Good Rosie! by Kate DiCamillo, pictures by Harry Bliss

Published by Candlewick

Image result for good rosie amazon

Image result for good rosie dicamillo

Summary:  Rosie is kind of lonely; she barks at the dog at the bottom of her shiny silver bowl, but doesn’t get a response.  She wags her tail at a cloud that’s shaped like a dog, but that’s unsatisfactory as well. Finally, her owner gets the hint, and they head to the dog park.  There, Rosie meets a not-too-bright St. Bernard named Maurice, and a very bouncy, yappy little dog named Fifi.  Rosie’s ready to call it a day and head home when Maurice decides to play with Fifi and almost swallows her whole.  Rosie intervenes and is surprised when the three of them end up as friends. In the final chapter, a trip to the dog park and games with Fifi and Maurice have become part of the routine for Rosie and her owner. 32 pages; grades K-3.

Pros:  There’s plenty of humor in both the story and illustrations of this graphic novel style picture book. I’m a big Harry Bliss fan, and he doesn’t disappoint with his adorable, expressive dogs, while Kate DiCamillo knows how to perfectly capture small details of friendship.

Cons:  I’m sorry Fifi almost got eaten, but she did seem pretty annoying.

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

Kristy’s Big Day (The Baby-Sitters Club) by Gale Galligan

Published by Graphix

Image result for kristy's big day gale amazon

Image result for kristy's big day gale

Summary:  Kristy’s mom is getting married to her boyfriend, Watson Brewer, which means Kristy is facing many changes: a new stepfather, stepsister, and stepbrother, plus a move across town to Watson’s “mansion”.  When the wedding date suddenly has to move up, leaving just a couple weeks to pull it all together, Kristy and the Baby-Sitters Club step in to provide a week of childcare to the 14 children coming to the wedding.  It’s an adventurous week, from Karen Brewer terrorizing the kids at the playground with tales of monsters from Mars to Stacey’s trip to the movie theater that results in her group being kicked out for dropping Junior Mints on someone’s head. It all comes together in the end, though; the wedding is beautiful, and Kristy finds a gift that helps bring her new family closer together.  148 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  True confession: I am an embarrassingly huge BSC fan and own almost all the Super Specials (hidden in a desk drawer).  This wouldn’t be so bad if they were my childhood favorites, but the first book came out right after I graduated from college. I don’t usually review later books in a series (this is #6 of the graphic novels), but suffice it to say I love these adaptations even more than the originals, and commend Gale Galligan for being a worthy successor to Raina Telgemeier in both art and storylines.  

Cons:  Mallory is still an extremely minor character.  And where is Jessi?!

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

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano

Published by Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Image result for illegal colfer amazon

Image result for illegal giovanni rigano

Summary:  12-year-old Ebo lives with his alcoholic Uncle Patrick in Ghana; his sister Sisi has left to try to get to Europe.  When his brother Kwame also runs away, Ebo decides to try to find him and start a new life in a more prosperous country.  The brothers eventually reunite and make their way across the Sahara Desert to Tripoli, Libya. From there, they work and save money to take a boat across the Mediterranean Sea.  The story is told in chapters alternating between that boat journey and flashbacks relating the events leading up to it. There is extreme hardship, illness, and death every step of the way with a particularly heartbreaking tragedy at the end.  Ebo is persistent and optimistic, though, and his prospects for success in his new country seem promising. Includes a map; a creators’ note that tells more about refugees; and “Helen’s Story”, the story of a Sudanese woman’s harrowing journey to the United Kingdom. 144 pages; grades 6-8.

Pros:  This graphic novel would make an excellent companion to last year’s Refugee by Alan Gratz.  Although Ebo’s story is fictional, the events and hardships seem very real.  The artwork is beautiful, with stunning ocean and desert scenes providing sharp contrast to the difficult story line.

Cons:  While I think older elementary students would find this book engaging and learn a lot from it, be aware there is a lot of death and grief in the story.

