Review: Frankenstein (Graphic Novel)

Frankenstein GraphicReview:

Frankenstein

Adapted by: Elizabeth Genco

Illustrated by: Jason Ho

Based upon the works of Mary Shelley

Publisher: Magic Wagon, a division of the ABDO Publishing Group, 2008

Source: Public Library

As regular readers are aware, I am not usually a fan of graphic novels. Of course, there are always exceptions and – happily – this happens to be one of them.

I have always enjoyed the story Frankenstein in its many versions, but have found that many of my students tend to dislike it, at least in its original form. (Side note: Many still like Dracula by Bram Stoker in its original form – and find it scarier, too.) I think this shorter, graphic version may help to give them a new opinion.

And in case you’ve forgotten, the story begins on a boat stuck in the ice near the North Pole and on the ice is found a half-frozen man: Victor Frankenstein. He recounts to the captain of the ship the story of how he created a horrible monster and of how that monster escaped. Frankenstein tells how the Creature proceeded to murder people associated with him (though others are blamed), until finally Frankenstein must pursue the Creature in order to destroy it.

Well, that’s a very, very brief synopsis, but you get the general idea: a scary-looking monster out to wreak havoc and destruction. Since this is just the time of year for such creepy tales, readers might also want to check out some of the other offerings – all classics –  in this series: The Creature from the Depths, Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, Mummy, Werewolf.

 

Review: The Book That Dripped Blood

The Book that Dripped BloodReview:

The Book That Dripped Blood

Author: Michael Dahl

Illustrator: Bradford Kendall

Publisher: Stone Arch Books, 2007

Source: Library

Anyone who comes in contact with the fur-covered book is in trouble. It has claws. It has teeth. It attacks.

Is there anyone who can stop it? Perhaps the Librarian has the power to end the book’s attacks. Maybe the Collector will help – or not.

Although this is a chapter book (Guided Reading Level: K), it reads like a graphic novel. It is part of the Library of Doom series which includes lots of intriguing titles like The Book That Ate My Brother or Ghost Writer.

One of the things I like about this book – beside the low-level creepiness – is that at the end of this short book are some fun facts about rare and unusual books, a short glossary, discussion questions (my favorite!), a couple of writing prompts, and even an internet site to use for further research. It’s great to have all the resources compiled.

Learn more about Michael Dahl at his website: http://www.michaeldahlwrites.com/

 

Yes-or-No-vember: Nimona

Hi everyone,

For today’s Yes-or-No-vember, we’re reading a graphic novel! If you’ve been following Two BookWorms Blog for a while, you’ll probably know that we typically don’t agree on graphic novels, so let’s see how Nimona fares!

 

nimonaNimona by Noelle Stevenson

Publisher: HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers, 2015

Genre: Fantasy, Humor

Format: Softcover, Graphic Novel, Young Adult

Pages: 266

Source: Public Library

Synopsis: “Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Ballister are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are. Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson, based on her award-winning web comic” (Nimona, back jacket).

For more information:

http://www.gingerhaze.com/ Stevenson’s official website

 

Thumbs upJulia: I’ve been wanting to read Nimona for ages, and I wasn’t disappointed! I love the illustration style and how recognizable the characters become. I also really appreciated the play on fantasy conventions and stereotypes. This is, as the synopsis suggests, a totally irreverent book that somehow manages to seamless blend serious topics with a hilarious critique of the form itself. Slowly evolving relationships, likable but still complex characters, and a little mix of magic/science make this book so much fun.

I did think the size of the text was a little small at some points, but my only real complaint was that it was over too quickly. I almost expected it to be even more open-ended for a sequel. Although I’m happy with this ending, I’d love to see these characters again!

 

thumbs-downBarbara: Cartoons should be short and sweet, like the Sunday comics.

Nimona is not short and sweet, and even for a wonderfully bad-ass super-villain, it is too long.

What is missing? The language. I hate the little snippets of conversation, the silly captions of things like “Boom” or “Roar.” I want the language to be rich and describe these things to me. I know children are great picture readers, but this is not a story for the youngest set. By the time you are old enough to read Nimona, you shouldn’t have the words watered down.

Review: Olive and Beatrix (The Super-Smelly Blob)

Review:olive-and-beatrix

Olive & Beatrix: The Super-Smelly Blob

Author: Amy Marie Stadelmann

Publisher: Scholastic Inc., 2015

Source: Public library

Grade Level: 1-2

I am still exploring series and decided to read one from Scholastic’s line of early reader chapter books called Branches.

Olive and Beatrix are twins, but they are not identical. Beatrix is a witch but Olive is an ordinary girl. Both sisters are planning to enter this year’s Science Fair. Olive works very hard to produce “mind-blowing science projects,” but Beatrix usually wins – by magic. This year is no different, except as the girls bicker, their projects collide. As a result, Olive’s “Exciting World of Mold” meets magic, and the upshot is a super-smelly mold blob that is ingesting everything from crayons to musical instruments as it oozes amok throughout the school.

