Great Reads for Teens and Tweens!

Helping you make an informed decision about that book

King of Pop: The Story of Michael Jackson

Title: King of Pop: The Story of Michael Jackson

Author: Terry Collins

Illustrator: Michael Byers

Publisher: Capstone Press      Year: 2012

ISBN-13: 978-1429679947

Genre: Graphic Novel

Age: 8 – 14 years old

Awards: N/A

Themes / Subjects: Michael Jackson, King of Pop, artist, entertainer, humanitarian, legend

Plot Summary:

In the 1960s, Michael Jackson was just a young boy with big dreams. By the time he died in 2009, Michael had grown to be a music icon and an international legend. Follow Michael’s journey as he spends his last day reminiscing about growing up in the tumultuous music industry and the legacy he would leave behind.

My Take:

What a disappointment! As a library media specialist, I expected more of from this book for my students, although what can you really expect for five bucks? Michael Jackson led such an interesting and complicated life. I’m not saying that we need to tell young people every little detail of every trial or mishap Michael had, but nor should we sugar coat a person’s ENTIRE life. A graphic novel is an excellent way to get young or reluctant readers to read, but let’s make sure we are giving them all the facts. I want to see more about Michael growing up, the charity work he did, how being such a pop icon made him an easy target for accusations, and how a horrible addiction ended his life. I’m not saying it should go into graphic detail, but come on people! There is nothing worse than lying to kids!

Rating: 1 out of five stars. Teens (and I) want the truth! But perhaps in the famous words of Jack Nicholson as Col. Jessep in 1992’s A Few Good Men (fyi, not an appropriate teen/tween movie), You can’t handle the truth!

Similar read: I’m not about to send you guys out to read an equally sucky book so this will have to wait until I come across something similar but much, much better (which shouldn’t be hard).

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Soul Eater, Volume 1 by Atsushi Ohkubo

Title: Soul Eater

Author: Atsushi Ohkubo

Publisher: Yen Press    Year: 2009

ISBN -13: 978-0759530010

Genre: Manga

Age: 14 and up

Themes / subjects: Science fiction, fantasy, comics & graphic novels, manga, weapons, school, death

 

Plot Summary:

Death Weapon Meister Academy (DWMA) is a school run by Shanigami Death where students (meisters) are partnered with living weapons and trained to battle and absorb evil souls. The goal of  meisters and weapons are to absorb the souls of 99 evil humans and 1 witch, greatly increasing the weapon’s power and transforming them into death scythes which can be used by Shanigami Death. Volume 1 of Soul Eater follows the individual adventures of Meister Maka Albarn and her weapon partner Soul Eater, Black Star and his weapon partner Tsubaki Nakatsukasa, and Death the Kid with his weapon partners Liz and Patty Thompson. The biggest issue is not the evil minions they face, but their own “quirky” personalities!

My Take:

This was my first Manga read and came highly recommended from one of my students who actually let me borrow her copy. A word to the wise, figure out how to read the book first! Soul Eater is a Japanese manga which is read right to left or “backwards” to the American reader. I didn’t realize this at first and was very confused because the story didn’t seem to flow right but a couple pages into it, I got it.

With that said, I am hooked on this series! I found the complexity of the meisters relationship with their weapons to be very intriging. Maka is a young, cute schoolgirl yet her weapon Soul is obnoxiously brash. Assassin Black Star considers himself a big show-off while his weapon Tsubaki is sweet and tries to keep him in line. Death’s kid is completely nuts about symmetry to the point he can’t continue his task if he thinks the toilet paper at home is not folded correctly. His twin weapons Patty and Liz don’t understand his problem but they still love him anyway. Despite the characters obvious personality differences, they work extremely well together and in fact make excellent teams. This goes to show that the most unexpected persons can make great partners.

Manga is a very unique and distinctive art style that is specific to Japanese graphic novels, typically intended for adults. Ohkubo’s chiaroscuro panels, askew close-ups, and quirky style blend to create supernatural worlds with a Halloween feel.

Soul Eater is a dark comedy/action series meaning it contains violence and some sexual content. I think it’s important to note that this book and its characters are not violent for the sake of violence, but rather they are battling demons and evil souls in an effort to save their world and mankind. Know your teen and what they can handle!

** Soul Eater is also an anime series (available through youtube) which I found to closely follow the book in both design and dialogue. Here is a link to the first episode http://youtu.be/apzgClzK-7w

Rating: 5/5 stars … this book left me wanting more!

Similar Read: One Piece by Eiichiro Oda

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The Arrival by Shaun Tan

 Title: The Arrival

 Author: Shaun Tan

 Publisher: Arthur A. Levine Books     Year:  2007

 ISBN -13: 978-0439895293

 Genre: Graphic Novel, Fiction

 Age: 12 and up

 Awards: 2006 New South Wales Premier’s Literary Awards Book of the Year ; 2006 Western Australian Premier’s Book Awards Premier’s Prize ; 2007 Children’s Book Council of Australia Picture Book of the Year

 Themes / Subjects: Graphic Novel, social situations – immigration

 

Plot Summary:

From the School Library Journal

Tan captures the displacement and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel. It depicts the journey of one man, threatened by dark shapes that cast shadows on his family’s life, to a new country. The only writing is in an invented alphabet, which creates the sensation immigrants must feel when they encounter a strange new language and way of life. A wide variety of ethnicities is represented in Tan’s hyper-realistic style, and the sense of warmth and caring for others, regardless of race, age, or background, is present on nearly every page. Young readers will be fascinated by the strange new world the artist creates, complete with floating elevators and unusual creatures, but may not realize the depth of meaning or understand what the man’s journey symbolizes. More sophisticated readers, however, will grasp the sense of strangeness and find themselves participating in the man’s experiences. They will linger over the details in the beautiful sepia pictures and will likely pick up the book to pour over it again and again.—Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

 My Take:

Normally I write my own plot summary but I found it exceptionally difficult with this book. This was my first experience “reading” a graphic novel and quite honestly, not the most pleasant experience. I expected to have to use my imagination to create the story based on the illustrations but without any prior knowledge of what it was supposed to be about I had no idea where the story was going. On Tan’s website he explains that in this book “the absence of any written description also plants the reader more firmly in the shoes of an immigrant character.” In my case, the absence of written description left me thoroughly confused. So I passed the book on to my eleven year old friend Josh. When he finished reading it, Josh turned to me and asked what is it about?

The illustrations are beautifully drawn and I understood that I was following the trials and travels of an immigrant, but the little alien creatures and strange language really threw me off. After reading the artist’s note at the end, I finally understood what the artists was trying to portray. With that said, I think the complexity of the story will go over many young kids heads, heck even older kids. This book is an excellent way for parents or educators to open up a discussion on immigration but I strongly suggest giving kids an idea of what they are about to read.

Rating: 1/5 stars … needs some sort of preface or text to help guide readers

Similar Read: The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick (“…not exactly a novel, and it’s not quite a picture book, and it’s not really a graphic novel, or a flip book, or a movie, but a combination of all these things.” – from Brian Selznick’s website)

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