The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea by Renée Treml

Renée Treml’s Sherlock Bones series is one of my go-to suggestions for kids who like books like The Bad Guys and Dog Man. It’s a fun and fact-filled series about a bird skeleton who solves mysteries in a natural history museum. Renée has now brought her humour and fantastic illustrations to her new series of graphic novels for younger readers. The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea bursts on to shelves this month with the first two books, It’s Owl Good and Squeals on Wheels.

Ollie is an owl who wears glasses. He’s worried about what others will think of him wearing glasses, because owls are known for their powerful vision. Maybe they can help Ollie to disguise his true identity, like his superhero idol, Super Owl. Without his glasses though Ollie can’t see properly, and he ends up tripping over Bea’s feet. Bea is a rabbit with huge feet, but she thinks that they’re no good for anything. Ollie and Bea will help each other to find their inner superhero, and become best friends in the process.

In Squeals on Wheels, Ollie is ready to go roller skating but Bea keeps making up excuses why she can’t go. Ollie wants to help Bea to find her skates, and even gets the super team to help. Bea admits that she is worried about looking silly, but with a little help from Ollie and his ridiculous costumes, Bea gives it a go.

The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea is a totally adorable and absolutely hilarious graphic novel series for younger readers. The stories are simple, but fun, making them perfect for newly independent readers. The illustrations are cute and the characters are super expressive. The panels are sparse but colourful, which makes the stories easy to follow for younger readers. Renée’s humour shines through in both the pun-filled text and the illustrations. I love a good pun and there are plenty of them in these stories to keep readers laughing out loud.

Kids will find Ollie and Bea really relatable because they deal with real worries with fun and humour. Whether it’s worrying about being teased because of wearing glasses or worrying about looking silly on roller skates, Ollie and Bea are there for each other and try to help each other feel better. I especially love Ollie’s support and encouragement in Squeals on Wheels. I really like the way that Ollie and Bea interact with the reader at different parts too. It really makes the reader feel like part of the story.

Sandra Nobes has done a wonderful job of the cover design of the series. These covers will certainly grab kids’ attention, especially Ollie in his bright wig and underpants on the cover of Squeals on Wheels.

If you know kids who love the Elephant and Piggie or Monkey and Cake stories you need to get them The Super Adventures of Ollie and Bea. They’ll be hooked from the first chapter. I hope that this is the first two of many Ollie and Bea books.

Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly by Jordan Quinn and Ornella Greco

So many kids love dragons. Tui T. Sutherland’s Wings of Fire series has seen a surge of interest in dragon stories at my school in the last couple of years, especially when the graphic novel adaptations (illustrated by Mike Holmes) were released. Some of my readers want to be reading Wings of Fire but they’re a bit too hard for them at the moment, so I’m always looking for slightly easier dragon stories for them. A new series of graphic novels about dragons has just started this year, called Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly, and it’s perfect for those younger or less-confident readers.

In The Coldfire Curse we meet Ruskin and his friends. Ruskin is a young scarlet dragon, who is the pet of the prince of Wrenly. He lives a pampered life, with his own lair and all the food and toys a dragon could ask for. Cinder is a young dragon from the island of Crestwood, whose father has been struck down by the coldfire curse. Cinder ventures to the castle in search of help from the king, but only finds Ruskin. Cinder tells Ruskin about the legend of the scarlet dragon and he agrees to come with her to help her father. With the help of Cinder’s cousin, Groth, the three young dragons set out to break the curse and save all of Wrenly.

In the second book, Shadow Hills, Ruskin hears of a firestorm heading towards Wrenly, which will rain fire from the sky. The only thing that can stop the firestorm are lava rocks, which can absorb the energy of the storm and disintegrate it. The lava rocks are only found on Crestwood, so Ruskin returns to the home of his friends, Cinder and Groth. The witch-dragon Villinelle tells the friends that it is only the enchanted lava rocks in the Shadow Hills that will stop the firestorm, so this is where they head. They soon discover why it is called the Shadow Hills. They are given the enchanted lava rocks by the dragons of Shadow Hills, but they are soon stolen. All hope of saving the kingdom seems lost. Only Ruskin’s mysterious powers will be able to help.

