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The Reading Pile – September 20

Once again, we’re starting off the week with a look at our recent reading.

Katherine Dacey: Snow just sent me the latest Amelia Rules book, True Things Adults Don’t Want Kids to Know. It’s been a while since I checked in with this series, and I’d nearly forgotten how much fun it is. In the latest installment, Amelia turns eleven, develops her first crush, and earns her first crummy report card. These developmental milestones are standard YA fodder, but Jimmy Gownley is such a smart writer that even the most done-to-death subjects have a fresh, funny snap. Gownley is also a terrific cartoonist; his characters have the kind of elastic, expressive faces that remind me of classic newspaper strips like Peanuts and For Better or Worse. I’m not quite finished reading True Things, but I’m confident that it will be just as big a hit with Amelia fans as previous volumes. Look for True Things on October 19th.

I’ve also been reading some manga. Penguin sent me a copy of The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography, which they will be re-issuing later this month. (The first edition was published in 2008 by Emotional Content.) Reading the book, I was irresistibly reminded of Martin Scorsese’s Kundun, which covers roughly the same period in the Dalai Lama’s life, from His Holiness’ childhood to his exile in India. That similarity isn’t accidental, it turns out; artist Tetsu Saiwai cites the film as one of the sources for his book. I didn’t mind the fact that both works follow the same basic trajectory, though readers who have already seen Scorsese’s film won’t find much new material here. I think teens make a better audience for the book, as Sawai does a clear job of documenting the Lama’s ascent to power, his efforts to defend Tibetan culture from Chinese encroachment, and his ongoing struggle to uphold the ethical tenets of Buddhism. The 14th Dalai Lama will be released on September 28th.

Last but not least, I just picked up the newest installment of Chi’s Sweet Home. The second volume is just as cute and charming as the first, if a little less bittersweet; Chi has imprinted on her human owners, and is slowly forgetting her feline mother. The series is at its funniest when the author exploits the perception gap between Chi and her owners, leading to some hilarious stand-offs between the Yamadas and their cat. Some of the jokes are a little too predictable for adult tastes—hey, did you know that pets hate getting shots?—but young readers will find Chi’s antics uniformly funny, especially if they have a cat or dog with whom they can compare Chi’s behavior.

Mike Pawuk: I’ve been reading several different genres all week long:

First up I’ve finally gotten all caught up with the Hulk comic book series published by Marvel
Comics. This includes The Incredible Hulk monthly comics (#601-611), the
adjective less Hulk title (issues #19-24), as well as the Son of Hulk collections, as well as the tie-ins to the World War Hulks – Hulked Out Heroes storyline including Spider-Man vs. Thor #1-2, Captain America vs. Wolverine #1-2, and Hulked Out Heroes #1-2. Most of the comics I read have not been collected in graphic novel form since they were just published by Marvel Comics over the last few months. The story arcs include The Son of Hulk, Fall of the Hulks, and World War Hulk. When Bruce Banner has been drained of his gamma radiation by the mysterious Red Hulk, the Hulk is seemingly gone forever. Little does Bruce know that his son Skaar has been
banished to Earth with one goal: to confront and kill his father who abandoned him—the Hulk. But when the Hulk is nowhere to be found, Skaar is trained by Bruce and the climax builds up to the conclusion of the World War Hulks storyline when the father and son meet and also the identities of the mysterious Red Hulk and Red She-Hulk are revealed. No spoilers here, but I haven’t been this entertained by the writing of Greg Pak and Jeph Loeb since Peter David did his monumental run on the Incredible Hulk comics in the late 1980s-early 1990s. As with all comic books that delve into years of history, newer readers may be slightly perplexed as to some of the characters involved, but nevertheless, the series continues to do great things thanks to Greg Pak’s writing.

I also read Susan Kim, Laurence Klavan, and Faith Erin Hicks’ Brain Camp, published by First Second. It’s a great treat of a story about Jenna and Lucas, two 14-year-old less-than-stellar students forced to attend a mysterious summer camp where the kids are being turned into geniuses but at a deadly cost. The teen leads are very likeable and this should be a popular pick for teen librarians to show to readers. One word of note—though they’re shown discreetly, there’s a scene of a girl’s first period as well as a boy’s wet dream. Both are done tastefully, though and the normalcy of the situations is very refreshing to see.

I also read the first book of Kids Can Press’ Three Thieves: Book One—Tower of Treasure. Aimed for younger readers grades 3-6, approximately, the fantasy series features a 14-year-old orphaned acrobat named Dessa who’s part of a travelling sideshow along with several of her companions Topper, the circus juggler, and Fisk, the circus strongman. When the travelling show stops at the crowded city of Kingsbridge, Topper recruits Dessa and Fisk into robbing the royal treasure, while Dessa sets out in the city to find out more about her long-lost brother. It’s a very accessible story and a great addition for juvenile or teen graphic novel collections.

Brigid Alverson About Brigid Alverson

Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor and a newspaper reporter; now she is assistant to the mayor of Melrose, Massachusetts. In addition to editing GC4K, she writes about comics and graphic novels at MangaBlog, SLJTeen, Publishers Weekly Comics World, Comic Book Resources, MTV Geek, and Good Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters in college, which is why she writes so much. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.

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