Comics Alternative for Young Readers: The Best of 2016

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Great Minds…

Gwen and Andy both are astounded that the end of the year is almost upon them, and with that in mind, they’ve picked their favorite books of 2016 for young readers. The Two People with PhDs each picked five books in the children’s category and five books in the intermediate/young adult (YA) category, but something odd happened: their lists were almost identical!

In the children’s category, Gwen and Andy both chose the following four books, many of which they have already discussed on previous episodes.

Andy diverged by picking Bert’s Way Home, by John Martz (Koyama Press), the story of an orphan named Bert who’s no regular orphan, but an orphan of time and space, stranded on Earth after a cosmic accident.

Gwen’s final pick in this category was Blip! a TOON Level 1 book by Barnaby Richards about a robot whose vocabulary consists of only one word (“Blip”) as he tries to find his way through an unfamiliar planet.

In the Intermediate/YA category, Gwen and Andy also agree on their first four titles:

  • March: Book Three, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell (Top Shelf), the third and final book in the March trilogy. March: Book Three is also a noteworthy book in that it recently won the prestigious National Book Award for Young People’s Literature, becoming the first graphic novel to win the award.
  • Camp Midnight, by Steven T. Seagle and Jason Adam Katzenstein (Image)
  • Paper Girls, Vol. 1, by Brian K. Vaughan and Cliff Chiang (Image)
  • Snow White, by Matt Phelan (Candlewick Press)

The two people with PhDs also had the great pleasure of interviewing Matt Phelan on the show last month. You can listen to that interview here.

Andy’s final choice was Mighty Jack, by Ben Hatke, a title previously discussed on the show back in August.

For Gwen’s final choice, she picked Delilah Dirk and the King’s Shilling, by Tony Cliff (First Second), a book previously discussed by Derek and Sean in its original webcomics format. This volume picks up where the first volume, 2013’s Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant, left off.

At the end of the show, Gwen mentioned a new all ages wordless comic that she learned about on Dr. Debbie Reese’s excellent American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, Jonathan Nelson’s The Wool of Jonesy: Part I, published by Native Realities Press. Here is the blurb from the publisher’s website:

Written and illustrated by Diné artist Jonathan Nelson, The Wool of Jonesy #1 tells the first story of Jonesy the Sheep and his adventures out on the rez. As Jonesy heads out to explore life after high school he finds himself discovering and dreaming. The wonderfully illustrated story gives young and old alike a simple and enchanting view of reservation life through the eyes of an amazing character!

Readers can check out Debbie Reese’s review.

Gwen and Andy hope that these titles might be considered for gift for the holiday season. You really can’t go wrong with any of these titles. We can’t wait to see what great comics are in store for us in 2017. You can be sure we’ll pass all the information along to you. Happy reading!

 

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Comics Alternative for Young Readers: Reviews of Hippopotamister and Camp Midnight

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Disguises

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This month’s show includes a review of two recently released graphic novels, John Patrick Green’s Hippopotamister (First Second) and Steven T. Seagle and Jason Adam Katzenstein’s Camp Midnight (Image Comics), as well as interviews Andy conducted at the first-ever Anne Arundel County (Maryland) Public Library Comic Con, held on May 14. At this event, Andy had the chance to speak to a number of young readers, as well as their parents, about their favorite comics and about their own work as budding comics creators.

At the beginning of the podcast, Andy reads an email that comics writer Samuel Teer wrote to him and Gwen regarding their October 2015 review of Veda: Assembly Required (Dark Horse), an all-ages comic that he wrote in collaboration with artist Hyeondo Park and colorist Kelly Fitzpatrick. Samuel was kind enough to thank the two for their positive review of the book and mentioned that the two people with PhDs gave him some helpful suggestions for future works. (Glad to oblige, Samuel! Keep those great comics coming!)

First up in the review segment is Hippopotamister, a title that both Gwen and Andy can say three times fast and recommend three times over. This graphic novel for younger readers provides a humorous, carefully-crafted story about the way that two friends, Red Panda and Hippo, enter into the “human world” in order to find jobs, after their city zoo falls into disrepair. Red Panda, who leaves the enclosure first and returns with tales of his exciting forays into the world of work, Hippo_Interiorencourages his friend to join him, but he cautions, “amongst the humans you can no longer be just a hippopotamus. You must become…HIPPOPOTAMISTER!” What follows is a tour through occupations that help Hippopotamister and Red Panda figure out their natural talents. Of course, complications arise on these friends’ paths to self-understanding and a regular paycheck, but both end up finding work that suits them well.

In addition to praising the color work of Cat Caro, Andy highlights one of the funniest splash pages in the comic that depicts Hippopotamister’s invention of a new hairstyle entitled “The Hippopompadour.” Gwen loves the whimsy of that scene and notes that, in addition to creating vibrant splash pages, Green excels at planting small details across the entire graphic novel that are clearly put there for the amusement of adult or middle grade readers. For instance, the restaurant where Red Panda and Hippopotamister try their hand at being sous chefs is called “Trattoria Della Bestia,” a name that draws a fine line between those animals that prepare the food versus those who serve as the meal. Andy and Gwen also point out the effectiveness of Green’s images in moving the narration along. As Andy puts it, a beginning reader could figure out the action of the story, even if s/he couldn’t read all of the words, yet the wordplay throughout the comic underscores the fine balance that Green achieves in his comics artistry.

Next, Gwen and Andy discuss Camp Midnight, a collaboration between longtime friends Steven T. Seagle, a TV writer/producer and comic-book author, and Jason Adam Katzenstein, a cartoonist whose work regularly appears in The New Yorker. Their colorful and sophisticated all-ages comic follows Skye Sullivan, a disgruntled tween, who boards the wrong bus and ends up at a summer camp where everyone but her new friend, Mia, sheds their daytime human exteriors in order to reveal their true monster identities. At first, Skye wants nothing more than to head back home, but she finds herself drawn to Griffin, a boy worthy of “cute guy alerts,” and she wants to figure out why Mia is also something of an outcast at Camp Midnight.

Both Gwen and Andy comment on the powerful, saturated colors employed throughout the comic, as well as the realistic depiction of all of the joys and pitfalls of living away from home with a group of kids who are all too eager to form cliques and exclude outsiders. Like Hippopotamister, Skye learns a great deal about herself and then uses that knowledge to help a good friend. Gwen and Andy highly recommend Camp Midnight to tweens and teens, alike, though adults may also enjoy the coy humor and fantastic line style that carries across the text.

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