¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market

Bilingual in a new way, this paper over board book teaches readers simple words in Spanish as they experience the bustling life of a border town. Follow Little Lobo and his dog Bernabe as they deliver supplies to a variety of vendors, selling everything from sweets to sombreros, portraits to piñatas, carved masks to comic books!

(Publisher Description)

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.

¡Vamos! Let’s Go to the Market
By Raul the Third
ISBN: 9781328557261
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2019
NFNT Age Recommendation: Picture Books (3-8)


Olive wants to get in on the act . . . . . . Any act! Olive “clicks” with everyone in the fifth grade—until one day she doesn’t. When a school variety show leaves Olive stranded without an act to join, she begins to panic, wondering why all her friends have already formed their own groups . . . without her. With the performance drawing closer by the minute, will Olive be able to find her own place in the show before the curtain comes up? The New York Times best-selling author-illustrator Kayla Miller has woven together a heartfelt and insightful story about navigating friendships, leaning on family, and learning to take the stage in the most important role of all.

(Publisher Description)

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.

By Kayla Miller
ISBN: 9781328911124
HMH Kids, 2019
NFNT Age Recommendation: Tween (10-13)


With many publishers creating imprints for graphic novels and a plethora of new content, it’s a great time to be a comic-loving kid. This series start comes from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt’s new graphic imprint, Etch, and it’s a wild, goofy ride.

The informal leader is Teri-Dactyl, smart, inspirational, strong, and she can fly! Dave the triceratops is the strong guy; his only weakness is pizza. T-Lex is always ready for hugs, selfies, and terrifying roars. Bach is their genius, except he only writes in chicken scratch and never says anything but bok. This can be hard to understand. Together they are Dinomighty! the protectors of their city and the nemesis of evil-doers. But, unbeknownst to them, they have two dangerous enemies who are planning a skillful heist of the rare golden Egglettes, safely hidden in Cosmo Castle.

Well, not that skillful. Their secret enemies are Diplodocus and Diplodoofus and they’re just… not that smart. Which means that, however evil they want to be, they just never pull it off. But not this time! This time they have a plan that will make them the Dinomighties’ foremost evil foes! Hijinks ensue, with poetry-spouting dinosaurs, missing security guards (hey, they were on vacation!) and a final shocking surprise from the Egglettes themselves.

Blecha, a native of my own state of Wisconsin, has illustrated a long stream of children’s funny stories, including the popular series George Brown, Class Clown, the sadly out-of-print Zombiekins, and also works in the toy and game industry. This is his first graphic novel and he brings the wild fun with his character designs and clever illustrations of Doug Paleo’s (I’m pretty sure this is a pseudonym) goofy situations. Teri wears a warm-up suit, as she’s always ready to go, Dave has a classic 80s sweatband that makes his horns and neckfrill look like an afro, T-Lex is dressed in pink polka-dots with her ever-present pink phone and selfie stick close at hand. The city and landscape are covered with riotous colors and the dinosaurs themselves shine in hues of orange, purple, and green. There’s lots of humor around their size, as they cram into tiny cars or balance on rafts, and the Diplo brothers show off the full range of their ridiculous schemes in silly disguises, like wearing a wooden log as a hat/mask. Bulging cartoon eyes, lots of crashes, explosions, bams and pows, fill out the story and will keep readers giggling and turning the page until the end.

This latest series joins a hilarious line-up of comics for young readers, from Bad Guys to Dogman, that will keep them reading and laughing all the way through. Unlike many of these popular series however, these creators give equal time to the female members of the group and they’re all given distinct, if one-dimensional personalities. The text and art will be accessible to readers who are at an intermediate level in their chapter book reading, but less fluent readers will also appreciate the story, even if they aren’t able to catch the more subtle humor. Be ready to preorder the next title in the series, and pair it with some great nonfiction dinosaur comics if you want to expand your reader’s horizons.

By Doug Paleo
Art by Aaron Blecha
ISBN: 9780358331568
Etch, 2020
Publisher Age Rating:
Series ISBNS and Order

Title Details and Representation
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees

The Unwanted covers the crisis in Syria from 2011 through 2018 by focusing on the many ways refugees have left or have tried to leave the country, enduring dangers such as smugglers, border police, and deportation in trying to seek resettlement in other countries. In an author’s note, Brown asserts that his purpose in writing the book was to focus only on the refugee experience, rather than try to sum up the complicated cultural landscape of Syria. However, in many ways the book focuses on being a refugee in the broadest possible sense. Experiences are anonymized and generalized; we do not follow any individuals and none of the characters, despite representing real people, have names. If any individual appears repeatedly, it is only over the course of a few panels. The longest we follow an individual is four pages, from a jihadist checkpoint to a smuggler’s boat, where he disappears into the crowd of other refugees, each one indistinguishable from the last, where their greatest power comes from their numbers rather than their lives. The refugees as people are not central to the story, but rather serve as a mass of fleeing people without identity. The result is a depersonalized representation of the “refugee experience,” homogeneous in its portrayal, with the primary focus on the act of fleeing rather than adequately addressing resettlement, rebuilding community, or homesickness. The author does not discuss nor seem to grapple with the difficulty of consolidating the struggle of millions into a single story, though he notes he felt like a “voyeur to tragedy.” While drawing up a fictional narrative about real events can be similarly problematic, the approach Brown takes feels more voyeuristic, like a documentary divorced of emotion.

