HelloLucky, a stationery company owned by sisters Sabrina and Eunice Moyle, has produced a small line of board books and picture books, distributed through Harry N. Abrams. The Cosmic Adventures of Astrid and Stella is the first of a series of graphic novels for beginning chapter readers. Although it’s a new format for them, their trademark color and cheerfulness can be seen throughout this peppy adventure.
Astrid, a unicorn with a pink mane and purple horn and Stella, a flying squirrel with a fantastic hairdo, are taking off for outer space! If they can get their rocket going. With the help of their robot, Bobo, and despite multiple snack and dance breaks, they manage to blast off into space! Their lighthearted adventures continue onto the planet Caturn, where the inhabitants are threatened by the evil Kittywonkus, and then the beaches of planet Bloop, where they meet a whale in need of some good advice.
The pages are liberally sprinkled with rainbows, stars, and bright colors while the text is positively peppered with exclamation points. They battle Kittywonkus with a hose and the threat of being petted “against the grain” and spend much of their time on Caturn cuddling the kitties. On their way to new adventures, they see what appears to be a parade of giant balloon-like space creatures and join them, finding themselves at the beaches on Bloop, a planet that looks like a giant striped beach ball. The two main characters bounce exuberantly through the story, dealing with frustrations and setback with humor and plenty of snacks and dance breaks.
At just over 100 pages and with the silly story and child-like characters, this is aimed at a young demographic, those ready to move from early readers to chapter books. However, it’s actually a fairly complex book to read. The narrative throws a lot of unexpected changes at the reader, as part of the silly, surreal feel of the story and the art is crowded with a wealth of shapes, colors, and odd characters. Readers who are still focusing on the mechanics of reading are likely to find this frustrating. However, those who are already fluent but prefer shorter, illustration-heavy stories and readers who want a quick, comforting and funny story, will enjoy this wacky adventure.
Libraries building their beginning graphic novel collections should consider this if they are looking for more silly stories for younger readers or have the budget to fill in with additional titles, having purchased core works like the Branches and Acorn series.
The Cosmic Adventures of Astrid and Stella Vol. 1 By Sabrina Moyle Art by Eunice Moyle Abrams Amulet, 2022 ISBN: 9781419757013
Rose is an amateur baker working as a waitress in a small town restaurant. When she makes a special dessert for a food critic, she is invited to participate in a baking competition with her childhood friend Fred. This isn’t an ordinary competition though as the contestants are faced with obstacle courses, sabotage, and surprise ingredients like brussel sprouts.
Rose is motivated to win the grand prize in order to attend college at a prestigious cooking school. She is also dealing with her parents’ eminent divorce, her developing feelings for Fred, and a rival who is willing to do anything to prove herself to be the best. It’s no wonder she finds herself distracted and just managing to stay off the bottom in the competition.
This story has all the feelings of a Hallmark romcom. The author/illustrator does a fantastic job of balancing the plot with humor, seriousness, and the competition. The judge makes a lot of corny baking puns, which is a fun recurring joke throughout the story. The illustrations are crisp and with just enough details to convey the emotions and visual cues that readers should be able to easily pick up.
Although there is not a lot of technique explanations in the text, this book does include detailed recipes sprinkled throughout the story. I did not have the chance to try making any of them, but the ingredients look to be standard baking fare and the directions easy enough to follow. Younger readers will need help from an experienced adult to help them understand some of the unexplained terms, but preteens and teens should be capable enough to follow along.
Batter Royale is recommended for any collection aimed at preteens or younger teens.
Batter Royale By Leisl Adams Amulet Books, 2022 ISBN: 9781419750755
Publisher Age Rating: 12+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13) Creator Representation: Canadian, Character Representation: Assumed Black, Canadian,
When the world began, lush forests and cool ponds were created all over the Earth. A goddess, Gaia, constructed everything. It was peaceful and perfect, but not for long.
