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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

Tag Archives | Ben Hatke

Capers and Cons

When you (or your students) want a book that keeps you turning the pages for your weeknight and weekend reading, here are some suggestions for books with that nimble pacing and what-are-they-up-to plots. Many of them are just right for middle grade or avid younger-than-that readers, with a couple of teen titles added. (And, of course, all are suitable for reading by adults.)

Adam Canfield of the Slash  

Adam Canfield of the Slash
written by Michael Winerip
Candlewick Press, 2005

This book is by turns funny and serious, but Adam Canfield is always interested in discovering the truth. Written by a New York Times columnist (on education) who won a Pulitzer Prize, Winerip knows what his readers will find interesting. Adam reluctantly accepts the position of co-editor of their school paper. He’s skeptical when a third-grader uncovers a possible scandal. Adam and his co-editor, Jennifer, take the story to the principal, who forbids them to investigate. Adam and Jennifer can’t help themselves and they’re soon uncovering secrets.  Even though school papers are mostly digital now, this book will motivate readers to be truth seekers.

Con Academy  

Con Academy
written by Joe Schreiber
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2015

For teen readers: Senior Michael Shea has conned his way into one of the country’s elite prep schools. He’s an old hand at cons, but he’s unprepared to meet Andrea, his competition. When the two of them set up a competition to con the school’s Big Man on Campus out of $50,000, the stakes are high. One twist after another, a full crew of grifters brought in to effect the con … this book reads cinematically and moves along quickly.

Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant's Tomb  

Eddie Red Undercover: Doom at Grant’s Tomb
written by Marcia Wells, illustrated by Marcos Calo
HMH Books for Young Readers, 2016

Having just finished the third book in the series, I’m a fan of the youngest investigator working for the NYPD. There’s a back story for that, of course, but Eddie has an eidetic memory and a quicksilver mind … he’s good at solving crimes. The police are always reluctant to involve Eddie because he’s only 12 years old, but the kid’s good at what he does. In this installment, it appears that Eddie is being targeted for serious consequences by international art thieves whom he’s foiled before. The thieves are stealing valuable items from well-known landmarks. Can Eddie psych them out before they catch up with him?

 

Framed!

 

Framed!
written by James Ponti
Aladdin, 2016

Jess Aarons has been practicing all summer so he can be the fastest runner in the fifth grade. And he almost is, until the new girl in school, Leslie Burke, outpaces him. The two become fast friends and spend most days in the woods behind Leslie’s house, where they invent an enchanted land called Terabithia. One morning, Leslie goes to Terabithia without Jess and a tragedy occurs. It will take the love of his family and the strength that Leslie has given him for Jess to be able to deal with his grief.

Illyrian Adventure  

Illyrian Adventures
written by Lloyd Alexander
Dutton Books, 1987

This is the first of six books about 16-year-old Vesper Holly who, in 1872, in the company of her guardian, Binnie, travels to Illyria on the Adriatic Sea to prove one of her late father’s theories. She’s a girl with modern sensibilities set against Binnie’s conservative concerns. Vesper gets caught up in fast-paced intrigue with a rebellion against the king, all the while managing to search for the legendary treasure. With Mr. Alexander’s characteristic humor, and a touch of romance, this series is fun to read and definitely qualifies as a turn-the-page adventure.

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush  

Jack London and the Klondike Gold Rush
written by Peter Lourie, illustrated by Wendell Minor
Henry Holt, 2017

Teens will enjoy this one. When Jack London turns 21, the Gold Rush of 1897 compels treasure seekers from around the world to trek through life-threatening conditions to get to the gold fields in the Yukon Territory of Canada. Jack is swept up in the excitement, assembling a team of adventurers and supplies to withstand the cruel journey. That someone this young could command respect and camaraderie speaks loudly about his character. This true story serves as an excellent companion books for Call of the Wild and White Fang, Jack London’s Klondike stories. A real page-turner.

