Saturday, June 23, 2007


AUTHOR: Kevin Rubio
ILLUSTRATOR: Lucas Marangon

FORMAT: Trade Paperback
PAGES: 104 pages
COLOR: Full Color
ISBN-10: 1-59307-641-X

ISBN-13: 978-1-59307-641-2

Good versus Evil

This trade paperback is not a continuous story. The first two chapters are parts 1 and 2 of a continuing story. Chapters 3 and 4 are stand-alone stories. The overlying storyline that is consistent through all the chapters is that Tag and Bink are two members of the Rebel Alliance whose mistakes and misgivings end up affecting major conflicts within the Star Wars universe. They are the only two Jedi younglings who lived when Anakin came to kill them all in Episode III. They continued to help the Rebel Alliance, in spite of their bumbling nature, and have played significant roles in many of the well-known scenes from the movies. They were there when the first Death Star was destroyed. Tag and Bink were on Cloud City when Darth Vader took over Lando Calrissian’s floating world and froze Han Solo, and they were in the room when Darth Vader killed the Emperor.

I do not know what Star Wars purists will have to say about the adventures of Tag and Bink. Seeing how this comic places the two smack dab in the middle of all the action of Star Wars, there may be some folks who take umbrage at the irreverent nature of the two. So be it. This story line is not really meant to be taken too seriously and kids who are fans of the movies will enjoy this adaptation.

I only have one problem with the Tag & Bink storylines as works of children’s literature to be used in the classroom: The rare use of language. In the issue “The Return of Tag & Bink” Bink uses the word “horny”. He says “damn” in the issue “Revenge of the Clone Menace”. These are minor words, I know, and they are words that even elementary kids have heard and use, but I am not sure how many people (at least in my area of the country) who wouldl be happy to know that elementary-aged student read these words at school.

I have not read any of the other Star Wars books put out by Dark Horse, so I cannot compare this art to those. In this case Lucas Marangon utilizes a semi-realistic approach, but one with strong bent toward the caricature. That approach fits well with the comedic overtones of the story.

My Rating: Ages 12 and older
Publisher’s Recommended Age: 12 and Older
All Ages Reads: No Recommendation
Comics in the Classroom: No Recommendation

I do not have a problem with kids younger than 12 reading this, but because of the language and the publisher’s recommended age, I went with 12-years-old as my recommendation.

One of the most interesting things about this book is how it takes established scenes from the movies, and inserts these two characters into the plot. Now we can see these scenes in a whole new way. Makes for a good lesson on perspective.

Not Recommended
Star Wars (movies, books and comics) are for kids. I want nothing more than to highly recommend this series for the classroom. That whole “horny” and “damn” business has put a damper on that, and I am not too happy about it. In the end I decided not to recommend this for the classroom, even though kids have heard worse language (and many use worse language). I struggled with the decision, but when it comes right down to it, the use of the word “horny” is what garnered the recommendation.

Friday, June 15, 2007


This is the variant cover. If you
want your money to help out
the children of Uganda (through
Invisible Children) then this is
the cover you want.

The atrocities occurring to the children in Uganda are about to get comic treatment from Moonstone Books. Comic creator, Mike Bullock (Lions, Tigers and Bears) has written a three-part story arc in the Phantom series about the real life barbarity occurring to the children in Northern Uganda.

Proceeds from purchasing the variant cover B, by Darryl Banks & Terry Austin, will benefit the charitable organization, Invisible Children. Read a preview of the comic here.

From Invisible Children
Ripped from today's headlines, The Phantom takes on an African Warlord who believes he is a prophet of the Almighty God himself. At stake, are the lives of thousands of children stolen from their homes and indoctrinated into the Warlords Resistance Army through mental, physical and spiritual torture. The Warlord HIM has conscripted these 'Invisible Children' to fight his Holy War and assert his self-proclaimed 'Divine Will' on the peoples and Governments of Africa in his first step towards world domination.

Mike Bullock sent me the notice this morning. He didn't email me to drum up business or increase his own sales. He believes in this project enough that he was one of the first to give, donating his paycheck to Invisible Children. I have already contacted Stu, my comic book guy, so he can order me a copy of the three-part story. I was careful to specify that I wanted the variant cover so my money goes to charity.

