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Children's Literature @ NYPL, Biblio File
Great Graphic Novels for Kids 2013
Late last year, I featured some of my favorite graphic novels aimed at children 12 and under from the New York Public Library's collection. The list proved so popular I even made a sequel. Many people have asked me for a list of updated titles, so I have featured five of my new favorite comic titles that were published this year. A few of these selections are even featured in the Children's Books: 100 Titles for Reading and Sharing 2013, an annual list produced by NYPL librarians that work with children. Check out that list for even more graphic novel titles.
Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell
Being scary is hard. Maybe not for every monster, but most definitely for Rayburn: the often-looked-down upon creature responsible for terrorizing the village of Stoker-on-Avon. Rayburn doesn't terrorize so much as sit in his cave and sulk. See, he knows he's a bad monster. Everyone knows it. That why the town council sends Dr. Wilkie, a disgraced scientist with questionable experiments in his past, to diagnose- and hopefully correct- whatever it is that is causing Rayburn's ennui. Timmy, the town crier/newsboy, stows away for the ride.
The unlikely trio make their way to visit a "successful" monster, the terrifying Tentaculor. Only, Tentaculor isn't really terrifying at all: he's Rayburn's old school friend Noodles. While he attempts to coach Rayburn in Monstering 101, Stoker-on-Avon is threatened by The Murk, a creature who doesn't seek celebrity, but to satiate its wicked appetite by eating the local townsfolk. Whether Rayburn is ready or not, he must return to his hometown and defend the people who previously condemned him.
The Silver Six by A.J. Lieberman, ill. Darren Rawlings
In the near-distant future, young Phoebe is attempting to make a go of it on her own. She was left orphaned when her parents died in a mysterious shuttle accident. Aided by her trusty robot Max, who is equal parts guardian and collaborator, she manages to evade the watchful and interfering adults in her life for years. Until she doesn't. Captured, she is forced into a group home with other orphaned kids. Despite her fiercely independent nature, she makes five new friends: Hannah, Oliver, Rebecca, Patel, and Ian.
After they show her the ropes in their new home/prison, they get to talking about how they all ended up there... and realize they have a lot more in common than they initially realized. Turns out, everyone's parents died in that same shuttle accident. And each kid was given a piece of a mysterious puzzle that would only activate when they all came together. Bound by a new purpose, the six (and Max) break out of the home to avenge their parents' death and stop the evil corporation that may be behind it. The stakes are raised when a diabolical killer is sent after them, but the Silver Six soon realize there's a lot more than their own lives at stake: they might just have to save the world.
Bluffton: My Summer With Buster Keaton by Matt Phelen
It can be rare for a graphic novel to capture one's heart, imagination, and sense of nostalgia so completely, but Matt Phelan (Around the World, The Storm in the Barn) manages to do just that in a story modeled on the early life of silent film star Buster Keaton and the nomadic vaudeville performers he spent his childhood traveling with. Buster is integral to the story, yes, but this is really the story of Henry, a young boy from Bluffton, Michigan in love with the girl next door and internally railing against his destiny as a shopkeeper. When Henry meets the aloof and enigmatic Buster, an instant friendship is formed.
In relaying stories to Henry, some of the bizarre anecdotes surrounding Buster Keaton's early life are exposed and illustrated, including a particularly memorable tale about Keaton losing one of his index fingertips while using a wash wringer. When Buster eventually meets Sally, Henry's long time neighbor crush, and begins a friendship with her, Henry feels betrayed. He attempts Buster's act at his school's talent show… with disastrous results. Despite the painful experiences of growing up, Henry wouldn't have traded his summer for anything.
Tommysaurus Rex by Doug TenNepal
One of the worst things that can happen in a young boy's life is losing his best friend. Sadly, that is what happens to Ely at the beginning of this story when his dog, Tommy, gets hit by a car and dies. He soon grows despondent over the loss. His parents, hoping to take his mind off the tragedy, send him to live with his grandfather over the summer. While exploring the woods near the farm, he has an altercation with bullies that drives him deeper still into the forest. Ely is drawn to what looks like an old abandoned mine. He believes he can sense Tommy somewhere near. In reality, he has disturbed the resting place of a live Tyrannosaurus Rex!
Christening the T-Rex Tommy, Ely begins teaching him how to fetch, how to roll over, and how to… not eat people. When the dinosaur destroys someone's house by accident, the whole town is up in arms against him. But with his grandfather and (surprisingly) the town's eccentric mayor on his side, Ely convinces them that his new friend- Tommysaurus Rex is worth having around. From author/illustrator Doug TenNapel, who has also authored Bad Island, Ghostopolis, Creature Tech, and one of my favorites from last year, Cardboard.
Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan and Nathan Fox
It might be easy to forget that war affects not only people, but also the animals used in those conflicts. Just as horses have a long history of being used in war, so too do dogs. These are the tales of three different dogs from three different wars: Boots, Loki, and Sheba from World War I, World War II, and Vietnam respectively. Doctor's assistant Marcellinus McDonald is on the Western Front in 1914. Along with his trusty mercy dog Boots, they locate injured soldiers on the front lines and drag them back to safety. Loki, a somewhat wild sled dog stationed in Greenland during 1942 is in desperate need of taming. But his wild nature might just give him and his handler an advantage when they get separated from their unit during a rescue operation.
Sheba, the third dog, is a story-within-a story. A soldier living in a trailer park after surviving nightmarish conditions in Vietnam inadvertently draws the attention of a fatherless young boy who has recently gotten a dog of his own. Bringing back visions of his old scout pup Sheba, the soldier fights through his post-traumatic stress to tell the young boy about the dog responsible for saving his life. Poignant tales that are gripping in both their actions and emotions, it reminds us that the word "hero" is not limited to human beings.