This story presents an environmentalist and feminist perspective on the life of Greek goddess, Gaia. These two authors have taken a lot of artistic freedom to weave together a new version of her. In the original Greek mythology, this tale contains a lot of brutal circumstances of murder, incest, and pretty cruel events. In this version, her story is very much simplified. Serious scenarios are lightened by other characters, such as the three sisters, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. These three pop onto the sidelines of panels and make humorous little comments as the story follows along with Gaia’s husband and her many children’s adventures. Chapters divide up major events, making it more clear for the reader which set of characters are going to be focused on, as there are a lot to keep track of. Like the first installment in this series, we start off with an overview of who all the major gods, goddesses, demigods, and mortals are and conclude with a glossary and bibliography.
This is another beautifully put together piece in this growing collection of tales of Greek Goddesses. It follows the same style as the first book that came out in this series, Athena. The pages are simple with full color drawings and a large variety of different panel styles. Full page graphics zoom in on important and often dramatic plot points with a scattering of a little bit of text to go along with it. The text is a bit on the small side, which should be fine for young readers with good eyes, but it was a little difficult to read it all the way through without feeling like I was straining a little at the end.
Overall, this book is more like a work of art than a non-fiction history text. The pages are beautifully illustrated with minimal text. It’s printed on quite thick paper, making it appear like a larger book than it actually is. This is a very quick read. It would be a nice addition to any elementary or middle school library, but not essential. I wish it was longer, had more historical details, and used a larger easier to read font.
Tales of Great Goddesses: Gaia Goddess of Earth By Imogen Greenberg Art by Isabel Greenberg Amulet Books, 2022 ISBN: 9781419748615
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)
Young readers won’t realize they’re actually absorbing enough information to give them a head start in any school’s Greek mythology unit while reading this fun and educational book.
Readers first are introduced to Mount Olympus and each of the different characters that will be found throughout the book, including what they are most known for. This gives the reader a nice section to flip back to if they forget who someone is, as there are a lot of characters involved and some have tricky names. The book is organized into seven sections with a glossary at the end, a select bibliography for those who want to read even deeper into Greek mythology, and a little about the author and illustrator.
The book goes through Athena’s life chronologically with vivid images and descriptions of how she was born, the chaos and trouble she caused, and conflicts she had with other Gods and mortals. Many other Gods and notables are featured, such as Poseidon, Medusa, Perseus, and Zeus. The most famous of stories are included, like the Trojan Horse, Odysseus’s adventures, and the story of Arachne, the weaver who was turned into a spider.
This is truly a wonderful, funny, and light look at Greek mythology. Yet, it has enough depth to provide readers with as much information about demigods, notable mortals, gods, and goddesses as any non-fiction children’s book on the topic. Author Imogen Greenberg and illustrator Isabel Greenberg are a London based pair who’s styles work seamlessly together. The artwork is colorful. Dramatic purples and blues are used to create swirling seas around Poseidon, bright oranges are used around Athena to show her anger, and pages are kept simple when explanations are given. Pages feature large panels, some spanning two whole pages, with dialogue and text found in an understandable flow.
Overall, this is a well done adaptation of Greek mythology into an enjoyable comic. It would be a great recommendation for students who are studying Greek mythology at school and are looking for a fun read, or for children who are fans of Rick Riordan’s novels. It gives a balanced view of Athena by including her strengths, weaknesses, and mistakes that she made along the way. She may have been a Goddess, but this book makes it clear to the reader that no one is perfect. Anyone can make a bad decision. It is very age appropriate, as the stories have been tailored to omit some details, such as why Medusa was turned into a gorgon, without it feeling like there is anything missing from explanations. Any children’s collection would benefit from this addition.
Athena: Goddess of Wisdom and War (Tales of Great Goddesses) By Imogen Greenberg Art by Isabel Greenberg Amulet Books, 2021 ISBN: 9781419748592 Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Beth Ferry, a best-selling picture book author who has collaborated with a number of illustrators, branched out into graphic novels in 2020 with a new series, Fox & Rabbit. A classic odd couple story on the surface, it introduced a new illustrator as well, Gergely Dudas, who has previously created a number of seek-and-find activity books. This new series portrays a quirky pair of friends, the rather childish Fox and slightly more mature Rabbit, as well as a small cast of sweet and funny characters including perpetually hungry Sparrow and perpetually late Tortoise.