Magic Misfits  

Magic Misfits
written by Neill Patrick Harris, illus by Lissy Marlin
Little, Brown Books, 2017

This thoroughly enjoyable book follows Carter when he runs away from his crooked, thieving uncle to the New England town of Mineral Wells, a surprisingly welcoming place. Convinced that magic isn’t real, and yet a talented street magician, Carter is soon befriended by a group of Magic Misfits who set out to expose a circus that’s a front for a well-orchestrated, and dangerous, team of grifters. Adventurous, funny, heartwarming, this will capture readers’ imaginations. 

Mighty Jack  

Mighty Jack
written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2016

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
written and illustrated by Ben Hatke
First Second, 2017

In the first book, Jack’s sister Maddy persuades him to trade their Mom’s car for a box of mysterious seeds … and the adventure begins. These are not, of course, ordinary seeds. They grow strange, otherworldly creatures and the kids, including next-door-neighbor Lilly, are challenged to deal with creatures run amok.

In the second book, an ogre snatches Maddy into another world with Jack and Lilly determined to rescue her. Along the way, we meet goblins (good) and ogres (bad) and Lilly fulfills a prophecy. It’s all very exciting and well-told with vibrant, engrossing illustrations.

Parker Inheritance  

Parker Inheritance
written by Varian Johnson
Arthur A. Levine Books / Scholastic, 2018

In modern-day Lambert, Candice discovers a mystery in her grandmother’s letters. In the 1950s, her grandmother left Lambert in shame, but it’s soon apparent to Candice and her friend Brandon that racism was behind those events … and they reflect that things haven’t changed that much. Reading this book will bring your creative problem-solving skills into play. There’s intrigue, humor, and a lot to think about in this story. 

Player King  

Player King
written by Avi
Atheneum, 2017

In 1846, young Lambert Simnel slaves away in a London tavern, completely unaware of the politics of the land.  When he’s purchased in the middle of the night by a friar, he’s astounded when the man reveals, “You, Lambert, are actually Prince Edward, the true King of England!” King Henry VII has just claimed the throne of England, but only after Prince Edward, who has a truer claim, disappears. Could Lambert be the real prince? How could he not remember this? Based on a blip in history, this is a fascinating look at a confidence job planned by politicians whose lives are at stake.

Riddle in Ruby  

Riddle in Ruby
written by Kent Davis
Greenwillow Books, 2015

In an alternate history colonial Philadelphia, Ruby Teach is training to be a thief and a guardian of secrets. It isn’t until she meets young Lord Athen that she begins to understand that her entire life has been kept secret from the powers that be. In this world, those powers use alchemy to fuel the Industrial Revolution. It’s a fast-paced, funny, and compelling book, the first of a trilogy, with The Changer’s Key and The Great Unravel providing the rest of the story.

Supernatural Sleuthing Service  

Supernormal Sleuthing Service
written by Gwenda Bond and Christopher Rowe,
illustrated by Glenn Thomas
Greenwillow Books, 2017

Stephen and his dad are moving cross-country so Dad can be the new executive chef at the New Harmonia, a New York City hotel for supernormals (read: monsters!) It isn’t long before Stephen discovers he’s part supernormal himself! When Stephen is framed for stealing a valuable heirloom, he teams up with two new friends to prove his innocence. It’s a spooky story, filled with humor and hijinks, and there’s a second book, The Sphinx’s Secret. You know the right reader for these books!

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Mighty Jack

Mighty Jack and the Goblin KingWe are thrust into the midst of the action, which never stops until the epilogue. This is how Ben Hatke tells a story.

We don’t know what’s going on. There’s no setup. Instead, we quickly learn that Jack is climbing some vegetative matter to find the ogre who kidnapped his sister Maddy and take her home. His friend, Lilly, no sidekick, is climbing alongside him.

The villains of the piece are rats, giants, and that ogre. They have control of a nexus point that exists outside of time and space, a connecting link between worlds. It looks like the tower of a castle built on an asteroid. The place has lost its luster because of the giants’ nefarious choices, among them the need to feed a human child to the machine that blocks the bridges between worlds. It’s satisfying to discover these plot points throughout the story.

