Tag Archives: graphic novel

Swing It, Sunny Review

swing_it_sunnySwing It, Sunny by Jennifer L. Holm, illustrated by Matthew Holm, colors by Lark Pien

Graphix, 2017. 978-0545741729

Synopsis: Summer’s over and it’s time for Sunny Lewin to enter the strange and unfriendly hallways of . . . middle school. When her Gramps calls her from Florida to ask how she’s doing, she always tells him she’s fine. But the truth? Sunny is NOT having the best time.from Amzon.com

Why I picked it up: I absolutely loved Sunny Side Up!

Why I finished it: Sunny is still struggling to adjust to her life without her older brother Dale, who is attending a boarding school for troubled youths. He is home for holidays, but things just aren’t the same. He’s angry and dismissive of Sunny, who just wants to be able to talk with her brother the way she used to. We haven’t all been in Sunny’s shoes, but we certainly know how painful it is to adjust when a family member moves out or when people we love change in ways that don’t seem like they are for the better. I found the advice that Gramps gives Sunny about just loving her brother and being able to give him space to figure things out to be particularly poignant. We can’t predict or control the changes that happen in our lives, but we can find healthy ways to move through the changes so that we are also learning and growing into the best people we can be. Pien’s colors really bring Sunny’s world to life, giving us a sort of flash back to what it was like to grow up in the late 70s. I liked the use of the spotlight to display a sort of reflectiveness in Sunny as she first is missing her older brother and then as the book goes on, how Sunny is striving to find ways to love her brother in spite of his anger at the family. The Holm siblings give the reader a sense that we can overcome life’s challenges and be able to run faster and fly farther than we could before. It gives us a positive message that even though bad things happen, we don’t have to let the break us.

Other related materials: Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, colors by Lark Pien; Babymouse series by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm; The Fourteenth Goldfish by Jennifer L. Holm; Smile by Raina Telgemeier; Sisters by Raina Telgemeier; Drama by Raina Telgemeier; The Baby-Sitters Club books by Ann M. Martin; illustrated by Raina Telgemeier; Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson; All’s Faire in Middle School by Victoria Jamieson; Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson; El Deafo by Cece Bell; Fish in a Tree by Lynda Mullaly Hunt; Phoebe and Her Unicorn series by Dana Simpson; Space Dumplins by Craig Thompson; Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson; Big Nate books by Lincoln Peirce

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Owly, Vol. 2: Just A Little Blue Review

owly_2Owly, Vol. 2: Just A Little Blue by Andy Runton

Top Shelf Productions, 2005. 978-1891830648

Synopsis: Best friends Owly and Wormy meet a bluebird who nests with its family in a rotting tree while out gathering apples. When the pair learn that the bluebird’s home is in danger, they decide to build their neighbor a new home. Blue thinks the new house is a trap and threatens Owly and Wormy. Discouraged, the friends pack away the little house in a closet. Months later, when a fierce storm threatens the bluebird’s tree, Owly and Wormy come to their rescue.

Why I picked it up: I read the series for a reader’s advisory class in library school and this wordless comic series has become one of my absolute favorites.

Why I finished it: Owly is a kind but somewhat shy owl always looking for new friends and adventures, much like many of the readers. Even though the characters are animals, Runton humanizes them, giving the story a sort of sweetness and simplicity. The little quirks they demonstrate are really what endears them to the readers. Owly and Wormy display an optimism throughout the story that helps them continue to move forward despite Blue being mean and rejecting their house; plus, I loved that Owly serves tea when they go home to help cheer Wormy up. They show us that it is okay to be saddened by setbacks, but that we all have the power to move on to something even better. It was heartbreaking to see the pair sacrifice their beloved wheelbarrow to build the birdhouse, but it teaches us that there are both easier and hard sacrifices to be made for the sake of friendship. It demonstrates the value of being a good neighbor and caring for the ‘person’ rather than the place. Runton’s art has as much personality as his characters, using curves to create softened edges and an upbeat feeling even when things are sad. It’s a fun, fast read for persons of any age and reading level that shows us the kindness is a universal language.

Other related materials: Owly, Vol. 1: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 3: Flying Lessons by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 4: A Time to be Brave by Andy Runton; Owly, Vol. 5: Tiny Tales by Andy Runton; Owly & Wormy: Bright Lights and Starry Nights! by Andy Runton; Owly & Wormy: Friends All Aflutter! by Andy Runton; Bone comics by Jeff Smith; Little Robot by Ben Hatke; Korgi series by Christian Slade; Hildafolk books by Luke Pearson; Stinky: A Toon Book  by Eleanor Davis

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One Trick Pony Review

one_trick_ponyOne Trick Pony by Nathan Hale

Harry N. Abrams, 2017. 978-1419721281

Synopsis: In the future, Earth has been overtaken by a race of blob-like aliens that ‘eat’ anything resembling technology. Digital rescuers, like Strata’s family and their caravan, are intent upon saving and carefully archiving any surviving technology to preserve the memory of the human race. Out searching an area with her brother and a friend, Strata discovers a special robot pony that she hopes to be able to save. But when the aliens find them, it becomes a race to see who will survive.

