Review: El Deafo by Cece Bell

el deafo by cece bell

Starting at a new school is scary, even more so with a giant hearing aid strapped to your chest! At her old school, everyone in Cece’s class was deaf. Here she is different. She is sure the kids are staring at the Phonic Ear, the powerful aid that will help her hear her teacher. Too bad it also seems certain to repel potential friends.

Then Cece makes a startling discovery. With the Phonic Ear she can hear her teacher not just in the classroom, but anywhere her teacher is in school–in the hallway…in the teacher’s lounge…in the bathroom! This is power. Maybe even superpower! Cece is on her way to becoming El Deafo, Listener for All. But the funny thing about being a superhero is that it’s just another way of feeling different… and lonely. Can Cece channel her powers into finding the thing she wants most, a true friend?

This funny perceptive graphic novel memoir about growing up hearing impaired is also an unforgettable book about growing up, and all the super and super embarrassing moments along the way.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I actually read this on the recommendation of an advanced younger reader, and I have to say, it wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I can see other kids enjoying it, but the writing was just a little bit too off for me. The narration sounded stunted and awkward, and I couldn’t truly connect with Cece’s character. I sympathized with her, but I didn’t connect with her.

I think this is an amazing book to help readers learn about people with disabilities in a way that builds empathy and understanding, but outside of that, it wouldn’t be my first choice for anything. The artwork felt really awkward, and there was nothing especially beautiful or stunning about it. If anything, I laughed at many segments of it. For that, I note its humor, but I wasn’t too impressed by the art.

As for the story, this book follows Cece over the course of 4 or 5 grades. She struggles with her hearing and many different people who treat her differently because of it. She explores her disabilities, and I enjoyed following her through her ups and downs, and I wanted to hug her through it all. She gets taken advantage of or unintentioanlly made fun of by many people, and a lot of El Deafo consists of Cece learning to stand up for herself. By the end of the book, she starts learning to advocate for herself, and it was great to see that.

All in all, I would recommend this one. It’s definitely not the greatest disability book I’ve ever read, but it’s one of the first in middle-grade that deals with deafness. I think this book could do great things for younger readers, along with R.J. Palacio’s Wonder and Sharon M. Draper’s Out of My Mind. 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 248

Review: The Mighty Odds by Amy Ignatow

the mighty odds by amy ignatow

Publication Date: September 13th, 2016

When a sweet nerd, an artsy cartoonist, a social outcast, and the most popular girl in school are involved in a mysterious bus accident, this seemingly random group of kids starts to notice some very strange abilities they did not have before. Artsy Martina can change her eye color. Nerdy Nick can teleport . . . four inches to the left. Outcast Farshad develops super strength, but only in his thumbs. And Cookie, the It Girl of school’s most popular clique, has suddenly developed the ability to read minds . . . when those minds are thinking about directions. They are oddly mighty—especially together.

This group—who would never hang out under normal circumstances—must now combine all of their strengths to figure out what happened during the bus accident. With alternating narratives from each of the heroes, including illustrated pieces from Martina.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I can only describe this as the Breakfast Club for today’s middle-graders.

There were some not-so-great things about this book, but for the most part, I liked it. I love stories where unlikely characters come together, and The Mighty Odds did it right. I loved getting to know each character, and I enjoyed how Ignatow handled the cultural differences shown over the course of the novel. Everyone was distinct and unique, and I loved their individual journeys as well as the main one.

Also notable are the backstories of each character, which slowed down the pace but made them more nuanced.

My problem was with the writing. It was a little too immature. I think this would best fit kids who read mature children’s lit, or maybe low middle-grade. Some of the jokes are hilarious, but the dialogue was unnatural and it made the kids feel like book characters and not real people in the beginning.

Another thing is the format. If you’re looking for Popularity Papers format for boys, I would suggest taking a look at The Mighty Odds. The cartoons were very not my style. It looked crude and misshapen, as much as I wanted to love it.

Other than that, there were a lot of things about this book that I liked. I wasn’t expecting many of its elements, such as the emphasis on mystery and bullying. This is where the backstories become important, and it was great to see that develop. The synopsis isn’t too clear on the plot, but I enjoyed it and the ending left me wanting more.

3 stars.

Series: Mighty Odds #1

Review: Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi


Wise, funny, and heartbreaking, Persepolis is Marjane Satrapi’s memoir of growing up in Iran during the Islamic Revolution. In powerful black-and-white comic strip images, Satrapi tells the story of her life in Tehran from ages six to fourteen, years that saw the overthrow of the Shah’s regime, the triumph of the Islamic Revolution, and the devastating effects of war with Iraq. The intelligent and outspoken only child of committed Marxists and the great-granddaughter of one of Iran’s last emperors, Marjane bears witness to a childhood uniquely entwined with the history of her country.

