Book review: Wings of Fire: Book One – The Dragonet Prophecy, by Tui T. Sutherland, art by Mike Holmes, adapted by Barry Deutsch

Sutherland, Tui T. Wings of Fire: Book One – The Dragonet Prophecy. Art by Mike Holmes. Adapt. By Barry Deutsch. Graphix, 2018. $12.99. 214p. ISBN 978-0-545-94215-7. Ages 9-12. P9Q8

The author of the ten-volume series, Wings of Fire, is adapting his novels into graphic novels beginning with the introduction of five dragonets, hidden beneath a mountain, who are destined to fulfil a mysterious prophecy to end the war between the dragon tribes of Pyrrhia. Each one has a very different skill and personality that helps them in their struggle against evil, beginning with the wicked Queen Scarlet, determined to destroy them and everyone else.

Verdict: Blood and violence in bright colors will appeal to reader searching for excitement and adventure, and the format will find a new audience. Dragon lovers will delight in the characters and the images of this kingdom.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

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Book review: The City on the Other Side, by Mairghread Scott, illustrated by Robin Robinson

Scott, Mairghread. The City on the Other Side. Illus. by Robin Robinson. First Second, 2018. $16.99. 211p. ISBN 978-1-62672-457-0. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

Isabel, a lonely daughter in an affluent family, has been kept safe inside her mother’s San Francisco mansion, but a summer in Carmel with her sculptor father, who she had never met, opens up her world. Accidentally crossing the veil into the fairy world, she becomes keeper of a magic necklace and assigned the responsibility of returning it to the owner, the missing Seelie princess. Escaping the Unseelie warriors changes her from the obsessively clean, well-behaved little girl into a young woman with her own voice and ability to make decisions. The setting after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake is referenced but has little focus. The many characters, both human and fairy, comprise the majority of the story as Button the mushroom and Benjie the Filipino orphan help her on her odyssey.

Verdict: The cause of the conflict between the two sides, Seelie and Unseelie, is never fleshed out, and the large number of multi-faceted characters can become confusing. Yet the graphic novel moves at a rapid pace, and book benefits from the detailed colorful panels, that move from dark backgrounds to vivid colors. It’s also refreshing that the book doesn’t need a sequel.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide, by Isabel Quintero, illustrated by Zeke Peña

Quintero, Isabel. Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide. Illus. by Zeke Peña. J. Paul Getty Museum, 2018. $19.95. 95p. ISBN 978-1-947440-00-5. Ages 13+. P7Q8

In this graphic biography, black and white drawings with digitally-added grays are combined with the author’s brief poetic narratives to each chronological section and over two-dozen of Iturbide’s unstaged feminist—and sometimes disturbing—photographs. As a child, Iturbide tried to follow the traditional lifestyle of her conservative Catholic family in Mexico, but her drive to be a writer and the loss of her daughter led her to photography. She travelled the world, engaging with diverse cultures as the book follows her for over 50 years. A common theme pervading the book comes from the use of birds, frequently appearing in backgrounds apart from the graphic panels.

Verdict: This startling look at indigenous communities through the eyes of an artist who experiences them can engender discussions and shifts in critical perspectives.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: I Am Gandhi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero, by Brad Meltzer, illustrated by 25 artists

Meltzer, Brad. I Am Gandhi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero. [Ordinary People Change the World series]. Illus. by 25 artists. Dial, 2018. $18.99. unp. ISBN 978-0-525-55272-7. Ages 8-11. P6Q7

Meltzer has taken his mediocre book about Gandhi, I Am Gandhi, and made it into a graphic narrative with the help of 25 different artists. The language expands the first book as Meltzer follows the life of the Indian man who developed a strategy of peaceful protesting during his 23 years in South Africa before he returned to India to lead a nonviolent revolution intended to free his country from British rule. The book covers key events in Gandhi’s life—his training as a lawyer, the Salt March to the ocean because the British forced Indians to buy the salt they produced, the British massacre of striking Indians, his fasts, and his years in prison. Proceeds to the book’s creators go to Seeds of Peace.

Verdict: Most of the artists’ illustrations work together well, but the narrative is disturbed by a young boy who frequently pops up and shouts, “Truth Force.” Because of the similarity of the books’ names, buyers should be sure to purchase the one with the subtitle, A Graphic Biography of a Hero. 

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Sami, the Samurai Squirrel: Welcome to Woodbriar, by Scott McMahon

McMahon, Scott. Sami, the Samurai Squirrel: Welcome to Woodbriar. Action Lab, 2017. $9.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-63229-353-4. Ages 7-9. P8Q6

After Sami loses her homeland, she finds a new home in a small village where she protects the inhabitants, including Bea the Bumblebee fairy, Doctor Krizzel, Bloop, and Doug Bunny in their quest to save Woodbriar from the ghost Visper. Along the way, they face off Cyber-Yeti, ninja monkeys, and a pirate gang in a variety of action and comedy.

Verdict: A pleasant romp.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: The Dream of the Butterfly: Part 1 – Rabbits on the Moon, by Richard Marazano, illustrated by Luo Yin

Marazano, Richard. The Dream of the Butterfly: Part 1 – Rabbits on the Moon. Illus. by Luo Yin. Lion Forge, 2017. $12.99. $12.99. unp. ISBN 978-1-941302-39-2. Ages 9-12. P8Q8

The adventure beings when Tutu is blown from her home by a great blizzard to a village of talking animals where being a girl is a crime. In the land of never-ending winter, the Emperor plans to hold her hostage until she finds the butterfly that he wants. Part of the graphic novel is serious, for example, Tutu’s horrible living conditions and the factory where she is forced to work. Yet humor imbues the story as huge rabbits sent to secretly follow her are completely obvious, and the emperor only appears in public as robots that keep self-destructing.

Verdict: Tutu has an entitled nature, easily offended because those around her refuse to follow her standards, yet the detailed steampunk setting in an Asian setting gives an interesting world filled with suspense and adventure. Young readers will identify with Tutu’s alienation and hope for the sequel.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.

Book review: Sharks: Nature’s Perfect Hunter, by Joe Flood

Flood, Joe. Sharks: Nature’s Perfect Hunter. [Science Comics]. First Second, 2018. $12.99. 122p. ISBN 978-1-62672-788-5. Ages 8-12. P8Q8

Fascinating facts about type of sharks, animals that go back 400 million years, coupled with the colorful, exuberant drawings typical of this series. Information includes characteristics of different shark species from the gentle Nurse Shark to the Great White, their history, adaptations, anatomy, etc. The information loosely hangs on a story about the captain of a fishing boat searching for sharks and a passenger who corrects his errors. The introduction by marine conservation biologist David Shiffman discusses concern about sharks as an endangered species and  the story expands on the issue, dispelling some of the fears that people have about these animals.

Verdict: One of the most accessible books in the series with one of the most inviting topics.

April/May 2018 review by Nel Ward.