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Happy 2019! 

This year, I reread more books than any previous year. I am not including the billions of pictures books that I reread to my children in that statistic, either. 🙂 But for this list, I am focusing on my favorite reads of 2018. These are books that will stick to my bones for years to come!

 

Favorite Books Marketed Toward Young Adults

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women, Edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale

Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card by Sara Saedi

The Astonishing Color of After by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Hearts Unbroken by Cynthia Leitich Smith

Mary’s Monster by Lita Judge

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Pride by Ibi Zoboi

 

Favorite Books Marketed Toward Upper Elementary and Middle Grade

Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed

Bob by Wendy Mass and Rebecca Stead

Marcus Vega Doesn’t Speak Spanish by Pablo Cartaya

 

Favorite Picture Books

The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson

Drawn Together by Minh Lê

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

I Walk With Vanessa by Kerascoët

Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love

The Wall in the Middle of the Book by John Agee

We Are Grateful: Otsaliheliga by Traci Sorrell

 

Which were your favorite reads of 2018?

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Happy 2019! 

I had one of my best reading years ever! My GoodReads goal was 300 which I exceeded!

I read 415 books this year!
(Though I will admit GoodReads adding the ability to add rereads really helped with the total; however, I was quite inconsistent with it– I marked re-reads sometimes and other times I didn’t, so I don’t know how accurate the count is, specifically picture books…)

 

It was almost exactly split between picture books and non-picture books with my novel, etc. total being a bit over 200.
My average rating for the year is 4.2 and my top shelves were: realistic fiction, nonfiction, Unleashing Readers, Trent 4-5 years, middle grade, audiobook, mg-ya picture books, picture book, and read to Trent. 

Today, I want to highlight my favorite reads from the year by sharing my 5 star reads from 2018
(the visual includes all while the list includes only newly read in 2018 books): 

Click on the photo above to see my 2018 Goodreads shelf to learn about any of these titles. If I’ve reviewed the book on Unleashing Readers, I’ve also hyperlinked it in the list. 

Picture Books & Early Readers (nonfiction & fiction)

Wolf in the Snow by Matthew Cordell
Windows by Julia Denos
Little Fox in the Forest by Stephanie Graegin
Grand Canyon by Jason Chin
Lights! Camera! Alice!: The Trilling True Adventures of the First Woman Filmmaker by Mara Rockliff
Crown: An Ode to the Fresh Cut by Derrick Barnes
My Kite is Stuck! And Other Stories by Salina Yoon
Duck, Duck, Porcupine! by Salina Yoon
Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude by Josh Funk
Be a King: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s Dream and You by Carole Boston Weatherford
Square by Mac Barnett
Her Right Foot by Dave Eggers
Mission Defrostable by Josh Funk 
What Can a Citizen Do? by Dave Eggers
Masterpiece Robot and the Ferocious Valerie Knick-Knack by Frank Tra
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Drawn Together by Minh Lê
The Very Last Castle by Travis Jonker
The Day You Begin by Jacqueline Woodson
I Walk with Vanessa by Kerascoët
A Place for Pluto by Stef Wade
Cute as an Axolotl: Discovering the Worlds Most Adorable Animals by Jess Keating
Turning Pages: My Life Story by Sonia Sotomayor
All Are Welcome by Alexandra Penfold
One of a Kind by Chris Gorman
The Dinosaur Expert by Margaret McNamara
Memphis, Martin, and Mountaintop: The Sanitation Strike of 1968 by Alice Faye Duncan
A Friend for Henry by Jenn Bailey
Ruby’s Sword by Jacqueline Veissid
Brave Molly by Brooke Boynton Hughes
Santa Bruce by Ryan T. Higgins
We Can’t Eat our Classmates by Ryan T. Higgins
Be Quiet! by Ryan T. Higgins
Earthrise: Apollo 8 and the Photo That Changed the World by James Gladstone
Sun!: One in a Billion by Stacy McAnulty
The Sun is Kind of a Big Deal by Nick Seluk
Thank You, Earth by April Pulley Sayred
Meet Yasmin! by Saadia Faruqi