A review of the book, and its appropriateness for the classroom, will be posted here as soon as I read all three books.

There is also a documentary out about this issue. IMDb carries the information. Currently, Netflix does not carry the movie, but I sent a title request. If you have Netflix you should do the same.

Friday, June 8, 2007


PUBLISHER: Archaia Studios Press
GENRE: Modern Fantasy

ISSUE: Covering issues 1-6
FORMAT: Hardback
PAGES: 192 pages
COLOR: Full Color
ISBN-13: 978-1-932386-57-8

Anthropomorphic Animals
Self-Defensive Sword Fights

Mice have their own society, buried in the world of wilderness and men. Susceptible to attacks from beasts and harsh living conditions, the mice formed a protective group of soldiers, leaders, and guides known as the Mouse Guard.

Fearless, dutiful, honorable, and loyal, the Mouse Guard protect their society from all that threaten to end their existence. In this case, the turmoil does not come from an attack from outside; the Mouse Guard are faced with treachery from within. Someone is plotting against the guard in order to take over mouse society. Lieam, Saxon and Kenzie, the best of the Mouse Guard set out to foil the plot and set things right again.

Great literature is a privilege to read, and I count myself lucky that I have been able to experience David Petersen’s MOUSE GUARD. Petersen has tapped into my childhood need for legendary tales of long ago and created a truly beautiful piece of children’s literature.

The story is not rushed and the plot is not compromised in order to crank out a story full of flat characters and ridiculous action aimed at inattentive and impatient readers. Petersen takes his time and allows the characters and story to develop. The characters talk and think, feel and act. They also fight. It is a modern animal fantasy story, so there is enough action for anyone to enjoy. The story is not about the fighting or the action, however. It is a classic story about heroes and honor.

Petersen is not only the writer, but he is the illustrator as well. The art is as solid as the writing. I was showing this book to my daughter (first grade) and her friend (fourth grade). The fourth grader peered at the illustrations and immediately commented that it looked like an old story. A great compliment I would think. An ancient story deserves art to match and Petersen has certainly done so. That old world feel, I believe, is achieved with Petersen’s use of hatching to give the characters and objects texture. The colors are rich and detailed. Detailed in the fact that nothing has a solid color, but is varied and has depth. This is comic art at its greatest.

The book is exquisitely bound and presented with a dust jacket, making it an excellent piece which will hold up to the wear and tear of the classroom for many years.

Notice the old-world feeling
achieved through Peterson's art.

Here is an example of
some of the violence in the

Nothing is left out in the
rendering of the art.

This is an example of the
prose pages.

My Rating: Ages 6 and older
All Ages Reads: Ages 6 and older
Comics in the Classroom: Ages 10 and older

This is not a violent book exactly, but it is a fantasy story and it has Tolkienesque violence. Specifically it has violence that leads to death, but the scenes are very well crated and short. It is kin to such extraordinary children’s classics such as THE HOBBIT. Sometimes violence in a book is enough to warrant reservations. Violence, gratuitous violence, can also lead a book to not be recommended. Not so with MOUSE GUARD. What little violence is present is tasteful and relevant.

Like any book, know your child. Some kids will be ready for this book – will crave this book. Others will not be ready for it. I have read it to my 6-year-old daughter and she iked it. I think she had a hard time understanding some aspects of the story such as treachery, but that will come as her reading comprehension increases.

This book is a perfect example of high quality children’s literature. The story and the art lend itself to many uses in the classroom. This book is sure to spark interest and creativity.

The next six books in the series, titled Winter 1152, begin in July 2007.

Best Indie Adventure Book of 2006 – Wizard Magazine
Best Mini-Series of 2006 – Metro News, Canada
Best Indie Book of the Year –
and several other awards

The name of the character, Lieam, is pronounced (Lee-am)
The name of the city, Celanawe, is pronounced (Kel-an-awe)

A map of the land is presented as well as some details about specific towns. Peterson also included some fan art.

Highly Recommended
David Petersen’s MOUSE GUARD is one of the greats among children’s literature. It is THE HOBBIT for the children’s graphic literature genre and is a must-have for any library.

Friday, June 1, 2007


June is Kid-Friendly month at Diamond Comics Distributors. This month’s Previews offers a small list of publishers putting out kid-friendly comics and graphic novels. THE GRAPHIC CLASSROOM has reviewed other books put out by those publishers such as Blue Dream Studios and First Second Books. Click here for a list of the books in this month’s Preview.

