Following the stellar The Great American Dust Bowl (2013), Brown tells the story of Hurricane Katrina and its impact on New Orleans, beginning with “a swirl of unremarkable wind” in “early August, 2005” and ending with the observation that “By 2012, only 80 percent of New Orleans’s residents had returned.”
Artwork with the high quality of early Disney animation—strongly drawn figures against electrically charged watercolor backgrounds—seamlessly co-tells a dramatic tale with text that ranges from simple, factual sentences to quotations from an extensive collection of books and media. The text and artwork clearly reveal two separate but inextricably connected horrors: devastation caused by a high-category hurricane and the human responsibility that lay behind the nightmarish scenarios. The book is fast-paced and hard to put down, sequential panels used to perfect advantage. A couple is shown in rising water in their home, scratching a hole through their roof to safety. Later, a crowd of 15,000 waits, without supplies, in a fetid convention center, for impossibly slow help to arrive. “Mayor Nagin is never seen there.” The final frame of that series depicts a woman on her knees, crying out, “Help us!” In addition to quoting and contextualizing such now-infamous sayings as, “Brownie, you’re doing a heck of a job,” the book pays homage to the heroism of many, both professionals and volunteers.
An excellent chronicle of the tragedy for a broad audience; children, teens, and adults will all be moved.
(source notes, bibliography)
(Graphic nonfiction. 12 & up)
In the final volume of a trilogy connected by theme, structural innovation, and exquisite visual storytelling, Selznick challenges readers to see.
Starting in 1766, the first portion unfolds in nearly 400 pages of pictures, rendered in pencil. A ship in shadows, a luminous angel, an abandoned baby in a basket—these are among the phenomena affecting five generations of London actors. Disguises and surprises reveal that what one sees is not always what is true. Fast-forwarding to the 1990s, the author describes in prose a runaway who peers longingly into a candlelit dwelling. Joseph is searching for an uncle and something more elusive—family. Observant readers will recall this recently viewed address. Inspired by the actual Dennis Severs’ House (where scent, sound, setting, and the motto “You either see it or you don’t” transport visitors to 18th-century London), Selznick provides a sensory equivalent throughout his eloquent and provocative text. The poetry of Yeats and references to The Winter’s Tale add luster. Carefully crafted chapters pose puzzles and connect to the prior visual narrative. In poignant scenes, the teen learns about his uncle’s beloved, lost to AIDS but present through the truths of the home’s staged stories. A powerful visual epilogue weaves threads from both sections, and the final spread presents a heartening awakening to sight.
Time, grief, forgiveness, and love intersect in epic theater celebrating mysteries of the heart and spirit.
(Fiction. 10 & up)
Possibilities abound for a small, brown-skinned girl with time, a tool belt, and a penchant for urban adventure.
From the imaginative creator of Zita the Spacegirl comes this techy take on a warm friendship born in a junkyard. The short, round-faced protagonist escapes from a window of her trailer home clad only in a white nightshirt and heads for a neighbor’s swingset, then to the junkyard—her daily routine, apparently. Unfettered and unsupervised by adults (or other humans), the protagonist dons her tool belt and soon discovers a little broken blue robot that has lost its way. Never at a loss for how to fix any machine, she tinkers with the robot, and suddenly, she has a running buddy. Together, they explore frogs, cats, sunsets, and more. But when the factory misses Little Robot and sends a large, scary-looking yellow robot to retrieve it, the main character needs more than a wrench to save her new friend and friendship. This delightful, nearly wordless graphic novel portrays a kid with gumption enough to take on big business and smarts enough to advise the factory’s fix-it robot on repairs even though she just might be too young for kindergarten. Despite having little material means and few human connections, this kid creates life in the inanimate and fosters community where none could exist before.
Girl power at its best. A sure winner! (Graphic novel. 3-12)
Family troubles temporarily strand 10-year-old Sunny in a Florida retirement community. Imagine the recreational possibilities.