Persepolis paints an unforgettable portrait of daily life in Iran and of the bewildering contradictions between home life and public life. Marjane’s child’s-eye view of dethroned emperors, state-sanctioned whippings, and heroes of the revolution allows us to learn as she does the history of this fascinating country and of her own extraordinary family. Intensely personal, profoundly political, and wholly original, Persepolis is at once a story of growing up and a reminder of the human cost of war and political repression. It shows how we carry on, with laughter and tears, in the face of absurdity. And, finally, it introduces us to an irresistible little girl with whom we cannot help but fall in love.

Description taken from Goodreads.

This is one of those books that wins awards but isn’t really all that.

It has its moments. It has its quotable sections. It has valuable lessons, and I must admit it offers an extraordinary look into the life of someone growing up in Iran in that time period. But I would never read this book for fun. I wouldn’t pick it up for anything other than research.

If I was researching, this would be a wonderful way to go about it, but I wouldn’t read it for reading’s sake the way I would with Art Spiegelman’s Maus.

And unlike Spiegelman’s Maus, the fact that it’s broken up into two books doesn’t make them individually stand on their own, endearing and autonomous. It makes the books weaker. The main difference between book 1 and book 2 is age. Marjane is much younger in the first book, so the second book consists of less childish ideals and more romantic notions. However, even though there’s that split, the first book ends so abruptly that things seem rushed.

The entire structure of the story was off. I disliked the way that even though the story continued on, each part to Marjane’s life felt like an episode rather a continuation of the plot. Each section was a little snippet, a show. One thing didn’t lead to the next. It made Marjane’s life as the heroine feel insignificant, like her story didn’t matter. It was punctuated by repetitive themes and not enough moving forward.

While I loved learning about the Islamic Revolution in a completely different way than I had learned it before, this isn’t a graphic novel that I would recommend to any middle-grader for the fun of reading it. Maybe because it’s diverse lit, but other than that, I wouldn’t recommend it. 2 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 160

#BEA16 Recap Part 2: Middle Grade Lit

For those of you who read The Silver Words, you know that I was at BEA these last few days! Book Expo America is the largest publishing conference in North America, and I was so excited to be a part of it this year. Although I didn’t really associate middle-grade books with BEA–I was mostly there for YA lit–I was amazed by the selection of YA and children’s titles that were available. Some of the ones I’m most excited about are:

top eight middle-grade books

And some other amazing books that I picked up are:

  • a sampler of Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier
  • a signed copy of Time Traveling with a Hamster by Ross Welford
  • a copy of The Lost Property Office by James R. Hannibal
  • a copy of Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas by Jonathan W. Stokes
  • a copy of The Changelings by Christina Soontornvat
  • a signed copy of Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang
  • a copy of Rebel Genius by Michael Dante DiMartino

It hit me first when I met Jennifer Nielsen (author of The Scourge and the False Prince series) and she told me that she wrote The Scourge for people like me who asked for a female version of Sage in The False Prince. It really hit me when I met Jennifer Holm, who wrote the Babymouse series that I grew up on.

The MG experience at BEA was different for me because I was meeting authors who were parts of my childhood.

Gene Luen Yang is one of my favorite graphic novelists of all time, and I GOT TO MEET HIM. It was, in a word, completely epic. While there were still authors who I met for the first time or who were debut novelists coming to BEA, most of the authors I was super excited to see weren’t, admittedly, promoting the books that made me love them. But all the same, it was a crazy experience for me to meet some of my middle-grade heroes, from the man who co-created one of my favorite animated series, to the woman who made me realize that comics for girls was a thing.

I’m so excited to dive into these books, and I’m just thankful these authors are still writing their hearts out. I’ll be supporting them as long as they do, and long after they’ve stopped.

So looking forward to starting these, and thanks to the MG authors who came to BEA and didn’t mind me raving over them. :)

Read part one of the #BEA16 Recap series on The Silver Words.

Review: Amulet: Firelight by Kazu Kibuishi

firelight by kazu kibuishi

Emily, Trellis, and Vigo visit Algos Island, where they can access and enter lost memories. They’re hoping to uncover the events of Trellis’s mysterious childhood — knowledge they can use against the Elf King. What they discover is a dark secret that changes everything. Meanwhile, the voice of Emily’s Amulet is getting stronger, and threatens to overtake her completely.

Description taken from Goodreads.

This is a middle-grade novel, but I’m posting it here because it deserves to be read by anyone who has enjoyed a graphic novel or comic of any kind (and many other people who have never even touched a graphic novel or comic before, but that’s beside the point).

The point is that this story is epic and far-reaching and will drive you crazy, utterly insane, waiting every year for the next book to come out.

Before I read Firelight, my favorite in the series was the third volume, The Cloud Searchers, for many assorted reasons but mostly because of the magic that was talked about and the characters, new and old, who were fleshed out.

