Category Archives: Graphic Novel or Adaptation

Review: Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken

Brightly Woven by Alexandra Bracken, Leigh Dragoon, and Kit Seaton

Brightly Woven
Alexandra Bracken
Adapted by Leigh Dragoon
Illustrated by Kit Seaton
Disney Hyperion
Published February 2, 2021

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Brightly Woven

A graphic novel about discovering your own power.

Extraordinary things just don’t happen to fourteen-year-old Sydelle Mirabil, a talented weaver who dreams about life outside of her tiny village. But that all changes when a mysterious young wizard named Wayland North appears and asks for Sydelle’s help. He’s got a shocking secret that could stop a war between kingdoms-if he can reach the capital with the news in time. North needs a navigator who can mend his magical cloaks, and Sydelle is perfect for the job.

As Sydelle and North race against the clock to deliver their message, they must contend with unusually wild weather and a dark wizard who will do anything to stop them. But the sudden earthquakes and freak snowstorms may not be a coincidence. As Sydelle discovers more about North’s past and her own strange abilities, she realizes that the fate of the kingdom may rest in her fingertips.

My Review

I stumbled into this book as I was looking for middle grade fantasy graphic novels for my niece. This past year, I read HOWL’S MOVING CASTLE for the first time and loved it, so the comparison of this book to that one also had me intrigued. I guess I see why the comparison was made if it’s because a wizard and a girl who doesn’t recognize her own power travel around and get caught in some political intrigue.

It didn’t take me long to read the novel, and I especially enjoyed the illustrations. I liked the way the relationship between North and Sydelle developed. It’s a sweet friendship with hints at their attraction toward one another.

This graphic novel covers the first part of Alexandra Bracken’s debut novel of the same title, which I have not read. It doesn’t look like there will be follow-up books to this one, which is sad since I’d have liked to read more.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 9 to 12.

Representation
Major characters are white.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
North is a wizard. His family has been cursed.

Violent Content
Situations of peril and (cartoonish) battle scenes.

Drug Content
None.

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Review: Garlic and the Vampire by Bree Paulsen

Garlic and the Vampire
Bree Paulsen
Quill Tree Books
Published September 28, 2021

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Garlic and the Vampire

A farm-fresh debut graphic novel starring a heroine who is braver than she realizes.

Garlic feels as though she’s always doing something wrong. At least with her friend Carrot by her side and the kindly Witch Agnes encouraging her, Garlic is happy to just tend her garden, where it’s nice and safe.

But when her village of vegetable folk learns that a bloodthirsty vampire has moved into the nearby castle, they all agree that, in spite of her fear and self-doubt, Garlic is the obvious choice to confront him. And with everyone counting on her, Garlic reluctantly agrees to face the mysterious vampire, hoping she has what it takes.

After all, garlic drives away vampires…right?

My Review

I’ve heard other reviewers raving about how much they love this book, so it’s been on my reading list for a bit. I grabbed a few more graphic novels for our home library recently and added a copy of this one to the shelf.

Most of the main characters are vegetables, which is really cute and different. Garlic, the main character, has a lot of anxiety, and she depends on her friend Carrot to help steady her. I think all the vegetable characters were originally created by a witch whose garden they used to work in. Now, they plant and harvest what they choose, and the witch sees them as autonomous beings with free will.

I really liked the scene in which Garlic meets the vampire. She’s terrified but trying to put on a big, brave front, and the vampire’s reaction made me smile. I liked the way the story resolved, too.

On the whole, I’m glad I read this one. It’s super short and really different. I think readers with anxiety will find Garlic easy to identify with, and those looking for a warm, fall vibe with a little Halloween flavor will find lots to love in GARLIC AND THE VAMPIRE.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 8 to 12.

Representation
Most characters are vegetables. There’s also a witch and vampire who appear white or white-passing. Garlic has a lot of anxiety.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
There are witch and vampire characters. The witch made the vegetable characters alive to act as her helpers, but now she respects them as individuals with autonomy.

Violent Content
Garlic worries about facing the vampire. She brings a hammer and stake made of hawthorn wood.

Drug Content
The vampire character is shown holding a wine glass full of red liquid. It’s not alcohol, though.

