Reviews

Sunshine and rainbows: Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm

Holm, Jennifer L., & Holm, Matthew. Sunny Side Up. Graphix, 2015. 216 pages. Hardcover $20.44, ISBN 978-0-545-74165-1; PLB $17.56, ISBN 978-1-48988-011-6; TR $11.09, ISBN 978-0-545-74166-8

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

Genre: Realistic Fiction (Graphic Novel)

Part of a Series? No.

Plot Summary:

Sunny Lewin is sent to spend August with her grandfather in a retirement community. This shatters Sunny’s summertime dreams of beach lounging and fun having. Instead, her grampa’s “big plans” for each day tend to include going to the post office or the grocery store. Only one other person at the community is her age, and while Buzz and his comics are a fun distraction, they aren’t enough to stop Sunny from thinking about her big brother Dale. What is happening with Dale, and is it Sunny’s job to fix it?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is a super sweet and poignant story. The material is a bit intense, but it’s written well for a third through seventh grade audience. Some kids don’t know how to respond to the reveal, but I don’t think this is necessarily a problem.

Trigger Warnings:

  • substance abuse

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

n/a

Grade Level: 3-7

Awards and Starred Reviews: n/a

Reviews

Shake, rattle, and roll: Bone: Out from Boneville

Smith, Jeff. Bone: Out from Boneville. Graphix, 2005. 138 pages. 2005 Hardcover $22.99, ISBN 978-0-439-70623-0; 2015 Hardcover $12.79, ISBN 978-0-545-80070-9; Tr. $11.09, ISBN 978-0-439-70640-7; PLB $17.61, ISBN 978-1-41557-850-6

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Fantasy (Graphic Novel)

 

Part of a series? Yes — the Bone series

 

Plot Summary:

Fone, Phoney, and Smiley Bone find themselves stuck in a desert. Smiley and Fone have helped their cousin Phoney escape from the mob that ran him out of town. Phoney, enraged by the townspeople’s attitude towards his wealth, refuses to accept the situation while Fone tries to stay on task and Smiley tries to keep everyone calm (these opening actions help readers to know how each will handle the adventure ahead!). The cousins end up separated, and Fone winds up in a magical valley in uncharted territory. There, he meets big bugs, rat creatures, a dragon, and more. Will he be able to make it home, or does something have it out for him?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This one is mega-popular at my library. Volumes are either checked out or being perused in-library constantly. Since I’ve also heard that it’s one of the most challenged books in schools, I wanted to know how those two things lined up. As I read, I really couldn’t see why it has been challenged as often as it has, so I turned to Google. Apparently, Smiley and Phoney’s smoking and drinking were the source for a lot of parental concern, as was “violence or horror” (“Case Study: Bone,” n. d.). I was surprised that Thorn’s depiction has not yet garnered enough complaints to count … if anything was going to jump out at me, it was how Thorn is illustrated. In any case, I don’t really “get” why this was banned, and I think it’s a fun adventure for readers. While I don’t plan to continue reading the series just yet, I was so sad that it ended on the cliffhanger that it did! The adventure is nonstop, and the intrigue unfolds slowly enough (but excitingly enough) to maintain tension throughout the book.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a great book to hand off to a student who enjoys fantasy and historical fiction. While the Bones are clearly not realistic characters, the setting of the novels is reminiscent of a late 1800s or early 1900s town; Phoney’s schemes and plots sound like an Industry Baron’s attempts to scam his town out of money. It would be fun to read this alongside a unit on the Industrial Era if only to make those connections. I also think this is a great recommendation for any kid who is looking for another fantasy read after finishing Land of Stories or Gregor the Overlander. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

 

References:

Comic Book Legal Defense Fund. (n. d.). Case study: Bone. CBLDF. Retrieved from http://cbldf.org/banned-comic/banned-challenged-comics/case-study-bone/

John (screen name). (2013, March 1). Bone — parent content review (Review of the book Bone: Out from Boneville). The Eclectic Dad. Retrieved from http://eclecticdad.com/2013/03/01/bone-review/

Neary, L. (2014, Sept. 24). Too graphic? 2014 Banned Books Week celebrates comics. NPR. Retrieved from http://www.npr.org/2014/09/24/350881667/too-graphic-2014-banned-books-week-celebrates-challenged-comics

