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Post-It Note Reviews: Graphic novels galore!

So glad I’ve been doing routine installments of these Post-It Note Reviews for quite a while now because, WHEW! is this what my current attention span is best suited for at the moment. Here’s to being able to concentrate more in 2021, right? I really went heavy here with graphic novels, which has been my comfort reading of choice these past many weeks!

All descriptions from the publishers. Transcriptions of the post-it reviews follow.

Child Star by Brian “Box” Brown (ISBN-13: 9781250154071 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 06/30/2020, Ages 14-adult)

Child Star is a fictional documentary-style graphic novel about how growing up in the spotlight robs young actors of a true childhood.

Child star Owen Eugene had it all: a hit sitcom on prime time, a Saturday morning cartoon, and a memoir on the bestseller list. The secret to his success was his talent for improvisation . . . and his small size. On screen he made the whole world laugh, but behind the scenes his life was falling apart. Hollywood ate him alive.

Inspired by real-life child stars, bestselling author Brian “Box” Brown created Owen Eugene, a composite character whose tragic life is an amalgam of 1980s pop culture.

(POST-IT SAYS: If you don’t know Brown’s books–particularly this one on Andre the Giant—get on that! This documentary-style look at a fictional child star follows a predictable path yet always feels interesting and engaging. Can’t wait to see what he tackles next!)

Flamer by Mike Curato (ISBN-13: 9781250756145 Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) Publication date: 09/01/2020, Ages 14-18)

Award-winning author and artist Mike Curato draws on his own experiences in Flamer, his debut graphic novel, telling a difficult story with humor, compassion, and love. 

“This book will save lives.” —Jarrett J. Krosoczka, author of National Book Award Finalist Hey, Kiddo 

I know I’m not gay. Gay boys like other boys. I hate boys. They’re mean, and scary, and they’re always destroying something or saying something dumb or both.

I hate that word. Gay. It makes me feel . . . unsafe.

It’s the summer between middle school and high school, and Aiden Navarro is away at camp. Everyone’s going through changes—but for Aiden, the stakes feel higher. As he navigates friendships, deals with bullies, and spends time with Elias (a boy he can’t stop thinking about), he finds himself on a path of self-discovery and acceptance.

(POST-IT SAYS: A brutal but ultimately hopeful read. Full of bullying, slurs, and doubt, but also full of friendship and acceptance. Masterful storytelling and deeply affecting and dynamic art. Powerful message: you are enough.)

The League of Super Feminists by Mirion Malle, Aleshia Jensen (Translator) (ISBN-13: 9781770464025 Publisher: Drawn & Quarterly Publication date: 10/13/2020, Ages 12-18)

This primer on feminism and media literacy teaches young readers why it matters

The League of Super Feminists is an energetic and fierce comic for tweens and younger teens. Cartoonist Mirion Malle guides readers through some of the central tenets of feminism and media literacy including consent, intersectionality, privilege, body image, inclusivity and more; all demystified in the form of a witty, down-to-earth dialogue that encourages questioning the stories we’re told about identity. Malle’s insightful and humorous comics transport lofty concepts from the ivory tower to the eternally safer space of open discussion. Making reference to the Bechdel test in film and Peggy McIntosh’s dissection of white privilege through the metaphor of the “invisible knapsack,” The League of Super Feminists is an asset to the classroom, library, and household alike.

Knights and princesses present problems associated with consent; superheroes reveal problematic stereotypes associated with gender; and grumpy onlookers show just how insidious cat-calling culture can be. No matter how women dress, Malle explains, there seems to always be someone ready to call it out. The League of Super Feminists articulates with both poise and clarity how unconscious biases and problematic thought processes can have tragic results.

Why does feminism matter? Are feminists man-haters? How do race and feminism intersect? Malle answers these questions for young readers, in a comic that is as playful and hilarious as it is necessary.

(POST-IT SAYS: Useful as a very basic intro to feminism, sexism, and representation. Could stand to have an intro, a conclusion, and a more intersectional approach. The title also doesn’t really fit with/indicate the content. A good overview but could have been stronger.)

Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great Granddaughter by Brea Grant and Yishan Li (ISBN-13: 9781644420294 Publisher: Six Foot Press Publication date: 10/06/2020 Ages 12 – 18)

Angsty teenager Mary Shelley is not interested in carrying on her family’s celebrated legacy of being a great writer, but she soon discovers that she has the not-so-celebrated and super-secret Shelley power to heal monsters, just like her famous ancestor, and those monsters are not going to let her ignore her true calling anytime soon.

The Shelley family history is filled with great writers: the original Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, the acclaimed mystery writer Tawny Shelley, cookbook maven Phyllis Shelley…the list goes on and on. But this Mary Shelley, named after her great-great-great-great-great grandmother, doesn’t want anything to do with that legacy. Then a strangely pale (and really cute) boy named Adam shows up and asks her to heal a wound he got under mysterious circumstances, and Mary learns something new about her family: the first Mary Shelley had the power to heal monsters, and Mary has it, too. Now the monsters won’t stop showing up, Mary can’t get her mother Tawny to leave her alone about writing something (anything!), she can’t tell her best friend Rhonda any of this, and all Mary wants is to pass biology.

(POST-IT SAYS: Fun concept with great art, especially the excellent monsters. Mary is a good main character—angsty, goth, and certain she’ll never live up to her family’s legacy. Hope there’s more to come.)

The Girl Who Wasn’t There by Penny Joelson (ISBN-13: 9781492698852 Publisher: Sourcebooks Publication date: 11/03/2020, Ages 14-18)

For fans of Karen M. McManus and Kara Thomas comes this riveting new young adult crime thriller packed with mystery and suspense, from the acclaimed author of I Have No Secrets

Nothing ever happens on Kasia’s street. And Kasia would know, because her chronic illness keeps her stuck at home, watching the outside world from her bedroom window. So when she witnesses what looks like a kidnapping, she’s not sure whether she can believe her own eyes…

There had been a girl in the window across the street who must have seen something too. But when Kasia ventures out to find her, she is told the most shocking thing of all: There is no girl.

(POST-IT SAYS: The main character has Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, which is rare to see in YA. Thriller-ish story about human trafficking—a quick read. Curious what people with ME think of the rep.)

Class Act by Jerry Craft (ISBN-13: 9780062885500 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 10/06/2020, Ages 8-12)

New York Times bestselling author Jerry Craft returns with a companion book to New Kid, winner of the 2020 Newbery Medal, the Coretta Scott King Author Award, and the Kirkus Prize. This time, it’s Jordan’s friend Drew who takes center stage in another laugh-out-loud funny, powerful, and important story about being one of the few kids of color in a prestigious private school.

Eighth grader Drew Ellis is no stranger to the saying “You have to work twice as hard to be just as good.” His grandmother has reminded him his entire life. But what if he works ten times as hard and still isn’t afforded the same opportunities that his privileged classmates at the Riverdale Academy Day School take for granted?

To make matters worse, Drew begins to feel as if his good friend Liam might be one of those privileged kids. He wants to pretend like everything is fine, but it’s hard not to withdraw, and even their mutual friend Jordan doesn’t know how to keep the group together.

As the pressures mount, will Drew find a way to bridge the divide so he and his friends can truly accept each other? And most important, will he finally be able to accept himself?

New Kid, the first graphic novel to win the Newbery Medal, is now joined by Jerry Craft’s powerful Class Act.

(POST-IT SAYS: A perfect book. Truly. Tackles serious topics while still being funny and just so real. The kids address race, class, colorism, microaggressions, and friendship. As great and maybe better than New Kid.)

Displacement by Kiku Hughes (ISBN-13: 9781250193537 Publisher: First Second Publication date: 08/18/2020, Ages 12-18)

A teenager is pulled back in time to witness her grandmother’s experiences in World War II-era Japanese internment camps in Displacement, a historical graphic novel from Kiku Hughes.

Kiku is on vacation in San Francisco when suddenly she finds herself displaced to the 1940s Japanese-American internment camp that her late grandmother, Ernestina, was forcibly relocated to during World War II.

These displacements keep occurring until Kiku finds herself “stuck” back in time. Living alongside her young grandmother and other Japanese-American citizens in internment camps, Kiku gets the education she never received in history class. She witnesses the lives of Japanese-Americans who were denied their civil liberties and suffered greatly, but managed to cultivate community and commit acts of resistance in order to survive. 

Kiku Hughes weaves a riveting, bittersweet tale that highlights the intergenerational impact and power of memory.

(POST-IT SAYS: I loved the art, the powerful look at existence and resistance in the camps, and the look at modern-day parallels. A moving exploration of what it means to be displaced.)

