Accessible text matched with dynamic illustrations in engaging cartoon-panel layouts help make graphic novels inviting packages for younger readers, struggling or reluctant readers, and comics-loving kids. The following sampling of recommended titles from the spring 2013 issue of The Horn Book Guide includes perennial-favorite characters, debut series, graphic-novel adaptations, and more.
Assistant Editor, The Horn Book Guide
Bar-el, Dan That One Spooky Night
80 pp. Kids Can 2012 ISBN 978-1-55453-751-8
PE ISBN 978-1-55453-752-5
Gr. 1–3 Illustrated by David Huyck. Three unconnected comic-style vignettes feature ordinary children who encounter a witch, sea monsters in the bathtub, and a family of vampires on Halloween night. The spreads use words sparingly, allowing the muted but whimsical art to tell much of the story. More silly than spooky, this graphic novel will suit readers who would rather giggle than give themselves goosebumps.
Eaton, Maxwell III The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Evil Penguin Plan
96 pp. Knopf 2012 LE ISBN 978-0-375-96447-3
PE ISBN 978-0-375-86447-6
Eaton, Maxwell III The Flying Beaver Brothers and the Fish Business
96 pp. Knopf 2012 LE ISBN 978-0-375-96448-0
PE ISBN 978-0-375-86448-3
Gr. 1–3 Beaver brothers Ace and Bub live on Beaver Island, and in these first adventures they step up to save their home from evil resort-building penguins and a mackerel-run factory producing Fish Stix (toys). Humor and wordplay in the speech-bubble text will charm young graphic novel–lovers; comics-style illustrations — with spare lines, digital coloring, and lots of energy — maintain the action.
Fearing, Mark Earthling!
248 pp. Chronicle 2012 ISBN 978-1-8118-7106-8
PE ISBN 978-1-4521-0906-0
Gr. 4–6 In this sci-fi graphic novel, Bud gets on the wrong bus and ends up at Cosmos Academy, an intergalactic school whose students fear Earthlings. With the help of new friend Gort, Bud devises a plan to return home before the aliens figure out who he is. Action and humor (especially in the characters’ facial expressions) are successfully captured in bright cartoon panels.
Holm, Jennifer L. and Matthew Holm Babymouse for President
91 pp. Random 2012 LE ISBN 978-0-375-96780-1
PE ISBN 978-0-375-86780-4
Gr. 1–3 Babymouse isn’t the only one running for student council president — her opponents include enemy Felicia and her own cantankerous locker (who comes out ahead in the preliminary polls). Fans will enjoy this election year entry, as Babymouse daydreams (living in The Pink House, signing a bill for a no-fractions law) and learns hard lessons (sometimes the wrong candidate wins).
Nytra, David The Secret of the Stone Frog
80 pp. Candlewick/TOON 2012 ISBN 978-1-935179-18-4
Gr. 4–6 Toon Book series. In this graphic novel reminiscent of Victorian fantasy and classic fairy tales, Leah and younger brother Alan (who are about to move into separate bedrooms) awake to find themselves in a fanciful, sometimes scary world. The text’s surreal imagery paired with detailed pen-and-ink drawings depicting Wonderland-like people and creatures suit this story about the disorienting anxieties of growing up.
Rodríguez, Pedro Chilling Tales of Horror: Dark Graphic Short Stories
96 pp. Enslow 2012 LE ISBN 978-0-7660-4085-4
Gr. 4–6 Durable, chilling, and in graphic novel–format — what more could librarians want out of a horror series? Purists should be warned that significant liberties are taken with the seven tales (which include “The Hand” by Guy de Maupassant and Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Body Snatcher”) to make them quick, accessible reads. The detailed illustrations help convey the original emotional impact. Reading list, websites.
Vernon, Ursula Dragonbreath: Revenge of the Horned Bunnies
197 pp. Dial 2012 ISBN 978-0-8037-3677-1
Vernon, Ursula Dragonbreath: When Fairies Go Bad
202 pp. Dial 2012 ISBN 978-0-8037-3678-8
Gr. 4–6 Danny Dragonbreath heads to Camp Jackalope, and when the namesake creatures are being kidnapped, it’s Danny and crew to the rescue. Next up, Danny’s mom is snatched by totally not-sweet fairies, so Danny, iguana Wendell, and lizard Christiana board a bus to the Faerie realm. These sixth and seventh installments deliver the cartoon panels and wacky fare series fans will expect.
From the May/June 2013 issue of The Horn Book Magazine. These reviews are from The Horn Book Guide and The Horn Book Guide Online. For information about subscribing to the Guide and the Guide Online, click here.