Elem./MG – Twins

Johnson, Varian, and Shannon Wright. Twins. Graphix, 2020. 978-1-338-23617-0. 249 p. $24.99. Grades 3-6.

Francine and Maureen are twins who have always been best friends, done the same activities, and had the same group of friends. But now that they are starting middle school, Francine (call her Fran, please) wants to come out from her sister’s shadow and be her own person. Unfortunately, Maureen wants the opposite. When both girls wind up running for class president, sibling rivalry steps up several notches and threatens to ruin any shred of relationship the girls have left. Once Fran confesses that the reason she wanted to create her own identity in middle school was to boost her self esteem after competing with her perfect sister for years, the girls’ relationship blossoms into a new, more mature sibling relationship.

THOUGHTS: I loved this graphic novel! Fans of Raina Telgemeier will flip over this new offering. I love that the characters are African American, but they could be any race and the story would be the exact same! Students need to see characters of other races that do not struggle because of their race.

Graphic Novel          Krista Fitzpatrick Upper Dublin SD

Elem. – Doodleville

Sell, Chad. Doodleville. Alfred A Knopf, 2020. 978-1-725-49859-4. 285 p. Grades 3-6.

Drew is a doodler. She always was, even while at her parents restaurant. She also somehow has doodles that come to life and take on a life of their own! She finds a connection with members of an art club who each have their own illustrated characters. But Drew has gone beyond her usual creations for a project, and now this leviathan monster is wreaking havoc in Doodleville, the real world, and Drew’s own internal feelings. Chad Sell has followed his innovative and inclusive graphic novel Cardboard Kingdom with an equally brilliant and important follow-up. The world play and emotions bounce between whimsical and dangerous, leaving readers and the protagonist unsure of how to process things. The inner turmoil of Drew allows for readers to discuss real feelings of depression, doubt, and belonging. The other members of the club also allude to their own struggles with gender, family and social norms. Sell hopefully will keep drawing on this creative fictional world for repeated visits.

THOUGHTS: There is a balance of understanding the rules in this world building and suspending your disbelief to truly appreciate the narrative. However, once that is established, there are so many possibilities for the doodles and the characters to grow and create that readers definitely will want this to be a series instead of a stand alone. There is some background and annotated history in the endnotes describing how Chad originated the doodles and what they represent to the author, making it clear that this is a passion project come to life! Highly recommended.

Graphic Novel          Dustin Brackbill    State College Area SD

YA – Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Graphic Novel

Levinson, Cynthia, and Sanford Levinson. Art by Ally Shwed. Fault Lines in the Constitution: The Graphic Novel. First Second, 2020. 978-1-250-21161-3. $18.99. 279 p. Gr. 8 and up.

This graphic novel, which is an adaptation of a nonfiction book written in 2017 and part of the World Citizen Comics book series, tells the story of the United States’ Constitution, from its drafting and ratification through its many amendments over the last two centuries and right up to and including part of Donald Trump’s presidency. In a sort of dual timeline, the story goes back and forth between the framers making decisions about the Constitution and various points in American history where those decisions had problematic consequences. From the argument of balance of power between federal and state government in the infancy of the nation to the problems with the Patriot Act after the September 11 attacks, the back and forth plot clearly demonstrates how these men couldn’t possibly have predicted and accounted for occurrences 200-plus years in the future when they wrote this monumental document. This includes a particularly timely discussion of habeus corpus in 1787 that the book’s creators then tie to the Ebola crisis in 2014, which obviously strikes a chord with readers in 2020 dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic. After telling the story of the Constitution’s history, the creators grade the document in several areas from “providing for the common defense” to “establishing justice” and give it an overall report card; the results are unsettling.

THOUGHTS: Take out the cartoons, and this book reads exactly like a history textbook. It is chock FULL of information, and it forces readers to ask some very serious questions. At times, though, readers may forget how serious the content is because of the fun simplicity of the cartoonish forefathers speaking in common 21st century vernacular. A highly recommended read for everyone, but reluctant readers in a Social Studies class will find this format extremely approachable. On a personal note, I read this book in the days following the insurrection at the US Capitol, and I am not exaggerating when I say that several lines of this book gave me chills – the opening, in particular, part of which reads, “It might be appealing to believe that, because the Constitution and our country have survived this long, they’ll always do so. But the framers were not so confident. Perhaps you shouldn’t be, either.”