Middle Grade

False Prince trilogy by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Granted by John David Anderson
Sugar by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Bat & the Waiting Game by Elana K. Arnold
Track Series: Sunny & Lu by Jason Reynolds
Breakout by Kate Messner
Good Dog by Dan Gemeinhart
Tiger Boy by Mitali Perkins
Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson
Wonderland by Barbara O’Connor
Front Desk by Kelly Yang
Some Kind of Courage by Dan Gemeinhart
Louisiana’s Way Home by Kate DiCamillo
Running on the Roof of the World by Jess Butterworth
Orphaned by Eliot Schrefer
The Epic Fail of Arturo Zamura by Pablo Cartaya
Amina’s Voice by Hena Khan
Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes
Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Journey of the Pale Bear by Susan Fletcher
Garbage Island by Fred Koehler
The Dollar Kids by Jennifer Richard Jacobson
Escape from Aleppo by N.H. Senzai
Just Like Jackie by Lindsey Stoddard
A Night Divided by Jennifer A. Nielsen
Redwood and Ponytail by K.A. Holt
Stella Diaz Has Something to Say by Angela Dominguez

Young Adult

American Street by Ibi Zoboi
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas
The Memory of Things by Gae Polisner
Fresh Ink: An Anthology edited by Lamar Giles
Tyler Johnson was Here by Jay Coles
Prisoner B-3087 by Alan Gratz
Jefferson’s Sons by Kimberly Brubaker Bradley
Anger is a Gift by Mark Oshiro
What Girls are Made of by Elana K. Arnold
Sadie by Courtney Summers
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy
Here to Stay by Sara Farizan
One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus
Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen
This Adventure Ends by Emma Mills
Internment by Samira Ahmed
Famous in a Small Town by Emma Mills
Odd One Out by Nic Stone
Dry by Neal Shusterman
Another Day by David Levithan

Graphic Novels

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
The Divided Earth by Erin Faith Hicks
I Am Ghandi: A Graphic Biography of a Hero edited by Brad Meltzer
Illegal by Eoin Colfer
Hey Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Monsters Beware by Jorge Aguirre
Kitten Construction Company: Meet the House Kittens by John Green
HiLo #4: Waking the Monsters by Judd Winick
Peter & Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths by Graham Annable
Peter & Ernesto: The Lost Sloths by Graham Annable
Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol
Fox & Chick: The Party and Other Stories by Sergio Ruzzier

Nonfiction

Chasing Lincoln’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Chasing King’s Killer by James L. Swanson
Vincent and Theo: The Van Gogh Brothers by Deborah Heiligman
Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah
Two Truths and a Lie: Histories and Mysteries by Ammi-Joan Paquette
Eavesdropping on Elephants: How Listening Helps Conservation by Patricia Newman
The Great Rhino Rescue by Patricia Newman
National Geographic: History’s Mysteries: Curious Clues, Cold Cases, and Puzzles from the Past by Kitson Jazynka

All of these books are highly recommended by me, so if you haven’t read them and they interest you, they won’t let you down 🙂 Happy reading!

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Hazardous Tales: Raid of No Return
Author and Illustrator: Nathan Hale
Published November 7th, 2017 by Abrams Books

Summary: A top secret mission needs volunteers.

After the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, the United States joined World War II. And soon after that, young pilots were recruited fro a very secret – and very dangerous – raid on Japan. No one in the armed forced had done anything like this raid before, and none of the volunteers expected to escape with their lives. But this was a war unlike any other before, which called for creative thinking as well as bravery.

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales are graphic novels that tell the thrilling, shocking, gruesome, and TRUE stories of American history. Read them all – if you dare!

About the Author: Nathan Hale is the #1 New York Times bestselling author and illustrator of Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales. He also wrote and illustrated the graphic novel One Trick Pony. Hale lives in Provo, Utah. Learn more at hazardoustales.com.

Praise: “Harrowing and no detail is left out . . . Hale’s tendency to incorporate character commentary, infographics, and fun facts will draw readers. Give this title to readers interested in action-packed graphic novels.” — School Library Journal

Review: The Hazardous Tales series is the series I use when kids say that nonfiction is boring AND when teachers say that graphic novels aren’t complex because this series, and this book, is complex, interesting, well crafted, funny, and just everything you’d want from any book, much less a nonfiction graphic novel.