Twins (Twins #1) by Varian Johnson, Shannon Wright (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9781338236132 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 10/06/2020, Ages 8-12)

Coretta Scott King Honor author Varian Johnson teams up with rising cartoonist Shannon Wright for a delightful middle-grade graphic novel!

Maureen and Francine Carter are twins and best friends. They participate in the same clubs, enjoy the same foods, and are partners on all their school projects. But just before the girls start sixth grade, Francine becomes Fran — a girl who wants to join the chorus, run for class president, and dress in fashionable outfits that set her apart from Maureen. A girl who seems happy to share only two classes with her sister!

Maureen and Francine are growing apart and there’s nothing Maureen can do to stop it. Are sisters really forever? Or will middle school change things for good?

(POST-IT SAYS: Absolutely adored this. Get like 6 copies for your library—this will fly off shelves! Great art and pitch perfect story about siblings, identity, confidence, friendship, and middle school.)

Dear Justyce by Nic Stone (ISBN-13: 9781984829665 Publisher: Random House Children’s Books Publication date: 09/29/2020, Ages 14-17)

The stunning sequel to the #1 New York Times bestseller Dear Martin. Incarcerated teen Quan writes letters to Justyce about his experiences in the American juvenile justice systemPerfect for fans of Jason Reynolds and Angie Thomas.

In the highly anticipated sequel to her New York Times bestseller, Nic Stone delivers an unflinching look into the flawed practices and silenced voices in the American juvenile justice system.

Vernell LaQuan Banks and Justyce McAllister grew up a block apart in the Southwest Atlanta neighborhood of Wynwood Heights. Years later, though, Justyce walks the illustrious halls of Yale University . . . and Quan sits behind bars at the Fulton Regional Youth Detention Center.

Through a series of flashbacks, vignettes, and letters to Justyce—the protagonist of Dear Martin—Quan’s story takes form. Troubles at home and misunderstandings at school give rise to police encounters and tough decisions. But then there’s a dead cop and a weapon with Quan’s prints on it. What leads a bright kid down a road to a murder charge? Not even Quan is sure.

(POST-IT SAYS: Whew. This is another must-read of 2020. A powerful examination of why someone may get involved in a gang, the school to prison pipeline, the justice system, and the importance of support. Profound.)

Lunch Will Never Be the Same! #1 by Veera Hiranandani, Christine Almeda (Illustrator) (ISBN-13: 9780593096895 Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group Publication date: 10/06/2020, Ages 6-8)

Written by Newbery Honor-winner Veera Hiranandani, with all-new illustrations by Christine Almeda!

Phoebe G. Green has never given much thought to food, but when a new French classmate enters the cafeteria with a lunchbox full of unusual foods, a new love is born. Spunky and likable, Phoebe is a budding foodie who’s sure to win over your heart—and stomach!

Phoebe loves her pet fish, Betty #2 (named after Betty #1, may she rest in peace), making lists, and her best friend Sage. But when Camille, a tall French girl, arrives at school with unusual lunches, Phoebe can’t seem to think about anything else, including her friendship with Sage. Thanks to Camille, Phoebe discovers goat cheese, butter lettuce, and cilantro (although she’s convinced that’s not a real word). She’s determined to get invited to her new friend’s house for dinner to see what other mysterious food Camille eats. But what about Sage? Can Phoebe make a new friend and keep an old one?

(POST-IT SAYS: I never saw this series when it was pubbed in 2014, but so glad to discover it in this reissue. Nice look at friendship and navigating making a new friend without forgetting old friends. A solid, fun read with appealing art. Easy to recommend.)

Logan Likes Mary Anne! (The Baby-Sitters Club Graphix Series #8) by Gale Galligan, Ann M. Martin (ISBN-13: 9781338304541 Publisher: Scholastic, Inc. Publication date: 09/01/2020, Ages 8-12)

Another Baby-sitters Club graphic novel adapted by New York Timesbestselling author Gale Galligan!

It’s the first day of a new school year, and while Mary Anne doesn’t know what to expect from the eighth grade, she’s looking forward to getting back into the swing of things. One thing she definitely doesn’t expect is to meet Logan Bruno, who just moved to Stoneybrook!

Logan has a dreamy southern accent, he’s awfully cute… and he might be interested in joining the BSC. But the baby-sitters aren’t sure if Logan would make a good club member, so they send him on a job with Mary Anne as a test. Logan and Mary Anne hit it off, but Mary Anne isn’t sure of where their friendship could go. Life in the Baby-sitters Club has never been this complicated — or this fun!

(POST-IT SAYS: Can I please get all 200is iterations of the BSC books as graphic novels ASAP?! Another excellent addition to the series here. Logan is adorable and I still want the BSC as my besties. Really fun.)

Something to Say by Lisa Moore Ramée (ISBN-13: 9780062836717 Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers Publication date: 07/14/2020, Ages 8-12)

From the author of A Good Kind of Trouble, a Walter Dean Myers Honor Book, comes another unforgettable story about finding your voice—and finding your people. Perfect for fans of Sharon Draper, Meg Medina, and Jason Reynolds.

Eleven-year-old Jenae doesn’t have any friends—and she’s just fine with that. She’s so good at being invisible in school, it’s almost like she has a superpower, like her idol, Astrid Dane. At home, Jenae has plenty of company, like her no-nonsense mama; her older brother, Malcolm, who is home from college after a basketball injury; and her beloved grandpa, Gee.

Then a new student shows up at school—a boy named Aubrey with fiery red hair and a smile that won’t quit. Jenae can’t figure out why he keeps popping up everywhere she goes. The more she tries to push him away, the more he seems determined to be her friend. Despite herself, Jenae starts getting used to having him around.

But when the two are paired up for a class debate about the proposed name change for their school, Jenae knows this new friendship has an expiration date. Aubrey is desperate to win and earn a coveted spot on the debate team.

There’s just one problem: Jenae would do almost anything to avoid speaking up in front of an audience—including risking the first real friendship she’s ever had.

(POST-IT SAYS: This was great! All of the characters are interesting and stand out, but introverted, anxious Jenae is wonderful. Excellent look at friendship, social anxiety, social justice, and finding your voice. Loved it.)

Book Review: The Magic Fish by Trung Le Nguyen

The Magic Fish

Publisher’s description

Tiến loves his family and his friends…but Tiến has a secret he’s been keeping from them, and it might change everything. An amazing YA graphic novel that deals with the complexity of family and how stories can bring us together.

Real life isn’t a fairytale. 

But Tiến still enjoys reading his favorite stories with his parents from the books he borrows from the local library. It’s hard enough trying to communicate with your parents as a kid, but for Tiến, he doesn’t even have the right words because his parents are struggling with their English. Is there a Vietnamese word for what he’s going through? 

Is there a way to tell them he’s gay? 

A beautifully illustrated story by Trung Le Nguyen that follows a young boy as he tries to navigate life through fairytales, an instant classic that shows us how we are all connected. The Magic Fish tackles tough subjects in a way that accessible with readers of all ages, and teaches us that no matter what—we can all have our own happy endings.

Amanda’s thoughts

I’m writing this on November 6th, in the morning, before we know the election results. Here’s why this is significant: concentrating this week has been HARD. I have accomplished a great many tasks like washing my windows, doing yard work, and whatever else keeps me in perpetual motion and makes my anxiety motor rev a little slower. But I haven’t been able to read much. And I certainly didn’t intend to try to write anything for TLT this week. And yet, here I am. Why? Because this book is lovely and wonderful and special and, apparently, magic. It held my attention (I read it in one sitting), it made me cry, and it’s just SO good that I had to share it here.

This book is beautiful in every sense of the word and in every aspect of its presentation. The art is dynamic and full of detail, the shifting color palette works so well, the writing is spectacular, and the emotional heart of the story is stunning. Is this just a list of gushing love and appreciation instead of an actual professional-sounding book review? YES.

Tiến’s story is also beautiful. He and his family (especially his mother, who gets her own emotional and powerful story) spend their time together reading fairytales as a way to connect, share, and, for his parents, to work on their English. He has two best friends, one of whom he has a crush on, and they are so supportive and loving and kind. While Tiến is worried about coming out to his parents, readers don’t have to share that worry: we see the love and the support.

This is a story about immigrants, about shared language and connection, about a life left behind, about fitting in, about family, about being yourself, and about love. Tiến learns about the power of stories, about happy endings, about stories changing when they need to. The book ended abruptly but perfectly, leaving me crying and wishing everyone had the love and support Tiến has.

Also? This book has THE BEST dance scene. My heart. You’ll see when you read it. WHEN you read it.

