Monday, June 25, 2007

American Born Chinese and To Dance: A Ballerina's Graphic Novel

American Born Chinese by Gene Yang (First Second)

The list of awards for this book is long. It’s the first graphic novel to be selected as a National Book Award Finalist and it was awarded the Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature from the American Library Association, along with several other Book of the Year awards from various entities. It has also been nominated for Eisner awards for Best Graphic Album and Best Colorist (Lark Pien).

The book consists of three separate stories that all come together in the end. The first story is about Jin Wang, born to Chinese immigrant parents in America, who has to deal with not only school, friends, and girls, but also being one of just a few Asian students in his school – his struggle for identity is the heart of the book. The second (and most entertaining) story is a version of the Monkey King legend, and the third story is a sitcom about an over-the top stereotypical Chinese cousin named Chin-Kee. In the end, the knitting together of the three stories isn’t exactly seamless, but the message is crystal clear: Be yourself.

I enjoyed the book, but I did have to reread the ending a few times to sort it all out. I found the mixture of the Monkey King legend with Christianity a little odd (the Monkey King is shown at one point as one of the three wise men from the Bible) but I suppose it’s an example of the mixing of Chinese and American culture. At first I wasn’t sure about the Chin-Kee character, but in the end he makes sense as a symbol of everything Jin wants to escape. Overall, American Born Chinese is an entertaining read and speaks not only to kids struggling with cultural identity, but to all of us – the questions, “Who am I?” and “Who do I want to be?” are universal.

American Born Chinese is not for little ones – there are several sexual references (though they went right over the girls’ heads) and some violence. I recommend American Born Chinese for high school and young adult libraries, though, depending on the community, it could work for middle school as well.

Read a preview of American Born Chinese here.

On a side note, Gene Yang’s website is very interesting. I particularly enjoyed the Monkey King section and Comics in Education, Yang’s final project proposal for his Masters of Education degree.

Shelby says: This is a really great book. The art and colors are really simple, except some things like peaches or someone’s fist would have two different colors blended together. The writing is really cool because there are three stories that all come together in the end. One story is about a boy named Jin whose parents came from China to America. The second story is about Danny whose cousin is Chin-Kee who is all of the stereotypes of Chinese people. The third is about the Monkey King who learns that he should just be himself and not try to be anyone else. I like the part when the Monkey King locks himself underground and learns 12 different disciplines because it shows him in fire, ice, underwater, and with his head off! I liked the drawing on page 133 where there are mountains and fog is coming up because it looks very cool. I would think that the ages for this are about teen and up because there’s a bit of violence and talk about girl and boy stuff.

Sarah says: I like American Born Chinese because it’s three stories made into one. One of the stories was really supposed to be like a TV show. I also figured out that the fighting moves in one part were Chinese restaurant foods. My favorite part was the Monkey King part which is based on an old Chinese folktale because it has monkeys in it – what’s better than that? I think it won all those awards because it was one of the most complicated and interesting comics I’ve ever read.

To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel (Aladdin)

More a memoir than a story, To Dance follows Siena Cherson Siegel’s life as a dancer from beginner classes in Puerto Rico to George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet in New York to performing onstage at Lincoln Center. I enjoyed To Dance and was moved to tears near the end (I won’t spoil the book by telling you why). It reads as a sequence of memories, not a storyline, so just as in our memories some things are detailed while others gently fade away. The book lightly touches on the negative side of dance (injury, the pressure to stay thin) but is mostly full of glowing memories of ballet, from practice to the stage. My only complaint is that the last splash page, which is a touching end to the book, has been used as the end paper inside the back cover and I’m afraid some readers will miss it.

To Dance is touching and lovely and truly belongs in every library. To me it is a standout among the Eisner nominees for Best Publication for a Younger Audience and really should win.

Sarah says: The book is a story about one girl who wants to do ballet and shows her being a different level of a dancer year after year. My favorite part was where they talked about how dancers wore Japanese robes backstage. Some pictures had a basic color, like red, yellow, or blue, and some pictures were just regular colors. I think he did that to show different places. It’s easy to understand and I think this book is mostly for young girls. I understood what was going on even though I didn’t know who some of the famous people were. If you don’t know about dance you would still like it.

