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Culture Children's Books
Peanuts: Where Beagles Dare!
Cooper and illustrator Vicki Scott collaborate on a graphic novel using Charles Schulz’s Peanuts characters. Aimed at middle-graders, it focuses on Snoopy’s secret mission to bring down the Red Baron. The book’s movement back and forth from World War I to the present may confuse some readers, and the root beer stand-in for alcohol is overdone. Still, Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the rest of the gang all make appearances, ensuring that enough of Schulz’s vision shines through to entertain and perhaps entice a new generation to seek out his superior original work. (Ages 7-10)
The Dragon Queen (The Courageous Princess)
Mabelrose may be a prisoner, but with freedom to explore the castle, she can still work to rescue her father from evil Aunt Ursula. This fairy tale mash-up includes familiar characters—including a Smaug-like dragon and a Puss in Boots—and new elements (a musical travel portal and a not-so-handsome prince with large ears). Even more atypical, this princess fights for justice without compromising her femininity. More than a decade in the making, Espinosa’s final volume in this series includes faith in “the gods” but also a redemptive ending that will inspire Christians. (Ages 9-12)
Sunny Side Up
Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm
When Sunny Lewin travels to Florida for the summer, her grandpa turns out to be a clueless host. Sunny makes one friend, Buzz, who loves comic books. Soon interesting connections (and illustrations!) emerge. For instance, the Hulk begins to look strangely like her teenage brother back home. As Sunny deals with alcohol and drug use (in others) and troubled family relationships, the story achieves the gravity of a coming-of-age novel. But the graphic novel format reads quickly and adds an extra layer of artistry. (Ages 12 and up)
Alamo All-Stars (Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales)
Nathan Hale’s Alamo tale contains occasional cursing, scenes of drunken heroes, copious amounts of fighting, and a skull-headed dragon representing cholera—but the book is never overly graphic, and mature teens will find Hale’s work entertaining and well-researched. He clearly delineates between history and legend, and well-conceived endpapers include a map of Texas and pictures of main characters. Despite wisecracking narrators, Hale contrasts noble (though flawed) characters like Stephen Austin with dictators like Santa Anna. (Ages 16 and up)
Jennifer and Matthew Holm launched the Babymouse series in 2005. Since then its clever art and narrative style have won it numerous awards, including the Eisner Award for comic art. The series continues most recently with Babymouse Goes for the Gold (Random House Books for Young Readers, 2016). When Babymouse joins a swim team, she encounters numerous setbacks—including uncooperative swim caps and attack squids—which will have girl readers laughing out loud.
The Holms offer a similar series about Squish the amoeba for boys 7-10. In the most recent volume, Deadly Disease of Doom (2015), Squish catches a virus that—gasp—could be fatal ... or even worse, mean the end of his Twinkie snacks! (One caution, parents: He does “barf.”)
While I have not reviewed either series in its entirety (let the buyer beware), the Holms have proven themselves artists of note with these two age-appropriate books. —E.W.