Why I picked it up: I really enjoyed the short story about Hugh Glass in Guys Read: True Stories and I’ve been eager to pick up more of Hale’s work.

Why I finished it: What first drew me in to the story was its simplicity. Yes, there are a lot of different threads, but Hale relies on the intelligence of the reader to piece together a history rather than just giving it to us outright. There’s obviously some explanations at the climax about how the aliens came to Earth, but we’re focusing more on a battle than the war. Strata, her family, friends, and the other members of the caravan might not remember what the old Earth looked like, but they have a vested interest in preserving their way of life so that future generations can have knowledge of the past. To me, Kleidi (the titular one trick pony) represents a sense of hope that humanity can restore itself, using our own manpower to pick ourselves up. Kleidi also shows the reader that technology has the potential to both harm and help us, which we can see playing out in our modern world daily. Strata can use Kleidi to outrun the aliens, but each time they are able to hide they are found again, and the group continues to mass until the aliens capture the pair and take them to their leaders. Strata’s perseverance is a point of contention with the little group of travelers – they believe it would be safer to dismantle Kleidi so that they can escape – but her courage is what really wins the day. She has enough faith in her own abilities and trusts Kleidi to be a loyal companion; she believes that she will be able to save herself and her family with Kleidi’s help and that is what she seeks to do over the course of the story. Hale’s art is realistic yet imaginative as he paints for the reader a desecrated landscape of oddly convex buildings to juxtapose what little natural elements of the Earth are left. I appreciated the muted yellows contrasting with the greyscale, highlighting Kleidi in particular as special and unique. It’s a fast-paced, though provoking ride through a futuristic world that is sure to engage readers of all ages and levels.

Other related materials: Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales books by Nathan Hale; Guts & Glory books by Ben Thompson; Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Nathan Hale: Revolutionary Spy by Nathan Olson, illustrated by Cynthia Martin and Brent Schoonover; The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, color by Jordie Bellaire; The Stone Heart by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; Cleopatra in Space books by Mike Maihack; Compass South by Hope Larson, illustrated by Rebecca Mock

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Bad Machinery, Vol. 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor Review

Bad-Machinery-6Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison

Oni Press, 2016. 978-62010-351-7

Synopsis: With school out for summer holiday, Charlotte, Jack, and Linton are enjoying a long deserved rest from the rigors of academia and indulging in the delights of staying up late and getting up even later. But when a local celebrity ends up in the hospital after being found wandering around town (apparently out of his mind), the three young sleuths find that perhaps their holidays won’t be so lazy after all.

Why I picked it up: Because amazing-ness.

Why I finished it: This volume starts with a case already in progress, but due to “failed back-up procedures” the reader is only privy to the conclusion of the mystery. And I read through this entire volume not really giving much thought to the fact that Allison gave us only part of a mystery before delving into the main portion of the story…except that the end of the one story ends up being important for the other. But what really mystified me was that it wasn’t explained where Mildred and Sonny were spending their holiday until halfway through the volume when Mildred just sort of shows up at Lottie’s door. It was clear that there were members of the group that were out of town, but the only explanation given at the onset was where Shauna was spending her holiday. Or I missed something. Who knows. The reader gets to meet more of Linton’s family in this novel, and we learn where Linton may have gotten some of this appetite for solving mysteries and why he’s so desperate to find a mystery for he and Jack to work on during their summer break. It’s been interesting to see the group sectioned off a bit in the last couple of books so that we get some more in depth character development, which is one of the things I love about this series. Allison is growing his characters so that they are able to stand on their own and not just identify with being in a sextet. The ending gets a little bit MST3K, but even in its absurdity, it’s still 100% believable.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

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Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside

Bad-Machinery-5Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison

Oni Press, 2016.  978-62010-297-8

Synopsis: Love seems to be in the air for Mildred and Sonny. He’s fallen for a girl that seems to have literally stepped out of the ocean and she’s developed a crush on a boy she met in Saturday detention. On the other side of the equation, Linton and Jack want to do is play video games with their mate while Lottie and Shauna are offering Mildred different opinions about what to do and say to Lee. And who exactly is the wild man in a fur cloak and what does he want with Sonny’s dream girl?

Why I picked it up: I’m totally, utterly, and completely addicted to this series.

