Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by Mariah Marsden

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Title: Anne of Green Gables: A Graphic Novel adapted by Mariah Marsden

Premise:

Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert (siblings) want to adopt a boy who can help them with work on their farm, but through a mistake they end up with a girl instead.  Anne Shirley is nothing like what they expected, but she wins their hearts and they decide to keep her.  This is the story of Anne’s childhood and its defining moments.

My thoughts:

I’ve been a fan of Anne Shirley since I was a kid, so this graphic novel really had me excited!  I was also kind of afraid, too.  What if it was done poorly?  What if they didn’t capture Anne’s spirit and humor?  What if they butchered one of my all-time favorite stories???

I’ll lay to rest those insecurities right now and tell you that I absolutely loved this book!  The format is, of course, different from the original, but it still manages to capture the magic of the story.  The graphic novel focuses on simplified and essential dialogue, pivotal events, and the emotions/reactions/feelings of the characters.  A lot of detail was necessarily cut out, but the essence of the story came through loud and clear.  I’ll confess that it made me cry a couple of times.  The story ends on a hopeful note, with Anne and Gilbert finally reconciling and the hint of love in the air.  *sigh*

The artwork is really nice.  There are plenty of charming and lovely vignettes, and a wonderful color palette.

I recommend Anne of Green Gables to fans of the original book, and to elementary-age kids as a good introduction to the story.

Rating: 5 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

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Alice in Wonderland: A Graphic Novel by Powell & Ferran

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Title: Alice in Wonderland: A Graphic Novel by Martin Powell & Daniel Ferran

Premise:

Alice goes on a picnic with her sister, but becomes bored and falls asleep.  She has a fantastically outrageous dream about talking animals, a violent queen, and growing and shrinking.

My thoughts:

The story of Alice in Wonderland is totally bizarre and out there, and you shouldn’t expect anything different in the graphic novel.  Since this is a shortened way of sharing the story, the zany and nonsensical scenes seem to randomly follow one another.  From an adult perspective, the story seemed disjointed and strange (and I already know the plot), so I can imagine kids would be confused by it.

The artwork is very nicely done and I like how they visually represented each scene, but that’s not enough to make up for the seemingly pointless story.  I think Alice in Wonderland works better in its original form.  The story requires more words to try and make sense of the ridiculous events.

I recommend Alice in Wonderland to elementary-age kids who would like to learn the premise of the original tale without committing to reading a longer book.

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Smurfs: The Village Behind the Wall by Peyo

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Title: The Smurfs: The Village Behind the Wall by Peyo

Notable: Unnumbered volume from The Smurfs Graphic Novels series

Premise:

The Smurfs discover a whole new village filled with only girl Smurfs!  Wild adventures await as the Smurfs try to keep up with the ladies on their own turf in a more jungle-like setting.  Based on the 2017 movie, Smurfs: The Lost Village.

My thoughts:

Though this collection of stories is overflowing with female Smurfs, it wasn’t my favorite Smurfs graphic novel.  It’s probably because I don’t know the characters well and I haven’t seen the movie that the stories are based on.  While the concept is really cool, I wasn’t that impressed with the stories themselves.  They weren’t very engaging and that’s why I gave this book only 3 1/2 stars.

There are a couple of things which I really like about the book.  The female Smurfs are very much like Amazons in their abilities and way of life.  Unlike the prissy Smurfette, these ladies can fight, ride dragonflies, thrive in the wilderness and aren’t afraid to get dirty.  I also like the way these lady Smurfs look–with their blue hair, purple-blue-green color scheme, and almost Polynesian-looking camouflage.

I recommend The Smurfs: The Village Behind the Wall to Smurf fans.  Girls will probably especially like it because it features a whole cast of female Smurfs.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Super Billy Goats Gruff: A Graphic Novel by Sean Tulien

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Title: Super Billy Goats Gruff by Sean Tulien

Premise:

Three goats want to get to the hillside to eat grass and grow fat.  Their way  is blocked, however, by a fearsome beast and his minions, whom they must defeat.