Reviews

Illuminating, indeed: Flora and Ulysses– the Illuminated Adventures

DiCamillo, Kate. Flora & Ulysses — the Illuminated Adventures. Illustrated by K. G. Campbell. Candlewick Press, 2013. 231 pages. Hardcover $15.34, ISBN 978-0-7636-6040-6; 2015 Tr. $7.69; ISBN 978-0-7636-7671-1; 2016 Tr. $5.99, ISBN 978-0-7636-8764-9; 2015 PLB $13.61, ISBN 978-1-48985-703-3; 2016 PLB $12.01, ISBN 978-1-53790-222-7

 

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

 

Genre: Fantasy/Animal Story

 

Part of a series? No.

 

Plot Summary:

Flora’s vocabulary is a mix of high-scoring SAT words and comic book exaggeration, but it’s a delightful blend. Ulysses (a squirrel so named for the vacuum that nearly killed him and ends up imbuing him with superhero strength) is a poetry-writing, cat-fighting, high-flying squirrel determined to live life to its fullest. Will Flora’s mother (Ulysses’s arch-nemesis) successfully kill Ulysses? Or will Ulysses show everyone the power of love?

 

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Holy Bagumba! Another gem from DiCamillo, this book is utterly absorbing. I’m not the only one to think so; my copy from the library has annotations as a previous reader or two puzzled out the meanings of DiCamillo’s heftier vocab words. There are also annotations translated words and phrases into Chinese characters. While many might take pause at having a written-in library book, I was actually really happy to see that a reader was working through the text and making it work for them.

 

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a wonderful book club book, and it could also be a good branching-out title for a reluctant reader. While not a graphic novel, it is “illuminated” with comic-strip interludes showing the action in a new way. It could be a good read for kids who are trying to read titles that aren’t quite Diary of a Wimpy Kid in style but that still incorporate a lot of illustration. (Idea from myself)

 

Grade Level: 3-6

 

Awards and Starred Reviews:

ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2014

Booklist starred 6/1/13

Kirkus Reviews starred 7/1/13

Newbery Medal 2014

Publishers Weekly starred 6/24/13

School Library Journal starred 8/1/13

 

Reviews referenced:

Bird, E. (2013, June 10). Review of the day: Flora and Ulysses by Kate DiCamillo (Review of the book Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures). School Library Journal. Retrieved from http://blogs.slj.com/afuse8production/2013/06/10/review-of-the-day-flora-and-ulysses-by-kate-dicamillo/  Eisenhart, M. (n. d.). Flora and Ulysses: The illuminated adventures (Review of the book Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures). Common Sense Media. Retrieved from https://www.commonsensemedia.org/book-reviews/flora-ulysses-the-illuminated-adventures#

 

Does the Squirrel Die? :   NO

 

Tags: comics, squirrels, vacuums, belief, writers, love, animal stories, superheroes

Reviews

Super Adventures: The Adventures of Superhero Girl

Hicks, Faith Erin. The Adventures of Superhero Girl. Dark Horse Books, 2013. 106 pages. Hardcover $14.49, ISBN 978-1-61655-084-4

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes, for older kids (6th-8th)

Genre: Superhero (Comic Strip Compilation)

Part of a series? Not at this time.

Plot Summary:

This book appears to be a compilation of comic strips into a “trade” paperback. I had gone into this one anticipating a graphic novel, so I was a little bit disappointed to lack a cohesive storyline, but Superhero Girl is readable enough that I wasn’t too badly upset. (I would love to follow her in a long-form arc, though!)

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

Superhero Girl definitely skews on the older side; I was surprised that it was so readable and that it’s picked up by young kids due to Superhero Girl’s focus on finding a job, leaving college, and trying to attend parties or date. I don’t think it’s kid-unfriendly, but it does include things such as alcohol, dating, and the like.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

If a superhero unit was already in place, I would add this in as recommended reading. Otherwise, I would perhaps have students study a few panels of Hicks’s work and create a comic imitating her style in terms of art and tone. This way, Superhero Girl could be a library-only unit or get incorporated into an art class. (Idea from myself)

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a