DEAR JUSTICE LEAGUE

A gently illustrated text that will appeal to die-hard completists.

The World’s Finest answer emails from middle schoolers.

Superman, Wonder Woman, Hawkgirl, Aquaman, and more correspond with their fans in this middle-grade graphic novel, multiple vignettes hanging on the throughline of heroes answering fan mail. Some are silly while others are a bit more weighty; all are illustrated amicably by Duarte. There’s a hazy, muted quality to the colors that ground the Justice League and their foes in an approximation of the real world. This grounding compliments the novel well: The transition from Arthur “Aquaman” Curry’s thwarting Black Manta to chatting with his fish and typing away at a laptop would be jarring without this unified color palette. Unfortunately, the coloring’s flatness chips away at the book’s pacing, and the text gets a bit repetitive after a while. It’s all well and good for kids to see bits of themselves in their favorite heroes, but when that’s the book’s only move it gets old quickly. Even at a slim 132 pages, the novel feels overlong. Young fans of the DC characters will be attracted to the cover, but there’s little here to keep them engaged, and few will rank this as a favorite. There’s little exposition regarding the heroes’ background, so those unfamiliar with the characters will feel as though they’re on the outside looking in.

A gently illustrated text that will appeal to die-hard completists. (Graphic fantasy. 9-12)

Pub Date: Aug. 6, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4012-8413-8

Page Count: 136

Publisher: DC Zoom

Review Posted Online: April 27, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2019

STEALING HOME

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel.

Sandy and his family, Japanese Canadians, experience hatred and incarceration during World War II.

Sandy Saito loves baseball, and the Vancouver Asahi ballplayers are his heroes. But when they lose in the 1941 semifinals, Sandy’s dad calls it a bad omen. Sure enough, in December 1941, Japan bombs Pearl Harbor in the U.S. The Canadian government begins to ban Japanese people from certain areas, moving them to “dormitories” and setting a curfew. Sandy wants to spend time with his father, but as a doctor, his dad is busy, often sneaking out past curfew to work. One night Papa is taken to “where he [is] needed most,” and the family is forced into an internment camp. Life at the camp isn’t easy, and even with some of the Asahi players playing ball there, it just isn’t the same. Trying to understand and find joy again, Sandy struggles with his new reality and relationship with his father. Based on the true experiences of Japanese Canadians and the Vancouver Asahi team, this graphic novel is a glimpse of how their lives were affected by WWII. The end is a bit abrupt, but it’s still an inspiring and sweet look at how baseball helped them through hardship. The illustrations are all in a sepia tone, giving it an antique look and conveying the emotions and struggles. None of the illustrations of their experiences are overly graphic, making it a good introduction to this upsetting topic for middle-grade readers.

An emotional, much-needed historical graphic novel. (afterword, further resources) (Graphic historical fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Oct. 5, 2021

ISBN: 978-1-5253-0334-0

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Kids Can

Review Posted Online: June 28, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2021

ENLIGHTEN ME (A GRAPHIC NOVEL)

A thoughtful, humorous, community-centered exploration of identity and Buddhism.

Stories of Buddha’s past lives help a young boy “find [himself] in the moment.”

Binh and his siblings, who are of Vietnamese descent, can’t believe they’re spending the weekend at a silent meditation retreat. Binh would rather play his Game Boy so he doesn’t have to meditate and inevitably think about the bullies at school. It is only when Sister Peace tells stories about the Buddha and his past life that Binh is able to imagine himself entering a video game–inspired world and thus process his feelings of shame, isolation, and anger. With each Jataka tale, Binh’s awareness expands, and so, too, does his ability to be present for and helpful to those around him. A welcome addition to the handful of middle-grade stories featuring Buddhist protagonists, this exploration of identity and Buddhist principles will find an audience with young readers who love Raina Telgemeier but aren’t quite ready to level up to the complexity and nuance of Gene Luen Yang’s epic American Born Chinese (2006). The video game elements are compelling, although they understandably diminish as the story progresses and the protagonist’s inner life grows. Warm fall colors and luscious black lines anchor the story as it transitions among flashbacks, stories, and the present day. Filled with talking animals, the parables can be a little heavy-handed, but the witty banter between Binh and the narrator during fantasy sequences provides levity. (This review was updated for accuracy.)

A thoughtful, humorous, community-centered exploration of identity and Buddhism. (bibliography) (Graphic fiction. 9-12)

Pub Date: Sept. 19, 2023

ISBN: 9780759555488

Page Count: 144

Publisher: Little, Brown Ink

Review Posted Online: July 13, 2023

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2023

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