Graphic Novel Round-up, May 2014

Hilda and the Bird Parade
by Luke Pearson
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Content: It’s a bit intense at parts, with Hilda getting lost and some interesting monsters. But that’s it. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

I don’t think this was a first in a series — googling Luke Pearson led me to a number of other Hilda titles. But it’s a perfect place to start. Hilda is a spunky, blue-haired girl who has been raised in the mountains before her mother moved them to Trolberg. Hilda doesn’t like the confines of the city, mostly because her mother never lets her go anywhere anymore.

Then, on the day of the Bird Parade, Hilda is invited out by some classmates. They take her to all of the (not-so) cool spots, but she bails on them when they start throwing stones at a raven. She rescues the raven, who 1) happens to talk, and 2) has amnesia. They wander the city and have adventures while the raven tries to get his memory back.

That plot summary doesn’t do Hilda any justice. It’s an absolutely adorable book. Sweet and fun, full of action and adventure as well as playing off of Norse myths (which seem to be the in-thing these days). I loved it, K loved it, Hubby loved it. I’m definitely going to get more Hilda books and see what other adventures she has.

Fairy Tale Comics
edited by Chris Duffy

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Content: Fairy tales, in their original form, are quite violent and weird. While this collection tones it down, there’s still some violence and weirdness. That said, K didn’t have any problems with it, though she didn’t “get” some of it. It’s in the fairy tale section of the bookstore, but I’m wondering if it’d get more exposure with the middle grade graphic novels.
Fairy tales are weird. (Or as the narrator in A Tale Dark and Grimm would say, “awesome”.) And what better way to showcase the weirdness than to get a bunch of illustrators to reinterpret ? different fairy tales in graphic novel form?
On the one hand, this is a terrific way to get reluctant/struggling readers interested in fairy tales. K picked it up, and thoroughly enjoyed perusing the pages, reading all the stories. Also, in its favor, there is a Japanese folk tale, a Br’er Rabbit story, and  tale from 1001 Nights, though it was too heavy on the Grimm for my taste. Even so, some of the tales were cleverly re-imagined — The 12 Dancing Princesses (Emily Carroll), Give Me the Shudders (David Mazzucchelli), Little Red Riding Hood (Gigi D. G.), and The Boy Who Drew Cats (Luke Pearson)  were among my favorites.

Others, though, were not as well done. Snow White (Jaime Hernandez) was just weird (then again, so is the fairy tale) and Rapunzel (Raina Telgemeier) disappointingly “borrowed” from Rapunzel’s Revenge/Tangled. I think I was also hoping for more of the unusual ones, Snow White and Rose Red or something from Hans Christian Anderson, or my favorite French tale The White Cat. It was very much, for the most part, the known tales retold, and while that was all fine and good, I was hoping for something… more.

The Lost Boy
by Greg Ruth
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Content: This has gone back and forth between the teen graphic novels and the middle grade graphic novels. It’s not as kid-friendly — it’s intense, and a bit difficult for the eye to follow — as some others we have in middle grade, but it’s a bit simplistic — it’s a straight-up fantasy-adventure — for teen.

When his family moves into a new house, Nathaniel Castle (just call him Nate) has no idea what’s in store for him. When, under a loose floorboard, he finds an envelope with his name on it next to an old-fashioned tape recorder, he can’t resist the odd message — Find Him — and the lure of a mystery. Little does he know that he will be dragged into solving a 50-year-old disappearance of a local boy, Walt, and be immersed in a world where dolls and insects talk, and a mysterious force called the Vespertine is trying to take over.

The art in this one is gorgeous: done in shades of black and white, it’s realistic, even in the fantasy elements. No cartoons here. And that gives it a seriousness that I don’t think the story would have otherwise had. It’s quite eerie and chilling in parts. That said, it’s also a straight-up adventure; the hero does win the day, with some help of his friend Tabitha, and all is happily-ever-after, even though there’s a slightly ominous coda.

I do hope Ruth writes another one, though. I’m quite fascinated by this world he’s created.

Explorer: the Lost Islands
edited by Kazu Kibuishi
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some weird stuff going on, but none of it is inappropriate for the younger reader. (K handled it just fine.) It’d be in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore, if we carried it.

I picked this up solely because of Kibuishi’s name (why, yes, I AM waiting impatiently for the next Amulet installment) without knowing anything about it, or this series. (I guess it is a series, since this says Book 2 on it..) It turns out it’s a series of short stories from a handful of artists on a theme, this one being “islands”.

Like any other short story collection (see above!), it’s a wide range of stories ranging from the silly — a group of bunnies on an island who work until someone invents a robot that will do all of their jobs (but it has disastrous results) to the weird — Kibuishi’s Moby Dick-esque story or Chrystin Garland’s weird devil-party (I know there’s a term for this, but it’s escaping me. There were touching ones — particularly “Desert Island Playlist” from Dave Roman & Raina Telgemeir, that illustrates how the past, present, and future are all necessary in one’s life. Or “Loah” by Michel Gagne, which is a gorgeously illustrated story of how differences matter.

It’s a good solid collection, and it makes me want to hunt out the first one in the series to see what the theme and stories are. A great introduction, too, to a wide range of artists.

One thought on “Graphic Novel Round-up, May 2014

  1. Loved reading this! I am a big fan of Nursery Rhyme Comics and I just saw a week or two ago that Fairy Tale Comics existed. Can't wait to get my hands on it.

    Also, the only Hilda book I've read is Hilda and the Midnight Giant (book 2, book 1 is Hildafolk). I just loved it.


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