November 3rd 2015 by Papercutz
Copy provided by the publisher
In this intriguing mix of graphic and regular novel, we follow the story of Scarlett, who escapes from Pafco Studios, where she is a film star, but terribly mistreated by the owner. When a window is left open, she escapes and manages to find a cabin in the woods. It is inhabited by the elderly and ailing Frank, who is not overly surprised that Scarlett can talk. Scarlett, and later her friend Trotter, take over running the house and taking care of Frank until he ends up having to go to the hospital. The dog and cat alert the neighbors and get Frank the help he needs, and then they refurbish his house. The daughter of the neighbors, Enid, notices that odd things are going on in the house, and meets the two, and helps them discover some truths about themselves.
Strengths: The graphic panels sneakily get readers invested in Scarlett's story, and then there are chapters that are mostly text. Brilliant! Goofy enough to appeal to middle school students, this one was fun for me to read as well, with the somewhat instructive subtext of "help people in need".
Weaknesses: The font in the text portion is very small, and not a typical typeface. For picky readers, text size can be crucial.
What I really think: I wish that there were more books that lured students in with graphic portions and then gave them something more to read. I remember these authors from Mike and the Magic Cookies when my girls were small! The Mad Magazine quality to the illustrations translates well to a middle school audience. Sadly, only available in paperback.
McDonnell, Patrick. The Mutts Winter Diaries
October 13th 2015 by Andrews McMeel Publishing
Copy Provided by the Publisher
Earl and Mooch are simple souls, delighting in hot cocoa, lolling in bed, and finding identical snowflakes. They are not overly fond of winter's cold, but find solace in each other's company and seeking warmth and comfort whenever possible. The simple line drawings are very sweet, and the humor is gentle. I'd say that these are more amusing than Red and Rover, kinder than Garfield, less complex than Peanuts, and probably cuter than any comic strips currently being published.
Sylvie wants to know why there aren't any mugs with pictures on them. Or doggie t shirts. I was slightly confused by Mooch's speech impediment; sometimes it is just snow, and sometimes it's "shnow".
Kanata, Konami. Chi's Sweet Home #8
February 28th 2012 by Vertical
Series recommended by Jean Little Library
This paperbound translation of a Japanese original has very little text. It's cute, and follows the adventures of a small house cat. Maybe I missed a lot in the first seven books, but there wasn't a whole lot going on other than Chi hanging out with another cat who said "Suspicious!" a lot. I was a little weirded out by the fact that this is clearly set in Japan, yet the family looks very Anglo-Germanic. I guess this is the situation with anime programs as well.
Pastis, Stephan. Sanitized for Your Protection (Timmy Failure #4)
October 6th 2015 by Candlewick Press
Copy from Baker and Taylor
Timmy's school is trying to raise money to provide books to a boy with a vaguely Russian name, but the money is stolen. Timmy, of course, suspects Mollie Moskins, who smells like tangerines. When Mollie's family and Timmy, his mother, and his mother's boyfriend Doorman Dave all go on vacation together, he tries to prove that she did it with the help of his imaginary polar bear. Highjinks ensue.
Strengths: Notebook novels in general are popular, and this one is no exception. This series is constantly checked out. Vaguely clever, with decent pictures, the books are nicer and kinder than The Dork Diaries but about on par with Wimpy Kid as far as character development goes.
Weaknesses: This just about exceeds the level of goofiness I can stand with the names and Timmy's polar bear.
Verdict: I will grudgingly buy this one; Baker and Taylor has it for $11.09. It will get my money's worth out of use. It would be one thing if children read these OCCASIONALLY and read some other things in between, but most of the core readers for this flat out refuse to read anything else, and it does drive me a bit batty. I am holding on to the ARC and tempting one such reader with it until he finishes his Accelerated Reader goal, because I am that mean.