Friday, February 27, 2009

Graphic Novels Make a Big Push in Children's Literature

Graphic novels have had a cult following in the adult literature world for quite some time. With the adaptation of many graphic novels into movies the medium is growing. Now children's literature is getting a boost from the graphic novel medium, as well. Editors in all the big publishing houses are on the lookout for graphic novels written for middle readers and young adults. Here are a few good examples you can probably find on your bookstore shelves today.

"Rapunzel's Revenge"
By Shannon Hale and Dean Hale
Illustrated by Nathan Hale
For ages 7 – 12
You may think you know the story of Rapunzel. Girl trapped in a tower for years by an evil witch. she throws her ridiculously long hair down to a prince who then scales the tower wall to rescue her. You remember, right? Well, that's not exactly how this version goes.

The Hales have placed Rapunzel in a beautiful castle with a lush green garden. She lives there somewhat happily until, as a young teen, she climbs the garden wall and discovers everything she thought she knew was wrong.

With a wild western setting infused with magic the adventures include posses, giant serpents, jackelopes and fairytale references galore. Rapunzel discovers the person she thought was her mother is actually an evil witch and sets out to find and rescue her real mother. she and her amazing hair team up with Jack, as in beanstalk, and set off through the countryside. they right wrongs, change lives and bring a little joy to the world along the way. 

The Hales put an adventurous and magical spin on the classic Rapunzel story. The dialogue and banter is witty and quick. The adventures are perilous without being frightening. And where most graphic novels fall flat "Rapunzel's Revenge" is successful — the characters are well developed and interesting.

Nathan hale does a great job with the illustrations. He stays away from the mange-style illustrations and brings Rapunzel to life in a very American setting and style. Boys and girls will enjoy reading this story several times, even with the fairytale kiss at the end.

"Indiana Jones Adventures, Vol. 1"
By Philip Gelatt
Illustrated by Rick Lacy
For ages 8 – 12
Ready for a new installment of Indiana Jones? This one is pretty good. Set before Raiders of the Lost Ark, Indy has his first run-in with the Nazis. while in Northern Europe Indy must battle a blizzard, find an ancient monument and unlock its secrets before the bad guys.

As with all Indiana Jones stories there is a supernatural element, fighting and a little, not-so-racy innuendo. This kid-friendly story has fast action and thrills lightly peppered with interesting historical details. The illustrations and dialogue do a good job of capturing the look and feel of Indiana Jones. Parents may even enjoy it.

Although the last movie received mixed reviews, I'd be surprised if this new line of graphic novels did. It is an enjoyable read that may just hook a new generation of Indy fans.

Other graphic novel series you may enjoy:
"Nancy Drew #14: Sleight of Dan"
By Stefan Petrucha and Sarah Kinney
Illustrated by Sho Murase
for ages 7 – 11
Nancy Drew, girl detective, is on the case when a magician's assistant goes magically missing during a show. I know I only read one book in the series, but I feel safe in saying, if you love Nancy Drew or just a good mystery you'll enjoy this graphic novel series.

"Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone: Walking Distance"
By rod Serling and Mark Kneece
Illustrated by Doug McHargue
For ages 9 – 16
The Twilight Zone is back. I know, It never actually left since you can find reruns on late night cable. Now, however, the show's most enduring episodes have been re-imagined as graphic novels. "Walking Distance" finds ad executive, Martin Sloan, looking for redemption in his old hometown. But in the Twilight Zone what you find is never what you expect. Rod Serling was ahead of his time. He used the science fiction medium to get around the censors and openly discuss social injustice, communism and other fears of the time — many of which remain relevant today. 

"Warriors: The Rise of Scourge"
By Erin Hunter and Dan Jolley
Illustrated by Bettina Kurkosi
For ages 7 – 12
Based on Erin Hunter's popular, "Warriors" novel series, the story follows wild feline clans. Real ones, not the usual teenage humans wearing short skirts and cat ears manga-style. Fans of "Warriors" will enjoy the art and style of the graphic novels but be discouraged by the thin plot lines.

For information about reprints and pricing, e-mail

Thursday, February 26, 2009

It's Creepy Time

From picture books to young adult fiction the macabre makes its mark in children's literature.

"Beastly Rhymes to Read After Dark"By Judy Sierra 
Illustrated by Brian Biggs
For ages 4 – 8
In 2005 Judy Sierra spoofed Mother Goose with a well-received book of rhymes entitled, "Monster Goose." Sierra revisits a combination of goofy and ghastly with her new book, "Beastly rhymes."

Children will want this book before they even read the first line. Covered in the faux fur of some unidentified green-spotted beastie, it is sure to get their attention. The fun continues between the fur-clad covers with 11 funny and macabre rhymes. Creepy crawlies strike back in Never Bully a Bug. The Lavatory Crocodile will make children think twice about using school toilets. And Parasite Lost teaches about unintended consequences. Don't worry, fits of giggles will stave off any potential bout with bad dreams.

"Heck: Where the Bad Kids Go"
By Dale E. Basye
Illustrated by Bob Dob
For Ages 9 – 12
"Heck" is an inventive and darkly funny tale about Milton and Marlo Fauster, siblings who die in a tragic marshmallow bear explosion. They are sent to Heck, an otherworldly reform school. Teachers like Lizzie Borden, President Richard Nixon, and Blackbeard the Pirate make the experience very heckish for everyone.

Milton can understand why his kleptomaniac sister is in Heck, but he thinks they must have made a mistake with him. After all he was a model citizen. Evidently the school principal of darkness, Bea "Elsa" Bubb, doesn't make mistakes though.

The plot revolves around the Fauster finding a way to escape. The sewers and a good deal of potty humor play a part in the tale. It is a humorous and fast-paced read that older children will enjoy. however much of the humor with names and infamous people of the past will be over their heads. How many preteens know who Milton  or Faust are anyway?

"The Devouring"
By Simon Holt 
For Ages 15 and older
Think Body Snatchers meets the boogie-man. this very creepy tale is a great Halloween or Friday the 13th read for teens that like to be scared by a good horror story. Be aware, there is violence and very scary content that begins in the first chapter — actually the prologue.

This tale follows Reggie, a high school freshmen and her 8-year-old brother, Henry. When Reggie finds and begins reading a strange old journal, she believes the contents are merely the ravings of a crazy old woman. It's not until her brother begins acting strange that she realizes the demonic beings mentioned in the journal might actually be real. The Vours (rhymes with hours) have inhabited her brother's body. Now she must figure out how to destroy her biggest fears before they destroy her. Hopefully she can save the people she loves form a living nightmare in the process. 

This is no children's book. But teens who like a tale of terror will enjoy "The Devouring."

For information about reprints and pricing, e-mail

Chapter One is Online!

Welcome to Chapter One Book Reviews. I will be posting regular book reviews on everything from picture books to young adult novels and pretty much anything in between. 

I have been reviewing children's literature for more than six years. My review column is regularly featured in Palmetto Parent, Upstate Parent and Lowcountry Parent magazines. It is also featured, on a not-so-regular basis, in other local and regional niche publications such as GS Magazine. Due to contractual obligations it will be a minimum of 30 days before first run reviews, published in magazines, can be posted here on my blog. Don't worry, I have more than enough reviews, that can be published here right away, to help any parent find a new book for their child.

It's not all about reviews, though. In the coming days I'll also share some thoughts and begin discussions about the state of today's children's literature market, the difficulties of getting discovered, self-publishing, finding freelance editors, and what kids think about the current crop of books at the book store.