The Prisoner of Shiverstone

Young Helga Sharp likes to tinker with technology. Unfortunately, such tinkering is frowned on in her world—a place that, until a few decades ago, was in danger from a wide variety of mad scientists. When one of her secret projects makes radio contact with a stranger, the lonely Helga finds a kindred spirit. A kindred spirit who is currently being held in an island prison. Specifically, Utley Island, where the mad scientists are kept.

Helga decides to rescue her friend, but after a maritime mishap, finds herself waking up in an Utley Island hospital and facing a lot of questions. She plays dumb, claiming that she got separated from her parents at sea and pretending to know nothing about the island. If she can just stick around long enough to steal a few high-tech parts, she can make a device that will free her friend. But the longer she stays on Utley Island, the more she discovers that nothing about it—from the officers who run the place to the scientists it imprisons—is what she expected.

Helga is clever, sneaky, and skeptical, but well-intentioned, and makes friends on Utley Island despite herself. The residents there seem surprisingly good-hearted and friendly, given that most of them are technically prisoners and the rest are technically prison guards. While Helga’s focus is on building the device to rescue her trapped friend, there is a parallel emotional journey in which she begins to trust others and to find that there are people who actually appreciate her interest in science.

The setting has a fun, fantastical feel, with quirky characters and weird science inventions aplenty. It is unclear what the bar is in this world for being a “mad scientist”—we certainly don’t see any who seem power-hungry or cruel. At worst, they are careless about the potentially dangerous side effects of their cutting-edge experiments. Interestingly, the island’s Chief of Security seems to be a full-on superhero, patrolling in a flight suit, despite the fact that that there are no real supervillains in sight and most of the island’s inhabitants seem perfectly happy to stay there.

The art is vibrantly painted, and the character designs have retro charm, from the oversized bow in Helga’s hair to the oddball appearances of the mad scientists’ outfits and inventions. The colors are saturated, with vivid shades of pink, teal, and blue often dominating the panels, adding to the sci-fi feel of the setting. There is some racial diversity among the island’s inhabitants, though most of the main characters appear to be white.

There is a small amount of danger, as when some robot guardians run amok on the island, but it never gets too intense. Most of the action is of a more puzzle-solving nature as Helga tries to assemble her rescue device while dodging questions from well-meaning adults. (Basically all of the adult characters seem supportive of Helga in general, if not supportive of her secret mission – which, after all, they don’t know about.) This is a fun and gentle sci-fi adventure with a fun retro aesthetic. A nice addition to middle-grade collections.

The Prisoner of Shiverstone
By Linette Moore
Abrams, 2022
ISBN: 9781419743924

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)

The Extincts: Quest for the Unicorn Horn

Lug the Wooly Mammoth, Martie the Passenger Pigeon, Scratch the Saber Toothed Tiger, and Quito the Collins Poison Frog make up a special group known as ROAR – the Rescue Ops Acquisition Rangers. ROAR exists to protect environmental artifacts, especially those that have become exposed by climate change. Their leader, Dr. Z, has just sent them on their first real mission, to rescue a rare horn from a Siberian unicorn, an extinct creature similar to a rhinoceros, which may have inspired the legend of the unicorn. The horn is thought to possess medicinal qualities which could be squandered if it falls into the wrong hands or is lost to the melting effects of climate change. ROAR travels via futuristic vehicles like a hovercraft and an all-terrain mobile support vehicle called the MoSUV. They also have a computerized guide named GAIA which shares facts with them during their mission. 

At first the story seems fairly straightforward. The group embarks on their mission with little trouble apart from being followed through Siberia by a mysterious cave bear on a motorcycle. However, astute readers may wonder why no origin story is presented for this group. It is also perplexing why these animals are alive and well even though they are members of extinct species. The cave bear who finally catches up to ROAR knows the truth, and a twist in the plot will surely surprise readers. Future volumes in the series will undoubtedly provide more adventure as “The Extincts” find their place in a world that was never made for them. 