Beautiful and moving, this book will stick with me. I hope it gets the attention it deserves. Go add it to your library queue or order it from your local indie now.

ISBN-13: 9781984851598
Publisher: Random House Children’s Books
Publication date: 10/13/2020
Age Range: 12 – 17 Years

Why are Teen Girls the new Sci-Fi Protagonists?, a guest post by Brea Grant

You can’t slingshot a rock right now without hitting a YA book about a teen girl surviving a dystopian apocalypse, discovering her magical powers, or finding a doorway to an alternate land. I’m not complaining but it’s interesting that teen girls are at the front and center of the science fiction/fantasy universe. What is it about the teen girl experience that lends itself to being a protagonist in an otherworldly adventure?

When writing my new graphic novel, Mary, I took a look at Mary Shelley’s personal history and built on it to create my own teen girl protagonist forging her own way and finding a magical world. My modern-day character, Mary, is the fictional descendant of Mary Shelley. She comes from a long line of writers and is expected to become a writer herself. Instead, she discovers that Mary Shelley was not writing about the fictional creature of Frankenstein’s monster but instead was writing a guidebook for her progeny so they could follow in her real footsteps — not as writers but as a doctor to monsters. When my current-day Mary discovers this, she must grapple with what she’s been told about the world and her future choices. It’s coming-of-age magnified.

Struggling with knowing what to do with your life is something most of us can all relate to…even in our mid-to-late 30s (note to self: figure out what you want to do) and beyond. Writing this graphic novel, I felt like I could take my own meandering path regarding my career choices and put it into a magical context and that somehow made it…easier to deal with? Mary could think about her life in a way that I couldn’t because her world was actually as strange as mine has always felt. If the world is actually bizarre, difficult to understand, and magical, maybe she (or myself by extension) wasn’t such a weirdo for not being able to fit into it. If the reason that you are unable to make a decision about what to do with your life is because there are monsters living among us and no one told you about them, maybe you weren’t so wrong to have trouble deciding whether or not to go to college (or insert other major life decision here)!

Mary Shelley herself happens to be an interesting heroine in real life. Shelley can be credited with being the mother of modern day science fiction as we know it. She was a pioneer. What people often forget is that she was only 19 when she conceived of the concept for Frankenstein, on a cold, dark night (true story!). When published, it was so outlandish that a woman would write something horrific that she didn’t put her actual name on its first published editions.

So, like a lot of heroines in science fiction novels, she was a rebel. She didn’t fit into the rules of her day. She had a relationship with a man against her parents wishes and was estranged from them for many years. She wrote and created in an unexplored genre that was unseemly for women. And like many of our modern-day heroines in the aforementioned apocalyptic situations, she forged her own way against the rules that had been set up. We don’t center YA novels around teenagers following the rules and upholding tradition. We center them around pioneering young people willing to take chances and break things. Shelley was definitely one of those. She opened up a magical door that was rarely opened for female writers while under the age of 20. Teen female protagonist for the win.

Being young encourages imagination. I am in the small minority of people who have the privilege of spending most of my days imagining worlds that don’t exist. Between the pull of adulthood, responsibilities and all of the very crushing realities of growing up, somewhere along the way, we lose our ability to just play. Science fiction and fantasy allow us to be imaginative. They allow us to escape — as writers or readers. So it may be obvious that age has a lot to do with the many examples we see of female protagonists fighting monsters, discovering worlds, and ending up winning the day. We associate science fiction — the ultimate place for imagination — with youth. Of course our main characters are youthful. They still are allowed to play.

But that doesn’t explain the choice of young women over young men as sci-fi protagonists. I would make the argument that the monsters/dragons/evil doers are stand-ins for the harsh realities of growing up and the tough decisions young women have to make. The female experience lends itself to the paranormal in the obvious ways our bodies change but also the way in which societal standards morph as we get older. As children, we can run, play and be free to think wildly but as we get older, those things start to be discouraged. A young girl covered in mud is much different than a 20-year-old. Dealing with these standards is like fighting off a demon. It is choosing to stand out and creating an entirely new set of rules. It’s difficult. I think it’s why we are seeing so many interesting trans characters in sci-fi as well. Trans people have known they were breaking societal rules for a long time. They have been fighting these monsters since the day they realized they wanted to wear a dress instead of a soccer uniform. Breaking out of these molds are otherworldly. For a young woman, something as simple as choosing to study engineering is comparable to teen heroine picking up a sword for the first time in an all-male league of dragon fighters. Although different worlds, it takes the same amount of courage to be a young woman who doesn’t quite fit into the mold of what is expected and to continue to push boundaries.

I love that we have these models for young women. It’s hard to be a thing if you can’t see it and we can see these boundary-pushing young women all over YA right now. So, if you’re never fought a monster before, how do you do it? You dive in like Katniss, Emika, Sunny, Starr and the many other teenage female protagonists who are fighting new fights, figuring their way through it, and on the other end, becoming the heroes of their own stories.

Meet Brea Grant

Brea Grant is a filmmaker/writer best known for her Emmy-nominated work on the Netflix series, EastSiders, and her most recent film, 12 Hour Shift, a comedy heist film starring Angela Bettis and David Arquette. It premiered at Tribeca in 2020. A month later, she starred in the horror film, Lucky, which she also wrote, directed by Natasha Kermani, which premiered at SXSW in 2020. Her first comic series is called We Will Bury You, which was published by IDW and co-written with her brother, Zane Grant. She co-hosts a weekly book podcast called Reading Glasses with author Mallory O’Meara on the Maximum Fun Network. She started in the film industry as an actress and has appeared on shows like Heroes, Friday Night Lights, and Dexter, as well as horror films like Halloween II and the recent indie favorite, After Midnight.

Brea online:

http://www.breagrant.com/

https://www.instagram.com/breagrant/

https://twitter.com/breagrant

About Mary: The Adventures of Mary Shelley’s Great-Great-Great-Great-Great-Granddaughter

Angsty teenager Mary Shelley is not interested in carrying on her family’s celebrated legacy of being a great writer, but she soon discovers that she has the not-so-celebrated and super-secret Shelley power to heal monsters, just like her famous ancestor, and those monsters are not going to let her ignore her true calling anytime soon.

The Shelley family history is filled with great writers: the original Mary Shelley, author of Frankenstein, the acclaimed mystery writer Tawny Shelley, cookbook maven Phyllis Shelley…the list goes on and on. But this Mary Shelley, named after her great-great-great-great-great grandmother, doesn’t want anything to do with that legacy. Then a strangely pale (and really cute) boy named Adam shows up and asks her to heal a wound he got under mysterious circumstances, and Mary learns something new about her family: the first Mary Shelley had the power to heal monsters, and Mary has it, too. Now the monsters won’t stop showing up, Mary can’t get her mother Tawny to leave her alone about writing something (anything!), she can’t tell her best friend Rhonda any of this, and all Mary wants is to pass biology.

ISBN-13: 9781644420294
Publisher: Six Foot Press
Publication date: 10/06/2020
Age Range: 12 – 18 Years

First Look: Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn

What do Val Kilmer, George Clooney, Ben Affleck and Robert Pattinson all have in common? They all have or will play Batman, which has been rebooted what seems like a million times on the big screen. But in the comic books, there are a lot of worlds in which “the bat” is a woman. You can currently see Batwoman on the CW, for example. But what if the mantle of the bat was taken on by a teenage girl? Not just any girl, but a teenage assassin! We are so excited to share this first sneak peek at Shadow of the Batgirl by Sarah Kuhn and Nicole Goux with you. After the synopsis, check out a couple of pages from this exciting new graphic novel that comes out today from DC Comics!

Cassandra Cain, teenage assassin, isn’t exactly Batgirl material…not yet, at least. But when Batgirl goes missing from Gotham, can Cassandra defy her destiny and take on a heroic mantle of her very own?

Cassandra Cain is the daughter of super-villains and a living weapon trained from birth to be the ultimate assassin. But that doesn’t mean she has to stay that way, right? She’ll have to go through an identity crisis of epic proportions to find out. But how do you figure out who you’re supposed to be when you’ve been trained to become a villain your entire life?

After a soul-shattering moment that sends Cass reeling, she’ll attempt to answer this question the only way she knows how: learning everything she possibly can about her favorite hero–Batgirl. But Batgirl hasn’t been seen in Gotham for years, and when Cass’s father threatens the world she has grown to love, she’ll have to step out of the shadows and overcome her greatest obstacle–that voice inside her head telling her she can never be a hero.