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

The Epic Origin of Super Potato (Super Potato book 1) by Artur Laperla

Published by Graphic Universe

Image result for epic origins super potato amazon

Image result for epic origins super potato

Summary:  When Super Max is called on to stop Doctor Malevolent from stealing a priceless statue from the museum, it seems like business as usual for this slightly narcissistic superhero.  But the evil Malevolent has a new weapon, and before Max can say “Tater Tots”, he has been transformed into a potato with the villain’s ray gun. Fortunately, his superpowers remain intact, so he becomes a flying, extra-strong potato.  Much of the story is about his attempts to turn back into a human (or at least get some decent hair), but in the end, his quest is futile, and it appears that he will be fighting crime as a potato in future installments. 54 pages; grades 1-4.

Pros:  Captain Underpants and Dog Man may have to make some space for this new superhero who will appeal (wildly) to their fan base.

Cons:  Max’s/Super Potato’s hair (and his obsession with it) reminded me a bit of a shocking head of orange hair that is frequently in the news.

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

Making Friends by Kristen Gudsnuk

Published by Scholastic Graphix

Image result for making friends gudsnuk

Summary:  Dani is struggling to make friends in seventh grade after she and her two best friends are put in different classes.  When she finds her deceased great aunt’s sketchbook (at a truly dysfunctional family gathering), she soon realizes that it’s magic.  When she draws dreamy Prince Neptune’s head (from her favorite comic series), not only does it come to life, but it starts calling her Princess Dani and declaring its love for her.  Dani’s next creation is a new best friend named Madison; this situation soon becomes awkward as Madison starts to wonder why her parents have left her in a new town and never call. As Dani tries to figure out how to use her new powers, she begins to make some non-magical friends as well.  When Prince Neptune turns out to have an evil plan in mind, Dani’s new friends rally to her side to defeat him. Turns out they all have a bit of magic in them, and there’s a hint of a sequel for these newly minted 7th grade superheroes. 272 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  Fans of Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, Jennifer Holm and the rest of the “girl” graphic novel crew will enjoy this new entry.  The middle school angst and friendship drama are real, and this one has a bit of the supernatural added.

Cons:  The battle against Prince Neptune bordered on the absurd.

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

Giants, Trolls, Witches, Beasts: Ten Tales from the Deep, Dark Woods by Craig Phillips

Published by Allen and Unwin

Image result for giants trolls witches beasts amazon

Image result for giants trolls witches beasts amazon

Summary:  Each of the ten folktales tells the story of an underdog, often a child or teen, who defeats some sort of a monster…witches, nixies, giants, and other monsters.  The introduction describes how folktales were passed down through telling, eventually being published in books which often had few or no illustrations.  The graphic novel format of this book allows readers to see all the action, characters, and settings that are often from different cultures.  The table of contents tells which country each story is from.  192 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  An excellent addition to folktale collections.  Kids will love the graphic novel format; the stories are quick reads (15-25 pages with lots of pictures) with beautiful artwork and plenty of action.

Cons:  It would have been nice to have more cultural diversity.  With the exception of “Momotaro” from Japan and “The King of the Polar Bears” from America, all the stories are European.

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

Mr. Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke

Published by Graphix

Image result for mr. wolf's class amazon

Image result for mr. wolf's class

Summary:  New teacher Mr. Wolf has his hands full with 17 lively elementary students…or at least there are 17 until Penny, sleep-deprived from her baby brother’s crying, falls asleep in a box in the library.  A missing student is only one challenge Mr. Wolf has on his first day of school; he also deals with lunch-eating rats, kids cutting the line, and a boy who spends math time surveying his classmates on whether they prefer ice cream or farts and charting the results on a Venn diagram.  Mr. Wolf rises to all occasions, though, and the kids are pretty happy as they head home at the end of the day. Stewart and new girl Margot bond on the bus ride home; Margot comes to the rescue when Stewart leaves his shell collection on the bus, and a new friendship is made.  Book #2 (Mystery Club) is due out in February.  160 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Aron Nels Steinke has clearly spent some time in an elementary school, and I laughed out loud at some of the scenes that will be recognized by most teachers and students. I loved this graphic novel from start to finish, and recommend it as first-day-of-school reading for anyone who will be going back to school in September.

Cons:  The evil Mr. Mane, a lion teacher who steals Mr. Wolf’s stapler, but then pretends not to have done so with false friendliness.

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