February 1, 2019

Unicorn on a Roll by Dana Simpson

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 3:55 pm by suebe2

Unicorn on a Roll
by Dana Simpson
Andrews McNeal Publishing

A unicorn is magical but even more magical is a friendship between a girl and a unicorn.  Phoebe and Marigold Heavenly Nostrils are best friends.  Not that they get to spend all day together.  Phoebe still has to go to school after all she is a typical nine-year-old.

But that’s the great part of this graphic novel.  It shows that it is okay to be a typical girl AND that amazing things can happen to ordinary people.

This is the second book in the series.  In book 1, Phoebe and Her Unicorn, Phoebe skips a stone across the pond and manages to hit Marigold Heavenly Nostrils in the process.  The unicorn has to grant her one wish and Phoebe wishes that they are best friends.

In book 2, Phoebe competes with her frenemy, Dakota, for the lead in the play.  She competes against her crush, equally nerdy Max, in the spelling be, and much more.  But the book appeals to slightly older readers as well with Dad’s video game obsession and the intervention staged by Marigold’s fellow unicorns.

I picked up this book because I saw an interview with Dana Simpson.  Still I wasn’t sure what to expect and was surprised by how funny it is.  I laughed out loud repeatedly, earning many a funny look since I was reading in public.  I also loved the fact that Marigold is not an imaginary friend.  I discovered this in a panel where Dad and Marigold discuss Phoebe’s fashion sense, or lack thereof.  I also loved the fact that gender roles are not 100% traditional.  Yes, Dad loves video games but he is also the one that sews Phoebe’s costume for the school play.

It might have helped if I had started with book #1 but I had no story picking up book #2.   In addition to the strips published in graphic novel format, you can read them at Go Comics’ Phoebe and her Unicorn page. This series is definitely worth your time.


March 3, 2016

Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans written and illustrated by Don Brown

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , at 4:13 pm by suebe2

Drowned City:
Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans
written and illustrated by Don Brown
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

When Hurricane Katrina storms across Florida, it is only a Category 1 hurricane.  This is the smallest, least destructive level but it still kills 6 people, dumps 18 inches of water and leave 1/2 million without electricity.  If that was a small storm, what could a bit one do?  People found out when it reached New Orleans.

Crossing the Gulf of Mexico, the storm pulled in more and more water.  By the time it reached New Orleans, it was a Category 5 complete with 155 mph winds.  These winds drive a wave of water ahead of the storm.  When Katrina strikes New Orleans it will lead with a wave that is 25 feet higher than normal.

There are 1.2 million people living in the area.  Miraculously, 80% of them manage to flee.  These are the ones who have cars or no one sick in the hospital.

But this is when the true disaster begins.  Trains must be evacuated as well and they offer to fill all five with those who have no cars.  The major says no thank you.  The city also owns 360 buses but they aren’t used to remove people either.  As the water approaches, waves roll over the tops of levees.  The cities pumps could remove this water but when levee walls collapse nothing can be done.

Don Brown goes on to describe the many ways that people die — trapped in attics filling with water, washed away or, later, from lack of food and water.  He describes the lack of response from the government and the lack of coordination. But he also describes the many people who fight through to help and the spirit of those who are determined to rebuild because, in spite of everything, New Orleans is their home.

I’ve been trying to find nonfiction graphic novels but I have to admit that I initially passed this one over.  I couldn’t image reading this particular story in graphic color.  And I have to say, it can be a tough one to read but Brown uses muted, muddy, flood-appropriate tones. Somehow that also mutes the horror.  The dead are sometimes shown but not their faces.  I know that sounds like a trivial detail but somehow it makes it less extreme (and is also an old war photographers trick).

The book is listed for readers 7th grade and older.  In truth, I’d be tempted to say 9th grade but a lot is going to depend on the young reader.  Many of them will be drawn to the story for the truth and the realism, a reality that is often denied to them by adults who feel that they just can’t handle it.

Would I give this book to my son?  Yes.  Would I have given it to him in 7th grade. Yes, but we would have read it together.

Brown’s telling doesn’t gloss over the ugly realities either of death itself or the government failures that led to that death toll.  It isn’t a pretty story but it is one that needs to be told, if for no other reason so that we can avoid making the same mistakes twice.




July 28, 2015

The Stand: Soul Survivors by Stephen King

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:10 am by suebe2

The Stand: Soul Survivors
by Stephen King
Marvel Comics

This book tells of the journey of several groups of survivors in a post-apocalypse America. A deadly plague has wiped out most of the known World and most of the survivors are plagued by terrible nightmares instructing them to go to Mother Abagail in Nebraska. Other survivors are corrupted by the dark man and go to the West.

Nick Andros is a deaf, mute man with an eye patch over one eye. However this does not keep him from surviving. He seems to be an unlikely match for Tom Cullen, a mentally challenged boy who cannot read the notes that Nick normally communicates with. After meeting him while searching for a drugstore, Tom struck Nick as an irritant. After seeing how helpless Tom would be without him Nick convinced him to join him on his trek to Mother Abagail’s farm in Nebraska. Nick and Tom continue together until they meet another group of survivors. They then continue by truck to Nebraska.