The Dragon Kingdom of Wrenly series is full of enough action, adventure and magic to keep any young dragon fan entertained. The pacing is steady and there is a bit of mystery to each story, so readers will want to keep reading to find out what happens. The stories are broken up into chapters, so there are some good places to pause for less confident readers. They’re great stories to hook younger readers (7-9 year olds) on fantasy and adventure stories, because there are elements of those types of stories, without being too heavy on detail. The illustrations are bold, while also being not too detailed. All of the dragons have unique characteristics, with the younger dragons appearing smaller and younger, and the older dragons appearing weathered and wizened.

With each new story in the series we start to get more of a picture of Ruskin’s powers and how it is that he might fulfill the prophecy of the scarlet dragon. The friendship between Ruskin, Cinder and Groth also develops, while the truth of who the villain might be is still hidden away.

I have loved the first two books in the series and will be looking out for the next in the series (book three and four are also out now). I can’t wait to introduce the series to the kids at my school. I know these books will be snatched up quickly and will spread like wildfire.

Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter by Rich Moyer

Some books just speak to me. As soon as I see the cover or read the blurb I know that I’m going to love it. Ham Helsing: Vampire Hunter had me at the title. I knew this was going to be hilarious, but I underestimated how much I would be laughing my ass off!

Ham Helsing has always been the odd one out in his family. The other males in his family have been daring and adventurous, hunting down monsters, but Ham doesn’t fit the mold. They may have had the brawn but not the brains, and they have all died in stupid situations. Now, the only one left is Ham, and it’s down to him to carry on the family legacy. Reluctantly, he sets out on his first quest. Mud Canyon has a vampire problem and they need a hero to save the day. With the help of a couple of enterprising rodents, a werewolf and a ninja, Ham sets off to hunt down the vampire. When they eventually confront the vampire, they discover he isn’t quite what they were expecting. There are other forces at work, and Ham and his friends must work together to defeat them.

Ham Helsing is an epically funny graphic novel that kids will be clamouring to get their hands on. Rich Moyer infuses humour into every aspect of the story, from the events of the story and the illustrations to the characters and the dialogue. The montage at the start of the book, of Ham’s family members dying in stupid situations, sets the tone for the story and gets you laughing straight away. Rich’s comedic timing had me laughing out loud. At the same time, Rich makes you feel for his hero, who didn’t really want to be a hero. There is plenty of action too, that keeps the story moving.

The characters are all endearing, especially Ham. I love his smiling face on the front cover because he looks like nothing would faze him. He’s very loyal and is always trying to do the right thing. Many of the characters are not who they appear to be, which adds to the humour of the story. The werewolf seems scary when Ham first meets him but he’s actually quite tame. I cracked up every time he transformed back into a human! The vampire in the story isn’t as terrifying as he’s made out to be either, especially with a name like Malcolm and bacon for minions.

Rich’s illustrations are bursting with humour and his characters are really expressive. There are lots of visual gags and Rich regularly uses chunks of wordless panels to tell the story. I especially like the parts where the werewolf transforms. I love what Josh Lewis has done with the colours too. The cover alone is brilliant! Much of the story takes place at night and Josh has done a great job of capturing moonlight and torchlight on the characters’ faces.

I desperately need more Ham Helsing adventures, and Rich leaves the ending hanging, so here’s hoping for more books! This is a must-have for school libraries, especially for those kids that love a good laugh.

The Cardboard Kingdom: Roar of the Beast by Chad Sell

The Cardboard Kingdom is one of my favourite kid’s graphic novels because it’s all about kids being their true selves. They build costumes and props out of cardboard and let their imaginations go wild. They can be a beast, a scientist or a sorceress. They are stories about acceptance but also having a whole lot of fun. I’ve been eagerly awaiting the second Cardboard Kingdom book and it has just been released. I loved returning to these characters that Chad Sell brought to life and seeing what they got up to next.

Halloween is approaching and the gang are planning their costumes. Vijay is excited to make The Beast bigger, better and scarier, but when the local teenagers crush his costume, they also crush his confidence. Nate is sure he’s seen a monster in his backyard, and when he tries to rescue his stepbrother, he falls down the stairs. No one believes him though, even his stepbrother. Nate is determined to prove that the monster is real. The monster shows up again and again, all over the kingdom, but no one knows why it is there or what it wants. They only know that it is super quick and super scary. Nate gathers the best scientists, heroes and villains from across the kingdom to track the monster and crack the case.