Jack and Lilly are split up when Lilly falls from the vine (a rat is responsible). Jack vows to come back for her but he is compelled to find Maddy.

“This is not earth,” illustration from Jack and the Mighty Goblin King by Ben Hatke

The adventure takes off in two directions. Lilly is seriously hurt by the rats … and saved by the goblins who inhabit the lower reaches of the nexus point. The Goblin King demands that Lilly will be his bride. She has other ideas. In the “trash from all worlds,” she finds a Shelby Mustang. She will find a way to take it with her. Lilly is a hero in the truest sense of the word.

The goblins are the most endearing characters in the book. They are funny, resourceful, knowledgeable, and they care for Lilly. Their language is not exactly English and it suits them. Now we know how goblins communicate.

There are unanswered questions. Why can’t Maddy talk? Where did the magic seeds come from that give Jack and Lilly short bursts of needed power? Why is Jack’s mother’s house being foreclosed? These are the intriguing bits that encourage the reader to fill in the story, becoming one with the storyteller.

Hatke’s artwork is so much a part of the story that the book couldn’t be read out loud without showing the frames of the graphic novel. His brain creates exotic settings that invite lingering to absorb their oddness. His villains are dastardly, fearsome, inviting us to defeat them. The goblins are other-worldly but a little cuddly. (Just a little.) The color palette is spacey where appropriate,  convincingly subterranean when we’re in the goblin’s habitat, and quite richly appealing when the vegetation transforms. And that Shelby Mustang!

The book is filled with surprises. A turn of the page often brings an unexpected turn of events. Even the epilogue, often used to wrap up a story and tell us about the future, leaves us with a  sense of urgency: what will happen next?

There is a first book, Mighty Jack, which I have not read. It most likely creates the world in which Lilly, Jack, Maddy, and Phelix the dragon (!) live, but I’m very glad that a reader doesn’t have to first read that book to enjoy this one. I always hated going to my cousin Sig’s house, reading his comic books, never knowing where the stories were coming from or how they would end because they were published episodically. 

This is storytelling at its very best. Appealing, fun, hold-your-breath storytelling. I could have revealed that this is a re-telling of the Jack and the Beanstalk story but it is so much more than that. Ben Hatke’s powers enchant his readers once again.

(Please be advised that this might have a PG13 rating because of some violence and one swear word. You’ll know best if this fits for your family.)

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King
a graphic novel by Ben Hatke
color by Alex Campbell and Hilary Sycamore
published by First Second, 2017
ISBN 978-1-6267-226-68

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The Shadow Hero Companion Booktalks

A 12-pack to get you started on the Bookstorm™ Books …

bk_100_5Minute5-Minute Marvel Stories, by Disney Book Group, Marvel Press, 2012. Ages 3 and up.

  • Perfect read-aloud length for younger fans
  • Nice introduction for newcomers to Spiderman, Ironman, the Hulk, the Avengers, the X-Men, Captain America
  • Other than a few swinging fists, little violence

bk_100_BoysSteelBoys of Steel: the Creators of Superman, by Marc Tyler Nobleman, illustrated by Ross Macdonald, Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers, 2008. Ages 8 and up.

  • How two high school outsiders created the most famous super hero
  • Picture book format but text and illustrations will appeal to independent readers
  • Back matter includes the story of the writer and artist’s super struggle to be acknowledged and compensated fully for their creation

bk_100_BrothersBrothers, by Yin, illustrations by Chris Soentpiet, Philomel, 2006. Ages 8 and up.

  • The story of Ming, a Chinese immigrant who arrives in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1800s
  • A friendships story develops when Ming defies an older brother’s orders and ventures past the Chinatown border
  • Beautiful, detailed wide-spread water color illustrations on every page 

bk_100_CompleteGuideComplete Guide to Figure Drawing for Comics and Graphic Novels, by Dan Cooney, Barron’s Educational Series, 2012. Ages 10 and up.