The Extincts: Quest for the Unicorn Horn has a lot to delight middle grade readers. The story is action-packed, with an interesting illustration scheme that’s dynamic and attention-grabbing. Scott Magoon makes each character distinctive from the others and from the human world around them. Young readers will enjoy the characters’ ROAR uniforms, gadgets, and vehicles. There are typically two to three colors used per page, but the colors alternate frequently, making the book visually interesting and reflecting the different settings of the story. There is also plenty of age-appropriate silly humor—Lug the wooly mammoth has to go to the bathroom through much of the story and opens a new cave tunnel with a giant fart.

The book also teaches a great deal of science, especially about the effects of climate change on the arctic regions, including melting permafrost, collapsing buildings, and habitat loss. The end matter Includes an experiment you can try at home with supercooled liquid. Other features in the end matter are information about all the extinct species featured, a glossary of terms, more about the Siberian setting of the Batagaika Crater, and things readers can do to help the earth. The Extincts is a strong new series for middle grade readers, and its opening volume, Quest for the Unicorn Horn is as entertaining as it is educational.

The Extincts, vol. 1: Quest for the Unicorn Horn
By Scott Magoon
Abrams Amulet, 2022
ISBN: 9781419752513

Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)

M is for Monster

Shaken from the accidental death of her sister Maura, the grief-stricken Doctor Frances Ai vows to bring her back to life with all the scientific and magical power at her disposal. And it works. . . supposedly. The being that rises from the slab has no memory of Maura’s life, nor does she share any of her interests or quirks. This is someone entirely new, though Frances is willing to do anything to bring her sister fully back, even if that means taking the new being apart and trying again.

Fearing her own unmaking, the creation, who deems herself M, attempts to slip into Maura’s old life, aided by Maura’s spirit still wandering among the house’s mirrors, visible only to M. However, that life comes with Frances’ high expectations, ones that M has no interest in pursuing as she discovers her own passions and desires. Once masquerading as Maura starts taking its toll, M must decide who she wants to be, her own person or the pale shadow of someone else. Talia Dutton’s Frankenstein-inspired debut, M is for Monster, expertly navigates through the topics of grief, self-discovery, and the importance of self-expression, as M strives to become the most comfortable and authentic version of herself.

M’s journey with forging her identity, Frances’s struggle with her grief and guilt, and Maura’s frustration of having to live vicariously through M give the story a resonating and relatable weight. Each character receives just enough focus for their arcs to develop and conclude satisfyingly, while also having their own moments to shine and make their mark on readers. M, with her hiccups of having to adjust to life in general, Frances’s overexuberance towards science, and Maura’s wit and dry attitude all add a lighter side to the story, allowing it to breathe in its more relaxed moments. Personally, I found myself invested the most in M’s progression, which naturally lends itself to a queer allegory. While not explicitly queer herself, M goes through many experiences that one does when first discovering that part of themselves: the uncomfortable nature of having to put on a persona to conform to others’ expectations, of trying to distance oneself from a past version of themselves, and finding oneself growing beyond the vision other people have of them. In the end, it becomes a lesson in allowing one to be themselves for their own benefit, something M tries to come to terms with over the course of the comic.

Along with this allegory, there is some LGBTQ+ representation in the form of Frances’s partner, Gin, who goes by they/them pronouns, and their neighbors who are in a sapphic relationship, all of which are normalized.

With a calm, cool palette of white and teal, the comic exudes a sense of thoughtfulness and reflection that distinguishes it from the more horror-based aspects of its story. It reminded me somewhat of Bloom, a comic that, while completely different in terms of plot, utilizes a similar coloring motif to enhance the mood and atmosphere of each panel. In Dutton’s work it serves as an emotional hook for the reader, pairing well with the paneling that becomes an additional storytelling device. There are multiple instances in which the layout of a scene provides subtle indications of developing character dynamics or adds subtext to the overall plot and character motivations. A spread that particularly stands out is a page of Frances and M conversing, with Maura appearing in a bubble to the side, slowing inching closer and closer with each panel as a result of her speaking through M, until she is completely between them with M uncomfortably pushed to the side as Maura’s influence becomes more prevalent. In a scene with no dialogue, it speaks volumes to M’s plight, perfectly summarizing the overall conflict of the story.

