Eighty Days

How does it feel to fly? To soar above the world, nothing but you, your plane, and the sky? Would that be enough?

For pilot Jay Corvidae, it has been. Flying for AVO, the country’s aviation guild, with his best friend and fellow pilot and engineer, Sable Auliya, is what he knows, and what his future seems to hold. Until the day his plane is chartered for a flight by the mysterious Fix Vulpes, who certainly knows quite a lot about radio operation for a no-class thief. 

As AVO asserts their power and takes control over international governments, Jay and Fix’s adventures take a turn for the dangerous (and the amorous), while Sable charts her own course as she rises through AVO’s ranks. With war looming on the horizon, the truth can shift and change in an instant, and Jay, Fix, and Sable must all face the same question: what does freedom really mean?

With Eighty Days, A.C. Esguerra has built a world very similar to our own. Though the world they created is purely fictional, with countries named things like Easterly and Northerly, and no year adjacent to our timeline is specified, the setting and character design emulate a 1930s-esque Europe on the brink of WWII. AVO, then, could serve as a stand-in for any fascist government in Western history, though the style of their uniforms (and much of how the high ranking AVO officer side characters look in general) will likely have readers associating them with Nazi Germany.

Similarities to our world aside, Esguerra’s world-building is strong and highly detailed. Teen readers will be thrust immediately into the world of Eighty Days with background information coming out slowly throughout the graphic novel’s 300+ pages. It is divided into four “books”, and takes turns centering the three central characters’ journeys. This deep end approach to storytelling may be daunting for some readers, and some may even get a bit lost as they try to follow the intricacies of the plot. But it may also serve to help immerse some readers and keep the stakes high. 

It is impossible, however, to separate Esguerra’s textual storytelling and world-building from their absolutely stunning artwork. Rendered completely in black and white with shades of grey, their swooping, sweeping line work evokes the beauty and grace of flight. This style works well to create a sense of place and tone for this quasi-historical tale, and is especially effective in the many wordless sequences of train travel and flight. Esguerra’s stylistic choices do fall short, however, in some of the action and fight scenes, where the loops and swirls that worked so well in skyscapes become muddled and harder to decipher when characters moving at high speeds are being depicted instead.

That said, the characters in general are beautifully drawn, and each has their own vibrant personality that shines through in their character designs. Jay has a more guarded, yet cocky look behind his glasses, and it’s clear how he was unable to resist Fix with his unruly curls and sweet but impish smile. Sable, a young woman of color (perhaps their world’s equivalent of South Asian?), exudes both strength and elegance in equal measure. 

Aimed at teens 13 and up, Eighty Days will challenge readers to question what they know about the world around them, especially regarding oppressive governments, and will show what a difference just a few people can make. It would be a solid additional purchase for collections where adventures, slow burn LGBTQIA+ romances, and alternate universe historical stories are popular, and where the art aspect of graphic novels is especially appreciated.

Eighty Days
By A.C. Esguerra
BOOM! Archaia, 2021
ISBN: 9781684156573

Publisher Age Rating: 13+

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation:  Filipino-American, Nonbinary
Character Representation: South Asian, Gay

Secret Smithsonian Adventures, vol. 3: It’s Treason, By George!

In the third volume of the Secret Smithsonian Adventures series, middle school students Eric, Dominique, Ajay, and Josephine have just returned from wrangling dinosaurs in volume 2 of the series to discover that their work is far from over. The present-day United States is almost unrecognizable with soldiers on the streets enforcing curfews, family members accused of sedition, and everyone preparing for Coronation Day! The four young heroes head back to the Smithsonian, this time to the National Museum of American History, where the American Presidency exhibit is now devoted to American Monarchs. A dastardly villain is rewriting history, and it’s up to our four adventurers to set things right. Using time machines developed by the Smithsonian, the schoolmates must travel to the scene of George Washington’s farewell address, where Washington’s imposter is seeking a third term instead of stepping aside for a new president.

