Posts Tagged ‘graphic novel’

First of all, unlike the Amulet series, it’s important to note that this book isn’t written by Kazu Kibuishi. He is the editor, not the author (although one of the stories is his). Explorer follows the style of his Flight graphic novel project, which is a collection of short stories written by different authors.

Story overview:
With box as the theme, seven different stories are compiled into this one book. The first (Under the Floorboards, by Emily Carroll) is about a young girl who finds a clay doll in a box that comes to life. The second (Spring Cleaning, by Dave Roman & Raina Telgemeier) is about a mysterious cube found in a boy’s closet that is apparently coveted by every wizard. The third (The Keeper’s Treasure, by Jason Caffoe) is about a young explorer who seeks for lost treasure.

Then we have The Butter Theif, by Rad Sechrist, which tells the tale of a spirit that tries to capture the thusela–otherwise known as butter–from the house of a young girl. Next is The Soldier’s Daughter (by Stuart Livingston with Stephanie Ramirez): after her father dies, Clara goes after the evil Captain Vaal to exact revenge.

The sixth story, Watzit (by Johane Matte with Saymone Phanekham) is about a young alien who sorts a group of boxes containing a complete solar system, but in the process he is ambushed by a dark and troublesome creature. The final story is by Kibuishi (The Escape Option), where a young man is abducted by an alien who says the earth will end someday. He is offered the chance to leave and live on the alien’s home planet or to stay and wait for the destruction of the world.

My thoughts:  
I thought this was much better than Flight. The stories were less works of art and more focused on the tales themselves. The drawings were more cartoonish as well, which better fits the style of the Amulet. I wouldn’t call this a must read for Amulet fans, but it’s a lot closer to it than the Flight books are, and well worth a look.

Things to consider:
This collection is a lot more age appropriate than Flight. No sexual situations, extreme violence, or foul language. I’d recommend it for preteens and older. For those sensitive to references of evolution, in Kibuishi’s story, there is mention of the earth being billions of years old, but otherwise, I didn’t see anything questionable.

Opportunities for discussion:
It’s hard to come up with a single point, as each story is very different. But since the theme here is boxes, one can easily relate them to secrets. Boxes can be used for many things, such as transportation and storage, but they can also be used to hide things. Ask your youth if they have ever hidden something in a box, and if so, what. Better yet, tell them if you have ever hidden anything before you ask them (be honest). Share the difference between hiding good things and bad things. Good things like praying to the father in secret (Matthew 6:6) or giving to the needy without recognition (Matthew 6:3-4). Or bad things like hiding sins and lying to cover them up (Proverbs 12:22). God sees everything done in secret, as Ecclesiastes 12:14 (NIV) says, “For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil.”

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As a big fan of the Amulet series, I decided to track down some of Kibuishi’s earlier works. Daisy Kutter came from a sketch he drew of a cowgirl that got posted to an online illustration forum years ago. Her world eventually developed into this graphic novel.

Story overview:
Daisy Kutter–an expert train robber and gunslinger–isn’t as young as she used to be. Leaving her old life of crime, she finds discontentment in her new trade: a storeowner. The old desires for adventure still flow through her veins.

When two strangers show up and ask her to join them on one final mission, she turns them down. It isn’t until she gets beaten in a poker game by the “boss” of these men that she is forced to go along with the job.

The job? To rob the train of the owner himself. Why? Because he wants to test out his new security system. When her close friend, Tom, tags along, Daisy learns that there may be more to the job than was advertised.

My thoughts:
This story combines an interesting mix of Western and SF: revolvers and robots. As an earlier work of Kibuishi, I thought the story was pretty good. Not great, but good–not to the level of Amulet. I like how Kibuishi interwove the Texas Hold’em Poker game into the story as a whole. Good character development. Worth a read, but not mandatory.

Things to consider:
I was surprised by the amount of curse words that were present. Surprised because Kibuishi’s Amulet series has none (that I can remember). There are also a few bloody scenes. Clearly, this is meant for an older audience. I’d suggest this for the age of fifteen at the earliest, or perhaps older depending on the individual–most fitting for Young Adults. Equally balanced for boys and girls.