It’s too soon to tell, but Firelight might be my new favorite for exactly those reasons. This one has brought together everything about the magic, and the world of these novels, and smushed it all together to create suspense and disbelief (the best kind) and this inexplicably fascinating plot and world. I was sucked into this series as all over again, Firelight reminded me why I loved it so much in the first place.

More than that though, this volume delves into the characters, specifically Emily. If there’s any true main character of this series, it’s Emily. From the beginning, the narrative has centered around her, and all the reasons why she had to be the main character are finally showing up. She’s threatened more than ever in this novel, and she comes to question everything about who she is, why she’s working with the resistance and if she’s strong enough to resist the power of her stone.

Another thing I really admired was how well the author explains the magic of the stones and why stonekeepers are the people that they are. This is also the first time in the series that I felt like I truly understood the series’ purpose and what the end might be like further than just overthrowing the Elf King.

A few minor details: why does Leon not make any kind of appearance? He’s one of my favorite characters. Honestly, it’s been a long time since I read the fourth and fifth volumes, so I’m not sure where exactly we left him, but I was watching out for him in this one and didn’t find him. I’m assuming he’s going to matter in later books? If something happened to him or there’s a reason why he’s gone, feel free to correct me.

On the other hand, I thought that Max’s absence and the continuity of the plot after his death was very well-handled.

Moving on, I’ve never had a problem with Kibuishi’s minor characters before, but there was one specific deviation from the main plot that I didn’t understand. No spoilers, but Navin and crew end up working part-time jobs in order to obtain transportation. I can guess a few reasons for this. It introduces some potentially important supporting cast members, alerts the reader to the idea of the Elf King’s advances on Navin and crew, etc., but it felt out of place to me. Almost like it was nothing more than a drawn-out transition. It also slowed the pace of the story.

Nevertheless, I loved this book, and I’ll be going back through the series to find out exactly what’s happened with everyone so far. Firelight is gorgeous, Kibuishi’s art always is, but this one contributed the most to the plot, the series and our understandings of the characters. Beautiful novel, and I’m dying for the next book. I can’t say I don’t have my own assumptions about what will happen now that the book ended the way it did, and it if goes the way I think it will I’ll probably be disappointed, but I trust Kibuishi will surprise yet again. 4.5 stars.

This review was originally posted on my YA book blog, The Silver Words.

pg count for the paperback: 224

Series: Amulet Volume 7


Review: The Marvels by Brian Selznick

the marvels by brian selznick

Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories–one in words, the other in pictures–come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle’s puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

Description taken from Goodreads.

Better than The Invention of Hugo Cabret or even Wonderstruck? No. Still worth a read? Maybe. Even if you’re not one for obscure history retellings, The Marvels is still exciting and beautifully written/drawn. And don’t let the page count scare you away: more than half of the book is told in pictures. However, it isn’t for everyone, and I was one of the people it wasn’t for.

The Marvels was much less interesting than The Invention of Hugo Cabret. Honestly, that’s pretty much the bottom line. I never felt bored with it and I was stuck trying to unravel the mystery that was Hugo, his machine and the life he led. The story was special because connecting two seemingly (completely) unconnected storylines more than a generation apart can be difficult, but Selznick did it, and he did it extremely well.

In Marvels, the situation was different because we’d already seen what Selznick could do. And there was a much less engaging storyline to begin with. I was bored especially with the last half of this book, and I grew impatient waiting to see what the huge twist was. When it came, I was disappointed.

On a side note, if the entire novel had just been the first half of the novel (all illustrated, one time period, centers around theater), then this would be a completely different review. The second half felt forced and at that point, I was invested in the side characters who make up the background for this novel.

I would much rather stick with something like Wondla or a great graphic novel, especially for middle grade audiences, but I loved Hugo’s story and will still be recommending that one. Good for one time kind of read, features gay characters. 2 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 665 pages

Review: Prison Island by Colleen Frakes

prison island by colleen frakes

McNeil Island in Washington state was the home of the last prison island in the United States, accessible only by air or sea. It was also home to about fifty families, including Colleen Frakes’s. Her parents—like nearly everyone else on the island—both worked in the prison, where her father was the prison’s captain and her mother worked in security. In this engaging graphic memoir, a Xeric and Ignatz Award-winning comics artist, Colleen Frakes, tells the story of a typical girl growing up in atypical circumstances.

Description taken from Goodreads.

I think my only complaint about this story was that this 192-page novel could’ve been condensed into a 5-page description. This book is cute and offers a unique perspective into both growing up and the prison system, but there’s no plot to it. This is better off as a webtoon than as a book, because most of it is either describing life on McNeil Island or telling some little story about life on the island.