My thoughts:

I was surprised by how nicely they expanded and played with the Billy Goats Gruff story.  There isn’t a lot to it, but this author had the idea of turning it into an adventure like what you might find in a video game level.  Each of the brothers has a specific role (warrior, wizard and ninja), chooses a different route to take, has special powers, and fights different minions along the way.  At the end the brothers work together to defeat the “boss,” so they can get to the coveted field of grass.  😉

The story is really simple, but I enjoyed the characterization of the goats and the fun video game take on the story.  The artwork fit the theme perfectly.  You can tell the story premise came from the mind of someone who is into video games.  It takes subtle jabs at the genre and/or the way characters behave in those games.  My favorite character was Big Gruff and I thought his power up scene was hilarious!

I recommend Super Billy Goats Gruff to elementary-age kids who like fun retellings of  fairy tales.  I think boys would really get a kick out of this one.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Jewel Smurfer by Peyo

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Title: The Jewel Smurfer by Peyo

Notable: Book #19 in The Smurfs Graphic Novels series

Premise:

Jokey Smurf is discovered and captured by a couple of street performers.  His performance earns them some really good money, but a thief in the audience wants to collaborate with them to get even more money.  He convinces them that they should take advantage of Jokey’s small size and have him steal jewels from the rich people in town.

My thoughts:

This story was kind of sad as far as Smurf stories go.  There’s kidnapping, robbery, duplicity.  The people are pretty awful.  The poor little Smurfs and an unfortunate mouse are at the mercy of the greedy humans, but eventually Papa Smurf comes up with a plan to foil them all.  The bad buys get what’s coming to them and the Smurfs go back to their village to celebrate the spring equinox.

The most objectionable part in the book is when the thief holds his knife up to the neck of Papa Smurf and the mouse, threatening violence against them unless the other Smurfs cooperate.  It’s not awful, but not really something you want your kids copying, either.

I recommend The Jewel Smurfer to fans of the Smurfs.  It shows a darker side to the human spirit than some of the other Smurf graphic novels.

Possible Objections:

  • The thief threatens violence against a mouse and a Smurf

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Adventures of Hercules by Powell & Ruiz

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Title: The Adventures of Hercules by Martin Powell & José Alfonso Ocampo Ruiz

Premise:

Hercules, the son of Zeus and a mortal woman, is plagued by Zeus’ wife, Hera.  In her jealousy, she robs him of his birthright, and tricks him into serving King Eurystheus by making him think he has committed a heinous crime.  Hercules has epic adventures, battling fearsome monsters and defending mankind.

My thoughts:

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this relatively short graphic novel about Hercules.  Certainly, it’s a simplified version of his life.  It doesn’t touch on his death at all, except in the beginning section where the author gives a general overview of his life.

This is an awesome book to introduce your child to the story of Hercules!  It’s a perfect story to tell in graphic novel form because it’s chock full of action.  In fact, that’s the main gist of the story–you see Hercules jump from one quest to another, usually slaying a monster or conquering some other beast.  There is a fair bit of violence, but it’s not terribly gruesome.  I’d say it’s appropriate for elementary-age kids.  I can see boys really getting into this book.  The artwork is quite impressive, too.

I recommend The Adventures of Hercules to kids who enjoy graphic novels, adventure stories and/or Roman mythology.

Possible Objections:

  • Lots of cartoon violence & some blood

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Can’t Smurf Progress by Peyo

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Title: Can’t Smurf Progress by Peyo

Notable: Book #23 in The Smurfs Graphic Novels series

Premise:

While Papa Smurf is away, the Smurfs build mechanical servants to help with their work and to wait on them.  The Smurfs become lazy and entitled, while their servants do all the work without complaint.  Through a freak accident, one of the mechs gains consciousness and leads a revolution to break free of the Smurfs’ rule.

My thoughts:

The premise of this book was really inventive.  It’s pretty funny to see wooden tree stump servants gadding about, holding trays of food.  Not really what you picture when you think artificial intelligence.  It totally fits the smurf style, though.

