Reviews: Three Series from Lerner/Graphic Universe
Lerner Books publishes a variety of graphic novels under its Graphic Universe imprint. Here’s a look at three light-hearted series for younger elementary grade readers.
Q & Ray Case #1: The Missing Mola Lisa
Q & Ray Case #2: Meteorite or Meteor-Wrong?
Q & Ray Case #3: Foul Play at Elm Tree Park
By Trisha Speed Shaskan and Stephen Shaskan
Each of these cheery graphic novels has the anthropomorphized animal duo of Q (short for Quillian Lu Hedgeson) and Ray solving a mystery. All three are thefts: A painting disappears from a museum, a fake meteorite is swapped for a real one at the science center, and a baseball signed by a famous female baseball player is switched for a forgery. The solutions all hinge on small details, and Q’s bowtie camera is a big help, as is Ray’s interest in nerdy topics like magic and meteorites. There are also a lot of running jokes, such as Ray’s love for limburger cheese and Ms. Boar telling her class to “Settle.” Don’t be fooled by the very simple art: These books are more sophisticated than they look at first glance, with clever characters (there’s an animal version of Neil deGrasse Tyson in Book 2) and interesting information (such as the focus on the brief history of women’s baseball in Book 3).
The Whiskers Sisters #1: May’s Wild Walk
The Whiskers Sisters #2: The Mystery of the Tree Stump Ghost
By Miss PATY
Lerner Graphic Universe
The Whiskers Sisters stories are more visually complex than Q and Ray, but the stories themselves are actually simpler. The three sisters live in a fanciful house in the woods, and despite having the same grandfather (the Guardian of the Forest), they look nothing alike. Maya is a pink-haired girl with antlers, Mia is a blue cat, and May is a baby. In the first book, May accidentally ends up in the bag of their letter carrier, a perpetually flustered owl, and has all sorts of adventures with the forest creatures while her sisters, who are preparing a big party, are too busy to notice. In the second, a ghost who is scaring the forest creatures turns out to be an odd and rather boring hermit, who keeps company with wood sprites. The art is very busy, and the human characters have enormous, odd-looking eyes, but the many animals that populate these stories are well drawn and have as much personality as the humans.
One morning, when he doesn’t want to go to school, Leopold discovers he has the power to turn invisible. Rather than dealing with the boring details of how this might work, the authors go straight to the pranks, which include fart jokes, stealing cake, and messing with the other kids’ minds on the playground. Leopold’s sister Celine is sometimes his partner and sometimes his victim, but it’s always lighthearted. The comics are simply laid out, with big, relatively uncluttered panels, and the humor is along the lines of a slightly tamer Captain Underpants.
About Brigid Alverson
Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good E-Reader.com. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.
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