Allergic by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter

Have you ever wanted something so desperately that your heart would break without it? We all have, especially as kids. Sometimes the things that we most want are the things that we can’t have. Allergic, by Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter, is about a girl called Maggie who desperately wants a pet of her own, but she is allergic to anything with fur or feathers. It is such a great story, with different threads to it – allergies, friendship and family.

Maggie has always wanted a dog but when she finally gets her wish she discovers she is allergic to dogs. In fact, anything with fur or feathers will start her sneezing and itching really badly. Maggie still wants a pet and is determined to find one that will suit her. However, after trying fish, lizards and other critters, she still can’t find the right one. In to Maggie’s life comes her new neighbour, Claire, who Maggie clicks with straight away. Everything is looking great, until Claire gets a dog of her own, and Maggie knows her allergies means they can’t be friends anymore. After Claire apologises she helps Maggie choose a small pet, which they hope won’t set her allergies off. Maggie keeps her pet secret from her family, hiding it in her bedroom. As Maggie tries to ignore her reactions to her pet, her family worry about her. With her mum’s new baby due any time soon, Maggie also worries how she might fight into her family. If she can be allergic to animals is it also possible to be allergic to a baby?

Allergic is an adorable story about desperately wanting something you can’t have. It’s a story about friendship and figuring out where you fit in your family. Megan’s story is super relatable and Michelle’s artwork is cute and has great kid appeal. Megan has created a character who has a lot to deal with, from having something exciting taken away from her, to a new school and a new friend, and a changing family dynamic. Michelle shows us the range of emotions that Maggie goes through and how her allergies physically affect her.

There were so many aspects of Michelle’s illustrations that I loved. There are wordless spreads throughout the book, which show little snapshots of other kids around the neighbourhood (kids walking to school together, getting on the bus and playing in their yards). The montage of Maggie trying different pets is really funny, but also makes you feel sorry for Maggie. One of my favourite illustrations is the one showing the cross-section of Maggie’s and Claire’s houses, which highlights the differences in their lives. I especially love the way Michelle shows how Maggie’s allergies affect her, with the redness of her skin and her puffy, itchy eyes.

Allergic is going to be incredibly popular with kids, especially those who love Raina Telgemeier, Shannon Hale, Victoria Jamieson and Jennifer Holm. It is a must-have for all primary and intermediate school libraries.

Seance Tea Party by Reimena Yee

A lot of kids can’t wait to grow up and a lot of adults wish that they could be kids again. In Reimena Yee’s new kid’s graphic novel, her character Lora doesn’t want to grow up and have to stop playing. With the help of a ghost and some new friends, Lora learns that she doesn’t have to leave the magic of childhood behind.

Lora is 12 but still enjoys playing and dressing up. Her friends are all growing up and leaving childhood games behind but Lora isn’t ready for that. One day she holds a seance tea party and her old imaginary friend turns up. Alexa is no ordinary imaginary friend, but the ghost of a girl who died in the ‘70s. Alexa helps Lora to gain the confidence she needs to make new friends. As Lora starts to need her less, Alexa discovers a connection to an old childhood friend who is now much older. Alexa realises though that she can’t stay around forever, just to make her friends happy. She must move on, just as Lora and Diana have moved on.

Seance Tea Party is a cute story of friendship, magic, ghosts and holding onto your imagination. It’s a story of a girl whose friends are growing up and changing around her, but she wants to stay the same. I loved this story because of its message about growing up – that you don’t have to leave all the fun things behind just because you’re getting older. I really like how Lora comes to accept this, with the help of her friends. Alexa helps her to gain the confidence to make new friends and her new friends accept her for who she is, rather than making her change. 

Reimena’s illustrations are vibrant and I really like the darker colour palette. Her illustration style is unique and each of her characters look different. I like the way that Reimena uses longer sections of wordless panels to tell some of the story, especially at the beginning. The illustrations flow really nicely and Reimena uses different illustration techniques to tell the story.

Reimena has included a break-down of her process of creating Seance Tea Party in the back of the book, which is really insightful for anyone wanting to create their own comics and graphic novels.

Seance Tea Party is a fresh and unique graphic novel that kids will love. I would highly recommend it for those readers who love graphic novels by Molly Knox Ostertag, Brenna Thummler and Vera Brosgol.

