I loved Fantasy Sports, I'd never heard of it before in my life and decided to buy it for the library based solely on the cover.
I'm glad I did. It's like Big Trouble in Little China if Kurt Russell had to play a game of basketball to defeat Lo Pan.
Wiz and Mug are an unlikely pair. Wiz is a small, snarky, intelligent wizard with a lot to prove. She's working for Mug, a Zangief-esque brute who thinks with his fists before his head.
As treasure hunters, they're always looking for a good haul. One fateful afternoon they stumble across a tomb containing an ancient puzzle, breaking through it, they enter an ancient arena ruled by a demon with the greatest basketball skills anyone has ever seen.
If Mug and Wiz are going to leave the arena with their skin still attached to their bones, they're gonna have to beat the demon in the greatest basketball rivalry since the 1984 Lakers & Celtics.
This book's the most fun you'll have in the library all day long, I can't wait to get it into the hands of the students.
I'd recommend it for Years 8 and up.
Catrina and her family are moving from the hot, desert-like conditions of Southern California to a location further north. Catrina's sister, Maya, is ill and the northern climate is thought to be better for her.
Catrina doesn't want to go, she misses her friends, she misses her old place. She tries her best not to complain, but she's a teen and that's what teens do.
One their first night, Catrina and Maya decide to explore the town a little. They find a seemingly abandoned arcade. It's dark, creepy, and a awesome at the same time. It's here that they discover one of their neighbours, and he drops a bombshell on them.
The town they just moved to is haunted.
Younger Maya is thrilled to learn this. Catrina? Not so much.
Is this a hoax, or is there something true in the chilling words of their neighbour?
Filled with humour and heart, Ghosts is a story about facing your fears and coming to terms with change. I think anyone aged 9-90 would love this story. I read it quickly, and then went back to admire the beautiful illustrations.
Raina's stories are always a huge hit in the high school library that I work at. I try hard to put her books in the hands of students that I feel are reluctant readers or give me the dreaded "I hate reading" song and dance.
It's also a great book to promote for Halloween, so if you're in the position of recommending books to students, don't forget this!
"Are you crying?" my wife asked me as I put down El Deafo, I was less than halfway through it.
"No," I said, "it's just dusty in here or something."
It was a lie, of course. El Deafo is really amazing and it will affect you greatly, unless you've got a heart made of a burned out hornet's nest, that is.
Here's the deal: Cece is your average child growing up in what can be surmised as 1970s United States. Then, at the age of four, she contracts meningitis and loses her hearing permanently.
She's provided with a device called a Sonic Ear, something that allows her to hear what her teacher is saying. Cece is understandably self-conscious of the device, as it's the 1970s and pretty much everything was made to resemble a Cadillac.
On top of this, Cece's family moves to a small town, meaning she has to start over, making new friends and trying not to go crazy as her classmates and teachers treat her trick gloves. When I was a kid I used to watch a film called "See No Evil, Hear No Evil" starring Gene Wilder and Richard Pryor. I was much too young to be watching it but hey, I was a latch-key kid and once I figured out how to use the remotes on the satellite dish it was game over.
Anyway, there's a scene in that film that has stuck with me for over 25 years. Gene Wilder plays a deaf man, and he's being interrogated by a cop. The cop is being very condescending, and speaking to Wilder in a slow, almost childish tone. Wilder responds to this by mimicking the cop's tone. The cop then turns to Richard Pryor and says "Why is he speaking to me like that?"
Pryor says, "Because he's deaf, not stupid."
When Cece has to deal with people like the cop in that movie, she reverts to her superhero alter-ego, El Deafo, a person who says what she feels and stands up for herself in all situations.
Through it all, Cece describes her struggles with sign language, reading lips, understanding what is going on her favourite tv shows and surviving school like everyone else. There is a through-line, though, one that we all face: The quest to find a good friend, someone who will accept us for who we are.
This is what Cece seems to struggle with more than anything in this story, choosing someone she really digs and wants to hang out. Some of her friends are too bossy, to obsessed with her hearing aids, too manipulative, and so on.
El Deafo is a beautifully illustrated graphic novel, for whatever reason Bell decided to make her characters into rabbits. We don't need to know why, it's just the way it is and after a while you become so familiar with them that you wouldn't have it any other way.
Bell's ability to pour what is undoubtedly a very personal story onto the page in such an effortless, engaging way is the sign of an amazing artist and I was ecstatic to get in the Library and shove it in the hands of students I knew would love it before the term ended for the summer.
I can't wait to continue doing so in September.
Robots that come to life is a story that's been around since Asimov wrote about them in the '30s, and before that too, probably, I'm no historian. That doesn't mean that every once in a while a story about androids and their human masters can't come along and take you on a really cool ride. Enter Alex + Ada, a story that demands your attention and keeps it to the very last page.
It's the near future, flying robots make your breakfast and you do all of your shopping, net browsing and socializing via a chip that you have implanted into the side of your head. It's like having Amazon.com as your sub-conscious, fun!
Our titular character Alex is depressed, he's still not over the girl that left him and he's not satisfied in his job. His grandmother wants to cheer him up by purchasing an android for him.