M is for Monster will no doubt please readers who enjoy engaging, emotional stories with an evocative art style and a smidge of the grotesque. Due to its more mature handling of these themes, this title is most suitable for audiences 14 and up. Librarians and educators who have a high circulation of character-driven and low sci-fi titles and aim to include more representative and diverse materials should consider purchasing this title.

M is for Monster
By Talia Dutton
Abrams, 2022
ISBN: 9781419762208

Publisher Age Rating: ages 13-17

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation: Chinese-American, Bisexual
Character Representation: Assumed Asian, Lesbian, Queer, Nonbinary

The flower garden

This colorful graphic novel, a blend of beginning chapter book and picture book, opens with the ringing of an old-style cordless phone in a house in the woods. Tess, a little Black girl, hurries over to the house of her friend Anna, a white girl with a sweep of knee-length red hair.

Anna has heard that bees are in trouble and wants to help them, but Tess is kinda scared of bees! But Anna doesn’t have time to listen to her friend and drags her outside, along with her cat Tiger, to hastily plant some flower seeds, then fall asleep waiting for them to grow…

The next thing they know, they’ve shrunk in size. They meet Maple, a gnome with a pointed red hat and Asian features. Anna is thrilled to go on an adventure and explore with their new friend May, but Tess isn’t so sure it’s a good idea. Will Anna start listening to her friend or will Tess have to stand up for herself? And will they ever get home—and back to their right size again?

The art is definitely a draw here, with vibrantly colored flowers and lush greens popping off the page. Even the gnomes show a diversity of skin colors and all are drawn with the same, simple rectangular-shaped body. Various creatures appear on the pages, from spiders to foxes, and readers who like miniature items will be delighted by the cozy details of the gnomes’ underground dwelling.

There is an attempt at a gentle lesson, with Anna learning to listen to her friend Tess, but Tess is still somewhat stereotyped as the sidekick with Anna as the main character. On the one hand, Black girls are often portrayed as extroverts and quieter Tess breaks stereotypes in that way. On the other hand, she’s still not the main character in the story and even when exuberant Anna is apologizing, she still makes herself the center of attention. I would love to see a sequel with Tess as the main character.

This makes a sweet read-aloud or a gentle and engaging story for readers ready for simple chapters and those who enjoy nature, imagination, and detailed art. Fans of Poppy & Sam or the Moomins will enjoy this quiet story.

The Flower Garden
By Renee Kurilla
Abrams Amulet, 2022
ISBN: 9781419750205

Publisher Age Rating: ages 6-9

NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Picture Books (3-8)

Dead Kings Have No Dreams

For many people, technology that was supposed to increase our opportunities to connect with people has done the exact opposite. With our ability to create whole virtual spaces that rival the beauty of our own reality, a world of pixels and programmed delights might seem like the better alternative to dreary, humdrum. But creator Valentín Ramón Menendez has taken this science fiction premise to some very bizarre extremes in his latest book, Dead Kings Have No Dreams.

The story takes place in a future where humanity is free to do whatever it wants to do. Androids are so prevalent that no one really has to work jobs anymore. With an abundance of free time, humans now take mind-altering drugs and dive deep into virtual worlds where exotic locations and fantasy fulfillment are just a headset away, while Only Human, an organization looking to move away from androids and a dependence on technology, wants to return to a simpler time. With all this societal upheaval going on, protagonist J still manages to meet Wendy, the love of his life. Things are going well for J until Wendy leaves him and thus begins J’s downward spiral that no amount of drugs or VR can halt.

For most of the book, J is a lovesick fool whose daydreams become more and more deranged as he, and subsequently the reader, tries to make sense of his life and this world. Much of the society he’s in treats his heartbreak like a defective program to be overwritten. Instead, Jay holds tightly to what he had with Wendy and there are some genuine sweet moments for this couple, even as their dialogue is filled with a sexual frankness that threatens to undermine that sweetness. The readers see J and Wendy’s relationship blossom and then fall apart amidst the inordinate amount of worldbuilding that Menendez attempts, leading to the love story being a rock in the churning maelstrom of digital delights and depressing landscapes.

