Tag Archives: comics

Will O’ The Wisp

18 Nov

Today’s book review is for Will O’ The Wisp: An Aurora Grimeon Story, written by Tom Hammock, illustrated by Megan Hutchinson, published by Archaia Entertainment. It is scheduled to be released on December 10, 2013. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Will O' the Wisp book cover

Will O’ The Wisp is a wonderful graphic novel debut from Tom Hammock and Megan Hutchinson. Aurora Grimeon finds herself orphaned after her parents accidentally ingest death cap mushrooms. Having no other family, Aurora is sent to live with a grandfather she has never met, on Ossuary Isle–deep in the swamps of Louisiana. Ossuary Isle is a strange place: there are more graves than people, no other children around, and the locals seem to all adhere to Hoodoo. Aurora doesn’t feel like she belongs in her new home. But when mysterious deaths start plaguing the small swamp community, she can’t help but investigate. Will Aurora get to the bottom of things before she ends up at the bottom of the swamp?

Hammock does an excellent job at crafting a story full of intrigue and suspense. His descriptions and characters make Ossuary Isle come to life. As someone who has never been to the swamps of Louisiana, I felt like I could picture this place and feel the other-worldliness of it. One thing in particular that I thought Hammock nailed was how Aurora is initially skeptical about Hoodoo, but quickly embraces it–because young adolescents often are more open and flexible in their beliefs. She’s rounded out by being curious, resilient, and independent. In short, she’s a pretty cool protagonist.

Hutchinson’s art is fabulous. The entire book has a heavy, muted, dark feel to it, due to Hutchinson’s color palette. Even the gutters (the space surrounding individual panels) are black. She also uses a lot of strong, angular lines in her work. All of these elements work together to create a sense of mystery and foreboding. I enjoyed the stylized rendering of people–everyone has exaggeratedly long legs and short torsos. It’s especially noticeable on Aurora, who is often wearing skirts and knee socks–and generally dresses like a goth.

It’s been a while since I read a great comic with a paranormal story–so this left me excited. Due to the number of dead bodies encountered in the story, it’s not recommended for readers under the age of 12, unless they are exceptionally mature. I can’t really speak to the accuracy of the depiction of hoodoo or swamp life, but I can attest that it’s an excellent work of speculative fiction for middle grades and teen readers. That’s why I’m giving it 4 out of 5 stars.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Here I Am

16 Oct

Today’s review is for Here I Am, story by Patti Kim, illustrations by Sonia Sanchez, published by Capstone Young Readers. I received an electronic copy of this book from the publisher, through NetGalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Here I Am book cover

Here I Am is a wordless book that tells the story of a young boy immigrating to the United States from Asia. The boy is overwhelmed by the new city at first; there are so many strange sights and sounds. He becomes sullen and reserved and spends most of his time staring out at the world from his apartment window. The only thing that brings him hope and joy is a seed that he brought over with him. Then, one day, while he is looking out the window, the boy drops the seed and a little girl picks it up. As a result, the boy ventures out into the city on his own to reclaim the seed. On the way he discovers that his new home is lively and full of great sights, sounds, and people.

To write this story, author Patti Kim drew upon her own experiences of being a child immigrant from Korea. This story isn’t autobiographical, but it she’s still able to call upon the personal to create a strong emotional response. Often in wordless books, we forget to credit the person who wrote the story, since in the end we only see the illustrations. However, it’s important to give credit where credit is due–in this case to Kim who created a story that would be powerful in any medium.

Which is not to say that the art of Sonia Sanchez didn’t elevate the work. To the contrary, it was Sanchez’s ability to capture complex emotions in her art that drew me into the story and kept me engaged. The way that she clusters multiple frames on the page creates such a great sense of mood. It’s a technique I haven’t seen used much, but it’s highly effective. Another touch that is nice is how signs appear to be in jibberish, but as the boy grows more familiar with his new country, they begin to most closely resemble English. Finally, I enjoyed the use of color. Early in the story, most of the colors are in the red and yellow range. But, once the boy ventures out and starts to engage with the world, a lot more greens and blues enter the page. It gives a real sense of the world opening up to him.

