The Three Pigs| David Wiesner
Summary: This Caldecott Medal-winning picture book begins placidly (and familiarly) enough, with three pigs collecting materials and going off to build houses of straw, sticks, and bricks. But the wolf’s huffing and puffing blows the first pig right out of the story . . . and into the realm of pure imagination. The transition signals the start of a freewheeling adventure with characteristic David Wiesner effects—cinematic flow, astonishing shifts of perspective, and sly humor, as well as episodes of flight. Satisfying both as a story and as an exploration of the nature of story, The Three Pigs takes visual narrative to a new level.
Gush Sesh: This version of the classic Three Little Pigs sends the characters outside their world (and their media as a storybook) to befriend other icons of fairy tales and bedtime stories. There are four different artistic styles shown along the pigs’ adventures, a genius move on Wiesner’s part to express the different ‘worlds’ of upon-page and outside-page. The plot is a little manic for the very young and might need a bit of explanation – it’s certainly more sophisticated than the usually simple Three Little Pigs story. While a digital copy might be just as compelling to enjoy visually as a paper copy, younger readers will thrill at mechanically manipulating the pages as they turn from cover to cover.
Mangaman | Barry Lyga
Summary: Ryoko, a manga character from a manga world, falls through the Rip into the “real” world—the western world—and tries to survive as the ultimate outsider at a typical American high school.
When Ryoko falls in love with Marissa Montaigne, the most beautiful girl in the school, his eyes turn to hearts and comic tension tightens as his way of being drawn and expressing himself clashes with this different Western world in which he is stuck in. “Panel-holed” for being different, Ryoko has to figure out how to get back to his manga world, back through the Rip . . . all while he has hearts for eyes for a girl from the wrong kind of comic book. Barry Lyga writes a metafictive masterpiece as manga meets traditional Western comic book style, while Colleen Doran combines manga techniques with Western comic book conventions.
Gush Sesh: If you are already familiar with the standard tropes of manga, you won’t need help getting it. Should a reader who is unfamiliar with the Japanese comic book style of expression/art, this work includes a great glossary at the back, including the definition for concepts like Decompression and why manga uses taller word balloons than American comics. It’s an adorable fast love story as characters explore their differences and try to understand ‘where the other is coming from’. The action of the story is essentially love-born battle during school and the mystery of the kaiju from beyond borders. It’s not realistic and a lot of fun to spend a bit of time with so long as you note it is for teens and up (the most graphic scene is pixilated out as per manga’s custom).
Okay for Now | Gary Schmidt
Summary: From an outsider’s point of view, one might think that the Swieteck family from Long Island were a bunch of thugs, the skinniest one being Doug, the youngest of three brothers. Kids being raised under less-than-stellar circumstances in the late 1960’s didn’t have a lot of protection from their own fast-fisted fathers. But Doug’s story of moving to a small town for his father’s job change isn’t about the negative in his life – it’s about the possibilities. No one gives Doug a free ride or expects very much from him. That’s why he has to finagle, bargain with, and in some cases extort what he wants from the adults that gradually learn more about him beyond the scrappy exterior image he projects.
Gush Sesh: I first prepared to listen to an audio version when I discovered that there are important images included in the print copies. DO NOT MISS having a print copy in front of you unless you also have access to certain of John James Audubon’s Birds of America plates. They are necessary for full enjoyment of the story and the main character’s progression as a young man. For the best reading experience, use a print copy of Okay for Now or have the Audubon images at hand to repeatedly reference.
Calamity Jack | Shannon and Dean Hale
Summary: Jack likes to think of himself as a criminal mastermind with an unfortunate amount of bad luck. A schemer, plotter, planner, trickster, swindler, maybe even thief? One fine day Jack picks a target more giant than the usual, and one little bean turns into a great big building-destroying beanstalk. With help from Rapunzel (and her trusty braids), a pixie from Jack’s past, and a man with inventions from the future, they just might out-swindle the evil giants and put his beloved city back in the hands of good people while catapulting themselves and readers into another fantastical adventure.
Gush Sesh: Note that Rapunzel’s Revenge precedes this work with introduction of the world and characters in exciting fashion – you might want to pick it up first. This retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk is set in a fictional early American west city with steampunk mechanical inventions and the idealized adventuring spirit of Victorian times. I found many instances of what teenagers might feel and think within the main character’s dialogue – it’s a relatable if not believable story. Jack’s signature less-than-perfect Plan B styling shows in every plot he hatches. Vividly shown and told, this work’s movement is made through both character gesture and panel position.
Monster | Walter Dean Myers
Summary: This New York Times bestselling novel from acclaimed author Walter Dean Myers tells the story of Steve Harmon, a teenage boy in juvenile detention and on trial. Presented as a screenplay of Steve’s own imagination, and peppered with journal entries, the book shows how one single decision can change our whole lives. Monster is a multi-award-winning, provocative coming-of-age story that was the first-ever Michael L. Printz Award recipient, an ALA Best Book, a Coretta Scott King Honor selection, and a National Book Award finalist. When Steve isn’t certain just what his role is, he hopes to understand his place in the world by rehashing what his identity means with film cuts and self-interviews, making this YA novel deserving of visual absorption in paper format for the illustrations and photographs.
Gush Sesh: We all have facets to explore and understand within us; more so the teenager that is caught between childhood limitations and adulthood responsibilities. Myers has created a work that allows Steve to ‘see’ his neighborhood and people like him in different situations. He sees the reactions of other people change (his defense attorney, his father, the jurors) as they encounter him over the time the trial takes and wonders about himself, ‘what is it they see in me?’ A strength of this novel asks if society perceives us in one manner, can we change that perception to become something else? Additionally offered in graphic novel form and out as the movie Monster (2018) starring Kelvin Harrison Jr. with Jennifer Hudson.