Graphic novels are wildly popular at Larrabee’s school, but he and I generally prefer regular novels. Occasionally, though, we come across a story that is best told in a graphic novel format. New Kid by Jerry Craft is that kind of story.
New Kid is about a 7th grader named Jordan Banks who likes drawing cartoons and playing video games. He hopes go to art school, but his parents insist on sending him to a fancy private school. It’s not easy being the new kid, especially since he’s one of the few kids of color and one of the few kids on financial aid in his class.
During the course of the school year, Jordan confronts racism, privilege, and unfair situations. He also tries new experiences that turn out to be not so bad (such as soccer and abstract art) and makes new friends.
Jordan is a fantastic narrator. Some of the most fun parts of the book are his cartoon commentaries on everything from his dad’s advice on handshakes to his mom’s use of a camera with actual film to the contrast between mainstream and African American book covers (“a thrilling magical tale” vs. “a gritty, urban reminder of the grit of today’s urban grittiness”).
Whether or not you’re a fan of graphic novels, put New Kid on your reading list for this fall.
Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing. If your kids are intrigued, check out Rocket to the Moon! by Don Brown, a history of rockets in graphic novel format. Starting with the first Chinese firecrackers, Brown traces the innovations and discoveries that led to the manned missions to the moon.
This book is full of interesting information. Larrabee read it in a day and quoted facts from it to me for weeks afterward. My personal favorite tidbit is that three early rocket scientists from three different countries were all inspired by the same novel: Jules Verne’s From the Earth to the Moon. Hooray for science fiction!
Rocket to the Moon! is the first book in Brown’s Big Ideas That Changed the World series. I’m looking forward to the next one.
If you’re missing summer as much as we are, you should pick up a copy of The Cardboard Kingdom by Chad Sell. Larrabee and I aren’t normally big fans of graphic novels, but we both enjoyed this one.
It’s a collection of short stories about a diverse group of kids who use ordinary cardboard to transform themselves and their neighborhood. The Sorceress, the Big Banshee, the Huntress, the Gargoyle, and others go on imaginative quests and navigate real world challenges during summer vacation.
The art is terrific and the stories are engaging. I wish Larrabee and I had read The Cardboard Kingdom together because it would have prompted some good discussions.
Dav Pilkey was in Santa Cruz today as part of his Supa-Epic Tour o’ Fun!
Larrabee and I both enjoyed his latest book, Dog Man: A Tale of Two Kitties. It’s a comic book about Dogman, a cop with a dog’s head, Petey, an evil cat, and Lil’ Petey, his stubbornly good clone. It has a nice message and an appealingly zany style. Larrabee’s only complaint was that it was too short. He flew through it in one sitting, chuckling all the way.
Pilkey, who has written dozens of books, is best known for his Captain Underpants series. But our family favorites are Kat Kong, a pun-filled picture book in which a giant cat goes on a rampage through the streets of Mousopolis, and Dragon’s Fat Cat, an adorable book for beginning readers about a dragon who adopts a cat.
I hope Pilkey’s visit will inspire Larrabee to draw more comic books and that someday he’ll get to tell a group of kids about his very first comic: Ocelot vs. Cloud.
If you’re looking for a zany adventure to add to your summer reading list, Larrabee recommends Julius Zebra: Rumble with the Romans! by Gary Northfield.
Julius is just trying to get away from the stinky watering hole and his annoying big brother when he’s captured by Roman soldiers. They take him, along with a warthog and a lion, all the way from Africa to Rome itself. Improbably, he ends up training as a gladiator to fight in the Colosseum on Emperor Hadrian’s birthday.
It’s not a short book — at CCLXVI pages. But it’s an easy read with lots of funny comic-style illustrations.
Along with the wacky cast of animal characters, the story contains nuggets of real historical information. Years later, when Larrabee studies Ancient Rome in school, he’ll probably find himself saying, “I learned that from Julius Zebra.”
P.S. Never call Julius a stripey horse. And check out his next adventure in Julius Zebra: Bundle with the Britons.
Larrabee enjoyed Bird & Squirrel on Ice so much that as soon as he finished reading it to himself, he read it aloud to me.
Bird & Squirrel on Ice is the second in a series of graphic novels written and illustrated by James Burks. Larrabee liked all three, but this one is his favorite.
The books feature best friends, Bird and Squirrel. They’re an “opposites attract” pair reminiscent of other favorites of mine such as Frog & Toad or Elephant & Piggie. Bird never thinks before he acts. Squirrel is a cautious worrier.
In this adventure, they end up at the South Pole where they help a group of penguins defeat a killer whale. The book features an engaging story and lots of humorous dialogue.