Cows in Space, Share Your Underwear

Space Cows (Ready To Read Pre-Level One) by Eric Seltzer, illustrated by Tom Disbury. Simon Spotlight, 2018. 9781534428768.

Cows in colored space suits fly, sleep, play, and make lots of noise. There’s a rhyme scheme that goes across pages (and didn’t annoy me), and the illustrations are totally fun.

 

 

Here, George! by Sandra Boynton, pictures by (New Yorker cartoonist) George Booth. Little Simon, 2018. 9781534429642.

This new board book feels like a classic must-read that’s been around forever. George does not move, no matter what his owners say. But after they leave the house, wild music starts to play and George starts to dance. (And those drawings of the grumpy old dog twirling are silly enough to make adults laugh, even if they have to read the book to their kids over and over again.)

One Big Pair of Underwear by Laura Gehl and Tom Lichtenheld. Little Simon, 2018. 9781534420366.

I admit I picked this up because the somewhat kinky looking cover made me laugh. (I think I saw a large pair of oversized underwear for two at Archie McPhee’s once.) What follows is an entertaining board book book that combines counting, word repetition, repeated lessons about sharing (and being left out), along with unexpected illustrations of animals. Among them are an irritated cat pumping up air air mattress, happily cooking hippos, and a duck making a slap shot, along with a LOT of others.

We Are Music by Brandon Stosuy, illustrated by Nick Radford. Little Simon, 2018. 9781534409415.

This rhyming board book touches on the history of music, from early man beating on logs (who knew they had wiener dogs for pets?) to classical to blues to country. There’s also jazz and rap and a pop singer who looks like Beyoncé to me. (My teenage daughter strongly confirms my insight: “Kind of.”). I love it because it even has a two page spread on electronic music: “Synthesizers, drum machines, theremins, and more, computer-made music is a new kind of score.” Plus the page on punk features a stage diver — it’s never too early to introduce hyper children to the concept. The last page shows kids having a good time, playing with instruments. The illustrations are really fun, but they so perfectly recall sixties picture books that I thought this might be an old reprint, at least until I noticed the girl with the pink boom box on the cover.

Advertisements

The Hell With It

Judas by Jeff Loveness, illustrated by Jakub Rebelka. BOOM!, 2018. 9781684152216. Originally published as Judas #1-#4.

Judas is more than simply bummed out after betraying Christ. He is so distraught he hangs himself then wanders around hell. There are demons (see Ezekiel 1:4-8 for a description, though the drawings are freakier). Judas contemplates Christ’s power and the suffering in the world (in particular Judas’s own mother’s  death). The Devil appears in answer to Judas’ prayers, but doesn’t provide the answers Judas wants. As they walk together the Devil tells Judas that they’re trapped, were used and cast aside, and that they are both the villains the story needed. Then the Devil brings Jesus to hell.

I’ve read bits of the Bible and several comics versions. I enjoy the Lucifer character from Sandman and Mike Carey’s related series. The striking gold foil thorns on this book’s cover caught my attention, and the book’s balance between the imagery and words kept me moving through it. It was hard to look away from Rebelka’s gorgeous drawings, scenes that went from dark and moody to bloody, horrific suffering, from forgiveness all the way to rage.

Other Bible-related graphic novels I recommend: Tom Gauld’s deadpan Goliath.

Be vewy vewy quiet…

Usagi Yojimbo Book 32: Mysteries by Stan Sakai. Dark Horse, 2018. 9781506705842. Contains Usagi Yojimbo #159 – #165. 195pp.

This is my favorite new Usagi Yojimbo collection in years. The thing Stan Sakai does better than anyone is in drawing action scenes — Usagi’s sword fights are chaotic and carefully composed, and the frames are crowded but the action is easy to follow. They’re high stakes but really cartoony, too — perfect for adults but not too much for most kids. And it all takes place in an Edo era Japan drawn with classic shading techniques — I’m so happy these aren’t published in color!

This book is full of assassins and gangsters, and there are several thieves that are easy to love, among them recurring characters Kitsune and her sideckick Kiyoko plus the masked, Robin Hood-like Nezumi. Usagi saves a young girl, helps Inspector Ishida solve a few related murders, and has several epic fights. (In one of them Usagi even wields a fish along with his swords.) It’s a lot of fun and another classic that I’m adding to my permanent graphic novel collection.

You’re Awesome

Supergirl: Being Super by Mariko Tamaki and Joëlle Jones. 9781401268947. DC Comics, 2018. Contains #1 – #4 of the series.

I’ve enjoyed every graphic novel by Mariko Tamaki I’ve read: She-Hulk: Deconstructed and Luisa, This One Summer, and Skim. I didn’t expect this one to pull me in as easily as it did — I’m not much of a Supergirl fan, but between the conversations Kara Danvers (Zor-El) has with her her friends, the moments with her parents, and the way Tamaki folds Kara’s feelings about being a super powered alien into being a super alienated teen, I couldn’t put this book down. Joëlle Jones art helped — her lines and layouts are beautiful — and Kelly Fitzpatrick’s colors made sure I didn’t miss essential details.

It’s great to see a new creative team put forth their version of an existing character’s origin story without some newsworthy, over-the-top detail designed to get mainstream media attention. My favorite character: Kara’s badass friend, Dolly, who has a great T-shirt collection. My favorite moment: the super explosive zit. And I LOVED the scenes of the barn fire, which is not something I ever thought I’d write.

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.

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.