Graphic Novels for Little Kids!

Otis & Peanut by Naseem Hrab (words) and Kelly Collier (drawings). Owlkids, 2023. 9781771474962. 89pp including a recipe for a perfect baked potato at the end.

Rabbits Otis and Peanut have three short adventures that involve getting a haircut, buying a hat, swinging to cheer up, missing friends, and making a house feel like a home. At the heart of everything they do is their friendship and support for each other. This is a quick read that made me smile.



We Have A Playdate by Frank W. Dormer. Amulet, 2021. 9781419752735. 96pp.

Short stories featuring friends Tuna, Margo, and Noodle, plus their new friend Ralph, a bear who is afraid to go down a slide. There’s a rampaging robot, the problem of how to keep Noodle (a snake) from flying off a swing, the most bizarre page I’ve seen in a kid’s
graphic novel in a while featuring a sculpture/playground toy that’s shaped like a duck. So friendly, so strange.




Search for a Giant Squid (Pick Your Path) by Amy Seto Forrester & Andy Chou Musser. Chronicle Books, 2023. 9781797213934. 93pp. including a page of scientists to whom special thanks are given, a list of animals in the book, a glossary, and a bibliography of articles, books, and websites.

I’m a huge fan of great endpapers, and this book starts out by introducing 10 scientists and crew members who are part of the expedition before introducing the giant squid, cephalopods, teuthologists, and other background information. After the research vessel is packed, the adventure begins with the reader choosing a pilot and their submersible before venturing into the deep (at a location also of the reader’s choosing). It took me several tries to find the giant squid, and along the way I discovered other animals in the ocean’s depths. This book is inspiring and full of science, plus it uses a lot of elements of the comics format. Get this for your elementary school library.

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Graphic Novel Review: Meesh the Bad Demon by Michelle Lam

Meesh the Bad Demon by Michelle Lam. Alfred A. Knopf, 2023. 9780593372869.

Meesh lives with her grandmother in Mount Lava, and she loves watching the adventures of the fairy Princess Nouna on TV. At school she’s frequently picked on and unsuccessful at the demon skills she’s supposed to master, which include fire breathing, acid-puking, and lava-molding. It’s so bad she doesn’t want to be a demon at all. But when something goes wrong with the lava, and everyone turns to stone, it’s up to Meesh to find help. She heads to Plumeria City to find Princess Nouna and her magic ruby but instead finds a city full of fairies who vilify demons and react poorly to Meesh having snuck in uninvited.

Meesh and Nouna end up on an adventure together, though, one that eventually involves the bully who picks on Meesh, a very charming young wolf, and a heist of sorts. Friendships are forged! Problems are solved. New magical powers are discovered. And a sequel is set up.

The book is beautiful, and elementary students in particular will love it.

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Graphic Novel Review: Robin & Batman by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen

Robin & Batman by Jeff Lemire and Dustin Nguyen. DC, 2022. 9781779516596. Contains #1-3.

If you haven’t read Lemire and Nguyen’s multi-volume graphic novel collaboration Descender and its sequel Ascender, go read them now. Lemire’s writing is exceptional and Nguyen’s illustrations are inspiring. And the pair bring the full force of their talents and experience working together to this short graphic novel which you should absolutely check out.

It takes place just after Bruce Wayne adopted Dick Grayson, and he’s training Grayson to become his crime-fighting sidekick. In the opening pages, Grayson doesn’t have a superhero name or a costume yet, or the skills to go on missions with Batman. He’s reckless. He’s not listening to his mentor. And then he goes off to fight crime on his own in his crazy, bright costume. The story makes it clear how impossible it would be for a teenager raised by Batman, from whom it’s impossible to keep secrets, and how brutal (both emotionally and physically) the lessons he tries to impart are.

There’s a plot throughout involving Killer Croc and Robin’s family, and the whole book has a great emotional arc. This is one of the best mainstream superhero graphic novels of the last few years.

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Graphic Novel Review: Festival of Shadows: A Japanese Ghost Story by Atelier Sento

Festival of Shadows: A Japanese Ghost Story by Atelier Sento. Tuttle, 2023. 9784805317242. 160pp.

Naoko and her friend Katsu are the youngest people (by a lot) at the gatherings of those living with shadows. Each person shares information they’ve learned about the spirit they’re taking responsibility for, and they try to help one another identify who the spirits were when they were alive. (They can talk to their spirit and see them clearly, but no one else can.) Naoko failed her shadow at the village’s festival recently, and she’s already got another spirit she’s trying to help — a sad, quiet young man who’s not revealing much about himself. She has a year, until the next festival, to figure out who he was in life and help him.

It’s a story set in a small town that develops very slowly. Having the shadow follow her around finally gives way to him revealing bits about his life and who he was. As he becomes more and more a part of Naoko’s life, she starts to have feelings for him.

This story is a bit more adult than Atelier Sento’s amazing Onibi, which Tuttle also published in English a few years ago. Note: Naoko is a bit older than she looks at first glance, so I recommend reading this first if you buy it for your library, to decide where to shelve it.

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Graphic Novel Review: It’s Lonely At The Center Of The Earth: An auto-bio-graphic-novel by Zoe Thorogood

It’s Lonely At The Center Of The Earth: An auto-bio-graphic-novel by Zoe Thorogood. Image, 2023. 9781534323865. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature.

