akibird

A Blog of Children's Literature

Hikaru No Go, Vol. 03 April 18, 2011

Hikaru No Go, Vol. 03Hikaru No Go, Vol. 03 by Yumi Hotta
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Hikaru No Go, Volume 3 by Yumi Hotta and illustrated by Takeshi Obata (1998)

Graphic Book (Manga), 204 pages

In this third volume of the popular Hikaru No Go series, Hikaru Shindo is now in seventh grade and can officially join the Haze Middle School Go team and play the game, a complex Japanese board game using strategy to move glass chips to defeat opponents. Hikaru played in a tournament the year before for Haze Middle School and beat the champion Kaio Middle School team but got disqualified when it was learned that he was only in sixth grade. With the spirit of the Go master Fujiwara-no-Sai, still present within his consciousness from his encounter with his grandfather’s old Go board that the ghost haunted, Hikaru tries to find one more student to join Haze’s Go team so they can compete in the upcoming tournament. What he finds is cheating Yuki Mitani, a clever classmate who plays the game in Go salons and gambles to earn extra money. Yuki is Haze’s only chance to play in the tournament, so Hikaru and Sai do their best to convince Yuki to join the team and play ethically. Meanwhile, Akira Toya, son of the Go professional Toya Meijin, has joined the Kaio Middle School team to take on Hikaru, after he refused to play Akira previously. Akira’s teammates cannot understand why he has joined the team when he was meant to train with the Insei to go pro. Akira struggles with his teammates and his place on the team, but ultimately makes it to the tournament to challenge Hikaru. Hotta’s narrative is fairly easy to follow and with the competitive nature of Go and the teams, readers ages 9 and up with enjoy getting pulled into the fast pace of the storyline, personified by Obata’s captivating and slick illustrations. Manga lovers will appreciate this series’ dedication to traditional manga format reading (right to left) and will look forward to the next volume.

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The Arrival

The ArrivalThe Arrival by Shaun Tan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Arrival by Shaun Tan (2007)

Graphic Book, 128 pages

In a book that looks like an old-fashioned photo album, the story of one man’s journey to emigrate to another country is documented wordlessly through illustrations that seem like photographs. In the beginning the man leaves behind his family in order to find his place in a new world and ultimately make enough money to send for them. On his arrival, he is met by bizarre creatures, customs, and text which he cannot decipher, echoing the experiences of new emigrants around the world. Without any text, the experience could represent numerous immigrant experiences; however, with the diverse faces on every page and elements of fantasy, Tan seems to be making a universal statement on the hardship and obstacles immigrants around the world face as they settle into a new home. The man’s story is captured in Tan’s exemplary pencil sketches that look like grainy photos. Slight variations in gray or sepia allow the reader to understand time and place for the protagonist, as he makes friends, hears their histories, and tries to make a living. Tan’s own imagination comes to life in the unique companion creatures that each resident attains, the grand architecture of the new country, and the impending doom from the oversized shadows and people who take over former homes. With multiple layers, younger readers will appreciate the basic story of one man’s strength to overcome hardship, while older readers will find elements of immigration, politics, war, and acculturation. As a great piece for visual learners, I would recommend The Arrival to ages 10 and up with more of an emphasis on the middle school years. Teachers may also find this book useful in portraying general settler experiences during an immigration unit of study.

 

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic CollectionTrickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection by Matt Dembicki
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Trickster: Native American Tales: A Graphic Collection edited by Matt Dembiki (2010)

Graphic Book, 231 pages

In a compilation of work from over 40 storytellers and artists, Trickster shares a diverse collection of trickster tales from various Native American cultures and regions. In some the crafty coyote plays the trickster who ends up being taught a lesson, in others it is the sly raven who gets away, while in some it is the rabbit or the raccoon, depending on the cultural origin. Many of the tales share a reason behind a natural landform (“Moshup’s Bridge”) or an animal’s appearance/ways (“How the Alligator Got His Brown, Scaly Skin”), while others teach a lesson about behavior to learn from (“The Wolf and the Mink”). The novel’s true success draws from its diverse collection of tales and the art that captures them. Each tale highlights a different artist’s style that sets the tone of the story. Specifically, the composition in “Coyote and the Pebbles” is to be lauded with its strong storyline by Dayton Edmonds and amazing illustrations by Micah Farritor. Trickster not only creates an anthology of trickster tales but creates an anthology of artist’s interpretations of the cultural stories, a unique gem in both Native American and graphic novel publications. This book could add so much to various units of study within folklore, illustrations, and cultural anthologies, as well as provide plenty of stories for anyone looking to read about wily characters. I would recommend Trickster to anyone ages 11 and up, especially those drawn to graphic novels.

