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.

Graphic novels to hook the youngest readers

For the past 3 years the graphic novel section of my school library has been the most popular part of the collection. I struggle to keep up with the demand of my readers, especially the kids who will now exclusively read graphic novels. There are heaps of great graphic novels being published, for all ages, and some of the most fun ones are aimed at beginner readers. As you can see from the book covers above, many of them feature two main characters, and the humour in these stories comes from the interactions of the characters. Here are some of my favourite graphic novels for young readers.

Kitten Construction Company series by John Patrick Green

The Kitten Construction Company series are some of the first graphic novels created by John Patrick Green (also the creator of one of my favourite graphic novel series, InvestiGators). In Meet the House Kittens, we meet Marmalade, a cute, adorable kitten who is also a trained architect. She is sick of not being taken seriously, and so with some new feline friends, she sets out to show those ridiculous humans what they’re capable of. In the second book, A Bridge Too Fur, Marmalade and her Kitten Construction Company are in hot demand. Their latest assignment is to build the new Mewburg bridge, but they are forced to get help from a demolition crew of dogs. This series is adorable and seriously funny! The panels are big, there are puns galore and the characters are super expressive. They also read aloud nicely so they’re good ones to share.

Pizza and Taco: Who’s the Best? by Stephen Shaskan

Pizza and Taco are best friends and they have a lot in common. They both love water slides, and they’re both friends with Hot Dog and Hamburger. They can’t decide who is the best though. Maybe they need to have a debate and get their friends to decide. The illustrations are colourful (and make you hungry) and the text is simple but full of humour. Like pizzas and tacos, this is a tasty morsel of a book that kids will gobble up. They’ll be begging for more stories about these two besties.

Narwhal and Jelly series by Ben Clanton

Narwhal and Jelly are two of my favourite best buds. Every time I read one of their stories I grin the whole way through because they’re so adorably silly. Narwhal is bursting with happiness and he’s always super positive (and he’s also rather obsessed with waffles). Each of their books has a handful of stories, as well as some facts about narwhals, jellyfish and other sea creatures. The stories is perfectly pitched for young readers, Ben’s illustrations are simple and fun, and his characters are full of personality. Once you read one Narwhal and Jelly book you won’t be able to stop!

Shark and Bot by Brian Yanish

I know what you’re thinking – a shark and a robot couldn’t be friends. Wrong! Shark has just moved to a new place, all the way from Australia. Being a shark, he has trouble making friends, as anybody he meets just runs away screaming. Bot has trouble making friends too, especially with a blade for a hand. These two unlikely friends become best buds. When some bullies take over the playground, Shark and Bot think like their heroes, the Glo-Nuts, and confront the bullies the only way they know how – with the power of dance. The thing I like most about this graphic novel is that it pokes fun at itself. Shark and Bot’s dance moves had me laughing out loud! Any graphic novel that has step-by-step instructions on how to draw the characters is brilliant in my books, and kids can learn how to draw both Shark and Bot in the back of the book.

Arlo and Pips: King of the Birds by Elise Gravel

I love everything that Elise Gravel has created, so I was super excited to see that she had created a graphic novel for younger readers. Arlo believes that he is the greatest bird in the world. Pips is here to try and prove him wrong. There are plenty of birds more beautiful than Arlo, and Pips can certainly sing sweeter than him. Arlo tries to win Pips over by showing Pips the clever things that he can do, using his larger than average brain. As well has being a fun story, with a bit of adventure and suspense, you learn lots of interesting facts about crows along the way. Elise’s text and illustrations are perfect for beginner readers and the story is full of humour.

Honourable mentions – The Elephant and Piggie series by Mo Willems and the Monkey and Cake series by Drew Daywalt and Olivier Tallec

While these two series aren’t technically graphic novels they are great stepping stones to graphic novels for beginner readers. In both the Elephant and Piggie series and the Monkey and Cake series, the authors and illustrators have two friends tackling a series of problems. There is no narration for these stories, rather it is the interactions of the characters that tell the story. The creators use speech bubbles for the conversations between the characters, there is lots of expression in the characters body language and the text, and the stories are hilarious. Both of these series are great to read together with beginner readers. My daughter and I take a character each and read or act out their parts. I also recommended this idea to a teacher at my school, who was looking for books to read with her 6-year-old son, and this worked brilliantly for her too.

Graphic novels to celebrate Pride Week

To celebrate Schools Pride Week and Out on the Shelves I wanted to highlight some of my favourite rainbow graphic novels for primary and intermediate students. I have each of these graphic novels in my primary school library collection and they are hugely popular. I personally feel that graphic novels are the perfect medium for stories featuring rainbow characters, as kids can really see themselves in the characters. From my experience, kids that love graphic novels will pretty much read any graphic novels I have in the library, and they just might discover a rainbow character that they identify with.

Although these graphic novels are mainly aimed at 9-12 year olds, they all have crossover appeal to teens. I have also included Mike Curato’s amazing graphic novel, Flamer, which is definitely aimed at older teens (not appropriate for primary and intermediate schools).

Girl Haven by Lilah Sturges, Meaghan Carter and Joamette Gil

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.

