Friday, December 23, 2011

Manga Friday: The Dotter of Her Father's Eyes

Author: Mary Talbot
Illustrator: Bryan Talbot
Hardcover: 96 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse (February 2012)
Rating: 3 out of 5

In short: 
This graphic novel is an intersection of two coming of age stories: one that of Lucia, the daughter of author James Joyce, and the other, Mary (Atherton) Talbot, daughter of Joycean scholar James S. Atherton.

My thoughts:
The good: Bryan Talbot is an experienced artist who can clearly bridge the transitions between the two overlapping stories. The artwork helps to alleviate the somewhat jarring back and forth of the story line, similar in intent to what Gene Luen Yang did in American Born Chinese. Also, in looking at his other graphic novels, Talbot has chosen an appropriate "voice" for his illustrations to enhance his wife's memoir as well as the biography of Lucia.

The awkward: Mary Talbot is an academic writer and this is her first foray into the graphic novel genre, which makes the rhythm of the story difficult to follow. It's not often that I have to continue to reread several pages in a graphic novel. I think some of the story threads would just cut off with an unnatural breath and then the next person's story would continue. Perhaps that was the intent - to leave the reader discombobulated as a way to mirror the tone of heartbreak in the pieces. I think that's a worthy intent, I just may have a harder time "selling" it to my reluctant middle school readers.

The one kernel of hope in the story is that like Adeline Yen Mah Fallen Leaves and Dave Pelzer A Child Called It, Mary Talbot has survived and thrived despite her family life.

Source: ARC supplied by Net Galley(dot)com for an honest review

Friday, December 16, 2011

Manga Friday: The Girl Who Owned a City

Author: O.T. Nelson, adapted by Dan Jolley
Illustrator: Joelle Jones; coloring Jenn Manley Lee
Publisher: Graphic Universe (April 2012)
Paperback: 128 pages
Rating: 4 out of 5


After a virus wipes out everyone over 12 on Earth and turns them to dust, 10-year-old Lisa must take care of her younger brother and figure out how to survive in this new world. Not only does she have to feed and house them, but she needs to keep the roving gangs from looting her hard-won supplies. 

My thoughts:
This is a graphic novel adaptation of a 1975 novel by O.T. Nelson. Because of that, the story line is a bit dated in that tween and teen readers are a much more sophisticated lot, and although they like to read about paranormal, the characters need to be realistic, and they want their stories to reflect some kind of learning on the part of the protagonist. 

Still, the quality of the illustrations by Joelle Jones lends modern elements to a 37-year-old story, and the timing is right to join the dystopian YA market that is always looking for the next Katniss, but for me, the test of a good graphic novel is 1) will I be able to "sell" it to my reluctant readers and 2) will it make them want to read the longer novel that the GN stemmed from?

 What seems to date this character is that in recent dystopian YA novels, authors have been using the YA novel as a platform to teach social mores and ethics through their characters. The selfishness and 2-dimensional aspect of Lisa and the fact that she doesn't seem to grow or learn from her mistake bothered me until I realized that she's supposed to be 10-11. A 10 year old is not able to make the kinds of unselfish decisions asked for in this situation. However, since she's not drawn like a tween character, readers will accept her as older than she really is. Since teens like reading about characters that are their age or older, this is a great "sell" for YA readers, although I'm not sure if they will be willing to read the 204 page original novel.

To recap: the illustrations are enough to sell it, and even at 132 pages, it's a good deal for dystopian and GN buffs. 

Source: ARC provided by Net Galley (dot) com for an honest review

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Tween Tuesday Review: A Leaf Can Be

Author: Laura Purdie Salas
Illustrator:  Violeta Dabija
Publisher: Millbrook PR Trade (February 2012)
Hardcover: 32 pages
Rating: 5 out of 5

In short:
A leaf can be many things, like a "frost catcher. . .moth matcher. . .pile grower. . .hill glow-er." Follow the whimsical text and captivating pictures through the many things a leaf can be.

