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Tuesday, April 24, 2018


As I mentioned yesterday, First Second books — glorious loves of my life that they are &mdsah; sent me a big ol' box of awesome graphic novels for me to binge on, in preparation for their Girl Power Graphic Novels blog tour. And because I was heart-eyes emojis all over the place, I decided to embrace the theme and turn my one-day blog tour stop into an entire week devoted to highlighting some of my favorite titles and characters on said theme. ✊

So today, I'm taking a deeper look at what exactly came in that Box of Awesomeness, and sharing my thoughts on each! But make sure to stop back by all week, because we're just getting started.

The City on the Other Side
by Mairghread Scott (Author), Robin Robinson (Illustrator)
When a wealthy and sheltered young girl stumbles into a pitched war between two fairy kingdoms, the fate of San Francisco itself hangs in the balance!

The first decade of the twentieth century is coming to a close, and San Francisco is still recovering from the great earthquake of 1906. Isabel watched the destruction safely from her window, sheltered within her high-society world.

Isabel isn't the kind of girl who goes on adventures. But that all changes when she stumbles through the invisible barrier that separates the human world from the fairy world. She quickly finds herself caught up in an age-old war and fighting on the side of the Seelie—the good fairies.

As you could probably tell from my unboxing, I was pretty excited for this one. WHIMSICAL CREATURES, YOU GUYS. I didn't plan on being let down, and I wasn't. Of all of the books featured today, City perhaps gives the most consistent and most numerous examples of strong female characters. All of the books do so, but City features many female characters who are different from each other, and strong in different ways, with an overall feeling of competence among them that I really enjoyed.  But the real strength of this story owes a lot to Robin Robinson's art and character creation, because these creatures (the variety, the distinction, the execution) is top-notch. It's the kind of art you want to just lose yourself in for a bit, and anywhere the story may fall short, the art more than makes up for it. And the color palettes! That's a theme with these 5 books/series, but oh, the color palettes on this one especially! *swoon*
The City on the Other Side hits stores today!

Scarlett Hart: Monster Hunter
by Marcus Sedgwick (Author), Thomas Taylor (Illustrator)
Scarlett Hart, orphaned daughter of two legendary monster hunters, is determined to carry on in her parents’ footsteps—even if the Royal Academy for the Pursuit and Eradication of Zoological Eccentricities says she’s too young to fight perilous horrors. But whether it's creepy mummies or a horrid hound, Scarlett won’t back down, and with the help of her loyal butler and a lot of monster-mashing gadgets, she’s on the case.

With her parent’s archrival, Count Stankovic, ratting her out to T.R.A.P.E.Z.E. and taking all the monster-catching rewards for himself, it’s getting hard for Scarlett to do what she was born to do. And when more monsters start mysteriously manifesting than ever before, Scarlett knows she has to get to the bottom of it and save the city... whatever the danger!

In his first adventure for middle-grade readers, acclaimed YA author Marcus Sedgwick teams up with Thomas Taylor (illustrator of the original edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone) to create a rip-roaring romp full of hairy horrors, villainous villains, and introducing the world’s toughest monster hunter—Scarlett Hart!

I have . . . numerous stories by Marcus Sedgwick on my shelves. He's one of those authors that I've always intended to read, and had a feeling I would really jell with, but have yet to pick up any of them. So I was very excited to see he was releasing a graphic novel — middle grade, at that — and a flip through to see the art had me even more eager.
And this one is certainly enjoyable, though perhaps not the best introduction I could have had to Sedgwick as an author. Scarlett Hart is a fun and boisterous story, with a slightly zany approach to the conflicts and monster battles. In some ways, it seemed to have a Scooby Doo vibe, though it's not really a mystery; just that, in its presentation, it has some of that silly, corny approach to storytelling that is the hallmark of Scooby Doo. The dialogue — and the characters, to an extent — didn't feel like products of their Victorian setting, but that will likely help win over its target audience of younger readers, to be fair.
All told, I enjoyed it (and the slightly unsettling art), but wanted a bit more from it.

Cucumber Quest: The Doughnut Kingdom
by Gigi D.G.
What happens when an evil queen gets her hands on an ancient force of destruction?

World domination, obviously.

The seven kingdoms of Dreamside need a legendary hero. Instead, they'll have to settle for Cucumber, a nerdy magician who just wants to go to school. As destiny would have it, he and his way more heroic sister, Almond, must now seek the Dream Sword, the only weapon powerful enough to defeat Queen Cordelia’s Nightmare Knight.

Can these bunny siblings really save the world in its darkest hour?

Sure, why not?