Shelby says: The art in To Dance is really colorful and pretty. The story starts with the girl when she is six years old. She goes to the doctor and her mother is told she has flat feet. So her mother signs her up for dance classes. But then the story is very sad in some parts but other parts were really happy. Like when the girl is in the Nutcracker or she gets to dance in a ballet that the founder of her ballet school choreographs. It has a couple of pages that show when the girl injures her leg a couple of times and she ends up injuring her ankle so bad that she has to stop dancing professionally. This book is for young girls or ballerinas.

See a preview of To Dance here.

Glister and The Arrival

Glister by Andi Watson (Image)

Glister, a young British girl who lives in a decrepit old house with her father where she has become accustomed to strange goings on, receives in the mail a mysterious teapot containing the ghost of a writer. The ghost of Phillip Bulwark-Stratton enlists Glister’s help in finishing his final novel but, unfortunately, is a rather dismal writer and Glister’s task becomes unbearable. After Glister’s unsuccessful attempt to get rid of the teapot and the ghost, the story takes a wonderfully surprising turn at the end.

I have to admit to a strong affection for anything that combines spooky with cute, as well as being a bit of an Anglophile, so I was predisposed to like Glister from the outset. It’s a rather quiet tale – no chase sequences or horrifying spectres –but what it lacks in action it more than makes up for in quirky characters and literary ambience. I really enjoyed Watson’s drawings and I read Glister through several times just to admire his work. The story is so delightfully charming that I couldn’t help but smile through the whole thing. I sincerely hope this is just the first book in a very long series.

Glister is appropriate for all ages, but younger kids might have a hard time with it due to the Britishness of the vocabulary. After about five pages Sarah asked me to read it with her, and once I got her through some of the words (malevolent solicitor, guineas, constitutional) she really enjoyed it. It’s definitely not a just kids’ book and will probably be most popular with adults. The copy we read wasn’t a final version, and we had some trouble with the font (Sarah read “father” as “fat her”) but hopefully those little problems will be remedied in the published version.

Glister would be a wonderful addition to any library or classroom and might actually be a fun companion to upper grade studies of Victorian writers such as Dickens and the Bronte sisters. It would be great fun to have older students study Edward Bullwer-Lyton, one of the inspirations for the teapot ghost, and write submissions for the very entertaining Bullwer-Lytton Fiction contest (though I’d keep them away from the very adult romance section!).

Glister will be available in August. Read the Newsarama interview with Andi Watson about Glister here.

Shelby says: I liked Glister because the drawings are really cool and old-fashioned. It’s cool because there’s lots of details but you can still tell what they’re doing. My mom had to explain the last part but after she explained it I liked it a lot – it’s a good ending. If you think that ghost stories are scary, this one isn’t, because the ghost is actually funny. It’s good for everyone but some kids wouldn’t really understand it. I think it should be for eight and up and maybe parents and kids should read it together.

Sarah says: I liked Glister because it’s about ghosts and disguises and teapots and stuff. It wasn’t scary – it was a nice story about a ghost. A young girl, Glister, gets a teapot in the mail that has a ghost living inside of it. The ghost wants to finish a story he was writing when he died. Glister has to type the rest of his story, but she doesn’t want to do it because there are a lot of chapters and the book is sad and boring for her to write. There is a surprise ending but I’m not telling you! It’s very exciting to read because you don’t know what’s coming next. I needed my mom to read it with me because I didn’t understand some of the words and I didn’t know what was going on. When we read it together I really liked it. I think Glister is good for people that like stories with surprises during the whole book and people that can comprehend hard words.

The Arrival by Shaun Tan (Arthur A. Levine Books/Scholastic)

Imagine you have left your home and family behind and traveled to a foreign country to make a new and better life. You can’t speak the language and everything is strange to you – the food, the buildings, the transportation, even the animals. How will you make your way? How will you find a place to live, a job, something to eat? The Arrival wordlessly tells the tale of one such immigrant and allows anyone from any country or walk of life to live the experience along with him.

This is the most fitting use of the medium of sequential art that I have ever seen. By eliminating language, Shaun Tan has created a world that is foreign and strange to everyone, sometimes frightening and sometimes wonderful, but just tied to our reality enough that it draws us in. Some of the basic elements of our world are there – the people are humans, the weather and seasons are the same as we know them, and some of the clothing may look familiar – but Tan has changed and added so many fantasy elements that this new city will feel foreign to everyone. The landscape, the plants, the food and the way it is purchased and prepared, the written language, the transportation, the animals, and the customs are all completely fabricated by Tan.