And I am so happy to have a World War II Tale because so many students ask for it, and this is a new story for me, so I know it’ll be new for my students as well. Also, I think this specific mission will lead to many discussions because the idea of volunteering for a deadly mission is something that so many of my students struggle to understand because it isn’t something that they need to even consider, so to look at these men’s decision-making and willingness to fight for their country.

Other Hazardous Tales reviewed in the past here on Unleashing Readers: Alamo All-Stars and The Underground Abductor.

Hazardous Tales tip: I recommend starting with the first book, One Dead Spy, then you can read any of the others in any order.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: I’ve written in the past how I would incorporate this series as well as written a teaching guide for the first six books, but I wanted to allow another voice to share the brilliance of Hazardous Tales, so today my colleague, Kaleigh Gill who teaches 8th grade U.S. history, who started reading the series this summer and has read almost the whole series! I wanted to let her share why she loves the series and how she pictures it being part of her classroom:

Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales opens up a world of American stories that are often overlooked. With multiple books focusing on big topics, like the Revolution, Civil War, Alamo and Westward Expansion, Hale is able to give students (and teachers!) an engaging and realistic depiction of the experiences of American heroes and villains. With his humorous and relatable characters, he is able to connect with young readers on an unprecedented level in regards to nonfiction novels.

One of my favorite attributes of Hale’s series is the way he inserts side stories filled with background information and informative detail on corresponding events and individuals. He has the ability to make these often dull stories, come alive with his animated and entertaining illustrations. His stories are sure to captivate readers of all ages and interests.

Every history teacher in the United States should read this series! Even if you feel you wouldn’t have enough time to teach the entire book, it would be a great visual to provide students when discussing certain topics or figures. Some excerpts in this series would only take about 5-10 minutes to read aloud and discuss with your students, but would definitely leave a lasting impact! This series has even inspired me to design lessons based around historical texts for young readers and has also ignited my love of history again. Leaving these books to simply sit in my classroom library, would be a huge waste for my curriculum and more importantly, my students. Not only will it give insight into little known stories of America’s major events to enhance instruction, but it will intrigue students to dive deeper into historical texts that they would typically overlook.

Teaching Guide for Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales #1-#6:

Discussion Questions: 

  • Why did these soldiers volunteer for a mission they knew nothing about and that they knew was very dangerous?
  • Why do you think the part of World War II in the South Pacific isn’t spoken about as much as the European front?
  • How did the planes have to be changed up to be successful for the mission? Why?
  • Trying reading the book the way it was written then switch it up and read one plane’s story at a time–which way did you enjoy better?
  • How did this mission change the course of the war against Japan?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: History, Graphic Novels, Other Hazardous Tales books

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Fox + Chick: The Party and Other Stories
Author and Illustrator: Sergio Ruzzier
Published April 17th, 2018 by Chronicle Books

Summary: Fox and Chick don’t always agree. But Fox and Chick are always friends. With sly humor and companionable warmth, Sergio Ruzzier deftly captures the adventures of these two seemingly opposite friends. The luminous watercolor images showcased in comic-book panel form will entice emerging readers, while the spare text and airiness of the images make this early chapter book accessible to a picture book audience as well.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Activities for The Party and Other Stories include:

How to Read a Graphic Novel

Reading a graphic novel differs from reading prose text because readers must infer everything outside of the dialogue they are given and what is presented in the illustrations.

First, using Fox + Chick discuss the differences with your class between a picture book, a chapter book, and a graphic novel. Make sure to point out the parts of a graphic novel like speech bubbles show what the characters are saying, panels (each square), and the gutter (the space between panels). Then discuss how to read a graphic novel (typically read left to right, top to bottom).

Extension activity: Discuss with students why an author would choose to write their story as a graphic novel versus a chapter book or picture book.

Then, to show how inferences have to be made between panels, use pages 2/3 to page 4. As a reader you can infer that Chick continued walking to the house shown on page 2/3 even though the illustrations don’t show each little step. Also, between the first two panels on page 4, the reader can infer that Chick had to wait a bit even though the panels don’t show it.

After reading the story, have students show how they use inferring to comprehend the story by:

K-1st: Retell the story including inferences made between panels and what the illustrations show.

2nd-3rd: Rewrite the story as a narrative including inferences made between panels and what the illustrations show.

Conflict and Resolution

Conflict is the problem with a story or part of a story while the resolution is how that problem is solved. In each of the chapters in Fox + Chick, there is a conflict and a resolution. Each chapter gives an opportunity to learn these narrative elements.

For chapter 1, “The Party,” as a class, determine the conflict and the resolution.

For chapter 2, “Good Soup,” have students determine the conflict and resolution in pairs.

For chapter 3, “Sit Still,” have students determine the conflict and resolution independently.

Character Traits

Character traits are all the aspects of a character’s behavior from how they act to what they think.

Before reading: As a class, list the character traits the students assume a fox and a chick are going to have. How will they act? What type of personality will they have? How are they going to interact with each other?

After reading: Independently or as a class, have students complete a character trait activity on each character. Have students answer the following questions then place their answers into a graphic organizer:

How did the character act in the story?

What feelings did the character portray in the story?

What words would you use to describe the character’s personality?

See the Teaching Guide Created by me (Kellee) for even more activities and discussion questions! 

You can also access the teaching guide through Chronicle’s website here.

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I Am Gandhi
Author: Brad Meltzer
Illustrator: 25 Acclaimed Artists
Published May 8th, 2018 by Dial Books

Summary: Twenty-five exceptional comic book creators join forces to share the heroic story of Gandhi in this inspiring graphic novel biography.

As a young man in India, Gandhi saw firsthand how people were treated unfairly. Refusing to accept injustice, he came up with a brilliant way to fight back through quiet, peaceful protest. He used his methods in South Africa and India, where he led a nonviolent revolution that freed his country from British rule. Through his calm, steady heroism, Gandhi changed the lives of millions and inspired civil rights movements all over the world, proving that the smallest of us can be the most powerful.

Galvanized by Gandhi’s example of gentle, peaceful activism, New York Times bestselling author Brad Meltzer asked his friends in the comic book world to help him make a difference by creating this philanthropic graphic novel. Twenty-four illustrators–including many of the most acclaimed artists in comics today–enthusiastically joined the project, agreeing to donate their work so that their royalties can go to Seeds of Peace, a non-profit organization that inspires and cultivates new generations of global leaders. This extraordinary biography is a glorious team effort that truly exemplifies Gandhi’s selflessness and love for humanity.

The illustrators included are: Art Adams, John Cassaday, Jim Cheung, Amanda Connor, Carlos D’Anda, Michael Gaydos, Gene Ha, Stephanie Hans, Bryan Hitch, Phil Jimenez, Siddharth Kotian, David LaFuente, David Mack, Alex Maleev, Francis Manapul, David Marquez, Steve McNiven, Rags Morales, Saumin Patel, Nate Powell, Stephane Roux, Marco Rudy, Kamome Shirahama, Bill Sienkiewicz, and Abhishek Singh.

Kellee’s ReviewI’ll be honest–when I first read on the cover that 25 different artists illustrated this graphic biography, I was worried that the stagnation of illustration styles would hinder the narrative of Gandhi’s life, but I was so wrong. Instead, by allowing each illustrator to give us their interpretation of Gandhi, his spirit instead flowed through the pages as it was obvious that his story had touched each and every artist, and the author, taking part in this graphic biography.

While reading, it was clear to me that Meltzer wanted Gandhi’s message of equality, peace, and kindness to scream at the reader, and this was confirmed when I read the Washington Post article about Meltzer’s inspiration. I believe Meltzer did a beautiful job not only telling Gandhi’s story but also showing that peace is possible in a time of tumultuous relationships but that the only way to truly achieve it is through similar activism as Gandhi.