It’s Treason, By George! relies on background from earlier volumes, but provides some additional details about the origin of the Smithsonian’s time machines and why they were created. Readers are expected to be familiar with the good-guy scientists including Smitty who can speak to the protagonists across time and space and create holographic effects, and Al who runs the show at the Smithsonian. The villain Gould, also introduced in previous volumes, has additional backstory revealed in this book. However, it is never entirely clear what is motivating Gould to wreak havoc upon historical events. Perhaps forthcoming volumes will shed greater light on this mystery.

The full-color illustrations are simple and accessible to young readers, with crisp lines, bold colors, and an uncomplicated panel structure. The racially diverse main characters are portrayed realistically with expressive features. However, a lack of clarity in the portrayal of the historical characters is problematic. Since the storyline hinges on the villain reversing Washington’s historical actions, it is critical that the reader be able to discern the difference between the real Washington and the fraud, which is very difficult at times. Hamilton, Adams, and Washington are also nearly indistinguishable in some panels, further muddling the flow of several otherwise pivotal scenes, though dialogue does help clarify the action.

The concept for this series, and this volume in particular, is intriguing. It provides an opportunity for young people to explore history, and to become acquainted with the collections of the Smithsonian museums, as well as to contemplate the merits of a constitutional republican form of government. Unfortunately, the execution of this concept is more simplistic than would be desired for the intended audience. Whereas the text addresses complex ideas such as the peaceful transition of power within a modern republic, the plot lacks the depth preferable for the maturity of most middle grade readers. Additionally, the protagonists tend to break from adolescent speech patterns to provide precocious commentary about the historical events they are witnessing, and they lack the dimension to make them relatable characters.

While I had higher hopes for this series and this installment in particular, It’s Treason, By George! is a suitable addition to school and public library collections where historical graphic novels are in demand. The brief length will also enable this text to be used as supplemental material for classroom instruction.

Secret Smithsonian Adventures, vol. 3: It’s Treason, By George!
by Chris Kientz, Steven Hockensmith
Art by Lee Nielsen
ISBN: 9781588345868
Smithsonian Books, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

The Flash, vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice

Ever since he was struck by lightning and given a connection to the extra-dimensional Speed Force, Barry Allen has lived an interesting life, fighting crime as the super-speedster The Flash. Recently, he learned that his life is more interesting than he can remember. Literally.

Someone or something is altering history, erasing events and entire people from the timeline. Barry discovered this fact after being reached by one of the forgottenWally West, his protégé Kid Flash, who in another time and another place took up his title as The Flash.

That mystery must wait, however, as Barry Allen’s hometown of Central City is besieged by strange lightning storms born of The Speed Force. All around the city, people are being struck by lightning and finding themselves with super-speed powers. These include August Heartone of Barry’s few friends among the detectives of the Central City Police departmentand Dr. Meena Dhawan, a scientist at STAR Labs.

Barry is quick to aid the efforts to wrangle those who lose control of their powers and, as The Flash, to offer them training. Soon he finds himself fighting a war on two fronts, contending with both The Black Holea cabal of criminal scientists who seem to be responsible for triggering The Speed Force storms somehow—and a mysterious new speedster villain called Godspeed, who is killing his students to steal their powers!

Can Barry win the day with the help of his newfound allies? Will Godspeed prove to be the real Fastest Man Alive? And what of the other Wally West, the nephew of Barry’s friend, Iris West, who unbeknownst to everyone has developed his own connection to The Speed Force independent of the strange storms?

Lightning Strikes Twice drops the reader feet-first into the world of Barry Allen, requiring them to hit the ground running to keep up with an incredibly fast-paced story. Thankfully, writer Joshua Williamson manages to make the complex history of the character easily accessible. This is fortunate because this volume features several subplots that came out of DC Universe: Rebirth in addition to the on-going story of Barry Allen’s life, the reintroduction of the original Wally West, the new Wally West developing super-speed powers and everything involving The Black Hole and Godspeed. Miraculously, Williamson finds time for quiet character moments amidst all the action. Of particular note is his development of Dr. Meena Dhawan, who quickly becomes a worthy love-interest for Barry Allen as well as a hero in her own right as the speedster Fast Track.

