I’ve found myself reading a lot of graphic novels lately. Here are some for the elementary to middle grade set. Curiously enough, they all have either cats or the sea as central themes – or both, in the case of Sea Sirens.
Sea Sirens: a Trot and Cap’n Bill Adventure by Amy Chu and Janet K. Lee. Viking, 2019. 978-0451480163.
Trot is an enthusiastic surfer girl of Vietnamese ancestry, who loves to spend afternoons on the beach with her grandfather and her beat-up cat Cap’n Bill while her mother is at work. When sneaking off after it’s been forbidden one day, Trot and Cap’n Bill find themselves in the underwater kingdom of the Sea Sirens, which is at war with the sea snakes. Trying to resolve this conflict leads her to learn more about both her grandfather and her cat, with whom she is able to talk thanks to Sea Siren magic. This is a short and sweet story with a non-violent resolution, told with ink and watercolors. The only issue that I had was that the faces are odd, never quite looking the same. My daughter decided based on the face on the cover that the book was creepy, though she did enjoy it once I convinced her to overlook that. The adventure and the elaborate costumes of the sea sirens make this one with lots of appeal for young readers.
Queen of the Sea by Dylan Meconis. Walker Books/Candlewick, 2019. 978-1536204988
I’m tempted to use the hackneyed phrases “sweeping historical” to describe this beautifully detailed graphic novel, set in a very recognizable alternate 16th century, based around the rivalry between Elizabeth and Margaret, even if the time span and character count are both shorter/lower than that term usually implies.
Eleanor is the exiled queen of Albion, whom we meet in the first pages of the book, but most of the book is told from the point of view of young Margaret, growing up in an Elysian convent on a tiny island off the coast. Margaret’s first friend is William, son of a noblewoman seeking refuge in the convent, but after he leaves, Eleanor herself arrives, prickly and arrogant. But as Margaret learns chess from Eleanor and both of them learn more of the history of the nuns and servants on the island, disillusionment and growth for both are the result. The art here includes changes in art and lettering style between the main narrative and stories from the past. This is one that got passed around between most of the many children on my summer camping trip, but has plenty of substance for adults to enjoy as well, definitely one of my favorites this year.
Catwad: It’s Me by Jim Benton. Graphix, 2019. 978-1338326024
Catwad: It’s Me, Two! by Jim Benton. Graphix, 2019. 978-1338326031
I only realized after I got the second of these books from the publisher (thank you!!) that I’d never reviewed the first book… because my daughter fell in love with it and spirited it away. This time, she brought both books back to me with strict instructions to read them. Both books consists of shorter, mostly four panel gag sequences, telling stories of life with grumpy, often mean Catwad and his dim but kind friend Blurmpf. The art is simple but conveys the emotion well, and filled with bright, appealing colors. The pranks and body fluid jokes definitely appeal more to kids than adults, as evidenced by my daughter’s reaction. It reminded me of the classic Garfield, while she recommends it to fans of Big Nate or Captain Underpants.