A graphic-novel series that aims to draw in reluctant historians; it looks like it may well achieve its goal.

FIGHT FOR FREEDOM

From the Cartoon Chronicles of America series

When the people in this graphic novel get into a fight, they go “ACK!” and “POW” and “G-R-R-R-R,” yet the book makes for surprisingly credible history.

A prose prologue sets up the graphic novel that follows, providing background on slavery, Westward expansion and states’ rights before delivering a précis on the Civil War up to 1862, just before the Battle of Fredericksburg. The people in this book, introduced in a visual dramatis personae, feel more like movie characters than historical figures, which is appropriate to the form. Sam is a slave who’s memorized Shakespeare and can navigate most of Virginia by heart. Annabelle, the plantation owner’s daughter, can hit any target the instant she picks up a rifle. The slaveholders are so cruel they nearly twirl their mustaches. But like the best movie characters, they have narrow escapes and sensational battles that readers will want to follow to the last scene. Every chapter is based in fact, even if the heroes are invented (Lincoln makes a cameo). Every section has methodical, gripping historical notes. The drawing style is loose and imprecise, the word balloons are sometimes lopsided, and every character is 10 feet tall, but these are stars, and many readers will stay with them through the next volume.

A graphic-novel series that aims to draw in reluctant historians; it looks like it may well achieve its goal. (Historical graphic novel. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 17, 2012

ISBN: 978-1-59990-014-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2012

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Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense.

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  • New York Times Bestseller

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REFUGEE

In the midst of political turmoil, how do you escape the only country that you’ve ever known and navigate a new life? Parallel stories of three different middle school–aged refugees—Josef from Nazi Germany in 1938, Isabel from 1994 Cuba, and Mahmoud from 2015 Aleppo—eventually intertwine for maximum impact.

Three countries, three time periods, three brave protagonists. Yet these three refugee odysseys have so much in common. Each traverses a landscape ruled by a dictator and must balance freedom, family, and responsibility. Each initially leaves by boat, struggles between visibility and invisibility, copes with repeated obstacles and heart-wrenching loss, and gains resilience in the process. Each third-person narrative offers an accessible look at migration under duress, in which the behavior of familiar adults changes unpredictably, strangers exploit the vulnerabilities of transients, and circumstances seem driven by random luck. Mahmoud eventually concludes that visibility is best: “See us….Hear us. Help us.” With this book, Gratz accomplishes a feat that is nothing short of brilliant, offering a skillfully wrought narrative laced with global and intergenerational reverberations that signal hope for the future. Excellent for older middle grade and above in classrooms, book groups, and/or communities looking to increase empathy for new and existing arrivals from afar.

Poignant, respectful, and historically accurate while pulsating with emotional turmoil, adventure, and suspense. (maps, author’s note) (Historical fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: July 25, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-545-88083-1

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Scholastic

Review Posted Online: May 10, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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DRAMA

From award winner Telgemeier (Smile, 2010), a pitch-perfect graphic novel portrayal of a middle school musical, adroitly capturing the drama both on and offstage.

Seventh-grader Callie Marin is over-the-moon to be on stage crew again this year for Eucalyptus Middle School’s production of Moon over Mississippi. Callie's just getting over popular baseball jock and eighth-grader Greg, who crushed her when he left Callie to return to his girlfriend, Bonnie, the stuck-up star of the play. Callie's healing heart is quickly captured by Justin and Jesse Mendocino, the two very cute twins who are working on the play with her. Equally determined to make the best sets possible with a shoestring budget and to get one of the Mendocino boys to notice her, the immensely likable Callie will find this to be an extremely drama-filled experience indeed. The palpably engaging and whip-smart characterization ensures that the charisma and camaraderie run high among those working on the production. When Greg snubs Callie in the halls and misses her reference to Guys and Dolls, one of her friends assuredly tells her, "Don't worry, Cal. We’re the cool kids….He's the dork." With the clear, stylish art, the strongly appealing characters and just the right pinch of drama, this book will undoubtedly make readers stand up and cheer.

Brava!  (Graphic fiction. 10-14)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-545-32698-8

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: July 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 1, 2012

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