Now, when I say android, I'm not talking about something that looks like Johnny Five, these things are the real deal. They look just like you or I, the only way to tell them apart from humans is the logo they have tattooed on their wrist which they are legally obligated to keep exposed at all times.
Alex refuses his grandmother's offer, and she buys him one anyway. This is where things start to get really interesting.
At first, Alex decides to return her, eventually he caves and keeps her. The problem is, Alex doesn't want an android that only likes the things that he likes and agrees with everything he does. He wants one that will speak her mind and make decisions for herself.
Alex decides to try to "Awaken" Ada, a highly illegal activity that overrides the company hardware, making her a sentiment being.
What follows is an interesting journey into seedy online chat rooms, motels and FBI surveillance as Alex & Ada get caught up in the world of those that have been "Awakened."
I liked both how the story flowed and how sparse and crisp the artwork was. I also liked how this series did not start with any kind of post-apocalyptic nightmare where androids wake up and crush their human overlords. There are hints of this, yes, but the overall thread is one of romance and just trying to survive the information overload that exists in the modern age. There is also a lot of humour yet a lot of serious issues taking place in this series and I can't wait for the next one.
Rose Wallace's family have been going to Awago Beach every summer since, in Rose's words "like forever."
I'm going to be honest, this beautiful graphic novel had me hooked as soon as I saw the illustrated Tim Horton's coffee cup nestled snugly in the cup holder of Rose's father's car. I had no idea this was about a Canadian holiday, luckily, I had no idea what this story was about before reading it, which is, I think, the best way to approach it.
Due to the aforementioned Tim Horton's cup, This One Summer caused a deluge of memories for me: Visiting my grandparent's cottage on the lake in southwestern Nova Scotia, canoeing to the tiny sandy beaches sprinkled around the lake like smears of whip cream against the dark green backdrop of the woods beyond them. Making campfires, roasting s'mores, accidentally putting a fish hook straight through my friend Cory's finger and watching him faint from the sight of it and my brother and I having to literally carry him the half mile back to the - wait, I'm going off on a tangent here, back to This One Summer.
Every summer, Rose meets her friend Wendy, who stays in a nearby cottage. This particular summer, Rose and Wendy decide to plough through as many horror movies as they can, rented from the local convenience store, which also sells a barrage of candy and of course, turkey jerky. Rose is also struck by the boy who works at the store, even though he's much older, 18 to her 13? 14? We're never really told how old Rose is but it doesn't matter, her experience throughout this story can cover the entire tween to early teen experience.
The summer isn't spent in idyllic bliss, however. Rose must deal with her parent's constant bickering, which surrounds a family secret that I won't spoil here, you'll just have to read it.
Family secret aside, Rose's mother refuses to allow herself to enjoy one second of her time at Awago Beach, something that only deepens the rift between her and Rose's father. So much so, that her dad leaves one night, telling Rose that he has to go back to the city to catch up on work.
There's also a side plot running just under the family secret one. It surrounds the boy who works at the convenience store and an unplanned pregnancy and somehow Rose, Wendy and their parents get more involved then they want to.
This One Summer might not be an obvious choice for someone like me, who loves dungeon-crawling video games and graphic novels & books like "Sleeper" and "Post Office," but this one hit me hard with its gorgeous illustrations and coming of age story with a punch.
Recommended to anyone with a beating heart.
To say that I read Broxo would be misleading. I devoured it. Not only is it beautifully illustrated and chalk-full of characters you want to box up and take home with you to show your friends, the action comes on faster than a machine gun on crank.
Did I mention there was a Wampa-esque ice creature and zombies? Oh yes, lots and lots of zombies, and of course the chopping-up of said zombies.
The story opens upon a charred and desolate mountaintop. Giallongo is so effective in depicting the bleakness of his world that you can almost feel the cold seeping from the pages into your fingers. It is here we meet barbarian princess Zora, who has abandoned her family in search of another clan. Why has she left her family to embark on this quest, you ask? None of your business! Sorry, I mean, you’ll simply have to read the book to find out!
What I can tell you is that instead of finding the people she was looking for, she comes across Broxo, an uncouth, smelly boy who lives alone save for the aforementioned faithful ice creature. Broxo introduces Zora to the local culinary delights and attractions which include charred lizard and slicing the noggins off of the hoards of undead that roam the mountainside.
The dialogue between the two teenagers is sharp, funny and endearing. Broxo possesses street smarts, a "when in doubt always use a sword" kind of attitude which is paired effectively with Zora's refined yet guarded approach to life's situations.
The undead aren’t their only problem, though. There’s Gloth, a cowardly yet savage wolf that has the ability to talk through his seemingly endless rows of razor sharp teeth. Gloth patrols the land, looking for easy prey. He and Broxo have a history, and as you might expect, their paths are destined to meet again very soon.
Then there’s Ulith, a mysterious witch who has the ability to observe Zora & Broxo from afar with the help of her animal servants. Giallongo does a good job keeping the reader guessing what Ulith’s relationship to Broxo and her role in Zora’s quest is until nearer the end, with satisfying results.
