Acid Free

Archival Quality by Ivy Noelle & Steenz. Oni Press, 2018. 9781620104705. 276pp.

After losing her previous job because of a breakdown, Celeste is hired to archive photos at the Logan Museum, a spooky building which houses a collection of medical photos, documents, and more. Things feel weird and spooky right from the beginning. She’s only allowed to work at night. Her boss, Holly, and the Curator, Abayomi, seem both overly concerned and unwilling to share information about the place, despite the fact that someone may have broken in while she was there alone. There’s also a mysterious Board of Directors, and the weird more-than-dreams that Celeste is starts to have.

This is a great readalike for Vera Brosgol’s Anya’s Ghost, about a girl who falls into a hole and makes a ghostly “friend.” Librarians reading it may be disappointed that neither librarian in the story has an MLIS, and that the cataloging of the photos Celeste scans isn’t at all technical, but overall this is a good read about a young woman trying to make her way back into the library work world, and the spooky stuff all ends up having a mental health tie-in.

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Reign of Fire

The Dragon Slayer: Folktalkes from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez. Toon Books, 2018. 9781943145294. 40pp.

This book contains comics versions of three stories: “The Dragon Slayer” and “Tup and the Ants” from Latin American Folktales: Stories from Hispanic and Indian Traditions by John Bierhorst, and “Martina Martínez and Pérez the Mouse” from Tales Our Abuelitas Told by Alma Flor Ada and F. Isabel Campoy. In the title story, a young girl befriends an old woman who gives her a magic wand. She uses its power (and her own moxy) to become a queen. In “Martina Martínez…” a young woman marries a mouse who falls into some soup. And in “Tup…” a young man scolded for being constantly lazy uses his brains to accomplish more work than his larger brothers, who everyone assumes are hard working.

Hernandez and his brothers have been creating Love and Rockets for years, and it’s amazing to see the level of storytelling craft, drawing skill, and joy that he brings to this graphic novel for kids (and adults with discerning taste). I can’t imagine a library that serves young people, or that has even a basic folk and fairytales collection, that won’t want this on its shelves.

“She’s what I want to be…”

The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell and various writers. Alfred A. Knopf, 2018. 9781524719371.

This is the most fun, colorful, entertaining, and sweet-natured graphic novel on diversity and inclusivity that’s ever been. It belongs in your library unless you’re worried great kids comics will distract them from reading “real books.”

A neighborhood full of kids uses imagination to immerse themselves in a world full of magic and super powers where they can be whoever they like. When the young boy who likes to dress as The Sorceress falls into a pool, ruining his outfit, his sister (who wears long Loki horns) makes him a new crown. Their neighbor doesn’t want to play until she makes herself armor and a sword. There’s the beast next door and his sister, The Huntress, and the Hulk-like green banshee whose grandma thinks she should behave and be quiet (her mom supports her inner monster). I want to go on and on but this shouldn’t just be a list. The kids are awesome. My favorite was the boy who dressed as The Blob in a rock-like costume (with streamers) — he’s dispirited when no one can figure out what he’s supposed to be, but then the other kids help turn him into his inner fanged menace. A close second for me is Professor Everything, a bit of a know-it-all who uses advice from books to try to make friends after alienating everyone. (It doesn’t work out until he meets the kingdom’s Scribe, who is totally into comics.)

I ranted about this during my graphic novel presentation at the SWAN conference in Illinois. I hope you were there.

Hey You!

Dear Girl, by Amy Krouse Rosenthal and Paris Rosenthal, illustrated by Holly Hatum, HarperCollins Publishing, 2017, 9780062422507, 40 pages

Guest review by Murphy’s Mom

This is an amazing picture book written to empower and celebrate young girls. Even though the Rosenthals wrote this particular story for young kids, it is a great message for everyone. Young children, teenagers, and even women who consider themselves grown can learn how to love themselves. You’ll learn how every feeling, emotion, or way of expressing yourself is valid and reasonable.