This story makes you think about the way we’ve become lazy today and expect other people or devices to do for us what we could and sometimes should be doing for ourselves.  It also has something to say about the way that we should treat people who we have power over.  In the story the Smurfs have servants who would be classified as slaves if they were sentient beings, but the same principles could apply to a maid, butler, waiter or waitress, cashier, etc.  We should always treat people with kindness and respect, and be reasonable in our expectations of them.  In the end the mechs are destroyed and the Smurfs decide they’re better off doing their own honest work instead of relying on servants.

I recommend Can’t Smurf Progress to fans of the Smurfs.  I really enjoyed it!

Possible Objections:

  • One of the Smurfs tries to sneak a peek at Smurfette as she’s showering outside

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Mystery in the Snow by Gertrude Chandler Warner

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Title: The Mystery in the Snow by Gertrude Chandler Warner

Notable: Book #32 in The Boxcar Children series

Premise:

The Alden children visit a ski resort with their grandfather and get to enter a winter event competition.  When it seems like the contest is being sabotaged, it’s up to the Alden children to figure out who is ruining it and why.

My thoughts:

You can count on The Boxcar Children for innocent and simple mystery stories for kids.  While there’s nothing profound in this book, it keeps kids engaged by presenting a mystery which they try to unravel.  When I was a kid I loved this series and it still holds somewhat of a magical, mystical quality for me.

The story itself is pretty simple.  The kids enter a contest which features skiing, ice skating, sledding, snow sculpture and ice sculpture.  Two teams compete and at the end they hold an awards ceremony.  From the beginning though, the competition seems to be experiencing an awful lot of misfortune, from a missing key to other peoples’ work being ruined.  This would be an especially appropriate story during the Christmas season, or for kids who enjoy outdoor winter activities.

I recommend The Mystery in the Snow to children who enjoy mysteries without any objectionable material.  It would also be suitable to read aloud to your family.

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Reckless Life: Guns N’ Roses by Jim McCarthy & Marc Olivent

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Title: Reckless Life: Guns N’ Roses by Jim McCarthy & Marc Olivent

Premise:

The history of the sensational hard rock band, Guns N’ Roses, told in graphic novel form.  From the early days of its band members, through their tumultuous yet successful era, to the breakup of the original band and its aftermath.

My thoughts:

I was really excited to read this book!  I grew up listening to Guns N’ Roses, though I was too young at the time to take any notice of their personal shenanigans.  That’s probably a good thing.  Sadly, this book was just so-so for me.  The beginning is really cluttered up by a lot of information that introduces us to the variety of characters who eventually come together later in the story.  It tends to jump (seemingly randomly) between the young characters and can get mighty confusing.

That brings me to my next criticism.  There is almost no overarching narration that would help tie everything together and make it more cohesive.  If there had been a narrator to introduce us to the characters and settings, it would have been clearer.  Switching the first-person narrator (sometimes in the middle of a page) without warning the reader, is just a recipe for confusion.

All of the artwork is in black and white and it has sort of a unique look to it.  It’s something you’ll either love or hate.  Personally, it’s not my favorite style for illustrating graphic novels.  It reminds me of a scrapbook with little captions or stories written to go with each image.  Some of the images literally look like snapshots arranged on the page.

The story itself was interesting once I got past the initial introduction and back story of the main characters.  This band was majorly messed up and all I can say is, “Thank God I’m not a rock star!”  Though I did learn many things about the band, I think I would have preferred learning it from a traditional chapter book.  The band’s history and interconnected stories are too complex to capture adequately in a graphic novel.  I don’t know if I’ll seek out anymore books about GNR, but if I ever feel like reading about a majorly messed up lifestyle, I’ll know where to look.

I recommend Reckless Life: Guns N’ Roses to adult fans of GNR.  I think that unless you’re a fan, the comic won’t be interesting enough to keep your attention.

Possible Objections:

  • Lots of profanity
  • Lots of drug use
  • A bit of sexuality

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Smurf Menace by Peyo

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Title: The Smurf Menace by Peyo

Notable: Book #22 in The Smurfs Graphic Novels series

Premise:

When the Smurfs start to argue and bicker, Papa Smurf cooks up some magic to help them learn a lesson about what they will become if they continue their unkind behavior.  His magic works a little too well, however, and the Smurfs suffer hardships at the hands of their doppelgängers, before they’re able to reverse the spell.

