Continuing where I left off last week, I’ve got some more comics! This week’s comics are mostly for middle grade readers and up.
This is the third book in a series, featuring the fearless Claudette (along with her brother Gaston and her friend Marie) as they face various threats to the village of Mont Petit Pierre. (Check out my review of the first book here.) In this volume, it is time for the Warrior Games, where young hopefuls from various villages compete in various games—and Mont Petit Pierre is finally eligible again. The Marquis is determined to win glory and honor for his village, though his bone-headed pride may have put everyone in danger.
Meanwhile, the duchess of the Sea Kingdom has plans of her own, and there’s something very suspicious about those kids of hers. And why are all the other contestants vanishing mysteriously? Well, I’m sure it’s nothing.
There’s a lot of humor, action, and creepy-but-funny monsters in Monsters Beware!
Phoebe and her unicorn (Marigold Heavenly Nostrils) are back, in the latest collection of comics. My kids and I really love this comic strip, and there’s always a fight over who gets to read it first. And then who gets to reread it first. And so on.
In case you’re new to the comic, Phoebe is a young girl who happens to have a unicorn as her best friend. She still has regular, everyday experiences, like wanting to be cool, playing videogames with her parents, wishing that the holidays never had to end. There’s not necessarily a unifying plotline in this collection, but it’s always fun to see what Phoebe and Marigold get up to.
This is the second book in a series (the first is mentioned in this Stack Overflow). Avani has been invited to join the prestigious League of Lasers, but first she has to survive an initiation challenge. Things don’t go as planned, though, and Avani ends up stranded on an uncharted planet … with Pam, her nemesis from the original book. Can the two of them put their differences aside to survive the unknown? And how will the Star Scouts find them?
It’s another fun story that puts Avani and Pam in a new situation, and introduces a few new characters as well. Plus: we find out what happens when Avani’s dad figures out that she didn’t actually join the Flower Scouts…
Cici is 10 and she wants to be a writer—she met a local author at school, and knew that’s what she really wanted to do. She also happens to be insatiably curious, and can’t resist investigating anything out of the ordinary, much to the chagrin of her two friends, Lena and Erica. This lovely hardcover has two parts: “The Petrified Zoo” and “Hector’s Book.”
In “The Petrified Zoo,” Cici and her friends spot Mr. Mysterious while they’re in their treehouse hideout. They see a man walking through the woods, carrying buckets of paint—and a caged bird. Where does he go? What is he painting? Cici eventually finds out, and it’s a remarkable story, but her sneaking around also frays some of the trust between her and her mom.
In “Hector’s Book,” Cici spies on an old woman who leaves the house at the same time every week, carrying the same book. Wherever she goes, she always returns looking a little sadder than before. As Cici pursues her investigation, her friends get tired of serving as her alibis … but she does discover a fascinating story behind the book.
The illustrations in Cici’s Journal are beautiful, with a watercolor look unlike typical comic books, with the occasional pages from Cici’s journal featuring her own drawings and “photographs.” The stories have a sense of mystery, nothing really spooky but more a sense of wonder. Cici’s relationships with her friends and her mother feel real and suggest some useful life lessons in a way that’s not preachy or cliched. Overall, it’s just a very lovely book. There are already four stories in the original French editions, so I’m hoping First Second will be publishing another one soon!
If this one looks familiar, it may be because Jamie Greene shared a preview of the comic last year, or because you’ve caught the animated show on Netflix. The Nektons have a high-tech submarine they use to explore the oceans, and their family has been searching for Atlantis for generations. This trade paperback collects the first six volumes of the comic, starting with a sea monster sighting near Greenland, and later moving to the island of Tartaruga, which mysteriously survived an oncoming tsunami.
Both of these stories were featured in the first season of the cartoon (as the first and last episodes, actually), and it’s fun to see them in comic book form. It’s nice to see a mixed-race family at the center of the story, and siblings who care for each other even though they don’t always get along. There’s a lot of humor and adventure—plus really big sea creatures!
Hope Larson is back with her first solo comic in a long time, a coming-of-age story about Bina, finding herself in music over summer break. I shared an excerpt last summer, and the book is finally out now! Bina has known Austin her entire life—their families live next door to each other, and they’ve spent the last five years maxing out their Combined Summer Fun Index, scoring things like the number of times they went swimming, or the number of cats they’ve petted. But this summer, Austin is going away to soccer camp for a month, plus he’s acting a little weird, saying that they’re now too old for that sort of thing. While Austin’s away, Bina struggles to figure out what to do with her time, eventually exploring her love of music and making some new friends.
One of the things the story explores is the sometimes awkward evolution of friendships as kids hit adolescence: the way that Bina and Austin are pulled in different directions, not only by their summer schedules but also by new friendships and cultural expectations. But I love the way that Bina navigates these tricky twists and turns, making mistakes and learning from them, and figuring out who she wants to be.
Wax is a young DJ who dreams of being the greatest DJ in the world. He’s growing up in Brooklyn in the 1980s, hanging out with his pal Cooky P … but he’s not there for long. After a failed attempt to write a love song for his crush, Pirate Polly, Wax throws himself into making the perfect mix, thus signalling a flying saucer that transports him and his friends to Discopia, a hip hop planet ruled by a giant robot. There, Wax is trained in the art of sci-fu, the manipulation of sound waves, so that he can face Choo Choo and his team of the Five Deadly Dangers.
Okay, it’s a bit bizarre, for sure, but it’s also pretty fun. Wax and the other characters break into rhymes, and it’s an entertaining mash-up of kung fu and hip-hop, with some ’80s references thrown in for good measure.
Jonesy Volume One, Volume Two, and Volume 3 by Sam Humphries & Caitlin Rose Boyle
I finally got around to reading Jonesy; the first volume was published in 2016, and the most recent volume was just published this past winter. These comics are probably best for tweens and up—the main character, Jonesy, is a teenager with an attitude … and a secret power. She can make anyone fall in love with anything, except her, as it turns out. Once she figures that out, though, she keeps trying to use her powers to get her way, whether that’s to clear out the line at the donut shop (where she’s working) so she can spend time on her phone, or to convince her dad to let her get a tattoo. Of course, messing with magical love never goes exactly as anticipated, and Jonesy constantly finds her plans backfiring in hilarious ways.
The stories are fairly silly, but behind the magic love powers, Jonesy is a modern geeky teen: she makes zines, she follows her favorite pop star online, she doesn’t always get along with her parents. She also speaks up about her passions and learns something about activism and using her powers for good—or at least trying to.
My Current Stack
I’m currently enjoying Dictionary Stories by Jez Burrows, a collection of short stories constructed using those sample phrases and sentences from dictionaries. It’s hilarious and clever.
Disclosure: I received review copies or advanced reader copies of these titles.