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


“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


“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

Town Boy by Lat

By Maureen Tai, 10 May 2018


“And so…there we were – my family and I … beginning a new life in this new place. We have become town people…”

On this first day of a new era for my home country, it is fitting that I should pay tribute to one of my favourite comics from my youth.  Malaysia’s much-loved cartoonist, Datuk Mohammad Nor Khalid (fondly referred to as Lat, short for bulat or round) wrote Town Boy almost three decades ago.  It is an semi-autobiographical tale, set in the 1960’s, of a young Malay boy growing up in a small town.

It is my childhood too. And it is the childhood of several generations of Malaysians. Continue reading

Bake Sale by Sara Varon

By Maureen Tai, 15 April 2018

“I’m in a baking rut. I got up early to make a new recipe but I just made a mess. I wish I could make something besides the usual baked goods.” – Cupcake

Several years ago at a writers convention, I discovered that a charmingly soft-spoken children’s book historian (I’ll call him Mr. M) and I shared a common love – reading comics and graphic novels.


We talked excitedly about the comics of the past – Beano, Dandy and Richie Rich – and the exciting graphic novelists of the present – Kazu Kibuishi, Raina Telgemeier and the incomparable Shaun Tan.  In an embarrassing flash of hindsight, it was probably me who gushed excitedly while Mr. M – whom I found out afterwards is one of the world’s pre-eminent authorities on children’s books – kindly indulged me.  Bake Sale was his parting recommendation, and Sara Varon’s endearing novel found a home in my library not long after that chance encounter.

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