Graphic Novel Review: Sunny Side Up

“We wrote this book so that young readers who are facing these same problems today don’t feel ashamed like we did. When someone in a family struggles with substance abuse, the whole family struggles.” p. 219

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Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, coloring by Lark Pien.
Graphix, Scholastic, New York, 2015.
MG historical fiction, 220 pages.
Lexile:  GN490L  .
AR Level:  2.4 (worth 0.5 points)  .

Sunshine Lewin is spending the summer in Florida visiting her grandfather, who lives in a retirement community there.  But that wasn’t the plan for this summer, and there’s something going on that she isn’t talking about.

Sunny Side Up cover resized

This series gotten a lot of buzz, both positive and negative.  The Holm duo are already well-known for their Babymouse series, but this is aimed at a slightly older crowd.  There will be some spoilers for this book discussed in my review, if you want to avoid them please scroll down to the final paragraph for my general opinion.

It’s historical fiction set in 1976, but some parents take issue with the fact that drug addiction and smoking are portrayed.  It’s difficult to tell from online hysteria whether or not a book is actually suitable for a certain age range or group of students, so I decided to see for myself.

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Graphic Novel Review: The Shark King

This slim early-chapter-book graphic novel retelling of a traditional Hawaiian story will appeal to adults as well.

The Shark King by R. Kikuo Johnson.
TOON Books, New York, 2012.
Graphic novel, 40 pages.
Lexile:  GN410L or GN380L ?   ( Also what does GN mean in Lexile? )
AR Level:  1.6 (worth 0.5 points)  .
NOTE: I have some disagreement with these levels, see review for details.

This is the story of Nanaue, from the day his parents met onward.

The Shark King resized

Most graphic novels I’ve reviewed here so far fall into the middle school, teen, or adult categories.  While some might be appropriate for younger MG readers, most were not.  This book is aimed at elementary students – although I wouldn’t hesitate to add it to a middle school library or even a high school if high-low books were needed.  The age of the characters is not specified, and while Toon Books specializes in elementary graphic novels, they do also make some for older readers.

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Graphic Novel? Review: Tina’s Mouth

“Even here things are pretty divided. Except that the breakdown is different. The aunties hang out with the aunties and the uncles hand out with the uncles.” page 53

Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap, illustrated by Mari Araki.
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2011.
Illuminated realistic fiction, 247 pages.
Lexile:  not leveled
AR Level:  4.7 (worth 3.0 points)  .
NOTE: This is a YA book, not intended for younger children.

Tina Malhotra is the youngest in a family of five and a sophomore at the mostly white Yarborough Academy.  She’s taking an Honors English elective course in existential philosophy, and has taken on an assignment to write letters to Jean-Paul Satre about the process of discovering who she is and who she is becoming.

Tina's Mouth resized
Tina’s Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary by Keshni Kashyap, illustrated by Mari Araki.

The format of this book was different to any I’ve read before.  I hesitate to call it a graphic novel (although the dust jacket does so) because large portions of the story were carried through text only.  Neither was it an illuminated work because whole pages at a time would be done in a comic style relying on both text and illustrations.

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Graphic Novel Review: Suee and the Shadow

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.

Suee and the Shadow

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.

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2017 Favorites – Other

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!

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Graphic Novel Review: Emiko Superstar

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.
Not leveled.

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.

Emiko Superstar cover resized
Emiko Superstar by Mariko Tamaki, illustrated by Steve Rolston.

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.

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Graphic Novel Review: Good As Lily

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.

Good As Lily Cover resized

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.

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