In the hands of the sibling creators of Babymouse and Squish, even a story inspired by troubling circumstances in their own mid-1970s childhoods offers hilarious turns aplenty. Instead of a trip to the shore with a friend, Sunny finds herself on a solo flight to stay with her genial grandfather—in a development where a trip to the post office is the day’s big outing, Walt Disney World is hours away, and her exposure to senior culture includes being fawned over by old ladies. Happily, there is one other child around: Buzz, a groundskeeper’s boy, who turns her on to superhero comics and joins her in starting up a moderately lucrative business recovering golf balls and residents’ (illegal) lost cats. Less happily, interspersed flashbacks reveal the reason for the sudden change of plans by tracking her older brother Dale’s increasingly erratic behavior and drug abuse, leading up to an intervention in the wake of a violent incident. Colored by Lark Pien in subdued hues that subtly reflect Sunny’s state of mind, the sequential panels present both storylines in a mix of terse labels, brief dialogue, and, particularly, silent, effective reaction shots.
Funny, poignant, and reassuringly upbeat by the end but free of glib platitudes or easy answers.
(Graphic historical fiction. 9-11)
One summer changes everything for two 12-year-old girls whose friendship is tested when their interests—and attitudes—diverge.
Astrid and Nicole have been BFFs truly forever. When the girls go to the roller derby one night, Astrid is immediately hooked and jumps at the chance to attend a roller-derby camp, skating alongside the tough, dyed girls. Nicole, however, who's passionate about ballet, decides not to follow along with Astrid, creating the first real rift the girls have known. The two quickly make new friends in their new circles: Astrid with her roller-derby cohorts and Nicole with the popular ballet crowd. As Astrid navigates the rough-and-tumble sport she’s fallen in love with (and the bumps and bruises that come with it), she must also deal with what happens when friends just stop being friends and grow apart. Jamieson captures this snapshot of preteen angst with a keenly decisive eye, brilliantly juxtaposing the nuances of roller derby with the twists and turns of adolescent girls' friendships. Clean, bright illustrations evince the familiar emotions and bring the pathos to life in a way that text alone could not. Fans of Raina Telgemeier or Jimmy Gownley's Amelia series should certainly skate on over to this gem.
Full of charm and moxie—don’t let this one roll past.
(Graphic fiction. 9-13)
Argentine cartoonist Liniers presents a graphic ode to the pleasures and challenges of composition, starring his recurring character Henrietta, a young bibliophile.
The little girl's cat, Fellini, looks on as she writes and illustrates "The Monster with Three Heads and Two Hats." Page by page, she narrates her process, her own story appearing in a childlike, colored-pencil scrawl alongside Liniers' polished panels. "In a good story, there's always something that happens 'suddenly'!" she informs Fellini as a hand emerges from a wardrobe into her protagonist's nighttime bedroom. Henrietta and her creator are kindred spirits, displaying equal knacks for the surreal and the utterly charming. "The wardrobe was made in Narnia," she explains to Fellini as she propels protagonist and monster into it, where they discover an inscrutable mouse, a hat for the monster's bare head, and another monster. Liniers covers the importance of judiciously placed punctuation ("those three little dots really add... / ...SUSPENSE!") and research (a trip to the encyclopedia yields a bonanza of hat styles, all depicted) as well as the excitement of creation: "I'm drawing really fast 'cause I want to see what happens next." If the final joke comes at Henrietta's expense ("let's go look for a publisher," she declares at "THE END"), it does so gently and with collegiality. A Spanish-language edition, Escrito y Dibujado por Enriqueta, publishes simultaneously.
This effervescent package opens to reveal plenty of wisdom.
(Graphic early reader. 7-9)
After her long-distant father remarries, a young woman leaves home to be the assistant to the famous witch Baba Yaga in this clever reinvention.
After her mother’s death, Masha resides with her father, who keeps his distance from her both physically and emotionally. She is raised by her loving grandmother, who tells her all about her experiences with the cunning old crone Baba Yaga and the schemes she used to trick the aged witch. In a swift turn of events, her grandmother dies, and Masha's father remarries. Her new stepmother is aloof and has her own young daughter, Dani, a horrid, hand-biting brat. In a moment of desperation, Masha decides to follow in her grandmother's footsteps and answers an advertisement to be Baba Yaga's assistant. Once installed in the chicken-legged hut, she learns of the three purposefully tricky tests she must complete. McCoola's offering is a well-nuanced delight, satisfyingly blending fairy tale, legend, and thrills. As a perfect complement, Carroll's evocative art enthralls, capturing both the emotion and the magic of McCoola's yarn and breathing new life into an old folk tale. Though structured like a fairy tale, this clever and well-appointed graphic novel is refreshingly modern and obviously enjoys playing with conventions.