My thoughts:

I enjoyed this book, but holy cow, it is way out there in terms of its subject matter!  Smurfs locked up in a prison camp?  Check.  A Smurf getting whipped?  Check.  Lots of Smurf on Smurf violence?  Check, again!  I wasn’t quite prepared for the serious road that this story was going down.

The gist of the story is that we get to see the worst Smurf behavior–what would happen to the kindly Smurfs if they let their unkind impulses take over.  Basically, they behave like bad people–physically hurting others, taking what isn’t theirs, trying to dominate others, even going so far as to threaten to kill the others (though thankfully they are not successful).  This really is a mature story and I feel it’s too grown-up for kids (preteen and up would probably be okay).  I still feel like I’m mentally processing it.  How do you deal with it when some of your favorite, innocent characters are caught up in an adult situation?  My brain is having a hard time accepting it.

I recommend The Smurf Menace to older children and adult fans of the Smurfs.  I think the subject matter is too mature for younger kids.

Possible Objections:

  • A fair bit of violence
  • Smurfs imprisoned in a work camp
  • One Smurf is whipped (not graphic & it hits his behind)

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Finance Smurf by Peyo

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Title: The Finance Smurf by Peyo

Notable: Book #18 in The Smurfs Graphic Novels series

Premise:

When one of the Smurfs accompanies Oliver to town, he is introduced to the concept of money and wants to institute its use in the Smurf village.  While Papa Smurf is in bed recovering from an injury, Finance Smurf begins a whole system of finance which leaves some Smurfs poor and others with more money than they know what to do with.  Eventually the Smurfs become so fed up with the system that they decide to leave and start their own village, where they can go back to the old way of doing things–without money.  Finance Smurf relents and asks the Smurfs to come back to the village.

My thoughts:

Honestly, when I started this one I didn’t have very high hopes for it.  How could a story about money and Smurfs be interesting?  It was very nicely done, though, with Peyo making a subtle commentary on the pitfalls of using a monetary system to meet all of our needs.

This story isn’t as lighthearted as most of the others.  There are Smurfs who are worried and upset about their lack of money and the predatory financial practices used by Finance Smurf.  There are Smurfs who go hungry, and the whole village becomes less kindhearted and giving, because now they’re always looking at the bottom line.

I really enjoyed this story, not only because of the adorable little Smurfs, but because of the way that it examined our use of money and how the system favors some and makes living nearly impossible for others.  Boy, that’s a timely subject right now!

I recommend The Finance Smurf to older kids and adult fans of the Smurfs.  Because of the story’s focus on money, I think it would go over the heads of younger kids.

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Snow White and the Seven Robots: A Graphic Novel by Louise Simonson

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Title: Snow White and the Seven Robots by Louise Simonson

Premise:

Snow White is created to be the perfect ruler for Techworld, but the current queen is outraged that someone else might be smarter than she is and more qualified for the job.  In a bid to keep her position, the Queen has Snow exiled and eventually poisons her.  Seven mining robots watch over Snow White until her old friend, Doc, finds and revives her.  When Snow returns, she is crowned Queen and takes her rightful place as the planet’s leader.

My thoughts:

Last night in bed I read another book from the Far Out Fairy Tales series.  This one was about Snow White and it strays VERY far from the original story.  The story taking place in outer space is fine–I could deal with that.  The people having green skin is fine, too.  But the overall plot changes seem a stretch.  Snow White isn’t born, but created by a bunch of scientists as the perfect ruler for Techworld.  The current queen wants Snow out of the picture because she’s threatened by her intelligence.  To me it just seems to stray too far from the original.

The events in the story seem very farfetched and somewhat arbitrary.  I wish the story line had been tighter and more logical.  As it is, I would only recommend this book to kids.  It’s not satisfying enough for adult fans of the Snow White tale, in my humble opinion.

I recommend Snow White and the Seven Robots to kids who enjoy unique retellings of classic fairy tales.

