New Kid by Jerry Craft

Published by HarperCollins

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Image result for new kid jerry craft

Summary:  Jordan Banks’ true love is art, and he’d love to be starting seventh grade at an art school, but his parents have a different idea.  They’ve enrolled him in Riverdale Academy Day School, an exclusive, mostly white private school where Jordan is one of the few students of color.  The story follows him from his first day to his last, as he tries to strike a balance between his new friends at Riverdale and old friends from his Washington Heights neighborhood.  Jordan is a smart and observant kid, and the story reflects his observations about the assumptions made about him and other African American and Latinx kids. He also has some of his own beliefs challenged about some of his white classmates.  By the end of the year, he’s feeling more comfortable at school, has kept his connections back home, and is ready for another year at Riverdale, the story of which we can hope will be told in a sequel. 256 pages; grades 4-8.

Pros:  Jerry Craft tackles racism head-on, but with a light enough touch to make an entertaining and engaging story with a likable protagonist. I feel confident in predicting that this will fly off whatever library shelves it is placed on.  Put it in the hands of fans of realistic graphic novel authors like Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, and Jennifer Holm.

Cons:  There were a lot of characters to keep track of, which somehow is always more difficult for me in a graphic novel.  

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

 

A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending) by India Desjardins, illustrated by Marianne Ferrer, translated by Solange Ouellet

Published by Lincoln Children’s Books

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Image result for a story about cancer with a happy ending ferrer

Summary:  A 15-year-old girl and her parents are walking through a hospital on their way to a doctor’s visit to learn if she is cancer-free or not.  As they go, she remembers everything that has happened in the five years since she was diagnosed with leukemia. Her friend and hospital roommate Maxine died.  She has met and fallen in love with a boy named Victor. She talks about her relationships with family members–how frustrated she has gotten when her mother calls her strong when she feels weak, and how she feels bad that she has gotten more attention than her younger sister.  Finally, they get to the doctor’s office. The reader doesn’t hear what the doctor says, only the family members’ reactions–the girl and her mother cry, while her father pats her on the shoulder, unable to express his emotions. It’s only when she gets outside and sees Victor waiting that she tells him and the rest of us the good news: “I’m cured!”  Includes an author’s note about the girl who inspired this story. 96 pages; grades 6-9.

Pros:  This illustrated/graphic book is a quick but powerful read.  Despite the spoiler title, you’ll still feel the anxiety of the family as they await the doctor.  Cancer patients and their friends and families will benefit from hearing the perspective of a girl who has been through treatment and encouraged by her happy ending.

Cons:  I wasn’t a big fan of the somewhat surreal illustration style.

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

Max and the Midknights by Lincoln Peirce

Published by Crown Books for Young Readers

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Image result for max and the midknights peirce

Summary:  Max serves as Uncle Budrick’s apprentice, learning to be a troubadour, but really wants to be a knight instead. When the two arrive at the city of Byjovia, Uncle Budrick tells of his idyllic childhood there, under the rule of kindly King Conrad.  But when the two arrive, they discover that Conrad is missing, presumed dead, and that his evil brother Gastley has taken over. Most of the townspeople are under a spell that makes them nasty, but kids are immune.  Max and Uncle Budrick meet up with Kevyn, Simon, and Millie; Max reveals that she’s really a girl, and the five of them begin their adventures as the Midknights. They meet up with a wizard, zombies, dragons, and an evil sorceress who’s the real brains behind Gastley.  Eventually, they discover and rescue Conrad, and help him defeat his brother to take his rightful place on the throne once again. Having witnessed Max’s courage and fighting skills as well as Millie’s magic, Conrad decrees that boys AND girls are free to become whatever they want.  Kevyn aspires to be a writer; Millie will train as a magician; and Simon and Max head off to knight school, as all involved prepare for a happily-ever-after ending. 288 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  This combination chapter book/graphic novel by the author of the popular Big Nate series is sure to be a huge hit across a wide spectrum of elementary readers.  

Cons:  Everything wraps up neatly at the end, and there’s no mention of a sequel in the book or on Amazon.

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

Click by Kayla Miller

Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

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Summary:  Even though Olive has plenty of friends, she doesn’t have a best friend, and when the fifth grade variety show comes around, she finds herself without a group to perform with.  She’s pretty bummed, so her cool Aunt Molly invites her for a sleepover, then rounds up a bunch of DVD’s of old 1960’s variety shows to inspire her. Olive is captivated by the show’s host, and decides that’s the role she wants for the school program.  It’s a perfect fit–she’s something of a ham, and she knows kids from all different groups. When a few of her friends finally invite her to join their group, she’s torn, but decides to stay true to what she really wants. The final page shows her the night of the show, standing in front of the microphone, with the spotlight shining on her, ready to go.  The last page invites readers to look for Olive’s next adventures at camp, which looks like it will be coming out in April. 192 pages; grades 2-5.

Pros:  Fans of Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, and Shannon Hale will enjoy the addition of another realistic graphic novel with a girl main character.  Olive seems like a kid everyone likes, yet even she struggles with friend problems. This would make a good intro to the genre, as it’s a little shorter and simpler than some of the others.

Cons:  There’s not the rich character and plot development of the authors mentioned above.  Fifth and sixth graders may find this a little too short and simple for their taste.

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

Five favorite graphic novels

Graphic novels continue to be wildly popular at all levels.  Here are five of my favorites–something for everyone, starting in elementary school and going through high school.

Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt With Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Published by Graphix

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Already a National Book Award Finalist, there may be another sticker or two on the cover by the end of January.  Jarret Krosoczka doesn’t spare too many details about his difficult childhood; how he overcame those difficulties to become the beloved author of the Lunch Lady books and others makes compelling reading for teens and adults.

 

All Summer Long by Hope Larson

Published by Farrar Straus and Giroux

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Bina’s struggles over the summer between seventh and eighth grade make fun and inspiriring reading for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Jennifer Holm, and Victoria Jamieson.

 

Mr. Wolf’s Class by Aron Nels Steinke

Published by Graphix

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A Google search of Aron Nels Steinke reveals that he is a second and third grade teacher by day and graphic artist by night.  Ha!  I should have guessed by how firmly he has his finger on the pulse of both elementary school students and teachers.  Looking forward to the February 2019 sequel about Mr. Wolf’s class.

 

New Shoes by Sara Varon

Published by First Second

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Francis the Donkey was one of my favorite characters this year, a master craftsman who had to leave his well-established routine to go off in search of a lost friend.  The story is targeted toward younger elementary readers, but Sara Varon treats them with respect and isn’t afraid to use a big vocabulary.

 

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Published by First Second

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Fashion, fairy tales, and feminism come together in this “be yourself” story of Frances, a dressmaker who gets hired to design clothes for Prince Sebastian and his alter ego Lady Crystallia.

Sheets by Brenna Thummler

Published by Lion Forge

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Summary:  Marjorie Glatt is only 13 years old, but since her mother died, her father has been overwhelmed by grief, and Marj is trying to keep the family laundromat running.  The building is in a prime location, and the evil Mr. Saubertuck wants to buy it and turn it into a luxury spa.  Meanwhile, a ghost named Wendell wanders off from the ghost world and ends up in the laundromat, where he unknowingly gets into mischief and causes problems for Marj.  When the two finally meet, Wendell is contrite and wants to help her.  It turns out the ghost world has something that Marjorie needs, and when she and Wendell combine efforts, they turn into an unstoppable force for defeating Saubertuck.  There are a lot of emotional ups and downs for both girl and ghost, but fortunately, there’s a happy ending for all the deserving parties.  240 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Graphic novel fans will enjoy this story that combines the middle school angst of Raina Telgemeier with the supernatural elements of the Amulet series.  The muted pastels of Marj’s story contrast interestingly with the dark, blue-toned hues of the ghosts’ world.

Cons:  Marj’s life seems unrealistically wretched for a 13-year-old.

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

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Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt With Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka

Published by Graphix

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Image result for hey kiddo krosoczka

Summary:  Jarrett Krosoczka spent his first few years with his mother until his grandparents intervened and got custody of him.  It was not until he was a teenager that he learned that she had been a heroin addict from the age of 13.  Jarrett grew up with Joe and Shirley, his mother’s parents.  Despite their drinking, smoking, and occasional unkind words, they loved him deeply and did their best to provide him with a good home and to support his artistic ambitions. This memoir also includes Jarrett’s memories of friends, school, and the first time he met his father and half brother and sister during his senior year in high school.  Determined not to let his past curtail his future, he graduated from the Rhode Island School of Design and has gone on to create many beloved children’s books, perhaps most famously the Lunch Lady series.  Includes an author’s note with more information about his life, the people in the book, and how he came to create this memoir. 320 pages; grades 8 and up.

Pros:  A National Book Award finalist, this graphic memoir is hard to put down (I read it in one sitting).  My already high esteem for Jarrett Krosoczka (whom I once arranged to have visit my school) grew to worshipful admiration as I learned of all the obstacles he has overcome to achieve his success.  The artwork is particularly effective, with the beginning of each chapter including actual documents, many of them letters his mother wrote to him from jail and halfway houses.

Cons:  I was hoping to get this for my middle school library, but the language and subject matter make it more of a high school/adult book.

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