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.

The InvestiGators series by John Patrick Green

A question that I get almost every day in my school library is ‘Are there any Dog Man books here?’ 95% of the time the answer to that question is no because they’re always on loan. When I get this question I like to have another book or two up my sleeve to recommend and my go-to books now are the InvestiGators series by John Patrick Green. They’re the same format, about the same length, with appealing illustrations and laughs galore.

The InvestiGators are Mango and Brash, two wise-cracking alligators who work for S.U.I.T. (Special Undercover Investigation Teams). Armed with their V.E.S.T. (Very Important Spy Technology) they fight crime and protect their city from evil-doers. In their first case together they must solve the case of the missing chef, Mustachio, and find out who caused the explosion at the Science Factory. In their second mission, Take the Plunge, Mango and Brash stop a rocket from causing destruction but unwittingly transmit a code that will create havoc all over town. Mango and Brash get sent into the sewers, undercover, to retrieve another S.U.I.T. agent and capture Crackerdile. When things don’t go to plan though, Mango and Brash are relieved of their duty and replaced by the B Team. They must prove that the A team is the best and solve the case of the Robot Genie before it’s too late.

This series is absolutely hilarious and I can’t get enough of Mango and Brash! With their bright illustrations, action-packed story, silly antics and laughs galore these books are perfect for young readers, but also equally entertaining for older kids and adults. The story is bursting with puns that had me laughing out loud and there are some jokes just for the adults (like the reference to the Aisle of Dr Morrow in Take the Plunge).

Kids will love the characters, especially Mango and Brash, and will be desperate to get their hands on their next adventure. As well as Mango and Brash there are other characters who keep popping up in each book, like their nemesis (and former S.U.I.T. agent) Crackerdile. My favourite character though is Doctor Copter. Dr. Jake Hardbones, a mild-mannered brain surgeon, was bitten by a rabid helicopter and now, whenever he sees something newsworthy he transforms into the Action News Now helicopter in the sky. It cracks me up every time I see him!

There’s a fun cameo in Take the Plunge too. If you’ve read John Patrick Green’s Kitten Construction Company (brilliant series!) you’ll spot Marmalade and her crew in the illustrations.

InvestiGators and InvestiGators: Take the Plunge are must-haves for all primary and intermediate school libraries. They are perfect for fans of Dog Man and Bad Guys or kids who just want a really funny book. Book 3 is out early in 2021 and I can’t wait to see what Mango and Brash get up to next.

A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu and You by Mike Barfield and Jess Bradley

A Day in the Life of a Poo, a Gnu and You is the kid’s nonfiction book that you need in your life. Not only will you laugh your socks off, you’ll learn some amazing facts while doing it! It is the funniest, most entertaining and totally unique general nonfiction books for kids around. I guarantee that this is going to be the most looked-at nonfiction book in my school library because it screams ‘PICK ME UP!’

It is bursting with short comics that give kids a glimpse in to the life of organs in your body, gross bodily functions, animals of all shapes and sizes, plants, planets, rainbows and much, much more. You’ll learn how farts form, where poo goes when you flush it away, how a sea jelly swims, what a pangolin’s scales are made out of, and how bananas grow. As well as the ‘Day in the Life of a…’ pages there are also ‘The Bigger Picture’ sections which give extra detail, and secret diary sections which show you extracts from the secret diaries of an earthworm, a red blood cell, and a lightning bolt. Each thing, whether it is a hand, a pimple or a worm has a unique personality and a different way to tell its story.

This is a book is super accessible for kids of all ages, with simple text and bright, funny illustrations that anyone. It’s a nonfiction book that parents and teachers especially will love sharing with kids. Between Mike’s text and Jess’s illustrations you will be laughing your head off. They have managed to pack a lot of information into a page or two of comic, with just enough detail to astound you. Jess’s illustrations always make me laugh and she has had plenty of different things to draw in this book. I love the expressions she gives to the characters, even each individual toe on the foot.

Some of my favourite facts from the book include:

  • a single elephant can wee up to 9 litres at a time
  • male platypuses have poisonous foot spurs
  • the amount that a sloth poos once a week is like us doing a poo the size of a small dog
  • there are blue bananas!