The artwork by Carmine Di Giandomenico proves divisive. Forgoing the usual crystal clarity of traditional superhero comics, Di Giandomenico utilizes a grittier style that seems to blur and distort when the characters are in motion, with wild squiggles denoting the lighting sparking around the speedsters. The effectiveness of this artistic choice is debatable though it does give the book’s many action sequences a distinctive appearance that is not easily forgotten.

This volume is rated 12+ and I consider that a fair rating. There’s no sexual content or adult situations depicted. There’s a fair amount of violence and discussion of death, including a few disturbing sequences involving the speedsters killed by Godspeed, but nothing teenagers shouldn’t be able to cope with.

The Flash, vol. 1: Lightning Strikes Twice
by Joshua Williamson
Art by Carmine Di Giandomenico
ISBN: 9781401267841
DC Comics, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 12+


Indian-American Priyanka, also known as Pri, is a comics-loving teenager who has important questions. She wants to know why her mother left India and who her father is, but her mother remains tight-lipped. After Pri discovers a pashmina (a kind of shawl) in an old suitcase, she finds herself transported to a bright and magical India. Convinced that she needs to visit the real place, Pri travels to India to discover the origins of the pashmina and herself.

Nidhi Chanani weaves together a story full of magic and realistic situations to form a charming narrative of identity and growth. Pri is a compelling protagonist, whose struggles to fit in are relatable. Pri’s determination, demonstrated through her persistent questions and decision to use her own prize money for airplane tickets, helps her to reach her goals. Chanani also includes a greater conversation about injustice and the importance of choice for women. As Pri comes to understand her identity and her mother’s story, she finds her strength.

Chanani conveys a setting filled with Pri’s close family and friends, school drama, the goddess Shakti, and magic. Because the main character and her family are Indian-American, the story naturally includes elements of Indian culture. The characters also use some Hindi words, and although the words are not explicitly translated, there is usually enough context for non-native speakers to get the gist.

Chanani’s artwork captures movement and body language well, and her ability to draw strong scenes add to the emotional power of the work. She also includes little details, such as posters of Sailor Moon in Pri’s room, to give a sense of the characters’ identity. Many of the illustrations are in black and white, and so Chanani’s judicious use of color effectively symbolizes idealism and packs a big punch at key moments.

Pashmina is a rich, sweet graphic novel about understanding your identity and finding your purpose. There is no gore or sexual content, but, given some of the more emotionally mature topics, this comic is ideal for readers ten and older. Readers looking for a work with a great feminist message will gravitate toward this one. I, for one, hope to see more work from Nidhi Chanai.

by Nidhi Chanani
ISBN: 9781626720879
First Second, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: 10-14

Classic Fantastic: Ms. Marvel

[Classic Fantastic is our series of features on the classics of the format—please check out our other picks for the most important titles, in terms of appeal, innovation, and storytelling, that every library should own.]

What’s it about?

Ms. Marvel is a window into the life of a Pakistani Muslim immigrant family. After a terrigen mist endowed Kamala Khan with superpowers, she became the new Ms. Marvel—a Ms. Marvel whose superhero outfit is a repurposed burkini. Kamala weaves between the worlds of the religious and the secular the same way she weaves between the world of the teen and the world of the superhero: she’s sometimes confident, sometimes uneasy, and never in one place for too long.

Within Kamala’s nuclear family and friend circle, we’re provided a variety of characters who express their faith in a variety of ways. Abu and Ammi, Kamala’s parents, are somewhat secular but strict. They disapprove of drugs, dogs, and dates. On the other hand, Kamala’s brother Aamir rebels through his piety by dressing in traditional dress with a kufi (skullcap). Kamala’s feelings about her faith are complex and contradictory. She’s quick to snark at Sheikh Abdullah’s lecture from the women’s section of the masjid, but she also remembers his wisdom at crucial moments.

Kamala expresses a similar ambivalence about being a supehero. The work takes takes her away from friends, sleep, and her beloved World of Battlecraft videogame, and she’s not thrilled about being treated like a kid sister in the Avengers. On the other hand, she gets to save the world.

