A quick graphic novel round up for you. We continue to dig through the library offerings.
First up, I read the book The Storm in the Barn by Matt Phelan. This graphic novel is aimed at older middle grade readers. It was unique, to say the least. It takes place in Dust Bowl era Kansas, about a young boy whose mother is ill and who is beset by bullies. The style is sketchy and brown toned, to show how dusty and dry everything is. The art has an ethereal feel to it, which suits the tone of the story. This is one of those children’s literature selections that I enjoy, but wonder who the intended audience really is because it does seem so unique. Regardless, the book weaves together complicated themes and has an ending that is open to different interpretations. It was very different, but I liked it.
Next is a series BalletBoy read. Salt Water Taffy by Matthew Loux is a chapter book level graphic novel series about two boys on their summer vacation in Maine. They meet a friendly caricature of an old fisherman who guides them on some bizarre adventures. In the first volume, they meet a giant lobster monster called “Old Salty.” The art in the series is bold and straightforward. I pulled it off the shelf as a possibility for BalletBoy, but I have to say I don’t think much of the books. They’re more of a conglomeration of random nonsense than a solid story. But BalletBoy gives them two thumbs up. Thanks to a timely library trip, he read all four in less than a week.
Next, Mushroom read the book Monkey vs. Robot by James Kolchalka. I wasn’t much of a fan of Kolchalka’s weird Johnny Boo series for young readers. This almost wordless graphic novel is intended for older readers, but Mushroom seemed to think the whole thing was hilarious, even without being able to read what little text there was. Kolchalka’s style is purposefully rough and this story is absurd, but amusing. Essentially, some monkeys and a robot fight it out in a jungle. That’s pretty much it. It’s certainly not a deep selection, but I found it fun as well.
I also read the book Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke. It tells the story of a girl who gets sucked through some sort of portal onto an alien planet and much find her courage and go on adventures to save her friend. The art is colorful and fun, filled with funny little creatures of all sorts. I highly recommend this one. Zita is a great character, spunky and brave, but the author does a good job of showing how she can be vulnerable too. The length and reading some of the minor characters’ dialects make it not quite a chapter book level read, so I would say it’s for early middle grades readers.
Finally, the kids have discovered the Ponyo graphic novel adaptation, which comes in four volumes. In case you’re not familiar with it, Ponyo is an animated film by Hayao Miyazaki. It’s a beautiful story about a boy who befriends a magical sea girl creature. Not only is the story great, but the artistic style of the animation is similarly beautiful. The graphic novel series is made in Japan and therefore is read like other Japanese manga, which is to say, backwards. The kids have only read the first one, but it did take some getting used to. Still, I kept thinking it was surely a needed skill for geeky kids to have. The graphic novel is pretty much exactly the same as the film. The amazing art comes off just as well on the static page, however, and the story holds up in any form. Miyazaki’s other films, including Kiki’s Delivery Service, My Neighbor Totoro, and Howl’s Moving Castle, have also been turned into four volume graphic novel sets.