The format of this book is a bit more like a graphic novel than the typical early reader picture book. The graphic novel is not my favorite genre, but in this particular book I think the format adds to the appeal. It gives plenty of opportunities for Houston, Beatrix’s talking pet peg, and Eddie, Olive’s best friend, to add to the humor and offset the squabbling of the two sisters (realistic but not especially funny or appealing, even in fiction).

I was a bit disappointed that there really wasn’t any real science discussed. However, I did like that there were questions and activities at the end of the book. I also liked the Scholastic website activities for educators and parents, so here is the link: http://www.scholastic.com/branches/oliveandbeatrix.htm. Have fun!

Barbara

Review: Rapunzel’s Revenge

Hi everyone,

 

Here’s another fairy tale-inspired graphic novel!

 

Rapunzel's Revenge

Review:

 

Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon and Dean Hale

Illustrated by Nathan Hale

Publisher: Bloomsbury U.S.A. Children’s Books, 2008

Genre: Middle grade, Fairy Tales, Wild West

Pages: 144

Format: Hardcover, Graphic Novel

Source: Public Library

 

Everyone knows the story of Rapunzel, how she was taken from her parents as a baby and eventually brought to live alone in a tower for so long that her hair grew to incredible lengths. What you might not know is what happens to Rapunzel after she escapes the tower. In this Wild West-inspired graphic novel, Rapunzel uses her braid-lassos and her friendship with mysterious outlaw Jack to seek revenge on the witch who tore her family apart. Even honest, open-minded Rapunzel doesn’t expect all the surprises she uncovers!

 

I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about this book at first. On one hand, I think we all know my love of fairy tales, but on the other hand, “Wild West” and “cowboys” are pretty big disinterest buzzwords for me. I liked the subtle blending of fairy tales but, unfortunately, I found some of the plot to be a little repetitive. There were quite a few cases where Rapunzel and Jack were asked to face a different villain or troublemaker, but each was solved in a similar manner. Rapunzel consistently led the charge and saved the day with her braid-lassos while Jack provided backup. While I thought the first couple incidents really developed Rapunzel’s character and her relationship with Jack, I just didn’t see the need for quite so many examples.

 

What I liked best about this book was the characterization and the development of relationships between the characters. I particularly liked that Rapunzel and Jack’s relationship developed slowly over time, and it was clear that they liked each other without being too mushy or romantic. I missed the balance of good and bad that I think we’ve seen in other graphic novels this month, but overall, Rapunzel’s Revenge stayed pretty true to typical fairy tale conventions and added a few interesting Wild West twists to a well-known story.

 

For more information:

 

http://www.squeetus.com/stage/main.html

Shannon Hale’s official website

There’s quite a bit of information about Rapunzel’s Revenge available here!

 

http://www.shannonassociates.com/artist/nathanhale

Nathan Hale’s official website

 

tl;dr:

*** 3/5 stars

Wild West Rapunzel meets Jack and the Beanstalk

Interesting fairy tale twist, somewhat repetitive

 

Julia

Review: Baba Yaga’s Assistant

Hi everyone,

 

Today’s book is one I’ve been so excited to read ever since it was released!

 

Baba Yaga's Assistant

Review:

 

Baba Yaga’s Assistant by Marika McCoola

Illustrated by Emily Carroll

Publisher: Candlewick Press, 2015

Genre: Middle Grade, Fairy Tales

Pages: 132

Format: Hardcover

Source: Personal Collection

 

Unhappy at home since her beloved grandmother’s death, Masha decides to enter the forest in search of Baba Yaga. A terrible witch with a house on chicken legs, a closet full of creepy-crawlies, and a taste for children, Baba Yaga needs a new assistant. Armed only with keepsakes and fairy tales from her grandmother, Masha must pass a series of tests to prove herself a worthy assistant and save herself from becoming dinner.

 

Both the story itself and the artwork in this book are so fun and creative. I loved Masha’s creativity, faith, kindness, and perseverance as she faced each of Baba Yaga’s different tasks. I thought the illustrations did a great job of dividing the different sections of the story and making it very clear what was happening. While the present sections of the book are brightly colored and three-dimensional, the memories are in more muted tones and the pages from Grandma’s stories are flatter and have detailed borders to separate them. The people reminded me a little bit of some of the characters in the Tamaki’s This One Summer; I think it might have something to do with the thin outlines and similar drawing styles. Yet the bright colors and breaks from traditional paneling make this book unique and interesting to explore.

 

I loved this graphic novel and its fairy tale influence. I think this story in particular was so interesting to me because I don’t actually know too much about the Baba Yaga stories. I’m definitely interested in reading more – if you have suggestions, please send them my way!

