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Dog Man by Dav Pilkey (and other graphic novels)

One of my favorite things about being a librarian is that I get to help people find books.  As the library director that part of my job is a bit limited, but that is where my seven-year-old son comes in.  He is learning the joy of reading, so I get to spend a lot of time helping him select books. It is a great thing!  I love that he talks to me about what book he is reading and that he has his own favorites. Right now many of them are children’s graphic novels.  

Dog Man by Dav Pilkey is his ultimate favorite and he cannot wait to read the latest one, Dog Man: For Whom the Ball Rolls (#7).  He does not even know why that title is funny, but I think Dav Pilkey does that for the parents. He knows that we need something more than potty humor to make us appreciate his clever offerings. Other titles include: Brawl of the Wild, Tale of Two Kitties and Lord of the Fleas.

You might be asking yourself, “What is a graphic novel?”  Good question. According to Merriam-Webster, “a graphic novels is a story that is presented in comic-strip format and published as a book.”  Exactly. When I was growing up I used to read Archie comics. I would have loved to have had an Archie comic that was a novel-length story.   

My son LOVES graphic novels. They are his story of choice and since there are only seven Dog Man books in publication he is always looking for something similar.    Due to the popularity of Dog Man, I think others might have a similar need so below is a list of other books that Dog Man fans might want to read.  

Diary of a Wimpy Kid by Jeff Kinney – This book was impossible to keep on library shelves after its publication in 2007.  I remember practically every kid who visited the library during the summer of 2007 asking for this title. Author Jeff Kinney uses a journal format that includes comic drawings within the text to tell the story of Gred Heffley’s sixth grade school year.  Not a graphic novel, but has a similar feel and has a lot of humor. My son is making his way through this series now and the comic drawings within the text make him laugh out loud.

Bad Guys by Aaron Blabey –  The typical bad guy characters – Mr. Wolf, Mr. Shark, Mr. Snake and Mr. Pirahan – are trying to turn over a new leaf.  Inspired by Mr. Wolf, who started the Good Guys Club, this unlike cast of characters endeavor to perform good deeds and change their ill-doing reputations.  Rescuing a cat from a tree and freeing dogs from the dog pound are just a sampling of their heroic undertakings. Slapstick humor abounds in this offering. I am laughing now just thinking about how funny it can be to see the characters try to do good.  What is the saying, “No good deed?” If your kids are anything like my son, they will happily devour this short, quick read and beg for the rest of the series.

Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett Krososcka – This was the first graphic novel that my son read.  I brought it home on a whim last year and he loved it! I think the combination of the cleverly drawn comic panels, the cast of characters, the humorous elements and the length of the story all made for a love match.  In this story the school’s lunch lady and her co-worker Betty, with a little help from three students, use kitchen gadgets to fight crime and serve up justice.  

I have so many others to recommend, but since I am running short of space here are a few more, sans descriptions:  

  • Zita the Spacegirl by Ben Hatke
  • 13-Story Treehouse: Monkey Mayhem! by Andy Griffiths
  • The Stone Keeper (Amulet series) by Kazu Kibuishi
  • Yeti Files by Kevin Sherry
  • Comic Squad series by various authors

And one more tidbit – the Joplin Public Library will be hosting a Graphic Novel Club for children in grades three to five starting Friday, September 27th.  The club will meet weekly, for five weeks. Participants will discuss their favorite graphic novels and comics, learn the components of graphic novels and work to make their own graphic novels. Registration is required and can be done by calling 417-623-7953.  

If your child is anything like mine, he or she will be eager to add his or her name to the sign up sheet.  

Find in Library Catalog

A Non-Fiction Variety Pack

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Hot Young Widows Club: Lessons on Survival from the Front Lines of Grief by Nora McInerny

Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir by Ruth Reichl

The Universe Explained: A Cosmic Q & A by Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest

The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees written and illustrated by Don Brown

Reading, like summer, can be random.  Days away from school and work open the door to the unexpected, allow the senses to notice what is hidden by everyday experience.  Surprises appear on the library shelves–new titles or those that have been circulating and were missed earlier.

I’ve stumbled upon some surprises this summer, both fruitful and not.  One was pleasant, an amazing story which lived up to its buzz. One, much to my disappointment, did not.  One snuck up on me, and one made me cry.

The Universe Explained: A Cosmic Q & A literally threw itself at my feet while walking past it in the lobby.  It’s 281 pages of awesomeness, asking and answering questions you’ve had about the cosmos and then some.  Questions are divided into chapters covering the seen (celestial bodies, space exploration, technology) and the unseen (alien life, black holes, the universe’s edge).  Each question is succinctly answered on its own page and accompanied by a full-color illustration. A helpful glossary in the back defines unfamiliar terms. Authors Heather Couper and Nigel Henbest have created an accessible book with plenty of eye-catching appeal.  Use it to answer your own questions or give it to a young person (upper elementary and older) with an appetite for reading or science or both. This would be a great title to explore as a family, sparking curiosity and discussion.