Both books feature a series of simple, interconnected adventures. In the first volume, Fox and Rabbit visit a fair and win a beach ball, so they go to the beach. At the beach they find a bottle with a map to Surprise Island. On the island they discover a trunk full of seeds, which they plant in a garden. Rabbit succumbs to temptation and eats the garden, but they repair their friendship by growing one remaining seedling together with a surprise all its own that leads them to creating a lemonade stand. In the second book they decide how to spend the money earned at their lemonade stand, which leads to a bubble gum glowing contest, then to an unfortunate haircut for Fox and a brand-new friend for both Fox and Rabbit. At the end of each story Tortoise appears, disappointed that they’ve once again missed all the fun, until all the friends join together at the end of the second book for some autumnal fun.
The imagination of the characters truly shines in the second volume, as Fox and Rabbit switch between everyday activities and a delightfully imaginative inner life. For example, when they are playing with Owl they fall into quicksand, climb a volcano, and rescue a friend all in the confines of a woodland playground with swings and a slide.
Dudas’ previous work in seek-and-find books is shown throughout the art in the series, which features a delicacy of line and detail not usually seen in graphic novels for younger readers. Bright greens and oranges meld with the soft browns of Rabbit’s fur and are set off by a sprinkling of sharp red leaves in the second volume. The carefully organized panels make it easy for young readers to follow the action and events of each short story, even when the characters are switching between their imaginations and reality. Dudas shows a wonderful grasp of timing and clarity in his art, especially since it Is his first venture into making comics, as he draws readers through Ferry’s simple adventures. The characters are not very emotionally expressive, with simple dots and lines for facial features, but their movements are clear and convey their little arguments, reconciliations, and games and the fun they have together.
Ever since Mo Willems introduced Elephant and Piggie there’s been a growing market for comics for younger readers and this is a strong bridge comic that will help beginning readers move on to longer and more complex titles. It’s less likely to appeal to struggling or reluctant readers, due to the smaller font and early reader style of stories, lacking the more explosive adventure and wacky hilarity of Captain Underpants or Bad Guys. However, this is ideal for beginning readers who are fluent but not yet ready for more complex themes or who cannot handle scary or suspenseful stories. If you have 1st and 2nd graders who are capable of reading at a higher level but not emotionally ready for older fare, this sweet series will be just right for them, combining gentle lessons of friendship, quirky humor, and attractive art for a relatable and comforting reading experience.
Fox & Rabbit By Beth Ferry Art by Gergely Dudas ISBN:
Spunky, strong-willed eleven-year-old Mirka Herschberg isn’t interested in knitting lessons from her stepmother, or how-to-find-a-husband advice from her sister, or you-better-not warnings from her brother. There’s only one thing she does want: to fight dragons! Granted, no dragons have been breathing fire around Hereville, the Orthodox Jewish community where Mirka lives, but that doesn’t stop the plucky girl from honing her skills. She fearlessly stands up to local bullies. She battles a very large, very menacing pig. And she boldly accepts a challenge from a mysterious witch, a challenge that could bring Mirka her heart’s desire: a dragon-slaying sword! All she has to do is find—and outwit—the giant troll who’s got it!
This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.
Hereville By Barry Deutsch ISBN: 9781419706196 Amulet, 2012 NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)
“I regret that I have but one life to give for my country.” These are the famous last words of Nathan Hale, a spy for the American rebels in the Revolutionary War. But who was this Nathan Hale? And how did the rebels defeat an army that was bigger, better, stronger, and more heavily armed than they were? One Dead Spy has answers to these questions, as well as stories of ingenuity, close calls with danger, and acts of heroism in the American War of Independence. Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all—if you dare!