The Cardboard Kingdom: Roar of the Beast is the best kind of sequel. It reunites us with our favourite characters, builds on their stories, and has a mystery that brings them all together. Where the first book was more stand-alone stories that introduced each character, Roar of the Beast has a story arc that is woven through each of the characters’ chapters. Each chapter is written by a different author and focuses on a particular character or characters, with Chad Sell bringing the characters to life in his terrific illustrations.

I love everything that Chad Sell illustrates. I really like his style of illustration, as the kids are realistic and have great expressions. I particularly like how Chad draws the kids as their characters. You see how the kids see themselves in character. Elijah’s costume is pretty basic but he looks completely different as the character of the Blob, and Jack lets his true self shine as the Sorceress.

Although they aren’t named on the front cover, each of the authors have created wonderful characters that all kids will be able to relate to. The cast of characters is diverse in ethnicity and sexuality, which is one of the aspects I really love about the Cardboard Kingdom books. Thanks to Vid Alliger, Manuel Betancourt, Michael Cole, David DeMeo, Jay Fuller, Cloud Jacobs, Barbara Perez Marquez, Molly Muldoon and Katie Schenkel for giving us your characters.

If you haven’t discovered this series you need to hunt both books down. The first book has been a firm favourite in my school library since it was released, and I know kids who will be super excited when they see Roar of the Beast on the shelf. If you want to add some diversity to your graphic novel collection you need to have the Cardboard Kingdom series.

Delicates by Brenna Thummler

I love Brenna Thummler’s debut graphic novel, Sheets, and it’s one that so many of the kids at my school have loved too. It follows Marjorie, a girl who runs her family laundry business, while dealing with everything that school throws at her and a dad that can’t move on from her mother’s death. Marjorie discovers that her house is home to a group of ghosts, including Wendell, a boy who died too young. Wendell and Marjorie find each other when they most need a friend. The last pages of Sheets promised a sequel, and Delicates is finally here. And what a sequel it is!

It’s nearly the end of summer and Marjorie is spending the last days hanging out with Wendell. Marjorie has finally been accepted by the popular kids and she hopes that this year will be different. She’s starts to worry though, that if anyone finds out that she is friends with a ghost, she’ll be labelled a freak or a weirdo. The more time that Marjorie spends with her new friends, the less time she is home to spend time with Wendell, and he starts to feel even more invisible than he already is. Eliza Duncan feels invisible too. She has a passion for photography and she’s determined to capture photographs of actual ghosts. The other kids at school think she’s weird and she doesn’t have any friends. Eliza gets bullied by Marjorie’s so-called friends and she starts to feel like a ghost herself. She finds a friend in Wendell, who feels the same way that she does. When popular girl Tessi goes too far and destroys Eliza’s photos, Eliza can’t take any more. It is up to Marjorie to find Eliza and put things right.

Delicates is a stunning sequel with a powerful message. Brenna tackles bullying and toxic friendships, while also developing her characters from Sheets. I like the way that Brenna has developed Marjorie and Wendell’s stories, while also adding Eliza to the mix. Eliza’s story shows readers the impact of bullying and how it leaves the victim feeling, and Marjorie’s story shows readers how doing nothing to help is also a form of bullying. Brenna gives us some great examples, in Tessi and Colton, of toxic friends.

Brenna’s illustrations blow me away every time! She uses a limited palette, but her illustrations are rich in detail. I am constantly amazed at the way she shows light and shadow. One of the pages just shows the exterior of Eliza’s house, but the way Brenna has shown the sunlight and the shadows of the tree on the house, makes the illustration look like a photo. Some scenes take place in the darkroom and others at night, so Brenna has only used red tones or blue tones, but it is so effective. I also love that Brenna has portrayed different body types throughout the book, meaning that most kids will be able to see themselves in the illustrations.

Both Sheets and Delicates are must-haves for primary, intermediate and high school libraries. They’re perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, Hope Larsen and Svetlana Chmakova. Brenna Thummler has also created a graphic adaptation of Anne of Green Gables, which I highly recommend.

