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Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood Review

NHHT_4Treaties, Trenches, Mud, and Blood (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #4) by Nathan Hale

Amulet Books, 2014. 978-1-4197-0808-4

Synopsis: World War I set the tone for the 20th century and introduced a new type of warfare: global, mechanical, and brutal. Nathan Hale has gathered some of the most fascinating true-life tales from the war and given them his inimitable Hazardous Tales twist. Easy to understand, funny, informative, and lively, this series is the best way to be introduced to some of the most well-known battles (and little-known secrets) of the infamous war. – from Amazon.com

Why I picked it up: I’m enjoying how engaging this series is!

Why I finished it: The events leading up to, during, and after the first world war are (for the most part) common knowledge, so really there isn’t anything I can spoil for the potential reader. Called ‘The War to End All Wars’ and ‘The Great War’, World War I (WWI) ravaged Europe and was responsible for the deaths of over 9 million people – both solider and civilian – which was the only great thing about the war and really that part isn’t so awesome. It was the first modern war of the 20th century, combining old tactics with new weapons and vice versa, some of which were improved upon and re-used once the second World War started in the late 1930s/early 1940s. I won’t bore you with an extended history lesson in this review because you’ll get that when you read the book. I will say that I thought it was clever of Hale (per the Hangman’s suggestion) to have each of the world countries participating in the war be represented by an animal. A little bit of a sacrilege, but it was helpful for me as a reader to be able to keep the countries and their key players straight. Seriously, so much similarity in the facial hair…. Obviously, not everything is included in this particular narrative, but Hale sticks to most of the main battles so that the reader has a general overview of the war’s progression. There’s not too much about the Christmas Armistice of 1914, which is a personal favorite, but it is touched upon in passing. Hale chose a palate of oranges and reds to highlight the black and white drawings in this volume, and it feels appropriate given the content. He’s done his research about trench warfare and the conditions on the front lines and it really shows up in the faces of each of the soldiers. The story may be told with animals, but he’s done a great job of humanizing each of the contrasting views of the countries and their motivations. It’s perhaps not the most interesting bits of history and the facts can get convoluted, but WWI definitely set the stage for modern warfare in the 20th century and became the fuel that lit the fire of renewed tensions in Europe leading to World War II – but that is a different story.  Fans of this series will definitely enjoy the book and will more than likely be enjoyed by a few history and non-history buffs as well.

Other related materials: The Red Baron: A Graphic History of Richthofen’s Flying Circus and the Air War in WWI by Wayne Vansant; World War One: 1914-1918 by Alan Cowsill, illustrated by Lalit Kumar Sharma; Simple History: A Simple Guide to World War I by Daniel Turner; Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: One Dead Spy by Nathan Hale; Big Bad Ironclad! (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #2)  by Nathan Hale; Donner Dinner Party (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #3) by Nathan Hale; The Underground Abductor: An Abolitionist Tale About Harriet Tubman (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #5) by Nathan Hale; Alamo All-Stars (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #6) by Nathan Hale; Raid of No Return: A World War II Tale of the Doolittle Raid (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #7) by Nathan Hale; One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale; Guys Read: True Stories edited by Jon Scieszka; Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale; Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale



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A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel Review


A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel by Madeline L’Engle; adapted and illustrated by Hope Larson

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2012. 978-0374386153

Note: The original novel A Wrinkle in Time bears the honor of being the 1963 John Newbery Medal recipient. Any discrepancies between the graphic novel and the original work are the interpretation of the artist who adapted the work.

Synopsis: Meg Murry and the rest of her family have been eagerly awaiting news about their father, who disappeared and has been gone for what feels like forever. Then, three otherworldly women – who have befriended Meg’s younger brother Charles Wallace – tell the siblings that they must rescue their father from the clutches of a Darkness that is threatening to take over the universe. Meg, Charles Wallace, and their friend Calvin O’Keefe are transported via tesseract – a wrinkle in the fabric of time – to rescue Mr. Murry and bring him home.

Why I picked it up: I loved this story when I was in elementary school and I wanted to re-read it before I went to see the movie.

