Boxers & Saints are a masterful pair of graphic novels that offer perspective on both sides of China's Boxer Rebellion, a decade long struggle that I am ashamed to say I knew nothing about. The struggle hinged upon the arrival of Europeans who brought Christianity to the Chinese along with an unfortunate dose of subjugation.
Zombie Baseball Beatdown appears to have been written exclusively to combine the undead with baseball bats—in the most splattery combination possible. This does not make Paolo Bacigalupi's first book for middle grade readers bad. In fact, he manages to inject some pretty great commentary into this wild zombie romp.
Storms batter the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Always have. Always will. Ships break up in those dangerous seas. Sometimes there are survivors but oftentimes not. It’s 1898, and waiting and watching are the surfmen—the rescuers of the Lifesaving Service—who take out boats in horrible weather and try to save whom they can. In Teetoncey, by Theodore Taylor, twelve-year-old Ben O’Neal is determined to become a surfman, leaving his mother’s storm-swaying house on a terrible night to go help at the Rescue Station. He’s seen the flare, and he knows—there’s a ship in trouble.
Grace Pizzelli lacks pizzazz—or sparkle or brilliance or whatever you want to call it—unlike her brainy, beautiful, popular sister Emily. Grace was dozing off peacefully one day in trigonometry class when an unexpected summons to the principal’s office interrupted her nap. Mom was there, looking frantic and very un-put-together and, frankly, very unMomlike. Emily is missing. No, not her body. They know right where that is, but her mind is stuck somewhere in a video game. On purpose, no less, which is very unlike the totally perfect college student and computer genius everybody knows. In Deadly Pink, by Vivian Vande Velde, the Rasmussen gaming company has a huge problem. Players can only stay in total immersion games for so long before their bodies can’t take it anymore. If Emily doesn’t come out soon, she’s in big trouble, not to mention Rasmussen having a giant publicity meltdown over their dead programmer. Not dead as in messed-up-in-the-game-start-over dead, but really dead.
Jennifer Strange is The Last Dragonslayer, but just yesterday she was your ordinary foundling girl, helping to run a magical business in which wizards specialize in plumbing, speedy organ delivery, and getting cats down from trees. As you can see, magic is no longer held in as high regard as it used to be. Oh, and they just lost the organ delivery contract.
Axe Cop: the name says it all. One day a cop found a magical axe and used it to fight crime. Around the same time, five-year-old Malachai Nicolle teamed up with his professional artist brother Ethan to write a comic book. Ethan took Malachai's words—which usually involve explosions, aliens, and secret attacks—and gave them a visual flourish. And thus Axe Cop was born.
Contained in these pages is a frenzy of unchecked childhood imagination that has been given infinite space to roam free. Malachai invents adventures involving machine gun-toting dinosaurs on the Moon and magic babies with unicorn horns. Axe Cop's adventures are narrated in a plain-spoken manner which adds to their appeal. Axe Cop always says exactly what he is thinking.
Alina Starkov has never felt like she belonged. Orphaned and adopted by a duke, Alina meets an equally parentless boy named Mal. The two are inseparable, referred to by the duke's servants as melenchki, little ghosts, as they giggle throughout the vast house. Of course, such things cannot always stay the same.
Shadow and Bone, by Leigh Bardugo, is set in an alternate version of pre-revolution Russia. In this nation, known as Ravka, the new world is starting to infringe on the old. It used to be the Grisha who maintained order. The Grisha are powerful beings who can manipulate living things, the elements, and metals as if using magic. New weaponry and a multiple-front war are changing all of that though.
Darcy Jones has been bouncing from foster home to foster home around Chicago for most of her short life. She remembers nothing from her early childhood. She has finally managed to spend more than a year with a foster parent and finally has some friends at her high school.
Little does Darcy know that there is an alternate world just like this one as well as an alternate Chicago. But in that world, the Great Chicago Fire never happened. In that world, The Shadow Society remains a deadly threat.
When a mysterious new boy at school, Conn McCrea, captures Darcy’s attention... her heart soon follows. She is about to find out though that Conn is from that alternate world, and so is she.
There's that familiar anecdote: a child gets a nice, big, expensive toy for his birthday. The parents have spent hours putting it together,. For all of their sweat, pain, and suffering they find that the child is most fascinated with the big cardboard box the toy came in.
Cardboard, by Doug TenNapel, is a clever variation on that premise. Mike, an out-of-work carpenter, has nothing for his son Cam's birthday. A strange old man approaches him with an offer. For just a handful of change, Mike can get his son an amazing gift. It may seem like an ordinary cardboard box, but whatever Cam makes out of the corrugated paper pulp comes to life.
A Covenant and a Code
In Sherwood Smith’s Crown Duel, it’s been hundreds of years since the mysterious Hill Folk went to war with the people of Remalna to defend their groves of colortrees, whose rich hues of blue and red and gold made them valuable for trade. The Hill Folk fought back with their all of their magical powers and easily defeated their foes. At last a truce was reached. The Remalnan settlers would cut no more wood, and in exchange the Hill Folk would give magical Fire Sticks to last them the winter.