Pawcasso by Remy Lai

Have you ever told a little white lie that has snowballed into a huge lie? What starts off as you not correcting something false becomes a whole string of untruths that you can’t keep up with. This is the situation that Jo finds herself in in Remy Lai’s first graphic novel, Pawcasso.

Jo thinks that she’ll spend the summer bored out of her mind, until she spies a dog, with a basket in its mouth, stroll past her house. She follows the dog to the shopping circle in town and discovers that he is doing a spot of shopping. The dog visits some of the shops and buys the things on the list in its basket. When Jo follows the dog to the bookshop, called Dog Ears, she gets mistaken for the dog’s owner. She tries to correct them at first, but the thought of making new friends and getting free books tempts Jo, and she goes along with the lie. The kids from the art class at the bookshop call the dog Pawcasso, as he becomes their model, and the name sticks. Each Saturday, Pawcasso comes into town, and Jo waits for him to walk past. As the people of South Redhart fall in love with Pawcasso, Jo’s chihuahua-sized lie becomes Great Dane-sized. It becomes harder and harder to tell everyone the truth. Even when Pawcasso rolls in poo Jo can’t bear to lose him. When Pawcasso’s real owners show up in town one day, Jo’s lies unravel and she must explain the truth, even if it means losing her friends.

I love Pawcasso so much! It is the most adorable kid’s graphic novel ever and it will make you grin from ear to ear. Whether you’re a dog-lover or not, you can’t help loving Pawcasso. Sure, he loves to roll in poo, but he makes the lives of everyone he meets just a little bit brighter. Kids and adults alike can relate to Jo and her little lie getting out of control, and everyone will wish they had a Pawcasso in their life. As with her previous books, Remy captures the funny moments but also the anxiety, sadness and frustration of her characters.

I have loved each of Remy’s books, especially the comic sections of her stories, Pie in the Sky and Fly on the Wall. I was super excited when she announced she was creating a graphic novel. Pawcasso is every bit as wonderful as I hoped it would be. Remy’s artwork is outstanding! It is so colourful and vibrant, and her characters are full of emotion and personality. I love that Jo wears the same outfit throughout the story, but with different colour combinations. Remy and her colourist, Samantha Bennett, must have had a lot of fun choosing colours for Jo’s clothes. I love Jo’s character and the way that Remy shows her range of emotions throughout the story. I cracked up laughing at the illustration of her, with her face smooshed against her window, when she first sees Pawcasso. My favourite parts of the book were the wordless panels that just featured Pawcasso. These are the bits that perfectly capture Pawcasso’s personality, whether it be his head wrapped in a towel after a bath, rolling in poo at the park, or laying upside down on a beanbag, wagging his tail. Pawcasso is such a loveable goofball that people become smitten with him. I also love how, at the back of the book, Remy has drawn the people she wants to thank as dogs, cats and other creatures.

Remy has written the story and created the illustrations, but it is the whole team that has worked on the book that makes this graphic novel stand out. Samantha Bennett’s colouring makes the illustrations jump off the page, and Colleen AF Venable’s design work helps the story to flow and look good on the page. It’s great to see Allen and Unwin publishing more graphic novels from our part of the world too. Please sign Remy up for many, many more graphic novels.

Pawcasso is one of those graphic novels that will spread like wildfire between readers. I preordered multiple copies for my school library because I was that confident it would be a winner. I can’t wait for kids to meet Pawcasso. It is perfect for fans of Raina Telgemeier, Victoria Jamieson, and Kayla Miller.

Lightfall: The Girl and the Galdurian by Tim Probert

I love children’s graphic novels that have some real depth to them, both in story and illustration. Graphic novels like the Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi and This Was Our Pact by Ryan Andrews tell you a fantastic story, with gorgeous art, but you know that the story you’re reading is only a small part of the world. The first book in Tim Probert’s new graphic novel series, Lightfall, is one of these graphic novels. The Girl and the Galdurian is one story from Irpa, but Tim’s world is so detailed that you know there is much more of this world to explore. This first book has me hooked and desperate for book 2.