My thoughts:
There is nothing better than lilting poetry packaged in an "eye-candy" picture book that immerses the reader in color and joy, except an "eye-candy" poetry book that also doubles as a teaching tool and makes science fun and approachable for reluctant tween readers. This book is a great way to learn. Not only does it pair poetry with pictures for a sensory overload experience, but it provides additional information about a leaf's function, usefulness and scientific properties as well as a glossary of key vocabulary words with kid-friendly definitions that don't compromise the "scientificness" of the words.

The book is set for a release in February and it would make a wonderful Valentine's gift to tide readers over until the leaves start to reappear in spring.

Source: This ARC was supplied by Net Galley(dot)com for an honest review.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Manga Friday: The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen

Title: The Last Dragon
Author: Jane Yolen, author; Rebecca Guay, illustrator
Hardcover: 144 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse (2011)
Rating: 4 out of 5

Tansy, the village healer's headstrong daughter comes across some fireweed, a dragon's bane, and an ancient plant that only shows up when a dragon is near. Her father, curious of the implications of the plant in a world that has been free of dragons for hundreds of years goes off into the forest in search of any sign of a dragon and promptly disappears. As other animals and babies disappear from the little village, chaos ensues in the village of Meddlesome and Tansy is forced to try and save the village.  Enter Lancot, tall, blond, muscular, and only mildly heroic. Can the two of them save the village? 

My thoughts:
The writing is simple and a wonderful companion piece for Guay's lush watercolor illustrations. This is an easy sell for reluctant readers and graphic novel enthusiasts of all ages, and readers really can't go wrong with two prolific professionals in Jane Yolen (author of Owl Moon and my favorite The Devil's Arithmetic) and Rebecca Guay. 


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Review: Antiquitas Lost by Robert Louis Smith

Title: Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans
Author: Robert Louis Smith
Illustrator: Geof Isherwood
Paperback: 615 pages
Publisher: Medlock Publishing (2011)
Rating: 5 starts

Two heroes - two worlds - connected by strange birthmarks from a dying race. Elliott is at his dying mother's bedside in New Orleans as Princess Sarintha of Harwelden is kidnapped by a serpan warlord. 

Elliott's grandfather asks him to go to the basement and look around, and what he finds there is a portal to another world. In New Orleans he was a scrawny teen and easy prey for the neighborhood bullies. In Pangrelor, he is the prophesied hero who will save Pangrelor from destruction. And so the journey begins in the "Heart of the Traveler."

My Thoughts
Smith does what my favorite fantasy authors do (Anne McCaffrey, J.R.R. Tolkien): he creates a fantasy world without being an imitation. In Pangrelor there will be no dragons, dwarves, elves - common creatures often imitated, but never to the richness and depth of the classics. His story is not original, but it's comfortable in its familiarity. 

Young unheroic hero dropped into an unfamiliar and warring world, possessing a power that he/she is unaware of, an ancient prophesy - it's all in this book, thank heavens. After all, that is what makes a fantasy novel a fantasy novel. 

So in this story we have the original, we have the new, and major bonus - we have the spectacular illustrations of Marvel Comics legend Geof Isherwood. I just want to share one with author notes below, generously provided by the publisher with my thanks. The illustrations alone will sell the book. 

This is a great Middle School book that can span to the adult realm - for fantasy hard cores and reluctant readers alike.

Elliott arrives in Pangrelor
In this illustration, Elliott has just arrived in Pangrelor and
met Marvus and Jingo, with whom he will form a close
bond. Marvus and Jingo belong to a diminutive race of
primitive hominids called gimlets, and Geof and I had many
discussions regarding how they should look. For example,
we had a lengthy back-and-forth regarding the appearance
of their ears, and eventually settled on the shape you see
here. Geof also fleshed out their garments and boots,
which they have shared with Elliott in this scene. To the
right, Geof improvised the six-legged lemur to add to the
sense of otherworldliness.

