Goldilocks Wanted Dead or Alive: A Graphic Novel from the Land of Stories

With The Land of Stories, Chris Colfer has built one of the most intriguing and entertaining fairy tale worlds in literature, a world that can be enjoyed by both children and adults. I’m delighted he expanded that world further with this graphic novel centered on Goldilocks—both her past and present. This is a thrilling story that contains action, adventure, humor, drama and a whole lot of wisdom and love.

After escaping the authorities for a crime she never meant to commit, Goldilocks has been living in the Dwarf Forests, where criminals are free to roam. However, one day, Cinderella’s husband, Prince Charming, decides to conquer the Dwarf Forests by executing everyone in it, planning to offer the land to his future son. There’s no way Goldilocks will ever let that happen, but what can one girl do against a whole army?

The main thing that turned me slightly off about this graphic novel was its visual aspect, the actual graphics. They are very cartoonish and not super detailed—bright colours and little shade. They are pretty perfect for a young audience; children who I’m guessing love these types of illustrations. I personally did not care for them at first, but I’ll admit the lively colours did grow on me and the exaggerated—dramatic—facial expressions added to the story’s atmosphere.

The rest is pretty well executed: the storyline and character arcs. Even the supporting roles fit well into the story and I found myself wanting to see even more of one particular character whose presence is not often seen but rather often felt: Red Riding Hood. I am wholly in favour of a graphic novel featuring her as the main heroine, or anti-heroine, rather. As for the actual heroine, Goldilocks, she is, of course, superb. She’s strong, three-dimensional, smart and, overall, a survivor, which is exactly what you need to be to live in the Dwarf Forests. I can only recommend this book and Chris Colfer’s The Land of Stories series. If you haven’t read it already, it’s never too late. While I do recommend getting to it before picking this up, it is not a requirement.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

My Last Summer with Cass – Mark Crilley

I love a story told through good art. I love it even more when the story is as good as the art. Such is the case here. Megan and Cass are two childhood friends who share a passion for making art. They meet every summer, along with their families, at a cottage, where they unleash their creativity in different ways. But Cass’s family falls apart, and those summers are no more. The girls grow apart for a bit, then reunite in New York, the place where dreams come true and every artist can find a home. While Cass seems to have figured out the type of artist she is and where she belongs and with whom, Megan is still unsure of who she is meant to be. Terribly afraid of disappointing her parents, especially her dad, she holds back and plays it safe. Cass can see through her friend, can see her buried need to express her true self, and pushes Megan to dig deeper and be braver. All is well… until she pushes too far, too soon.

I related to this story a lot, especially to Megan’s character. I think we’re all forced to grow up one day or another, but for some of us it takes time. If Cass hadn’t been there to introduce her best friend to new things and show her a side of the world she hadn’t seen before, who knows when Megan would have had the chance to experience these new things. Or maybe she would have, but with the wrong crowd, someone who doesn’t have her back. Cass’ aggressive way of throwing new things at Megan did rub me the wrong way, because I wonder, can you really force growth? Isn’t it supposed to happen naturally, over time? More importantly, should you force it? Too much, too soon can be overwhelming for someone who has lived a fairly sheltered life and has only just recently started voicing her own opinions and standing up for herself. The truth is that, whether you agree with Cass’ actions or not, and Megan’s responses to these actions, you are at least sure to be emotionally affected by them because the author and illustrator draws with intent and meaning. I was glued to this graphic novel until the very end. Con: I finished it in 15 minutes. Pro: Those were some intense 15 minutes that I wouldn’t mind repeating.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

WolfWalkers: The Graphic Novel

I am not normally a fan of movie novelizations. I like original works. If a book came first, I like to start with that and if I really, really enjoyed it or want to know more about the characters and world, then I watch the movie and vice-versa. But in this case, I tried to watch the movie and that did not work out. While the graphics were absolutely stunning and unique besides, I simply could not take the slow-pacing. Perhaps it does pick up, as it does in the graphic novel, but I had to force myself to watch it and that never feels quite good. All of that to say that I was very pleased to learn that the movie was turned into a graphic novel, as I did genuinely want to know more about the story.

This is a very beautiful graphic novel. Unsurprisingly, the illustrations are gorgeous. Because I did watch a bit of the movie, I was already a little acquainted with the characters and was able to imagine their voices while I read, but it still felt very nice to learn more about them through paper. It’s quite convenient, I’d say, because with books you can generally read slower or faster. Of course, every story has its own pacing, but you can cheat a little if that allows you to have a better reading experience. With movies, not so much. I guess, in some cases, one can change the speed but it doesn’t feel that good or natural to me. So I absolutely loved being able to follow the story at a pacing more suited for me. It allowed me to feel comfortable reading this graphic novel and get through the storyline much quicker and easier.

To briefly summarize, this is the story of two girls – one human and one half-wolf. One lives in town and the other in the forest near the town. The new ‘‘protector’’ of the town wants to eradicate the forest and the wolves in it, but this puts the half-wolf and her family in danger. Robyn, the human girl, decides to help Mebh, the werewolf, be safe from human danger. The two are quite the pair. Robyn’s goal proves itself to be particularly challenging, since people of the town are scared and angry and think that they will only feel safe if they kill the wolves. Also, Robyn’s father is a hunter and he is especially hard to convince that wolves must be protected. It’s an emotional story with a touching beginning, middle and end. I do admit that I did not find the ending all that realistic, even for a fantasy story, and it was pretty quick besides, but the rest as they say in French chapeau!

