Books in Brief: Early Spring-Cleaning Edition
The joys of working in a NYC public school in February: Vacation. It’s snowing outside, but I have set out to start spring cleaning early, and that means dusting off my pile of books to write some book reviews. The only thing these books have in common is that they’ve been read and gathering dust in my room waiting for me to have time to focus and write.
Junior High School Drama
By Louise Simonson, Jane B. Mason, & Jessica Gunderson. Illustrated by Sumin Cho.
Stone Arch Books.
Junior High is all about Drama. The day to day lives of kids growing up—each dealing with their own personal problems±—is like an ongoing play for all to see. This comic is broken up into four short stories, each illustrating a challenge that kids might deal with: A first date, dealing with illness (diabetes), body image, and so on. The characters are a diverse cast, and the stories move along, but even the publisher pegs these as “safe,” and so they lack a bit of edge. The saving grace is the artwork—it makes the stories pop and feel like a cartoon you might catch on TV.
By Lisa Naffziger
Iron Circus Comics
Grades 7 and up
It’s not often that I read a comic that is also a mystery. Beck has been home schooled as far back as she can remember, but now her father is taking her to college. Armed with a new smart phone and some friends that she networked with over message boards, Beck is ready for a fresh start. But while she is using a restroom at a rest stop, there is a shooting. Her father is now missing, and Beck sets out to find him. The title builds a lot of suspense, and though the story does come to an end, there is a lot of room for more. There is a bit of too much coincidence, so put on your willing suspension of disbelief. The artwork is dark to reflect the mood of the book, but it also builds much of the suspense, like a panel where the father grips a gun while watching a car approach him in the rear-view mirror. Minus will round out a teen reading collection come June when the book is released.
The Chancellor and the Citadel
By Maria Cappelle Frantz
Iron Circus Comics, $15.00
Grades 7 and up
In a world that depends for its protection on a mysterious, magical, hooded witch, known as the chancellor, a small group of people have become unsettled and choose to fight back, causing unrest. When the Chancellor mistakenly injures a human boy, the unrest escalates. This fantasy takes an interesting look at the idea of power and what it means and what is too much power. The story is a bit odd and the message very abstract, but readers who like fantasy and other worlds might enjoy this title. The detailed artwork builds the fantasy world better than the text—leaving a magical feeling with readers.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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