Locked down and blizzarded up, you need a dose of color, don't you? The kids are kind of eating each other and you're sick of telling them to get off YouTube. Time to hit the graphic novel section:
"You're going to have to realllly convince me," I can hear famous curmudgeon Philip Pullman mutter as he surveys the latest in what I imagine must be a never-ending parade of proposals to adapt his 1995 masterpiece trilogy His Dark Materials into graphic novels. He probably imagined himself as Penelope at her loom, trying to wave off a crowd of greedy suitors. He's got a Classics turn of mind, does our Phil.
But I'd say that the old atheist let the right one slip the ring on. This art - patently Frenchy in its scritchy artiness - is specific enough to let the reader's personal mental images of Lyra, Pan, Lord Asrael and NOT NICOLE KIDMAN Mrs. Coulter persist. It hews extremely closely to the original text (it's going to have to be hella long), so first-time readers will be no more lost than the rest of us were at first.
And the images of the College, the bogs, the gyptians' boats, and the glowing, faded sky of Lyra's England are beautiful. Panels are very small - there are often as many as a dozen per page - but the exterior scenes are extraordinarily full of light and air. Go ahead and click on that right-hand image to see it larger. Yum.
More after the break...
YOLO Juliet (OMG Shakespeare) by William Shakespeare and Brett Wright
There's also, as you can see, a srsly Hamlet (OMG Shakespeare). I honestly had to sit here with a stupid look on my face for a few minutes trying to visualize the kid I would hand either of these books to. And I mean - there are teenagers to whom I would hand Texts from Jane Eyre or Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less, but... um, not to put too fine a point on it, those books are FUNNY. And they're funny because we are already familiar with Jane Eyre and Anna Karenina.
Readers of FFS Juliet or JK Hamlet, whatever these things are called - are not already familiar with the plays. It is ridiculous enough that we require middle schoolers to read Shakespeare - translating those plays into texts is not going to help.
The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Romeo and Juliet by Ian Lendler and Zack Giallongo
Picked this one up because I think Zack Giallongo is brilliant at drawing things that kids like to look at. Broxo is one of my favorite bet-you've-never-seen-this things to hand to a middle grade Bone and Amulet enthusiast.
This is... well, it's odd. The pictures are terrific, reminding me of the ancient Disney Robin Hood. Colors are clear, animals are curvy. But the story has been turned into that of a rooster and a bear who want to be BFFs despite the animosity between their two factions - the "wilders" of the forest and the "petters" in the petting zoo. It...kind of works?
Colonial Comics: New England, 1620 1750 edited by Jason Rodriguez
This nonfiction graphic anthology suffers a little from TMT Syndrome (Too Much Text), but you know that's kind of unavoidable when you're doing history comics. On the UP side of the equation, the individual episodes chosen (Anne Hutchinson, the trials in Salem among others) are well-suited to graphic storytelling and do a great job bringing the characters to life.
For my part, I am also happy to have an introduction to artists new to me that will bear watching out for: Michael Sgier, Ellen Crenshaw, James Comey, and Sarah Winifred Searle. Pass this along to fans of Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales to tide them over until The Underground Abductor (An Abolitionist Tale) comes out.
Bad Girls: Sirens, Jezebels, Murderesses, Thieves and Other Female Villains by Jane Yolen and Heidi Stemple, illustrated by Rebecca Guay
Are they bad? Or just drawn that way? That's the question award-winning children’s author Jane Yolen and her daughter Heidi Stemple debate as they take an entertaining tour through the lives of some of history's most notorious women. Arranged chronologically from Old Testament barber Delilah to 20th century mob courier Virginia Hill, this deck of 26 dicey dames includes royalty (Bloody Mary, Catherine of Russia), wild women of the Wild West (Belle Starr, Calamity Jane) and out-and-out criminals (Moll Cutpurse, Bonnie Parker).
Each short (2- to 8-page) chapter opens with a lush, period-appropriate poster-style portrait by illustrator Rebecca Guay. The authors then outline each lady's dastardly deeds and point out the "aggravating or mitigating" circumstances that may influence the reader's opinion of their guilt. Yolen and Stemple speak directly to the reader, bickering delightfully about context and consequences as they model good discussion behavior (and shoes!), in a page of comics at the end of each chapter.
The authors' enthusiasm for their subject is contagious, abetted by playful language that makes Bad Girls a rock ‘em sock ‘em read. Alliteration, rhyme, short sentences and a conversational tone combine with sometimes-challenging vocabulary to make this book readable but by no means dumbed-down. A hearty bibliography will give a girl a leg up on the further reading she is sure to want to do. Feminist, girl-powered, intelligent and open-ended - this book respects the reader as much as it does its subjects.
Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass & Sorcery by Kurtis J. Wiebe, Roc Upchurch, and Ed Brisson
And there is no doubt that the Rat Queens are both bad and drawn that way. Fightin' and drinkin' are ends in and of themselves for this rowdy crew with a heart of gold. Pure entertainment. Rat Queens Volume 2 is out in May.
Lumberjanes Vol. 1 by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke Allen, and Shannon Watters
The first 8 issues of Lumberjanes is coming out as a graphic novel in I think April. Put it on pre-order - this thing is delightful. Anyone who remembers the short-lived Minx imprint that gave us The Plain Janes and Emiko Superstar will recognize the affectionate take on friendship among girls that is the main theme of Lumberjanes. Not for nothin - my 13-year-old son loved it too.
Little Robot by Ben Hatke
A lonely little girl discovers a lost robot in this lush little adventure for early readers. Ben Hatke, himself father to four adventurous damsels, honors the imagination and resourcefulness of girls with his new character, a barefoot wee kiddo who explores the river, woods and nearby junkyard with her own bag of tools.
Fable Comics edited by Chris Duffy
Only a fool would allow a new anthology edited by Chris Duffy pass them by. I don't know how he does it, but this man always finds THE best talent to interpret classic tales. The previous anthologies, Nursery Rhyme Comics and Fairy Tale Comics, were colorful, entertaining banquets of visual and storytelling styles, and this collection of fables (from Aesop and elsewhere) is no different. You'll find collectible vignettes from Jaime Hernandez, George O'Connor, Vera Brosgol and a lot more.
Also he gets the whole thing printed up real nice. That's really a lot of the battle in making graphic novels, especially for kids. That slimy paper that most superhero books are printed on just signals, "This is too old," to a lot of parents. BEEESIDES - if you are going to get Sophie Goldstein to contribute her strong inks and subtle colors and Jennifer Meyer to draw you dreamy pages and then Eleanor Davis to make something that looks like the cover of a midcentury edition of One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, you get the good paper.
Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes
Oh, YEAH. I think I can keyword this and it will make you want it: Puzzles; Rowdy girl; boy-girl friendship; athlete with coding skills; coding; visual explanation of binary; robot birds. And FUN.
Some of these are available on Edelweiss right now if you're an Edelweiss reader - otherwise, look for them soon in your library or favorite independent bookstore. And hey graphic novel creators - if Beth from Green Row Books gets ahold of you to ask you to come on a graphic novels panel at the Baltimore Book Festival in September... say yes!