While it’s clear that the book is well-researched, with nine pages of bibliography and four pages of author’s notes in which he describes his visits to refugee camps in Greece in 2017, by generalizing the experience it lacks emotional depth. In the notes about his visits, Brown describes the settings, not the people; he remarked that it seemed “unnecessary and cruel” to ask refugees to “recount their awful experiences,” but at the same time it removes the opportunity for interpersonal connection and getting to know the people past their status as a refugee. The people portrayed don’t really participate in the story. They have no control over the narrative. We begin to understand their struggles, but not who they are as people. We see a portrayal of their hardships, but not of who they are. While I can appreciate that the quotes used were taken directly from refugees, because they were pulled from the articles mentioned in the bibliography, it adds another layer of removal from their source, adding one more degree of separation and maintaining the distance between reader and refugee. Many of the quotes are said by refugees directly to the reader, turning their faces away from the violence depicted to describe the circumstances. Separating them from the story creates an eerie and unnerving feeling, as if a horror movie broke the fourth wall. Additionally, because Brown takes pieces from different people’s lives and experiences, the narrative of the book is not driven by the people, but rather reads more like a collage or scrapbook.

The Unwanted resists some comic book conventions in its style—the art is in panels, but the text is mostly narrative text, complete with paragraph breaks, indentation, and a serif font, which I’m not sure I’ve seen in a graphic novel before. The art is somewhat abstract and imprecise, a very sketchy style, lending a sense of impermanence fitting to the work. Often people’s eyes are portrayed as dark, shadowy sockets, which only adds to the feeling of removal, drawing the reader further away from the experiences of the people portrayed rather than closer to them. Violence cannot be confined by borders—black clouds of smoke rise past panel boundaries, explosions burst into the gutters, guns peer past the panels, escaping their own borders to search for the refugees who are crossing borders. A “flood” of refugees stream in from off the side of the page, ignoring the panel boundaries completely. While the art is mostly watercolor, some aspects seem more like mixed media, in particular, explosions that take up an entire page.

One aspect of the book that struck me as strange was that at no point do any of the characters address Syria as their home. There seems to be a total rejection of the country, with no discussion of nostalgia, homesickness, what they love, cherish, and miss about the home they had to abandon. In this sense the story seems very one-sided and flat, and might have benefitted from a deeper exploration of the characters as people.

The book only serves to strengthen the image portrayed on the cover and by the title; The Unwanted frames refugees as a problem rather than as people. It focuses on fear, and feels like watching a horror movie, where you are forced to watch panicked characters flee from the danger that haunts them. I found it more anxiety-inducing than empathy-provoking. Unlike other works that I’ve read and reviewed about refugees, this book does not leave the reader with recommendations for ways to become involved, though a portion of the proceeds from the book are donated to The International Rescue Committee. Brown’s goal may have been to capture the “refugee experience,” but I found that The Unwanted was a missed opportunity for deeply connecting to people rather than to the traumas they’ve experienced.

In addition to the heavy subject matter, in regards to content warnings, librarians wishing to shelve this title should be aware that the book shows corpses, blood, and military weapons, but without portraying graphic violence or deaths.

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees
By Don Brown
ISBN: 9781328810151
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Teen

The Little Prince: the graphic novel

The iconic Little Prince and his author, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, are brought vividly to life through the illustrations in this faithful textual adaptation by Joann Sfar and through the eloquent translation from the French by Sarah Ardizzone. Sfar’s adaption does not wander too far from the original source in his imaging of the prince and the landscapes, but the visual addition of the narrator, who had not been depicted previously, renders it an innovative and successful undertaking. The narrator, closely resembling de Saint-Exupéry, plays a much more active role in this comic book version.

Originally published in 1943 as an illustrated novella, The Little Prince is a reflective allegory exploring themes of friendship, belonging, loneliness, and the imposed pressures of adulthood. Critically revered, the novella is thought to be based on the author’s own experiences as an aviator being stranded in the Sahara desert in 1935. de Saint-Exupéry illustrated the tale in watercolors for the childhood book market, but its classic status is more likely based on the profound observations and idealistic pronouncements that are an essential element of the storyline. Sfar has successfully included and visually embellished these elements for a contemporary generation of readers. While most of this version faithfully follows the original storyline, Sfar incorporates several additional whims of fancy such as the prince blissfully somersaulting from the top of the plane to the delight of the narrator. The prince, with his familiar flowing scarf, golden hair and expressive eyes relates, to the narrator and the reader, his reminiscences of his previous solitary existence, his travels from his home asteroid to earth, his experiences with the six asteroids and their eccentric and exasperating residents on his way to earth, and his adventures once landing in the desert up to his meeting with the narrator. The developing friendship between the little prince and the narrator is natural, realistic and, as a result, extremely poignant when the prince chooses to return home.

The illustrations are a uniform six panels to a page, with the loosely flowing drawings rendered in vibrant colors, complemented by the necessary but rather heavy text in places. Sfar’s recognizable illustrative style effectively imbues all of the characters with distinctive and expressive personalities. Both the prince and the narrator are equal participants in telling and activating the tale. However, my favourite character is the fox, who is eloquent, playful, and desiring of being tamed and loved.

The Little Prince: the graphic novel
by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Art by Joann Sfar
ISBN: 9780547338026
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: 10+