  • Every page has multiple tips and examples with very readable text and clear illustrations.
  • Emphasizes classic comic book action poses and character
  • Back matter includes advice on submitting portfolios and a glossary 

bk_100_DragonwingsDragonwings, by Laurence Yep, HarperCollins, 1977.

  • In the early 20th Century, a young boy travels from China to America to meet a father he doesn’t know.
  • Part of the Golden Mountain series consisting of 10 books
  • Newbery Honor book 

     


bk_100_FoiledFoiled by Jane Yolen, illustrations by Mike Cavallaro, First Second, 2011. Ages 8 and up.

  • Aliera’s ordinary life changes when she meets a new guy, acquires a new sword (she’s into fencing) and one day heads to Grand Central Station
  • Manga-style illustrations alternate between two-tone (ordinary world) and full color (the fantastic), occasionally merging
  • Details of fencing skills and equipment provide unusual background and good character development

bk_100_MarvelWayHow to Draw Comics the Marvel Way, by Stan Lee and John Buscema, Touchstone, 1984. Ages 8 and up.

  • Author Stan Lee is the creator of many comics legends, Buscema is the illustrator of many current comics
  • Many examples begin with stick figures and develop step by step—perfect for novice and experienced illustrator
  • Includes glossary

bk_100_LittleWhiteLittle White Duck: a Childhood in China, by Na Liu and Andres Vera Martinez, illustrations by Andrés Vera Martínez. Graphic Universe, 2012. Ages 8 and up.

  • Graphic memoir about Na Liu’s childhood in 1970s China; wife/husband collaboration
  • Divided into 8 short stories
  • Includes glossary of Chinese words and at-a-glance timeline of Chinese history

bk_100_PowerlessPowerless, by Matthew Cody, Knopf, 2009. Ages 8 and up.

  • Daniel is the new kid in a town—and the only one his age without a superpower
  • A Sherlock Holmes fan, Daniel decides to unearth the mystery behind the superpowers his new friends have—and why they disappear at age 13
  • First in series of three

bk_SharkKing_extendedShark King by R. Kikuo Johnson, TOON Books, 2013. Ages 4 to 8. Asian Pacific ALA’s Literary Award.

  • Child-friendly version of a Hawaiian myth
  • Clean layout—no sensory overload from text or illustrations
  • Includes discussion material for teachers and parents

     


bk_100ABCSuperHero ABC, written and illustrated by Bob McLeod, HarperCollins, 2008. Ages 3 and up.

  • An alphabet book, not a primer on superheroes, with comic-like illustrations
  • Humorous original heroes and heroines, such as Bubbleman and Firefly
  • Good prompt for individual or group superhero writing or drawing project

bk_Zita100Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke, First Second, 2011. Ages 8 and up.

  • Graphic novel with a Wizard of Oz storyline: young girl is transported to a strange world
  • Though Zita is trying to save an abducted friend, and though the planet is about to be destroyed, the text and art are more about fun than fear
  • How many weird creatures can you find?

 

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Lowriders in Space Companion Booktalks

 

To get you started on the Bookstorm™ books …

13 Planets13 Planets: The Latest View of the Solar System, by David A. Aguilar. National Geographic Children’s Books, 2011.  Grades 2-6

  • Report material galore, beautifully organized
  • Illustrated with a combination of photographs and digital art
  • Includes several hands-on activities

Car Science coverCar Science: an Under-the-Hood, Behind-the-Dash Look at How Cars Work, by Richard Hammond, DK Books, 2008. Grades 3 and up

  • Key physics concepts as they relate to how cars run
  • DK’s signature exploded diagrams, cutaways, and high-interest visuals
  • Material is divided into intriguing sections: Power, Speed, Handling, and Technology

Chato's Kitchen coverChato’s Kitchen, by Gary Soto, illustrations by Susan Guevara, Penguin, 1997. Preschool through Grade 3.