Graphic Novel          Sarah Strouse, Nazareth Area SD
342.73 Constitutional law — United States

Elem./MG – Logan Likes Mary Anne! (The Baby-Sitters Club)

Galligan, Gale. Logan Likes Mary Anne! (The Baby-Sitters Club). Graphix, 2020. 978-1-338-30455-8. $24.99. 164 p. Grades 3-6. 

It’s time to start eighth grade, and Mary Anne is excited but nervous. The BSC is busier than ever, Mary Anne just might get up the nerve to ask her father for a kitten, and school is going well…enter Logan Bruno, the movie star look-alike new kid from Louisville. He’s fun, cute, and loves kids! When the BSC sends Logan and Mary Anne on a baby-sitting job together, they hit it off and Mary Anne and Logan start hanging out more often, including going to a big dance together. After some embarrassing moments and misunderstandings, Mary Anne and Logan’s relationship blossoms. Other highlights: Jessi Ramsey makes her first appearance in Stoneybrook, Mary Anne adopts kitten Tigger with her father’s blessing, and Jessi and Logan become BSC members. While I favor Raina Telgemeier’s illustration style over Gale Galligan’s, Galligan adapted Ann M. Martin’s chapter book well and gave the story and characters some great updating. Also, while the original Logan was blonde and blue-eyed, Galligan’s Logan is Black, adding a welcome and realistic diversity to the BSC.

THOUGHTS: A solid addition to a very popular series.

Graphic Novel                Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

MG – Class Act

Craft, Jerry. Class Act. Quill Tree Books, 2020. 978-0-062-88551-7. 249 p. $22.99. Grades 4-8.

Now eighth grader, Drew Ellis, still at the elite Riverdale Academy Day School, wonders if he will ever have the same opportunities as his wealthy, privileged, and white classmates.  His friend Liam, who is one of those privileged kids, wants to act like there are no differences. The boys, including their other friend Jordan, expand their friendships and take the time outside of school to really get to know where each come from, so they can focus on where their futures will take them.

THOUGHTS: This follow up to the Newbery Award winner New Kid is a must purchase for any library. Craft delivers on shedding light on race relations in a realistic and accessible way.

Graphic Novel          Krista Fitzpatrick- Waldron Mercy Academy

YA – Displacement

Hughes, Kiku. Displacement. First Second. 2020. 978-1-250-19353-7. 274 p. $17.99. Grades 9-12.

Two of the most acclaimed books of 2019 were They Called Us Enemy by George Takei and Internment by Samira Ahmed. Readers seeking an exceptional read-alike will find one in Displacement by Kiku Hughes. In this debut graphic novel, a Seattle teen (also named Kiku) experiences “displacements” to other places in time. The first time, she is on a trip to San Francisco with her mom, who is exploring her own mother’s former neighborhood in Japantown. Ernestina and her parents, immigrants from Japan, lived there until 1942, when they were relocated to incarceration camps along with 120,000 other people of Japanese descent (“nikkei”). After brief displacements to her grandmother’s violin recital and to a line at a transportation center, Kiku experiences a longer displacement to the camp at the Tanforan Racetrack. There, she’s assigned to a stable next to Ernestina and her parents. Kiku’s roommate, Aiko, guides her through the long lines, mess hall, roll call, and day-to-day life in the camp. After a transfer to the more permanent Topaz camp in Utah, Kiku experiences firsthand the traumas, divided loyalties, and resistance that will continue to be felt for generations among the nikkei. When, or even if, Kiku will return home lends suspense to this beautifully rendered story of intergenerational memory.

THOUGHTS: Kiku Hughes writes in her Author’s Note, “History and memory have tremendous power to heal us and give us the tools we need to know ourselves and navigate the world.” This very accomplished story is definitely one of these tools; its readers will learn from and about the experiences of Japanese Americans.

