Saturday, March 31, 2007

Getting Graphic for Elementary School

In case you haven't heard, graphic novels are somewhat popular.

This past weekend, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles was the top grossing movie at the box office. 300, another movie based on a "comic book" has held that spot for some previous weeks. My recent sojourn at the local high school saw a steady and heavy circulation of graphic novels. A few years ago when I started adding them to my elementary library, the selection was more limited but publishers are finally understanding the demand and bringing elementary school friendly talent to the market.

Babymouse by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm - Sublime, divine! Brilliant writing, visual humor and it is PINK! If you do not have this series in your collection add it now. The books are available in library bindings. This series has achieved "classic" status and is a "gotta have it."

Babymouse website


Mail Order Ninja by Joshua Elder, vol. 1-2, 2006
This elementary-friendly series has humor and the manga look which kids love.

Timothy James McAllister is the victim of school bullies. Felicity Dominique Huffington, the Versacci/Armaani clad rich girl at L. Frank Baum Elementary rules the social order until Timothy wins "exclusive exploitation rights" to legendary ninja Yoshida Jiro for one year. Now protected from school thugs and popular because of his ninja body guard, Timothy wins the election for student body president. Volume 1 ends with Felicity vowing revenge and acquiring the services of a ninja of her own, Jiro's deadly enemy, Hakuryuu Nobunaga.

In volume 2, Felicity takes over the school and the town when Nobunaga defeats and captures Jiro. Promoting herself to Queen, Felicity is a typical evil overlord who controls the adults through Mind Controlling Nutrient Paste breakfast cereal. Unlike the previous book, where Timmy's success is totally due to his ninja protector, this time the kids and citizens of Cherry Creek have to save themselves.

The storyline and Erich Owen's artwork should make this a hit with kids. The story is well drawn and Owen's design showcases the action. Jiro and Nobunaga's back story is revealed through flashbacks and a "newpaper article" included at the end of Book 1. I think graphic novels support readers who do not see the "movie" in their imagination as they read. These books do that wonderfully.

Elder's sense of humor will resonate with all ages. I like his use of music and alternative lyrics: "Everybody loves Ninja Fighting" (to the tune "Kung Fu Fighting") and Jiro's turn as John Travolta in "Ninja Guy" (to the tune of Stayin' Alive) at the school dance.

There are literary devices aplenty, (in case your library must justify a graphic novel collection.) Onomatopoeia clangs, whams, ka-chings and booms. Literary and visual allusions abound. Street signs at one intersection read "Orwell" and "Huxley" while banners with Queen Felicity's picture proclaim "Big Sister is Watching You!"

Mail Order Ninja website

Also reviewed at Big A little a


The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton series by Brian Anderson
The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton and the Red Giant, 2006
The Adventures of Commander Zack Proton and the Warlords of Nibblecheese, 2006

Hand Zack Proton to your Captain Underpants kids, please, your readers need to find these books!

In book 1, Zack Proton finds himself adrift in space when he opens the wrong door while looking for the restroom. Omega Chimp rescues him and they go on to battle the red giant, Big Large. Book 2 begins when the pair respond to a Class two-B distress signal which means a school bus of second graders is in danger. They rescue a group of captured teachers, defeat some warlording mice and get a parking ticket for leaving their spaceship in a no-floating zone.

Anderson's writing is fast paced and full of humor. Effie(FE-203), the malfunctioning droid sings "Daisy, Daisy, give me your answer true" and Zack remembers an incident at the Klaatu Memorial Test Facility. Mouse warriors are led by General Algernon who bears a striking resemblance to The Brain and threatens to "cut off their tails with a carving knife"

I really like Doug Holgate's book design as it moves the reader between traditional text and comic book format. The story is also interspersed with helpful tips for young space heroes, a quiz "Is that really your teacher? Don't Be Too Sure" and a maze, shades of Highlights magazine. Along with the allusions and onomatopoeia, there are alliterations and metaphors ("You are space toast!")

This is entirely light hearted and entertaining reading. To become better readers, kids need to practice reading and Zack Proton will keep the text flowing under their eyes.

Commander Zack Proton website


City of Light, City of Dark by, Avi, illustrated by Brian Floca 1993

I read this book several years ago but was unable to purchase it for my collection because it was out of print. I see Scholastic has now reprinted the title.

Avi and Floca were ahead of their time when they created this story as a graphic novel in 1993. Carlos and Sarah and a magic subway token have until winter solistice to save NY City from a deep freeze. Much of the dialog is English and Spanish.

I have some more elementary titles to review but I think I will post these quickly in case I have another "blogger" moment.


Anonymous said...

thank you so much for this post. My son's school library is building up its graphic novel collection, and I am going to give the librarians a copy of this post! It's just what we were talking about last week.

Camille said...

I am so glad this is helpful. It has really been a problem for elementary libraries. I am going to post some more. I have seen the power this genre has! The kids that usually go for the "I Spy" books or the drawing books love them!

One of my missions this year at TLA is to find more.

Anonymous said...

Klaatu comes from a zombie cult movie. It's part of a phrase from the Necronomican in the "Evil Dead" trilogy and is used to bring the zombies to life.

"Klaatu Barrakta Nictu"

There's a reason these are cult movies. They are really bad. In a 'I can't believe I'm watching this' sorta way.

Camille said...

"Klaatu barada nikto" is the famous line of dialog from the 1951 classic The Day the Earth Stood Still.
The Bernard Herrmann film score is probably familiar to you. Actor Michael Rennie plays the alien visitor, Klaatu, also known as Mr. Carpenter. He has a robot named Gort.
I hope your parents made you watch it when it was on television. If not, they will!

Anonymous said...

I remember that movie! And I also got to hear the line in "The Foreigner," which our theatre group did last year.

Fantastic play, by the way.