Pullman, Phillip. The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship. Scholastic, 2017. 9781338149128. $19.99. 159p. Gr. 3 to 7.
Philip Pullman’s first foray into graphic novels is The Adventures of John Blake: Mystery of the Ghost Ship. The story involves a time-traveling schooner that many people seem to know about and want to find, including the billionaire, Dahlberg, and, Danielle, a young woman who works for a maritime organization in San Francisco. The boat appears mysteriously after an otherworldly storm followed by a dense fog. The story includes a boy that can mysteriously kill you within a month if you look into his eyes, a 3D object related to time travel, an unsolved murder, and a monitoring device called an apparator, that the billionaire uses to keep tabs on everyone in the world who has one (which is most people.) THOUGHTS: I couldn’t wait to read this graphic novel from Philip Pullman since I’m a big fan of the His Dark Materials books. Although I wasn’t in love with the illustrations, they don’t detract from the story. The story itself kept me interested and the book’s characters are diverse: age, sex, and ethnicity are represented in a natural way. This is a an excellent addition to a school library and even though the publisher rates it for ages 8 to 12, older students and even graphic novel reading adults will enjoy this story.
Graphic Novel Bridget Fox, Central Bucks SD
Levy, Dana Alison. This Would Make a Good Story Someday. Delacorte Press, 2017. 978-1101938171. 315 pp. $19.99. Gr. 4-8.
Sara is going into Middle School after the summer and has detailed plans to spend time with her friends and improve herself. But surprise, Mimi (one of Sara’s moms) has won a month long train trip! Mimi is going to write about the trip and their family, college age Laurel, her boyfriend Root, Sara, their other mom, and Li, the little sister. Sara does not want any part of it but is dragged along anyway. To make matters worse, the other prize winner and his family are going to be traveling companions with them. THOUGHTS: I loved the fact that the two moms are not the central theme of this book. It also brings up some difficult and current topics through Laurel (very granola and political) but don’t force the reader to agree with the character’s views.
Realistic Fiction Emily Woodward, The Baldwin School
Snyder, Laurel. Orphan Island. Walden Pond Press, 2017. 978-0062443410. 288 p. $16.99 Gr. 4-7.
Each year, a new child mysteriously arrives in a green boat on an island where nine orphans live on their own, with no adults to care for them. Then, the eldest must leave because of a rhyme that has been passed down for as long as anyone can remember: “Nine on an island, orphans all/ Any more–the sky might fall.” When little Ess arrives, and Deen leaves, Jinny becomes the eldest, and she is haunted with the knowledge that her days on her beloved island are now numbered. The island is a safe, almost magical place, with gorgeous sunrises, snakes that don’t bite, and cliffs that are impossible to fall off. Only the water is dangerous, and no one knows where the new orphans come from or where the eldest orphans are headed. There are not a lot of rules to follow, but when rules are broken, there are consequences. “Never pick the last of anything” is a rule that was broken once, and as a result, there are no more curlyferns on the island. Jinny does not want to leave, and so, when a new orphan arrives, she simply refuses to get in the boat. When terrible things start happening, Jinny fears that her choice to break the most important Island rule is wreaking havoc on the only home she can remember. THOUGHTS: Orphan Island is an allegory about the transition from childhood to adulthood. The fact that it offers far more questions than answers might be frustrating to some readers. However, it is a beautifully written and thought-provoking book that rewards those who enjoy participating in the creative process of making meaning. A must-buy for upper elementary and middle school libraries. This book will stand the test of time.
Fantasy Maggie Bokelman, Cumberland Valley SD