The Odds by Matt Stanton

I used to be a huge fan of Aaron Blabey’s The Bad Guys. The first 5 or 6 books were perfection but have since gotten a bit weird and the series has gone on a bit long. It is one of those series though that has hooked kids who didn’t think they were readers. For some kids it has been the first books that they have read by themselves and they have got hooked on reading. I’m always on the lookout for something else to recommend to those kids who have loved The Bad Guys. Something that is similar in the look and feel of it and with bits that make you laugh-out-loud. Matt Stanton’s new book (and the start of a series – YAY!), The Odds, is the perfect read-alike and I can’t wait to shout about this book to kids.

The Odds introduces us to Kip, an ordinary girl who lives in the city with her dad. One morning she wakes up to something extraordinary – a bunch of fictional characters standing at the foot of her bed. Neither Kip nor the characters know why or how they got there but they seem to be stuck. There’s Lance (the bunny from the graphic novel her dad creates), the Greatest of All Time (or G.O.A.T. from Kip’s soccer books), Theo the Builder (from a picture book that Kip’s grandfather gave her) and others. The Odds explore Kip’s apartment, and Kip and her Dad try to keep them contained but they escape into the outside world. Kip and the Odds try everything they can to try and get them back to their worlds. Will their crazy ideas work or will they be stuck in the real world forever?

The Odds is awesome! It is absolutely hilarious but it also has a lot of heart. It’s about the fictional characters discovering who they are and where they come from, but also about Kip finding out about herself and accepting who she is. I love the different characters and how they are from different kinds of media. There is Theo from a picture book, Booster the rooster from a farming game app, and Racer, an avatar from a racing game. Matt made me wish that I had my own group of fictional characters who could follow me around. I’m just not sure who I would choose.

The book is similar in format to The Bad Guys with Matt’s simple but emotive black and whitecomic illustrations throughout. You may be familiar with Matt’s distinctive style from his picture books with Beck Stanton (This is a Ball, The Red Book). A lot of the laughs in the story come from visual gags, making the book great for kids who struggle with reading. I love visual gags in comics so The Odds is right up my alley.

Matt has got me hooked on The Odds and I want more. I know kids are going to love this series too. It’s perfect for fans of The Bad Guys but would also be great for fans of Dog Man, John Patrick Green’s InvestiGators and James Foley’s S.Tinker Inc. series.

You can download a chapter sampler of The Odds here and you can also download an Odds activity pack with characters cards and a colouring sheet.

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

I’m a picky graphic novel reader.  Like picture books, it’s the illustrations that catch my eye and then I’ll see what the story is about.  There are a couple of graphic novel creators whose books I’ll grab whenever they’ve got something new coming out.  The first is Garen Ewing, the creator of the Rainbow Orchid graphic novel, because he’s got a style of illustration and story that is similar to Herge’s Tintin.  The second is Doug TenNapel, because his cartoony style really appeals to me and his stories are imaginative and funny.  Doug’s latest graphic novel, Cardboard, is about a down-on-his-luck dad, his son, and the magic cardboard that changes their life.

Cam’s down-and-out father gives him a cardboard box for his birthday and he knows it’s the worst present ever. To make the best of a bad situation, they bend the cardboard into a man– and to their astonishment, it comes magically to life. But the neighborhood jerk, Marcus, warps the powerful cardboard into his own evil creations that threaten to destroy them all!

Cardboard is a fantastic story, filled with imagination, adventure, humour, and cardboard creations of all sorts.  One of the reasons I love Doug’s work is because he creates such original stories and Cardboard is no exception.  He’s taken the idea of a father building something out of cardboard with his son and thought ‘what if?’  My dad used to make awesome cardboard creations with me and my siblings when I was younger (the best being a full Batman mask) so I can totally imagine what it would have been like to have had magic cardboard.  I think that’s why this story works so well, because every kid (or adult) can imagine it happening.

The thing that really draws me to Doug’s graphic novels are his illustrations, which are fantastic.  Doug’s style is quite cartoony and reminds me of some of my favourite cartoons that I watched as a kid.  His characters have very expressive faces, particularly their eyes. Doug’s imagination has run wild and he’s created some weird and wonderful cardboard creations, some of which go out of control.  Der-Shing Helmer has done a wonderful job of the colouring, making the illustrations vibrant and bold.  I especially love the front cover.  It really jumps out at you and makes you want to read the book so you can find out who the giant eyes belong to.

Cardboard and Doug’s other graphic novels, Ghostopolis and Bad Island are perfect for ages 9+, especially boys, who want a great story.  They are ideal for those kids who have moved on from Asterix and Tintin or for reluctant readers.

Department 19: If you go down to the woods…

Tom Percival is the brilliant artist that creates the amazing Skulduggery Pleasant covers.  He’s also an animator, and an author and illustrator of his own picture books.  Tom created this very cool video to promote Will Hill’s Department 19 series.

The latest book in Will Hill’s Department 19 series, Department 19: Battle Lines is out now.  Department 19 is one of my favourite series and I can’t wait to sink my teeth in to this latest book.  Keep an eye on the blog for my review and your chance to win a copy.

The Sleepwalkers by Viviane Schwarz

Do you have a bad dream that will not go away?
Are you afraid to sleep at night?
Call the Sleepwalkers!
Write us a letter, put it under your pillow…and we will come a save you!
Have a good night!

It is almost time for the old and tired Sleepwalkers to return to the waking world. But before they go, they must conjure and train three new replacements. For who else will look after the Sleepwalking House and be there to answer the call of a child frozen stiff with fear, trapped in a nightmare? This is the story of the NEW Sleepwalkers.

I’m a huge fan of Viviane Schwarz’ books (There Are Cats in This Book, Cheese Belongs to You) so you can imagine how excited I was when I read on Twitter that she was working on her very first graphic novel.

The Sleepwalkers is a unique and delightfully strange story about a group of creatures who protect children while they sleep.  The Sleepwalkers are conjured from socks, a bedspread and even a quill and are tasked with saving children from their nightmares and bad dreams.  When they are created, they find themselves in the Safe House, a many-roomed house that exists in the world of dreams.  They leave the Safe House when they are needed and return here after they have completed their mission.  When the Sleepwalkers meet the children they are having a nightmare (being chased by rats or falling from the sky), and it is the job of the Sleepwalkers to help them overcome their fears.  A nightmare about falling from the sky turns into a dream about flying on the backs of dinosaurs.  The story is weird and wonderful, and it’s filled with action and adventure.

Viviane’s style of illustration translates well to this graphic novel format and she lets her imagination run wild in the dream world.  One of the reasons I like her illustrations so much is the wonderful expressions she gives her characters and this really shines through in The Sleepwalkers.  I love Bonifacius, the bear-like character because he’s got such an expressive face.  There are times in the story where doesn’t talk for a page or two and you can tell exactly how he’s feeling because of these expressions.

My favourite thing about The Sleepwalkers (and the thing that makes this graphic novel really special) is the added extras that Viviane has put in the book.  You can learn how to make a sock monkey and a banana milkshake, and she’s drawn a detailed diagram of the Safe House and the Turtlemobile.

If you know a kid that’s looking for a new and exciting comic of graphic novel, with plenty of action, adventure and a little bit of magic, then grab a copy of The Sleepwalkers.