Opportunities for discussion:
I liked how Daisy’s old partner in crime, Tom, chose to use his skills as a sheriff instead of a criminal. While Daisy tried to become a storeowner, something inside her still burned for her old life. It wasn’t until she took on that role once again that she was able to see its folly. There are times in our lives when we know what’s right, but do the wrong thing anyway. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way (when that’s the only way to extinguish the flame), but it’s always better to follow Tom’s example instead of Daisy’s. Ask your children when the last time it was they did something they knew they should not. Ask them how it made them feel in the end. Remind them that applying a little self-control can help them to avoid a great deal of pain and regret in the future. Self-control is, after all, a fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).

In the first two novels, Emily and Navin lose their father and are forced to move to a mysterious house in a distant town. Emily comes across a magical amulet that opens a door to a new and unusual world. Having taken on the responsibility of the amulet, Emily finds that this new world is in need of her help as a powerful and tyrannical Elf King seeks to make life miserable for the residence of Alledia.

Story overview:
Having gotten her mother back to her old self, Emily is convinced by her fox companion, Leon, to seek out the lost city of the Guardian Council’s Stonekeepers, Cielis.

Learning that Cielis’ possible whereabouts is in the sky (from a book written by Emily’s great-grandfather), Leon seeks out an airship pilot to take them to the center of an unending storm.

With the Elf King’s son as an unusual companion, our group of adventurers seek to locate Cielis before the Elf King can put a stop to it.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed the Star Wars cantina parody. It was obviously intentional, even the reference to the captain’s ship being small and junky, but fast. At the end of the novel, it says that Kibuis finds inspiration in Star Wars and with Hayao Miyazaki. Perhaps that’s why I like this story so much; I’m a huge fan of both. The worst part is waiting for the next book to come out to see what will happen next.

Things to consider:
This series remains consistent in its rating. Good for preteens and older. Very little can be considered questionable or inappropriate.

Opportunities for discussion:
There’s a scene where the pilot is forced to land and refuel his airship on a platform owned by a woman he has issues with. After landing, it becomes evident that she too doesn’t want to see him. By the end, however they make up and restore a prior bond. We can take a lesson from them. It doesn’t have to be a thing just between men and women. This goes for relationships of all shapes and sizes. Sometimes they suffer for one reason or another, but when given a chance at reconciliation, relationships can be restored and the feelings of relief that follow might surprise you. Consider Matthew 5:23-24 (NIV) “Therefore, if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Ask your children if there is anyone they need to work things out with. From there, try to see if there’s hope of reconciliation. Of course, if the relationship is destructive, then sometimes they are better ended than continued. That’s when Matthew 18:15-17 comes into play.

Past reviews in this series:
1) The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)
2) The Stonekeeper’s Curse (Amulet, Book 2)

This is the second book to the Amulet Graphic Novel series. I also plan on reading and reviewing the third book soon, so stay tuned. A fourth book is scheduled for release on September 1, 2011, and I have it on my to-acquire list already. How many total books there will be, I have yet to find out.

Be sure to check out my review of the first book (The Stonekeeper) if you have not done so already.

Story overview:
After having rescued her mother, Emily travels in her great-grandfather’s portable house to a local town. Her aim is to find a doctor that can remove the poison, which put her mother into a coma.

Soon after docking in the waterfall town of Kanalis, the elves track down Emily, Navin, and Miskit. Thankfully, for them, a stranger in the form of a human-like fox comes to their rescue. This fox, Leon Redbeard, safely takes them to the best doctor in town. There they learn that the only antidote for the poison is found in the treacherous Demon’s Head Mountain.

Escaping an elf segue against the hospital, our adventurers come across a secret hidden base for a group of rebels. These rebels were put in place for the day she and her brother arrived. As Emily embarks on a journey to find the cure for her mother, Navin takes on his new position as leader of the rebel army and heads out to recover their house from the elves.

My thoughts:
I enjoyed reading this one just as much as the first. Finished it in two sittings, but would have probably done so in one had it not been for the NyQuil I downed an hour before (head cold). I’m looking forward to reading Book 3 in the next week or two.

Things to consider:
Appropriately aged for preteens and older, this book maintains the same standards as the first: no sexual situations, foul language, or gore–there’s no need to shock the audience with these things when there’s enough mystery and adventure to keep the reader going. I can see both girls and boys enjoying this tale.

Opportunities for discussion:
The amulet seeks to consume Emily and take control of her body. It claims that this is for her own good as doing so will give her great power. Yet Emily fights against this desire and demands that she be the one in control, regardless of the consequences. I liken this to anger and rage. There are times where we feel that, if we let go and let our anger take control, it will make us stronger. The problem with this is that, if we do, we more often than not hurt those we care about. Giving in to our rage may provide a temporary satisfaction, but when the dust settles we must face the consequences of our actions. Consider these verses: 1 Corinthians 13:5-7 (NIV) “. . . [love is] not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” And Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control . . .” Emily understood that she would lose these things if she gave into the amulet. Help your children to understand that they too will compromise their standings if they give into anger.

Past reviews in this series:
1) The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)

I came across this book on Amazon and thought, wow, a cool looking Graphic Novel that isn’t a manga produced by Japan. After doing a little more research on it, I had to laugh. Where it is true that it was written as an American graphic novel, the author was born in Tokyo.

Note: There also looks to be a Warner Brothers movie adaptation coming in 2012.

Story overview:
Two years after having witnessed the death of her father, Emily, along with her mother and brother (Navin), move to a small town and into a broken-down house (once owned by her great-grandfather). Still dealing with emotions from her father’s death, Emily finds that her mother is also doing all she can to hold herself together.

When rummaging in her great-grandfather’s old room, Emily comes across a mystical-looking amulet. Shortly after putting it around her neck, an otherworldly intruder enters their home and captures her mother. When Emily and Navin chase after the creature, they find themselves transported to a different world.

Now Emily is faced with the burden of losing another parent. Only this time there’s something she can do to stop it. Having met some unlikely friends in this new world, Emily and Navin are given the resources necessary for chasing down their mother’s captor. Having activated the amulet’s power, Emily wonders if the cost of such help might end up costing her more in the end.

My thoughts:
At first, I wasn’t sure about the style of drawing. It was, different. But the longer I looked at it, the more it grew on me and I started to appreciate the artistic brilliance, particularly within the scenery–Kibuishi’s use of lighting is clearly his greatest strength. As far as the story goes, it hooked me right away. Heartfelt, mysterious, creative, and gripping are just a few of the words that come to mind. I ended up reading the whole thing in one sitting; couldn’t put it down.

Things to consider:
It’s marked for grades 4-7 (which is basically children aged nine to thirteen). I can see that; there are a few elements that may be considered too scary for younger children. But, I think 13 is too soon to cut it off; teenagers of all ages and many adults would appreciate this as well (I’m in my 30s, and I loved it). No hit of sexual references. No gore or even blood for that matter. There is action violence, some disturbing scenes involving a spider-like bug creature, and a few deaths (including Emil’s father, which practically had me in tears–thinking as a father myself). This should appeal to both boys and girls alike.

Opportunities for discussion:
The voice of the amulet told Emily that there was no time for faith. Yet her great grandfather did tell her there was another way. As a reader, I’m glad she listened to the amulet; I wanted to see the adventure unfold and to see what would happen with the stone. But as a believer I completely understand the temptation to reach for a quick and easy solution rather than listen to the voice of faith. The author shows us that the amulet might not be in the right, but leaves that thought open–likely to resurface in a later book. Since I don’t know the final outcome, I can’t say if choosing the amulet was a good decision. For all I know the amulet might have brought the creature to capture her mother in the first place. Therefore, with the story, we have yet to see, but for our own lives, let us consider this Bible verse Prov 19:2 (NIV) “It is not good to have zeal without knowledge, nor to be hasty and miss the way.” Ask your children about the last time they rushed into something, and what the outcome was. Challenge them to stop and assess the situation before jumping in next time. Sometimes trusting and having faith avoids worse consequences down the road.

kekkaishi vol3For those of you who have been following this blog on a weekly basis, sorry about the delay in posting. A new addition to the Maxon family has just recently been added. She’s a little young for books and manga, but we’ll get back to some reviews so that we’ll be prepared for when she is.

In the first two volumes of Kekkaishi, we learned about two teens from different families who are guardians by night. They keep creatures (ayakashi) away from their school to prevent them from becoming greater threats; as the beasts absorb the hidden power that’s buried there.

Story overview:

Yoshimori practices his kekkai barrier on a large bolder, but when practicing his “Joso” (positioning) of the kekkai, he struggles to get it where he wants. It seems his powers are enormous, but his control has yet to improve. Tokine on the other hand has the opposite problem: she has complete control but is limited on power. They both secretly envy the other’s abilities and use this as motivation to improve their skills.

They come across a Hiwatari (Ice Blower) ayakashi, and Yoshimori ends up positioning himself in front of Tokine to protect her. Together the two of them join forces (ignoring the family feud) to defeat the foe. We learn of an ability called “Nenshi” (Sense Thread,) which is a kekkai in the form of a string rather than a box. Their job is never done, and soon they face a new enemy for Yoshimori to practice the Nenshi on. Among the group is an old friend of Yoshimori’s magical ghost-like dog, Madarao.

We learn some past history with Madarao and how his/her (I’ll explain later) old friend Koya were both wild dogs living off the land until man came and destroyed it by war, thus forcing the two companions to starve to death. Now it has been five hundred or so years later, and Koya wants to kill humans for revenge. Yoshimori removes Madarao’s collar so that he/she can use full power to defeat Koya. It still turns out to be too hard a task; it takes Yoshimori and Madarao working together, doing the very thing Koya despises (working with humans) to defeat him. Yoshimori then has the difficult task of creating a new collar on the huge beast Madarao has become, and he has to do so before he/she gets totally out of control.

My thoughts:

I continue to enjoy this manga series. There’s a lot of heart in the story and the characters are wonderfully designed (and executed.) It’s interesting to know a little more history about Yoshimor’s helper, and how things work between them. We also get a few more clues into the history of the clans.

Things to consider:

OK, now don’t freak out on me parents. Remember that we use secular books to educate our children, not isolate them. I say this in reference to the his/her comment that I mentioned above in regards to the dog, Madarao. It’s unclear whether the dog is a girl or a boy, and it almost seems like he is a girl now but was a boy back before he first died. At the end of the book the author was asked about this by a fan, to which he replied, “It’s not that important [but] in my mind Madarao was always Gay . . .” Let’s talk about this below, but for now, I keep this the same rating as the other two: mainly for boys and good at around thirteen plus. No inappropriate sexual references or vulgar language, just lots of action violence.

Opportunities for discussion:

Talk to your kids about what it means to be “gay.” Tell them what your thoughts on this whole controversial issue are. Share with them what you believe and why. If you are interested in my opinion, then I suggest you tell them that God loves all his creation and that choosing to be “gay” is considered to be a sin just as much as stealing, telling a lie, or not loving God with all your heart. We all have sin issues to face, no matter what it is. I don’t believe it’s good to promote sin in a positive light, but I do not think we should teach our children to hate their fellow man either. Everyone needs to be shown love and compassion, as we are all fallen creatures. I could say more, but let’s stick to the basics; chose to educate how you best see fit, but do chose to educate, not isolate. Next, another great topic here is bias. When Koya wanted to kill all the humans, he was taking out his revenge for what people who are long dead and gone have done. We should never hate a particular group or race based on something one part of it/them has done. Ask your kids if they have ever done this and what the results where.

Past reviews in this series:

1) Kekkaishi (Volume 1)
2) Kekkaishi (Volume 2)