What is clear, though, is that there are similarities between religious contemplation and serving as a superhero. Both require humans to think of the world beyond themselves, assess their courses of action, and work on behalf of the greater good.

Kamala’s “greater good” is Jersey City, New Jersey. Jersey City is drawn true to real life, with views of the Freedom Tower poking out from across the Hudson River. Jersey City is home to lots of working-class immigrants representing different waves of immigration. Kamala’s best friend, techie sidekick, and quasi love interest Bruno is white, but he also identifies as an Italian immigrant. Kamala’s and Bruno’s relationship faces its expected turns over the series, including a moment where Bruno reveals his love for Kamala and Kamala, despite being boy-obsessed, tells Bruno she’s not about relationships right now.

Notable Notes

Even though Kamala and Bruno aren’t in love (or not really, or let’s not talk about it), their verbal sparring and references to nerd and gamer culture are delightful. There are references to RPGs, memes that have probably overstayed their welcome (doge, anyone?), and bitcoin, among others. These small moments don’t come across as gimmicky in the slightest, though I see how they easily could tire the reader—instead, they show an attention to craft.

What’s also notable in the Ms. Marvel volumes is the use of setting, color, and space. I have a hard time reading some superhero comics because I feel the action is too crowded on the page. In the interest of making superhero comics “exciting,” some artists lay in lots of scenes with BOOMS and THWACKS and character close-ups from torso up. Ms. Marvel goes the opposite direction. Instead of crisp colors, colorist Ian Herring gave the series a faded palette, and instead of lots of close-ups, we get scenescapes of a long-legged Kamala Khan making her way across Jersey City.

The two artists who drew most of the series, Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa, have slightly different interpretations of Ms. Marvel. Alphona’s Ms. Marvel is leggy and gangly, and her poofy hair floats around her head defiantly. Alphona’s lines are sketchy and he attends to details around Jersey City like iron trellises and trash cans. Miyazawa’s Ms. Marvel, on the other hand, is sleeker with bolder lines and bigger gestures. The style feels more sci-fi than PATH train. All artists who have taken a hand to Ms. Marvel are keen on drawing her grimaces, pouts, and frustrations of daily life and superhero duty.


Ms. Marvel gives readers an opportunity to cheer for a heroine who looks like them and practices their faith. It takes the attention away from superhero duties as a white male act and shows how a woman of color can be a public servant who gets the bad guys, too. It’s not the only comic that portrays a non-white or non-male main character, but it does so with tremendous heart and openness. Wilson has developed a heroine who is so likeable and relatable to teens, because so many of her concerns are teen concerns and so much of her life is teen life. What teen on the planet hasn’t had to negotiate parent expectations, identity, and getting to class on time?


Ms. Marvel appeals to new graphic novel readers as well as graphic novel fans who are trying out a new genre. The intent in this series seems to be to find as wide a readership as possible. The plot lines are simple and somewhat modular: the core characters stay somewhat stable and there are new villains and characters in every volume who are introduced. If there are some story lines that carry over from previous volumes, they are contextualized and explained clearly.

I also see Ms. Marvel as a bridge between Japanese comics and American comics. There are times that Kamala’s actions and depictions seem more out of an anime comedy—for example, at times her eyes bug a little bit when she meets somebody famous, and when she gets defensive with a friend, her eyes become pin-like and small. Kamala can be endearing even when she’s at her most annoying.

Why should you own this?

The Ms. Marvel series introduced comic book readers to Kamala Khan, a teen in Jersey City who is just trying to balance school, friends, overbearing parents, and World of Battlecraft. Superheroes have never had this much teen angst before. It’s about time Ms. Marvel became a must-read for every teenager on this planet and on any other alternate universe planets, too.