The Cucumber Quest series (three books so far, with a fourth coming this fall) is vibrant, silly, super-cute and deceptively simple. This is the type of book that very young readers will fall into and beg to have read to them over and over again; the kind that, when read aloud to a group of children, will have them screaming and yelling and laughing in pure silly joy. It's a very fun and light-hearted story, likely to be a hit with fans of Adventure Time, though possibly too cutesy for some.
Again, the colors on this are just fantastic; one of its biggest strengths, actually, is its coloring, which stands out from a lot of the comparatively-duller comics, and lends it even more of a whimsical air.
The books may be too simple, silly and/or cloying for older readers, but for many, it'll be a likely hit adventure story that refreshingly flips the expected gender norms on their heads.

Monsters Beware! (Chronicles of Claudette #3)
by Jorge Aguirre, Rafael Rosado
Claudette is back AGAIN, and she’s ready to kick major monster butt!

She’s fought giants, clobbered dragons, and now Claudette faces her biggest challenge yet… herself! Well, that and a gang of vile monsters. It all begins when Claudette’s town hosts the annual Warrior Games. After some sneaky maneuvering, Claudette manages to gets herself, Marie, and Gaston chosen as her town's representatives. But none of Claudette’s past battles has prepared her for this. And to make matters worse, they must stop the vicious Sea Queen and her evil children from using the Warrior Games to free the dark Wizard Grombach and conquer the world!

In Monsters Beware!, the third and final book of the Claudette graphic novel series, Claudette is put to the ultimate test. With her honor on the line will she learn that there's more to a fight than just winning?

I've talked about the Chronicles of Claudette stories before (I still don't know what happened to my review of Giants... *frowny face* ), so you may already be familiar with my thoughts and see where I'm likely to go with this, but these stories. . . damn, they are cute. The style is super cartoony (owing to Rosado's and Aguirre's experience in the animation and children's television industries), well-suited to the spunky, silly characters that populate the series. Claudette is plucky and adorably ferocious, likely to win over both young girls and boys (which, according to prevailing wisdom is sadly no easy feat...), and the stories have a playful, humorous approach to all things that will please even the adults being forced to read the same book over and over to their kid, who still inexplicably finds everything as hilarious the 85th time as they did the first. . .
Highly recommended for young readers.

Also, though this may be the 3rd book I'm talking about today, you can easily start at any book in the series

The League of Lasers (Star Scouts #2)
by Mike Lawrence
Avani has found the one place in the universe where she fits in: Star Scouts. The League of Lasers is the second volume of this action-packed graphic novel series by Mike Lawrence.

During a troop meeting, a robot messenger delivers Avani some exciting news: she has been invited to join a secret society of elite scouts known as the League of Lasers. She is eager to join their ranks, but first she has to survive her initiation challenge.

Stranded on an uncharted planet, Avani must contend with the methane atmosphere, hostile frog-like inhabitants, and her dwindling supplies of food and water. But even worse: her arch nemesis, Pam, is stranded there, too.

I've saved what may be my favorite for last.
I mean, it's a difficult conclusion to come to, because this stack of comics is a strong one. But there is just something about League that just won me over quickly and thoroughly. I was unfamiliar with the series, not having read book one, and I was unsure if that was going to have a negative impact on my ability to understand or enjoy this sequel. But you can easily pick this one up and dive into the story; it stands on its own, while giving you enough of a breadcrumb trail to what happened in book one (I assume) that you can pretty much garner all of the backstory without being bogged down in it.
Again, the coloring is gorgeous, an absolutely beautiful, consistent palette of vibrant pinks, purples and teals throughout. And the characters are interesting, fun, and charming. There's a good weaving of plot threads, and all in all, I was completely taken by it.
My one drawback was that the transitions between scenes could be very abrupt (or non-existent), which sometimes made the story feel confusing or disjointed, like maybe I'd accidentally skipped a page or panel. I think some of this may have been intentional (especially in Avani's discovery of the new world), but intentional or not, some readers will find it to be a drawback.
That said, it won't stop me from looking into book one, or any future installments of the series.

And there you have it! Those are my thoughts on that big ol' box of glorious books that was sent my way. All 5+ books make for great girls-in-comics reads, without being heavy-handedly so, or alienating finicky/stubborn boy readers.
You can see peeks of the art for each of these books in my unboxing, if you want to get a feel for the style!

Make sure to stop back by the rest of this week as I highlight more titles I love, in conjunction with this blog tour!
And if you want more right not, you can find the full list of participating blogs here, so make sure to stop by and check out everyone's thoughts on these, and other, awesome girl power comics!

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