The story, though meant to put the reader in slightly confused state of mind, is perfectly clear and easy to follow. Tan makes great use of devices that can only exist in the graphic medium – evoking the passage of time through a sequence of panels featuring only clouds; calling out each character’s story by varying the page backgrounds; conveying emotion by varying the tones of his drawings from dark and gray to glowing, golden sepia. He is a truly gifted artist and the care and devotion he put into this book shows in every page and every panel.

If I have any complaint at all about this book it’s that the main character’s journey seems just a bit too easy. Everyone he meets is helpful and friendly – the prejudice and fear of strangers that exists in our world seem not to exist in the world of The Arrival. All of the immigrant character’s background stories are harrowing, but the new land they are living in seems to be a utopia.

That slight reservation aside, I think The Arrival should be compulsory material for the study of immigration at any level – in fact, it should be the first thing students read when they begin studying the topic. The publisher recommends ages 10 and up, but Sarah, who is eight, really loved it. In addition to its educational value, The Arrival will have very broad appeal both inside and outside of the comic and graphic novel world and I am convinced that we will be hearing much, much more about this book.

The Arrival will be available in October. Visit Shaun Tan’s website to see preview pages.

Shelby says: I have read this book about ten times already and I want to do it again. I like how the background colors change when the scene changes. Sometimes it’s black and then it’s a light brown. The little creatures that everyone has in the city are drawn really creatively. For a wordless book, it’s done really well because you can always tell what’s going on. The story is really cool, but some parts are really scary for little guys. There are skulls and it shows a guy with one leg. This is because this old guy is telling a story about war. This book is probably perfect for artistic people over ten. It would really help kids understand how immigrants come into other countries.

Sarah says: The Arrival is about a guy from another country coming to a big city like New York, but the whole story is very different. Instead of the Statue of Liberty it’s a different statue. The language looks like an alien language. When I read it I felt like the guy – I didn’t understand anything going on in the town so I felt like I was him. When people helped him it helped me understand a bit more. It really does make me feel like I’m from another country and I’m coming to this place that I have no clue about. I sort of didn’t understand part of it, the parts where people were telling their stories, but when my mom told me that those were other people’s stories, I understood it. I liked the part when the new guy’s alien pet thingy shows him around his house and helps him. I would love to have a pet like that!

The artist, Shaun Tan, is a good artist and shows many details. I felt like this place could be real. My favorite part about the book is not actually part of the story – it’s before the book starts and after the book ends. He drew passport photos based on real people who traveled to America at Ellis Island. I liked them because they look real and they look like they’re old and have crinkles in them. These pictures show me the looks of people who come from different countries and the feelings the people would have had when they came to America. I think that it’s for about ages 9 and up because I can fully understand it. I think both adults and kids would like it a lot.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Hybrids, Part 2

This week we continue our series on what we’re calling “hybrids” – books with a mixture of prose and comics.

Thieves and Kings by Mark Oakley

Thieves and Kings, as far as I can tell, is the original all-ages hybrid. First published in 1998 as a regular comic book, we read the compiled Volume One (The Red Book). Thieves and Kings is a mix of long prose passages with fantasy illustration and comics. The story revolves around Rubel, a young thief with a mysterious past, and his quest to serve the princess he is sworn to. Thieves and Kings has all the expected fantasy elements, along with some new twists.

Before I get to the girls’ reviews, I need to give you a little insight into the process of writing these reviews. Usually, I choose the books for the week and ask the girls to read them, though I try to let them choose whenever possible. Then, they read the books and either type their own reviews or dictate them to me. It’s a pretty simple process and usually goes pretty smoothly. But not with this book.

I told the girls about two months ago that we would be reading these “hybrid” books and, since they take a bit longer to read than the average comic or graphic novel, that they should get started. They had no problem with the other books on my list, but as the weeks passed, I found that they became more and more resistant to reading Thieves and Kings. They said they just couldn’t follow it and had real problems with the vocabulary – and these are kids who devour fantasy books like Harry Potter and Eragon. So, the girls’ reviews here will be based on their aborted attempts at reading the first volume.

Personally, I found the first volume a bit hard to read in places as well. The prose is sometimes awkward and I had to reread quite a bit. The type is small and dense. I found, however, that it was worth the effort, as the story is classic fantasy with wonderful characters and the art is enchanting. The transitions and interweaving of prose and comic are well-done, but I think a bit less prose and a bit more comic would have made the first volume of Thieves and Kings better. I bought Volume Two (The Green Book) yesterday, and I’m looking forward to diving in.