Why I finished it: There have been several classics that have been adapted into graphic novels and this is the first that I picked up. I love that artists are branching out and adapting their favorite childhood stories so that the newer generations can continue to enjoy the novels in a new way. What I love about Larson’s adaptation is the obvious care she took to include as many elements and plot nuances from L’Engle’s book because of its enormous popularity. I remember when I first read the book in elementary school, I was completely captivated by the notion of time travel and the magic of being whisked away to new and exciting places. IT was, and still is, a truly conniving and disconcerting villain, taking over all semblance of a population’s free will. As humans, we exercise our free will almost constantly during the day and the idea that we could be mentally and physically controlled is truly a terrifying thought. Of course, I had also forgotten that tesseract is a geometry term and doesn’t in fact refer exclusively to the glowing box from the first ‘Avengers’ film. If you want to read more about the tesseract and time travel, check out a couple of interesting articles found here and here. Larson’s art has an element of realism, but it is not so realistic that it takes away from the magic and the fantasy of the story. The contrast between the shades of blue to the black and white of the lines and backgrounds gives the story a sort of soft tone despite the dramatic scenes that occur during the novel’s climax. It is a wonderful introduction or re-introduction to this classic science fiction/fantasy book that will continue to be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Other related materials: A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle; A Wind in the Door by Madeline L’Engle; A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeline L’Engle; Many Waters by Madeline L’Engle; An Acceptable Time by Madeline L’Engle; Intergalactic P.S. 3: A Wrinkle in Time Story by Madeline L’Engle, illustrated by Hope Larson; Becoming Madeline: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters by Charlotte Jones Voiklis and Léna Roy; The City of Ember: The Graphic Novel by Jeanne DuPrau, adapted by Dallas Middaugh, illustrated by Niklas Asker; The Wild Robot by Peter Brown; The Wild Robot Escapes by Peter Brown; The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster; The Outlaws of Time series by N.D Wilson

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Cleopatra in Space Review

cleopatra_in_space_1Cleopatra in Space, Book 1: Target Practice by Mike Maihack

Graphix, 2014. 978-0545528429

Synopsis: On her fifteenth birthday, Cleopatra, the future queen of Egypt, finds a mystical tablet that transports her into the distant future. Turns out, she is destined to save the galaxy from Xaius Octavian, who has been stealing electronic information from every planet before he invades. History says the Cleo is destined to be a great leader, but first she has to figure out how to master Algebra and avoid detention.

Why I picked it up: This is a very popular title with the girls at the library.

Why I finished it: This book is a high-octane adventure from page one. I love how Maihack is taking a real historical figure and putting a more modern spin on her character: she has to go to school, make friends, and deal with teachers that just don’t seem to get it just like the rest of us. She’s sort of over the fact that she will one day be the ruler of a nation – well, before she gets transported into the future anyway – and we can see that her desire is to just be a normal teenager. It seems like fun to be the chosen one, but in truth, Cleo seems to be feeling a lot of the pressure of the mysterious prophecy. Maihack is showing us, perhaps, that being a leader might be all fun and games from the outside, but the grooming process and the journey toward greatness comes with its stumbling blocks and struggles. Plus, it is kind of fun to think about Cleo being an ace shot and a combat master. Maihack alternates between using bright and muted colors to help convey a better sense of the tone from scene to scene. I love the imaginative world of the future that has been laid out for the reader and I am looking forward to learning more of the history over the course of the series. It is an engaging read with well-developed characters that will have you eager for more.

Other related materials: Cleopatra in Space, Book 2: The Thief and the Sword by Mike Maihack; Cleopatra in Space, Book 3: Secret of the Time Tablets by Mike Maihack; Cleopatra in Space, Book 4: The Golden Lion by Mike Maihack; Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Legends of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; The Return of Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke; Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi; Phoebe and Her Unicorn books by Dana Simpson; Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson; Explorer books by Kazu Kibuishi; CatStronauts series by Drew Brockington

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Amulet: Firelight Review

amulet_7Amulet, Book 7: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi

Graphix, 2016. 978-0-545-43316-7.

Synopsis: Emily, Trellis, and Vigo believe they finally have a clue about how to defeat the Elf King, but the advantage could come at a high cost. The place that the trio must search has been known to be a dangerous place for stonekeepers and could help the stone get a mental hold over their keeper. Meanwhile, Navin and Aly are running into some troubles of their own. It seems that the Elf King has raised the bounty on their heads and they must outwit numerous bounty hunters if they are going to reach Frontera.

Why I picked it up: I had to catch up since Book 8 is coming out in September!