Ricki’s Review: I read this graphic novel twice to myself and twice with my son. Further, I’ve read portions of it to my students. I can’t stop sharing it! I was blown away by the amalgamation of the 25 graphic novelists—it made for an absolutely stunning text. I appreciate the historical perspective that extends throughout the graphic novel, and I loved that the illustrations really make Ghandi’s story come alive. This is a book that I will share often and widely. If you haven’t read it, I recommend it highly—even if you already know a lot about Ghandi’s life.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Have students connect Gandhi’s philosophies to those who influenced him and those he influenced. For example, in one of my literature classes, one person picked an author who was influenced by another (for example, Woody Guthrie was influenced by Walt Whitman) then the next student built on that (for example, Bob Dylan was influenced by Woody Guthrie OR Ralph Waldo Emerson influenced Walt Whitman) until a complete chain of influences were made. Then each student wrote an analysis paper showing how they were influenced then presented their findings (in order of influences) to the class. This same idea could be done here: Henry David Thoreau influenced Gandhi who influenced Martin Luther King, Jr. who influenced Barack Obama who influenced Cory Booker, etc. This idea could also be used just to look at the idea of peaceful protests that have changed the course of history: Gandhi, MLK, Black Lives Matter, Never Again, etc.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What is the theme of Meltzer’s story of Gandhi?
  • How did Gandhi change the course of history for Indians in South Africa and India?
  • How did the 25 different artists illustrating the graphic novel affect the reading of the biography?
  • How did Thoreau influence Gandhi? Can you infer how Gandhi influence Martin Luther King, Jr.?
  • What was the importance of Gandhi’s march to the sea to hold salt?
  • Why do you believe Meltzer chose the specific quotes he included in the back matter of the book?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: The Ordinary People Change the World series (ex. I am Lucille Ball, I am Jackie Robinson), Nonfiction graphic novels such as Drowned City by Don Brown

Recommended For: 

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Tsu and the Outliers
Author: E. Eero Johnson
Published May 8th, 2018 by odod books

Summary: Tsu and the Outliers is a graphic novel about a non- verbal boy whose rural existence appears unbearable until rumors of a monstrous giant upend his mundane life. Tsu finds himself at the center of the mystery, as his strange metaphysical connection with the creature is revealed.

As the dragnet closes in, Tsu is forced to choose between a dangerous path leading beyond the periphery of human perception or a life without his only friend.

About the Author: E. Eero Johnson (Erik T. Johnson) is a Minneapolis-based illustrator, graphic designer, and comic book artist. His illustrations have appeared in GQThe New YorkerNewsweekWired, and The New York Times, and on several book covers. His comic book projects, The Outliers and Kozmo-Knot, have gained a growing interest from the indie comic world. He lives with his wife, Tammy, sons, Emmett and Eilif, and a crazy Boston terrier.

ReviewTsu and the Outliers is an interesting look at a new type of superhero: a young non-verbal boy who is able to communicate with a creature that his world is afraid of. There are some interesting discussion points when it comes to bullying since Tsu is judged by his classmates because of his disability. This is a big theme during the beginning of the book as we get to know Tsu. The creature also ends up being a Sasquatch and they are being chased by a chupacabra-like creature which introduces North American folklore. Overall, the story is pretty crazy (in a good way), and the end of the book sets up for a definite sequel which I NEED because Tsu makes a crazy decision at the end of the book with no explanation.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Use the scene where Tsu is bullied by Jespers to start a dialogue about bullying. Discuss why the scene makes them angry and uncomfortable and what could have been done by others to help Tsu. Have students create anti-bullying advertisements to share in your school.

When mythology and folklore are discussed, the focus is primarily on Greek, Roman, and Egyptian. Use Tsu and the Outliers to discuss North American folklore including the Sasquatch and chupacabra. Have them research the tales about these creatures and create their own myth with them in it. Also, as a class, discuss the difference between the characters is Tsu and traditional folklore.

Discussion Questions: 

  • What foreshadowing was there to show that Tsu was more than what everyone assumed?
  • Tsu’s lack of verbal communication in the end of the book ended up not being a disability. What do you think caused it?
  • Why do you think Tsu made the choice he did at the end of the book?
  • Why do you think Tsu’s mother made the claim she did at the end of the book covering up for Tsu?
  • Why does the Chimpanzee-professor want Tsu?

