The Jake Maddox Graphic Novels feature young people competing in a variety of team and individual sports. In each story, the central character is involved in a major event in his or her sport while facing a personal challenge, moral dilemma, or conflict with friends. The two titles reviewed here address winter sports and would be good additions to youth libraries looking to enhance their offerings with a greater variety of graphic novels and sports-related literature.

In Faceoff Fall Out, Jackson “Jax” Kingsford is nervous about facing his former best friend in a hockey tournament. Ever since Archer Foss left Jax’s team and moved across town to play for a rival team, things have not been the same. Will Jax learn to move past his feelings of betrayal? What will happen when his team plays Archer’s team? Readers follow Jax on this journey and learn some things about hockey, friendship, and resilience along the way. While the text for this volume is quite heavy on narration, the storyline is uplifting and affirming for young readers. The lesson to not take a decision made by another person as a personal betrayal is one that every child needs to learn at some point, and this story conveys that message well. Lessons about teamwork and good sportsmanship are abundant. The end matter helps readers learn about literary conventions such as flashbacks and helps build visual literacy through encouraging the reader to consider the meaning of artistic devices used in the story, as well.

In Half-Pipe Panic, Payton Park is having trouble regaining his confidence after an embarrassing fall on the half-pipe. Even worse is the fact that his sister’s friend posted the video of Park’s fall online, and now everyone is laughing about it. With a big competition coming up, Park isn’t sure he even has the courage to snowboard again, much less the guts to win. This volume in the series explores themes of confidence and mental toughness, as well as the pitfalls of social media and cyber bullying. Park must learn that how he views himself is more important than the opinions of others and that his true friends will support him no matter what. Questions in the end matter help readers learn to identify character traits and emotions from the illustrations in the book.

Each volume in the series presents readers with information about the basics of a particular sport as well as ideas about friendship, character, and overcoming obstacles. The books are relatively brief in length at 65 pages each, plus end matter which includes visual questions to aid comprehension and develop visual literacy skills, facts about the rules and history of the sport addressed in the book, and a glossary of terms related to the sport. Each book features ethnically diverse characters, which are previewed visually at beginning of each title, and the vivid, full-color artwork is accessible to young readers with a simple panel structure.

Reluctant or developing readers interested in sports will be drawn to these stories. Each volume is kept brief through summarizing much of the expository material that might be shown in more detail in a longer novel. Much of the backstory in Half-Pipe Panic is related in the format of a video blog narrated by Park, which works well as a method of exposition since it is likely to hold readers’ attention. The straightforward narration used to provide exposition in Faceoff Fall Out could have been improved. Still, as an introduction to graphic novels, these books work well. They are accessible and provide instruction to help readers grow in their understanding of the medium. Further, the characters are authentic and relatable to young readers, and the conflicts they face are true-to-life while providing good examples of how to respond to challenges with character and class. This series makes a good addition to youth and elementary graphic novel collections.

Jake Maddox Graphic Novels
by Jake Maddox, Brandon Terrell
Art by Eduardo Garcia, Benny Terrell, Jaymes Reed
Faceoff Fall-Out ISBN: 9781496560438
Half-Pipe Panic ISBN: 9781496560445
Capstone, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: 8-14

  • Kelly

    | She/Her Library Information Specialist, South Park Elementary School

    Reviewer

    Kelly Jahng has studied English, history, and French, and taught middle school for sixteen years.She earned a masters in education along the way before changing hats and earning her MLIS at San Jose State University.She now works as the Library Information Specialist at South Park Elementary School in Deerfield, IL.She loves to collaborate with teachers in the school learning commons and to help students create in the makerspace.In her spare time, she loves to travel, enjoy theatre, read and review youth and YA literature, and write the occasional post for various blogs.

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