I fell in love with this book because of its message encouraging young women to be happy with who they are, not just content. The artwork by Holly Hatum is gorgeous, too — there are so many bright colors, and she mixes photorealistic images in with her drawings. This is a definite confidence booster that teaches all ages it is more than okay to be the “wonderful, smart, and beautiful you!” I hope you will take the time to check it out!

Earth Girl

Space Boy Volume 1 by Stephen McCranie. Dark Horse, 2018. 9781506706481. 245pp. Originally published as Space Boy episodes 1 – 16 at webtoons.com

(A white-haired boy drifts in deep space, alone in spaceship that’s silent except when the rockets make a course correction.)

Amy thinks everyone has a different flavor. She and her parents lived on a mining colony, at least until her dad lost his job. Then they had to make the 30 year journey back to earth. She doesn’t age because of cryosleep, but her best friend Jemmah, who she leaves behind, does. Amy feels super awkward at her new high school where everyone uses augmented reality glasses, and she can’t bring herself to contact a now middle-aged Jemmah. But she does make a few friends and the blue sky overhead is awesome. Plus there’s a quiet, mysterious white-haired boy who has no flavor. How did he get to Earth from the deep space? No clue. (I hope to find out in Volume 2.)

McCranie’s art has a very nostalgic-for-the-future feel, with shapes and colors that recall classic Hannah Barbara cartoons and give the story a nice flow. The next book comes out soon, but I think I’ll check out the next few episodes on the webtoons site before then — they’re posted there as scrolling vertical chapters, and they work equally well as printed books, which is an amazing feat.

The smell of familiar houses

Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt With Family Addiction by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Scholastic Graphix, 2018. 9780545902489. 310pp.

Krosoczka’s mom was the third of five kids. Her parents weren’t too happy when she got pregnant (she was pretty young), but supported her by buying her a house near them. His early memories are happy, but there’s a dark edge there — men coming over, a recurring nightmare of being surrounded by monsters. After his mother gets arrested (not for the first time), his parents move Jarrett into their house. He lives there as his mother drifts in and out of his life, seeming to get better and then relapsing. She lets him down again and again as he grows up, discovers his love of creating comics, and finally even meets his father, who didn’t want to have anything to do with him when he was born.

The book is full of drinking and smoking (I bet his grandparents’ place smelled like my parents’ houses) and even has a little swearing (though I bet there was a lot more in real life). It was a dark, difficult read for me because it all hit so close to home. It’s stayed with me, and I’ve found myself returning to its pages over and over again since finishing it a few weeks back, and I know there are kids out there who will read it repeatedly even though it’s not as funny as his Lunch Lady, Jedi Academy, and Platypus Police Squad series.

“There are panels on every wall.”

Cruising Through The Louvre by David Prudhomme. Translation: Joe Johnson. NBM, 2016. 9781561639908.

Prudhomme’s entry into NBM’s English editions of graphic novels about the Louvre is one of my favorites. It starts with him getting a phone call while staring at Rembrandt’s self portrait, and reflecting on wandering the museum, “It’s like walking inside a giant comic book. There are panels on every wall.” But what he really enjoys is looking at people looking at those panels, and that’s the focus of this book. Tourists peering at paintings while holding up phones, people experiencing private moments that seem almost religious, groups of students on a tour, and of course the mob admiring the Mona Lisa (and ignoring the large painting on the wall across from it) — this is an appreciation of people’s attention and whatever focus they can muster. (My favorite guy in the Mona Lisa mob is ignoring the painting entirely, reading a book.) Prudhomme’s pencils bring the people, the artwork, and the building itself to life in a way that reminds me of being in the museum.  The woodwork alone is so intricate that it’s worth a visit by itself. (In fact when I was there years ago with my buddy Dave that’s all he looked at. The docents were very puzzled by his detailed questions about the floors.)