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Review: Call Me Iggy by Jose Aguirre and Rafael Rosado

Call Me Iggy
Jose Aguirre
Illustrated by Rafael Rosado
First Second
Published February 13, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About Call Me Iggy

Ignacio “Iggy” Garcia is an Ohio-born Colombian American teen living his best life. After bumping into Marisol (and her coffee) at school, Iggy’s world is spun around. But Marisol as too much going on to be bothered with the likes of Iggy. She has school, work, family, and the uphill battle of getting her legal papers. As Iggy stresses over how to get Marisol to like him, his grandfather comes to the rescue. The thing is, not only is his abuelito dead, but he also gives terrible love advice. The worst. And so, with his ghost abuelito’s meddling, Iggy’s life begins to unravel as he sets off on a journey of self-discovery.

CALL ME IGGY tells the story of Iggy searching for his place in his family, his school, his community, and ultimately—as the political climate in America changes during the 2016 election— his country. Focusing on familial ties and budding love, CALL ME IGGY challenges our assumptions about Latino-American identity while reaffirming our belief in the hope that all young people represent. Perfect for lovers of multigenerational stories like DISPLACEMENT and THE MAGIC FISH.

My Review

This is such a sweet story. Iggy accidentally wakes the ghost of his grandfather and the two agree to help each other. Iggy needs help learning Spanish and getting the girl he’s interested in, and in exchange, Abuelito would like Iggy to find an orchid field where the family can scatter his ashes.

Sometimes Abuelito’s help leads to disastrous (but funny) consequences. At other times, he helps Iggy see things in a new way or challenges the views he holds about himself, his culture, and his family.

The story takes place during the 2016 presidential election, so some scenes reference some of the campaign speeches and rhetoric that some voters ascribed to. Iggy’s parents share their views on the political climate, and so does Iggy’s friend Marisol, who could be deported under the new presidential administration.

As a character, Iggy demonstrates so much growth and new confidence through the conversations he has with his grandfather and his friendship with Marisol. I loved the illustrations of his different expressions. Those paired with the dialog made for an incredibly moving story and a pretty quick read.

I had a lot of fun reading this book. I can see the comparison to THE MAGIC FISH, though there are no fairytales in this book. It has some of the same feeling of searching for one’s place in the world. Readers looking for a sweet romance or story about finding where you belong will enjoy this book.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 up.

Representation
Iggy and his family are Columbian-American. Marisol and her family are undocumented Mexican immigrants.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
Iggy’s grandfather teaches him his favorite swear word in Spanish. He and Iggy use the word several times.

Romance/Sexual Content
A boy and girl have romantic feelings for one another.

Spiritual Content
Iggy knocks over his grandfather’s urn, spilling his ashes, and his grandfather’s ghost appears, offering Iggy a deal: Spanish lessons and help getting the girl he’s crushing on in exchange for his finding a place to scatter his grandfather’s ashes.

Violent Content
Includes racist quotes from one of Donald Trump’s campaign speeches. Some other minor characters make racist comments. Iggy helping a girl pick up her school papers becomes a racist meme shared online. Characters assume Iggy is Puerto Rican and speaks Spanish.

Drug Content
At one point, Iggy’s father asks him if he’s using drugs. He’s guessing– there’s no evidence to make him think this.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of CALL ME IGGY in exchange for my honest review. All opinions my own.

Review: The Awakening Storm by Jaimal Yogis and Vivian Truong

The Awakening Storm (City of Dragons #1)
Jaimal Yogis
Illustrated by Vivian Truong
Graphix
Published September 21, 2021

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Awakening Storm

Grace and her friends must protect a newly hatched dragon from mysterious evildoers.

When Grace moves to Hong Kong with her mom and new stepdad, her biggest concern is making friends at her fancy new boarding school. But when a mysterious old woman gifts her a dragon egg during a field trip, Grace discovers that the wonderful stories of dragons she heard when she was a young girl might actually be real–especially when the egg hatches overnight.

The dragon has immense powers that Grace has yet to understand. And that puts them both in danger from mysterious forces intent on abusing the dragon’s power. And now it’s up to Grace and her school friends to uncover the sinister plot threatening the entire city!

My Review

I think I expected something a little different based on the cover art of this book, so as I started reading, it took me a while to catch up to what the story was actually about. Based on the cover art, I expected there to be more dragons in the story. Some are mentioned, but only one is a main character.

I really liked Grace’s friend group. They’re an inclusive bunch, and they have well-defined personalities. I liked how their input shaped Grace’s quest, and the banter and jokes kept the tone light.

Though the story started off slow, once Grace and her family moved to Hong Kong, I felt like things picked up. She finds the dragon, and bad guys start chasing her. The tension just kept going up from there.

I got this book because I know my nephew loves stories about dragons. I liked the book well enough to consider buying the rest of the series, too. It was really fun to read once I got past those opening scenes.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 14 up.