Flagged Passages: 

Read This If You Love: Superpowers, Folklore, Superhero comics

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you to odod books for providing a copy for review!**

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Secondhand Heroes:
Brothers Unite [July 5th, 2016]
In the Trenches [February 7th, 2017]
The Last Battle [April 10th, 2018]
Author: Justin LaRocca Hansen
Published by Dial Books

Brothers Unite Summary: Perfect for fans of AmuletSidekicks, and Zita the Spacegirl, this graphic novel series debut introduces Stretch and Brella, a pair of ordinary brothers whose extraordinary yard sale discovery turns them into superheroes.

Tuck and Hudson are just two average suburban brothers—until their mother buys them a scarf and an umbrella at a yard sale. Quickly, the brothers realize that these ordinary-looking objects are full of magic, and that, with the help of their squirrel sidekick, they can use that magic to fight evil. As the boys move from fighting their neighborhood nemesis to facing bigger foes, they become Stretch and Brella, the unstoppable brother superhero duo. Soon, Stretch and Brella find themselves in another realm, where they take on enormous dragons and an evil knight in an incredible graphic novel adventure.

In the Trenches Summary: [Mild Brothers Unite SPOILERS!] Two ordinary objects turned a pair of brothers into superheroes. Now they must fight the evil Trench right in their own neighborhood.

When Tuck and Hudson return from their first adventure as the superheroes Stretch and Brella, they’re still reeling from the shock of their newfound powers. But there’s no time to slow down. Trench, a supervillain whose powers came from the very same garage sale where Tuck and Hudson found their magic scarves and umbrella, lives around the corner—and he’s out to get the brother superhero duo. With help from their squirrel companion, Steen, and another newly minted superhero, a neighborhood girl named Elvira, the brothers keep fighting the good fight, with plenty of action and adventure along the way.

The Last Battle Summary: [Mild Brothers Unite & In the Trenches SPOILERS!] Two ordinary objects turned a pair of brothers into superheroes. Now they’re banding together with their neighbors to take down the evil Trench once and for all in the final volume of this graphic novel trilogy.

Tuck and Hudson have figured out how to wield the superpowers they got when their mom bought them an ordinary-looking pair of scarves and an umbrella at a yard sale. But Trench, their supervillain archnemesis, is only getting more powerful. Slowly, the brothers have discovered the others in their town who have superpowered objects from that same yard sale. Now Tuck and Hudson, along with their friend Elvira and their squirrel sidekick, Steen, are leading a band of heroes in the fight against Trench. This final volume of the graphic novel adventure series features the heroes’ last stand, with plenty of twists and turns along the way.

About the Author: [From http://www.justinlaroccahansen.com/] I grew up in the tiny town of Millis Massachusetts but spent most summers in a tinier village called Cataumet in Cape Cod and it is there I feel most at home. Comic books, cartoons and toys captivated me as a child and I would constantly create my own characters and stories. I went to college at Ringling College of Art and Design where I got a BFA in Illustration. Shortly after I moved to New York City to try and “make it” as an illustrator. It was a long journey with plenty of odd jobs (including a birthday party host and paper airplane teacher), lots of rejections (we’re talkin’ LOTS), and all the ups and downs that come with chasing a dream. I finally sold my first picture book Monster Hunter in 2012 to Sky Pony Press. The next few years would be consumed by a graphic novel trilogy that had been kicking around in my head for some time called Secondhand Heroes. The first book of that trilogy, Secondhand Heroes: Brothers Unite was published by Dial Books for Young Readers, an Imprint of Penguin Random House, in 2016. Part two, Secondhand Heroes: In the Trenches came out in 2017 and last summer I finished work on part three, Secondhand Heroes: The Last Battle which will be out on April 10th, 2018. I live in Brooklyn with my most amazing wife and my collection of Springsteen records.

Justin is represented by Warner Literary Group. To inquire about commissions, or a school or library visit please use the form at http://www.justinlaroccahansen.com/about/ or email: j.larocca.hansen@gmail.com.

Kellee’s ReviewOne of my students named Lucas is a huge graphic novel fan, and earlier this school year, he introduced a new series to me: Secondhand Heroes. He had read the first books in the series and wanted BADLY for me to read them and could not wait for the third book in the series. Well he does not need to wait any longer! This is a crazy series! I’ll be honest, in the first book, a twist in the plot happens, and the reader is not sure why, but I promise: TRUST THE AUTHOR! It epically comes together throughout the series. This series is definitely a perfect reading ladder up from younger middle grade series like Zita and Amulet. The bit of romance and realistic violence pushes its age range further into teens which, as a middle school reading teacher, I am always looking for! I also am in love with the artwork. It is different than other series because of its softer undertones and touches which makes it so unique. 

Ricki’s Review: I am so glad that I read this series and have it to recommend to students. While it is definitely above his age range, my son really enjoyed this series. Each night, we read it together, and he imagined that the brothers were him and his younger brother. It’s quite a clever series—the main characters, two brothers, get items from a second-hand shop that prove to be magical. They turn into superheroes. At first, they question whether they should use the superpowers, but they quickly realize how they can use these superpowers for good. I particularly like how the boys slowly discover others in their town who have also gained superpowers. It was fun to read all of the different powers that characters had. The illustrations are eye-catching and engaging. The books in this series were ones that I looked forward to reading each night with my son. I’d put it more at the upper elementary/middle school level and agree with Kellee that these books books make a wonderful ladder for middle schoolers. I’ll be recommending these books often.

Teachers’ Tools for Navigation: Graphic novels are such an important format to have available for students in school and classroom libraries.

“While many teachers are beginning to include [graphic novels] in their classrooms, there are still teachers, administrators, and librarians who struggle with including this format in their schools. So, why should you use them in your classroom and have available for students?

• Graphic novels can make a difficult subject interesting and relatable. (Cohen)
• Students are visual learners, and today’s students have a much wider visual vocabulary than students in the past. (Karp)
• Graphic novels can help foster complex reading skills by building a bridge from what students know to what they still have to learn. (NCTE)|
• Graphic novels can help with scaffolding when trying to teach higher-order thinking skills or other complex ideas.
• For students who struggle to visualize while they read, graphic novels provide visuals that show what good readers do. (NCTE)
• Many graphic novels rely on symbol, allusion, satire, parody, irony, and characters/plot and can be used to teach these, and other, literary devices. (Miller; NCTE)
• Often, in between panels (called the gutter), the reader must make inferences to understand how the events in one panel lead to the
events in the next. (McCloud)
• Graphic novels can make differentiating easier. (Miller)
• Graphic novels can help ELL (English Language Learners) and reluctant and struggling readers since they divide the text into manageable chunks, use images (which help students understand unknown vocabulary), and are far less daunting than prose. (Haines)
• Graphic novels do not reduce the vocabulary demand; instead, they provide picture support, quick and appealing story lines, and less text, which allow the reader to understand the vocabulary more easily. (Haines)
• Research shows that comic books are linguistically appropriate reading material, bearing no negative impact on school achievement or language acquisition. (Krashen)
• Students love them.

(Resource: Amulet Books Graphic Novels Teaching Guide Introduction by Kellee Moye)”

Discussion Questions: 

  • In the first book, why did the author change settings?
  • How did the boys’ behavior in this new setting affect the end of the series?
  • How did the superpowers bring the brothers together?
  • How did Brella’s interest in Isabella cause him to struggle with being a superhero?
  • How did Trench use Brella and Stretch’s “weaknesses” as a good person filled with love to manipulate them?
  • How did Trench set up Brella and Stretch?
  • How would you compare/contrast the boys’ character traits from the first book to the last book?

Flagged Passages: [From Brothers Unite]

(p. 24)

“1. *whup* 2. HUH…HUH…HUH. 3. THIS IS MY HOME. TUCKER WAS RIGHT. THIS. IS. 4. AWESOME!” (p. 26)

(p. 50-51)

“2. VERY WELL. 5. Brella: TUCK! Stretch: FLY! I GOT IT! (p. 74)”

Read This If You Love: Amulet series by Kazu Kibuishi, Zita the Spacegirl series by Ben Hatke, Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel, Sidekicks by Dan Santat, 5 Worlds series by Mark Siegel, Cleopatra in Space series by Mike Maihack, HiLo series by Judd Winick, West series & Battling Boy series by Paul Pope, Chronicles of Claudette by Jorge Aguirre

Recommended For: 

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**Thank you so much to Justin for providing copies for review and goodies for Kellee’s students!**

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