Why I finished it: This series keeps getting better and better as it goes on, not to mention the plot becomes more and more complex as the reader journeys further into the world. Previously, Emily has been confident that she will be able to resist the voice of the stone. The spirit begins to show her visions of a life that she could have had if her father had survived the car crash, a life that seems to spark further conflict within her. Trellis and Vigo have warned Emily about her ability to resist the temptation to surrender control to her stone, but she still feels she has complete control. The reader has been hearing about the dangers of listening to the spirit within the stone, but it has become much more real now that our heroes are getting closer and closer to finding answers. Navin, Aly, and General Pil are having some issues of their own, starting with needing to find transportation to Frontera. But the friends they make along the way prove to be helpful allies. They remind Navin about the importance of family and help to give him the courage to forge ahead though the circumstances seem to change moment by moment. Kibuishi is going a little bit darker in this installment, and I have a feeling that things are going to get worse before they get better. He’s continuing to add depth to the characters and giving us more reasons to root and cheer for them. It’s an engaging read that will have fans on the edge of their seats waiting for more.

Other related materials: Amulet, Book 1: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 2: The Stonekeeper’s Curse by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 3: The Cloud Searchers by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 4: The Last Council by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 5: Prince of the Elves by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 6: Escape from Lucien by Kazu Kibuishi; Amulet, Book 8: Supernova by Kazu Kibuishi; Explorer: The Mystery Boxes by Kazu Kibuishi; Flight Explorer, Volume One edited by Kazu Kibuishi; Zita the Spacegirl graphic novels by Ben Hatke; Cleopatra in Space graphic novels by Mike Maihack; Babymouse graphic novels by Jennifer L. Holm & Matt Holm; Bone graphic novels by Jeff Smith; Missile Mouse books by Jake Parker; The Secret Science Alliance books by Eleanor Davis; Dragonbreath books by Ursula Vernon; Big Nate books by Lincoln Pierce; Chickenhare by Chris Grine; Ricky Ricotta’s Mighty Robot graphic novels by Dav Pilkey, illustrated by Dan Santat

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Big Nate: What’s A Little Noogie Between Friends? Review

big_nate_whats_a_little_noogie_between_friendsBig Nate: What’s a Little Noogie Between Friends? By Lincoln Peirce

Andrwes McMeel Publishing, 2017. 978-1-4494-6229-1

Synopsis: Lately it feels like Nate has been on a losing streak – literally. His soccer team loses to a team with a record of 0-60, the basketball team gets pounded by a future superstar, and his beloved Jenny is moving to Seattle. What is it going to take to make Nate feel like a winner again?

Why I picked it up: I wanted a quick read to take with me on a weekend trip.

Why I finished it:  At its heart, Big Nate is a much about friendship as it is about anything else, and in this volume of collected comics it looks like friends is what Nate needs most. Because, really, who else is going to make him feel better when it seems like the whole world is falling apart? While Teddy, Francis, and Chad don’t always share Nate’s world view, they are always there to put things in perspective – whether Nate will come around to their point is anyone’s guess. Like Nate, we have all experienced the frustration of having a losing season with our sport team or had a hard time transitioning when a friend moves away. But we can have confidence that there will still be friends and teachers there to pick us up when we are down and support us through the good and the bad and the things that we think are pretty much the end of the world but probably not really…maybe. What I liked about this collection was that it felt like it was growing up a little bit. Nate may be perpetually in middle school, but that doesn’t mean Peirce can’t grow him and the other characters as the comic goes on. The stasis is what makes the comic fun, but it is the little truths about life and growing up that help to make a connection with the reader. It’s another quick, humorous read that is guaranteed to help make the reader feel like a winner even when they are down in the dumps.

Other related materials: Big Nate: Revenge of the Cream Puffs by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: I Can’t Take It! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate’s Greatest Hits by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Welcome to My World by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Say Goodbye to Dork City by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: The Crowd Goes Wild! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate and Friends by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Game On! by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate Makes the Grade by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Great Minds Think Alike by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate Out Loud by Lincoln Peirce; Big Nate: Thunka, Thunka, Thunka by Lincoln Peirce; My Weirdest School books by Dan Gutman, illustrated by Jim Paillot; Timmy Failure books by Stephan Pastis; Middle School books by James Patterson and Chris Tebbits, illustrated by Laura Park; Diary of a Wimpy Kid series by Jeff Kinney

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Crogan’s March Review

crogan_advenutures_2Crogan’s March (The Crogan Adventures, Book 2) by Chris Schweizer

Oni Press, 2009. 978-1-93496424-8

Reviewer Note: This book was republished in 2015 as The Crogan Adventures: Last of the Legion, which is a color edition of the same story.

Synopsis: Peter Crogan’s five years of service in the French Foreign Legion is only weeks away – but will he stay or will he go? Staying means that he could be promoted to an officer. Leaving for home is a little bit more questionable. But when he gets caught up in a battle with the local warlords intent on pushing out the Legion, Peter’s only decisions have to do with how he will stay alive.

