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.

Agent Moose by Mo O’Hara and Jess Bradley

Kids everywhere are obsessed with Dogman, so it’s always great when I come across a new series that I can recommend to Dogman fans. Agent Moose is the new series by Mo O’Hara and Jess Bradley and it has everything that kids love about Dogman – laughs galore, bold illustrations, and characters that they’ll love coming back to.

Whenever there is trouble in Big Forest there is only one team for the job – Anonymoose and Owlfred. With Anonymoose’s astounding skills of disguise and Owlfred’s calm attitude and patience in a crisis these two catch the criminals…eventually. Something strange is going on at South Shore. Terence Turtle, a witness in a high-profile robbery case, has disappeared and its up to Anonymoose and Owlfred to find him. Unfortunately for Anonymoose that means a run-in with his competition, Camo Chameleon. Camo has just solved his 100th case, making him the best agent at Woodland HQ. That title was supposed to be Anonymoose’s and he’s still bitter about it. Anonymoose and Owlfred are going to have to go undercover and discover what is happening to the animals of Big Forest.

Agent Moose is absolutely brilliant! Mo and Jess have created characters that kids are going to go wild for. The story is super funny and full of gags that readers of all ages will love. I’m a huge fan of Jess’ art, from reading her Squid Bits comics in The Phoenix Comic, so it’s really great to see a whole book full of her art. I love that her illustrations are so simple but all of the characters have a personality. The simple illustrations and the sparse text make this book perfect for younger readers and it’s a great introduction to graphic novels.

Anonymoose and Owlfred are complete opposites but they make the perfect team. Anonymoose is sauve and fantastic at disguise, but not very smart. Owlfred is the brains of the operation and is the one who is calm and rational. Every time Anonymoose was in disguise he made me laugh, because he is so obviously a moose dressed as a turtle or a palm tree. The other characters don’t see this though and often get startled when he talks.

This is just the first book in a series that I hope with have many more books to come. I know that kids are going to gobble this one up and be desperate for book 2 (coming in March 2021). Check out the fantastic book trailer below (this will be great to hook kids in).

The Big Break by Mark Tatulli

There are some really great graphic novels for kids that focus on female friendships in middle school. Shannon Hale, Victoria Jamieson and Kristen Gudsnuk are among the best. There are few graphic novels for kids that focus on male friendships, but the best are those by Mark Tatulli. I loved his semi-autobiographical graphic novel, Short and Skinny, about his childhood years spent making a spoof movie of Star Wars. Mark is back again with The Big Break, a story about growing up, growing apart and monster hunting.

Andrew and Russ are best friends who are obsessed with finding the legendary Jersey Devil. They’ve been making a movie about it for ages but need to come up with an ending. Russ starts spending less time with Andrew and more time with a girl at their school called Tara. It seems like Russ has become a different person, someone who thinks that the things Andrew likes are too ‘babyish.’ Andrew really dislikes Tara and thinks she’s stealing his friend away. Suddenly their friendship that has always been so strong is falling apart. Then a bunch of Jersey Devil sightings are reported in their town and the boys are thrown back together again. They have to figure out how to mend their friendship if they’re to have a chance of finding the monster of their dreams.

The Big Break is a fantastic story about the ups and downs of friendship, full of humour and heart. It’s the kind of graphic novel that I wished I’d had as a kid. Friendship between boys is so different to friendship between girls but Mark shows you how complicated it can get, especially when there’s a girl involved.

There are three characters that I loved in this story – Miss Robbins the librarian, Andrew’s mum and Andrew’s action figure conscience General Dakkar. Andrew and Russ spend a lot of time in their local public library in the story and they have the coolest librarian, Miss Robbins. She really knows the kids who come into the library, so she knows what kind of books they really like. She’s also interested in local history and folklore so she comes in very handy for Andrew and Russ’ search for the Jersey Devil. Andrew’s Mum is just a really caring mum. She’s always talking with Andrew about what is going on in his life and making sure that she gets her hugs and kisses. Andrew’s conscience takes the shape of his version of a Jersey Devil and one of his action figures, General Dakkar. I love General Dakkar because he looks like this tough bad guy but he’s the voice in Andrew’s head that is freaking out and jumping to conclusions. I kind of imagined him shouting with Mr T’s voice.

I love Mark’s style of illustration, especially the way that his characters communicate non-verbally. Mark says so much just through body language or facial expressions of his characters. This makes Mark’s graphic novels especially great for neuro-diverse kids because they can pick up visual cues from the illustrations.

I can’t wait for the kids in my library to read this one because I know it’s going to be popular.

Sparks! Double Dog Dare by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto

Sparks! by Ian Boothby and Nina Matsumoto is one of the funniest graphic novels for kids. I recommend it to kids in my library all the time. When I saw that there was a sequel coming I was super excited and I’ve been counting down the days. When I opened a book delivery for my school library the other day it was on the top and I did a little squee of excitement. Double Dog Dare is everything I hoped it would be – silly, funny and action-packed.

Charlie and August are two cats keeping their city safe, dressed in the mechanical superhero dog suit known as Sparks. When there is a family trapped in a burning building, a twister heading for a bus full of children or a pizza truck that’s crashed into the ocean, Sparks is there to save the day. But when a second, evil Sparks shows up and starts causing trouble everyone blames the real Sparks. Who is this fake Sparks and what do they want? It’s up to Charlie and August to uncover the truth and prove that Sparks is a good boy.

Double Dog Dare is another hilarious, explosive adventure with Charlie and August. While we don’t have the alien baby overlord in this story there is a lot of action, with explosions, fire and fights. August’s inventions always make me laugh and I especially love the way he uses the most advanced laser beam in the world. Charlie loses his confidence when a new cat moves in across the road. This cat is polydactyl (meaning it has extra digits on its paws) and Charlie thinks that August wants to replace him. After all, a cat with thumbs could do some pretty awesome things in the Sparks suit. Charlie’s insecurity leads to us getting a flashback to his life before he met August.

The story and the illustrations feel bigger and bolder than the first book. I really love the action of Nina’s illustrations that flows really nicely from panel to panel. I want to give a special mention to David Dedrick, the colourist of this book. The colours are sharp and really make the illustrations jump off the page. There is a lot of action in the story and David’s colours make the action pop.

I highly recommend both Sparks books and they have the kid tick of approval too (the first book is hardly ever on the shelf in my library). I hope there will be more Spark books to look forward to.