A deliciously creepy, magical MG tale set in South Korea.
Suee and the Shadow by Ginger Ly, illustrated by Molly Park.
Amulet Books, Abrams, New York, 2017.
MG fantasy/horror graphic novel, 236 pages.
Lexile: GN270L ( What does GN mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: 2.7 (worth 2.0 points) .
NOTE: Although this has a low reading level, it’s recommended for middle grades.
Twelve-year-old Suee is a new student at boring Outskirts Elementary, and she’s determined to get through her last bit of elementary school with no complications. That means no friends, no sharing information with the counselor, and no getting involved in anything weird. Too bad a voice is calling to her from the exhibit room and her shadow is alive.
This book caught my eye even though it wasn’t time for a new Target pick (well I was looking for Aru Shah and it was sold out, which is great news). Suee struck me as an unusual name, so I picked up the book and found out it’s by a South Korean author-illustrator team, and set there as well. I suspect this will do well with fans of The Jumblies, because it has the same creepy-magical vibe.
The final 2017 roundup catches all the other categories – graphic novels, authors, and board books.
Yup, I’m not posting this until well into 2018. In 2017 I reviewed 98 books (plus 10 board books) and so many of them were so good. It took me a month just to narrow it down this far… I just love all the books!
While it definitely shouldn’t be shelved in the children’s section, this coming-of-age graphic novel will appeal to YA readers.
Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Steve Rolston.
Minx, DC comics, New York, 2008.
Graphic novel, 150 pages.
This is the story of one summer in the life of Emiko, a summer that changed her life. It starts out like a normal summer. A coffee shop job doesn’t last, so her mom signs her up for babysitting work. She meets a girl named Poppy and finds herself strangely drawn to Poppy’s mesmerizing, frenetic, artistic life.
There is a lot going on in this graphic novel.
I want to caution readers that this is definitely for teens. We found it at the used bookstore in the kids section, and I assumed that it would be okay for N based on other Minx books I’ve read, which were fine for middle grade readers. Nope!
This is a great book, but the content is intense, and middle schoolers should be discussing it with a parent or teacher. Mariko Tamaki is better known for Skim, an intense YA graphic novel.
The dramatic opening is a little confusing. An edgy, artistic girl with one shoe is coming home late at night. She’s texting her friend and narrates as the images go from her to old photographs. Chapter two backtracks to early summer.
A graphic novel that uses an unusual conceit to discuss coming-of-age and self-growth.
Good As Lily by Derek Kirk Kim, illustrated by Jesse Hamm.
MG/YA fiction (mostly realistic fiction, but with a speculative fiction aspect), 150 pages.
Minx, DC Comics, New York, 2007.
Lexile: Not leveled.
AR Level: 3.0 (worth 2.0 points) .
NOTE: While the text is a third grade level, this is written for older children.
On Grace Kwon’s 18th birthday, things get a little weird. Friends whisk her away, guitar strings break, and a strange accident with an unwanted pinata leads her to leave her favorite present behind in the park. And when she meets versions of herself at ages 6, 27, and 70, it gets a whole lot weirder.
This is a special review. See, this is a re-read, but it’s also a book I first read in 2007. At the time I was devouring graphic novels as fast as I could get them. However, unlike most of those quick reads, the plot of this one stuck with me for the past decade. I couldn’t remember the title for a long time, just that it was a Minx book. After seeing ReGifters on this great list, I suddenly recalled that Lily was in the title, and was able to find the info. Lily is not the main character’s name, which made it more difficult for me to remember.
If the play didn’t work for you, give this graphic novel a try.
Monster: A Graphic Novel by Walter Dean Myers, adapted by Guy A. Sims and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile.
Amistad, HarperCollins, New York, 2015.
Graphic novel, 153 pages.
Lexile: GN420L ( What does GN mean in Lexile? )
AR Level: not yet leveled
This is a graphic novel adaptation of Monster. I’ll repeat my summary of the novel:
Monster is a complicated novel of a story-within-a-story. At first glance it is the straightforward tale of a boy who is accused of assisting in a murder during a robbery-gone-wrong, mostly expressed through his recreation of the trial as a screenplay and his diary notes from prison. But it is also the story of a criminal justice system where the mostly white cast assumes all the power over the mostly black “monsters.” Then there are also flashbacks that add more information about Steve Harmon and the other characters which call into question his real role in the murder. Meanwhile, we are seeing all of this through the lens of one desperate young boy – what is the truth?
You might recall my review of the novel Monster, which took me more than six months to read and review (thankfully it was checked out from a library I work at, so I could keep renewing it). In contrast, this graphic novel took me a few hours to read and is being reviewed instantly – because I can certainly recommend it.
“In the end, the only certainty may be that America had lost one of its most original and outspoken leaders.” page 101
Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer, art by Randy DuBurke.
Serious Comics, Hill and Wang, Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 2006.
Graphic novel biography, 102 pages plus extras.
Lexile: not leveled
AR Level: 6.6 (worth 3.0 points) .
A black and white comic-style graphic novel biography of Malcolm X.
For some time now, I’ve been trying to find a great middle grade children’s biography of Malcolm X. I’ve gotten some from the library, and purchased a few. So far none have greatly impressed me, which is why I’m just now getting around to reviewing them. Children’s biographies of Malcolm X have a tricky balance to strike. Islam must be included, since it was an important part of his life and work. His militant views (and later ideas about a more hopeful society) can’t be left out, but should be presented in a way appropriate for children. It’s a tall order.
An original, #ownvoices can’t-miss middle grade graphic novel.
Malice in Ovenland by Micheline Hess.
Rosarium Publishing, Greenbelt, MD, 2016.
MG speculative fiction, 126 pages including extras.
Not yet leveled.
Lily Brown is not going to camp this summer, or on a fancy vacation. She’ll be staying home, eating her mom’s new ‘healthy’ organic cooking, caring for their plot in a community garden, and doing extra studying. Her mom goes away for a weekend and Lily’s almost done with her chore list when she loses an earring inside the oven and discovers a magical world where they aren’t too happy about the sudden lack of grease in her family’s kitchen.
There’s no way that my summary has done this book justice. There are so many things going on here, and everything is wonderful. This is a book that kids love to read, and that parents can feel good about their kids reading.