YA – Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel

Levithan, David. Be More Chill: The Graphic Novel. Hyperion, 2021. 978-1-368-05786-8. 138 p. $19.99. Grades 9-12.

High school is hard. Jeremy finds it especially hard being an awkward nerd who can’t seem to say the right thing to anyone. He really wants to catch the eye of Christine, a pretty girl he sees every day at play rehearsal. When Jeremy tries to talk to her, he bumbles through his words, and that’s when he realizes he will never be able to charm her… until he hears about the squip. The squip is a supercomputer, compressed into a pill-sized capsule and swallowed. After that, it takes over your brain and helps awkward teens navigate through the complex social hierarchy of high school. Don’t know what cool clothes to buy at the mall? The squip will guide you. Not sure what to say to the most popular girl in school? The squip will tell you. When Jeremy buys one on the black market, he thinks he has squashed his awkward behavior for good. But he very quickly realizes the dark consequences that can come from trying to alter his own biology.

THOUGHTS: This graphic novel, adapted from the hit Broadway musical of the same name, will resonate with any high schooler who struggles to fit in. The art, done mostly in black, white, and blue, shows the differences between dialogue and the squip’s commands, making it easy to follow. High school librarians should add this to their graphic novel collections.

Graphic Novel          Danielle Corrao, Manheim Central SD

YA – Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel

Reynolds, Jason & Novgorodoff, Danica. Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel. Atheneum, 2020. 978-1-534-44495-9. 208 p. $19.99. Grades 10-12.

The seven floors that Will travels becomes even more of a punch in the gut with Novgorodoff’s eerie images. The story is the same; Will has to decide if he is going to follow the “rules” and kill the guy who killed his brother. During the sixty seconds it takes him to get to the ground floor, he meets someone who was connected to his brother in some way. Will gains access to more pieces of the puzzle with each encounter that is perfectly depicted with raw edged watercolor paintings. The graphic novel includes traditional panels as well as full page images that draw in readers, even those who know this story well.

THOUGHTS: For any library that is looking to expand their graphic novel collection with novel adaptations or more diversity, this book is a must. If Long Way Down is constantly checked out of your library, this could be a great segue for readers to appreciate the format of graphic novels with a terrifying story. Warning: There are images of guns and gore.

Graphic Novel          Samantha Hull, Ephrata Area SD

YA – The Incredible Nellie Bly: Journalist, Investigator, Feminist, and Philanthropist

Cimino, Luciana, and Sergio Algozzino, illustrator. Laura Garofalo, translator. The Incredible Nellie Bly: Journalist, Investigator, Feminist, and Philanthropist. Abrams ComicArts, 2021. 978-1-419-75017-5. 137 p. $24.99. Gr. 8+.

The subtitle of this wonderful graphic biography of Nellie Bly lets readers know that they are about to learn the life story of a true trailblazer! Nellie Bly is maybe most famous for going undercover in 1887 at an asylum for mentally ill women, exposing the horrible treatment patients received there. Her 1889 trip around the world in just seventy-two days is also very well-documented. Within the frame of a series of conversations between a female student at Columbia University’s Journalism School and an elderly Bly, The Incredible Nellie Bly covers these and her many other impressive accomplishments. Such achievements include reporting “in disguise” from a factory and debunking stereotypes about the “immoral” women workers there, interviewing Belva Ann Lockwood (the United States’ first female presidential candidate), and reporting from Europe’s Eastern front during World War I. Her trendsetting celebrity, and the inevitable backlash, are also depicted. Sergio Algozzino’s digitally created artwork, in appealing shades of yellow and blue as represented on the cover, evokes the times in which Nellie Bly lived and worked.

THOUGHTS: This is a – yes – incredible introduction to the extraordinary life and legacy of a woman who never accepted society’s restrictions but was “forever the author of her own destiny” (from the Introduction).

Graphic Biography          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

Elem. – Bunbun & Bonbon: Fancy Friends

Keating, Jess. Bunbun & Bonbon: Fancy Friends. Scholastic, 2020. 978-1-338-64684-9. $22.99. Grades K-3.

Bursting with cuteness, a lonely Bunbun hops around saying hello to sticks, flowers, clouds, and rocks until a purple candy Bonbon answers. The pair become fast friends bonding over their shared fondness for fancy things like bowties, sprinkles, and hip-hop music. Later, they decide to have a fancy party followed by donuts for lunch. Impossibly adorable illustrations brimming with hearts and flowers will introduce readers to the graphic format. Characters communicate in single-sentence speech bubbles throughout five chapters. Emergent readers are sure to get lost in the silly, friendly antics of this unlikely duo.

THOUGHTS: Fancy Friends is a fun, infectious story that is sure to make young readers laugh out loud.

Graphic Novel          Jackie Fulton, Mt. Lebanon SD

Elem./MG – Allergic: A Graphic Novel

Lloyd, Megan Wagner. Allergic: A Graphic Novel. Illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter. Graphix, 2020. 978-1-338-56891-2. 240 p. $24.99. Grades 3-6.

With younger twin brothers and a new baby on the way, Maggie feels alone in her loving family. She’s convinced her parents, who are preoccupied with baby names and other preparations, to let her adopt a puppy that will be her own. Maggie has been looking forward to her tenth birthday for a long time, since this is the day she gets her perfect pet. At the animal shelter, however, Maggie breaks out into a severe rash, and she learns that she’s allergic to anything with fur. So much for her puppy. Devastated, but determined to find the perfect pet, Maggie begins research, as she works her way through allergy shots and makes a new friend. Told in colorful graphic panels, readers will enjoy Maggie’s attempts at finding a perfect pet and will appreciate her frustration when things go awry with her new friend.

THOUGHTS: Readers with any allergies, but especially those allergic to pets, will felt represented in this cute graphic novel. A great addition to elementary and middle grade collections.

Graphic Novel          Maryalice Bond, South Middleton SD

MG – Jukebox

Chanani, Nidhi. Jukebox. First Second. 2021. 978-1-250-15636-5. 224 p. $21.99. Gr. 6-9.

Twelve-year old Shaheen and her father have always been connected through music, but lately his interest in record-collecting borders on obsession. When he doesn’t come home one evening, Shahi and her teenaged cousin Tannaz sneak into his favorite music shop to look for clues. In the attic, they discover a rare jukebox that plays whole records … and transports the listener to the album’s time period, for just as long as the side plays. A Bessie Smith record sends the girls to the Savoy Ballroom in Chicago. A Nina Simone album takes Tannaz on a solo trip to a women’s march in 1960s D.C. Shahi realizes that her dad may be trapped in another era, unable to return home. But traveling back and forth in their quest to find him has serious consequences, and the girls know they are running out of time to bring everyone home safely. The girls’ slight age difference provides an interesting dynamic, incorporating their unique strengths and insecurities. The author’s depiction of each era’s color palette and fashions are especially engaging. The abundant music references and iconic album covers are complemented by a Playlist at the book’s close, perfect inspiration for budding music lovers!

THOUGHTS: Nidhi Chanani’s Pashmina was well-received, and Jukebox displays even greater depth in portraying both adventure and family relationships.

Graphic Novel          Amy V. Pickett, Ridley SD

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