Representation
Grace is Chinese American and biracial. Her mom is white, and her dad is Chinese American. Her friend Ramesh is Indian, and her friend James is Black and Australian.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
None.

Spiritual Content
Grace’s dad tells her tales about the Yellow Emperor and the warriors who served him. Grace cares for a young dragon and searches for others. A goddess speaks to a fisherman.

Violent Content
Racist comments and bullying. Death of a parent.

Drug Content
Grace learns about medical experimentation that took place years before.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Best New-to-Me Authors of 2023

Top Ten Tuesday: Best New-to-Me Authors of 2023

2023 was such a wild year for me, reading-wise. I feel like I spent all year struggling to throttle back my review commitments while simultaneously wildly self-sabotaging every time a publisher sent me a new catalog offering review copies of books I desperately wanted to read. Too many good books is one of my favorite problems to have– except when it adds real stress to my life. It is a wonderful problem to have because you’ve discovered new authors you love, which I absolutely did. In fact, today, I’m sharing a list of the best new-to-me authors of 2023.

Note: Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week, participants share a list of their top ten books in a particular topic. This week’s topic is the best books we read in 2023 by authors who were new to us.

Also note: This post contains affiliate links that don’t cost you anything to use but help to support my blog when you use them for your shopping.

Top Ten Tuesday: Best New-to-Me Authors of 2023

Ellen O’Clover – The Seven Percent of Ro Devereux

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

My thoughts: THE SEVEN PERCENT OF RO DEVEREUX is a debut novel, so Ellen O’Clover isn’t just new to me; she’s new to young adult readers everywhere. Ha. The tricky relationships and friends-to-enemies-to-lovers trope hooked me from the first chapter and had me reading all the way to the end. It’s also got a STEM girl whose dating app goes viral and lands her a chance at her dream job. Waiting for the relationship to turn the corner from enemies to lovers was agony for me in this book. I think readers who like Emma Lord or Jenn Bennett will love this one.

Published January 17, 2023 | My Review


Tim Probert – The Girl and the Galdurian and Shadow of the Bird

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

My thoughts: I’m pretty sure I saw another blogger raving about how great this series is, and I just had to check it out. The illustrations are so whimsical and fun– and the story is just the same! Bea (the girl) has anxiety, which the author represents in the panels as a cloud surrounding her and separating her from her allies. I loved that visual representation and the encouraging way that Bea’s partner, Cad, offers her his friendship and support. I’m a pretty hardcore fan of this series and already pre-ordered the third book, which should be out in April.

Published 2020 (Book 1) and 2022 (Book 2) | The Girl and the Galdurian Review | Shadow of the Bird Review


F. T. Lukens – Spell Bound

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

My thoughts: I had completely missed out on this author’s work before the offer to review this book came my way via the publisher. Looking at the cover, it’s probably not the first book I’d grab off the shelf, but once I started reading… I knew Lukens was going to be an author I needed to add to my auto-buy list. Basically, this is about two apprentices who work for two rival sorcerers. They’re responsible for handling calls about hexes or cursed objects, and they decide to team up when one’s mentor goes missing. I loved the back-and-forth between these two characters and the weird/wild magical world Lukens created here. I think I already bought their other books, and I really want to read them.

Published April 4, 2023 | My Review


Hanna Alkaf – Hamra and the Jungle of Memories

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

My thoughts: This is another book that I read based on another blogger’s recommendations. (I need to keep better track of where these recs come from.) The description of this Malaysian folklore-based reimagining of Little Red Riding Hood had me so curious. And once I got into the book– the writing and rich setting absolutely swept me away. This isn’t Hanna Alkaf’s first book, either, so she’s another author whose backlist is calling to me even as I watch for news of upcoming books.

Published March 28, 2023 | My Review


Claribel Ortega – Witchlings and The Golden Frog Games

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

My thoughts: I bought a copy of GHOST SQUAD when it came out, but I still hadn’t managed to read it when I saw an invitation to a blog tour from Rockstar Book Tours for THE GOLDEN FROG GAMES. Tour participants also received a PDF version of the first book in the series, so I figured I’d start there and review both. I loved the village and all the pageantry surrounding becoming a witchling and part of a coven. It felt fresh and clever and reminded me a bit of CATTYWAMPUS by Ash Van Otterloo, which I also loved. I heard another book influencer talk about the way that Ortega writes middle grade without ever talking down to readers, and I totally agree. The books feel young, as they should, and yet bear a wisdom beyond the years of the characters that never interferes with the joy of reading them.