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales By Nathan Hale ISBN: 9781419703966 Amulet, 2012 NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
The Lumberjanes have put together a guidebook on the most amazing creatures you’ve ever heard of and a few you haven’t.
This hilarious collection of magical beings is sorted into six categories. Each has been written by a different scout, giving each section their own unique flair that Lumberjanes fans will love. The scouts are working together to earn the BEAST or Best Everything Amazing Study Trophy for recording the supernatural creatures they’ve encountered. It’s the biggest achievement in Lumber-know-how that can be achieved, so the stakes are high but the girls are up to the challenge.
The scouts have run into many different creatures at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types. From outer space to under the sea we have details of these beings documented in just as many different styles as you can think of. Interviews, lists, stickers, badges, side bars, recipes, photos, facts and let’s call them fictional facts. This wide variety keeps readers engaged.
This book is so artistically and beautifully put together that it feels like a collector’s piece for anyone’s Lumberjanes’ library. The cover artwork is styled like a diary, as this is a BEASTiary, after all. It has fun googly eyes, embossing, stickers, sticky notes and washi tape bringing together the multicolored text. Inside the brightly colored pages are decorated in scrapbook style with post-it notes, cue cards, unique fonts, fun borders, paper clips, photos and all kinds of little doo-dads.
Mariko Tamaki guest authors several Lumberjanes books, but she is best known as the award winning Canadian co-author of the graphic novel This One Summer. Her writing style does not disappoint here and she works wonderfully with artist Brooklyn Allen. Allen is the original illustrator for this series and co creator so you can expect the same quality in this book as you do in the rest of the series.
Fans of the Lumberjanes series will love giggling and flipping through the pages of this companion novel. Readers get the opportunity to learn more about their favourite scout in their mini biographies which include fun facts like their favorite song, a quick quote and of course, a fun photo.
Additionally, this series always does an outstanding job of creating characters that are truly role models for children reading these books, well, except maybe Ripley who would encourage anyone to take home a whole litter of kittens given the chance. However the love of reading shines through as something that is to be not only proud of, but something that is cool to do. This is a great message for kids to hear. Reading competency is such an important life skill and this series makes it fun to achieve. I highly recommend adding this book to your collection.
Lumberjanes BEASTiary By Mariko Tamaki Art by Brooklyn Allen ISBN: 9781419736445 Amulet Books, 2020 Publisher Age Rating: 9-12
Browse for more like this title NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales continues with another action packed, true story of John Wesley Powell—a lifelong master explorer, dedicated to the discovery and documentation of the United States. Hale’s stories, though part of a series, are independent tales of people and stories integral to the story of the United States, from its inception to wars and revolutions, as well as thrilling tales of exploration expeditions that often end in shocking ways. Hale’s nonfiction stories continue to make both well-known and unknown narratives accessible to readers of all ages, helping to keep alive stories of our past that show the tenacity of the men and women who helped move our country forward.
Powell always wanted to know more. Named after John Wesley, the founder of Methodism he was influenced by his abolitionist father, who traveled the lands arguing against slavery. Powell continued his father’s passionate spirit by learning and sharing his love of travel. His family chose to take him out of the local public school after being threatened and beaten quite badly by students whose parents did not agree with his father’s work. He then went on to study with George Crookham, a collector of many things, which only increased Powell’s interest in science and paleontology. As science was his first love, Powell chose not to enter the seminary, much to his father’s chagrin, but to indulge his love of science and the discovery of things unknown to him. After joining the Union Army to fight during the Civil War, he rose up through the ranks, eventually losing half of his right arm, but continuing to fight until the war was over. That’s when his big adventure began.