Unfortunately, I can’t really recommend it for kids, not because there is anything objectionable in it at all, but because, based on the girls’ reactions, they might not be able to follow the story. I do highly recommend it for adults. Maybe if I can talk the girls into reading it along with me I can get them interested and we can do another review later.

Sarah says: I really don’t want to read Thieves and Kings because when I first started reading it, I couldn’t understand anything that was going on and there are too many big words. It was very slow at the beginning and I didn’t want to keep reading because it was getting very boring. My mom said that it gets really exciting later but I still didn’t want to read it because I didn’t understand what was going on.

Shelby says: I read about 5 pages and I didn’t understand half of the words and I didn’t really understand what was going on. So I just stopped.

Fashion Kitty by Charise Mericle Harper (Hyperion)

I spotted this book in a non-kids section of my local comic shop and showed it to Sarah, who immediately sat down on the floor and started devouring it. She finished reading it in the car on the way home and then disappeared into her room and read it twice more. She asked me to read it with her on the fourth round. The prose is mostly in the form of captions and sometimes sentences actually continue from a balloon into a caption. It’s an interesting mix and quite easy to read. Fashion Kitty is definitely a kids’ book, rather than all-ages, but it was quite entertaining and funny. I recommend it for elementary classrooms and libraries, and it would make a great gift for any little girl.

Sarah says: Fashion Kitty is about a young cat named Kiki Kittie that turned into a fashion hero. It all started on her birthday, but I’m not telling how. Her mother lets Kiki and her little sister, Lana, choose their own wild clothes. Kiki wears fashionable and wild clothes. Lana, on the other hand, wears stockings like scarves. This book has basically half text and half comic. Fashion Kitty is for girls that are six to eight-years-old. Most kids at these ages usually don’t like to read chapter books because they take a long time, so this would be a great book for kids my age. I enjoyed Fashion Kitty.

Travels of Thelonius (Fog Mound) by Susan Schade and Jon Buller (Simon & Schuster Children’s)

I can’t even remember how I accidentally discovered this book, but I’m certainly glad I did! It doesn’t even register on the comic radar – the author and illustrator have done plenty of children’s books, but no comics or graphic novels, though Jon Buller seems to be a cartoonist at heart and did write one book about how to draw superheroes.

Thelonius is a chipmunk living in a post-apocalyptic, humanless world. When he is swept away from his woodland home by a rainstorm and finds himself in a crumbling human city, adventure abounds. I know, I know – a post-apocalyptic children’s book? Yeah, but it really works. Buller’s illustrations/comics are cute and sweet, and it’s never frightening. The rather dire environmental warning is made palatable by the cute animals and everything seems to be alright for them in the end.

I wasn’t impressed with the first couple of chapters – the text and dialogue felt like it was written by a fifth grader – but in Chapter 4 things really took a turn for the better; Travels of Thelonius ended up being one of the better all-ages books I’ve read in a while. The art, while it is definitely cartoony, is marvelously expressive and detailed, and the blue tones are a great compliment to the nice line work. The story is incredibly original. Okay, so the environmental message is a bit heavy-handed at times, but it didn’t take me out of the story. The transitions from text to comic are pretty seamless and I found that I didn’t even notice them, and it felt like there was a nice balance between the two. I’m really looking forward to the second volume, Faradawn, due out this fall.

Travels of Thelonius is highly recommended for libraries and classrooms. There is a miniature naked man near the end (it kind of makes sense in the story) but he’s only shown from behind and it’s not offensive at all. With Travels of Thelonius Schade and Buller have managed to pull off an almost impossible feat – it will be enjoyed by kids who don’t like to read as much as by those who do.

Be sure to visit Susan Schade and Jon Buller’s site to see the map that somehow got left out of the book.

Shelby says: The beginning is sort of slow and you might get a little bit bored and not want to read the rest, but you should. As soon as Thelonius meets Fitzgerald the porcupine, the story starts flowing a bit better. The story is entertaining and it’s cool how it’s all talking animals and non-talking animals talking about humans and how they once lived on the earth, but they don’t anymore. The full-page drawings that aren’t comic are really detailed and it looks really cool. The comic ones aren’t as detailed, but they’re still cool. The text part was a little bit too long sometimes – there should have been more comic. But they went together smoothly. I think this is good for kids eight to adult, if they read past the beginning part they will enjoy it.

