Yvain: The Knight of the Lion

yvainby M.T. Anderson, illustrated by Andrea Offerman
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Content: There’s some violence and some more mature themes.  Plus it’s based in medieval times. It’s in the teen graphic novel section of the bookstore.

I have an affinity for all things Arthurian (or I used to at least), and so when our Candlewick rep mentioned that the new graphic novel by M. T. Anderson was based on one of the lesser known Arthurian tales, I jumped at the chance to read it.

It’s the story of one of Arthur’s knights of the round table, Yvain. He is challenged by the other knights to go find the magical spring and fight the mysterious knight that defends it. And so Yvain does. And defeats the knight. Which widows the knight’s wife, and sets off an… interesting chain of events. Which includes Yvain falling for the wife, her maid falling for Yvain, Yvain marrying the wife, a year-long bout of jousting in which Yvain forgets he has a wife, an exile in the forest, and then tricking the wife (with the help of the maid) into taking him back.

Definitely an Arthurian tale. It’s odd, to say the least.

The art by Andrea Offermann, however, is stunning. She tries to play up the role of the women (which isn’t much, considering this is a Medieval story) but she also manages to capture the era — both the renaissance faire feel as well as the seedy, realistic underbelly — as well.

Did I like it? Kind of. It was good enough to finish, but wasn’t enough to wow my socks off.

One Trick Pony

onetrickponyby Nathan Hale
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Release date: March 14, 2017
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There are some scary bits, but it’s pretty tame overall. It will be in the Middle Grade Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Aliens have invaded, and their primary goal is not to destroy the humans but to gather the technology. Everything and anything that can be considered tech — from forks and knives to guns to computers and robots — is gobbled up by the aliens, whom the humans have taken to calling Pipers.

On the outskirts of one of the “hot zones” (places where there is lots of piper activity) there’s a mobile community — the Caravan — of people whose main goal is to keep the tech — and thereby “civilization” — alive. Then one day, a few kids from the Caravan uncover a robot pony in the middle of the hot zone. Suddenly pipers are after them, and it ends in a confrontation that will either result in the loss of humanity or its salvation.

It’s an intriguing story, and I loved the way Hale told it. So very good.

Ms. Marvel: Super Famous

msmarvelby G. Willow Wilson, Takeshi Miyazawa, Adrian Alphona, Nico Leon
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Others in the series: Volume 1, Volume 2
Content: There’s some violence, and there are a few more mature themes, but K is interested in this one and I’d let her read them. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

Kamala has a problem. She’s been invited to be a part of the Avengers (not the problem), but between that, school, and home commitments, it’s getting harder and harder to stay on top of things. And so, she doesn’t notice at first when her face appears on the billboard touting a new development in her neighborhood. It’s nothing she signed off on, but it turns out that the development not only plans on destroying her neighborhood, but also is brainwashing all of its tenants. And, with Bruno’s help, hopefully she’ll be able to stop the developers.

That’s the better of the two stories in this latest Ms. Marvel, though the second story (about some clones that Bruno and Kamala make in order to help her get to all of her commitments) isn’t as strong, it does have one of my favorite moments, when Kamala realizes that she can’t do It All. The art — even though I still don’t like the switch between artists and prefer Miyazawa’s rendition best — is fantastic, and I love that the people are really realistically portrayed and diverse!

This series is SO good.

Tetris: The Games People Play

tetrisby Box Brown
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Review copy pilfered off the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Content: It’s a history, so if you’re not into Tetris or video games, it won’t be interesting. That said, it’s not a super-high reading level, so kids as young as 10 or 11 might be interested in this. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

First, a confession. One of my roommates the winter of 1991 had a Nintendo (I’m assuming, after reading this), and Tetris was on it. I don’t know how it started (and I may have been playing it in the arcade for a while already; I don’t remember), but I became obsessed with Tetris. Obsessed. I would stay up until 1 or 2 in the morning, playing it, forgoing going out, homework, eating… Eventually, after a month or so of this, my roommates staged an intervention and banned me from playing Tetris. They may have even gotten rid of the game; I don’t remember that either. The game (and my obsession) fell by the wayside, and I haven’t really thought much about it.