This book earns 4 out of 5 stars. It was emotionally resonate and provides a great resource for talking with children about immigrant experiences. My only real issue with the whole thing was that initially, I couldn’t decipher that the seed was a seed. Otherwise, I like that the book addresses the emotional side of immigration, and shows that just because someone is closed off, it doesn’t mean that they are not interested in friends.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Book Review: Under the Ice

4 Oct

Today’s review is for Under the Ice, written by Rachel A. Qitsualik, illustrated by Jae Korim, with a forward by Babah Kalluk, published by Inhabit Media. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Under the Ice is based on a traditional Inuit story about an old woman whose grandson is carried off by the qallupaluit. The quallupaluit are strange creatures who live beneath the ice, and stories about them have long been used to scare children into staying away from the shore. In the forward, Kalluk explains that “Inuit stories are magical, strange, and often scary”–and that kids today are exposed to fewer of them due to the emergence of movies, cartoons and comics as preferred mediums for entertainment. In order to compete, this book pairs a traditional story with bold comic-book style illustrations–an artform that should appeal to the target audience.

Qitsualik does an outstanding job in retelling this tale. Her prose is clear and simple. It leaves you with the sense that she could be sitting beside you reciting the words. For me, she captures the feel of the oral tradition in her writing. And I like that, because it’s one more way to try to keep the younger generation connected to this traditional culture. Being simple and clear doesn’t mean that the writing isn’t beautiful–quite to the contrary. There is wonderful imagery and figurative language skillfully woven into the narration.

Korim’s illustrations are top notch. He primarily works in a palette of muted blues, grays, and browns that capture the visual environment of life in the Arctic perfectly. You can almost feel the coldness of the ice through the page. His rendering of the qallupiluq is truly frightening. My only complaint about the illustrations is that there weren’t enough of them! By which I mean, the book is absolutely wonderful as is, but I loved Korim’s art so much that I would have loved to see even more.

Inhabit Media has been impressing me with the quality of books that they are producing. They are an Inuit-owned publishing company with a mandate to preserve the stories and knowledge of northern Canada. I was excited to learn of them recently, and hope that I will be able to read more of their catalog in the future.

Under the Ice is certainly worthy of a full 5 star rating. I would love to have a copy of this book for my personal library–and think it would be a great addition to any local or school library, as well. For the children of Nunavut, it provides a chance to connect with their traditional culture in a new way. For other children, it provides a great opportunity to learn about a different culture through their own stories.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.

Book Review: Hocus Pocus Takes the Train

30 Sep

Today’s book review is for Hocus Pocus Takes the Train, story by Sylvie Desrosiers, illustrations by Remy Simard, published by Kids Can Press. I received an electronic copy of this book through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Hocus Pocus Takes the Train is a wordless comic adventure for children. It’s a book that both readers and pre-readers can enjoy. Despite the lack of text, there is still a strong, rich story to be enjoyed.

Desrosiers has written a story about a magician’s rabbit who find’s a toddler’s stuffed rabbit toy. He wants to reunite toy and child–but he will have to face a tight train schedule, an intimidating dog, and more to achieve his goal. The story is fast-paced and action packed, while at the same time sweet and heart-warming. Children will enjoy Hocus Pocus’s clever problem soliving, resourcefulness, and persistence in completing his quest.

Simard’s art tells the story wonderfully. In a wordless comic, the pictures must tell the full story in order for it to work. This story definitely works. His angular characters and spring-time palette are appealing to the eye and echo the style of popular cartoons. They inform the audience that this is a playful tale with a happy ending.

One of the things that I like about wordless comics is how well they can be used in a classroom setting. They provide an excellent opportunity for writing exercises where students have to provide the text that should accompany the images. It also encourages children to learn how to read and decode visual media. We live in a world where visual literacy is often just as important as verbal. We are surrounded by infographics, advertisements, and IKEA instruction manuals that we are expected to make sense of. Comics, particularly wordless volumes, can help to develop the skills needed to do so.

This book earns 5 out of 5 stars for great story, great illustration, and great design. I think that it’s a great example of why comics are becoming an increasingly well respected medium in children’s literature.

You can find more information about this book, including other reviews, at Goodreads.