Summary:  The littlest mermaid longs to see the world above her ocean home, but she must wait until she’s 15.  One by one her older sisters get to go explore, returning with stories of gorgeous sunsets and great floating icebergs.  Finally, her big day arrives.  Reaching the surface, she sees a ship and watches a handsome prince dance with a succession of beautiful women.  A sudden storm sinks the ship, and the little mermaid rescues the prince, the slips away before he regains consciousness.  More than anything, she wants to be human and to marry him.  She makes a deal with a sea witch, trading in her tail for legs, even though she is in great pain with every step.  In return, she gives up her voice.  She gets her wish to meet the prince, and they become great friends.  But, alas,  he eventually falls in love with another woman, leading to the typical Hans Christian Andersen downer of an ending.  80 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  A lyrical, haunting retelling in graphic novel form of one of Andersen’s most famous tales.

Cons:  Disney fans may be dismayed by the ending.

The Amazing Crafty Cat by Charise Mericle Harper

Published by First Second

Summary:  Birdie is an imaginative girl with the alter ego of Crafty Cat, a confident cat who is an amazing crafter and uses her crafts for good.  When Birdie drops her panda cupcakes on the way to school, they are ruined and she has nothing to offer for her classroom birthday celebration.  A call home for more treats is unsuccessful, and Birdie must use her own creativity to find a solution.  Crafty Cat saves the day, with a Panda Pals craft that the whole class loves.  Anya, the mean girl, gets her comeuppance, and Birdie declares it “a great birthday”.  A 10-page section at the end includes directions for four panda crafts and panda cupcakes.  128 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  Lots of fun for early graphic novel fans.  Birdie is a strong, resourceful, and funny protagonist, and the extensive crafting directions are an added bonus.

Cons:  The color palette is a little blah.

  Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson


Published by Balzer + Bray

Summary:  Middle school is always difficult for quiet, shy Emmie, who only speaks to her best friend Brianna, walks through the halls with her head down, and hides by drawing whenever she can.  But one day stands out as particularly horrible.  At lunch, she and Brianna amuse themselves by writing over-the-top love notes to their crushes.  Emmie accidentally drops hers, and it’s discovered by insufferable class clown Joe.  He proceeds to tease and torture her for the rest of the afternoon, until Emmie feels like she has been reduced to a puddle of slime.  Interspersed with her story is a comic tale of Katie, a classmate who is pretty, popular, smart, and confident.  The two girls connect in a surprising way late in the day, and Emmie has a good last class that bodes well for the rest of her seventh grade year.  192 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  This graphic novel-chapter book hybrid will appeal to fans of Wimpy Kid type books as well as graphic novels Raina Telgemeier, Jennifer Holm, and Victoria Jamieson.

Cons:  There were a few references (like Emmie referring to herself as an “oops baby”) that might raise an eyebrow for parents and/or teachers of younger readers.