A Day in the Life of Poo, a Gnu and You is going to be incredibly popular with kids. The comic format means that my graphic novel fans (of which there are many at my school) will gobble this book up. I just need to buy myself a copy because the library copy will get issued and passed around all of the kids.

Nico Bravo and the Cellar Dwellers by Mike Cavallaro

Mike Cavallaro’s Nico Bravo and the Hound of Hades was one of my favourite children’s graphic novels of 2019 and I constantly recommend it to kids. It’s the perfect blend of action, mythology and laughs that makes it one of the most entertaining graphic novels (for both kids and adults). Mike has just unleashed Nico’s second adventure, Nico Bravo and the Cellar Dwellers, and it is just as great as the first book.

Nico lives with his adopted father, Vulcan, the god of fire and the forge, who runs Vulcan’s Celestial Supply Shop. Nico works in the shop with his friends and colleagues, a sphinx named Lula, and a unicorn named Buck. They supply gods and monsters with anything they might need, from potions to weapons. Nico is dreading the annual visit of Abonsam (or Sam for short), the West African God of Misfortune and Pestilence. Sam carries his afflictions around with him in a “pouch of miseries.” Nico’s enemy, Ahriman, God of Evil, is sick of Nico thwarting his plans, so he sends a shapeshifter named Orcus to Vulcan’s Celestial Supply Shop on a mission to take down his enemies. Orcus mistakenly unleashes a Misery from Sam’s pouch and sets a case of nightmares loose. The situation quickly goes from bad to worse and Ahriman unleashes his forces on the island, threatening to destroy the Supply Shop. Nico and his friends will travel through dimensions and to the centre of the earth before their final showdown with Ahriman.

Nico Bravo and the Cellar Dwellers is a hilarious, action-packed adventure, chock-full with mythical creatures and gods. There is alot of story packed into just under 200 pages and different threads of the story to follow that all come crashing together at the end. Nico, Buck, Lula and Eowolf are back again, along with some other familiar characters, but also plenty of new ones. I especially liked the juxtaposition of Sam, being the God of Misfortune and Pestilence but wearing a bright Hawaiian shirt.

One of my favourite things about this series is the humour. There were lots of parts that made me laugh out loud. Mike has got great comedic timing and is really good at visual gags. Ahriman lasering anyone he isn’t pleased with is a running gag that I really enjoyed. Eowolf’s sword, Roger, is one of my favourite characters and has some of the best lines.

Mike’s illustrations are brilliant and the story really gives him a chance to showcase his talent for illustrating all sorts of fantastical creatures and landscapes. The colours are vibrant and really burst off the page. One of the little features of the illustrations in these books that I love is the ‘Vulcan’s Deck of Deities’ profile cards that Mike includes for new and important characters. They give you background information about the gods, with fun facts. I’d love to have these as actual playing cards that you could use for a game.

The Nico Bravo series is perfect for any kids who want a graphic novel with action, adventure or just a really funny story. They’re great to recommend to kids who like stories like Percy Jackson or who are mad on mythology. It’s great to see that there is more Nico Bravo to look forward to.

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.

Pea, Bee and Jay series by Brian “Smitty” Smith

Three unlikely friends become besties in Brian “Smitty” Smith’s new graphic novel series for younger readers, Pea, Bee and Jay.

The first two books in the series have been released simultaneously (I love it when publishers do this, so thanks Harper Alley!) so we get a double dose of this funny team. In Pea, Bee and Jay: Stuck Together these three first meet. Pea lives on his farm and he loves to roll. When a mean strawberry dares him to roll all the way to the big tree, Pea knows that he can do it. Unfortunately it’s a lot further away than he thought and then a storm strikes, bouncing him off course. He bounces right into a bee named Bee, who is hiding from her responsibilities, and a bird called Jay, who doesn’t know how to fly. These three unlikely friends band together to help Pea find his way home.

In the second book, Pea, Bee and Jay: Wannabees, Bee would rather play with her new friends than perform her queenly duties. When she leaves the hive to see her friends a coup takes place and Lenny declares himself Queen of the hive. Pea and Jay must disguise themselves as bees and help Bee infiltrate the hive and get back what is rightly hers. Add in some daring acrobatics and a vegetable dispute and you have a seriously funny adventure.