Sarah Kuhn, author of Heroine Complex and I Love You So Mochi, takes on her favorite hero of color for a new audience of readers. Featuring the edgy art style of Nicole Goux, Shadow of the Batgirl tells the harrowing story of a girl who overcomes the odds to find her unique identity. 

This graphic novel is a part of DC Comics line in which the background stories of various characters are explored in fun, new and interesting ways. You can see more of their upcoming titles here.

You can add Shadow of the Batgirl on Goodreads or follow the buy links on Goodreads to purchase it today. You can also visit your local indie bookstore to purchase this title and don’t forget to request it at your local public library!

Post-It Note Reviews: a girl with Sensory Processing Disorder, a gloomy seaside town, special ed kids, and more

I do my best to get a LOT of reading done, but can’t even begin to attempt to read all the books that show up here. Even if I quit my library job, I still couldn’t read them all.  I read just about every free second I have—sitting in the car while waiting for my kid, on my lunch breaks at work, sometimes even while I’m walking in the hall at work. A lot of that kind of reading isn’t super conducive to really deep reading or taking many notes. Or maybe I’m reading in my own house, but while covered in sleeping dachshunds, or while trying to block out the noise of kids playing. I might not get around to being able to write a full review, but I still want to share these books with you, so here are my tiny Post-it Note reviews of a few titles. I also do these posts focusing on books for younger readers. It’s a great way to display books in your library or classroom, a way to let kids recommend their favorite titles without having to get up in front of everyone and do a book talk, and an easy way to offer a more personal recommendation than just the flap copy offers.

All summaries are from the publishers. Transcription of Post-it note review under the summary. 

Karen’s Witch (Baby-Sitters Little Sister Graphix Series #1) by Katy Farina (Illustrator), Ann M. Martin

A fresh and fun graphic novel series spin-off of The Baby-sitters Club, featuring Kristy’s little stepsister!

Karen Brewer lives next door to Mrs. Porter, who wears long robes and has wild gray hair. Mrs. Porter has a black cat named Midnight and always seems to be working in her garden. Karen isn’t supposed to spy on her neighbor, but she’s determined to prove that Mrs. Porter is a witch named Morbidda Destiny!

Mrs. Porter is getting ready to have a special meeting at her house, and Karen is sure the meeting is for witches. Are they going to cast a spell on Karen? Or will she be brave enough to send them away — once and for all?

(POST-IT SAYS: The BSC graphic novels fly off the shelves at my school and this spin-off will too. Spunky Karen really comes alive in illustrated form. The series can do no wrong. Ages 7-9)

Not If I Can Help It by Carolyn Mackler

From award-winning Carolyn Mackler, the story of Willa, who has been living with Sensory Processing Disorder but is thrown for a BIG loop when her dad announces he’s dating Willa’s best friend’s mom.

Willa likes certain things to be certain ways. Her socks have to be soft . . . and definitely can’t have irritating tags on the inside. She loves the crunch of popcorn and nachos . . . but is grossed out by the crunch of a baby carrot. And slimy foods? Those are the worst.

Willa can manage all these things — but there are some things she can’t deal with, like her father’s big news. He’s been keeping a big secret from her . . . that he’s been dating the mom of Willa’s best friend Ruby. Willa does NOT like the idea of them being together. And she does NOT like the idea of combining families. And she does NOT like the idea of her best friend becoming her sister overnight. Will she go along with all of these changes? NOT if she can help it!

(POST-IT SAYS: This is a very good book. Sensitively explores Sensory Processing Disorder, anxiety, divorce, and family. Willa is surrounded with so much love, support, and understanding. A superior story. Ages 8-12)

What I Want You to See by Catherine Linka (2/4/2020)

Winning a scholarship to California’s most prestigious art school seems like a fairy tale ending to Sabine Reye’s awful senior year. After losing both her mother and her home, Sabine longs for a place where she belongs.

But the cutthroat world of visual arts is nothing like what Sabine had imagined. Colin Krell, the renowned faculty member whom she had hoped would mentor her, seems to take merciless delight in tearing down her best work-and warns her that she’ll lose the merit-based award if she doesn’t improve.

Desperate and humiliated, Sabine doesn’t know where to turn. Then she meets Adam, a grad student who understands better than anyone the pressures of art school. He even helps Sabine get insight on Krell by showing her the modern master’s work in progress, a portrait that’s sold for a million dollars sight unseen.

Sabine is enthralled by the portrait; within those swirling, colorful layers of paint is the key to winning her inscrutable teacher’s approval. Krell did advise her to improve her craft by copying a painting she connects with . . . but what would he think of Sabine secretly painting her own version of his masterpiece? And what should she do when she accidentally becomes party to a crime so well -plotted that no one knows about it but her?

Complex and utterly original, What I Want You to See is a gripping tale of deception, attraction, and moral ambiguity.

(POST-IT SAYS: Sabine is so complicated–tough, vulnerable, smart, makes mistakes–and carries the generally fast-paced thrillerish mystery. A story of art school, crime, pressure, privilege, and homelessness. Ages 14+)

Gloom Town by Ronald L. Smith (2/11/2020)

A delightfully creepy novel from a Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award winner imbued with magic and seafaring mythology. Lemony Snicket and Jessica Townsend meet Greenglass House, with a hint of Edward Gorey thrown in.

When twelve-year-old Rory applies for a job at a spooky old mansion in his gloomy seaside town, he finds the owner, Lord Foxglove, odd and unpleasant. But he and his mom need the money, so he takes the job anyway. Rory soon finds out that his new boss is not just strange, he’s not even human—and he’s trying to steal the townspeople’s shadows. Together, Rory and his friend Isabella set out to uncover exactly what Foxglove and his otherworldly accomplices are planning and devise a strategy to defeat them. But can two kids defeat a group of ancient evil beings who are determined to take over the world?

Another delightfully creepy tale from Coretta Scott King/John Steptoe New Talent Award–winning author Ronald L. Smith.

(POST-IT SAYS: Weird and dark–excellent traits in a book. Genuinely creepy, great atmospheric setting, and oddball characters. Totally enjoyable read. Ages 10-12)

Chirp by Kate Messner (2/4/2020)

“[A] deftly layered mystery about family, friendship, and the struggle to speak up.” – Laurie Halse Anderson, bestselling author of Speak and Shout

From acclaimed author Kate Messner comes the powerful story of a young girl with the courage to make her voice heard, set against the backdrop of a summertime mystery.

When Mia moves to Vermont the summer after seventh grade, she’s recovering from the broken arm she got falling off a balance beam. And packed away in the moving boxes under her clothes and gymnastics trophies is a secret she’d rather forget.

Mia’s change in scenery brings day camp, new friends, and time with her beloved grandmother. But Gram is convinced someone is trying to destroy her cricket farm. Is it sabotage or is Gram’s thinking impaired from the stroke she suffered months ago? Mia and her friends set out to investigate, but can they uncover the truth in time to save Gram’s farm? And will that discovery empower Mia to confront the secret she’s been hiding—and find the courage she never knew she had?

In a compelling story rich with friendship, science, and summer fun, a girl finds her voice while navigating the joys and challenges of growing up.

(POST-IT SAYS: Solid writing and important story override characters that sometimes lack nuance. Supportive family, great women role models, and a message about finding your voice and speaking up. Empowering and inspiring, this will surely generate discussions. Ages 10-14)

The Line Tender by Kate Allen

Funny, poignant, and deeply moving, The Line Tender is a story of nature’s enduring mystery and a girl determined to find meaning and connection within it.

Wherever the sharks led, Lucy Everhart’s marine-biologist mother was sure to follow. In fact, she was on a boat far off the coast of Massachusetts, collecting shark data when she died suddenly. Lucy was seven. Since then Lucy and her father have kept their heads above water—thanks in large part to a few close friends and neighbors. But June of her twelfth summer brings more than the end of school and a heat wave to sleepy Rockport. On one steamy day, the tide brings a great white—and then another tragedy, cutting short a friendship everyone insists was “meaningful” but no one can tell Lucy what it all meant. To survive the fresh wave of grief, Lucy must grab the line that connects her depressed father, a stubborn fisherman, and a curious old widower to her mother’s unfinished research on the Great White’s return to Cape Cod. If Lucy can find a way to help this unlikely quartet follow the sharks her mother loved, she’ll finally be able to look beyond what she’s lost and toward what’s left to be discovered.

(POST-IT SAYS: Beautiful and sad. Grief, science, sharks, healing, and coping all come together to make a powerful story populated by unique characters who help guide and shape Lucy. Thoughtful and heartbreaking. Ages 10-13)

The Usual Suspects by Maurice Broaddus

Fans of Jason Reynolds and Sharon M. Draper will love this oh-so-honest middle grade novel from writer and educator Maurice Broaddus.