That is, until this book showed up in the store and a co-worker pointed it out, saying I might be interested.

It’s the history of how Tetris came to be. A couple of software developers in the USSR thought of this game, worked to program it and sent it around the department where they worked. It became a hit with their friends, and that was the end of it. Or so they thought. But, a developer for Atari and another for Nintendo got their hands on it, and, well, Things began to happen. It’s really kind of convoluted; there was a lot of legal problems, and negotiating business with the USSR wasn’t the easiest to do. But, in the end, Nintendo ended up with the rights, and the rest is history.

Choosing a graphic format to tell this story was interesting, though I’m not sure how well it worked for  me. I kept forgetting who was who (since, after the initial introduction, I only saw their faces and couldn’t remember their names), and the black and yellow color palate got a little old after a while. But, that said, the story was a fascinating one.

Not a bad read.

Fish Girl

fishgirlby David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli
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Release date: March 7, 2017
Content: It’s a simple graphic novel, but it has dark undertones. Probably not for the super sensitive souls. It will be in our middle grade graphic novel section.

I usually don’t write about books this far in advance, but the end of the year is nigh, and I couldn’t wait for this one.

I didn’t know I needed a graphic novel from David Wiesner and Donna Jo Napoli, but this book is a gift. The story is simple: a mermaid living in an aquarium with the fish and her octopus friend, run by the person she believes to be her only family, Neptune. Then she meets a girl, Livia, who — by the fact of her friendship, by some simple questions  — expands the mermaid’s world.

But it’s more than that.  There’s a dark underbelly, as the mermaid — dubbed Mira by Livia — becomes brave enough to explore her world and as she realizes what Neptune has done. There’s themes of friendship and choice and standing up for oneself running through the book, themes that aren’t heavy-handed, but rather subtly employed throughout for those who are looking for them. Napoli is a master writer, and Weisner speaks volumes with his gorgeous (and often fantastical) watercolor drawings.

I didn’t know that a Weisner/Napoli graphic novel was something I wanted in life. Now, I can only hope they team up for another.

 

 

Newsprints

newsprintsby Ru Xu
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Review copy provided by the publisher.
Release date: January 31, 2017
Content: The story line is a bit complex, but nothing that a 10+ year old could handle. It’ll be in the Middle Grade Graphic Novels section of the bookstore.

Blue is an orphan girl who disguises herself as a boy to deliver newspapers. There’s a war going on, and she loves working as a newsie for the Bugle, but she worries that once people find out she’s  a girl she’ll be out of a job. Then, she discovers an absent minded inventor and a boy that’s a lot more than he seems, and all of a sudden people discovering she’s a girl is the least of her worries.

It took me a while to get into this (possibly because it was an advance copy and in black in white; I’ve discovered I like graphic novels better in color), but once I did, I was hooked. Blue’s a great character, and the world that Xu has created is this futuristic-retro thing. There’s a war between fictional countries, and there are robots and flying ships and super fast trains, and… newsies. It’s weird and wild and fun.

And I liked the friendship between Blue and Crow, the boy she meets, and how Blue’s willing to do just about anything to defend him. Also, the underlying feminism: Blue’s questioning of the way the system is, why she needs to disguise herself, and wanting the system itself to change.

It’s definitely only a start of a series, but it’s a strong start and a series I’ll definitely be paying attention to.

 

 

Razzle Dazzle Unicorn

razzledazzleby Dana Simpson
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Others in the Series: Phoebe and her Unicorn, Unicorn on a Roll, Unicorn vs. Goblins
Content: Simple, fun, colorful, and funny, these are perfect for kids in 3-5th grade. They are also perfect for anyone who likes a little silliness in their life.

I feel a little silly still writing reviews of these; it’s not a story (really; though there is a bit of an arc, it’s more like Calvin and Hobbes than an actual story) that needs to be updated. But every time I see a new Phoebe and Marigold collection, I pick it up, because I can’t get enough of them.

It’s a lot like the other ones: there’s holiday magic, there’s struggles at school (the best is when Phoebe gets in trouble for taking journaling a little too seriously), there’s summertime fun, Phoebe goes to music camp again. It’s silly, it’s funny, it’s pure delight.

If you’re not reading these, you are missing out.