While I'm sharing, here's more from the author himself on Pangrelor vs. Middle Earth

Smackdown: Pangrelor vs. Middle Earth
By Robert Louis Smith,

In 1954, J.R.R. Tolkien published the first of a breathtaking series of books that would go on to become some of the most influential novels of the 20th century. As anyone who has ever read The Lord of the Rings knows, Tolkien's books are so imaginative and unexpectedly powerful that his fantastic tale still captures our imaginations more than a half century after its original publication. These stories gave birth to the modern fantasy genre, and it is perhaps inevitable that so many contemporary fantasy books replicate aspects of Tolkien's writings. So pervasive is Tolkien's influence that the Oxford English Dictionary offers a word for it: Tolkienesque. Perhaps this is why we see so many fantasy tales that feature elves, dwarves, wizards, magic rings, and magic swords. The presence of these features is, in many ways, what we have come to expect from a modern fantasy novel.
But over the course of 57 years, these constructs of classical Northern European (or Tolkienesque) fantasy fiction have been imitated to the point of monotony. In tome after tome, we see elves and dwarves wielding magical swords or speaking in Northern European conlangs (fictional languages) as they follow some particular heroic quest. And let's be honest. Although there are many wonderful and imaginative novels that feature these elements, no one has done it as well as Mr. Tolkien.
When I sat down to write Antiquitas Lost, I promised myself there would be no magic rings, magic swords, elves or dwarves. A major goal was to create a fantasy novel where the creatures and setting were fresh. Pangrelor, the fantasy world described in Antiquitas Lost, is envisioned as a pre-industrial, medieval society with beautiful artistic accomplishments set in a savage and magical natural environment -- the Renaissance meets the Pleistocene, with magical beings and crypto-zoological creatures. Devoid of elves and dwarves, Pangrelor is inhabited largely by creatures that we are familiar with, but different from the usual fantasy fare -- gargoyles, Bigfoot creatures, Neanderthal types, Atlanteans and dinosaurs, to name a few. These differences give Pangrelor a much different feel       from Middle Earth and the countless, adherent worlds that have followed. Hopefully the reader will find this refreshing. Over time, I have come to think of Antiquitas Lost as more of a "North American" tale, with many references to new world mythologies, as well as a hint of Native American influence.
Although Antiquitas Lost is not immune to Mr. Tolkien's sweeping influence, it is unique in many ways. When you take your first journey to Pangrelor, it is my sincere hope that you will experience a hint of the joy that accompanied your maiden voyage to Middle Earth, and that you will connect in a meaningful way with this unprecedented new cast of characters as you explore an altogether unique fantasy destination.
© 2011 Robert Louis Smith, author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans

Author Bio
Robert Louis Smith, 
author of Antiquitas Lost: The Last of the Shamalans, has numerous degrees, including psychology (B.A.), applied microbiology (B.S.), anaerobic microbiology (M.Sc.), and a Medical Doctorate (M.D.). He serves as an interventional cardiologist at the Oklahoma Heart Institute. He is married and the father of two young children. He began writing Antiquitas Lost in 2003 while studying at Tulane University in New Orleans.

For more information please visit and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter

Source: given by the publisher for an honest review

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Interview: Hiro Mashima Talks About His Popular Manga Creations

School Library Journal has a great interview with Hiro Mashima and I'm sharing the interview link here.
Interview: Hiro Mashima Talks About His Popular Manga Creations

Hiro Mashima is the author of the Rave Master series, and although I buy and collect a lot of manga and graphic novels, Rave is the only complete series that I have. My middle boy got his first Rave Master for his 13th birthday and we've been hooked! That son is already 19 and the Rave Master books are starting to fall apart because they are also a great series to give to my reluctant readers.

In the above interview he talks about his process, always insightful and informative.

And just to prove that I'm not joking about our obsession with Rave Master, this is just what I grabbed from the shelf - not even close to all of them.


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