Broxo is a graphic novel that sticks in your brain, it’s like snorting super glue. Actually, it’s nothing like snorting glue. In fact, do NOT snort super glue, ever. What I’m trying to say is that Broxo is awesome, Giallongo has created a rich, loveable cast of characters in a world you want to spend a lot more time in, even if the food is bad. I’d recommend this graphic novel to anyone aged twelve and up.
"Much nonsense has been written about the Knights Templar over the years," writes Jordan Mechner, creator of the awesome graphic novel, "Templar." He's right, there has been a lot of nonsense written about them. One of my favourites is that they stole un-published works of Shakespeare and hid them on Oak Island, Nova Scotia. Then there's the myth that they were all arrested on a Friday the 13th, forever marking it as an unlucky day, a day that would spawn countless terrible campfire stories and movies. I'm looking at you, Jason Takes Manhattan.
There's no nonsense in Mechner's Templar. He uses actual speeches from the Templar's leaders, members and detractors. Mechner re-creates 14th century Paris as meticulously as he can. We see both sides of the human experience, the gold-lined palaces, the poor wretches living in their own filth and the people who are just trying their best to survive.
This is probably what I loved the most from this book, Mechner doesn't gloss over anything, but he doesn't exaggerate either. Don't get me wrong, the book gets pretty dark at times, especially when depicting the Siege of Acre and the resulting massacre of the prisoners.
The through-line of Templar follows Martin and his friends. Martin returns to Paris after a long excursion around Europe only to find out that the woman he loves hasn't waited around for him. While he finds solace at the bottom of several pints of ale, the king orders the mass-arrest of the Templars, taking their treasure in the process and hiding it in the city.
Forced into hiding for months on end, Martin and his friends eventually discover that their treasure is still in Paris. He then recruits people that are sympathetic to his cause, including his jilted ex-lover, to help rescue the treasure and return it to the remaining Templars that have escaped persecution.
Templar is a deep story filled with smaller yet still interesting side-stories as well as fast paced action, Indiana Jones style puzzles and a well thought out romantic thread.
At 480 pages, it's not a quick read, but that's fine because I didn't want it to end.
The good news: Scientists have discovered a way to travel inter-dimensionally, forever changing science and the world that we know. The bad news: Most of the things that live in those other dimensions want us all dead.
That is the conundrum facing Grant McKay and his team of researchers, who get stranded "Lost in Space" style within multiple dimensions, most of them extremely dangerous.
McKay is a broken man, struggling with the fact that he's put his family in danger, he's cheating on his wife, and yes, he probably takes too many drugs. He has to put all of that behind him, however, if he's going to get them all home alive.
Most of the dialogue is through Mckay's inner thoughts, and it is here that we experience his fears, his hopes and his brilliant mind. It is an effective way to keep the reader confused yet ravenously interested in figuring out what's going on.
The action in Black Science #1 is non-stop, Scalera has achieved greatness in his ability to disturb and entrance readers at the same time. The desperation that courses through McKay and his team is palpable, the people that inhabit the other dimensions are frightening and the monsters, well, they're absolutely terrifying.
I can't really say enough about the artwork in Black Science, it's unlike anything I've ever come across. It is so vivid and real and crackling with energy that I defy anyone to say that they don't feel like they are in these worlds, living out this unbelievable nightmare.
I cannot wait to get my hands on the next volume of this mind-bending action-adventure. I highly recommend it.
Marcus Lopez is going to assassinate the President of the United States.
That's the plan, at least. In the meantime, he's on the run from a home for wayward teenagers, has no money, no family and no friends. It's safe to say that Marcus has a lot of issues. Why is he on the run, you ask? Let's just say it involves a lot of pent-up anger, a nail bomb and the aforementioned plan to off the commander in chief.
It's San Francisco, 1987, and Marcus has indirectly lost his parents to Ronald Reagan's cuts to national mental health funding. Consumed with a desire for revenge, Marcus lives under bridges, freeways and anywhere he can in order to hide from the authorities while he tries to figure out a way to make his assassination plan come to life.
Marcus' seemingly complete lack of empathy, razor-thin sanity and suicidal nature make him the ideal candidate for the "Kings Dominion School of the Deadly Arts" - an academy that trains the youth of 1987 to be the best assassins in the world. It's like if Saved By the Bell had an episode where they cut the brake lines to Mr. Belding's car. He's recruited to join the school while simultaneously about to commit suicide and while being chased by government officials - tough day.
Classes at "The School" range from learning how to properly behead someone to understanding the psychological framework of a killer. Things don't get truly interesting, though, until Marcus and a handful of his new friends sneak off of school grounds to go on a road trip.
As expected, things get way out of hand, people get hurt and Marcus' past comes hurtling back to devour him. Visually, this graphic novel can be compared to Frank Miller's Sin City, it's clean and bold at the same time.
They have packed a lot of story into this volume, and its conclusion leaves us realizing that there is still a ton that needs to be told, and that's a great thing.
In "No Feelings," the Sex Pistols sing I look around your house, you got nothing to steal / I kick you in the brains when you get down to kneel. I can't help but feel the aimlessness, melancholy and violence embodied in these lyrics screaming off of the pages in Deadly Class. Great stuff.