Category: book review

Graphic Novel Review: This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews

This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews. First Second, 2019. 9781626720534. 330pp. On the night of the Equinox Festival, Ben and four friends make a pact to follow the lanterns down the river. Do they really become stars? They promise to ride their bikes for as long as it takes to find out. But then Nathaniel starts following them (his dad and Ben’s dad are best friends). One by one, Ben’s friends drop out and head for home until only he and Nathaniel are left. (Nathaniel is a bit of an outsider, and Ben’s friends are promise-breaking jerks, so this is clearly for the best.) They meet a bear on his way to catch fish, who thinks the lanterns are fish, and who wishes he could join them as they swim among the stars. They separate at a towering cliff the boys cannot climb. The boys do figure out a way forward, and of course they meet the bear again, […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Sunny Rolls the Dice

Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm. Scholastic Graphix, 2019. 9781338233155. 224pp. This is the third of the semi-autobiographical Sunny graphic novels from the siblings Holm, and it’s by far my favorite. 1977, Pennsylvania. Sunny is becoming obsessed with teen culture, in particular with magazines that rate her on the groovy meter and from which, after taking a quiz, she knows she is “not groovy.” She also loves comics and Dungeons & Dragons, which she starts playing with friends. (Her human fighter’s name is Aleta the Brave.) At some point her desire to be groovy leads her to stop playing D&D which makes her unhappy (at least until she figures out that that was a bad move). I think older grade school aged kids will love this book, but since I grew up in the 70s, this is pure nostalgia for me: bugbears, gelatinous cubes, off-brand action figures, roller skating, and pining for my very own […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Queen of the Sea

Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis. Walker Books (Candlewick), 2019. 9781536204988. 394pp. Young Margaret lives on a small island in the Silver Sea, in a convent that belongs to the Elysian Order. She’s not sure where she was born, why she came to the island, or who her parents are, but she’s reassured by the nuns that she was sent there to be safe. Envious of kids who have parents, she bonds with the only “children” on the island: the wooden statue of the Sorrowful Child, and Eleanor, who is in a painting with her father, King Edmund. Margaret’s prayers are answered when the supply ship brings William and his overprotective mother, Lady Cameron. They’ve been exiled to the island after William’s father rebelled against the king. Margaret and William become close, and, years later, when he finally decides to leave the island, he’s the one that gets her to see that everyone there, including her, is a prisoner […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Savage Sword of Conan: The Cult of Koga Thun (Black & White Edition)

Savage Sword of Conan: The Cult of Koga Thun (Black & White Edition) by Gerry Dugan (writer), Ron Garney (artist), Travis Lanham (letterer), Alex Ross (cover artist). Marvel, 2019. 9781302919993. 128pp. Reprints Savage Sword of Conan #1- 5. Publisher’s Rating: Parental Advisory. This isn’t one of those high priced hardcovers where you can see the raw art with all of the blue line sketches underneath. This a book that was carefully produced, with all of the inked blacks that were in the comics, with some of the lines and shading turned to shades of grey for effect. It’s glorious, as you can see from the cover. I don’t know why you’d want to read Conan any other way, but there’s a regular (color) edition available too. It’s worth noting the writing is good, as so much of what’s been produced over the years by Conan licensees has been average. The story opens with Conan clinging to wreckage in the open […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Chlorine Gardens

Chlorine Gardens by Keiler Roberts. Koyama 2018. 9781927668580. 128pp. An autobiographical graphic novel about parenting, marriage, creativity, and aging, or at least those were the parts that spoke to me. I’m hard pressed to describe how much I loved this book or to explain how funny the deadpan moments were, right up through the end of the thank you’s at the end of the book (don’t skip ahead). Roberts made me both laugh and cry when she was sitting with her family, waiting for her grandpa to die. My favorite parts: Roberts talking shit about her current dog (she liked her previous dog better), the pages that are a meditation on different folks’ favorite things, her parents, and the moment when she tries to explain what I assume is the Korean dessert 팥빙수 to a friend.