Dungeon Critters by Natalie Riess and Sara Goetter

The Dungeon Critters are a tight-knit gang of animals who go on adventures together. There’s Juniper (or June) the dog, Rose the cat, Prince Chirp the frog and Goro the snake. Between them they have magic, brute strength and cunning to help them fight for what’s right. After defeating a necromancer, an invitation discovered in his belongings leads the Dungeon Critters to The Baron’s ball. The Baron is Prince Chirp’s life-long arch nemesis and Chirp knows that he is up to no good. The gang decide to crash the party and look for clues. With their fancy disguises and fake identities they go to the ball, but Juniper gets mistaken for royalty. She keeps The Baron distracted while the rest of the gang search The Baron’s mansion. With proof in hand that The Baron is up to something, and The Baron’s mansion in flames, the gang head off in search of answers. Just as they start to get some answers, Prince Chirp is summoned back to the palace for ‘The Event’ that his parents are hosting. While at the palace disaster strikes and Juniper is arrested and put on trial. Friendships are tested as members of the Dungeon Critters find themselves on opposite sides of the trial. It is then up to their friends to uncover the truth and help their friends when they need it the most.

I absolutely adore Dungeon Critters! Everything about it is wonderful, from the story and the characters to the humour and the artwork. Everything gels together perfectly to make a graphic novel that is hilarious, action-packed, super-sweet and full of diverse characters. I loved every one of the characters, whether they were the heroes or the villains. They all have a lot of depth to them and history that is revealed throughout the story. Rose and Juniper obviously have some history together (as you can see from the first part of the story) and you discover more about their relationship as the story progresses. There is a fierce rivalry between Prince Chirp and The Baron and its fun to watch this play out. The standout character for me is Goro. He is a gentle giant who is always there when the gang need him, but he’s sensitive too. I loved learning more about him and his boyfriend, Horseboy.

Cardboard Kingdom, illustrated by Chad Sell, with stories by various authors

Welcome to a neighborhood of kids who transform ordinary boxes into colorful costumes, and their ordinary block into cardboard kingdom. This is the summer when sixteen kids encounter knights and rogues, robots and monsters—and their own inner demons—on one last quest before school starts again.

Cardboard Kingdom is bursting with a diverse cast of kids. Through their imaginations these kids can be whoever they want to be and they’re accepted by the other members of the cardboard kingdom. They may have had to hide their true selves before, but their imagination sets them free. Each story focuses on a different kid but the stories interconnect. This graphic novel has been read so many times in my library, since it was released in 2018. The sequel, Cardboard Kingdom: Roar of the Beast, has just been released in the US and I’m really looking forward to joining these kids again, and meeting some new characters.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

Prince Sebastian is looking for a bride―or rather, his parents are looking for one for him. Sebastian is too busy hiding his secret life from everyone. At night he puts on daring dresses and takes Paris by storm as the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!

Sebastian’s secret weapon (and best friend) is the brilliant dressmaker Frances―one of only two people who know the truth: sometimes this boy wears dresses. But Frances dreams of greatness, and being someone’s secret weapon means being a secret. Forever. How long can Frances defer her dreams to protect a friend?

The Prince and the Dressmaker is one of my absolute favourite graphic novels. I love the friendship between Frances and Prince Sebastian and the way that Sebastian’s true personality shines as Lady Crystallia. I love, love, LOVE the ending because it is so unexpected but superb. Jen Wang’s illustrations are reminiscent of early Disney films and I love all the details in each of the panels. The essence of this book is about being your true self and the joy of this shines bright.

Anything by Kay O’Neill (also published as Katie O’Neill)

Kay O’Neill is an award-winning graphic novel writer and artist from Christchurch. Kay has won some of the biggest awards in the comic world, including Eisner, Harvey, and Dwayne McDuffie awards for children’s comics. The first book of Kay’s that I read was Princess Princess Ever After, about two princesses who rescue each other and fall for one another. This was followed by The Tea Dragon Society, The Tea Dragon Festival, Aquacorn Cove, Dewdrop, and Kay’s latest book, The Tea Dragon Tapestry. All of Kay’s work, with the exception of Dewdrop, feature LGBT+ characters and their illustrations are gorgeous.

Kay is underappreciated here in NZ but has a huge fan base in the US. I can’t recommend their books highly enough.

You can read a fantastic interview with Kay O’Neill on the Christchurch City Libraries website.

Flamer by Mike Curato

Aiden is away at Scout camp in the summer between middle school and high school. Everyone is changing around him and he’s terrified of going to high school. He is bullied at school and camp and he knows that it will just get worse at high school. His dad is physically and verbally abusive, so camp is a reprieve from home life. As he navigates friendships, Aiden also tries to figure out feelings he is having for one of his fellow Scouts, Elias. Aiden knows that he’s not gay because he hates boys and how they behave, but  he can’t seem to stop thinking about Elias. Aiden starts to feel like everything is going wrong and makes a decision that affect those around him.

Flamer is an extremely powerful graphic novel that all teenage boys should read. It’s incredibly authentic, especially the language the characters use. It deals with bullying, body image, sexual identity, homophobia, and male friendships. As Jarrett Krosoczka says in the front cover ‘This book will save lives.’ It’s a book that tells readers that no matter how bad things may seem there is always someone who loves you and cares about you.

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.