Menendez’s artwork has a great deal of details that draw the eye, for better or worse. Instead of a future of gleaming glass spires, Menendez shows a dreary, sallow, neon-lit future that makes Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner look like Disneyworld. Within the aesthetic of the world, readers won’t have to wonder why J runs away from it and into the brighter virtual space. With a generous helping of grays and neon colors that seem glaring and artificial even on the page, Menendez gives J a future urban hellscape that can only suck the joy out of anyone who dares to try and find some happiness outside of virtual reality and mood-altering drugs.

Like how the story straddles the line between the colorful virtual world and the dreary dystopian future, the recommendation at the end of the review will have to be a split one. On the one hand, this book is obviously shocking. Definitely not for kids or even older teens, this book is full of depictions of nude, realistically imperfect bodies and talk of sexual situations spoken as casually as asking someone the time of day. There will be many moments where the reader’s eyes will widen in surprise as Menendez gets edgy, but this book also gets bogged down in its weirdness. The story offers a lot of twists and turns thanks to J himself being an unreliable narrator, but all these things don’t create the smoothest or most memorable narrative. Librarians with adult patrons who love science fiction, surreality, and bleakness might want to have Dead Kings Have No Dreams in their collection, but it also might prove too dense and off-putting for the casual science fiction fan.

Dead Kings Have No Dreams 
By Valentín Ramón Menendez
Abrams, 2022
ISBN: 9798411722338

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)

Bone Orchard Mythos: The Passageway

Comic book readers, notably horror comic book readers, might be familiar with Jeff Lemire, a writer of creepy, oddball tales that blend genres and shatter readers’ expectations. Those fans may also be familiar with Gideon Falls, a slow-burn fantastical horror story that pushes the boundaries of the graphic novel format. Paired with stunning images from Andrea Sorrentino that literally break the barriers of panel and page, Lemire’s labyrinthine story is a tightrope walk that the reader has to carefully navigate to reach the end. Now writer and artist are back with a story that shares a lot of its DNA with Gideon Falls, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The Bone Orchard Mythos: The Passageway, while being a solidly disquieting tale, also promises to be the entry into a whole new horror universe.

The story finds geologist John Reed traveling to a remote island where lighthouse keeper Sally has discovered a mysterious hole that seems to go on forever. The darkness in that hole, however, might be more than just the physical kind. While staying on the island, John begins to have strange and surreal dreams, dreams of someone he’d lost long ago, or perhaps even prophetic dreams of what lies within that hole. What’s down there will draw John in, but he might not like what he finds.

One of Jeff Lemire’s greatest strengths as a writer is his ability to tell a story without relying on a lot of details and exposition. He often lets his panel layouts tell the story, showing characters standing alone on a beach to depict isolation or closeups of character’s faces to show whatever mood and emotion he’s trying to convey. There’s just enough dialogue to seem like natural conversation, but it also leaves the reader with the feeling that something is just not right. This is only compounded when the story delves into Reed’s disturbing dreams. Many comic writers will fill the pages with captions and dialogue balloons, but Lemire demonstrates a reserve that gradually and tortuously ratchets up the unease.

Andrea Sorrentino’s artwork, much like with Gideon Falls, complements Lemire’s storytelling approach very well. There are times where his realistic style, particularly how he draws expressions, convey the darkness inherent in this world, but when Sorrentino decides to take readers down the dark passageway, he really demonstrates his penchant for surreal horror. From his use of black and white images to close-ups that gradually pull back to reveal what the reader is actually seeing, Sorrentino’s bold images and eye-melting colors make the reader feel like they’re constantly on unsure narrative footing, but those images are also never boring.

Those familiar with Gideon Falls and Jeff Lemire’s horror work in general should expect to see the same tropes here: the gradual unraveling of a mystery, the mind-bending use of colors and panels, and the slowest turning of screws. Librarians who have adult patrons who love Gideon Falls should definitely add this to their collection. The story might not be for everyone, however. It’s not the kind of rip-roaring, blood-soaked horror that some horror fans prefer, but if The Bone Orchard Mythos: The Passageway is any indication, it could be the kind of graphic and literary dark ride that stays with readers long after they’re back in the real world.