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for a review.

Shark Summer – Ira Marcks

SHARK SUMMER is a colourful graphic novel about three kids who have goals they wish to accomplish this summer on the Martha’s Vineyard island. Gayle wants to make some money since she and her mom are struggling right now. She then teams up with Elijah, an aspiring filmmaker who wishes to make a movie this summer and enter it in a competition that rewards the winner with 3000$. But they need a story to tell, and so they need Maddie who certainly has one she’d like everyone to be aware of.

As a side ‘‘story’’ or ‘‘event,’’ this summer on Martha’s Vineyard, there is a motion picture movie being produced that involves a shark and a whole lot of gore. The three kids sometimes get inspiration from the set, its props and the production team. But to be honest, while it’s a big deal to the residents of this island, it is not such a major part of the plot. I actually would have liked to see these kids be somewhat involved in the production of this movie, but the author/illustrator did not share my wish. Instead, he sends Gayle, Elijah and Maddie on basically a treasure hunt, the treasure being the memory and physical proof that the Captain, a legend of the island, truly existed.

I am not disappointed with this graphic novel. I definitely think that there were many paths to choose within the storyline and the author chose the one that spoke the most to his vision. As I said, I would have liked the characters to be involved with the movie, as I was personally curious about it. I also found the ending to be a little too cutesy, whereas the rest of the graphic novel is intense—drama, mystery and secrets—so I did not feel like there was a satisfying climax. I did, however, enjoy learning more about the Captain, discovering different aspects of the Martha’s Vineyard island and spending time with Elijah, who was adorable. It’s not a  ‘‘wow’’ book but it’s a decent afternoon read.

Thank you Hachette Book Group Canada for the copy in exchange for an honest review.

The Phantom Twin – Lisa Brown

44280834The Phantom Twin by Lisa Brown

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: March 3rd, 2020
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Ghosts, Siblings, Historical Fiction, Romance


REVIEW:

This is sad. It has its beautiful moments but there is so much misfortune, more than necessary, I think. It has a melancholy atmosphere from start to finish that, I admit, calmed me quite a bit. Its illustrations are detailed but kid-friendly, and so colourful and soft that I felt no spookiness whatsoever, even if the story should have naturally created some. Continue reading

Camp – Kayla Miller

42873833Camp by Kayla Miller

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars
Received: Library
Published: 2019
Publisher: HMH BFYR
Recommended Age: 7+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Friendship Dynamics, Summer Camps, Social Isolation


REVIEW:

It was good to spend some time with Olive again. In the first graphic novel, she had trouble expressing her creative side and communicating with her friend groups. In this companion, she and her good friend Willow are away at camp. Everything is going well in the beginning. Olive and Willow are sticking together but Olive wants to branch out a little and try different things, talk to more people, whereas Willow wants to stick with the familiar. Continue reading

Click – Kayla Miller

37570594Click by Kayla Miller

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Library
Published: 2019
Publisher: HMH BFYR
Recommended Age: 7+
Genres & Themes: Middle Grade, Graphic Novel, Social Circles, Family Relationships


REVIEW:

This is a sweet graphic novel for middle schoolers. The illustrations are adorable, as is the colouring. It’s a story that deals with an issue that can be disheartening but remains very positive and solution-focused throughout.

There is a talent show at Olive’s school and while she’d love to be part of it, not one of her many friends has asked her to join their group. She doesn’t want to force herself into one so she’s feeling down and unsure of how to proceed. Continue reading

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me – Mariko Tamaki

40864841Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me by Mariko Tamaki

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Received: Library
Published: 2019
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, LGBTQIA+, Toxic Relationships, Friendship


REVIEW:

This was messy and beautiful. A beautiful mess. Just like life, I guess. The illustrations are soft, neat and gorgeous in a hypnotic way. The characters are unique and complex and some completely ordinary and yet interesting nonetheless. Some are shitty and hurtful and yet so charismatic that they pull you in, making you feel special to be in their presence, but oh so very wrong for you. Continue reading

Displacement – Kiku Hughes

DisplacementDisplacement by Kiku Hughes

My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: August 4th, 2020
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 12+
Genres & Themes: Young Adult, Graphic Novel, Historical Fiction, Family History, WWII


REVIEW:

This story, and these illustrations—the entire book, really—took my breath away. I read it in one sitting and there is no chance I could have taken a break from reading it. I didn’t even dare try. I felt like the author needed to talk about her family history and she needed me to be there to listen to her and try to understand. Continue reading

One Year at Ellsmere – Faith Erin Hicks

46223329One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: Raincoast Books
Published: July 14th, 2020
Publisher: First Second
Recommended Age: 8+
Genres & Themes: Middle School, Graphic Novel, Friendship, Bullying, Boarding School


REVIEW:

I don’t understand. I don’t understand why some authors decide to include one fantasy element in an otherwise completely contemporary story. I understand magical realism. I think it can be very beautiful, surprising and, well, magical. But this was no magical realism story. Continue reading