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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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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Graveyard Shakes by Laura Terry

Published by Scholastic Graphix

Summary:  Katia and Victoria are two sisters struggling to fit in at their snooty new boarding school.  Little Ghost is a playful young ghost who is scared of other ghosts.  Modie is a boy who should have died in an accident, but whose father, Nikola, has found a way of keeping him alive by taking the life of a child every thirteen years.  The characters’ lives in this graphic novel all converge in the graveyard, where Katia and Victoria find refuge from school.  Nikola has his eye on Katia for his latest victim.  Modie no longer wants to be part of his father’s evil schemes, and is ready to be allowed to die in peace.  It’s up to Victoria and Little Ghost to rescue Katia, and bring about a hauntingly happy ending.  208 pages; grades 3-7.

Pros:  Beautiful artwork conveys the darkness of a ghost story that also contains plenty of light, happy moments.  Katia, Victoria, Little Ghost, and Modie all learn the lesson of being true to yourself, and find some unusual forms of happiness and friendship in the end.  Fun Halloween reading.

Cons:  Pardon the expression, but the storyline and characters weren’t as fleshed out as they could have been.

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Dawn and the Impossible Three (The Baby-Sitters Club) by Gale Galligan

Published by Graphix

Summary:  Dawn, the newest member of the Baby-Sitters Club, has her hands full with a new job, friendship issues, and family changes.  She takes a job babysitting the Barrett kids, and gets more than she bargained for when their frazzled single mom gives her increasingly inappropriate responsibilities.  Everything comes to a head when Buddy Barrett goes missing, and Dawn must confront Mrs. Barrett about her irresponsible behavior.  Meanwhile, Dawn’s mom and Mary Anne’s dad are getting more serious about their relationship, making the two girls excited at the prospect of becoming sisters, but leaving Kristy feeling left out of the loop.  There’s also a subplot about Mallory Pike, a junior babysitter just starting out with the club, and the older girls’ doubts about whether or not she’s fit for the job.  All is resolved, and the final photo shows the six girls, smiling for the camera with their arms around each other. 160 pages; grades 3-6.

Pros:  Fans of the first four graphic novels by Raina Telgemeier will not be disappointed by newcomer Gale Galligan’s interpretation of book #5 from the original Ann M. Martin BSC series.  The artwork is similar, but not identical, which takes a little getting used to, but the story has plenty of heart, friendship, and babysitting action.  I always wondered why Scholastic didn’t continue with what must have been a cash cow after book #4 was published a few years back.  I’m happy to have at least one more, and hope they’ll continue.

Cons:  In the Ann M. Martin series, the Mallory events were given their own separate book, which I think would have been a better choice for this series as well.

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All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson

Published by Dial Books

Summary:  Imogene has grown up at the Renaissance Faire, where her parents both work, and been homeschooled all her life.  When she decides to go to public middle school, she’s not quite prepared for a new world of tough teachers, cafeteria food, and figuring out the social hierarchy and where she fits into it.  Each chapter begins with a page that looks like an illuminated manuscript, and chapters switch back and forth between Imogene’s life at school and at home.  The two worlds collide occasionally, once when she realizes that a girl she’s seen bullied is a big Renaissance Faire fan and a potential friend, and again when a group of girls who may or may not be her friends show up for a birthday party.  After a tough week in which Imogene herself is accused of bullying and she throws her little brother’s beloved stuffed squirrel into the lake, she’s ready to move from her role at the Faire from squire to hermit.  But her loving, if unconventional, family and Renaissance community help her come through it all stronger than ever.  248 pages; grades 4-7.

Pros:  Victoria Jamieson’s follow-up to her Newbery-honored Roller Girl does not disappoint in any way.  Imogene is a likeable and believable protagonist, and readers will enjoy learning about the world of the Renaissance Faire the way they did roller derby.  The middle school scenes ring true, and the be-yourself message is inspiring.

Cons:  A couple mentions of sex and a language incident or two may raise a few elementary parent eyebrows.

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.