Thelonius Mitchell is tired of being labeled. He’s in special ed, separated from the “normal” kids at school who don’t have any “issues.” That’s enough to make all the teachers and students look at him and his friends with a constant side-eye. (Although his disruptive antics and pranks have given him a rep too.)

When a gun is found at a neighborhood hangout, Thelonius and his pals become instant suspects. Thelonius may be guilty of pulling crazy stunts at school, but a criminal? T isn’t about to let that label stick.

(POST-IT SAYS: A fantastic book centered on special ed kids, stereotypes, bullying, and the dynamics of middle school. “Education is a full-contact sport.” For all collections. Ages 9-13)

The Midnight Hour by Benjamin Read, Laura Trinder (3/3/2020)

For fans of portal fantasies like Jessica Townsend’s Nevermoor, Colin Meloy’s Wildwood, and The Spiderwick Chronicles by Tony DiTerlizzi and Holly Black, and unlike so many other fantasies that introduce readers to a world of enchantment and wonder, The Midnight Hour is one filled with beasts and monsters for readers looking to shine their flashlights under the covers.

When strange late-night letters start arriving at home, Emily’s parents set off to investigate. But when her parents disappear completely and Emily is left home alone to face the weird strangers that begin to appear at her door, she takes all of the clues at her disposal and makes for the place where the letters came from — the mysterious Night Post. What she’ll discover is the secret world of the Midnight Hour — a Victorian London frozen in time, full of magic and monsters.

Kept safe by an age-old agreement, the Night Folk have been exiled to a parallel world that can only be accessed by a selected few, including the mail carriers of the infamous Night Post that operate between the two worlds. Emily’s parents are key players in keeping the Night Folk safe, but when the division of the two worlds is threatened, Emily must search for her parents while navigating this dark and unknown version of London.

Armed only with a packed lunch, her very sleepy pocket hedgehog, and her infamously big argumentative mouth, she must escape bloodthirsty creatures of the night, figure out her own family secrets, and maybe just save the world. This is a frightening and enchanting story, a world built out of creatures from our worst fears who become relatable, fully formed characters unlike any we’ve seen as these strangers of parallel worlds band together to save the day.

(POST-IT SAYS: Fantasy fans will love this. The action-packed midnight world full of magical creatures and lots of detail will make readers fly through the story. Whimsical and funny with great characters. Ages 8-12)

Cub by Cynthia L. Copeland

A laugh-out-loud funny and empowering graphic memoir about growing up and finding your voice.

Twelve-year-old Cindy has just dipped a toe into seventh-grade drama—with its complicated friendships, bullies, and cute boys—when she earns an internship as a cub reporter at a local newspaper in the early 1970s. A (rare) young female reporter takes Cindy under her wing, and Cindy soon learns not only how to write a lede, but also how to respectfully question authority, how to assert herself in a world run by men, and—as the Watergate scandal unfolds—how brave reporting and writing can topple a corrupt world leader. Searching for her own scoops, Cindy doesn’t always get it right, on paper or in real life. But whether she’s writing features about ghost hunters, falling off her bicycle and into her first crush, or navigating shifting friendships, Cindy grows wiser and more confident through every awkward and hilarious mistake.

(POST-IT SAYS: Doesn’t have quite the appeal of the other children’s graphic memoirs out there, but a solid read about friendship, writing, politics, and popularity. An empowering look at the middle school years. Ages 8-12)

Go with the Flow by Karen Schneemann, Lily Williams

High school students embark on a crash course of friendship, female empowerment, and women’s health issues in Lily Williams and Karen Schneemann’s graphic novel Go With the Flow.

Good friends help you go with the flow.

Best friends help you start a revolution.

Sophomores Abby, Brit, Christine, and Sasha are fed up. Hazelton High never has enough tampons. Or pads. Or adults who will listen.

Sick of an administration that puts football before female health, the girls confront a world that shrugs—or worse, squirms—at the thought of a menstruation revolution. They band together to make a change. It’s no easy task, especially while grappling with everything from crushes to trig to JV track but they have each other’s backs. That is, until one of the girls goes rogue, testing the limits of their friendship and pushing the friends to question the power of their own voices.

Now they must learn to work together to raise each other up. But how to you stand your ground while raising bloody hell?

(POST-IT SAYS: Woohoo for an increase in books about periods! Smart, feminist, activist teens represent diverse identities and experiences. A cute, funny, terrific, inspiring read! Ages 9-14)

Post-It Note Reviews: Picture books, graphic novels, memoirs, and more!

IntersectionAllies: We Make Room for All by Chelsea Johnson, LaToya Council, Carolyn Choi, Ashley Seil Smith

The brainchild of three women-of-color sociologists, IntersectionAllies is a smooth, gleeful entry into intersectional feminism. The nine interconnected characters proudly describe themselves and their backgrounds, involving topics that range from a physical disability to language brokering, offering an opportunity to take pride in a personal story and connect to collective struggle for justice.

The group bond grounds the message of allyship and equality. When things get hard, the kids support each other for who they are: Parker defends Kate, a genderfluid character who eschews skirts for a superhero cape; Heejung welcomes Yuri, a refugee escaping war, into their community; and Alejandra’s family cares for Parker after school while her mother works. Advocating respect and inclusion, IntersectionAllies is a necessary tool for learning to embrace, rather than shy away from, difference.

Featuring gorgeous illustrations on every page by Ashley Seil Smith, as well as powerful introductions by activist and law professor Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw, who coined the term “intersectionality,” and Dr. Ange-Marie Hancock Alfaro, author of Intersectionality: An Intellectual History.

(POST-IT SAYS: A lovely little book advocating acceptance, inclusion, and community. Extensive back matter defines concepts further and provides a lengthy discussion guide. Ages 5-9)

Sunny Rolls the Dice (Sunny Series #3) by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm (Illustrator)

From the award-winning duo of Jennifer and Matthew Holm comes the sequel to the bestselling Sunny Side Up — full of heart, laughs, and adventure!

Too cool for school . . . or the least groovy girl in the grade?

Sunny’s just made it to middle school . . . and it’s making her life very confusing. All her best friend Deb wants to talk about is fashion, boys, makeup, boys, and being cool. Sunny’s not against any of these things, but she also doesn’t understand why suddenly everything revolves around them. She’s much more comfortable when she’s in her basement, playing Dungeons & Dragons with a bunch of new friends. Because when you’re swordfighting and spider-slaying, it’s hard to worry about whether you look cool or not. Especially when it’s your turn to roll the 20-sided die.

Trying hard to be cool can make you feel really uncool . . . and it’s much more fun to just have fun. Sunny’s going to find her groove and her own kind of groovy, with plenty of laughs along the way.

(POST-IT SAYS: I eagerly awaited this book! Love the Sunny series. Graphic novels about all the changes that come with middle school are really having a moment. Light on dialogue/words, but a great read. Ages 8-12)

Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker, Wendy Xu (Artist)

A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

(POST-IT SAYS: Likes: Cute art. Quirky and adorable characters. Both are queer and Asian American. Tam is nonbinary, Nova wears hearing aids. Could use improvement: Character development and plot. I felt like I was missing a lot of details. Uneven but good.)

When Aidan Became a Brother by Kyle Lukoff, Kaylani Juanita (Illustrator)

When Aidan was born, everyone thought he was a girl. His parents gave him a pretty name, his room looked like a girl’s room, and he wore clothes that other girls liked wearing. After he realized he was a trans boy, Aidan and his parents fixed the parts of life that didn’t fit anymore, and he settled happily into his new life. Then Mom and Dad announce that they’re going to have another baby, and Aidan wants to do everything he can to make things right for his new sibling from the beginning—from choosing the perfect name to creating a beautiful room to picking out the cutest onesie. But what does “making things right” actually mean? And what happens if he messes up? With a little help, Aidan comes to understand that mistakes can be fixed with honesty and communication, and that he already knows the most important thing about being a big brother: how to love with his whole self.

When Aidan Became a Brother is a heartwarming book that will resonate with transgender children, reassure any child concerned about becoming an older sibling, and celebrate the many transitions a family can experience.

(POST-IT SAYS: A lovely, affirming, and important book. Full of love and hope as well as the message that there are so many ways to be a child of any gender. Really great. Ages 5-8)

Turtle and Tortoise Are Not Friends by Mike Reiss, Ashley Spires (Illustrator)

Two sworn enemies learn that they have more in common than meets the eye, and it’s never too late to make a new friend—even if it takes decades!