First I want to say this book is absolutely beautiful to look at. It moves between illustration styles in a way that feels totally organic, and Thorogood’s storytelling talents and the range of illustration styles she employs wowed me in the same way Mike Huddelston’s did when I read Decorum. I started a review copy of this book on my iPad and absolutely had to see what it looked like on paper so I rushed out and bought a copy, and I’m not sorry I did that at all. I’m going to loan this book out to a lot of folks I know but I’m keeping it for me.

But here’s the thing, this book isn’t for everyone, though I hope each of you picks it up. Thorogood starts it by letting us know she’s been considering stabbing herself in the neck with a knife. And wondering if the book she’s writing, the book we’re reading, is just a performance that she can’t stop. But she commits to recording six months of her life in an effort to try to make sense of herself (and her depression). It includes bits of her in the past, both as a weird kid being bullied and a young artist getting praise from comics pros and then a book deal. It does not turn into a romantic comedy even when it feels like it might. It’s painful and funnier than I can explain and super sad in lots of moments. Thorogood’s depiction of the No-Face-ish creature that is always behind her, which no one else can see, is particularly freaky.

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Graphic Novel Review: The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country Volume 1 by James Tynion IV with various artists

The Sandman Universe: Nightmare Country Volume 1 by James Tynion IV with artists Lisandro Estherren, Maria Llovet, Yanick Paquette, Andrea Sorrentino, Francesco Francavilla, Dani, and Aaron Campbell. DC Black Label, 2023. 9781779518415. Collects #1 – 6.

There’s a note at the bottom of the title page to remind readers that The Sandman was created by Neil Gaiman, Sam Kieth, and Mike Dringenberg, and to note that The Sandman Universe is curated by Gaiman. I’m not sure what that means but Tynion and all of the artists involved knocked this one out of the park. (Estherren draws most of it, with pages by the other artists used to great effect). It’s spooky, horrific stuff focused on the Corinthian (the newer incarnation of the nightmare), whom you’ve probably read about in previous Sandman graphic novels or seen in the first season of the show on Netflix. (He’s the murderous character with mouths for eyes, which he usually hides behind sunglasses. If you don’t know who I mean stop now and go read the original Sandman series in its entirety. I recommend the older collections that haven’t been recolored. But I digress.)

The Corinthian was created (and then uncreated and recreated) by Dream of the Endless to torment humanity. And now he’s collecting memories that he has for some reason, which he knows aren’t his own. He seeks out Madison Flynn, an artist and college student, who paints a figure she sees, another creature that also has mouths for eyes. The Corinthian even does a bit of research in the Dreaming, in a library there which has all the books everyone has never written. (There’s even a room of unwritten books about the Corinthian himself that he enjoys.)

I mean, if you’re a library person, I hope that’s enough right there, the promise of a visit to that particular library and a living nightmare doing research there. At least one of the Endless makes an appearance by the end of the book, and two creepy murderers on a mission, Mr. Agony and Mr. Ecstasy, are present throughout. There’s quite a bit of violence, an insane, insanely rich dude, and one unfortunate reanimated corpse, too. And at the end, in the final bit of the book, there’s a fantastic promise about what’s to come in the next volume.

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Bookstabber Episode 38: Chess with a Dragon by David Gerrold

Gene and Willow find themselves in debt to a hostile universe full of intelligent slugs, hungry dinosaurs, and horny insects. Can they escape an intergalactic MLM scheme or will they be “retired” into oblivion?

Trigger Warning: This book contains extremely weird and potentially upsetting ideas not limited to: slavery, sexual assault, gross insect stuff, racial slurs.
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Graphic Novel Review: Cosmic Cadets: Contact by Ben Crane and Mimi Alves

Cosmic Cadets: Contact by Ben Crane and Mimi Alves. Top Shelf, 2023. 9781603095204.

Jimmil’s mom is the Captain of the Khonsu, a starship on a diplomatic mission to establish contact with alien races, and she’s training him to be a hero. But while their ship is resupplying on an uninhabited planet, Jimmil is more excited about studying the local flora with his class than in training with his mom. After he discovers evidence there may be intelligent life on the planet that everyone else has missed, he convinces a few of his friends to head back to the surface to find the aliens and impress his mother. Jimmil is not quite the pilot he believes himself to be, but at least the aliens are more friendly than they initially appear. As he and his friends try to convince his mother and the rest of the adults that that’s true, the book has a lot to say about friendship, friendliness, and good intentions.

This book has a nice indy-comics feel, and I particularly liked Priscilla Tramontano’s bright colors for the alien flora and fauna. Older elementary school and middle school students in particular will enjoy this one.

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Graphic Novel Review: Blood Stained Teeth Book One: Bite Me

Blood Stained Teeth Book One: Bite Me by Christian Ward (story, art, colors on some pages), Patrick Reynolds (art), and Heather Moore (colors). Image, 2022. 9781534323858. Contains #1 – #5.

First Born Vampires are rich and cool and can turn humans. Sips (those turned by First Born) are kind of a mess, and they attract the wrong sort of attention, so the First Born forbid their creation.

First Born Atticus Sloan has been turning people for a fee plus a portion of their future earnings. But he’s been found out by the First Council, and now he has just three weeks to track down all the Sips he’s made. He must kill them or he’ll be killed himself. There are, of course, complications. Some of the Sips are famous, and of course they all want to live forever. (This is a promising start to a new series.)

Worth noting: Moore’s colors throughout are fantastic, and it’s great to have a few pages colored by Ward himself as well.

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