A magnificently magical must-read for all fairy-tale fans
. (Graphic fantasy. 9-14)
A duo’s blasé afternoon deviates into an unexpected journey crossing dimension and time.
Jane, a red-haired, adventure-seeking girl, and her cautious friend Pablo, an anxious boy with oval-rimmed glasses, have exhausted their array of entertainment options: they’ve played board games, flicked through comic books, dismembered toys. Their boredom produces a trek to the old house on the hill, where they meet Dr. Jules, a talking rat and the architect of a hot air–powered time contraption. A cunning cat, Felinibus, steals pieces from the contraption and tricks the trio into the Monster Dimension. Sabotaged and with a dinner curfew looming, they set out to find the missing pieces. Domingo successfully shifts from comic panels to labyrinthine double-page spreads, from a fast-paced adventure to a focused quest. In pursuit of Felinibus and the stolen pieces, Jane, Pablo, and Dr. Jules dodge danger time and time again as they drift over Lopsided London through Macabre Marrakech, Bone-Chilling Bayou, and other such locales to Immortal India. Filled with alliteration and challenging vocabulary, the story blends adventure, a familiar Where’s Waldo concept, myth, and expedition for a new, clever search-and-find.
Original art and visually engrossing worlds will have readers visiting this book over and over again
.(Graphic adventure. 5-7)
Tolstikova offers an illustrated memoir of her 13th year: it's the year the Soviet Union falls, but more importantly, it's the year she stays in Moscow with her grandparents while her mother studies abroad.
Cataclysmic though the end of Soviet rule is, it occupies just a few pages of this heavily illustrated book: "one morning we wake up and Gorbachev...is taken prisoner by some bad people," Dasha writes, then "good guy Yeltsin...comes to the rescue." Of far greater moment than seismic political activity are the everyday concerns of a middle school girl. She develops a crush on charismatic Petya, hangs out with chums Masha and Natasha, attends after-school art classes, excels in math and physics, has a falling-out with her friends, and applies to a magnet school, all the while carving out a life without her mother. Soviet-era Russian realities are only hinted at, backgrounding Dasha's story but never overwhelming it. Scribbly, childlike pencil drawings are filled in with gray wash and accentuated with red and the occasional pop of blue. They are deceptively simple, but with great narrative sophistication, they capture both the specificity of Dasha's experience and the universality of her emotions. The text is likewise unadorned and effective: "I don't care about anything anymore. It's cold and dark out. I am not cool. Petya will never like me. School is boring. Everything sucks."
Fascinating and heartfelt.
(Graphic memoir. 10-14)
Hailing from a big family of overachievers, D.J. feels largely unexceptional until he meets a strange boy who falls from the sky and helps him realize his potential.
D.J. isn't good at anything. He has two brothers and two sisters who have miles of accomplishments among them, and the only thing he considers himself adept at was a friendship with neighbor Gina…but she moved away three years ago. One day, D.J. meets a peculiar, sunny, towheaded boy who has apparently landed on Earth wearing nothing but silver underpants and recalling nothing of his previous life. D.J. immediately befriends him, and the duo becomes a threesome when Gina moves back to town. Over time, the boy's memory starts to return. He recalls his name, Hilo, and how he came to Earth—and that there are dangerous robots that could annihilate the entire planet. Although D.J. may not have a list of skills he can tick off on his fingers, he learns something more important: not only is he loyal, he is brave. Winick has concocted a universally appealing tale with bright, expressive illustrations that gently reminds readers that in this era of overscheduling and insistence on perfection, sometimes just being true to yourself is important enough. D.J. and his family are Asian-American, Gina and hers are African-American, and Caucasian-looking extraterrestrial Hilo nicely rounds out the graphic novel’s diversity.
A wholeheartedly weird and wonderful tale of friendship, acceptance, and robots
. (Graphic science fiction. 7-12)