Ever since they were little hatchlings, Turtle and Tortoise decided that they’d forever be separated due to their different shells.

As years and years go by, the two reptiles stay on opposites side of the pen and embark on their own adventures, while holding an everlasting grudge. Until one day, Turtle and Tortoise get into a bit of pickle and need each other’s help!

This hilarious and heartwarming picture book from Merry Un-Christmas author Mike Reiss and The Most Magnificent Thing creator Ashley Spires is perfect for fans of unlikely pairs such as Frog and Toad Are Friends by Arnold Lobel, Duck and Bear from Jory John’s Goodnight Already!, and Boy + Bot by Ame Dyckman.

Turtle has a smooth shell.

Tortoise has a rough shell.

Goodness gracious! How can they possibly be friends?!

(POST-IT SAYS: Really I’m just sharing this to say this is one of my favorite books of the year. Funny, strange, and charming, this is a great read aloud choice. Ages 5-8)

Count Me In by Varsha Bajaj

An uplifting story, told through the alternating voices of two middle-schoolers, in which a community rallies to reject racism.

Karina Chopra would have never imagined becoming friends with the boy next door—after all, they’ve avoided each other for years and she assumes Chris is just like the boys he hangs out with, who she labels a pack of hyenas. Then Karina’s grandfather starts tutoring Chris, and she discovers he’s actually a nice, funny kid. But one afternoon something unimaginable happens—the three of them are assaulted by a stranger who targets Indian-American Karina and her grandfather because of how they look. Her grandfather is gravely injured and Karina and Chris vow not to let hate win. When Karina posts a few photos related to the attack on social media, they quickly attract attention, and before long her #CountMeIn post—”What does an American look like? #immigrants #WeBelong #IamAmerican #HateHasNoHomeHere”—goes viral and a diverse population begin to add their own photos. Then, when Papa is finally on the road to recovery, Karina uses her newfound social media reach to help celebrate both his homecoming and a community coming together.

(POST-IT SAYS: While the narrative voices of Karina and Chris didn’t really grab me, this compassionate look at standing up against racism and hate is a valuable addition to all collections. Ages 10-13)

Rise Up: Ordinary Kids with Extraordinary Stories by Amanda Li, Amy Blackwell (Illustrator)

From surviving a plane crash in the jungle to striking against climate change, you won’t believe the incredible stories of the challenges these brave kids from around the world have overcome! 

Rise Up: Ordinary Kids in Extraordinary Stories features 29 tales of amazing young girls and boys who have achieved the unimaginable. The stories range from triumphing over illness and injury to overcoming bullying. Entries include Sweden’s Greta Thunberg, whose youth climate activism sparked a global movement, and Pakistan’s Ayesha Farooq, who became Pakistan’s first female fighter pilot at age 25.

Each incredible story is narrated in an exciting and engaging style, and is combined with visually stunning illustrations by Amy Blackwell. Children can lose themselves in the remarkable true-life tales of ingenuity, courage, and commitment. Practical tips and skills accompany each story, from how to tie useful knots to send coded messages, and how to be more environmentally green to how to survive a shark attack. This useful information provides a springboard for children to apply this knowledge in their own lives. These empowering stories show that no matter who you are, how old you are, and what you do, you can rise to the challenge.

(POST-IT SAYS: Absolutely gorgeous book—full color pages with lots of variety in graphics and layout. I hadn’t heard of most of these kids! An inspiring and educational read. Would make a great gift! Ages 9-13)

Infinite Hope: A Black Artist’s Journey from World War II to Peace by Ashley Bryan

From celebrated author and illustrator Ashley Bryan comes a deeply moving picture book memoir about serving in the segregated army during World War II, and how love and the pursuit of art sustained him.

In May of 1942, at the age of eighteen, Ashley Bryan was drafted to fight in World War II. For the next three years, he would face the horrors of war as a black soldier in a segregated army.

He endured the terrible lies white officers told about the black soldiers to isolate them from anyone who showed kindness—including each other. He received worse treatment than even Nazi POWs. He was assigned the grimmest, most horrific tasks, like burying fallen soldiers…but was told to remove the black soldiers first because the media didn’t want them in their newsreels. And he waited and wanted so desperately to go home, watching every white soldier get safe passage back to the United States before black soldiers were even a thought.

For the next forty years, Ashley would keep his time in the war a secret. But now, he tells his story.

The story of the kind people who supported him.
The story of the bright moments that guided him through the dark.
And the story of his passion for art that would save him time and time again.

Filled with never-before-seen artwork and handwritten letters and diary entries, this illuminating and moving memoir by Newbery Honor–winning illustrator Ashley Bryan is both a lesson in history and a testament to hope.

(POST-IT SAYS: A stunningly lovely multimedia look at Bryan’s time in the Army. Powerful, passionate, and achingly emotional, this memoir is a true work of art. Ages 10+)

Jake the Fake Goes for Laughs (Jake the Fake Series #2) by Craig Robinson, Adam Mansbach, Keith Knight (Illustrator)

For fans of Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Big Nate comes the second book in the side-splitting series about a class clown faking his way to comedy stardom from comedian and film star Craig Robinson, #1 New York Times bestselling author Adam Mansbach, and NAACP History Maker recipient and cartoonist Keith Knight.

“An absolute riot!” —LINCOLN PEIRCE, author of the BIG NATE series

Jake cracks up the crowd as a budding comedian at the Music and Art Academy talent show, but his new ego is no laughing matter. And when he starts blowing off his friends to pursue his “art,” Jake’s big head becomes a huge bummer.

Plus, being the funny man is way tougher than it looks. Luckily, Jake has his mentor Maury Kovalski, a retired comedy showstopper, to teach him the ropes about humor—and humility—before Jake loses all his biggest fans and best friends!

Featuring more than 200 illustrations, Jake the Fake stuns again with even greater gags and giggles than before!

(POST-IT SAYS: I love this (and the first book in this series). Wacky and truly hilarious, with enough art to help speed the story along. Such an easy one to recommend widely! Ages 8-12)

The Best at It by Maulik Pancholy

From award-winning actor Maulik Pancholy comes a hilarious and heartfelt middle grade debut about a gay Indian American boy coming into his own. Perfect for fans of Tim Federle’s Nate series.

Rahul Kapoor is heading into seventh grade in a small town in Indiana. The start of middle school is making him feel increasingly anxious, so his favorite person in the whole world, his grandfather, Bhai, gives him some well-meaning advice: Find one thing you’re really good at and become the BEST at it.

Those four little words sear themselves into Rahul’s brain. While he’s not quite sure what that special thing is, he is convinced that once he finds it, bullies like Brent Mason will stop torturing him at school. And he won’t be worried about staring too long at his classmate Justin Emery. With his best friend, Chelsea, by his side, Rahul is ready to crush this challenge…. But what if he discovers he isn’t the best at anything?

Funny, charming, and incredibly touching, this is a story about friendship, family, and the courage it takes to live your truth. 

(POST-IT SAYS: Strong characters, great humor, and an uplifting and affirming message about identity and self-acceptance. Wonderful representation of multifaceted identities. Ages 9-13)


Crash Course: Graphic novels for younger readers

Earlier this month, I shared a bunch of recent picture books that focus on community, caring, inclusivity, and connections. Today, I’m looking at graphic novels that are popular in the elementary library where I work. Just like I firmly believe picture books are for people of all ages, and have value and usefulness for people beyond the “recommended” age group, graphic novels also have wider appeal than their suggested ages may indicate. Even if you just work with older teens, it’s useful to know about these books that may be more widely read by younger readers, but will certainly find older audiences.

The graphic novel returns from just one class.

I did a recent post with mini-reviews of a bunch of graphic novels (they’re kind of my go-to read when my brain feels super overwhelmed). Karen has also posted quite a bit about graphic novels, and Ally often does comics and graphic novel roundups, too. Pop “graphic novels” into our search bar and check out some of these other great resources!

As with every post, we always want to hear from you. If you work with younger readers or have younger kids in your life, what graphic novels are they loving? Let us know in the comments or over on Twitter!

We recently moved the graphic novel section, so now it’s right around the corner from my desk. Saves me a lot of walking!

I ran a report at work to see what our top 50 books of the past year looked like. I did a post at the end of the school year that showed our top 25, if you’re interested. Of our top 50 for the past year, there were six Dog Man titles, four Amulet books, and three Raina Telgemeier books. The graphic novel look at school is FIERCE. I have lots of conversations with adults that are like this one:

And a lot of conversations with kids that are like this one:

Whether you’re looking to learn a bit more yourself, searching for a new book or series to hand to a young person in your life, or hoping to do some collection development, let’s dive in!

