by Matt Phelan
Candlewick, October 11, 2011
Many local teachers have been using graphic novelizations of classic stories in their classrooms. Phelan's Around the World, though fiction, is grounded in historical fact and quotes from primary sources, proving an exciting base for history lessons or a path to the exploration of non-fiction. Phelan's book presents three famous individuals who each circumnavigated in the world in his or own way: Thomas Steves by bicycle, Nellie Bly by ship and rail, and Joshua Slocum by sail boat. The pacing and speed of each journey are captured by the graphic novel lay-out, which serves to combine writing, image, maps, and other materials, each adding a layer to the reader's understanding of the journey. Sprightly line drawings and colorful washes capture the emotion and drive of each character, bringing a rush of thrilling speed to each adventure. Ages 10+
First Second (on shelves now)
One day while Zita and her friend Joseph are walking, they come across a small crater. Inside is a strange device, and Zita, being an adventurous button-pusher, hits it. A vortex opens and something reaches out to grab Joseph. Luckily, Zita is a good friend, so she hits the button again and disappears into the vortex after Joseph, only to land in an alien world. What follows are the adventures of Zita as she tries to find Joseph and return to Earth- before an asteroid destroys the planet she’s on, that is.
Though characterization can sometimes suffer in plot-driven graphic novels, Ben Hatke has managed to create a number of multi-faceted, dimensional characters. The Piper, who initially helps Zita, is not good or bad, rather self-protecting. Zita, too, isn’t without her flaws. Though she is brave, she is also stubborn and impulsive, yet stilling caring enough to draw helpful misfits to her.
We find a resolution at the end, but I can’t help but wish the next installment of Zita’s fabulous adventures were waiting on a shelf for me today. Middle grade readers, especially those who love Bone will fall in love with Zita the Spacegirl. Me? I'm happy to see a strong young female on character join the graphic novel shelf. Ages 8+