Sarah says: Deadly fog, ruined cities, and talking animals – oh, my! Travels of Thelonius is very funny but dramatic. It is about a young chipmunk that gets carried away from his home, a tree, to a mysterious land. This land is from one of the creepiest legends he knows, the City of Ruins. (I think it’s San Francisco or New York City.) He meets a porcupine and a bear. They travel to The Fog Mound, which is a big plateau. The Travels of Thelonius gave me a message that us humans should be very careful and not pollute the world or we will go extinct, and the book might be true! (Except for the talking animal part.) I think that it is for ages six to adult – anybody who can read would like it. I reeeeeeeeeeeally like this book and it is my favorite graphic novel (for right now). I want to read it over and over because I might find something new in the pictures.

Hybrids, Part One

The comics industry has always had to fight against the perception that comics are just “fun” and aren’t “real books.” Nowhere has this been a more entrenched attitude than among teachers and parents – most of us as kids had to hide our comics inside “real” books to read them. A new weapon for fighting this perception is slowly emerging – the prose/comic hybrid.

The idea is fairly simple; alternate prose and comic sections within a book, not using the comics as illustration but as an integral, continuing part of the story. There is enough text that kids are “really reading” according to teachers and parents, but kids are drawn in by the comics, especially those kids who get uncomfortable when they flip through a book and don’t see any pictures.

One of the biggest strengths of this approach is that kids will be more likely to read hybrids in school than comics or graphic novels. For those of you who don’t have kids in school, many districts are using programs like Accelerated Reader where kids must read books at a certain level of text, then take quizzes to receive points. This discourages kids from reading anything that isn’t in the system, and most comics don’t get rated. A hybrid format contains enough straight text to get these books listed, and read, in schools.

The hybrid format is still fairly new, and there aren’t many out there yet, but we’ve managed to track down a handful for review.

Abadazad, written by J.M. DeMatteis, illustrated by Mike Ploog, and colored by Nick Bell (Hyperion)

Abadazad started life as a comic book published by CrossGen. Only three issues were published before the company went under, but what issues they were. Abadazad, in its original comic format, was the best all-ages comic I’ve ever read. It was lush fantasy, ripe with childhood dreams and imaginary history, brought to life by the most kinetic, lyrical, and bewitching art imaginable. Abadazad is the story of Kate, a modern, disillusioned tweenager, who must travel to the land of Abadazad, the imaginary world of a classic book from her childhood, in order to save her younger brother. The layering of book within book and real world upon fantasy world is part of the charm in Abadazad, and DeMatteis’ story reeks classic quality, but Ploog’s art and Bell’s colors are what really sold it.

How good was it? I’ve been told that Disney bought the rights to all of CrossGen’s material solely for Abadazad.

Unfortunately, instead of continuing on with the comic, Disney/Hyperion decided to repackage the material in a new format, a hybrid of text, illustration, and comics. The conceit of the new books is that we are reading Kate’s diary for the first-person narrative (including illustration), some pages from the “original” Abadazad books as background material, with a few comic pages squeezed in between.

I have several problems with the new format. First, there just isn’t enough of what made it great in the first place – comics. I counted 24 pages of comics out of the 144 pages in the first issue; if my calculator is to be trusted, that’s a tad over 16%. Second, the books are just too small. At roughly 8” by 5”, the books just aren’t big enough to do Ploog and Bell’s magnificent work justice. And because of the page frame that is supposed to look like we’re reading a book within a book, the comics are even smaller than they could have been. It looks like the pages were photocopied at a reduced percentage and they just don’t hold the same magic as the original at all. In addition, the text in the comic sections is so small that anyone over the age of 40 will have trouble reading it. Not that I’d know that from personal experience or anything.

These complaints aside, Abadazad is still high-quality literature and is recommended for readers of any age. It would make a great read-together book for younger kids and their parents. Abadazad definitely belongs in children’s libraries and could be used to great effect in classrooms – it’s a shining example of great storytelling.