Why I finished it: I’ve noticed that the last few volumes that Allison has been branching out and featuring different members of the mystery-solving sextet, this one shining a spotlight on cousins Mildred and Sonny. What was most amusing to me was the difference in the family dynamics in the Haversham/Craven households versus that of the Wickle, Finch, and Grote homes. Mildred’s parents are activists that seem to buy into just about every sort of ‘necessary’ lifestyle change (Mildred isn’t allowed to play video games, she needs to observe a strict vegan/vegetarian diet) and sheltering their daughter from the world around her. Sonny’s parents appear to be more laiez-faire in their parenting style, allowing their son to spend an afternoon at a local swim park with his friends by themselves. And though all teens think their parents are on the weird side, it’s easy to see that their motives are driven by love. This volume is perhaps more angst-y in its portrayal of teenage love exuding a sort of Romeo and Juliet motif – it’s not tragic, per se, but both Mildred and Sonny’s relationships do seem to have some element of fate attached to them, particularly in relation to Ellen (Sonny’s mystery girl) and Lee’s sort-of ex-girlfriend Sasha. Allison also adds a mythical element to the story by playing on the legend of the Selkie, a creature most commonly found in Scottish folklore. As an American reader, the Selkie legend was somewhat foreign to me, but fortunately it’s easy to grasp (unlike trying to figure out the family trees of Greek and Roman gods – that’s a mental work out….) and Allison does a superb job of intertwining the tragedy of the Selkie legend with that of the exploration of teenage love.  Those readers who are already fans of the series will likely eat up this novel as eagerly as the previous four; it’s a quick-witted, fun, fantastical, and sometimes dark look at how we are shaped by the world around us.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

 

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Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One Review

Bad-Machinery-4Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison

Oni Press, 2015. 978-1620102121

Synopsis: A new school year brings a new classmate to Griswald’s Grammar School! But he’s a bit strange, and he really, really likes onions. When the whole school suddenly becomes best friends with him, Shauna seems to be the only one left out. It’s up to her to peel back the mystery, one onion layer at a time. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I was giddy when I found it on the shelf of my local library, since this has totally become one of my favorite comics.

Why I finished it: I don’t know if it’s really right to play favorites with these characters, but Shauna’s been my girl since volume 1 so I was excited to see her get fleshed out a little bit more and have to work something out on her own. It’s also a little strange to see a character working more or less independently on a case, but it presented itself also as an opportunity to introduce secondary characters so that the town of Tackleford fills out a little bit more as well. For example, the reader learns more about the farms on the outer limits of the town and that Tackleford apparently has some pretty swanky mansions in the midst of the other middle class neighborhoods. I was also amused to see Shauna impressing the role players with her unexpectedly nerdy prowess and the way she is able to get them to help her after most of the school has turned into onion-loving zombies. Between new teachers and new students, the reader has a lot to follow in this latest installment. It continues to show the characters trying to balance school and home life, recreation and homework with a little bit more of the slice-of-life-in-a-small-town along with a kooky science fiction element.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

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Bad Machinery Vol. 3: The Case of the Simple Soul Review

bad-machinery-3Bad Machinery, Volume 3: The Case of the Simple Soul by John Allison

Oni Press, 2014. 978-1620101933

Synopsis: The Tackleford gang is back with a new case that demands solving! When Tackleford’s derelict barns begin going up in flames, Linton and Sonny are on the case with a moderately mysterious new friend. Paths cross, however, when Lottie and Mildred meet a terrifying yet misunderstood creature living beneath a bridge! Throw in an overly enthusiastic Fire Brigade, a transforming skate ramp, and a new French teacher and you’ve got the kind of charming genius that can only be found in John Allison’s BAD MACHINERY. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: This was a splurge purchase at a book sale after trying (and failing) to remember the name of the comic.

Why I finished it: I was hard pressed to find the actual mystery in this installment of the series. The mysterious barn fires start out as a prevalent plot point, but it sort of fades into the background behind the other plotlines. Granted, the case does get solved in the end, but it doesn’t seem like our sleuths really have much interest in solving the case that they seem to have happened upon. Mildred, Charlotte, Linton, and Sonny all spend a significant amount of time trying to fill the void left in their groups by Shauna and Jack, who are now dating (and they are totally my OTP of this series). So in that aspect, Simple Soul is more about transitions than it is about finding an arsonist. Allison has found a different rhythm for his characters this time around, showcasing their struggles with the end of the year at a new school, changing friendships, new romances, and the general angst that comes from being an almost teenager. Yet, the comedic timing and the offbeat humor continue to shine through which is what makes the comic so likable. The volume also includes another edition of Charlotte’s explanations of British Idioms and a collection of hand-drawn husbands by Charlotte and Mildred. Overall, it’s a great, fun read that continues to see our characters growing up and learning more about life – which, it turns out may or may not be hazardous to your health.

Other related materials: Bad Machinery, Volume 1: The Case of the Team Spirit by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 2: The Case of the Good Boy by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 4: The Case of the Lonely One by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 5: The Case of the Fire Inside by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 6: The Case of the Unwelcome Visitor by John Allison; Bad Machinery, Volume 7: The Case of the Forked Road by John Allison; Scott Pilgrim books by Bryan Lee O’Malley; The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Faith Erin Hicks; The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky; Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong by Prudence Shen; Adventure Time comics by Ryan North, illustrated by Shelli Paroline and Braden Lamb; Adventure Time Volume 1: Playing with Fire by Danielle Corsetto; Adventure Time: Marceline & The Scream Queens by Meredith Gran; A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Lumberjanes comics by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Brooke A. Allen, and Grace Ellis

 

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