Published 2022 (Book 1) and 2023 (Book 2) | Witchlings Review | The Golden Frog Games Review


M. R. Fournet – Brick Dust and Bones

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

My thoughts: I’m a pretty squeamish reader, so I don’t read a lot of horror, but there is something about this book. Maybe it’s the old New Orleans setting with its fog of ghostly, dangerous creatures. Maybe it’s the sweet, determined main character who is absolutely in over his head but can’t stop until he finds a way to save his mom. It could also be the poignant writing that I couldn’t stop thinking about, even when the book ended. This is another debut novel, and still one more author whose books I’m anxiously anticipating. Because the cover is a little extra creepy, I went into this book thinking I’d just sample a chapter or two, and before I knew it, I’d been carried away all the way to the last page. I’m super excited for the sequel, which should be out this summer.

Published July 18, 2023 | My Review


Francesca Zappia – Katzenjammer and Greymist Fair

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

My thoughts: I’ve been aware of Francesca Zappia’s books since 2015, but for some reason, I’d never read any until last year. KATZENJAMMER is a pretty surreal book, maybe somewhere in the vein of Nova Ren Suma or A. S. King? I loved the storytelling, though, and the way Zappia made me feel what the characters were experiencing and think about things in a different way. When I saw GREYMIST FAIR, I had just finished reading KATZ, so I was really curious how this author would do a more traditional fantasy story. I loved the way the story is split into parts, and each one reveals more about what’s happening in this small, isolated village. If you like darker fairytale stories, closer to the original Grimm Brothers tales, definitely grab GREYMIST FAIR.

Published 2022 (Katzenjammer) and 2023 (Greymist Fair) | Katzenjammer Review | Greymist Fair Review


S. Jae Jones – Zhara: Guardians of the Dawn

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

My thoughts: This is another author I’ve been aware of for a long time, and yet somehow never managed to read until last year. (Insert facepalm.) I actually own a copy of WINTERSONG, which is the author’s debut and looks fabulous. Anyway. This year, I dove into this beautiful, intense series opener about a girl with forbidden magic that may be the key to saving her world. I am guessing, based on the title of this and the sequel, that each book will focus on a different character with a different kind of magic, and they’ll all have to work together somehow to save the world. I’m really excited to read the sequel, AMI, which will be out later this year.

Published August 1, 2023 | My Review


Aden Polydoros – Wrath Becomes Her

Amazon | BookshopGoodreads

My thoughts: I’ve now read at least four books that explore the Jewish folklore about the creation of a golem, and each one is SO different. It’s been really cool to see how different authors write about it. Aden Polydoros is another author that had been on my radar for a long time, but I just hadn’t managed to read it until last year. And, wow, I’m so glad I did! While this is probably the darkest version of the folklore stories that I mentioned, I loved the depth of heart and feeling that Polydoros brought to the page here. It’s got this terrible sadness– kind of the way FRANKENSTEIN does– and a strange kind of beauty emerges out of that sorrow. I don’t know. I’m not explaining it well, but it’s a story that will definitely stick with me.

Published October 10, 2023 | My Review


Abigail Johnson – Every Time You Go Away

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

My thoughts: This is one of the last titles released by Inkyard Press, which was one of my favorite imprints, so it’s extra sad that I only just discovered one of their authors. Looking over my list so far, there’s so much fantasy on here that it’d be easy not to realize how much I love a good, solid contemporary romance. This one centers on an aspiring jewelry artist and wheelchair user who has long been in love with her best friend. The one who keeps disappearing whenever his mom shows up to rip him away from his grandparents’ house. It’s achingly sad and yet so sweet and hopeful. I loved it and would love to read more by Abigail Johnson.

Published December 5, 2023 | My Review

Darcy Little Badger – Elatsoe

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

My thoughts: Thank you, Backlist Reading Challenge, for helping me finally get to read this book! I bought ELATSOE when it came out, and I heard so many amazing things about it. Before finally getting to read this novel, I read a short story by Darcy Little Badger in the anthology MERMAIDS NEVER DROWN, and I really enjoyed the writing and how much character development was packed into so few pages. I finally read ELATSOE, and though it wasn’t love at first page, I definitely got swept away in this reimagining of modern-day America with magic and magical creatures. I loved the back-and-forth between the past and present and how the tales of Elatsoe’s six-great grandmother connected to the dangers she and her family faced in the present.

Published August 25, 2020 | My Review


What are the best new-to-you authors you read in 2023?