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Picture Book Reviews

(click on any of the images to see a larger version) My Footprints written by Bao Phi, illustrated by Basia Tran. Capstone, 2019. 9781684460007. 32pp. After being made fun of at school, Thuy walks through a snowy landscape making the footprints of different animals. At home, her moms help her think of strong animals, including the phoenix and the Sarabha, because Thuy wishes she were strong and scary. The letter from the publisher that came with my review copy says the illustrations were done in graphite and digital color. They look hand drawn, and are so appealing that I had to pick this one up. My Tiny Pet by Jessie Hartland. Nancy Paulsen Books, 2019. 9781524737535. A family with an enormous number of pets downsizes to a tiny house in the woods. When the girl wants a tiny pet, her parents say no at first. But when she learns something in science, about a tiny animal smaller than an ant […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Mech Cadet Yu

Mech Cadet Yu Volume One written by Greg Pak, illustrated by Takeshi Miyazawa, colored by Triona Farrell. BOOM! Studios, 2018. 9781684151950. Contains #1-#4 of the series. Every four years a group of giant robots arrives at the Sky Corps Academy from outer space in order to bond with new cadets. No one knows where they come from, but they defend humanity and have helped defeat alien monsters known as the Sharg. Stanford and his mother work as janitors at the academy, though Stanford dreams of becoming a cadet and bonding with one of the robots. His mother thinks it’s a bad idea, and Cadet Park mocks him. When the giant robots arrive, though, Cadet Park doesn’t get one. Instead one seeks out and bonds with Stanford. Cue trouble with the academy, though help arrives quickly and Stanford is brought on as a Cadet. When the Sharg start attacking, it’s clear why Stanford was the right choice. This is a very […]

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Graphic Novel Review: The Dead Hand Volume 1: Cold War Relics

The Dead Hand Volume 1: Cold War Relics by Kyle Higgins (writer), Stephen Mooney (artist), Jordie Bellaire (colorist). 9781534308398. 162pp. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature. Collects #1 – #6. This was booktalked to me by the good folks at Austin Books & Comics, officially my new favorite comic store, when I was poking around their indy comics rack. The pitch I was given went something like this: At the end of the cold war, a black ops American agent, Carter Carlson, enters Chelyabinsk-70 to track down a new piece of tech that could give the Soviet Union a new lease on life. Instead of a research center filled with top minds, he finds a few terrified, hungry scientists building vacuum cleaners. Flash forward to now. Carter is the sheriff in a small, all-American town with a huge, weird secret that has a lot to do with that mission. There’s a huge reveal at the end of the first issue, and […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Hicotea: A Nightlight’s Story

Hicotea: A Nightlight’s Story by Lorena Alvarez. Nobrow, 2019. 9781910620342. 64pp. The girls in Sister Epifania’s biology class are heading for a nearby wetland. Curious, animal-loving Sandy and her partner Tata have a disagreement over a snail, so Sandy heads off on her own. In the swamp she meets Hicotea, a turtle with a shell that’s more like a museum, full of beautiful art and artifacts, though his exhibit about the wetland is blank. Sandy volunteers to help, but when she goes through the door, instead of a wetland she finds a wasteland. Luckily she meets a friend who shows her his refuge, and tells her the wetland’s story. There’s more, of course, but this is short and mythical and telling more would ruin it. The drawings, and particularly the colors, are absolutely dazzling. Anyone who flips through this book will have to read it, and there are positive messages about kindness, the environment, and the power of imagination. This […]

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Graphic Novel Review: I Was Their American Dream

I Was Their American Dream: A Graphic Memoir by Malaka Gharib. Clarkson Potter, 2019. 9780525575115. – Malaka’s parents immigrated to the US in the early 1980s, her father from Egypt, her mother from the Philippines. They met working at a hotel and married soon after, but their marriage didn’t last. Malaka lived with her mother and saw her father on weekends (and then less frequently after he moved back to Cairo). Both her parents soon started new families yet they’re kind and loving and driven to do their best for Malaka. She had to navigate both her parents’ cultures, plus figure out who she was at school and at work, plus who would accept her with and how to present herself. At times it seems like it must have been tough, though the tone of her memoir is overwhelmingly positive. The drawings are great, too. – This feels like the perfect book to read before or after watching Jo Koy’s […]

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