Rummanah Aasi
  One of my reading goals this year to diversify my graphic novel/manga reads. I normally read for teens since that is the target audience I spend the most time with at work. This year I'm digging a little more deeper into the Children's Department at my library. Today I'll be reviewing Calamity Jack by Shannon and Dean Hale, The Secret Alliance and the Copycat Crook by Eleanor Davis, and Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge.

Description (from Goodreads): Jack likes to think of himself as a criminal mastermind…with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, plotter, planner, trickster, swindler...maybe even thief? One fine day Jack picks a target a little more giant than the usual, and one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk.  With help from Rapunzel (and her trusty braids), a pixie from Jack’s past, and a man with inventions from the future, they just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of good people ....while catapulting themselves and readers into another fantastical adventure.

Review: Calamity Jack is the companion novel to Rapunzel's Revenge which I quite enjoyed. Unfortunately, Calamity Jack isn't quite as good. Though tongue in cheek humor and exciting action scenes fill up the pages, Jack, who is the leading character of Jack and the Beanstalk fairytale, isn't really an exciting character nor is his tale. Unlike Rapunzel's Revenge where the fairytale is reconstructed, there are hardly any changes in Jack's story except the fact that he is of Native American descent. It would have been interesting if that element was discussed in the book. Overall, I enjoyed it enough to read and finish it. 

Rating: 3 stars

Words of Caution: There is violence that leans towards PG-13. There are some disturbing images of the giants eating bones that might be a bit too scary for younger readers. Recommended for Grades 4 and up.

If you like this book try: Three Thieves series by Scott Chantler

Description (from Goodreads): Super-smart Julian Calendar thinks starting junior high at a new school will mean he can shed his nerdy image–but then he meets Ben and Greta, two secret scientists like himself! The three form a secret club, complete with a high-tech lair. There, they can work to their hearts content on projects like the Stink-O-Meter, the Kablovsky Copter, and the Nightsneak Goggles.
  All that tinkering comes in handy when the trio discovers an evil scientist's dastardly plan to rob a museum. Can three inventors, armed with their wacky creations, hope to defeat this criminal mastermind?

Review: The Secret Alliance of a Copycat Crook is a prime example on how the structure of a graphic novel can have an impact on the reader's experience. I found this book very hard to read. The colors are on full blast and the text box for dialogue are all crammed in together. There were many times where I could feel myself squinting from the harsh print or even trying to figure out the sequential pattern. As a result, I didn't really for this book at all. The story is predictable and boring: smart kids invent a really cool product and an evil, famous professor steals it and uses it as his own. I couldn't connect to the characters, but I did like the fact that the characters are from various social sectors of the school and form a friendly bond over science. I definitely do think if the graphic novel had more white space and a readable layout, I would have enjoyed it much more. The only reason why I read this graphic novel is because it was on the Bluestem Award for Grades 3-5.

Rating: 2 stars

Words of Caution: None. Recommended for Grades 3 and up.

If you like this book try: Akiko on the Planet Smoo by Mark Crilley or Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

Description (from Goodreads):  Paige Turner has just moved to New York with her family, and she's having some trouble adjusting to the big city. In the pages of her sketchbook, she tries to make sense of her new life, including trying out her secret identity: artist. As she makes friends and starts to explore the city, she slowly brings her secret identity out into the open, a process that is equal parts terrifying and rewarding.

Review: Poignant, beautifully drawn, and universal, Page by Paige explores how Paige, a shy introvert, tries to establish her own identity in a brand new school and place. Gulledge does an amazing job in showing Paige's isolation, loneliness, and confusion through her images that are subtle yet pitched perfect to the emotions rolling through Paige. What I loved about this story is that Paige doesn't try to buy the latest clothes or mimic what all the cool kids are doing, but uses her great skill, her art, to make herself special. As Paige slowly opens up, she is able to embrace new friends and new opportunities including love. I would have loved this graphic novel more if I read it as a middle schooler. A big two thumbs up for me.

Rating: 4.5 stars

Words of Caution: None, but I think the context of this story would be more suitable for middle schoolers.

If you like this book try: Smile by Raina Telgemeier

6 Responses
  1. Anonymous Says:

    Thats great that you love graphic novels. My 11 year old loves reading them so Im always on the look out for quality ones...;D

  2. Oh, I love fairytales so it's too bad Calamity Jack wasn't that interesting. I'd like to check out Rapunzel's Revenge though.

    I really like the sound of Page by Paige and will recommend it to my cousin though I'm pretty sure she's not into graphic novels. I like the idea of a girl not following the crowd but doing her own thing that she loves.

  3. Jenny Says:

    "There were many times where I could feel myself squinting from the harsh print or even trying to figure out the sequential pattern."

    That's one thing that's always deterred me from graphic novels. I worry I won't be able to figure out the order of the boxes and will be all confused. I'm sure there are some great ones out there though where those issues aren't issues at all:)

  4. I still haven't gotten into graphic novels even though I have several, but Page by Paige sounds like one I'd enjoy. It seems like the kind of story that offers more than your typical action/fighting type of story.

  5. Tina: There's so much out there and it can be overwhelming! I hope I can be helpful.

    Z: Definitely check out Rapunzel's Revenge. It reminded me a lot of "Tangled" which I loved.

    Jenny: Most of the time, the reading panel is not a problem but I don't know what was going on with this one.

    Missie: I agree. This one has more of the traditional self discovery story but in a graphic novel format.

  6. Great reviews! My son loves manga, but I find a lot of it a little too suggestive for a 12 yr old. I didn't know they made them for this age. I have a feeling the one you didn't care for too much would be way over stimulating for him, but he might like the first one you reviewed. Too bad they didn't put some Native American lore into it.
    Great reviews! I'll be looking forward to these.


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