 

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat CrookThe Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis (2009)

Graphic Book, 154 pages

Julian Calendar is an 11-year-old junior high student who has trouble fitting in. He looks 8 years old, wears a hand-me-down pink flowered backpack from his mother, and most importantly, is a genius inventor. When his parents tell him that they are going to move to a new town, Julian jumps at a second chance to spark his social life and fit in. At his new school, Julian attempts to be “ordinary” by hating homework and loving sports. However, when he receives a coded note, Julian cannot resist figuring it out. It leads him to two clever classmates who have been watching him and have figured out he is also a secret scientist like them. Together they combine forces to become the Secret Science Alliance and work in their hideout building amazing contraptions. However, everything starts to go wrong when their invention notebook with all their secret ideas is stolen. Together they must overcome adult obstacles, get back their notebook, and solve an even bigger dilemma. Davis’ graphic novel builds on the typical comic book format yet uses her eye for detail and excitement for science to create her own unique style. With characters, color, and quick-paced dialogue that readers 9 and up can enjoy, readers will finish The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook wanting to study and become the next secret scientist.

 

The True Meaning of Smekday April 13, 2011

The True Meaning of SmekdayThe True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The True Meaning of Smekday by Adam Rex (2007)

Fantasy, 432 pages

In a world that was once the United States, 11-year-old Gratuity “Tip” Tucci struggles to find her mother who Boov aliens have abducted, befriends a Boov named J.Lo, and tries to save the planet from alien dominance. Most of Tip’s cross-country adventures occur while driving her mother’s car which has now been transformed by J.Lo into “Slushious,” a hovercar that is steered by the radio tuner and operates using a combination of alien mechanical parts and convenience store finds. Earth, now called Smekland, is a hot commodity as Gorg aliens come to overthrow Boov and secretly enslave humans. Gratuity and J.Lo are running against the clock to find a plan to restore earth to human control and convince others that Gorg do not intend to allow humankind to survive. In a very unique style, Adam Rex creates a dizzying narrative full of twists and comical turns that show humanity may not just be limited to humans. Using comic-like illustrations and Polaroid drawings, Rex also walks the reader into his narrative with the history of the alien worlds (drawn by J.Lo), a new America full of alien contraptions, and a car that flies complete with pink beach ball safety devices and a Snark’s Adjustable Manifold. Rex’s quirky imaginative story would be a great find for any young adult open to extraterrestrial hilarity that turns our world upside down.

 

The Underneath

The UnderneathThe Underneath by Kathi Appelt
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Underneath by Kathi Appelt (2008)

Fantasy, 336 pages

Both a Newberry Honor Book and a National Book Award Finalist, The Underneath is a story about a pregnant calico cat that has been abandoned by her family on the side of the road. With nowhere to go, she tramps through the forest and the Bayou Tartine until she hears the baying of a lonely hound named Ranger. Forming a strange pair, the cat and dog have an instant bond of friendship and build a family together with the two new kittens, despite Ranger’s evil owner, Gar Face. The alternating narrative also offers the tale of Grandmother Moccasin, a Water Moccasin snake over a thousand years old, who patiently waits for the day she is freed from her imprisonment in an ancient jar. In her debut novel, Kathi Appelt does a stellar job intertwining stories to build a mystical bayou’s past and present full of animals and their human spirits, weaving in the culture and beliefs of the Caddo people. The Underneath shares characters’ struggles to put aside vengeance and accept love, desires to conquer their fears for their loved ones, and despair to find someone to fill the void in a solitary existence. David Small’s illustrations pepper the book, personifying imagery that Appelt creates in a dark forested tale that ultimately sheds light on the meaning of love. Reminiscent of oral traditions with repeated lines and poetic narrative, the book might not normally appeal to reluctant readers. However, the multiple layers and short chapters of the narrative will attract diverse readership in grades 4-8.

 

Otto’s Orange Day

Otto's Orange DayOtto’s Orange Day by Jay Lynch
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Otto’s Orange Day by Jay Lynch and illustrated by Frank Cammuso (2008)

Beginning Reader, 40 pages

An orange tabby cat named Otto loves the color orange. He even has an orange song he wrote, singing the praises of the color. When Aunt Sally Lee sends Otto a magical orange lamp as a gift, it is no surprise that Otto asks Genie to make everything orange in his only wish. At first, Otto thinks this is the best decision he’s ever made, but shortly after he realizes his mistake. With everything orange, people cannot distinguish between traffic light signals, find criminals (all who are orange and wearing orange), and find their homes. Otto and Aunt Sally Lee must come up with a great plan to get Genie to revert Otto’s wish and turn everything back to the way it used to be. In a co-authored Toon Book, Jay Lynch and Frank Cammuso bring Otto’s adventure to life in a graphic novel for beginning readers. Jay Lynch’s use of rhyme adds a playfulness to the text and Otto’s behavior. Cammuso’s orange illustrations give a deeper connotation to color with their appeal to the senses: as a flavor, a mood, or an environment. With a format that is likely to attract reluctant readers and comic lovers alike, Otto’s Orange Day will introduce new readers to the graphic novel format while encouraging reading and comprehension. A definite must to include in a booktalk that covers multiple formats for ages 4-8.