Ms. Marvel
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona, Takeshi Miyazawa, and others
Volume 1: No Normal
ISBN: 9780785190219
Volume 2: Generation Why
ISBN: 9780785190226
Volume 3: Crushed
ISBN: 9780785192275
Volume 4: Last Days
ISBN: 9780785197362
Volume 5: Super Famous
ISBN: 9780785196112
Volume 6: Civil War II
ISBN: 9780785196129
Volume 7: Damage Per Second
ISBN: 9781302903053
Marvel, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: T+

Ms. Marvel, vol. 7: Damage Per Second

Once again, the Ms. Marvel series introduces characters and plots that are relevant to contemporary teens. Kamala Khan isn’t just getting to know the Marvel universe, she’s figuring out the moral universe, too

Depending on how well you know Kamala, you may recall that she’s a pretty devoted gamer. Her vice of choice is online multiplayer games, where she is known not as Kamala Khan or Ms. Marvel, but as SlothBaby. I guess every alter ego needs an alter ego? Within the game, her guild friend, LeetSkillz, starts acting strangely and threatens Kamala by mentioning her address. If her online friends get wind of her true identity it could be bad news.

Meanwhile, photos have been going around of Clara, a classmate at school. Clara is humiliated and embarrassed about photos that were intended to be shared only with her boyfriend, who claims he kept them private. Ms. Marvel and her friends Mike, Zoe, and Nakia step in to support Clara and befriend her.

It turns out these events are related. Player LeetSkillz unintentionally downloaded Doc.X, a virus designed to spread quickly and take on the traits of its users. Doc.X has the power to control not only technology, but minds, too. Though Kamala can resist it’s control of minds, the virus has an unusual blackmail offer for Kamala: spread the virus into a S.H.I.E.L.D. facility or else the virus will release the love letters that Zoe wrote to Nakia but never sent. Ms. Marvel briefly considers making good on Doc.X’s order before she stops herself: “If I cave in to a bad guy, am I still one of the good guys?” Kamala’s guild meets up in real life and she hatches a multi-phase plan to defeat Doc.X once and for all.

It’s fun to watch Ms. Marvel’s fighting style develop over time from mostly physical force to a blend of strategic thinking, physical force, peer leadership, and a dash of techie know-how. This volume artistically celebrates Kamala’s special brand of dorky superhero in all sorts of ways, from the bags of chips that are by her side when she’s gaming to a physically unflattering depiction of her with her spidery elongated legs or sitting with her guild at a LAN party at the Circle Q. (“Are you nerds seriously having LAN party in a convenience store? Man, this is some peak Jersey right here…”) I always appreciate how the Ms. Marvel volumes buck the old-school trend of female superheroes with idealized and hyper-sexualized physical traits. Ms. Marvel is about kicking ass, not having one.

However, I felt that Doc.X as a villain and the volume itself presented some questions and issues that weren’t explored further or resolved. This seemed particularly rife for potential in a volume about secrets, surveillance, and how we use the internet, because we know Kamala’s weak for Bruno and we know she doesn’t always display the finest judgment when it comes to teen life. I would have liked to have seen Kamala’s personal life enter this volume more, particularly because she says “We all have secret identities. Secret identities, but no secrets, and it sucks.”

This is a terrific volume for those who are already fans, but I would encourage newer readers to start earlier in the series.

Ms. Marvel, vol. 7: Damage Per Second
Written by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Mirka Andolfo and Takeshi Miyazawa
ISBN: 9781302903053
Marvel, 2017
Publisher Age Rating: T+

Ms. Marvel, vol. 6: Civil War II

I’m pretty sure I know Kamala Khan. She’s that student who raises her hand to say something brilliantly wrong. She lets her enthusiasm override reason and common sense. She’s loyal to friends, but she acts before she listens.

Kamala Khan’s superhero self, Ms. Marvel, faces some of the same issues as Kamala Khan the Pakistani-American living in Jersey City. In one panel we see Ms. Marvel leaping from one building to another with the newly rebuilt One World Trade Center in the far distance. In the real world, some (most notably Donald Trump) accused Muslims in Jersey City—families exactly like Kamala’s—of celebrating the destruction of the original World Trade Center on 9/11. In the fictionalized world, this volume’s villains have a similar obsession with order and keeping the peace.

