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Wednesday, February 3, 2016

The Top 7 New Graphic Novels for ages 8-12

Hi friends!



Your kids are always bringing home graphic novels, right? They love them and they can't get enough. I know because every time I tell someone I read graphic novels they say, "Oh my kids love graphic novels!" And they ask me for recommendations.

So let me tell you about the best ones of this year.

But first an embarrassing story:

Yesterday I posted about the 2015 Cybils Graphic Novel shortlist for teens, and I named some emotions each book made me feel. But right away I got a note from Sheila, reminding me that I'm not allowed to post anything about my own opinions (or those of the other judges) until after the big announcement on Valentines' Day. Oops! I am usually a round 1 judge for the Cybils, and round 1 judges are encouraged to post about nominees.

So I went back and edited the post to include the official Cybils summaries instead. Once the winners are announced, I'll fill that post back in with my original commentary, plus a little bit more. :)

Today I want to clue you in on the best graphic novels of the year for middle grade readers (ages 8-12). For now I'll put the Cybils summaries in, and after Valentine's Day I'll add my commentary. In the meantime the cover images will link to Amazon so that you can go there and read reviews and such. If you shop through my links (for anything on Amazon, not just books), I earn a small commission.

2016's Top 7 Graphic Novels for ages 8-12



Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola
Masha is in a bit of a rough spot. Her mother died when she was young, and her beloved grandmother has died more recently. Her father, always distant towards her, has revealed that he’s marrying a woman she hasn’t met, much less heard of… and the new wife has her own young daughter who never misses an opportunity to point out that Masha doesn’t belong. Masha agrees, and sets out to find a place where she feels competent– in the chicken hut of Baba Yaga, whose stories play a huge role in her memories of family and belonging. Masha thinks she’s equal to any challenge Baba Yaga might set for her, but when her new stepsister and friends appear to be on the dinner menu, she finds that she’s not really up for murder. Now she must come up with a solution that will allow her to keep the kids alive… and follow Baba Yaga’s directions and keep her job. Many kids dealing with unpleasant family issues might dream of running away to a fairytale world. The macabre story choice here and the need to work out troubles in both places anchor what might otherwise feel escapist. It showcases Masha’s depth and kindness, and make this a compelling read. ~ Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books
Thoughts from Alysa: I liked this one a lot. It was very beautiful, and reminded me of fairy tales int he best way. My only complaint is that it went by too fast! I felt the pacing was so quick at times that I wasn't sure exactly what had happened in between panels.


Courtney Crumrin Vol 7: Tales of a Warlock by Ted Naifeh
In the new volume of Ted Naifeh’s Crumrin series, we get to read the back story of her Uncle Aloysius Crumrin as a young man…. err, warlock. Courtney herself has yet to be born, but the exciting tale of magical intrigue, greed, and murder features a tough heroine determined to do what’s right. Aloysius and Alice’s romance adds a lot to the telling, and though it’s not clear how things will play out in future volumes, longtime fans of the series will note Alice’s physical resemblance to Courtney. This volume works well as a standalone for readers new to the series, who will almost certainly seek out the rest of the books after reading this one. ~Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books
Thoughts from Alysa: Loved this one! However I was confused as to why it was in the Juvenile category, instead of the YA category. It definitely has a more YA feel, in my opinion. No language or gore or anything to make it necessarily for the older crowd, just the themes of it seemed better suited to an older audience. Anyway, it makes me want to read the whole series!  

Dragons Beware by Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado
Dragons Beware! has all the cliches of the dragon-slaying genre, but the standard elements are turned on their heads with hilarious characters and dialogue. Claudette is the daughter of warriors (and the sibling of a young chef) who is set on recovering her father’s magic sword from the belly of a ferocious dragon while surrounded by an uproarious supporting cast of princes, princesses, soldiers and servants.
The kid appeal of Dragons Beware! is strong, and the messages about negotiation, courage, and family are subtly integrated into a highly satisfying adventure. ~Gary Anderson, What’s not wrong?
Thoughts from Alysa: This one was cute. I liked the teamwork and the humor and seeing the characters from the first book all over again. 

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson
Astrid is twelve years old, and has just developed a love for roller derby. She is devastated to learn that her best friend, Nicole, will not be joining her at derby camp. In fact, they are drifting apart, and Astrid can’t figure out why. Astrid learns that being honest with yourself and those you love is a difficult but important journey to take. With beautiful color illustrations and excellent storytelling Roller Girl is a fun take on that awkward time of life. ~ Sami Silva, Reading. Happily.
Thoughts from Alysa: This one was so much fun. And I will tell you that even though it contains my absolute pet peeve in middle grade books, which is kids lying to their parents, This is because I didn't lie to my parents. I still recommend it anyway. The lying was used to show that lying is bad, and the book was definitely worth reading. 

Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang
Fish-out-of-water, first-day-at-new-school stories are dime a dozen, but 12-year-old Hopper’s new school, Stately Academy, is something entirely different. For one thing, all the buildings have the number 9 on them, and in the trees all the birds have four eyes in varying combinations of being open and closed. But it’s the combination of discovering binary numbers and a secret robot hidden in the janitor closet that sends Hopper and her new friends on the path to opening a portal that will reveal the secrets hidden within Stately Academy… but only if they successfully can work out the code! The first book in a new series that sets out to teach readers how to code while solving a mystery, Secret Coders is an entertaining and accessible graphic introduction to the building blocks of computer programming. ~ David Elzey, Guyslitwire
Thoughts from Alysa: This one is my personal favorite on the list, but man oh man does it end on a cliffhanger! I reviewed it here, before the Cybils, if you want to see all the reasons I love it. 

Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm
In 1976, Sunny Lewin is sent to spend part of her summer is her grandfather in Florida. Sunny is upbeat about the trip, but quickly loses her optimism the more her grandfather takes her on errands and not to Disney World. Sunny knows, however, that she was sent to be with Gramps for a reason that had nothing to do with Disney World. Her older brother has started to act strangely mean and aloof, and she thinks it’s all her fault. With cute color illustrations and a story that connects with younger readers, Sunny Side Up, proves to hit a tough subject with grace and understanding. ~ Sami Silva, Reading. Happily.
Thoughts from Alysa: This was probably my most highly anticipated book of the year. I love the Holm's work, and plus there was all kinds of buzz for this book before it came out. I liked it, and thought it was really cool. But I guess it didn't really strike a particular chord with me. I have been thinking about it though, and about how I want my kids to know the lesson that Sunny learns in the book: you don't have to keep big ugly secrets. 

The Marvels by Brian Selznick
In Brian Selznick’s unique graphic hybrid style, The Marvels draws the reader into a dizzying tale of shipwreck,, theater, family, and legacy. We follow the generations of Marvels as they perform on various stages, and lead lives both admirable and dissolute… and then look again, as a modern descendant, Joseph, tries to put all the pieces together after running away to his uncle’s house in London, and discovers a truly marvelous testimony to family, and to love. As the book says –you either see it… or you don’t. ~ Liz Jones, Liz Jones Books
Thoughts from Alysa: This was probably my least favorite of the finalists. I think that's because I like Brian Selznick's other two books so much, and that this one didn't jive with me as well. There were definitely moments in the narrative when I was confused as to what was happening. I thought it was a bold move for Selznick to tell a story that spans such a long timeline (3 or 4 generations, if I remember right). Overall though, the book just left me feeling kind of sad. So, check it out when you're in the mood for it. 

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