Bone Orchard Mythos: The Passageway
By Jeff Lemire
Art by Andrea Sorrentino
Image, 2022
ISBN: 9781534322240

Publisher Age Rating: 16 years and up

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

The Gold Lion: And the Tournament of Sentinels

A faraway land, warring kingdoms, and brave warriors: fans of fantasy are likely familiar with this setting. Insert into this setting the trope of a young warrior who has the weight of responsibility thrust on him and you have the situation of young Kayeer Rushmal. From the shadow of his brother to a role as his country’s newest protector, Kayeer rises to serve as the protagonist/warrior philosopher in the debut story from artist and writer Kia Ahankoob, The Gold Lion: and the Tournament of Sentinels.

Kayeeer’s nation is but one of eight different nations, each based on different real-world cultures and all fighting for dominance. After years of fighting and no one gaining the upper hand, all the nations decide to hold a martial arts tournament. Each nation picks a representative, a sentinel, to enter the tournament and the winner’s nation will rule the world. All the sentinels own a magical ring given to each nation by the Myriad, that world’s Supreme Being. Each ring has different magical abilities; some rings allow for flight while others allow the wearer to form their body into literal stabbing and bludgeoning weapons. The sentinels must use their ring’s unique magical abilities and their own martial prowess until there is only one winner, and his or her country will rule all the nations.

Kayeer serves the book well as a protagonist who acts as the reader’s entry into this world. He has just inherited the role of Gold Lion, his nation’s sentinel, from his brother and must also overcome his own doubts as well as the other sentinels. Adding to his ordeal is the pressure put upon him by his nation’s ruler as well as the fact that his former lover is also in the tournament. Kayeer’s polar opposite and main antagonist is the Black Eagle, who not only killed Kayeer’s brother but who also believes wholeheartedly in his mission. Ahankoob has created, in the Black Eagle, an antagonist with more than one dimension. The Black Eagle is not specifically evil, but he is fiercely patriotic and believes in the superiority of his nation. If this was simply a fantasy novel, then it could have been a really solid fantasy story.

But Ahankoob’s artwork seems ill-equipped to get into what is an important part of the book: the actual combat. A simplistic art style doesn’t automatically bring down the aesthetic of a graphic novel, but the art here has trouble depicting the actual combat between the Sentinels. These are people whose rings give them power of elements like water and earth, as well as electricity and even time, but the fights themselves don’t come off as very dynamic. There are panels where punches are being thrown and some powers are used, but library patrons have access to manga and a myriad of superhero movies (not to mention the comics that originated them). Compared to those, the fight scenes in Gold Lion seem particularly flat. What’s worse is that the lack of punch in these action scenes leave the powers of the rings themselves ill-defined. Some, like earth and fire, are obvious, but ring powers like the vision ring seem to be rather nebulous and confusing.

There’s a good story here in The Gold Lion: and the Tournament of Sentinels, but the book doesn’t ultimately live up to its potential. If there is any kind of tournament, in a graphic novel format, there should be action, perhaps a few dynamic camera angles that border on the cinematic, or closeups that show the damage fist, foot, and magic can do to the human form, elements which this book sadly lacks. The characters in this book are fully fleshed-out and readers should be able to root for them, but they cannot hope to compete against much more action-oriented titles that librarians can get for their collections.

The Gold Lion: And the Tournament of Sentinels
By Kia Ahankoob
Abrams, 2022
ISBN: 9788985172607

NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)

Living with Viola

Raina Telgemeier’s breakthrough graphic novel Smile opened the door to a host of memoir-style books for tweens and teens, focusing on the angst of friendship troubles, first crushes, and negotiating the often difficult path into becoming teenagers and onward to adulthood. However, despite the flow of read-alikes, it’s only been in the last few years that a more diverse selection of voices have begun to be heard.

Rosena Fung’s story of a young tween trying to please her family, fit in at school, handle microaggressions as a second-generation immigrant, and deal with her growing anxiety is shaped by her own experiences. She is the daughter of a family that immigrated from Hong Kong to Canada and as a teen she dealt with her own mental health challenges.