 

For more information:

 

http://www.marikamccoola.com/

Marika McCoola’s official website

 

http://www.emcarroll.com/

Illustrator Emily Carroll’s official website

 

tl;dr:

***** 5/5 stars

Masha must complete several challenging tasks to prove herself a worthy assistant for witchy Baba Yaga.

Fun story with interesting, lesser-known fairy tales

Fantastic, colorful art

 

Julia

Review: Feathers

Hi everyone,

 

I recently mentioned that I wanted to start reading a few more graphic novels, so when I saw this book in a display at a local library, I couldn’t resist taking it home with me!

 

Feathers

Review:

 

Feathers by Jorge Corona with Jen Hickman

Publisher: Archaia, 2015

Genre: Middle grade, Fantasy

Format: Hardcover, Graphic Novel

Source: Public Library

 

Poe has lived in the Maze for his entire life. Covered in feathers, he spends most of his time in hiding with his adoptive father. But as he grows older, he has more and more questions about where he came from and starts exploring more of the dangerous Maze, where street-children disappear daily. Bianca lives within the enclosed City and dreams of adventures. When she escapes into the Maze, two lives will collide and reveal that there’s more at stake than anyone ever expected.

 

In his foreword, Corona mentions a link to Beauty and the Beast, but I don’t know if I’d have made that connection without his explanation. To me, this story seemed more a classic “mysterious city boy with dark secrets” meets “sheltered-but-spunky, rich girl” story. Even though this story has a lot of common elements, I didn’t find it boring or overdone. I think the characters are well-developed, even though we learn so little about some of them. There are plenty of tough, adventurous female characters, kind and caring men, and a good balance between people who represent good and those who stand for evil. I also like the fact that there seem to be a lot of hidden literary references throughout the story. Poe, covered in black feathers, reminds of Edgar Allan Poe’s “The Raven,” the street kids look like they’ve walked straight out of a Charles Dickens tale, and there’s a mysterious Pied Piper character whose music helps trap the street kids, conveniently called “Mice.” There’s a lot to think about, and I think there’s quite a bit more than meets the eye with this story. It would be interesting to see how different the reactions to this book might be between an older and younger reader!

 

The art in this book reminded me a lot of the Wizard of Oz graphic novels I’ve reviewed previously. The character designs are clear and meaningful, and you get a good sense of their environment. The back matter in this book includes a pretty extensive discussion of the art in this book and explains its development at each stage of the process. For those interested in graphic novels and similar artwork, this is a really cool addition to the book.

 

This book is pretty open-ended; even though Poe and Bianca mostly solve the mystery of the Pied Piper character, there are still a lot of questions waiting to be answered. I haven’t seen any information about a sequel, but if you have, please let me know! I have a lot of questions and can’t wait to see what happens next for these characters.

 

For more information:

 

http://jorgecor.deviantart.com/

http://jorgecor.tumblr.com/

Check here for more of Jorge Corona’s work!

 

http://umicorms.com/

Jen Hickman’s official website

Hickman added the colors to the graphic novel.

 

http://andworlddesign.com/

Deron Bennett’s official website.

Bennett provided the lettering for Feathers.

 

tl;dr:

***** 5/5 stars

A feathered boy and a courageous girl come together for an adventure in the Maze that will change both their worlds in ways they never expected.

Interesting story and art

Detailed explanation of process

Very open-ended

 

Julia

Review: Of Mice and Magic

Review:Hamster Princess 2

 

Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic

Author: Ursula Vernon

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, 2016

Source: Advance Reader Copy received at ALA Midwinter 2016

 

Harriet Hamsterbone is back, and this time she is bored. No longer invincible, she still longs for adventure. So when one day she is riding her faithful battle-quail Mumfrey and meets a shrew/fairy on a deserted road, she is more than ready to listen to the fairy’s pitch. They share Harriet’s lunch and the fairy gives Harriet a new quest. She tells the story of The Twelve Dancing Mouse Princesses and right away we know that Harriet is just the hero to send to help these girls.

 

Harriet’s not sure she wants to rescue the princesses (after all, her curse was to be invincible and she liked it) but the fairy explains that if Harriet doesn’t get involved, her own kingdom will be in peril (the fairy isn’t too specific about this; the future is a bit “squishy”).

 

So Harriet, bored no longer, heads off to the mouse princesses kingdom, confronts the mouse king, and, of course, learns all about the powerful spell that keeps the princesses dancing. Can she break it? Well, with a little help from the fairy, her battle-quail Mumfrey, and Wilbur, her poor prince-friend who happens to have a job in this kingdom as a stable boy, we can all be sure that Harriet will manage it.

 

Delightfully silly, feisty Harriet manages to save the day once more. I feel a bit bad for Wilbur. Harriet definitely does not appreciate him, but that doesn’t seem a bit magical to me at all. It’s just the average plight of your everyday nice guy. Perhaps that will change in future Harriet adventures (or perhaps I am being overly romantic and silly myself).

