Can you guess why Barbara Gordon is one of my favorite people in the DC Comics universe? Aside from the fact that I relate to her as a headstrong, curious, and nerdy girl/woman, I love the fact that Batgirl’s alter ego is a librarian! In addition to being Batgirl, Barbara Gordon is also known as Oracle — and this graphic novel is an Oracle origin story.
In this story, readers are introduced to a teenaged Barbara Gordon (aka Babs) who becomes paralyzed in an accident. The accident happens in the very beginning of the story, though, so the majority of the action takes place while Babs is working to recover from the accident at the Arkham Center for Independence. I appreciated how there was a lot of focus placed on the specific limitations that a person would suddenly experience as a result of a major injury like this and how grueling the physical and occupational therapy regimen would be. I also appreciated that this information was worked into the story seemlessly instead of appearing as clunky asides. I’d like to wish a happy book birthday to this awesome story, and also wish for some further Oracle adventures from Nijkamp and Preitano in the near future…
I often credit one of my adjunct professors from grad school, Joyce Laiosa, with helping me discover my love for YA books. Every book on her syllabus was carefully chosen to represent its genre so that we would have an appreciation for the depth and breadth of YA Literature. In fact, I routinely tell people that I consider Joyce to be my Fairy Godmother in Libraryland because she is also the person who first got me involved with the Youth Services Section (YSS) of the NY Library Association (NYLA). And though she has technically retired from librarianship, Joyce remains active in YSS/NYLA (and ALA), and I do my best to attend all of the webinars and local workshops she teaches because I want to soak up everything she has to share. I am definitely more of a novel reader, but I appreciate the need to be aware of graphic novels and do my best to stay aware of popular titles and publishing trends, so I recently attended Joyce’s continuing education workshop about graphic novels. I am so grateful for the extensive list of graphic novels she provided and will do my best to work my way through that list over the next year. I am happy to report that this graphic novel, the first I chose from her list, was simply amazing.
Not only did the artist, P. Craig Russell, do a wonderful job of staying true to the original story, but his artwork was absolutely stunning. There is a note at the end of the book that explains the very conscious choices he made with regard to color palette and style, and I think these choices, though seemingly subtle, made a huge impact on his telling of the story. The way that he gradually introduced colors, for example, was a great visual representation of the way that Jonah’s perception changed as a result of receiving memories. This was a fantastic way to revisit the story, and I think it is so well fleshed out that readers who haven’t read the novel will still be able to immerse themselves in the story without missing anything Lois Lowry intended.
When I was a newly minted librarian, I saw Nancy Pearl speak at the Clifton Park-Halfmoon Public Library. (And now I work there as a storytime and substitute librarian — yay!) Nancy Pearl is best known for speaking up about the importance of and pleasure that can be found in reading. One piece of advice, in particular, has stuck with me all these years. She emphasized the fact that librarians need to read a wide variety of books instead of just sticking to our favorite genres and authors so that we can best serve our patrons. Though I don’t shy away from reading the books and authors that I prefer, I definitely do my best to push myself outside of my comfort zone on a somewhat regular basis so that I can be prepared to make recommendations to people across genres and formats. And although I don’t dislike them, for example, I don’t prefer graphic novels and might not choose to read any if I wasn’t making a conscious choice to expand my horizons. Every now and again, I am really glad I make this concerted effort because I find a book like this!
In a small town where magick is strong and witches live among non-magical folk, there is a very tentative balance. When the sheriff’s own daughter, Heidi, goes missing, he is caught in a difficult position. Yes, he wants to find his daughter and he is in a position that should grant him some power, but he also has to respect the vow he made to protect those with magick. His son, Bucky, and his wife don’t really understand how he doesn’t just change the law to keep looking for further evidence of who took Heidi, but the sheriff is worried about fanning the flames of suspicion and starting another round of witch trials. Especially since a witch named Emmeline is set to be released from prison in only a couple of days. But Bucky refuses to just let things go and takes it upon himself to go back over the evidence and timeline of Heidi’s disappearance to see if he might be able to figure out who took her. This was a good mystery with some seriously great art, and it will be released on July 23rd.