Compass South: A Graphic Novel (Four Points Series #1) by Hope Larson, Rebecca Mock (Illustrator)

Pirates pursue 12-year-old twins in the 1860s. Lots of action and adventure. The sequel, Knife’s Edge, offers up further danger and possible treasure.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

So good. Russian American Vera hopes she’ll fit in at camp more than her school, but camp isn’t as great as she’d hoped. Shows how complex the social dynamics of childhood can be. Muted colors work well for the general feeling of misery.

The Mystery Boxes (Explorer Series #1) by Kazu Kibuishi (Editor)

What’s inside the mystery box? A group of great graphic novelists offer up their answers in these short comics. Series also includes The Hidden Door and The Lost Islands.

New Kid by Jerry Craft

SO enjoyable. We definitely need more graphic novels featuring black kids. Fantastic full-color art enhances this story of racism, privilege, day-to-day middle school issues, and fitting in.

March Grand Prix series by Kean Soo

Animal racecar drivers? Yes, please!

Secret Coders series by Gene Luen Yang, Mike Holmes (Illustrator)

Clues, puzzles, and mysteries all just waiting to be solved by smart kids and coding!

Mega Princess series by Kelly Thompson

Princess Max (with the help of her jerk pony) would rather be a detective than a princess who has all of the powers of all princesses ever.

Phoebe and Her Unicorn Series by Dana Simpson

Friendship and hijinks in the vein of Calvin and Hobbes. Phoebe’s reluctant new best friend, unicorn Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, helps her feel less lonely.

And speaking of Calvin and Hobbes….

… these still circulate like mad at school. This makes me happy! In elementary school, my own kiddo went through a HARDCORE Calvin and Hobbes phase, even going as Stuependous Man for superhero day at school!

Lucy and Andy Neanderthal Series #1 by Jeffrey Brown

Stone Age kids and plenty of humor.

Click by Kayla Miller

Absolutely charming and great. A really heartfelt and positive exploration of friendship, fitting in, and standing out. Fortunately, it looks like this is the first in a series about Olive’s adventures. Sequel called Camp!

Q and Ray series by Trisha Speed Shaskan, Stephen Shaskan (Illustrator)

Adorable animal detectives are on the case! Great for lower grades.

Invisible Emmie by Terri Libenson

Emmie and Friends series. Middle school look at friendship, popularity, confidence, and embarrassment. Heartfelt and relatable.

Narwhal and Jelly Series by Ben Clanton

Silly and cute, this series focuses on friendship.

Lowriders series by by Cathy Camper, Raúl the Third (Illustrator)

A bunch of pals who love working on cars have wild adventures in space and (in the sequel) the underworld.

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and friends

I love the emphasis on creativity, imagination, and working together as well as the creative play that allows you to imagine yourself however you’d like to be—or to show the world how you really are.

Hilo series by Judd Winick

Hilo’s not from around here—he fell from the sky! He and his new friends uncover all kinds of creatures and have lots of adventures.

Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack

Cleopatra is zapped far into the future, where (no pressure) she has to save the galaxy. VERY popular at my school.

Bird & Squirrel series by James Burks

A scared squirrel and bold bird make for unlikely friends, but together they can face anything!

I could keep going, but WHEW, that’s already a lot of books. Happy reading!

Kicky’s Post It Note Reviews: In which a Teen tells us what she thinks about Raven, Sweat Pea, Guts and more

The Teen has been read a lot this summer and she’s heart today to share her thoughts with some post it note reviews. She’s brief, concise and to the point. In other words, she’s the exact opposite of me. Because we also talk about the books we read, I sometimes expand on her reviews with some of our follow up conversations.

Publisher’s Book Description

When a tragic accident takes the life of 17-year-old Raven Roth’s foster mom—and Raven’s memory—she moves to New Orleans to recover and finish her senior year of high school.

Starting over isn’t easy. Raven remembers everyday stuff like how to solve math equations and make pasta, but she can’t remember her favorite song or who she was before the accident. And when impossible things start happening, Raven begins to think it might even be better not to know who she was before.

But as she grows closer to her new friends, her foster sister, Max, and Tommy Torres, a guy who accepts her for who she is now, Raven has to decide if she’s ready to face what’s buried in the past… and the darkness building inside her.

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Kami Garcia and first-time graphic novel artist Gabriel Picolo comes this riveting tale of finding the strength to face who you are and learning to trust others—and yourself.

Post It Note Review

“Very quick read. Positive message throughout.”

I asked what the positive message was and The Teen said, “You know how Raven’s dad is a demon. Well she doesn’t want to grow up like her dad and the message is that you don’t have to follow in your parents footsteps, that you can be your own person.”

Publisher’s Book Description

A true story from Raina Telgemeier, the #1 New York 
Times
 bestselling, multiple Eisner Award-winning author of 
SmileSistersDrama, and Ghosts!

Raina wakes up one night with a terrible upset stomach. Her mom has one, too, so it’s probably just a bug. Raina eventually returns to school, where she’s dealing with the usual highs and lows: friends, not-friends, and classmates who think the school year is just one long gross-out session. It soon becomes clear that Raina’s tummy trouble isn’t going away… and it coincides with her worries about food, school, and changing friendships. What’s going on?

Raina Telgemeier once again brings us a thoughtful, charming, and funny true story about growing up and gathering the courage to face — and conquer — her fears.

Post It Note Review

“Shows anxiety very well and supportive family and friends.”

As The Teen herself has an anxiety disorder, it is high praise indeed that she felt that this was a good, honest depiction of anxiety. Thing 2 has also read this book and highly recommends it as well.

Publisher’s Book Description

Barbara Dee explores the subject of #MeToo for the middle grade audience in this heart-wrenching—and ultimately uplifting—novel about experiencing harassment and unwanted attention from classmates.

For seventh grader Mila, it starts with an unwanted hug on the school blacktop.

The next day, it’s another hug. A smirk. Comments. It all feels…weird. According to her friend Zara, Mila is being immature, overreacting. Doesn’t she know what flirting looks like?

But it keeps happening, despite Mila’s protests. On the bus, in the halls. Even during band practice-the one time Mila could always escape to her “blue-sky” feeling. It seems like the boys are EVERYWHERE. And it doesn’t feel like flirting–so what is it?

Mila starts to gain confidence when she enrolls in karate class. But her friends still don’t understand why Mila is making such a big deal about the boys’ attention. When Mila is finally pushed too far, she realizes she can’t battle this on her own–and finds help in some unexpected places.

From the author of STAR-CROSSED, HALFWAY NORMAL and EVERYTHING I KNOW ABOUT YOU comes this timely story of a middle school girl standing up and finding her voice. 

Post It Note Review

“Extremely good & shows how much harassment affects everything.”

When The Teen moved into middle school in the 7th grade, her and her friends really began experiencing a lot of sexual harassment from the boys at school. There were catcalls, swatted behinds and more. When she read the description of this book she told me, “I know this is middle grade and a little young for me, but I really want to read it.” So she did. She said this was a very important and impactful book and she hopes that it is read far and wide.

Publisher’s Book Description

The first middle grade novel from Julie Murphy, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Dumplin’ (now a popular Netflix film), is a funny, heartwarming story perfect for fans of Rebecca Stead, Ali Benjamin, and Holly Goldberg Sloan.

Patricia “Sweet Pea” DiMarco wasn’t sure what to expect when her parents announced they were getting a divorce. She never could have imagined that they would have the “brilliant” idea of living in nearly identical houses on the same street. In the one house between them lives their eccentric neighbor Miss Flora Mae, the famed local advice columnist behind “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Dividing her time between two homes is not easy. And it doesn’t help that at school, Sweet Pea is now sitting right next to her ex–best friend, Kiera, a daily reminder of the friendship that once was. Things might be unbearable if Sweet Pea didn’t have Oscar—her new best friend—and her fifteen-pound cat, Cheese.

Then one day Flora leaves for a trip and asks Sweet Pea to forward her the letters for the column. And Sweet Pea happens to recognize the handwriting on one of the envelopes.

What she decides to do with that letter sets off a chain of events that will forever change the lives of Sweet Pea DiMarco, her family, and many of the readers of “Miss Flora Mae I?”

Post It Note Review

“Super cute and gives a strong message of hope.”

The Teen is a fan of author Julie Murphy so she was pretty happy to read this book. She especially liked how hopeful it was.

Publisher’s Book Description

For fans of Love, Simon and Eleanor and Park, a romantic and sweet novel about a transgender boy who falls in love for the first time—and how first love changes us all—from New York Times bestselling author Amber Smith.

Chris and Maia aren’t off to a great start.

A near-fatal car accident first brings them together, and their next encounters don’t fare much better. Chris’s good intentions backfire. Maia’s temper gets the best of her.

But they’re neighbors, at least for the summer, and despite their best efforts, they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.

The path forward isn’t easy. Chris has come out as transgender, but he’s still processing a frightening assault he survived the year before. Maia is grieving the loss of her older sister and trying to find her place in the world without her. Falling in love was the last thing on either of their minds.

But would it be so bad if it happened anyway? 

Post It Note Review

“I think this relationship was toxic and harmful but at least it’s LGBTQ+ affirming.”

This is one of several books lately where The Teen has come to me upset because she has felt that the relationship presented in the book is toxic and she just couldn’t route for or buy into the relationship. We talk a lot about toxic relationships vs. healthy relationships and I’m thankful every time that books help us have those conversations. She’s conflicted about this book because she was very happy with how LGBTQIA+ affirming it was but didn’t really like the relationship. All the professional reviews I read mention that both participants often are truthful with each other while holding things back and I think it was this aspect that she struggled with. You can read author Amber Smith’s post Out and Proud (On the Page and In Real Life): My Long and Not-Straight Journey to Self-Acceptance here.

Collecting Comics: Middle Grade Novels that a Middle Grade Reader Really Loves

I’ve shared with you before the struggles that Thing 2, now almost 11, has had with reading. From being diagnosed with dyslexia to the ways in which school reading assignments have made her hate reading, I’ve been working overtime as both a mom and a librarian to try and ignite that love for reading. Do you know what’s helping? Graphic Novels!! So today while regular C2 blogger Ally Watkins is on sabbatical – it’s summer reading program time! – Thing 2 and I are here to share with you some graphic novels read by and recommended by a middle grade reader.

Now if you know anything about me, I have often proclaimed that graphic novels are my archnemesis. Not because I don’t respect or value them, because I do, but because I don’t personally enjoy them as a reader and have found them over the years to be hard to evaluate and collect. Thankfully, I now have resident comics and graphic novel expert Ally Watkins saved into my phone and I talk to her regularly about GNs. In fact, she kindly gives me a lot of recommendations for my very favorite middle grade graphic novel reader. I have a long list of recommended titles we’re working through.

Here’s a look at some of the GNs Thing 2 is currently reading and loving.

Like most middle grade kids, Thing 2 LOVES Raina Telgemeier. I was very fortunate to attend BEA and got an advanced copy of Guts, which she loved. The Teen also read this book because she grew up reading Telgemeier and she also was a fan. One of the things we really liked about this book is that it talks openly and honestly about having anxiety, which several people in our house struggle with. This ARC has already been read several times by multiple people in our house and is highly recommended.

The Cardboard Kingdom is a super fun book about a group of kids who make a play kingdom out of cardboard. It’s about friendship and creativity. It’s inspiring and joyful. As a librarian, I love that it has built in fun activities that require nothing more than creativity and cardboard, something that libraries have in spades as we get shipments of books in large cardboard boxes. This book is a delight and is another title that she has read multiple times.

YA authors Meg Cabot and Kami Garcia have both joined the DC graphic novel line. Meg Cabot wrote the Black Canary graphic novel that you see pictured above. Kami Garcia wrote the origin story for Raven, from Teen Titans. We watch a lot of comic book movies in our house and we are regular Teen Titans Go watchers so both of these GNs were awesome!

I did a random search for middle grade grade novels and came across The Breakaways which I purchased with almost no information because it’s about a group of friends who play soccer. Thing 2 also plays soccer so I thought tying reading in with something she already loves might help. It came when I was at work and by the time I had gotten home she had already read it. It is a great coming of age novel in which a variety of characters explore things like their sexuality, friendships, and features a wide variety of middle schoolers who are just trying to figure out who they are.

Real Friends by Shannon Hale is another graphic novel that is popular with Thing 2 and all of her friends. The companion novel, Best Friends, comes out in August and we already have our copy pre-ordered.

I have a long list of GNs to try from Ally and they include series like Amulet, Zita the Spacegirl, Cleopatra in Space, Princeless and Roller Girl. Be Prepared is on its way to our house as we speak. Graphic novels are very popular and growing in popularity, especially among middle grade readers. Several publishing houses have started or have announced that they are starting graphic novel imprints this year and next. I’m calling a truce with graphic novels, they are my archnemesis no more!

Remember, reading graphic novels is reading! And I am thankful that they are helping my kid develop a love of reading after so many struggles.

Here are some other great recommended reading lists that we’re currently working our way through

7 Awesome New Middle Grade Graphic Novels 

Get Real with Middle Grade Graphic Novels

Best Middle Grade Graphic Novels of 2018

50 Must Read Graphic Novels

Middle Grade Graphic Novel Publishers

Oni Press

DC Press

Scholastic Graphix

And Here are Some General Resources About the Rising Popularity of Graphic Novels Among Middle Grade Readers

Going Graphic: Why Graphic Novels are the New Frontier in Middle Grade

PW: An Ever Growing Demand for Middle Grade Graphic Novels

Book Review: The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees by Don Brown

Publisher’s description

the unwantedIn the tradition of Don Brown’s critically acclaimed, full-color nonfiction graphic novels The Great American Dust Bowl and Sibert Honor winning Drowned CityThe Unwanted is an important, timely, and eye-opening exploration of the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis, exposing the harsh realities of living in, and trying to escape, a war zone. 

 

Starting in 2011, refugees flood out of war-torn Syria in Exodus-like proportions. The surprising flood of victims overwhelms neighboring countries, and chaos follows. Resentment in host nations heightens as disruption and the cost of aid grows. By 2017, many want to turn their backs on the victims. The refugees are the unwanted.

 

Don Brown depicts moments of both heartbreaking horror and hope in the ongoing Syrian refugee crisis. Shining a light on the stories of the survivors, The Unwanted is a testament to the courage and resilience of the refugees and a call to action for all those who read.

 

Amanda’s thoughts

I’m a huge fan of all of Don Brown’s graphic nonfiction. If you are unfamiliar with them, I hope you will check into them and add them to your collections, particularly his stunningly moving book on Hurricane Katrina, Drowned City. This slim volume packs a real punch, filled with information and first-person accounts of Syria’s refugee crisis.

 

Brown provides a very brief overview of the Arab Spring, starting this story with teenage boys writing graffiti (“Down with the regime”) on a wall in Dara’a, in southern Syria, then the arrest and torture of those boys, which sparks a protest for their freedom. Of course, this is just one of many inciting incidents, as the anger is far deeper and more widespread, with Syrians unhappy with Assad’s rule and the corrupt government. The government retaliates against the protesters, with the growth of the protest and violence leading to civil war. Syrians flee to Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey, living in tent cities, with friends and family, or in communities in the hills. Violence intensifies when jihadists, including ISIS, join the fight. Brown followers various refugees’ journeys as they escape any way they can. We see people fleeing on foot, on boats, with smugglers, some of them successfully escaping, but many thousands and thousands dying in the process.

 

Brown gives readers a closer look at life both inside and outside of refugee camps. He also shares statistics that help inform the stories he is telling, such as numbers of registered refugees, applications for asylum, and numbers of the dead and missing. He goes on to show the tolls on the countries accepting refugees and the lengths many countries went to to keep refugees out. As sympathies wane, many begin to fear and hate the influx of refugees, whom they see as a threat and drain on resources. As more borders close, more and more people find themselves stranded. One refugees asks the heartbreaking question, “Who cares about us?” Brown takes readers back to Syria, looking at the continued war there, with the eventual exodus of so many who had hoped to be able to wait out the violence and unrest. Brown ends with a family making it to California and speaking about the future. He then includes extensive back matter explaining why he focused this story so closely on the refugee experience without going into the complicated roles that religion, politics, and cultured played in the story. Included are journal summaries from his May 2017 visit to a refugee camp in Greece, lengthy source notes, and a bibliography.

 

It was no surprise to me that Brown so adeptly captures the emotions and weight of this experience. Though, as noted, this book is slight, it is a thorough and affecting look at the Syrian refugee crisis, particularly for younger readers who may just be looking for a quick and basic understanding of what has been going on. The full-color illustrations are dynamic and powerful, whether showing crowded boats, near-empty deserts, or the anguish on the refugees’ faces. This somber, poignant, and deeply sympathetic look at Syrian refugees is as moving as it is informative. A solid addition for all collections. 

 

 

Review copy (ARC) courtesy of the publisher
ISBN-13: 9781328810151
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date: 09/18/2018