Shelby says: I like that it’s in the form of a diary but she’s talking to you, too. The whole idea of the story is interesting because it’s different from everything else. I just like the idea that Kate goes to another world and the made-up characters in Abadazad are cool because they’re really different from the creatures on earth. The pictures are important because it explains some things that you can’t really do in words. Sometimes in books there are really good descriptions of characters so you can understand what they look like and you don’t need pictures, but in Abadazad it’s like impossible to describe some of them, so the artist has to draw them. The art has got a lot of color and that makes it look really good. Mostly kids who can read and their parents will like it.

Sarah says: I liked Abadazad better as a comic because it was quicker and there was a lot more art, and I like looking at art, especially that art! It is still pretty good as a book and every age will like it unless they can’t pronounce big words like “Abadazad” and “Shelloppers.” It would have been better for younger kids if it was just comic, but now that Abadazad has turned into mostly words, it’s for more mature kids because it’s a little harder to read. It would be good for parents or maybe older brothers and sisters to read to smaller children. So, basically anybody would like this story, even adults.

The Black Belt Club series by Dawn Barnes and Bernard Chang (Scholastic)

I have to admit that I did not read these books all the way through. They’re very obviously aimed at younger kids; the publisher recommends 7 to 12 years old, but I’d put them at about 7 to 9. Written by Dawn Barnes, owner of “the most successful all-children's karate school in the United States,” and illustrated by comic veteran Bernard Chang, these books work for their intended audience. The blending of text and comic is seamless and used effectively – action in comics and exposition in text and illustration. Judging by Sarah’s reaction, the writing could use some work, but The Black Belt Club will certainly find an audience in the second and third grade crowd and will draw in reluctant readers, so the series is definitely recommended for elementary libraries and classrooms.

Sarah says: The first Black Belt Club book was very interesting. It’s about a guy that comes from underground and is trying to destroy the world by making the Tree of Life dead, and four kids from Kids’ Karate World were chosen to save the world by defeating him with karate moves. The second and third books were basically the exact same thing but instead of death it was hate and evil eyes. I didn’t want to read any more because it was just the same thing but in a little bit different way. Here’s the summary for all three stories: There’s a bad guy trying to kill everybody in the world and the kids are trying to stop him and it always ends up really happy at the end in every single one. The comic and book part added together I liked. In the fighting scenes they used the comic and when they’re explaining what’s going on they use text and some pictures. They used it well and the parts that were comic made sense and fit right into the story. I think these books are for kids about second grade. Kids that don’t really like to read will enjoy the story and it won’t take them very long to read it so might enjoy it more than a regular book.

The Tizzle Sisters and Erik written by G. P. Taylor, adapted by Tony Lee, and illustrated by Dan Boultwood (Markosia)

I stumbled upon this book in the comic shop in a pile of recently arrived trades and immediately knew Shelby would like it. Written by G.P. Taylor, author of the very successful (in England) Shadowmancer series of young adult novels, The Tizzle Sisters and Erik is a dark, Lemony Snicket-style tale of orphans, intrigue, and action, and it’s very well-written. However, the comic sections, adapted from the original text, while off-beat and energetic, just don’t work for me in this book. My main complaint is that the tone of the story changes so drastically from prose to comic. The text portions of the story are written in a rich, erudite British style, while the comic dialogue sounds simple and American in comparison. When I read the prose sections, my mind conjures dark, haunting images – a mood captured very well in the cover art by Cliff Wright (of Harry Potter illustration fame) – but the interior art has a much more modern, indie-edgy sensibility. Most of the time the comics blend seamlessly with the text, picking up the next line, as it were, and are used to good effect in action sequences, but I actually found myself wishing that I could read the original prose sections that the comics were adapted from.

The Tizzle Sisters and Erik would have been just as good (maybe even better) without the comic bits, but then the book wouldn’t draw attention for being an “ILLUSTRONOVELLA,” the term publisher Markosia is using to promote the book. I think some kids will be more likely to pick this up off the shelf because it contains comics, and overall it’s still a rollicking good story. It is dark and there is a lot of violence, though much of it is implied, but kids who like Lemony Snicket and Harry Potter will most likely dig this – Shelby loved it. Recommended for ages 12 and up.

Shelby says: This book is sort of violent for kids 10 and under because there is a lot of shooting and stuff like that. I personally don’t think anyone who is faint hearted will like it very much. The idea of the two sisters being almost the same is very cool. The art is very mod. It’s really cool! Personally, I think the text part of the book is better than the comic part. It seems that the text is more descriptive than the pictures and words. This book is for certain people. Like the ones who like a bit of violence, cool art, and text mixed with comic.