Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

Catrina and her family are moving to the coast of Northern California because her little sister, Maya, is sick. Cat isn’t happy about leaving her friends for Bahía de la Luna, but Maya has cystic fibrosis and will benefit from the cool, salty air that blows in from the sea. As the girls explore their new home, a neighbor lets them in on a secret: There are ghosts in Bahía de la Luna. Maya is determined to meet one, but Cat wants nothing to do with them. As the time of year when ghosts reunite with their loved ones approaches, Cat must figure out how to put aside her fears for her sister’s sake – and her own.25903764

I received some advanced reading copies from Scholastic and immediately picked Ghosts first. I’d likely read anything by Telgemeier! While Ghosts was not my personal favourite of her works, fans won’t be disappointed. In this graphic novel, Cat’s family move to the Northern Coast in hopes that it will make life easier for Maya who suffers from cystic fibrosis. Like any teenager, she’s having a tough time with the move, and settling into a town seemingly obsessed with the afterlife, but her love for her sister shines through and takes priority. I loved their relationship, especially the heartfelt moments discussing Maya’s chronic illness. At one point, Maya asks “What happens when I die, Cat? Will you be afraid of my ghost, too? (pg. 175)”

Besides the inclusion of chronic illness, I really liked that the book introduced aspects of another culture. Readers will learn more about Dia de los Muertos (day of the dead) and the colourful illustrations are a bonus! Look for Ghosts in September 2016.

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Slappy’s Tales of Horror (Goosebumps Graphix) by R.L. Stine

Four Goosebumps Graphix tales by master of horror R. L. Stine are adapted into full-color comics and feature a brand-new Slappy story by bestselling author, Dave Roman.

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I’ve always been a huge fan of the Goosebumps book and TV series, so I was super excited to receive this advanced reading copy from Scholastic.

The well-known ventriloquist dummy Slappy introduces the four stories and returns in between them to taunt the reader. They illustrators vary in their style, so it was an interesting approach to mesh them together in one book. The stories also range in ‘scariness’. I found the third story “Ghost Beach” was the most terrifying; specifically the ghost/skeleton image of the three cousins on page 120. I think fans of scary reads and R.L. Stine will eat up this graphic novel; especially as the release date of the Goosebumps film draws near. Pick up this quick, middle grade read on August 25, 2015.

SUNNY SIDE UP by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm

From the groundbreaking and award-winning sister-brother team behind Babymouse comes a middle-grade, semi-autobiographical graphic novel. Following the lives of kids whose older brother’s delinquent behavior has thrown their family into chaos, Sunny Side Up is at once a compelling “problem” story and a love letter to the comic books that help the protagonist make sense of her world.

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Thanks Scholastic for sending an advanced reading copy of this serious yet funny middle-grade graphic novel.  The book definitely has the look and feel of Raina Telgemeier, and she is actually quoted on the front cover, “Heartbreaking and hopeful, SUNNY SIDE UP is just the thing to chase away the clouds.” I agree, Raina!

Ten-year-old, Sunshine (Sunny), is sent to spend the summer with her Gramps in a retirement complex in Florida. Through flashbacks, readers learn the reason for her visit. Sunny’s brother, Dale is struggling with substance abuse and had accidently punched Sunny when she tried to intervene. Rather than keeping secrets, Sunny realizes it’s better to discuss her feelings, and is able to do that with her Gramps.  It’s a good lesson to learn and I think it was done appropriately for the target age group.

While there are serious moments, there are plenty of funny bits with her Gramps and her new friend, Buzz. I laughed when “the girls” are introduced, and gift her with the Barbie toiler roll holder.  I also enjoyed that Sunny and Buzz bond over a shared love of comic books.  Full page spreads of popular comic heroes are featured; in fact, my favourite illustration is on page 176, of Sunny imagining her brother Dale turning into the Hulk!

Pick up this quick read on August 25, 2015.

Kristy’s Great Idea (The Baby-Sitters Club) based on the novel by Ann M. Martin by Raina Telgemeier

Kristy, Mary Anne, Claudia, and Stacey are best friends and founding members of The Baby-sitters Club. Whatever comes up — cranky toddlers, huge dogs, scary neighbors, prank calls — you can count on them to save the day. But baby-sitting isn’t always easy, and neither is dealing with strict parents, new families, fashion emergencies, and mysterious secrets. But no matter what, the BSC have what they need most: friendship.

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I few weeks back, I received an advanced reading copy of the new FULL COLOUR EDITION of Kristy’s Great Idea. Too bad mine (being a proof) was mostly black and white (but hey- I can imagine the awesomeness). It was totally a nostalgic read to re-live these characters’ stories. And the best part? All their issues (divorce, diabetes, etc.) are still relevant today.

