Friends Forever by Shannon Hale

Read 10/4/21

Highly anticipated as I loved the first two and was eager to see how Shannon continues to deal with adolescent friendships. I was not quite prepared for this one to be quite a bit more mature than the first two, although it obviously makes chronological sense. I mean, it is her life and she is getting older.
Shannon does reflect on and refer to the friendship groups she had in the first books, she once again seamlessly mentions her faith (Jesus seems like a nice pal of hers), but now there is a lot boy-girl relationships that she faces, as well as a real mental health crisis. Some boys (and girls) seem willing to make out with anyone, but she’s pretty sure that’s not for her. She’s also realizing that 1980s Utah is super sexist and experiences anxiety/depression that no one seems to really notice. [I really wanted to step into the book and have a word with her parents.] She also has an icky experience which adult Shannon addresses in an afterward.

I really felt badly for her and while it’s terrible knowing that that’s what went on in her life, as least you know she DOES grow up to become a very successful and happy author.

Witches of Brooklyn: What the Hex?! by Sophie Escabasse

Read 9/30/21

I really enjoyed the first Witches of Brooklyn and I’m pleased this sequel was just as (nearly?) enjoyable. Effie is feeling more comfortable with her witchiness and new friends, so of course something has to come along to upset that. In this case, it’s a new girl. So now Effie is no longer the new girl and feeling less confident of her new friendships. Meanwhile, you get to see a neighborhood witch meeting (they’re all around us! And just regular people!) and be as surprised as Effie to find out the magical problem behind a busy neighborhood intersection. To be honest, I enjoyed this subplot MORE than Effie’s nose being out of joint about not being the new kid, but that’s just because I liked the whole “behind the scenes” aspect of finding out about magic in the neighborhood, how they fix things, who has magic, etc. Solid.

Katie the Catsitter by Colleen AF Venable

Read 9/20/21

We’ve been Venable fans in our house since the kids were little and we adored the Guinea P.I. books. I was so excited for her first middle grade graphic novel and this did not disappoint. First of all, there a ton of cats in this story. So many cats! With so many talents! I just thought it was hilarious. And the mystery of who’s the superhero and what’s happening is very enjoyable, too. I eagerly look forward to more. Bonus points for the yearbook style end pages where all the cats are listed with their talents, and they are amazing.

Secrets of Camp Whatever by Chris Grine

Earlier this summer I was at Girl Scout camp. While my unit was doing origami I saw that one of the other counselors had left a graphic novel on the table. I picked it up and happily read half of it. Took a pic of the cover and put the book on hold so that when we got home I could finish reading it.
This was terrific (and I see it’s a vol. 1).
I could definitely see this having high appeal for kids who like Gravity Falls and Over the Garden Wall. It’s got gnomes, people disappearing, vampires about rumors, and kids on a self contained island at a camp with a reputation.

Very enjoyable.

The Leak by Kate Petty

Children’s/Middle Grade Graphic novel. Leak is a clever title here because a leak is something in journalism, and in this case the avid journalist wants to investigate and reveal some kind of toxic leak into the town’s water supply. (Yes, this is directly inspired by the Flint water situation.) What I really liked about this story was that the main character has all the passion and desire to uncover the wrongs inflicted by corporations and immoral folks, but she gets some real journalism lessons from an older friend working at the NY Times about evidence, bias, and not jumping to conclusions.

Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell

I bought this book for my library a pretty long time ago, but only just read it now in April. I’m so glad I did because I really liked it and can recommend it more confidently now. In fact, I recommended it to the literacy coach at our school and she got it to be the “one book, one school” summer reading book. I’m pretty psyched about that as it’s a graphic novel. I was disappointed to have one teacher tell me she “hated it” and it “was terrible.” I hate to be one of those people but I’m going to straight up say “then you didn’t get it.” And maybe even “then you don’t understand how to read good books.” I think this book has a lot offer kids,and I especially love the emphasis on creativity and make believe, something we do don’t see often enough outside of picture books. (that’s one of the reasons I especially liked Seance Tea Party by Reimena Yee.) In fact, I see I focused on that in my original review over on GR:

This is just terrific. a wonderful homage to children playing in the most creative of fashions, of using their imaginations, of just having fun having make believe adventures. What I especially loved is that one: they aren’t babyish. And I always like to see older kids having creative fun and pretending. and two: each story has some insight into their non-make believe life, which covers a lot of things like bullying, family dynamics, and gender expression. A really lovely book.

And of course, the other thing I like about this book is the way the p.o.v. changes for each chapter (with a different author for each section) and you really find out about each character and his or her own issues. And some of them do have very real and relatable issues with themselves and their families.

One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

Another book I read back in April…
I’m pretty sure that this is a book I had read previously and that this was a new edition. Or maybe a compilation? I wasn’t exactly sure but I knew I’d read at least some of it. Maybe this new edition had new artwork? I don’t know. But I did like this story set at a boarding school. There are mean people scheming, new girl fitting it, maybe a supernatural element? Tabby bought it (She bought a whole lot of new gn’s for her personal collection this spring, which give me lots to read and reread) so I can reread it even again if I want to 🙂

Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd

Very delightful and charming realistic fiction graphic novel. I think my 4th and 5th grade students will love this. Also so many of them have allergies that I think this will be a comforting and relatable book for many. There’s no magic answer for Maggie’s severe pet allergy and it truly stinks that’s she got it and can’t have a dog. Her feelings and sadness are believable and understandable and her parents are super kind. How it all works out is very satisfying.
A nice book.

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley

I am hot and cold on Lucy Knisley’s stuff, to be honest. However, I was pretty excited about this middle grade realistic fiction graphic novel, which I knew would be a hit with my students. I really liked this, though I felt upset knowing (from reading ahead of time and then from her afterward) that it was very much a true memoir. Her mom’s boyfriend is a dick who puts her down and her mom doesn’t stand up for her. Her mom and mom’s boyfriend seem pretty demanding (we’ve moved to the country but you have all the chores and are soley responsible for caring for chickens you didn’t even want.) as well as uncaring of her feelings (taking the boyfriend’s children’s side without seeing what’s really happening.) I felt so so outraged on her behalf and upset that none of the adults really acknowledged how wrong that all was.  I do think a lot of kids will relate to the “adults in my life make decisions that affect me but I just have to go along with it because I’m a kid” aspect.  I’m curious how kids will react to this.

Twins by Varian Johnson and Shannon Wright

This is a good realistic fiction graphic novel that I will definitely be recommending to all my avid realistic fiction gn readers (of which there are many.) The premise is that twins are starting a new school for 6th grade and there are big changes which one twin is super anxious about and the other is more excited about. The big difference is that they are in different classes. Different classes! New friends! New experiences! Pretty standard. But what was really interesting to me and actually super fascinating was that this middle school had an ROTC like program that the shyer twin is enrolled in. In 6th grade! And not only that but in 5th grade they all had academic rankings that they were all aware of. I literally cannot imagine this for 5th graders (the grade I teach.) I was very interested in the family dynamics (pretty strict but loving parents). They all felt much older than 6th grade to me.