Bea lives deep in the heart of Irpa, with her adopted grandfather, Pig Wizard. Their home is Salty Pig’s Tonics and Tictures, where people come to buy remedies and elixirs. Pig Wizard is old and forgetful, so he must leave reminders for himself everywhere. Luckily he has Bea to help him, and she gathers ingredients that he needs from the land around them. While gathering ingredients in the woods one day Bea meets Cad, a member of the Galdurians, a race thought to be long-extinct. Cad is looking for Pig Wizard in the hopes that he can translate an ancient scroll, so he follows Bea back to Salty Pig’s. When they arrive they discover that Pig Wizard has left to perform a duty that he has neglected. Bea and Cad go in search of him. Along the way they meet some interesting characters who both help and hinder them. There is also a sinister presence that is stepping out of the shadows and there is something they are desperate to get their hands on.

I love everything about The Girl and the Galdurian, from the story and the characters, to the artwork and the design. Tim has both written and illustrated the story, so the text and illustrations are seamless. The story flows really well, cutting smoothly between Bea and Cad’s journey and the other, darker thread of the story. It is a beautifully designed and produced graphic novel, with thick, quality paper and vivid inks (its smells of quality too). Bea and Cad are lovable characters, who already feel like your best friends by the end of the book. I would follow them anywhere.

Tim’s fantasty world of Irpa is richly detailed. You feel like Bea’s story is just scratching the surface of what is going on in this complex world. As this is the first book in the series, we learn bits of details about Irpa and its history, but there feels like there is so much more to explore in future books. I love the details that Tim puts into the illustrations. These details tell you things about the world, without explicitly explaining what they are or what they mean. As you’re reading you’ll see creatures in the background or ruins of a building poking through the ground.

Tim’s illustrations are sublime! He takes us through a variety of landscapes throughout the story and my mouth dropped open in awe at the different landscapes he has created. I would love to have prints of some of the bigger panels all over my house. Tim’s battle scenes are also epic, especially when they involve giant crabs. I also love the colour palette that Tim has used, which highlights the difference in the light of Irpa. The wordless scenes, with the sinister creatures, are quite creepy, and set the tone for the story.

I can’t wait to introduce the kids at my school to this graphic novel. I know that it is going to be incredibly popular, especially with those kids who love Amulet. It’s a similar epic fantasy story, set in a world that is rich in detail. This is a must-have for primary and intermediate school libraries. I am desperate for the second book and I know kids will be queuing up for it too.

Girl Haven by Lilah Sturges, Meaghan Carter and Joamette Gil

I love that there are more and more children’s graphic novels being published with LGBTQ+ characters and themes. It’s important for our kids to be able to see themselves in books, no matter what their identity. These graphic novels don’t just appeal to kids who are trans or queer though. One of my favourite graphic novels is The Prince and the Dressmaker and it is one of the most popular graphic novels with the older children at my school. The themes of discovering your identity and being the person you truly feel you are, resounds with all readers. Girl Haven is a fantastic new graphic novel from Oni Press, which deals with gender identity and sexuality in a way that older children can relate to.

Three years ago, Ash’s mom, Kristin, left home and never came back. Now, Ash lives in the house where Kristin grew up. All of her things are there. Her old room, her old clothes, and the shed where she spent her childhood creating a fantasy world called Koretris. Ash knows all about Koretris: how it’s a haven for girls, with no men or boys allowed, and filled with fanciful landscapes and creatures. When Ash’s friends decide to try going to Koretris using one of Kristin’s spell books, Ash doesn’t think anything will happen. But the spell works, and Ash discovers that the world Kristin created is actually a real place with real inhabitants and very real danger. But if Koretris is real, why is Ash there? Everyone has always called Ash a boy. Ash uses he/him pronouns. Shouldn’t the spell have kept Ash out? And what does it mean if it let Ash in?

Girl Haven is such a cool story! It is an inspiring story about being the person you want to be, wrapped up in a fantasy adventure. The story is full of fun and adventure, but Lilah and Meaghan also make you think about gender identity and how society makes you fit in to one box or another. The characters are diverse, representing cisgender, transgender and nonbinary people, and different sexual orientations. I think this is an important book that will help children who are confused about their identity. It will help them to see that they are not alone, and that it is important to have people around you who understand and support you.

