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Fantastic (graphic-novel) voyages

These engaging new graphic-novel adventures draw intermediate and middle-school readers in to fantastical worlds that are variously beautiful and bizarre.

The Sand Warrior kicks off the 5 Worlds series, a sweeping, sci-fi/fantasy graphic-novel saga written by Mark Siegel and Alexis Siegel and illustrated by Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, and Boya Sun. Three kids from very different backgrounds — unconfident sand-dancer-in-training Oona Lee, part-vegetal orphan An Tzu, and celebrity starball player Jax Amboy — come together for a quest to find Oona’s missing sister. With its inventive, multi-layered world-building; dynamic characters; and triumphant ending, this first installment will leave readers eagerly awaiting book two. (Random House, 8–11 years)

Indian American teen Priyanka, star of Nidhi Chanani‘s Pashmina, finds a beautiful pashmina in an old suitcase of her mother’s; when she wears it, she has visions of a vibrant, fantastical India. When Pri visits India in reality, she uncovers the pashmina’s origins and its connection to her mother’s past — and grows to love the true India. Priyanka is a realistically complex, sometimes moody character. Chanani uses color to great emotional effect, distinguishing contemporary reality from the past and from Pri’s imagined India. (Roaring Brook/First Second, 9–12 years)

In Molly Knox Ostertag’s The Witch Boy, boys are shapeshifters and girls are witches — or so everyone keeps telling Aster, who has been studying spells in secret despite the norms of his magical community. When some of the clan’s adolescent boys go missing, Aster and his new non-magic friend Charlotte investigate; together they save the clan and persuade the community to rethink its strict adherence to gender roles. An invented magical language is effectively represented by symbols within word balloons. (Scholastic/Graphix, 9–12 years)

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke picks up right where the previous book, Mighty Jack, left off. In pursuit of the ogre who kidnapped his sister Maddy, Jack and his sword-wielding neighbor Lilly pass through a wormhole into a strange fantasy world of floating castles, giant rats, and babbling goblins. Jack’s bravado and macho rhetoric (“I’m going to catch up to that ogre, smash its head, and bring my sister home”) are tempered by Lilly’s moving display of self-sacrifice and Maddy’s surprising show of swordsmanship. (Roaring Brook/First Second, 9–12 years)

From the February 2018 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

Katie Bircher About Katie Bircher

Katie Bircher, associate editor at The Horn Book, Inc., is a former bookseller and holds an MA in children's literature from Simmons College. She served as chair of the 2018 Boston Globe-Horn Book Award committee. Follow Katie on Twitter @lyraelle.

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