As one of the most popular series ever published, it makes sense to be re-created as a graphic novel. Raina’s illustrations are spot on, and I enjoyed the change up between panel and full page drawings. If you loved the series as a kid, or introducing it for the first time, the author/illustrator combo of Kristy’s Great Idea is perfect.

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

The companion to Raina Telgemeier’s #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling and Eisner Award-winning graphic memoir, SMILE.

Raina can’t wait to be a big sister. But once Amara is born, things aren’t quite how she expected them to be. Amara is cute, but she’s also a cranky, grouchy baby, and mostly prefers to play by herself. Their relationship doesn’t improve much over the years, but when a baby brother enters the picture and later, something doesn’t seem right between their parents, they realize they must figure out how to get along. They are sisters, after all.

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Although my advanced reading copy was not fully in colour, I expect the final version will be bright and visually appealing.  This graphic memoir features a range of spreads, including my favourite full page illustration of ‘the anatomy of a road trip’ (p.28).

Through a family road trip to Colorado, readers learn about complex sibling relationships. Like Raina, I have a younger sister and brother so I could totally relate to her frustrations!   I liked the addition of actual photos from Raina’s childhood with her sister, Amara. Lovely touch!

Best suited for kids ages 8-12 years, but really, anyone would enjoy this quick humorous read.  It does touch on more serious issues like parental struggles (marriage/money), and the common teen anxiety of fitting in socially.  Sisters has already received starred reviews, and I’m sure fans of her previous work, Smile and Drama will be equally impressed. Look for Sisters, August 26, 2014.

 

This One Summer- Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki

 

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

 

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Set during summer vacation in a small town, This One Summer is a coming of age graphic novel.  Windy and Rose are growing up and on the verge of becoming teenagers.  Rather than spending time building forts, they become fascinated with older teens, and partake in gossiping, swearing, and watching horror movies to appear cool to their movie-store crush.  I was sad to see the term ‘slut’ tossed around quite a bit by Windy/Rose, even calling girls they don’t know sluts.  Sex is a topic that interests them, but mostly they fixate on what their bodies will look like, repeatedly talking about their breasts, including the last line of the book, “boobs would be cool (p. 319)”  Overall, there isn’t too much of a plot besides the increasing tension between Rose’s parents that has stemmed from a miscarriage.  Rose picks up on the tension- “I thought that things would get back to normal. I guess they sort of are. Except they’re not talking (p.300)”.  Only in the last few pages do readers find out why the water is such a trigger for Rose’s mother. I wonder what Awago Beach will have in store for Windy and Rose next summer as they continue to grow both emotionally and physically.

The whole graphic novel has wonderful art done in shadowed blues. The full spread pages were my absolute favourite, especially the underwater illustrations (p.160) and Windy’s krunking moves (p.174.). I completely enjoyed this alternative format as a treat in between lengthy novels. It’s a quick read, and easy to devour in one sitting.

 

Review: Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Callie loves theater. And while she would totally try out for her middle school’s production of Moon Over Mississippi, she’s a terrible singer. Instead she’s the set designer for the stage crew, and this year she’s determined to create a set worthy of Broadway on a middle-school budget. But how can she, when she doesn’t know much about carpentry, ticket sales are down, and the crew members are having trouble working together? Not to mention the onstage AND offstage drama that occurs once the actors are chosen, and when two cute brothers enter the picture, things get even crazier!

Release date: September 2012

What a quick, fun read about middle school romance. It brought me back to my middle school days, including the awkward arms-length dances (p.105)!  I could definitely relate to the main character’s crush crazy ways, and over-analyzing every detail of the relationship.

Same sex crushes were also explored in the book; including an illustration of two boys kissing.    Throughout, the controversial topic was presented without any judgement and never made out to be more than it was. With the popularity of shows like Glee, I think younger people are increasingly becoming more comfortable and accepting of homosexuality. Therefore, I’m glad that Telgemeier included it in the book, while at the same time, making the text appropriate for the targeted reader age group.

As a graphic novel, the drawings rocked. Based on a play production, it was fitting that the story was divided into acts and even included an intermission.   I appreciated that Telgemeier included a variety of different body types and cultures throughout the book.  I also loved Callie’s facial expressions, as it was obvious when she was frustrated, happy, annoyed, disgusted, etc.

Overall, I find graphic novels are often targeted at boys.  So, I’m happy I’ve learned of another graphic novel that would appeal to young girls and their crush crazy ways. At the same time, I wouldn’t hesitate to offer this one to someone questioning their sexual identity either.

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