YU THE GREAT: Conquering the Flood

Paul D. Storrie
ILLUSTRATOR: Sandy Carruthers
PUBLISHER: Lerner Publishing Company
GENRE: Myths and Legends

FORMAT: Reinforced Library Binding
PAGES: 48 pages
COLOR: Full Color
ISBN-10: 0-8225-3088-0
ISBN-13: 978-0-8225-3088-6
Chinese Mythology

This story is an ancient Chinese legend about the first ruler of the Xia Dynasty (2100 BC). Legend has it that Yu was a descendent of the ruler of the gods, known as the Yellow Emperor. Because of his holy ancestry, Yu is summoned by Shun the Emperor to stop the floodwaters that are ravaging the Chinese countryside. Yu’s father, Gun, was charged with the goal but failed when he stole the magical soil from the Yellow Emperor. Yu must find a way to retrieve the sacred and magical soil from the Yellow Emperor in order to save the world.

YU THE GREAT is an entertaining retelling of the legend of the Xia Dynasty’s first ruler, Yu. By the first narration bubble we know that conflict is on the way. We meet Yu, and then are immediately transported back in time when his father, Gun, was charged with saving the people. Where Gun was led astray by some ill advice, Yu did the right thing and negotiated with his great-grandfather and ruler of the gods.

Because he learned from his father’s mistakes, Yu was rewarded with the magical soil and was sent to stop the floods created by Gong Gong, the god of water. Even still, Yu’s life was full of strife and hard work, but he continued with his destiny and eventually saved the people from the floods. It was not without great cost.

With only 48 pages, the story moves pretty quickly but remains interesting and clear. The book is split into chapters making it an easier read for struggling readers. Some of the names can be hard, but there is a glossary and pronunciation guide in the back, which was very helpful.

The back of the book refers to the Yellow Emperor as Yu’s grandfather. However, the rest of the book states he is Yu’s great-grandfather.

Sandy Carruthers uses a realistic approach to the illustrations, adding a lot of detail and color to the work. Shading is achieved with cross-hatching and coloring and the color palette are bright. The pages are on a heavy, glossy paper making it good for a library or classroom.

AGE RECOMMENDATION My Rating: Ages 9 and older
Publisher’s Recommended Reading Level: Grade 4
Publisher’s Recommended Interest Level: Grades 4-8
All Ages Reads: No Rating
Comics in the Classroom: No Rating

There is one scene with a sword. No fighting is depicted, but one panel shows a character with a bit of blood dripping off his sword. In the next panel, we see a character on the ground, but there is no blood on him. Pretty mild if you ask me, but I mention it anyway.

There are several opportunities to use YU THE GREAT in the classroom. First, kids are interested in myths and legends. This book has a certain appeal that is not otherwise accessible in graphic format.

Secondly, this book will be great for those students who are accelerated and looking for more information outside the typical textbook. This is a great jumping off point for a student to do his or her own research.

Speaking of research, students in a technology-based classroom could use the resources listed in the back of the book to do more research on this legend and compare them to other legends they are more familiar with. They could learn about different types of dragons, and other legends. Students could even write their own legend, based on what they learn.

Lastly, this book is a perfect resource to be used for students who are non-native speakers. I suggested this book to a college professor of mine who spends her summers in China teaching English to middle school-aged students. She was very excited to be able to use this in her classroom as she felt her student would be familiar with the legend.

The book contains a glossary with a pronunciation guide, additional resources and websites, an index, map, and information about the creators.

There are other books in the Graphic Universe series:

Amaterasu: Return of the Sun
Atlanta: The Race Against Destiny
Demeter & Persephone: Spring Held Hostage
Hercules: The Twelve Labors
Isis & Osiris: To the Ends of the Earth
Jason: Quest for the Golden Fleece
King Arthur: Excalibur Unsheathed
Robin Hood: Outlaw of Sherwood Forest
Thor & Loki: In the Land of Giants
The Trojan Horse: The Fall of Troy

MY RECOMMENDATION: Highly Recommended
One reason I really like this book is because it makes myths and legends accessible to children and teens. The story is easy to make sense of and the art is great. Perfect for the classroom.