The Witch Boy by Molly Ostertag

 

This book reminds me of The Tea Dragon Society in that the author has clearly already created a world with backstories and traditions and we just jump right in-not in a way that makes you say “whoa what’s going on?” but in a way that makes you feel comfortable in the world. In fact, this book needs no sequel, but I wouldn’t mind another story set here and involving this family of witches and shapeshifters.

The premise is that in this extended family (they all live together, on the outskirts of regular society) the males are shapeshifters and the females are witches and one must never ever try to do what is not set out for your gender. Although the overall theme/message of the book is not subtle at all, the message is a good one, so I’ll allow it.* Which of course leads us to the main character, Aster, a boy who doesn’t really fit with the other boys and is keenly interested in magic, even though everyone shoos him away from it.  But when some of the boys disappear, taken by one of the evil demons they periodically fight (?) Aster thinks that he can solve the problem if he uses the witchcraft he’s been secretly learning.

I liked the style of drawings and the story, especially when Aster makes friends with a non-magical girl (unhesitatingly spilling the beans about his magical family.)

 

*I just asked my daughter what she thought the message was (she read it first), wondering if she found it as obvious as I did and she said a very succinct “Always accept others as themselves”, which is awesome.

 

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Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

I was really looking forward to reading this and it did not disappoint. I pre-ordered it so we got it the day it was published and Tabby finished it by dinner time. I tried to make it last a little longer for myself.
There was a lot of humor here, but it really was pretty sad (to me). Poor Vera was at a camp she hated, she had trouble fitting in, longed for a friendship and nothing seemed to go right. I was fascinated by the aspects of it being a Russian camp. It seemed like a pretty tough camp, too-no running water?! Boys against girls getting to come up with crazy tasks for the losers?
A great book for fans of Real Friends, Smile, Sunny Side Up.

The ending makes me hopeful that she will write a second book based on her life.
(Don’t forget to read the author’s note at the end!)

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

I loved this! I was initially excited about it, but then I think I read a not great review of it, but I say that review was bunk because I really enjoyed this. Graphic novel: premise is that a prince loves to dress in women’s attire (wigs/gowns) and push the envelope in women’s fashion and he hires a new seamstress and shares his secret with her and they become tremendous friends. I really enjoyed this so much. I loved the fashion-the sketches, her designs, and also the bit of historical concept in there of a department store and ready to wear to clothes being a new modern idea. I enjoyed the Prince’s expressions of how he was a boy and just sometimes loved feeling like a woman. I loved his family’s responses. As for the drawings, they were pleasing to me. The prince has such a sharp triangular nose-he reminded me very much of Howl in the Studio Ghibli film version of Howl’s Moving Castle.

So, all in all –a good story, a good message without feeling didactic, and characters I really liked.

Calling Dr. Laura: a Graphic Memoir by Nicole Georges

lauraThis book had been on my radar for so long that it was rather built up in my head. For the longest time I wasn’t able to get it and finally my library had it and I was so excited to receive it. Not surprisingly, it couldn’t quite live up to what I had it built up to be. That said, this was a fine graphic memoir and I did enjoy it.  I liked the illustration style. The story itself is a memoir, all about Nicole’s family secrets (her family told her her father was dead-he wasn’t) and coming out to her family. The Dr. Laura part was smaller than I thought it would be (again, built up in my head.) Overall, this was good but not the best I’d ever read.

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

marvelsI really liked Wonderstruck and the Invention of Hugo Cabret, so was pretty excited to read Selznick’s latest. A beautiful deep blue cover with golden illustration and gleaming gold edged pages, this book looks enchanting and special from the get go. It is the same tremendous size and heft as Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, and the same storytelling method-large illustrated pages (wordless) and then text. I especially liked the non-text sections of the story. And as for the story? It goes in such an unexpected and strange (but charming) direction. Selznick is an impressive researcher and the afterward is a must-read. Without giving anything away, but so that I remember for myself-it focuses on generations of a family of actors and a present day child trying to unravel the mystery of them and how his reclusive uncle fits in with it all.

I am Princess X by Cherie Priest

Remember how on my birthday I responded to every Facebook birthday wish with a book recommendation? I was so tickled this summer when one of my librarian friends said she liked the idea so much that she did the same thing on her birthday! And this is the book she recommended to me.

princessxI LOVED this. Some graphic novel pages thrown in, a mystery [two girls create Princess X in story and pictures, one girl dies, the other one doesn’t believe it, and a few years later she sees Princess X pasted up all over the city), and a wild story. I loved how it came together and the girls’ friendship. Isn’t it convenient, though, how often in fiction (books or tv or movies) some teenager is always an amazing hacker? Have you ever known one in real life? I haven’t, but the world of fiction is lousy with these geniuses. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened and was super caught up in it. Terrific story.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

summerThis book got a ton of buzz because it received a Printz honor and a Caldecott honor. Say what? a young adult award and a picture book award? Yes. And yeah, the Caldecott guidelines are for illustration, not technically a picture book, which is why they are giving it to this book, but I say rewrite those guidelines and stop giving what I believe is meant to be a picture book award to a young adult coming of age graphic novel that is quite mature. But, I think this is a good book and am delighted for the author, illustrator, and publisher (First Second, of course!).
Anyway, the book itself. It is indeed about one summer and two friends, one of whom, Windy, is a bit younger. This summer feels different for Rose for a lot of reasons. Her parents seem to be struggling over possibly grief and/or disagreement, Windy’s immaturity and free-spirit are occasionally unwelcome, and she is somewhat attracted to somewhat unsavory older teens.
I loved the illustration style and the blue palette. I especially enjoyed the character of Windy and the contrast between her and Rose. Windy is still on the side of childhood, filled with exuberance, self-confidence, and fun. Poor Rose has crossed the line into adolescence and all the burden of angst that comes with that.