  • Mouse family vs Chato, a very cool cat
  • Good story for “prediction”
  • Spanish and English vocabulary

Draw 50 Cars coverDraw 50 Cars, Trucks, and Motorcycles: The Step-by-Step Way to Draw Dragsters, Vintage Cars, Dune Buggies, Mini Choppers, and Much More, by Lee J. Ames, Watson-Guptill, 2012.  Grade 1 through Adult.

  • From a Disney studios artist
  • Variety of drawing projects suitable for range of experience
  • “Step-by-step” is really layer-by-layer, showing how a drawing is “built”

Girls Think of Everything coverGirls Think of Everything: Stories of Ingenious Inventions by Women, by Catherine Thimmesh, illustrated by Melissa Sweet, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2002. Grades 3 and up.

  • Sibert-winning author, Caldecott-winning artist
  • Inventions from exotic to familiar
  • Inventors and inventions going back to 3000 BC

If I Built a CarIf I Built a Car, by Chris Van Dusen. Dutton Books for Young Readers, 2005.  Primary grades.

  • 2006 E.B. White Read Aloud Award
  • Classic Van Dusen illustrations: bold colors, cartoon-style (look for hidden references to a few other Van Dusen books)
  • Great discussion starter for all ages: What kind of car would YOU design?

Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush coverMr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush, by Luis Alberto Urrea, illustrated by Christopher Cardinale, Cinco Puntos Press, 2010. Grades 7 and up.

  • Graphic novel about a graffiti artist and Mexican village life, with some magic realism
  • Narrative is a non-linear reminiscence—bold flashes of story to match the art
  • Richly-colored woodblock-style art

My Little Car coverMy Little Car, by Gary Soto, illustrated by Pam Paparone, Putnam, 2006. Preschool and primary grades.

  • Child-grandparent story
  • English and Spanish vocabulary
  • Just how do you make a car dance?

NicoVisitsNico Visits the Moon, by Honorio Robledo, Cinco Puntos Press, 2001. Preschool and primary grades.

  • Vivid, imaginative, art
  • Crawling baby, balloons, the moon—each page turn delivers a fantasy surprise
  • Bilingual in Spanish and English

Norther Lights coverNorthern Lights: The Science, Myth, and Wonder of the Aurora Borealis, by George Bryson, photographs by Calvin Hall and Daryl Pederson, Sasquatch Books, 2001. Grades 3 and up for looking at the photographs, grades 5 and up for the science.

  • Beautiful photographs that can be looked at again and again
  • Discusses the many myths and legends inspired by the lights
  • Concise explanation of geophysics behind the phenomenon

Remind coverRemind, by Jason Brubaker, Coffee Table Comics, 2011. Grades 5 and up.

  • Graphic novel with a great cast: Sonja, a young woman who is a mechanical genius; Victuals, her cat that may have received the brain of an exiled lizard man; an underwater colony of lizard people
  • Wonderful array of mechanical inventions (Discuss: what kind of gizmos would you like to invent?)
  • Crisp, uncluttered illustrations—at times suitably creepy

Shark King CoverShark King, by R. Kikuo Johnon, TOON Books, 2012. Grades 1 and up.

  • Child-friendly version of a Hawaiian myth
  • Clean, highly readable layout—no sensory overload from text or illustrations
  • Includes discussion material for teachers and parents

 


Zita coverZita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke, First Second, 2010.  Grades 3 and up.

  • Graphic novel with a Wizard of Oz storyline: young girl is transported to a strange world
  • Though Zita is trying to save an abducted friend, and though the planet is about to be destroyed, the text and art are more about fun than fear
  • How many weird creatures can you find?

 

 

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Return of Zita the Spacegirl

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Ben Hatke can’t conceive of, write, and draw these stories fast enough for me—and a host of other fans. Just released, this book follows Zita the Spacegirl (2010) and Legends of Zita the Spacegirl (2012). Doing the math, I know I won’t be reading the next installment until 2016. Whahhh. I’ve read so many stories […]

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