Hilo: Gina – the Girl Who Broke the World by Judd Winick

Judd Winick’s Hilo series is my favourite kid’s graphic novel series. I love it because it’s entertaining, action-packed, and laugh-out-loud-funny, but it also has real emotional depth. His characters are saving the world and putting themselves in danger while doing so, and Judd shows how this affects his characters, especially the grief they feel at losing friends. In the first six books in the series, D.J., Gina and Hilo have been through a lot together, and they’ve come out the other side as different kids. The latest book in the series, Gina – the Girl Who Broke the World, starts a new chapter for our heroes, but it still has everything I love about the Hilo series.

Gina, D.J. and Hilo are still coming to terms with the events in All the Pieces Fit. Things are different for everyone. Hilo is now human and living with D.J. and his family, and Gina can do more magic than ever before. She could use her magic to help others, but she knows that sometimes magic isn’t enough to save the ones you love. When strange beings start appearing around their town, it seems that only Gina can see and hear them. They appear to be hunting the Nestor, but they won’t reveal what or who the Nestor is. D.J. and Hilo want to help Gina, so she helps them to see the creatures. When they finally meet the Nestor, the creatures explain that they just want to get home, and Gina offers to help them. Gina must use all of her magic to help the Nestor return home, but in doing so, will put the entire earth in jeopardy.

Gina – the Girl Who Broke the World is an awesome start to a new chapter of Hilo. This book is a real emotional rollercoaster, as I was cracking up at Hilo’s antics one moment and my heart was breaking the next. Gina, D.J. and Hilo are grieving for their friends so are all finding it hard to adjust to their new lives. They are such good friends though, as they take note of how they are each feeling and try to help in their own way. You can tell, by their actions and from the illustrations, that they care deeply for each other. I love the way that Judd can show us this using just a look between the characters.

Hilo has always made me laugh but he made me chuckle so many times in this book. He keeps forgetting that he’s human now and doesn’t have any powers. He tries to fly like he used to and ends up flat on his face, or tries to shoots beams from his hands but remembers he can’t do that either. Now that he’s human he can eat real food and he becomes totally obsessed with mango. He wants to join Gina to fight the monsters so he makes special tights for him and D.J. so that they’ll look the part. My favourite Hilo moment is when he is distracting the babysitter with the face he’s drawn on his belly. There are some things that he can do though that suggests that he is not completely human.

Judd’s art is fantastic as always. The thing I love the most about Judd’s storytelling is that so much of it is visual. There are chunks of the story, when the kids are fighting monsters, where there is very little text. That is what makes the Hilo series so great for struggling or reluctant readers, as the stories are light on text and heavy on visual storytelling. Judd’s characters are also very expressive, so it is clear to see their emotions on their face and in their body language.

I can’t recommend the Hilo series highly enough. If you haven’t discovered them yet, go and find the first volume, Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth. If you’ve read all of the others in the series you must get your hands on this volume immediately. I will be eagerly awaiting Hilo book 8, coming in 2022.

Mr. Wolf’s Class: Field Trip by Aron Nels Steinke

Aron Nels Steinke’s Mr Wolf’s Class series of graphic novels have been hugely popular with the kids at my school. With their quirky cast of characters, relatable storylines and awesome art, it’s not hard to see why kids love them. I always look forward to another story of loveable Mr. Wolf and the antics of his class. The latest book in the series, Field Trip, has just been released by Scholastic’s Graphix imprint and I think this is the best book yet.

Mr. Wolf’s class are going on an overnight field trip in the mountains. They get to sleep in log cabins, come up with camp names, build huts and see things they’ve never seen before. Before they even get to camp though, Randy and Aziza have a falling out, which leads to some awkward moments on camp. Competition with another class staying at the camp leads to new friends, but Randy and Aziza must learn to work through their argument too. There is so much to do, see and learn outside the classroom.

In Field Trip, Aron throws his characters into a completely different environment and we see them thriving in the outdoors. There is plenty for both kids and adults to enjoy in this story. Kids will bring their own experiences of field trips to the story and relate to the good and bad that happens. There are plenty of laughs too, like the kids staying up late talking and farting just when everything is quiet. As an adult I really love seeing how Mr Wolf copes with everything that comes his way. His thought bubbles are especially hilarious as he’s often thinking something different than what he’s saying to the kids.

I really like the way that Aron uses lots of visual storytelling. There are several parts of the story where there is little or no text, letting the reader interpret what is happening in the story through the illustrations. I especially like the parts where Aron shows the kids all doing different camp activities, almost like a little montage.

There are a few cool references dotted through the story for readers to pick up too. Randy and Aziza are obsessed with Hazelton the Musical (a nod to Hamilton). The other reference I really liked was Fawn reading the Sky World series, a series of books that she says are all being adapted into graphic novels (a nod to Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series).

If you’re new to Mr. Wolf’s Class this is a great introduction to the series. You’ll want to go back and read all of the others in the series.

Twisted Journeys – the graphic novels that you control

I’m always on the lookout for new graphic novels for kids.  Walker Books Australia recently highlighted a fantastic graphic novel series that they distribute called Twisted Journeys that are perfect for middle and upper primary.

These brilliant books are a cross between a graphic novel and a choose-your-own adventure.  The story is told with a mix of plain text and graphic novel panels, and like choose-your-own adventure stories, there are several directions that the story can go in.  The first book in the series is called Captured by Pirates, and depending on your choices you could rescue your father and live happily ever after or get eaten by cannibals.

There are 22 different stories to choose from including being trapped in a haunted house, caught in a time machine, escaping a zombie island, defeating an evil mastermind, becoming a martial arts master, or join forces with Frankestein’s monster to solve a crime.

Here are a couple of images from inside two different books:

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Twisted Journeys are perfect for reluctant readers and those who love graphic novels.  They are a great format to get kids hooked on books and there a heaps to choose from.

For more info about each title check out this info sheet from Walker Books  – http://classroom.walkerbooks.com.au/home/wp-content/uploads/2014/02/Twisted-Journeys.pdf