In 1869, he gathered a group of men together to begin the Colorado River Exploring Expedition. The ten men gathered in four boats to study and explore the Grand Canyon, naming monuments that are still used today. Their journey was a difficult one—they lost their boats, supplies, and eventually men. One chose to leave the expedition and lived with Paiutes in Utah before marrying and raising a family. Three more also chose to leave, but they were never heard from again. Many theories exist as to what happened to them, but death has always been the agreed upon conclusion to their story. The extent of hardship he went through, not just through his life, but this journey alone shows a man of deep conviction, devoted to nature and science and wanting to learn more about the world around him. His journey was considered the first to explore the Grand Canyon at its base, and the information he brought back proved helpful when he went back in 1871 to do it all over again.
The artwork in Hale’s tale is similar to that of other books in his series. Muted, brown sepia colored panels with easy to follow speech bubbles throughout bring a dusty and desert feel to the story. The dialogue never gets in the way of the illustrations and is often utilized in unique and thoughtful ways as to not distract from the panels. The illustrations, especially those of the Grand Canyon journey, are beautifully rendered and incredibly detailed. Hale also provides the watercolor drawings that he did himself of the Grand Canyon to show how the scenery has both changed and stayed the same since Powell’s expeditions. Additionally, the many flashbacks utilized in this story are easily identified and titled so readers get a full sense of Powell’s life beginning with his elementary school days through the war and his expeditions to the Grand Canyon.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Major Impossible is a great nonfiction comic for readers of all ages. Hale provides a helpful bibliography at the end of the book to encourage others to read more not only about Powell, but of events that were transpiring in the United States at that time. An interesting and transfixing story of a man who risked everything in the pursuit of science and learning more about the world in which he lived.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Major Impossible By Nathan Hale Art by Nathan Hale ISBN: 9781419737084 Genre: Nonfiction, Adventure Amulet, 2019 Publisher Age Rating: 8+
With so many natural disasters occurring all over the world, children find themselves witnessing the loss of their homes and dealing with the drastic change in their lives. Even those not affected by disaster can see how hard it is for others.
However, tragedy never lasts forever, as long as you know how to move on and find others who can help. Author Silvia Vecchini and illustrator Sualzo provides an example of this life changing event in their graphic novel The Red Zone: An Earthquake Story. This Italian import tells the story of how a community moves on after they have lost everything in a devastating earthquake.
Three preteens Matteo, Giulia, and Federico find themselves homeless after an earthquake damages their community. Along with their neighbors, they try to adjust to their new homes and move on from the experience. However, it becomes difficult when they realize how much they have lost. Seeking to find some sort of normalcy within their lives is not easy, but with help from friends and family, the children soon learn that hope can be found after tragedy.
With its positive message, The Red Zone: An Earthquake Story is a great choice for those searching for a story about overcoming tragedy. Vecchini’s story takes young readers into a society they may or may not be familiar with. Those who have experienced a natural disaster and the loss of their home will find similarities with the characters and see themselves trying within the story. As for other readers, they will understand how difficult moving on after a disaster can be and how people cope with the change, whether it be healthy or destructive.
The story also moves from one experience to another, providing readers with different points of view. Sualzo uses natural color tones for the characters and the scenery, as well as darker tones for the scenes that take place at night. He provides just enough details in the environment that readers will not get lost but notice how terrible the effects of an earthquake are. Scenes of crumbled buildings and destroyed statues are shown throughout, with characters attempt to rebuild their lives piece by piece. The characters’ anxieties, sadness, and comfort are visually shown in their dialogue and body language. Graphic novels such as this provide enough visuals and emotions to explain how a society is affected after the disaster and how they can cope with it.
Public and school libraries, especially those that have experienced any type of natural disaster, will want to have The Red Zone: An Earthquake Story in their collection. It is a great source for those who are unable to move on from disaster and need a little help. With its emotional storyline and dialogue, this graphic novel is well suited for children in grades 4th-6th. It is best to point out that there are scenes of adolescent smoking and dialogue with a few bad words thrown in, but these add to the story’s plot and some of the characters’ development.
The Red Zone: An Earthquake Story By Silvia Vecchini Art by Sualzo ISBN: 9781419733680 Amulet Books, 2019 Publisher Age Rating: 8 and up