Why I picked it up: I loved Crogan’s Vengence and I am always a sucker for well-researched historical fiction.

Why I finished it: Schweizer has creatively set up some context to these adventures by having them told to two young Crogan descendants by their father, who presents the tale as a means of teaching his sons some life lesson. It seems to do the trick, for the most part, and it helps to give readers an extra frame of reference for how all of the stories in the series are going to be tied together: a sort of oral family history that is being passed down through the generations. I’ve always loved family stories myself because there was always some element of magic to them. I liked recalling how I was related to a great aunt that was part of some great historical event or even learning about the ‘simpler times’ during which my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents grew up. Schweizer isn’t going to far as to deliver entire life stories, but the very small snippets that we are told are enough to make us know and love the characters – not always an easy task. Peter Crogan is well liked and respected by both his fellow Legionnaires and the commanding officers under whom he serves. The reader can easily tell why the commanders would want him to stay on, since he inspires the type of courage and spirit that the French Legion was hoping to inspire when the men eventually got to wherever they would serve. Readers can relate to the sort of tough decision that Peter is faced with and the inner turmoil that haunts him as he finds himself the lone survivor of his regime. The black and white panels convey well the gritty nature of the story and its setting in the North African desert, transporting the reader almost literally into the pages of history. It’s a fun read that is recommended for those that love an edge-of-your-seat adventure and fans of historical fiction alike.

Other related materials: Crogan’s Vengeance (The Crogan Adventures, Book 1) by Chris Schweizer; Crogan’s Loyalty (The Crogan Adventures, Book 3) by Chris Schweizer; Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales books by Nathan Hale; Guts & Glory books by Ben Thompson; Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani; Breaking Stalin’s Nose by Eugene Yelchin; The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi; Guys Read: True Stories edited by Jon Scieszka; Lost Trail: Nine Days Alone in the Wilderness by Donn Fendler with Lynn Plourde, illustrated by Ben Bishop; Lily Renée, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivorto Comic Book Pioneer by Trina Robbins, illustrated by Anne Timmons and Mo Oh; Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks

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The Nameless City Review


The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks, color by Jordie Bellaire

First Second, 2016. 978-1626721562

Synopsis: Kaidu is an outsider in the Nameless City. Though his people, the Dao, have ruled the city for the last 30 years, there is still tension and unease between themselves and the Named (the residents of the city). He meets Rat while out wandering the streets alone and though the two come from very different backgrounds, they grow to become friends.

Why I picked it up: This is another book that has been in my ‘To Be Read’ stack for a while.

Why I finished it: What really drew me into the story was the mythos that Hicks has incorporated into this world. It is an old world that was built up through a cycle of peace and conflicts that is the hallmark in most any genre. When we first meet Kaidu and Rat, their town is experiencing a definite tension in the wake of 30 years of harmony, not to mention the existing tension between the Named, the Dao, and the other nations that have previously occupied the city. The friendship between Kaidu and Rat is somewhat of an anomaly, but Kai seems to have convinced the young orphan that he also has a vested interest in the city and that he also cares what happens to its inhabitants. Kai’s character development focuses quite a bit on the notion that he is not like the rest of the Dao: he wants to forge his own path and find his own place in this new world after deciding to leave his homeland. Rat, on the other hand, is simultaneously fighting to stay alive and struggling with where her loyalties lie. She clearly isn’t a fan of the Dao (or perhaps any of the other previous non-Named inhabitants), but she finds herself beginning to trust Kai and relishes being able to teach him how to navigate the streets of the City. Hicks’s art has a feel reminiscent of the Avatar: The Last Airbender series. The use of choppy uneven outlines mixed with sharper, finer details and Bellaire’s bright colors make this a fun read that will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.

Other related materials: The Stone Heart (The Nameless City, Book 2) by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; The Divided Earth (The Nameless City, Book 3) by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Jordie Bellaire; Four Points series by Hope Larson, illustrations by Rebecca Mock; Avatar: The Last Airbender books by Bryan Konietzko, Michael Dante DiMartino, Gene Luen Yang, and Gurihiru; The Legend of Korra books by Michael Dante DiMartino, illustrations by Irene Koh; Delilah Dirk books by Tony Cliff; Five Worlds series by Mark Siegel and Alexis Seigel, illustrations by Xanthe Boruma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun; Mighty Jack series by Ben Hatke; One Trick Pony by Nathan Hale; Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack

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