Rating: 3 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

The Wild Smurf by Peyo

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Title: The Wild Smurf by Peyo

Notable: Book #21 in The Smurfs Graphic Novels series

Premise:

When the Smurf village is devastated by fire and flood, they venture into the wild to replenish their food stores.  Unbeknownst to them, a wild Smurf follows them back to the village and their supplies begin to disappear.  When the thief is caught, Brainy Smurf makes it his mission to teach Wild Smurf how to become a contributing member of society.

My thoughts:

I really enjoyed the plot of this Smurf story.  Though the Smurfs think that Wild Smurf is dangerous, they find out that he has actually been living with the squirrels his whole life and has a warm relationship with them.  When Brainy saves Wild Smurf and one of the squirrels from drowning, they win Wild Smurf’s trust and become friends.  Smurfette becomes smitten with Wild Smurf and his strong muscles!  Also, Gargamel gets pummeled by him, and it’s good to see a Smurf who can hold their own against Gargamel.

This book also contains a short comic featuring the Smurfs called “School for Fairies,” and a preview of another volume by Peyo, Pussycat.  It stars a cute little black cat and the shenanigans he gets up to.

I recommend The Wild Smurf to kids and all fans of the Smurfs.  Another fun one!

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Ninja-rella: A Graphic Novel by Joey Comeau

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Title: Ninja-rella by Joey Comeau

Premise:

Cinderella has a happy childhood with loving parents, but one day her mother dies.  She copes by spending all of her time practicing sword fighting.  Her father eventually remarries, but then he too dies.  Cinderella’s stepmother and stepsisters treat her like a slave and make her life miserable.  It’s Cinderella’s dream to serve as the Prince’s bodyguard, but if her stepmother won’t let her go to the ball, how will he ever see her awesome ninja skills?

My thoughts:

This is a really fun retelling of the classic Cinderella story.  Put aside any thoughts of romance–this young lady is totally focused on a career as a ninja!  Cinderella’s fairy godninja comes through and makes a way for Ninja-rella to get to the ball–even wielding a fancy glass sword.  She ends up defending the prince against some would-be assassins and he hires her as his personal bodyguard.  Wishes really do come true!  😉

I think my favorite part of this book is the illustrations.  They have a very Asian-inspired feel about them, but in a childish, cartoonesque way.  At the end of the book there’s a page with some interesting tidbits about the original Cinderella tale, and a few questions about the visual aspects of the book to get children examining the artwork.

I recommend Ninja-rella to kids who enjoy fairy tales and unique retellings of classic stories.  This one gets a thumbs-up as being highly appealing to kids!

Rating: 3 1/2 Stars

Until next time…

Lori

Ghetto Klown by John Leguizamo

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Title: Ghetto Klown by John Leguizamo

Premise:

This is an autobiographical graphic novel about John Leguizamo’s life–from his childhood through the present day.  It includes episodes from his stormy childhood days, through his varied and colorful acting career, to his marriage and family.

My thoughts:

My favorite role of John’s was as Chi-Chi Rodriguez in To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything!  So when I saw that the library had this graphic novel about his life, I had to get it.  I was totally unprepared for what I found when I cracked it open!  It’s not for the faint of heart or those who don’t like painful honesty and plenty of potty-mouth language.

Objectionable parts aside, I really enjoyed the book.  It took me a little while to come to that conclusion, though.  After I got to the last page and closed it, I felt like I had gone through some sort of traumatic life experience and needed some time to recover and process what I had just read.  John’s life was pretty intense (often not in a good way), yet in this story he shares his heart and motivation with us.  I’m sure this was a cathartic endeavor for him–a chance to examine his life, come to terms with all of its stages, and accept it for what it is.  Without his past he wouldn’t be who he is today.  As someone who likes getting inside other peoples’ heads, this was a satisfying read for me.  It makes me thankful for my relatively uneventful (and peaceful) life.

I recommend Ghetto Klown to adults who enjoy autobiographies told in a unique way.  Just be prepared for a lot of crudeness and bad language.

Possible Objections:

  • Lots of bad language
  • Cartoon nudity
  • Sexual references & language
  • Drug use
  • Some violence
  • A few racial slurs

Rating: 4 Stars

Until next time…

Lori