I thought I’d open up the week with some fun, so it’s time for another edition of SJ Reads! This time I wanted to touch back on what is probably one of my biggest comfort reading genre – graphic novels, though because I have a lot of friends with kids and I’m always curious about what the youngin’s are puttin’ in their noggins, this edition has a YA slant.
Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel – Combining the stories of a rough paranormal investigator and a boy accidentally pulled to the other side, this is a fast-past story that kids will easily get into. It’s probably geared more to boys, but the characters are likable enough that I think girls would get into it, too. As an old person, there are several plot points that I would’ve liked developed a little more, but it’s probably good that the action and characters take precedent. A fun, loose art style that’s very eye-catching, and just a really nice, just-dark-enough title all the way around.
Cardboard by Doug TenNapel – I think I liked this a little bit more than Ghostopolis, because there was a somewhat bigger cast and more attention was paid to how they interacted with each other, even if it was just for a fleeting hint in a panel or two. Cam’s out-of-work father gives him a cardboard box for his birthday. Even though it’s all he can afford, it also gives them time to spend together…and, as it turns out, the cardboard has special abilities. I love all the different creatures and worlds that come from the cardboard, I love the interactions between characters, and because this is so grounded in real-world problems, it really made me pay attention.The only thing that made me go ‘eh’ is the ‘villain’ was the somewhat stereotyped misunderstood rich goth kid. However, a lot is done with the character and although I would’ve liked to be a little less predictable/get in his head a little more, he’s actually my favorite character in the whole book and there are some fun things done with his progression. So, while there is the usual kind of archetypes/tropes that you’re used to seeing in mid grade lit or entertainment (especially if you grew up in the 80s or 90s), there is some comfort to that and there are some interesting things done with it. Nice pace, great art, and it made me want to go make something.
Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson – an underworld princes is the pseudo-ruler of her kingdom because her hypochondriac father doesn’t want to deal with stress of politics. Add to that the pain of hiring an unusual new chef who becomes her only confidant and you get a very cute, very tame creepy romance. What I like is that the relationship is not the foremost thing – or it shares the spotlight with Decomposia’s feelings about her father, her stress at trying to put up a front running the kingdom and determining what kind of ruler she wants to be. Plus, Count Spatula is a really unique vampire. Just a kind dude who can cook and happens to have fangs. There’s a lot of moments here that gave me a chuckle, and I love that the major focus was Decomposia standing up for herself. The art is cute and while not as detailed as some titles, it really fits the tone of the book.
Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale – I love fairy tales. I love warped fairy tales. This may be one of the greatest things I have ever read. Rapunzel, set in sort of the villa/slavery system of the old west, where the witch rules the territory out of her villa and controls the water and harvest of the villages through her growth magic. You see how Rapunzel was put in the tower, but also her escape and her growth as she makes her way across the territory to face down the witch with outlaw Jack (from Jack and the beanstalk fame). A totally new slant is given to most of the characters, and it fits the fairy tale narrative in that there are a lot of little adventures along the way of the big journey. There’s no being saved by a prince (though there’s a hilarious hat-tip to that), and Rapunzel takes down foes with hair lassoing. She is second fiddle to none, and there’s a lot of time given to talking about her role, her place, her gender, her journey. Also HUGE props to how many female characters are in this book, and characters of color. It’s fantastic. This was one I read and reread and re-re-read and then forced upon everyone around me because it is that much fun. The art is beautiful, vibrant, and earthy and the themes of growth magic are consistent while still really feeling like it all belongs in the old west. Love.
Curses! Foiled Again by Jane Yolen and Mike Cavallaro – In the first Curses, Aliera stumbled upon a fencing foil that made her defender of the Seelie kingdom. In this volume, she deals with what that means. Not only is she trying to keep up with fencing to get to nationals, but her lab partner is a troll and declares himself her servant. The powers of darkness are out to get her foil, and it’s hard to know who to trust when her cousin Caroline is attacked. Again, I love this for the female lead – Aliera has unique strengths, but she’s also a normal girl and needs help along the way. Her cousin Caroline is an incredible gem of a character – wheelchair bound and supposedly “frail,” it’s Caroline who guides Aliera with advice and her RPG and fantasy knowhow. Both girls tell it like it is in their own way. It’s also intriguing that the whole school paranormal romance angle is turned on its head with some of the characters, so it’ll be interesting to see where that goes. Plus, Baba Yaga makes an appearance and there’s no way I could ever be mad about that. A fun romp with classic Jane Yolen awesomeness.