Livy stumbles onto the page with a disastrous first day at a new school and the constant presence of Viola, the embodiment of her growing anxiety, who berates and taunts her. She finds refuge in her art and the library, and moments of joy as she makes dumplings with her mother at home. Eventually, she starts to be accepted into a trio of girls she joins for a group project. But the weight of her family’s expectations and the ever-growing presence of Viola keep her off-balance. As she worries that there might be something wrong with her, she grows obsessed with the family gossip about a cousin who has mental health issues and is further distressed by the break-up of the trio of girls she is trying to join. Her issues are exacerbated by the sometimes subtle, sometimes overt racism and harassment she receives as an Asian-Canadian and the child of immigrants. Will Livy break under the strain and what will her parents do when they find out how much she is struggling?

Fung’s artwork packs a huge range of emotions into the pages. As Livy’s anxiety grows, it’s shown as a looming, blue, ghost-like figure that hovers over her and drags along a torrent of negative words, thoughts, and images. Livy swings from wild enthusiasm over the things she loves, with starry eyes and bouncing ponytail, to abruptly recoiling into herself, physically crouching under the weight of the damaging words of family, friends, and her own inner voice. Some of the most entrancing art is the explosion

of sounds, scents, and tastes as Livy relaxes with her mom, creating the food they love together. Some of the most painful scenes show Livy with hunched shoulders and a nervous smile, as she struggles to navigate between the competing pressures in her life. Fung uses her nuanced artwork to show the widely differing personalities and cultures of Livy and Charlotte, the other Asian-Canadian in her friend group. Charlotte is a self-contained person, shown with a short bob, plaid skirts and jumpers, and unlike Livy’s wild emotional swings, she appears to be indifferent to the harassment they both suffer for their heritage. However, as the presence of Viola increases towards the end of the story, Charlotte breaks out of her mold as well. Once Livy is able to work past some of her anxiety, both she and Charlotte are able to deepen their friendship, with Charlotte breaking out of her containment with a genuine smile and banding together with Livy to speak out against how the other girls are treating them.

This graphic novel will appeal to fans of the fictionalized memoir genre, and also offers a welcome aspect of diversity to the genre. Readers who struggle with mental health issues or their cultural identity will find much to relate to in this story, while other readers will be prompted to consider how they relate to their fellow students and the experiences of others.

Living with Viola
By Rosena Fung
Abrams, 2021
ISBN: 9781773215488

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation:  Canadian,  Anxiety, Depression, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) Character Representation: Canadian,  Anxiety

Waluk: The Great Journey

Waluk: The Great JourneyIn this book’s opening, the titular Waluk, a young polar bear orphaned as a cub, happens upon an older bear named Manitou. The two form a beneficial partnership in which Manitou shares his wisdom with the young Waluk, and Waluk helps Manitou (who’s missing a few teeth) hunt for food. The story moves through a series of episodes in which the two polar bears interact with other bears, humans, a snowy owl, and a team of sled dogs. The events of the story highlight real challenges faced by animals in the Arctic. These include difficulty finding enough food, which leads a mother polar bear to team up with Waluk and Manitou, and the encroachment of shipping lanes into the bears’ habitat as the ice caps thaw. While portraying realistic conditions, the book also contains fantastical elements such as great animals who appear in the sky to assist in times of trouble, and a giant white dog who comes to the rescue when sled dogs are threatened by their owner. 

The full-color watercolor illustrations present the animals and the Arctic landscape in beautiful detail. The book is laid out with typically four to six panels per page in a landscape style, allowing the art to take center stage, while the text per page is minimal. Characters are clearly defined, with a few brief moments when some of the polar bears can be difficult to tell apart. A clear contrast is shown between the animals with their shades of white, brown, and black, and the humans who introduce colors unnatural to the setting such as red, and yellow.

While episodic, the events of the book tie together as Waluk and Manitou encounter a pair of humans and their team of sled dogs in multiple circumstances. One small episode that stands apart from this continuity is when Waluk is briefly entangled in a research robot of some kind. This event seems out of place, though it does continue the theme of the bears facing off against human intervention. The majority of the humans present in the book cause trouble for the animals, whether intentionally or through ignorance. Nevertheless, while humans might meddle with nature, the story shows the natural world with the power to overcome those challenges. 