The Stand: Soul Survivors mixes the post-apocalyptic journey featured in the Walking Dead with Stephen King’s storytelling ability. The story is definitely more of an adventure than an action book. It is a little slower paced but it’s slow pace gives it a more story vibe than a action packed comic book vibe. You won’t find the gore splattering firefights and running from hordes of undead that the Walking Dead comics feature but you will still find yourself loving the characters and turning the page.

I would recommend this book for readers ages 14 on up. If you liked the Walking Dead or any more of Stephen King’s novels this is a good read. This has several graphic scenes so be wary. That said, the novel is not too scary so don’t be afraid to read it before bed but does have a creepy feel to it.

Reviewed by Jared (16 year-old son of SueBE)

Note from SueBE:  Yes, those of you who are familiar with King’s work will recognize the title.  This is a graphic novel retelling of The Stand, my all time favorite King novel.

May 11, 2015

Drama by Raina Telgemeier

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , , , at 1:49 am by suebe2

by Raina Telgemeier

When I started reading this, I wasn’t sure I was going to be able to review it here.  You may not have noticed, but I only review books that I like.  I’m not interested in panning anything.  I want to help readers find good books.  Why was I so uncertain about this one? I requested this from the library because it is one of the American Library Associations most banned books of 2014.  Don’t get me wrong – I love many banned books.  But in this case I was requesting a graphic novel.  I should admit up front that I’m not a huge graphic novel fan.  That said, Drama may help change that.

Drama is a story about — drama.  Callie is on the stage crew for her middle school’s production of Moon over Mississippi.  As befits a story that takes place in middle school, this one is an emotional roller coaster.

Callie loves theater. Truly, it is her passion.  Some day, she wants to design sets for Broadway shows.  Until then, she is limited by the constraints of middle school.

That said, Callie is a girl who pushes the limits.  She’s convinced that what Moon over Mississippi needs more than anything else is a cannon and not just a ho-hum painting of a cannon.  This has to be a honest-to-goodness functioning cannon.  Mr. Madera isn’t sure about the wisdom of pyrotechnics on stage but he sets a few limits and then let’s Callie go.  She is definitely the girl for the job.

Threaded throughout the story of the play itself are the emotional ups and downs of being a young teen.  Callie is desperate to fall in love and targets three different boys throughout the course of the story.  No, she isn’t shallow.  She truly likes two of them, but this is early teen love at it’s most fleet.  It doesn’t help that more than once her love interest doesn’t return her interest because he’s got a thing for someone else, someone male.

If I remember correctly, that’s what got the book banned.  There are gay characters.  There’s even a character who may be bi.  Don’t let that panic you.  As with all matters romantic or sexual in this book, it is strictly rated PG.  I say PG instead of G because there is some kissing — both boy/girl and boy/boy.

I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who is interested in theater.  The characters are well-developed and three dimensional.  The story is fast paced and there are enough sub-plots to make this full-length book interesting.  Share it with the Drama Queen or theater geek in your life.


October 27, 2014

Extraordinary Warren Saves the Day by Sarah Dillard

Posted in Uncategorized tagged , , at 1:46 am by suebe2

Extraordinary Warren Saves the Day
by Sarah Dillard

Life is changing on the farm as Coach Stanley works Warren and the other chicks at a variety of stretches and exercises.  Then there’s singing, nap time and hide-and-seek. Warren also has a new friend.  If you’ve read Extraordinary Warren, you may recall that at the end of the story Egg hatches.  Egg is now out and about with Warren, learning all he can and asking tons of questions.

Eventually, Egg’s curiosity gets him in trouble when this little chicken crosses the road, encounters a grumpy cow and then gets lost in a corn field.  Warren realizes that his friend is missing when Egg is the only chick he can’t find during hide-and-seek.  He sets of to find his friend and get them both home.

If you aren’t familiar with Dillard’s Warren books, these early readers are part graphic novel and part standard text.  She has a playful approach to the graphic novel element.  Some panels are neatly boxed in while others run free across the page.  When one of the chicks is hanging upside, his speech is upside down as well.

Willard the Rat makes another appearance although he’s slightly less villainous than in Extraordinary Warren.  Yes, he’s snarky.  No, he can’t entirely be trusted.  But guess who sets out to find Warren and Egg when they’ve been gone to long?  Sure, the other chicks organize a search party but it is nothing like the search parties that actually find people . . . or chicks.  Think lights and music for a start. The humor in this book is light and silly.

Warren and Egg have a big brother/little brother kind of relationship that is sure to appeal to young readers.  The comic book style illustrations provide plenty of clues to what is happening in the story if a reader stalls out on a particular word.

Share this book with the young dreamer in your life who is just learning to read independently.


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