In nearly all of the volumes in the Ms. Marvel series, there are distinct and direct parallels to contemporary issues, and the muted tones and high realism of the artwork is meant to remind us that superhero life and real life aren’t so far apart. If Ms. Marvel were more…dare I say…heroic, these comics could come across as overly preachy and moralizing, as if Ms. Marvel were the Smokey the Bear of racism and classism. Instead, readers are invited to see Ms. Marvel work her way through issues, too. When Captain Marvel introduces Ms. Marvel to Becky St. Clair and her cadre of predictive crime fighters, Ms. Marvel is in awe of the ability to stop a crime before it has the ability to harm others. Tyesha, Kamala’s friend, tries to warn her that such a system could cause new problems, not resolve the problems that already exist. While Ms. Marvel’s evolution from stopping crime to stopping unnecessary oppression is swift and predictable, it is still satisfying to watch.

Characters who have made larger appearances in other volumes make a small showing here, and readers learn more about Kamala’s family life in Pakistan, setting the stage for future international adventures.

The Ms. Marvel series continues to be a refreshing delight for teen readers who are looking for a superhero who is as worried about fighting crime as she is getting a college scholarship.

Ms. Marvel, vol. 6: Civil War II
by G. Willow Wilson
Art by Adrian Alphona and Takeshi Miyazawa
ISBN: 9780785196129
Marvel, 2016
Publisher Age Rating: (12+)

Romeo and Juliet


We all know the story of Romeo and Juliet. Young lovers from warring families cannot be together in life, united only by untimely death. Many famous lines from the play have entered our general lexicon: “a rose by any other name,” “parting is such sweet sorrow,” and “a plague o’ both your houses.” Most retellings of this tragedy preserve its plot, but they don’t always include the original language, often updating or simplifying the text in the name of accessibility. In this regard, Gareth Hinds’ version is a great compromise.

As he explains in the author’s note, Hinds’ Romeo and Juliet does not contain the full text of the original play, but retains its best-known phrases and a great deal more of the Bard’s beautiful prose. Confession: I didn’t even realize the text had been abridged until I read Hinds’ note. Though I’m no Shakespeare scholar, I think this says something about the smoothness of Hinds’ editing and the sense of authenticity in this tremendously accessible graphic novel.

Hinds’ detailed full-color drawings lay out the events of the play, making them easy to follow. While the art is an effective storytelling device, it’s also fun to look at; its colors are bright and lively with a watercolor feel. The background of each scene adds richness to the story, whether it is couples dancing at the Capulets’ ball or the herb gardens of Friar Laurence. The setting remains period Verona, its architecture elaborate and beautiful. Hinds admits to tweaking the city’s geography—notably, bringing architectural points of interest closer together in order to produce more dramatic landscapes.

Hinds depicts the Capulets as Indian and the Montagues as African, noting that he drew the characters this way to reflect the racial diversity of our world, not to explore any specific real-world conflict. The families also dress in different colors: the Capulets wear red, the Montagues blue. The characters are distinctive, their appearances reflecting their personalities: tough-guy Tybalt is heavily tattooed, while playful Mercutio wears his hair twisted into peaks reminiscent of a jester’s cap.

The characters’ actions, expressions, and postures support the text, most of which is spoken by the characters as befits an adaptation of a play. An occasional footnote clarifies a potentially confusing word, but otherwise, the images provide all the context necessary to follow the story. Even metaphors and flights of fancy are illustrated, such as Mercutio’s description of Queen Mab visiting dreamers in her chariot. Not only do the drawings clarify the meaning of the text, they add to its emotional power and the excitement of the action scenes.

Hinds has clearly put a lot of thought into this adaptation. The author’s note provides full context for his decision-making, discussing everything from anachronisms like Tybalt’s tattoos to small details like the species of plants in herbalist Friar Laurence’s garden. I would happily hand this book to any middle or high school student who is studying Romeo and Juliet or anyone who is a fan of Shakespeare.