Note: In her Glossary of Terms, Kiku Hughes explains her decision to use “incarceration camp” instead of “internment camp” or “American concentration camp” throughout Displacement.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – Act (Click)

Miller, Kayla. Act (Click). Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020. 978-0-358-24218-5. $21.69. 203 p. Grades 3-6. 

When Olive realizes that some friends are excluded from the class field trip, she decides to run for an open spot in student government and make some changes. Olive enlists the help of friends and family to help campaign, make posters, and research protests, but relationships are strained when some friends aren’t loyal to her cause. Her friends Sawyer and Trent decide to run against her on a “Pudding for all!” ticket. Ultimately, Olive loses the election but still gets to serve as a rep when Sawyer steps down and offers Olive, third in line for one of the two open spots, his position. He and Trent realize that Olive will make an excellent rep, and they want to give her a chance to do some good. I love Olive’s diverse friendships–her middle school experience helps so many readers identify with some part of the “Click” series.

THOUGHTS: If your students already know Olive and friends, they’ll love the new offering–very timely in 2020. If you and your students don’t know Olive, you must meet her. Start with Click and enjoy!

741.5 Graphic Novel          Lindsey Long, Lower Dauphin SD

MG – Forget Me Nat

Scrivan, Maria. Forget Me Nat.  Graphix, an Imprint of Scholastic, 2020.  978-1-338-53825-0. 234 p. $21.69. Grades 3-6.

Natalie is in love with Derek, and she is sure he is in love with her. He wrote her a cute note right before winter break, and he asked her if she wanted to read his comic book. Soon, they were spending a lot of time together, but Natalie spending time with Derek means she’s not spending time with Zoe and Flo, and it also means she’s doing things she doesn’t really like to do, like eating pineapple pizza and joining math club. Natalie’s obsession with Derek could mean the end of her best friendships, and when her feelings aren’t reciprocated, it sends Natalie into a spiral of unhappiness and self-doubt. Natalie will have to learn that self-confidence does not come from a relationship–it comes from within.

THOUGHTS:  Maria Scrivan picks up where she left off with Nat Enough. Fans of Raina Telgemeier and Svetlana Chmakova will enjoy this series.

Graphic Novel          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

MG – One Year at Ellsmere

Hicks, Faith Erin. One Year at Ellsmere. First Second, 2020.  978-1-250-21909-1. 166 p. $19.97. Grades 5-8.

Juniper knows she will not fit in at her fancy new private school–child of a single mother, lower income, scholarship student–and she is prepared. She is at Ellsmere for the academics, and if her classmates don’t like her, that’s just fine. She probably won’t like them either. So it is no surprise when she lands on the radar of mean girl Emily. Jun thinks she can handle her, but this time she may have met her match. Luckily, Jun has her roommate, Cassie, as a friend and ally. She will need her if she is going to survive her first year at Ellsmere.

THOUGHTS: Perfect for fans of Smile and Jennifer L. Holm’s Sunny books who are looking for something a little darker with more drama. There are some fantastical elements at the end that are not really necessary, but overall it’s a good add for a middle school graphic novel section.

Graphic Novel          Melissa Johnston, North Allegheny SD

Elem. – Fox & Rabbit: Make Believe

Ferry, Beth. Fox & Rabbit: Make Believe. Amulet Books. 2020. 978-1-4197-4687-1. $12.99. Grades K-2.

The second adventure of Fox and Rabbit! Continuing where they left off, Fox and Rabbit make a new friend, Owl! Together, they use their imagination and make believe an amazing adventure! They explore jungles, save their friend Fred, and even get stuck in a giant muddy swamp! They  enter a gumball bubble blowing contest, and even eat some delicious ice cream! Is there anything these two friends can’t do or overcome?

THOUGHTS: This book does carry over from the first, but it is written in a way where you can start this book independently from the first. The friendships made, the topics and fears they face, and even the silliness of their adventures are so sweet, making this a delightful read!

Graphic Novel         Rachel Burkhouse, Otto-Eldred SD