 

For more information:

https://www.ursulavernon.com/

Author Ursula Vernon’s official website

 

tl;dr:

**** 4/5 stars

A spitfire Hamster princess is sent on a quest to rescue the Twelve Dancing Princesses. To do so she must battle magical forces and break the powerful spell that keeps the princesses dancing.

 

Barbara

Review: Harriet the Invincible

Hi everyone,

If you follow us on Instagram – and you should! 🙂 – you may have noticed our excitement about Of Mice and Men, the second in the Hamster Princess series. This week we’re going to be reviewing both books in the series.

 

Hamster Princess 1

Review:

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon

Publisher: Dial Books for Young Readers, a Penguin Random House Company, 2015

Genre: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Fairy Tales

Pages: 247

Format: Hardcover

Source: Public Library

 

With a little twist on Sleeping Beauty, Princess Harriet Hamsterbone discovers that she was cursed as a baby to fall into a deep sleep on her twelfth birthday. But tricky Harriet realizes that in order for that curse to come true, she must live until her twelfth birthday, which makes her temporarily invincible. Harriet sets out to put her invincibility to good use by jumping off cliffs and fighting people-eating Ogrecats right up until her own curse comes back to cause even more magical mishaps.

I first read Harriet the Invincible as an ARC just before it was officially released and immediately fell in love with it. It was a quick read simply because it was so funny and fast-paced that I couldn’t put it down. I love the graphic novel influence with speech bubbles and panels and think this could be a really great book to interest reluctant readers or those who are just starting to make their way into more middle grade leveled texts.

My favorite part about the book is, of course, Harriet herself. She’s tough, resourceful, clever, and absolutely hysterical. How can a hamster princess and her loyal pet quail climb a slippery glass mountain to rescue a trapped prince? Princess Harriet knows! She heads straight to the hardware store for some bungee cords, a saw, and a couple toilet plungers. When she straps them to her quail’s feet, the plungers create just enough suction that they can climb the mountain with ease. Harriet is a great female role model, challenging gender expectations of what young girls are supposed to know and be able to do. I love the message that princesses aren’t just about getting married and waiting for their prince to come – they can do plenty of other things, as well!

Not only is Princess Harriet the perfect starting point for a discussion of gender roles, it’s also really interesting to look at Harriet the Invincible as a disability or illness narrative. Harriet discovers that there’s a potentially horrible, unchangeable curse hanging over her future; she has no control over whether or not it will happen or why it became a problem in the first place. It certainly changes her life and the way she thinks about herself, but she doesn’t let it stop her from doing things she wants to do. In fact, it becomes a way for her to help others and gives her the chance to take ownership of her own future. She is “cured” at the end when the curse is broken, but I think it could be a hopeful and inspiring message if you choose to look at it from that perspective.

Check back tomorrow for our review of the sequel, Hamster Princess: Of Mice and Magic!

 

For more information:

https://www.ursulavernon.com/

Author Ursula Vernon’s official website

 

tl;dr:

***** 5/5 stars

Middle grade with a graphic novel twist

Great opportunity for discussing gender roles, interesting disability/illness narrative

 

Have you read Harriet the Invincible? What was your favorite part?!

 

Julia

Review: The Sandman (Overture)

Hi everyone,

 

I’ve recently decided that I want to start reading a few more graphic novels each month, so I’m continuing our May 2016 author study with Neil Gaiman’s The Sandman: Overture.

 

sandman

The Sandman: Overture

Written by Neil Gaiman

Illustrated by J.H. Williams and Dave Stewart

Publisher: DC Comics, 2015

Pages: 224+

Format: Graphic Novel, Hardcover

Source: Public Library

 

So this book is a prequel to the original Sandman series, which was actually written over 20 years after the first story. I haven’t read any of the others, and while I do wonder if my reading experience would have been different if I’d read them in publication order, my interest in the others is high after reading this one.

 

My favorite part of this book was the art, which actually inspired me to check this book out for my author study. I think the art merges seamlessly with the text and had me paying attention to elements of each page that I didn’t expect. While the beautiful colors and powerful atmospheres immediately caught my attention, I also noticed the typography and the page layout quite a bit. There were also a few pages that folded out into larger spreads, which were really exciting and unexpected. In this deluxe edition, there are also a few samples of work from illustrator J.H. Williams’ sketchbook.

 

This book is recommended for mature readers. I also think it might not be a good starting place for someone who’s just starting to read graphic novels and doesn’t have much background in the form. I think this is a pretty detailed book, and I definitely had to take the time to slow down to more carefully consider some pages where there was a lot going on.

 

How were you introduced to The Sandman? Do you have other graphic novels you’d recommend? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Julia