Spectacular; a book to make anyone think seriously about society’s preordained gender roles (Graphic memoir. 14 & up)



Prince explores what it means to be a tomboy in a magnificently evocative graphic memoir.

From the age of 2, Liz knows she hates dresses. As a child, she wears boys clothes and plays with boys. However, as she enters her teen years, things change. Still wishing to dress like a boy and disdainful of all things girly—including the inevitable biology of puberty—she stays true to herself and her identity, but not without struggling to fit into a teenage society that neatly compartmentalizes how boys and girls should act. Liz’s troubles are magnified as she navigates the ways of the heart, falling for boys who often pass her over for girls who are more feminine. As she stumbles and bumbles her way to friends who will accept her, she pulls readers along that oh-so-tough and bumpy road of adolescence. Simple, line-based art provides a perfect complement to her keen narration, giving this an indie, intimate feel and leaving readers feeling like they really know her. Liz’s story, captured with wry humor and a deft, visceral eye, is a must-read for fans who fell for Raina Telgemeier’s work in middle school.

Spectacular; a book to make anyone think seriously about society’s preordained gender roles (Graphic memoir. 14 & up)

Pub Date: Sept. 2, 2014

ISBN: 978-1-936976-55-3

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Zest Books

Review Posted Online: July 16, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2014

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More text than younger readers will want to wade through, yet framed in a way that might seem silly to older readers.



A serviceable graphic summary of Darwin’s life and achievement, pegged somewhere between educational use for preteens and a primer for adult readers.

The latest collaboration between writer Byrne and illustrator Gurr (Bristol Story, 2007) is a little odd in light of both the publisher’s reputation and the conventions of the graphic format—this is far more text-heavy than what readers of graphic novels have come to expect, and attempts at a playful sense of humor seem strained. To questionable effect, the narrative is framed as an episode of “Ape TV,” in which apes learn about the life of the unlikely scientist whose theory that mankind and the ape were part of the same evolutionary process would be so transforming. Once readers get past those apes and into the story itself, they learn that Darwin was an indifferent student and someone whose future by no means seemed secured, until he received an invitation to take a voyage that “would not just change Darwin’s life, it would change the course of history.” The commander of an expedition was looking for “a gentleman-naturalist as a companion,” someone who could keep him company as more of an equal than the crew under him. It says something about Darwin’s lack of immediate plans that he was able to commit to a journey that was anticipated to last two years yet lasted five. The animals he encountered seemed so different than ones he’d known that he theorized that if it weren’t a matter of different conditions that resulted in such “transmutation,” they might well have had a different creator. The text corrects common misconceptions concerning “social Darwinism” and “survival of the fittest,” yet is misleading in its attempt to reconcile creationism with Darwin’s theory.

More text than younger readers will want to wade through, yet framed in a way that might seem silly to older readers.

Pub Date: Feb. 5, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-58834-352-9

Page Count: 100

Publisher: Smithsonian Books

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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A moving chronicle of a real humanitarian tragedy.



The collective tale of Syrian refugees’ attempt to escape the horrors of their country’s civil war in search of a better tomorrow.

When war broke out in 2011 between the armed forces loyal to the country’s potentate and a growing number of insurgents fighting his tyrannical rule, millions of Syrians fled the war zone, overflowing neighboring countries and creating a refugee crisis in Europe, their wished-for ultimate destination. Rather than focusing on individual stories, Brown (Up & Down, 2018, etc.) zeroes in on particular situations, providing compassionate snapshots of the harsh realities facing the displaced populations: cunning smugglers, unwelcoming neighbors, hostile legislation, the refugees’ own disenchantment with their difficult conditions….Brown’s poignant testament is fittingly titled The Unwanted, as the book damningly chronicles the slowly building resentment among host communities and the mounting legal restrictions on the asylum-seeking populations. Most importantly, by alternating sheer tragic moments (rockets falling, the capsizing of a boat, drownings, rejection) and glimpses of joy (a child’s successful resettlement, a compassionate neighbor, family reunions), he succeeds in offering a window into the humanity of displaced groups—their resilience and tenacity but also their inspiring, hopeful nature. The pen-and-ink digitally colored art has a loose, informal style that vividly expresses the intense emotions contained in the book.

A moving chronicle of a real humanitarian tragedy.   (maps, author’s note, source notes, bibliography) (Graphic nonfiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 18, 2018

ISBN: 978-1-328-81015-1

Page Count: 112

Publisher: HMH Books

Review Posted Online: July 17, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2018

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