Did you discover any new authors last year that have become favorites? How did you find out about them?

If you’ve read books by any of the authors on my list, please let me know. I’d love to hear what you thought about them.

Review: The Girl Who Sang by Estelle Nadel, Sammy Savos, and Bethany Strout

The Girl Who Sang: A Holocaust Memoir of Hope and Survival
Estelle Nadel
Illustrated by Sammy Savos
Edited by Bethany Strout
Roaring Brook Press
Published January 23, 2024

Amazon | Bookshop | Goodreads

About The Girl Who Sang: A Holocaust Memoir of Hope and Survival

A heartrending graphic memoir about a young Jewish girl’s fight for survival in Nazi-occupied Poland, THE GIRL WHO SANG illustrates the power of a brother’s love, the kindness of strangers, and finding hope when facing the unimaginable.

Born to a Jewish family in a small Polish village, Estelle Nadel―then known as Enia Feld―was just seven years old when the Nazis invaded Poland in 1939. Once a vibrant child with a song for every occasion, Estelle would eventually lose her voice as, over the next five years, she would survive the deaths of their mother, father, their eldest brother and sister, and countless others.

A child at the mercy of her neighbors during a terrifying time in history, THE GIRL WHO SANG is an enthralling first-hand account of Estelle’s fight for survival during World War II. She would weather loss, betrayal, near-execution, and spend two years away from the warmth of the sun―all before the age of eleven. And once the war was over, Estelle would walk barefoot across European borders and find remnants of home in an Austrian displaced persons camp before finally crossing the Atlantic to arrive in New York City―a young woman carrying the unseen scars of war.

Beautifully rendered in bright hues with expressive, emotional characters, debut illustrator Sammy Savos masterfully brings Estelle’s story of survival during the Holocaust to a whole new generation of readers. THE GIRL WHO SANG is perfect for fans of MARCH, MAUS, and ANNE FRANK’S DIARY.

My Review

What a powerful first-hand account of survival during the Nazi occupation of Poland. In the opening pages, we meet Enia’s family and see the quiet life they live in their small town. Then, as the Nazis invade, things change. Her family must hide. Enia feels afraid. She loses so many people, but always, when she needs help, someone steps up to help her.

Some of the scenes in the book are pretty chilling. There’s one brief series of panels that shows, from a distance, soldiers lining people up against a building. In the next image, red smudges the wall of the building, and the people are shown collapsed on the ground. The viewer easily understands they’ve been shot to death.

Thinking about this tiny girl never speaking above a whisper or standing up while she was in hiding can’t help but break your heart. Thinking about her brother, who was only a few years older than she was, risking his life several times a week to look for food is also heartbreaking. I can’t begin to think about how I would process that anxiety– both from being the person going out and the person left behind. The resilience and devotedness of these siblings leaves me in awe.

I also love the decision to tell this story as a graphic memoir. Not only do the illustrations help to anchor the story in its setting, but they carefully lay out the story without needing to graphically describe some of the horrors Estelle and her family endured.

I think readers who were moved by THE LIBRARIAN OF AUSCHWITZ: THE GRAPHIC ADAPTATION or the graphic adaptations mentioned in the book description above will find this story equally moving and important.

Content Notes

Recommended for Ages 10 up.

Representation
Estelle (called Enia in the early pages of the book) and her family are Jewish and Polish.

Profanity/Crude Language Content
None.

Romance/Sexual Content
Enia believes her older sister and her sister’s sweetheart will get married.

She describes how her family used public showers in town once per week as part of getting ready for the Sabbath. One image shows a vague representation from a distance of Enia and her mother readying for a shower.

Spiritual Content
Enia celebrates Shabbat and Passover with her family. She also learns to prepare food according to Jewish rules so that the food is kosher.

Violent Content
Soldiers ransack Enia’s house, looking for valuables.

There’s one brief series of panels that shows, from a distance, soldiers lining people up against a building. In the next image, red smudges the wall of the building, and the people are shown collapsed on the ground. The viewer easily understands they’ve been shot to death. Enia is told that her mother was beaten by soldiers and likely shot to death the next morning. She’s told that other family members were shot as well and later learns they were killed in a gas chamber.

At one point, Enia witnesses soldiers beating her brother and begs for them to stop. The panels show simplified images that hint at the violence without being gratuitous.

Drug Content
None.

Note: This post contains affiliate links, which do not cost you anything to use, but which help support this blog. I received a free copy of THE GIRL WHO SANG in exchange for my honest review.