For the past two years I have been following the Cybils (Children's and Young Adult Bloggers' Literary Awards) and hoping to one day serve on the judging panel. 2011 is my year because I will be spending the next few months reading a zillion books as one of the panelists in the Graphic Novels category! I jumped up and down when I got the news.
Big Nate: In a Class by Himself, will look familiar to any Diary of a Wimpy Kid fans. At first I was upset that the format was exactly the same as the Wimpy Kid books, but then I saw an approving quote from WK author Jeff Kinney on the cover and learned that Lincoln Peirce has been publishing this comic strip for twenty years, so I jumped off my high horse and enjoyed the book.
While the layout of the books may be identical--narrative prose mixed with fun illustrations--the protagonists are very different. Greg is a bit of a lovable loser with a mean streak. Big Nate, on the other hand, is an extremely confident rebel with a good-boy heart. He lives with his single dad (hooray for diverse families!) and older sister, but spends most of the book at school with his pals. When he receives a fortune cookie stating, "Today you will surpass all others", he imagines all the amazing glory the day holds for him. Unfortunately, he spends the rest of the day collecting detention slips from his teachers. You can see where this is going.
One thing I love about adolescent readers is that when they find something they like, they devour it (me too, check the title). My students are huge fans of Big Nate, with this book ranking #4 in our school library. Lucky for them, there are four other books in the series, with more to follow.
Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute is the first in a series of graphic novels detailing the adventures of a lunch lady who is also a superhero. When evil robots begin invading her school in the guise of substitute teachers, Lunch Lady using every weapon at her disposal to take them out. Lucky for readers who may be getting their first taste (heh) of puns, those weapons are fish-stick nunchucks, a spatucopter, and cannoli-oculars.
The panels and illustrations in Jarret J. Krosoczka's book are easy to follow and the color palette is yellow, gray, and white. Young and developing readers will enjoy the funny plot and witty details, as well as the emphasis on action. Because it is such a quick read, I recommend checking this book (and the five that follow it) out of the library.