Romeo and Juliet
by Gareth Hinds, William Shakespeare
ISBN: 9780763668075
Candlewick Press, 2013

Jr. Graphics Ancient Civilizations series

36-coverThe Jr. Graphics Ancient Civilizations series offers a day in the life of a family in each of six cultures. Sensibly, it doesn’t try to cover the entirety of a civilization’s history, or show what life was like for people in all areas, classes, or trades. After all, each sturdy little hardcover is only 24 pages long. Instead, we get a page at the beginning of each volume that provides a general overview of the civilization’s history (names and dates of dynasties in China, for example), and then homes in on the time period we’ll be seeing.

Everyday Life in Ancient India follows a family of garland-makers living in Kasi in 250 BC. We see the family working at its craft, then the men going into town to sell garlands and make offerings at a shrine. Selling their flower garlands — which were important in ceremonies and other aspects of ancient Indian life — brings the men into contact with people of different castes and gives the reader a glimpse of a traditional wedding. Meanwhile, the women work at home. (You’ll see this emerge as a historically-accurate-but-depressing pattern.)

Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt follows an architect and his family who live in a village near Sakkara circa 2200 BC, during the construction of Pepi II’s pyramid. Again, we see the men involved in work, education, and religion, while the women do household chores. The architect and his son walk through of the half-built pyramid, giving us information about its construction and ancient Egyptian beliefs.

Over in Ancient Greece, we follow an Athenian family, including their slaves. Events covered include a meeting of the Boule council and a vote taken at the Assembly, with explanations of how each worked. In the evening, a dinner party is held.

Ancient Rome, meanwhile, brings us a family living in about 202 AD. The father/husband works in the Emperor’s Praetorian Guard and attends a gladiatorial match, and the children learn and daydream about the future.

In Ancient China (roughly 180 BC, in the Han dynasty), we follow a family of rice farmers. While their activities on this particular day are limited to farmwork, one of the children offers readers a broader scope by fantasizing about being a lord and what life would be like if he were one.

Finally, in the Mayan Civilization (circa 250 AD, Copán), we see a family go about work, school, and the celebration of a festival.

This series is all about education. The publisher’s website recommends the books for a reading level of 2nd or 3rd grade, with an interest level of 3rd to 6th grade. Each book features a glossary of words that young children might find difficult, which are indicated by bold text when they appear elsewhere in the book. There’s also a list of facts to take away from the volume.

The books are attractive and easily readable. Glossy, full-color pages include enough detail to immerse readers in the scenes of everyday life. Architecture, food, dress, sleeping arrangements, and more are pictured. I especially appreciate the choices made about which families to portray. The heads of most of the families (invariably the husbands and fathers, but whatever, Kirsten Holm didn’t create the patriarchy) work in middle-class or upper-middle-class professions. Holm resists focusing on lords or royalty, which I find refreshing. Plus, who knew some of that stuff about garland-makers?

The series has no sexual content, and violence is kept at a distance. Even the gladiatorial combat in Ancient Rome and the brutal sport of pok-ta-pok played by the Mayans involve no visible bloodshed.

In addition to text spoken by the characters, text boxes hang on the edges of most panels, explaining background facts. Still, the characters are remarkably prone to narrating their own lives and telling each other things they would all already know: “The women weave, while we work outside in the heat,” “You know I always get up before dawn since there is so much work to do.” This doesn’t exactly make for snappy dialog, but shouldn’t bother young readers who are looking to learn rather than to read a thrillingly-plotted story.

Jr. Graphics Ancient Civilizations series
by Kirsten Holm
Art by Planman Technologies
Everyday Life in Ancient India – ISBN: 9781448862191
Everyday Life in Ancient Egypt – ISBN: 9781448862160
Everyday Life in Ancient China – ISBN: 9781448862184
Everyday Life in Ancient Greece – ISBN: 9781448862146
Everyday Life in Ancient Rome – ISBN: 9781448862153
Everyday Life in Maya Civilization – ISBN: 9781448862177
Rosen Publishing Group, 2012
Publisher Age Rating: 2nd-3rd grade reading level