Thursday, September 3, 2015

Reading Roundup: More Middle Grade Graphica

As I mentioned a couple posts ago, my middle schoolers love graphic novels, and truth be told, they got me wanting to read many of them! Once last school year ended, I had a list of titles I wanted to read on my own over break, and that's just what I did at the start of summer. Raina Telgemeier's books were on that list, as well as these three:

Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson came out towards the end of last year, and I rarely saw it returned long enough to actually be shelved. In it, twelve-year-old Astrid Vasquez has hit that awkward point where you suddenly seem to no longer click with your life-long best friend. Astrid has done everything with Nicole since early elementary school, including suffering through Ms. Vasquez's Evenings of Cultural Enlightenment (ECEs for short, and a small detail of this story I absolutely love), the most recent of which was a roller derby match. Astrid becomes enchanted with this sport, and assumes Nicole will be right beside her at the roller derby camp Ms. Vasquez suggests attending, but now Nicole is more into ballet and is actually friendly with their one-time sworn enemy, Rachel.

Astrid masks her hurt with a little bit of anger and extra determination, attending the camp on her own. It's hard, and she fails miserably at first, but Astrid is the kind of girl that is fueled by those failures; she's no quitter. She's realistically bratty but is also tough and resilient, which are good character traits I don't find as often in realistic middle grade fiction. This is a great story that touches on a very common part of adolescence and adolescent friendships—that people and relationships often change, and that a great deal can be learned by leaving our comfort zones.

The Jellaby series by Kean Soo has absolutely the most adorable artwork of all the graphic novels on my shelves. In the self-titled series opener, Portia has just moved into a new neighborhood and school where she doesn't really fit in. She's quiet and keeps to herself; no one makes an effort to befriend her. And at home, her father is suddenly absent, and she's adjusting to life without him. One late night, she takes a walk in the nearby woods and is followed home by a shy, gentle purple monster she names Jellaby. Life becomes much more exciting, knowing she is the sole keeper of this great secret. She also unintentionally befriends another equally shy boy named Jason, and together they begin a quest to find out where Jellaby belongs.

The story continues with Jellaby: Monster in the City, when the quest to find Jellaby's home takes the three on the train into the city. As they follow the clues, it starts to appear as though there's a rather sinister background to Jellaby's story...and somehow, Portia's dad may be involved!

These stories fall a bit into the magical realism realm. There are no identifying places or references to really ground them in a particular time or place; they exist in an entirely generic world. And truthfully, as an adult, I think they may depend on a greater degree of childhood imagination/suspension-of-belief than I possess. Each book contains such a SNIPPET of story that it's going to take several more volumes before it actually feels complete and satisfying (my same complaint with the Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series). Though I loved the artwork, the story itself left me a bit clueless as to the point or where it is going.

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