Without a shadow of a doubt, readers will enjoy this hero’s backstory.

SHADOW OF THE BATGIRL

The story behind Batgirl.

Cassandra Cain is trained to kill. Raised by a criminal mastermind, she knows only how to fight and execute. One day she freezes in the face of one victim’s desperation for her to pass on a message to his daughter. Not wanting to return home, she is found on the streets by noodle shop owner Jackie Fujikawa Yoneyama, who gives her a free meal. Cassandra also finds solace in the Gotham Public Library, where, having been raised with little conversation, she learns to comprehend language by listening to librarian Barbara’s storytimes about Batgirl. Fascinated, Cassandra begins to understand her life before, with her villain of a father, and to envision the life she wants to lead in the future, as a hero. This is an excellent introduction to Cassandra’s backstory and her journey to becoming Batgirl. The detailed illustrations and meticulous coloring add emotion and effectively convey movement. Dark memories and moments are shrouded in blue and purple while Cassandra’s safe, comforting spells are brightened by shades of yellow and orange. Cassandra’s sweet, touching story includes themes of self-discovery, relationships, family, and personal choices, and there’s enough action to keep readers interested. The cast of characters is diverse in race and ability; Cassandra has mutism, she and Jackie are Asian, and red-haired Barbara uses a wheelchair.

Without a shadow of a doubt, readers will enjoy this hero’s backstory. (Graphic novel. 12-17)

Pub Date: Feb. 4, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-4012-8978-2

Page Count: 208

Publisher: DC

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2019

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BEOWULF

Pairing art from an earlier, self-published edition to a newly adapted text, Hinds retells the old tale as a series of dark, bloody, chaotic clashes. Here Grendel is a glaring, black monster with huge teeth, corded muscles and a tendency to smash or bite off adversaries’ heads; the dragon is all sinuous viciousness; and Beowulf, mighty of thew, towers over his fellow Geats. The narrative, boxed off from the illustrations rather than incorporated into them, runs to lines like, “Bid my brave warriors O Wiglaf, to build a lofty cairn for me upon the sea-cliffs . . . ” and tends to disappear when the fighting starts. Because the panels are jumbled together on the page, the action is sometimes hard to follow, but this makes a strongly atmospheric alternative to the semi-abstract Beowulf, the Legend, by Stephen L. Antczak and James C. Bassett, illus by Andy Lee (2006), or the more conventionally formatted version of Michael Morpurgo, with pictures by Michael Foreman (2006). (Graphic fiction. 12-15)

Pub Date: April 1, 2007

ISBN: 978-0-7636-3022-5

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Candlewick

Review Posted Online: June 24, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2007

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A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery.

DISPLACEMENT

Time travel brings a girl closer to someone she’s never known.

Sixteen-year-old Kiku, who is Japanese and white, only knows bits and pieces of her family history. While on a trip with her mother to San Francisco from their Seattle home, they search for her grandmother’s childhood home. While waiting for her mother, who goes inside to explore the mall now standing there, a mysterious fog envelops Kiku and displaces her to a theater in the past where a girl is playing the violin. The gifted musician is Ernestina Teranishi, who Kiku later confirms is her late grandmother. To Kiku’s dismay, the fog continues to transport her, eventually dropping her down next door to Ernestina’s family in a World War II Japanese American internment camp. The clean illustrations in soothing browns and blues convey the characters’ intense emotions. Hughes takes inspiration from her own family’s story, deftly balancing complicated national history with explorations of cultural dislocation and biracial identity. As Kiku processes her experiences, Hughes draws parallels to President Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and the incarceration of migrant children. The emotional connection between Kiku and her grandmother is underdeveloped; despite their being neighbors, Ernestina appears briefly and feels elusive to both Kiku and readers up to the very end. Despite some loose ends, readers will gain insights to the Japanese American incarceration and feel called to activism.

A timely and well-paced story of personal discovery. (photographs, author’s note, glossary, further reading) (Graphic historical fantasy. 12-16)

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-250-19353-7

Page Count: 288

Publisher: First Second

Review Posted Online: May 17, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2020

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