Illegal by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano

By Maureen Tai, 5 September 2018

“It feels like a door has opened. And that I need to step through before it closes”  – Ebo

IMG_7714Illegal charts the harrowing journey that two orphaned brothers make from a poor village in Ghana to promise-laden Italy.  The boys cross lands that offer no sanctuary and encounter exploitative grown-ups who offer no mercy.

Illegal is, by far, one of the hardest graphic novels I’ve read with my children, but in an increasingly fractured and unkind world, it tells a powerful story too urgent to ignore, too important to be forgotten.  It demands to be read. It has to be read.   Continue reading

Akissi, Tales of Mischief by Marguerite Abouet and Mathieu Sapin

By Maureen Tai, 20 August 2018

“With that square head, you look just like a gecko.”  – Akissi

IMG_7519It is hard to miss the copy of Akissi, laid out on the table at Daunt, a bookshop in London. The cover is a startling yellow and has a picture of a little girl the colour of warm cocoa, with an oversized head, large oval eyes and wide toothy grin.  She lives with her mum and dad, older siblings Victorine and Fofana in a square, yellow brick house with blue shuttered windows in the Ivory Coast.

Akissi is full of life, full of ideas and full of mischief – that trait which endears certain book characters to the youngest of readers (think Pippi Longstocking, Matilda, Peter Rabbit and Tom Gates to name a few). Akissi is irresistible. Continue reading

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

By Anna, 23 July 2018

Maybe the others would have believed me. Maybe not. But I wasn’t going to tell them. This was just for me.  – Vera

Every summer, all of Vera’s friends go off to camp. She never has. Now she is.IMG_6364 2

Vera is Russian, and as much as she tries to fit in with her American friends, she still feels like the odd one out. After a bit of a disaster with her birthday sleepover, Vera hears about a Russian camp called O.R.R.A. from a girl at her church, and she is determined to go there. She thinks that she won’t be that left out, because everyone else would be Russian, like her. She isn’t prepared for the camp ahead of her.

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Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke

By Maureen Tai, 22 June 2018

“Two arms two legs? Anyone?’ – Zita

IMG_4153Planet Earth. An enormous crater scars a grassy clearing in some woods. Zita and Joseph chance upon the depression and discover a squareish object within the meteoroid that lies smouldering at the bottom of the hole. There is an enticing red button on the object, which of course, Zita mischievously pushes. Multiple times.

And of course, all hell breaks loose. Continue reading

Giants Beware! By Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre

By Maureen Tai, 18 June 2018

“Violence is not just efficient, it feels good too.” – Claudette

Ah, such words of wisdom from Claudette, the ferocious, intrepid and sassy ginger-haired heroine of Giants Beware! She may be pint-sized – like her pet pug Valiant – but she has bucketloads of chutzpah (one of my favourite Yiddish words that loosely translates into “ballsy attitude”).  Moreover, she’s intent on slaying the baby-feet eating giant that is holding her village psychologically hostage.

Hold on to your hats, folks! We’re in for a rip-roaring ride.

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Real Friends by Shannon Hale and illustrated by LeUyen Phamo

By Anna, 11 June 2018

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“Once upon a time there was a girl with red hair who believed her destiny was to ride alone. But an old evil was rising in the north lands. At the final moment, when all seemed to be lost, she cried out for help. The many friends she had made on her journey heard her call. And they came running. After all, no one’s destiny is to ride alone.” – Shannon

In kindergarten, Shannon meets Adrienne and they become best friends. Shannon thinks that she and Adrienne will be friends forever.

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Ghostopolis by Doug TenNapel

By Maureen Tai, 28 May 2018

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“It was all built by one man, a mysterious Tuskegee airman named Joe.  He made every mountain you see, laying one chunk of sand at a time. He stacked every brick in Ghostopolis so that ghosts would have a place to live.”

An unscripted poke-about in an indie comics store in Toronto last summer led me serendipitously to what is now one of my favourite graphic novels, Ghostopolis. If you’re looking for a riveting, action-packed story that combines realistic fiction with elements of fantasy and the macabre, features compelling characters and concludes with multiple satisfactory endings, then this book is for you. Continue reading