For what there was, I actually really enjoyed the beginning of this novel. The author talks in-depth about some of the unique traits of the island and life there, and how the people there came to really think of it as a one-of-a-kind home. Some of the stories were humorous or amusing, which brought some life to the novel.

I think this is a great little story for teaching kids that not all people in prison are truly bad people, but just for reading for fun, it’s not a book I would recommend. Nice to flip through, but nothing that you could really invest yourself in. 2 stars.

pg count for the paperback: 192

Review: The Zodiac Legacy by Stan Lee, Stuart Moore and Andie Tong

the zodiac legacy by stan lee, stuart moore and andie tong

Stan Lee presents a brand new, magical, super-powered adventure!

When twelve magical superpowers are unleashed on the world, a Chinese-America teenager named Steven will be thrown into the middle of an epic global chase. He’ll have to master strange powers, outrun super-powered mercenaries, and unlock the mysterious powers of the Zodiac.

Description taken from Goodreads.

This story is all kinds of awesome. I loved the tie-in to the Zodiac, and yes, this is written by Stan Lee. Stan Lee = amazing superhero/super villain themes. And yes, the superhero/super villain themes completely live up to Stan Lee’s name. I loved the way that the zodiac was used and I felt like Lee understood the value of each of them (minus one. Pig. You’ll understand what I mean if you read the book).

The multicultural cast was great too. I think that all the different cultures together was great but some of the people and the actions they made felt really stereotyped or cliché at times. I wanted to see more research and in-depthness to this story, but it just didn’t happen.

Other than that, I ended up enjoying this story a lot. It is kind of slow paced and really long, so keep that in mind. It is a book I would recommend, but not to younger kids. More of a boys 12 and 13 kind of setting. Definitely don’t buy if you’re just looking at it for the superhero elements, but an entertaining read. 3 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 480

Series: The Zodiac Legacy #1

ARC Review: Apocalypse Bow Wow by James Proimos III and James Proimos Jr.

Apocalypse Bow Wow by James Proimos III and James Proimos Jr.

The end has come. The world is in shambles. Everyone is gone…except for the dogs!

Brownie and Apollo are two dogs living in bliss with a big, comfy couch to laze on. But unbeknownst to them and seemingly overnight, the world has turned to utter chaos. What they do know is their owners are MIA, they are starting to get on each other’s nerves, and it’s dinner time. What has happened? Who will feed them? What if their people are gone for good?!

With bellies rumbling, Brownie and Apollo decide to set out into the wide world, where they discover other pets and stray animals who have been left behind. But not everyone is man’s best friend. It’s a dog-eat-dog world now! With the help of a friendly neighborhood police dog and a small but mighty side-kick tick, Apollo and Brownie must figure out how to survive these dark times and locate their ultimate goal: dinner!

Description taken from Goodreads. I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This book will be released on January 6th, 2015. Thanks to Bloomsbury Children’s Books for giving me the chance to read and review this book.

APOCALYPSE BOW WOW is a seriously entertaining little book, but there’s two major problems with it: world-building and format.

First of all: to be continued. I went into this book fully expecting a quick, cool, interesting graphic-novel-esque type of story that would be a stand-alone. I got to the last page to face to be continued. Honestly, I was conflicted about how to feel about this because it certainly isn’t the first time I’ve come into a book thinking it was a stand-alone and the ending either sucking or it not actually being the ending. It was the latter for APOCALYPSE BOW WOW.

I don’t know what the authors are going to do with the next book, because I didn’t really feel like it was necessary, but I’ll have to wait and see if it was worth it or not. While I was a little disappointed by the ending, I do hope to see some of my issues with this book resolved in the next one.

Then to the world-building.

To be frank, I think lots of kids will love this book. It’s fun, it’s interesting and it’s hilarious all at once. I don’t believe that kids will care about the things that other reviewers and I care about, and one of those things is the unexplained absence of people. Even Michael Grant had to explain the sudden apocalypse and the people disappearing that came with it.

There were a few other world-building details that bothered me that I’ll leave out for the sake of spoilers later on in the story. Overall, APOCALYPSE BOW WOW was fantastic and it didn’t have any problems that I think it’s target demographic will have a problem with. This is an at times serious, at times ridiculous (in the best possible way) book about two dumb dogs and their awesome adventures. Perfect for anyone (even adults) who ever wanted to see a kind of goofy, whimsical, comic-version, THE WALKING DEAD (or GONE, for that matter) with dogs. 3.5 stars.

pg count for the hardback: 224

Merry Christmas!

It’s been a great year for Tweens Read Too and I’ve had a lot of fun posting to this blog. Thanks to everyone who reads these posts, whether it’s your first time here or you’ve been a follower from the very beginning. Some of my favorite books of this year are below. Happy Holidays to everyone all over the world, and I hope that you continue to find use for TRT. Happy reading!~