Pea, Bee and Jay is a series that constantly cracks me up. Each book is full of laughs and super-silly puns. The argument between the corn and the potatoes in Wannabees had me cackling with laughter (it’s a graphic novel that adults will appreciate as much as the kids). Coming in at just over 60 pages each, they’re short and snappy, and I just know that kids (especially boys) are going to read them over and over again. I’m sure it won’t be long until I’ll be hearing fruit and vegetable puns in my school library. The illustrations are super cute and not highly detailed which makes them especially great for younger readers.

These first two books are the start of a series that is just going to keep getting better and better. I know my kids will be begging me to get the next ones as soon as they’re released. These are a must-buy for school library collections as I guarantee they will fly off the shelves. They’re a great read-alike for James Burke’s Bird and Squirrel series.

Squidding Around: Fish Feud! by Kevin Sherry

If you’re looking for a super-fun, pun-tastic graphic novel for younger readers then look no further than Kevin Sherry’s latest, Squidding Around: Fish Feud!

Squizzard and Toothy have been best friends since they were teeny tiny. A squid and a Great White Shark at first seems like an odd friendship but Toothy is a vegetarian so it works. They do everything together but Toothy is getting sick of being pushed around by Squizzard. Toothy finally snaps and says he doesn’t want to be friends anymore. Squizzard has to figure out how to put others first and learn how to be a good friend. If he can do that maybe Toothy will want to be his friend again.

Fish Feud is one of the coolest graphic novels for young readers! It’s colourful, full of jokes and puns, packed with facts and totally hilarious. Kids will be laughing out loud while they read and sharing the jokes with their friends. Jokes like ‘What happened to the shark that ate a set of keys? He got lockjaw!’ It’s a story about friendship too and the importance of compromise. Squizzard is a clown who loves to be the centre of attention. Squizzard always thinks about himself and the games that he wants to play and Toothy feels like he doesn’t get heard. When Toothy snaps Squizzard has to change.

Kevin’s illustrations are bright and bold and his characters are simple but expressive. I love some of the little details of the illustrations, like the pages when the class are doing their oral reports. Each of the kids have brought something to talk about, from their video game to a priceless necklace.

The thing I love most about Fish Feud is the way that Kevin has incorporated facts about the sea creatures into the story. At the same time as laughing your head off you also learn about barracudas, hammerhead sharks, and squid. Sometimes facts are just dropped into the story and other times Kevin will change his illustration style to show you it’s a fact.

Fish Feud is the first book in what will hopefully be a big series. Readers are going to begging for more after reading this one.

Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker by J.C. Phillipps

Most books and movies would have us believe that unicorns are cute and colourful but not J.C. Phillipps’ new graphic novel. Dive into Pacey Packer Unicorn Tracker and discover what unicorns are really like.

Pacey Packer is a girl with a big imagination but she could never have imagined she would find herself in Rundalyn, the secret land of the unicorns. Pacey’s little sister Mina gets sick of waiting for Pacey to play with her. When Pacey goes looking for Mina she finds her about to leap out of her window on the back of a unicorn. Pacey thinks Mina is being kidnapped and tries to grab the unicorn. Pacey, and Mina’s plushie unicorn, Slasher, fall from the sky and find themselves lost in Rundalyn. Pacey and Slasher set off to find Mina but also discover what unicorns are really like. Pacey will have to become the brave hero from her imagination in order to save her sister.

This is a super cool graphic novel for kids! It’s a story full of nasty unicorns, weird plants, magical seeds and sassy characters. J.C. Phillipps’ illustration style is unique and will certainly appeal to kids. She has used a limited colour palette, with just black, white and purple. I really like how J.C. uses different perspectives throughout the story (like Pacey being up in a tree) and the movement between panels, like the example below:

J.C. has even made chapter headings cool by incorporating them into the illustrations.

Pacey herself is a great character but my favourite is Slasher. He’s full of attitude but looks super cute. He’s a soft toy but he’s clearly not happy about it. He’s always cursing his lousy plushie grip. I’m sure most kids won’t see this but Slasher reminds me of Brian, the dog from Family Guy.

Thank goodness this is just the start of the Pacey Packer series! Kids are going to love Pacey and Slasher and, like me, will eagerly await their next adventure.