Reviews

You callin’ me an egg-head? BRAIN CAMP by Susan Kim

Kim, Susan, and Klavan, Laurence. Brain Camp. Illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks. Square Fish/First Second. 151 pages, 2010. PLB $15.56, ISBN978-1-48985-625-8; Tr. $ 8.54, ISBN 978-1-25006-292-5

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

Genre: Science Fiction (Graphic Novel)

Part of a series? No

Plot Summary:

Jenna and Lucas just don’t fit in — Jenna’s an underachiever with deeply disappointed doctor parents, and Lucas’s tough home life slows him down. When their parents are approached by a man from Camp Fielding — a camp that promises to turn anyone into an Einstein — each kid finds themselves unceremoniously shunted to camp. The campers are weird, transforming into zombielike nerds while mysterious stuff happens in the woods. It seems like the adults are out to get them, and Jenna and Lucas’s parents refuse to understand. Are Jenna and Lucas doomed to follow their fellow campers’ fates, or can they escape unscathed?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This is gross-out horror at its finest. If vomit makes you squeamish, give this book a pass. Kids barf up feathers (and major spoiler in white to follow >>> the bodies of infant bird alien things???) There is also blood “on the page” in a super vivid scene, and a lot of the action is … just that. Horror movie action without a lot of plot-furthering substance. That said, it’s a great pick for your horror fans.

There is also a romance element with some themes better for older middle graders (see Goodreads reviews).

Grade Level: YA

Awards and Starred Reviews:

n/a

 

Reviews

Running with Rat: The Nameless City

Hicks, Faith Erin. The Nameless City. First, Second, 2016. 232 pages. Hardcover $18.74, ISBN 978-1-62672-157-9; Tr. $12.79, ISBN  978-1-62672-156-2

TL;DR: Do I recommend this? Yes

Genre: Fantasy (Graphic Novel)

Part of a series? Yes — The Nameless City series

Plot Summary:

Kaidu is a brand-new trainee in the Nameless City (aka Daidu, aka Yanjing, aka Monkh, aka DanDao, and so on, as each conquering group has renamed the city as they go). Kaidu, a Dao teen, has finally made it from his tribe at home to the city where his father works. He is excited to finally meet his father, but he is not looking forward to fighting. When he meets Rat, a Named girl who lives in the city, he sneaks out of the palace so that she can teach him how to run. Rat refuses to befriend or trust him because the Dao are not to be trusted, and the Dao traditionally view all non-Dao as Skral, “anyone not Dao […] anyone not a person” (36). Kaidu, however, does not share this view. Will he be able to get to know Rat and the city? Or are the Dao truly in for the end of their time ruling the Named?

Critical Evaluation/Reader’s Comments:

This was a really cool graphic novel, and the theme of judging Other people rather than getting to know them ran strong in the text. The Dao characters judge the Named, and the Named judge the Dao just as harshly. Including a tomboyish girl and a bookish boy help to make this readable for all readers, and Hicks’s action scenes are gorgeous.

Curriculum Ties/Library Use:

This would be a fantastic book circle book. Just as Rat reaches Kaidu to run, members of the book club could take turns teaching each other a skill that they are proud of (i.e., how to draw a face, how to make an origami figure, how to tie a certain knot, etc.). (Idea from myself)

Grade Level: 5-8

Awards and Starred Reviews:

Booklist starred 3/15/16

Kirkus Reviews starred 2/15/16

Publishers Weekly starred 1/11/16

Voice of Youth Advocates (VOYA) starred 4/1/16

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