recent reads, mini reviews: graphic novel edition

Lately I’ve been going through a huge Middle Grade graphic novel obsession. Like, it’s starting to become a problem. A wonderful magnificent problem that I have no interest in fixing ♥

El Deafo by Cece Bell | September 2, 2014
Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school–in the hallway…in the teacher’s lounge…in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

In this memoir-turned-graphic-novel, Bell lets the reader into her experiences as a child left deaf after an illness. Don’t let the adorable bunnies and cute artwork fool you: El Deafo is a sobering and thought-provoking story. Bell doesn’t sugarcoat her childhood and is rather blunt about her fears and worries when it comes to starting a new school – which is scary enough on its own, but to add in a (rather large) hearing device…I can totally understand where she was coming from.

I powered through El Deafo on my lunchbreak one afternoon, but it’s stayed with me long after. Sweet and humorous and unflinching, this is a graphic novel that has deservedly won numerous awards. Do yourself a favor and grab a copy!

Bake Sale by Sara Varon | August 30, 2011
Cupcake’s life is pretty good. He’s got his bakery, and his band, and his best friend, Eggplant. His days are full of cooking, socializing, and playing music. But lately, Cupcake has been struggling in the kitchen. He’s sure the solution to all his problems is out there somewhere. But maybe that solution is hiding closer to home.

Just as with El Deafo, Bake Sale is a pretty heavy story hidden beneath fantastic artwork. On the surface, Cupcake seems to have it all: he runs a bakery, he has his best friend Eggplant to hang out with, and their band will be performing in the town parade. When you look closer, however, Cupcake’s life isn’t as happy-go-lucky as it would seem. He’s stuck in a rut when it comes to his baking, he’s tired of his usual recipes, but doesn’t have the inspiration to come up with new treats. That is, until Eggplant mentions a trip to Turkey to visit his aunt…who just so happens to be friends with Cupcake’s idol.

After months of hard work, Cupcake finally has the money saved up for a plane ticket, but when the day comes, Eggplant’s life is turned upside down: he was laid off and can’t afford to make the trip. Cupcake desperately wants to meet his idol, but what can he do about his best friend?

Okay, so anthropomorphic food might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I personally loved it. The message here is great and there are recipes included! I haven’t tried any yet, but they look fab.

Monster on the Hill by Rob Harrell | August 6, 2013
In a fantastical 1860s England, every quiet little township is terrorized by a ferocious monster–much to the townsfolk’s delight! Each town’s unique monster is a source of local pride, not to mention tourism.

Each town, that is…except for one.

Unfortunately, for the people of Stoker-on-Avon, their monster isn’t quite as impressive. In fact, he’s a little down in the dumps. Can the morose Rayburn get a monstrous makeover and become a proper horror? It’s up to the eccentric Dr. Charles Wilkie and plucky street urchin Timothy to get him up to snuff, before a greater threat turns the whole town to kindling.

A monster who needs a confidence boost. Do I really need to say more?? This one could have easily turned into a steampunk-esque adventure with some historical figures thrown in (Lovecraft, anyone??) but it didn’t and, in a way, I’m glad for that. This Victorian version of England is home to monsters. Many monsters. In fact, each town has their own. ..only Stoker-on-Avon’s monster hasn’t made an appearance in decades and an eccentric inventor is sent to find out why.

I tore through this one in record speed. Because this post is full of graphic novels, I don’t want to keep repeating myself by gushing over artwork, but seriously, Monster on the Hill has some awesome art. It’s also incredibly funny and witty and smart.

Little Robot by Ben Hatke | September 1, 2015
When a little girl finds an adorable robot in the woods, she presses a button and accidentally activates him for the first time. Now, she finally has a friend. But the big, bad robots are coming to collect the little guy for nefarious purposes, and it’s all up to a five-year-old armed only with a wrench and a fierce loyalty to her mechanical friend to save the day!

After discovering Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl series (keep an eye out for a review soon!) I heard about his latest work and knew I needed to read it. Surprisingly I got through this one in – no lie – five minutes. I actually read this one so fast Matt commented on it! I’m totally cool with the universe believing I’m some SOOPER DOOPER SPEED READER…but Little Robot has maybe 20 words max. It’s mainly just artwork but what a story it tells!

Hatke is phenomenal when it comes to alien lifeforms so it should come as no surprise to anyone that his robots are just as intricately detailed and as unique as a cast of human characters would be. A little girl (and a BIG hurrah for having the main character be a PoC main character!) finds a robot and doesn’t want to lose her new friend. Unfortunately, the baddies want him back.

Terribly cute and tooth-achingly sweet, Little Robot further solidified my love for Ben Hatke!

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