Oh. Em. Gee! I didn’t even know this book was out until I saw something about the second book coming out this July. Even though I am not a huge graphic novel reader, I try to push myself to read at least a couple a year so that I can stay in touch with what it out there for my library patrons who do prefer graphic novels. Since I am also a huge fan of Scott Westerfeld’s work, especially the Uglies series, I figured it was a good bet that I would enjoy this one. I am happy to report that reading this was a lot more fun than work! 😉 In fact, I read this entire book in only three sittings because it was so hard to put down.
In Poughkeepsie, NY, there has been a Spill. No one really seems to know what exactly happened. They just know that it is no longer safe inside the Spill Zone. Military personnel guard the perimeter and people don’t tend to go inside except government scientists in hazmat suits. There are all sorts of weird things happening. Animals morphing into strange creatures. Inanimate objects moving around despite a lack of wind. And, in the words of Addison Merrick, the dead have become “meat puppets.” Though she was not in town when the Spill happened, he little sister was. Because they are allowed to stay in their home, which is inside the Spill Zone, Addison has taken to exploring and taking pictures she can sell to support her sister. But, how long will it be before her explorations take her too far?!?
Speaking of Westerfeld’s Uglies series… Check this out! (#squeeeeeeee)
High school graduation is often a time filled with celebration and excitement. For Jaycee, though, graduation day dredges up feelings of anxiety and depression. Why? Because her older brother, Jake, died on his own graduation day. Jaycee doesn’t know how to handle the fact that she will now, officially, be older than Jake ever was. Though his death came as the result of a daredevil stunt gone wrong, Jaycee finds comfort in emulating his behavior. Instead of seeing Jake’s death as a warning to be more careful, she finds herself repeating his stunts in an attempt to channel his spirit. Jaycee expected to take this journey alone, but she ended up with a motley crew of [former?] friends who also needed to make their peace with Jake’s death. Guided by Jake’s urban exploring journal, Jaycee followed both literally and figuratively in his footsteps and finally discovered that it’s possible to let go of grief without letting go of her loving memories.
I appreciated getting parts of the story directly from the perspectives of different characters, like Jaycee’s childhood BFF Natalie. But, more than that, I enjoyed the different storytelling techniques that were employed — like the pictures of the poems Bishop crafted in his sketches and graffiti or the graphic novel panels that told the story of Mik, who refused to speak aloud but whose actions spoke for him. McCarthy did a fabulous job of showing how the death of a loved one can alternately tear us apart and build us up stronger than before. I recommend this story to readers who enjoyed See You at Harry’s and Before You Go.
I don’t generally read a lot of graphic novels. I used to read some now and again to stay on top of what I needed to order for my collection, but now I just get to read for pleasure. My son is a big fan of both graphic novels and manga, though, so I tend to keep an eye out for recommendations of books he might enjoy. Recently, a colleague recommended this book and I requested it without even reading the description. (She has never failed me before, and I didn’t think she was about to start anytime soon!) When the book came, I saw that the blurb by Raina Telgemeier said the book was “Heartbreaking and hopeful…” I decided to see what about the story might be heartbreaking and whether this story might be too mature. If my son had specifically asked for it, I might have handed it straight over without even noticing, but I figured it warranted a little look if I was giving him a recommendation.
As it turns out, Sunny was sent to spend the summer with her grandfather in Florida because her parents didn’t want her to have to deal with the fallout as they attempted to intervene and get help for her brother’s substance abuse problem. I definitely believe that books are a fantastic way to broach tough subjects, and I think this book did a superb job of letting readers figure things out both gradually and without too many unnecessary details. Though the story didn’t hold back, the storytelling [via words and illustrations] was both subtle and sensitive enough for somewhat younger readers. Though I initially got this book simply because it was another graphic novel from the author of the Babymouse series and came as a recommendation by a trusted colleague, I’m planning to use this book to jump-start [another] candid conversation with my fifth grader about drugs and alcohol.
If you’re looking for a fun and easy read that will have you LOLing all over the place, I highly recommend this book! My husband has been a fan of The Oatmeal for quite some time and always sends me funny comics, so picking up this book was a no-brainer. Need a teaser to whet your appetite? Here you go: