Great Graphic Novels for Tweens!

Graphic Novels for TweensThe tween years, ages 9 to 11, can be a challenging age when it comes to finding appropriate reading materials. These kids may devour Harry Potter, but they might not be mature enough to handle The Hunger Games or Divergent.

The same is true for graphic novels. Beyond Diary of Wimpy Kid, BoneDork Diaries or Big Nate, graphic novels can be gritty, violent and sometimes sexual. Like much of adolescence, graphic novels for this age group can be an awkward fit.

But great tween graphic novels are out there, and can meet the needs of even the most discerning reader. Here are a few with inventive plots, vivid settings, mythical creatures and heroic, fully realized characters. And of course, these books have gorgeous illustrations. Because why else would a kid want to read a graphic novel?

The Last Unicorn is lyrical story about the last unicorn in the world, adapted from the novel by Peter S. Beagle. The illustrations are lush — like a dream spread on the pages of a book.

— Doug TenNapel’s Tommysaurus Rex tells the story of Eli, and his discovery of a full-grown, friendly dinosaur in a cave. What kid hasn’t fantasized about having a dinosaur as a pet?

— In Ben Hatke’s Zita the Space Girl, Zita must rescue her best friend in outer space who has been kidnapped by aliens.

—  In Dan Santat’s Sidekicks, a dog, a hamster and a chameleon develop superpowers and battle it out with each other to be a superhero’s sidekick.

— Who would have thought that a cardboard box would make the best birthday gift ever? Doug TenNapel did in his imaginative story, Cardboard.

— Rapunzel’s Revenge is Doug and Sharon Hale’s hilarious twist on an old tale. The heroine enters the wild west and teams up with Jack (from the beanstalk). The magic continues in Calamity Jack, the second book.

— Talking animals find evidence that humans once inhabited the world in the futuristic and imaginative The Travels Thelonious by Susan Schade.

— Six orphans escape their orphanage and travel to an uninhabited moon in A. J. Lieberman and Darren Rawling’s The Silver Six.

— If the kids in your life loved the Geronimo Stilton series, they’ll appreciate the extraterrestrial adventures of Jake Parker’s Missile Mouse as he saves the universe.

— Readers who love technology will relate to the inventors in Eleanor Davis’ The Secret Science Alliance, who use their gadgets to outwit an evil scientist.

— Poisonous frog warriors defend Amphibilands against the spider queen and an army of scorpions in Trevor Pryce and Joel Naftali’s An Army of Frogs.

— The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is Isabel Greenberg’s epic tale about gods, monsters, mad kings and medicine men, which follows the journey of a young man from the north to the south pole.

Branching out

Call me a throwback…but I’m at my local public library branch at least once a week, more often when I’m stressed out about something and I need to take in the smell of old paper pages and a tad bit of mold. But roughly 70% of the books I check out don’t get read. And for maybe 30% of that 70%, I don’t even crack open the cover. (I feel a word problem coming on…If Anjali checks out twelve books a week, and 70% of them don’t get read, and 30% don’t even get opened, how many books simply sit on the floor in the mud room before getting returned? Solve for x.)

It’s almost as if my library is the school car line. I drop books off, I pick them up. I drop them off, I pick them up. There are exceptions to the rule, of course. Because I actually do quite a bit of reading. But with the number of books I read for work and for school, that number’s not nearly as high enough as I would like.

In the past month, one of the only two non-school, non-work books I’ve read is Ann Patchett’s This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage. If I were to form a literary religion, where writer-worshippers vowed to love and support the pursuit of the written word, its holy trinity would be Anne Lamott, Ann Patchett and Stephen King. I hear their soft, soothing voices in my ear whenever I am confronted with Doubt as to whether this is what I should be doing.

But I’ve gotten off track a bit. Here’s my confession: Whenever I’m standing in front of the new book shelves at the public library, I  close my eyes and wish that the binding of my novel would magically appear. It’s a silly thing, I know. But I dream for the day I open my eyes, and I see my novel looking right back at me.

*   *   *   *   *

Disney's Animal Kingdom. The tree of life.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The tree of life.

Last week we spent a few days at Disneyworld. I don’t know what it is about that place, but I don’t think I’ll ever tire of it. Thank goodness my youngest child is still only 5. I will have many years there to come. Because I honestly don’t know who gets more excited about seeing Mickey Mouse, me or her.

*    *    *    *    *

Speaking of books I read for work, I’ve read some great ones, and I can’t wait to write about them. My latest is B.J. Novak’s debut short story collection One More Thing. Novak was a writer, actor and executive producer of The Office. Clearly, he’s a jack of all trades. My review of his collection is here.

No Rhyme or Reason

At the end of last year, I was running around about as ragged as a person can run. I timed getting sick with the kids getting out of school for Winter Break. I had a work deadline for an article published for ArtsATL on Christmas Eve. (And another part of an article published a few days later.) I was drowning in school deadlines in preparation for my Queens residency, which this year began on January 5.

Is it any wonder that on both December 25th (take out) and January 1st (at restaurant) we ate Chinese food?

On December 31st, I went with my whole family to the Fiesta Bowl to watch Duke get killed by Texas A & M. I had an amazing time, and hung out with dear friends, but those few hours were my only “break” before heading to Charlotte.

Fiesta Bowl

Residency was amazing but I was so bone tired this time around, I had trouble standing on my own two feet. And when I returned home, I ran myself ragged catching up with kid/home stuff.

Sometimes, driving myself into the ground serves a good purpose. It helps me refocus and rewrite my priorities. It helps me to know when to say when. It means turning down some freelance work with potentially new employers. It means making sure we keep extra-curricular activities for three kids to a minimum.

So far, so good. In the two weeks since I’ve been back from Charlotte, I’ve written nearly 50 pages of my novel. Granted, it is 50 of the worst pages ever, but even a lousy page is a page, right?

I’ve also *gasp* been writing poetry. Like, hello? Poetry? Am I for serious? I didn’t even start reading poetry until I started school a year ago. And now I’m all, What the hell, Poetry? Why not?

I’m 40, now. I’ll try anything.

Hanging with my writing buddies in Charlotte.

Hanging with my writing buddies in Charlotte.