The story mainly focuses on Ash’s journey to acceptance. Ash didn’t realise that the place his mum talked about and wrote about was actually a real place. He knows that Koretris is a haven for girls, so it is confusing when he is able to get in, along with his friends who are all girls. Ash has always felt like he was supposed to be a girl and has wished that something would happen to turn him into a girl. Coming to Koretris gives Ash the chance to become the person he’s always wanted to be. Junebug, Eleanor and Chloe are all great friends to Ash, and I love that they all identify differently. Anybody reading this graphic novel will be able to find someone to relate to. Something that really resonated with me was the idea of every person being a story and that ‘a boy is one kind of story, a girl another kind. And they are but two of many stories.’

Meaghan Carter’s illustrations bring the world of Koretris to life, from the Rabbits of the Reeds to the candy people of Sugar Valley, and the dreaded Scourge. Meaghan has drawn Ash in such a way that he looks androgynous, but as his friends say, he ‘looks really cute in that dress.’ Meaghan’s illustration style is similar to Molly Ostertag and Gale Galligan, so anyone who likes their style would like Girl Haven.

Girl Haven is one of my favourite children’s graphic novels this year and I will be recommending it to kids and adults alike. It is a must-have graphic novel for intermediate and high school libraries, and I know it will be incredibly popular. If you have loved The Prince and the Dressmaker, Witch Boy, Dungeon Critters or Snapdragon, you’ll love Girl Haven.

InvestiGators: Off the Hook by John Patrick Green

Just when you think John Patrick Green’s InvestiGators series can’t get any better, it does. Mango and Brash are back for another adventure in InvestiGators: Off the Hook and it might just be their funniest one yet.

Crackerdile is just a bucket of dough but he is determined to become a bigger and better villain and get his revenge on S.U.I.T.s. This time he has help. Bill Plungerman used to be a plumber, but thanks to an experiment gone wrong he now has a snake for an arm. Now he’s known as Hookline and Slinker and is working for Crackerdile. The bucket of dough has a plan that involves a waffle iron, a chicken scientist and an underground lab. Mango and Brash don’t know where Crackerdile is, or what his plans are, but they know that he is up to no good. Armed with new V.E.S.T.s the InvestiGators must track down and stop Crackerdile before it’s too late. When the time comes though, can Mango choose between catching the villain or saving his partner?

Off the Hook is another laugh-your-head-off graphic novel that is chock-full of puns and waffle-related food that will make your mouth water. I laughed so hard reading this book! John’s humour works on so many levels. Just like the best movies for kids there are jokes that kids will love but also jokes just for the adults. I loved the running gags about dough, because the characters were getting confused about whether they were referring to cracker dough or money. There are some great waffle-related jokes too, and I cracked up at the end of the book when I saw the menu items for MAW or Mother of All Waffles. If these foods aren’t a real thing they totally should be (like buttermilk fried chicken in an edible waffle bucket). John’s illustrations are hilarious as always and Aaron Polk’s colouring makes the characters pop. I especially like what Aaron has done with Slinker’s eyes when he hypnotizes someone.

The new characters in this book are really entertaining. We got introduced to Bill Plungerman in Take the Plunge but the character of Hookline and Slinker is awesome. Even his name makes me laugh! I really enjoyed the development of his character throughout the story. Cilantro the chameleon is another great new character in Off the Hook. Even though the S.U.I.T.s agents don’t notice him, he really stood out for me, and I’m glad my hunch about him was right. I was waiting for Doctor Copter to show up, as I love his character, and I wasn’t disappointed.

One of the things I really liked about Off the Hook, that was a bit different from the previous books, was the breaking the fourth wall. Mango and Brash go to visit the Science Factory and they comment that it is nice to visit when they’re not in the middle of a science accident, and the scientist says ‘Give it time. This is only page 54.’ There are a couple of other times too, where the characters refer back to something that happened on another page. Another aspect of the whole series that I love is the added extras at the end. You can learn to draw the characters and there are other fun activities you can try, like designing your own V.E.S.T.

Fans of the InvestiGators series will be begging for Off the Hook. I can’t get enough of this series and I hope there are still plenty more books to come. If you haven’t read any of the books in the series you NEED to. All school libraries should have the whole series, especially as they’re such a great read-alike for Dav Pilkey’s Dogman series.

Head to www.investigatorsbooks.com for book trailers, games and activities. There is even a cool colouring book you can download for free.