Pre-Easter IdeasA column article by: Penny Kenny
With Easter right around the corner, now's the perfect time to be thinking about adding a graphic novel or two to your favorite child or tween's Easter present.
Archie "Goodbye Forever" by Melanie J.Morgan and Norm Breyfogle (Archie Comics, 978-1-879794-63-4, $10.95) is the latest volume in the Archie New Look Series. When Archie's dad receives a promotion, it looks like the Andrews will be leaving Riverdale for good. The story focuses mainly on Archie and Betty's reactions and offers both comedy and the drama so dear to tween girls' hearts. The art is done in a less cartoony, more realistic style and some panels are absolutely stunning.
Two volumes of Tiny Tyrant by Lewis Trondheim & Fabrice Parme (First Second, $10.95) are available and both are suitable for children as young as five. Six-year-old King Ethelbert is a spoiled brat and his staff has their hands full keeping him happy. Whether Ethelbert's stealing a vacation prize package from a working stiff because he wants to do something different, arguing with Santa Claus, fighting with his equally spoiled cousin over an inheritance, or ordering everything shrunk down to his size the results are always humorous. While the youngest readers won't pick up on Trondheim's satire, they can still enjoy the Tiny Tyrant's antics. Parme's art style is reminiscent of The Fairly OddParents and Mr. Magoo. It's very attractive and animated looking and the page layout is easily followed.
Little Vampire by Joann Sfar (First Second, 978-1-59643-233-8, $13.95) is for readers who've outgrown Jill Thompson's Scary Godmother, but who still like monsters that aren't too scary. The three stories collected in this volume deal with friendship, death, bullying, and even animal rights. Sfar also references The Flying Dutchman opera. While there is humor, including the ever popular "poop" jokes, there's a melancholy tone to these stories that makes them more appropriate for children older than nine, rather than younger. The art style looks like a mix of Where the Wild Things Are, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas and seventeenth century German woodcuts.
The Iznogoud series by René Goscinny and Tabary (Cinebook, $11.95) follows the mis-adventures of a grand vizier whose schemes to unseat the lazy, good-natured caliph always come to naught. There are six volumes available now, with a seventh coming out in May. Each volume contains one to four stories. Goscinny includes both high and low humor in his dialog and Tabary's fluid art style depicts exaggerated expression, frantic action, and slapstick comedy equally well.
In Clifton: Jade by Rodrigue and de Groot (Cinebook, 978-1-905460-52-6, $11.95) the irascible British secret agent/scout master and a novice agent tumble onto a scheme to recover a sunken WWII submarine and its treasure. The clever plot includes double-crosses, plenty of action, humor, some innocent cheesecake, and a kick-tail heroine. The art is bright, dynamic, and expressive. Children and tweens (and their parents!) who enjoy The Secret Saturdays and the original Johnny Quest will likely enjoy this volume.
Olders tweens who can't get enough of military themed books will enjoy Cinebook Recounts: The Falklands War by Bernard Asso, Joël Rideau, Daniel Chauvin, and Marcel Uderzo (Cinebook, 978-1-84918-056-6, $11.95). This no frills account covers the period between February and June of 1982 when Argentina and Great Britain squared off over the Falkland Islands. The political and historical aspects of the engagement are handled in such a way that readers get the basics, but aren't overwhelmed. Though two reporters are part of the narrative, there isn't a particular character readers can grow attached to and follow through the war. While that's a weakness in my eyes - I like someone to identify with - it does contribute to the documentary feel of the volume. Asso and Rideau also make sure both the Argentinean and British side of the story is told. The planes, helicopters, submarines, and the battles they engage in are lovingly and clearly rendered. There is some swearing, but the language and art aren't too graphic for mature tweens. This really is a must book for your budding military historian.
<Buck Danny: The Secrets of the Black Sea by Francis Bergèse and Jacques De Douhet (Cinebook, 978-1-84918-018-4, $11.95) is another book that might appeal to older tweens who enjoy military adventure. When Buck visits a new Soviet aircraft carrier, he's caught up in a web of espionage and betrayal. This is a Tom Clancy-lite type of story. The plot is complicated, but not so much you lose track of what's going on. Humor and fast-paced aerial battles also leaven the story. The art is beautiful. The characters are realistic looking and the military equipment is impressively detailed. The panel and page layouts are clean, uncluttered, and easy to follow.
Precocious tween readers who enjoy a mix of mystery, science fiction, and adventure might be ready for the Blake & Mortimer series. Actually, series plural. Cinebook offers both the original Edgar P. Jacobs books and the volumes written by other writer/artist teams after his death. The most recently released Jacobs' book is The Affair of the Necklace (Cinebook, 978-1-84918-037-5, $15.95) which has the government agent and scientist tracking down an old foe who has stolen a valuable necklace. The story has a noir feel, much like films such as This Gun for Hire, Call Northside 777, and classic Dick Tracy comic strips. There's plenty of action and shoot 'em ups sprinkled throughout. In contrast Yves Sente and André Juillard's The Sarcophagi of the Sixth Continent Part 1 (Cinebook, 978-1-84918-067-2, $15.95) mixes terrorism, sabotage, the history of India, mad science, and ancient curses. The plots in both books are complex, but not overly so, and move at a brisk clip. The heroes are no-nonsense professionals and adults who have a job to do and do it, though they do crack more than one smile. There is some minor swearing, but nothing explicit. The art is clean and handsome, harkening back to classic adventure comic strips such as Steve Canyon and Mandrake the Magician. Mature tweens who've dipped into Sherlock Holmes, Isaac Asimov, or the Young James Bond books are good candidates for this series.
If your favorite not-quite young adult reader has finished the latest Diary of a Wimpy Kid, you might want to think about tossing one of the above selections into his or her Easter basket. They'll thank you for it.