Catstronauts: Mission Moon is the first in a promising new graphic novel series that will appeal to readers who love cats or space travel. It’s kind of sciencey but mostly just silly slapstick fun. The cats are adorable, especially Waffles, who is constantly sneaking snacks and worrying about his growling stomach. Meant for upper elementary readers, but I can see middle-grade readers enjoying this series too. (For that matter, I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a big success with my college students!)
Child Soldier is a nonfiction graphic novel that recounts the true story of Michel Chikwanine, who grew up in the Democratic Republic of Congo and was kidnapped at the age of five and forced to become a child soldier. Humphreys writes about very difficult and complex issues in a way that is accessible to kids, and it’s a story that young readers need to know. But be prepared: parts of the story are extremely harrowing. There is extensive back matter to support further learning and understanding.
Erin Entrada Kelly’s first novel, Blackbird Fly, is a thoughtful exploration of culture, family, belonging, friendship, bullying, and music. That’s a lot to tackle in a first novel, but believable characters and a tight plot give the themes a focus.
The text didn’t work quite as well for me in A Funny Thing Happened at the Museum as it has in other Cali-Chaud collaborations, but Benjamin Chaud’s illustrations continue to charm and delight.
The Book of Joy ended up being a skim read for me. It takes awhile to get going, but once Abrams is into the meat of the conversations between the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the narrative does pick up. In the early chapters, I struggled with the amount of extraneous detail, down to the color of the blanket the Archbishop covers up with on the flight. (Beige, in case you’re curious. But you weren’t, right? Because the color of the blanket doesn’t matter, especially when that color is beige.) Every nap, every cup of tea, every breeze gets chronicled with just as much attention as the deepest philosophical idea. It makes for an unbalanced book that, in my view, would have been much stronger had it been shaped and focused a little more intentionally.