While Waluk: The Great Journey contains beautiful artwork and a positive message about conservation, its portrayal of the culture and mythology of indigenous Northern peoples is problematic, and the book has proved controversial. The many animals which appear in the sky at the book’s climax, along with a great dog which helps the animals, seem designed to mimic Native beliefs while not corresponding to the true mythology of any indigenous group. Furthermore, the character of Manitou was named “Eskimo” in advance copies of the book and later changed. Scattered textual errors, probably due to translation problems, make the text awkward in places. It is unfortunate that a book with such beautiful artwork and an important message about protecting the environment is marred by cultural insensitivity. 

Waluk: The Great Journey
By Emilio Ruiz
Art by Ana Miralles
Abrams, 2021
ISBN: 9781951719050

Publisher Age Rating: grades 4-6

NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation:  Spanish
Character Representation: First Nations or Indigenous,

Run, Book One

When sharing revolutionary stories from history, the telling often stops with the victory. Run, by the late Representative John Lewis, does not. It is 1965, the Voting Rights Act has been signed into federal law, and the organizers of the Civil Rights Movement begin to navigate the next steps.

Run, Book One is the first volume in a sequel series to the acclaimed graphic novel memoir series, March. Both series share the history of the civil rights movement through the memories of John Lewis, written in collaboration with Andrew Aydin and illustrated by L. Fury and Nate Powell. The March series ended with the signing of the Voting Rights Act, and Run explores the changing philosophies of civil rights activists and continued voter suppression in the following 2 years.

Run was published posthumously. Representative John Lewis passed during the summer of 2020, however, he worked diligently with Aydin, Fury and Powell in the years preceding his death to tell this story. They conducted extensive research through interviews, newspapers, photographs, and primary source documents, to tell this story to the best of their ability, while still staying true to the memories of John Lewis.

While the March trilogy focused on the extensive organizational needs of the powerful civil rights movement. Run tells the next part of the story. Under the shadow of the Watt’s rebellion and turmoil about the Vietnam war, the activists in the Civil Rights movement, struggle to find consensus among diverging philosophies.  Voting rights have been secured by federal law, but the fight for equal rights is far from over. And to complicate matters, America has instituted the draft to fight for “freedoms” in Vietnam. A move that feels hypocritical and disingenuous to the civil rights activists who are still desperately fighting for freedoms at home. John Lewis and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) connect the struggle in Vietnam to a larger struggle of oppressed people across the world. Their stance about the war is denounced by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the Urban League.

Ideologies and philosophies start to collide behind the scenes. Rifts that began before Selma and the Voting Right Act, start to take center stage, especially between Lewis and Stokey Carmichael, who follows Lewis as the chairman for SNCC. Black activists angry with the lack of progress, start to question the dedication to nonviolent action. Lewis struggles to find his place in the evolving movement.

Run is still honest about the hard work of organizers, giving credit to many individuals behind the scenes making change. The back matter also includes an extensive list with brief biographies of the many activists mentioned in the story.

The story is just as compelling as their work in March, in part thanks to the illustrations of Fury and Powell. In the “From the Artists” note in the back matter, they discuss the difficult path of navigating emotion, horror, and historic truths through illustration. They used many photos from the events as reference for their illustrations. They also researched fashion of different generations in the mid-60s, the cars made in the 50s and 60s that might be on the roads, and even studied the shape and style of road signs. This extensive focus on accuracy paired with deep shadows and explosions of ink in moments of great emotion and violence, adjusting text and font based on the message and form of speech or song, and creative use of panes made for a compelling read.

Run, Book One is essentially a story about the inner workings of civil rights organizations and the ways outside events and movements sent ripples through the activists. It tells an incredibly important story that is often forgotten or overlooked. I highly recommend the book for any young adult or adult graphic novel collection, and look forward to the rest of the series.

Run, Book One Vol. 1
By John Lewis, Andrew Aydin
Art by  L. Fury, Nate Powell
Abrams, 2021
ISBN: 9781419730696

Publisher Age Rating: 13 and up

NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
Creator Representation:  Black,  Character Representation: Black,