I’ve long enjoyed Ruth Reichl’s food writing; her heady descriptions of the culinary life have inspired and delighted me immensely.  I was excited to finally read her latest, Save Me the Plums: My Gourmet Memoir, covering her stint as Gourmet’s editor-in-chief and the magazine’s last days before being closed by Conde Nast.  I imagined a behind-the-scenes look at the Gourmet kitchens accompanied by lush descriptions of dishes created there, and that’s the outcome…sort of.  The book is long on magazine publishing and short on food. Reichl’s normally unhurried pace and rich description take a back seat to what sometimes feels like a breathless recitation of industry names and events by an avowed outsider trying to find her place in that world.  This is more a case of managed expectations on my part than an indictment of her writing quality. Save Me the Plums does exactly what it claims–explores Reichl’s journey into the world of luxury publishing, keeping her wit and outlook intact.  To explore what gems she has to offer, start with Reichl’s earlier memoirs or her amusing journey as the New York Times restaurant critic then come back to the rest of the story.

Don Brown has a talent for telling difficult stories using spare, strong words and pictures.  His non-fiction graphic novels have garnered acclaim and made award lists; more importantly, they engage readers and open them to experiences near and far.  Brown’s text and art are like a good movie soundtrack which doesn’t call attention to itself but lets the story take the spotlight. The Unwanted: Stories of the Syrian Refugees is no exception.  It combines thorough research with first-hand accounts to track the plight of people fleeing war and death.  The art–pen and ink with digital paint–conveys struggle and desperation in watercolor greys and sepia tones.  The few bright spots are oranges and reds of explosions. Seemingly simplistic, the illustrations and spare text pack are moving.  Brown includes background information, research notes, and a bibliography at the end. Give this to teens and adults with an interest in current events or history or start a conversation with a teen who may have only heard of this in passing.  Also, try Brown’s other acclaimed graphic novels for teens exploring the Dust Bowl and Hurricane Katrina.

Reading Nora McInerny’s book The Hot Young Widows Club: Lessons on Survival from the Front Lines of Grief knocked me for a loop.  I haven’t cried that hard over a book since Where the Red Fern Grows in the 5th grade.  This is a 91-page grief memoir packing a gigantic, emotional gut punch.  It’s also a life preserver for the bereaved and a handy tool for those who aren’t at the moment.  (Because, as the author points out, “Here is one important thing we all have in common: literally everyone we know and love will die.”)  McInerny experienced a miscarriage plus the deaths of her father and husband within 7 weeks of each other. Afterward, she and another woman founded the titular club; along the way, she’s gathered observations, advice, and encouragement into a valuable resource for all of us.  McInerny’s forthright, concise style is packed with humor and sass. She offers support, space, and survival tips to those who are grieving and concrete advice to those who want to help but don’t know how. If you are grieving or know someone who is, try this book–it has so much to offer.

Hoopla electronic resources

This week, instead of writing a book review, I wanted to take a minute to introduce a new service for Joplin Public Library patrons. It’s called Hoopla, and it’s a great way to use a variety of electronic resources. Whether you need audiobooks for your commute, want to preview the newest Ariana Grande album, or want to watch a documentary, Hoopla has something for you to enjoy.

Hoopla is similar to Overdrive, the library’s other primary source of eBooks. With Hoopla, you can check out eBooks and eAudiobooks using your library card. However, Hoopla also offers movies, television shows, graphic novels, and music. Hoopla has a wide selection of items for all ages and interests. There’s even a “Kids Mode” setting parents can use to help kids make age-appropriate reading choices. Finding content for the whole family is super easy.

The eBooks and eAudiobooks work similarly to other services. You choose what you want to read, and download it to your device. You can customize the eBook display to what suits your needs best with font sizes and screen color. The eAudiobooks are very easy to use, also. I do wish, however, that the chapters of the eAudiobooks were divided into separate tracks. But, the app will remember where you stop your audiobooks and resume playing where you left off.

The movies available through Hoopla cover an impressive range. From cult classics like the original Suspira to new releases like the amazing documentary RBG, there is certainly something for everyone. Looking for kid-friendly Halloween movies? There’s a category for that. Looking to host a vampire-themed Halloween party? There’s a category for that, too.

Can’t get enough PAW Patrol? Hoopla has you covered. There are plenty of great selections to help keep kiddos happy during road trips over the upcoming holiday season. But there are plenty of options for the adults, too, like Miss Marple and Doc Martin, and if you’re looking to get your heartrate up, pretty much everything Jillian Michaels has released. Looking to learn? Check out the offering from the Great Courses series, which can teach you about pretty much anything you’re interested in, from yoga to robotics.

I love the comics Hoopla offers. Again, the selections cover all age ranges and interests. But it’s how easy they are to read that really makes me love using them. You don’t need a huge e-reader to get the most out of Hoopla’s comics. You can read them in page view, but Hoopla also breaks down each page so you can read them panel by panel, which is great for reading on your phone or for those with visual impairments.

Using Hoopla is also incredibly easy. You can access with an app or at www.hoopladigital.com. You can even access Hoopla with a TV service like Apple TV or Roku. Just create your account, using whatever e-mail address you prefer, you library card number, and your library card PIN number. And then, voila! Access to thousands of electronic resources.

My favorite thing about Hoopla? No waiting list. That’s right. If you see something you want, it’s yours to check out right away. My least favorite thing about Hoopla? The monthly limit on items. I’ll be honest, it has to do with the Library’s budgetary constraints. We only have so much money to spend on Hoopla. But this circles back to another great Hoopla feature. You can add items to your “favorites” list and come back to them when the next month comes around.

Whether you’re an experienced eBook reader or just getting started with the format, I think Hoopla is a great service to use. There are so many options that you’re sure to find something you love. Plus, their content is updating constantly, so there’s always something new to discover. Get started today at www.hoopladigital.com!

Review by: Leslie Hayes