Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Cosmic Commandos

32623541Eliopoulos, Christopher. Cosmic Commandos
July 4th 2017 by Dial Books
Copy provided by the publisher

Twins Jeremy and Justin, while identical, couldn't be more different. Jeremy is devoted to video games, disorganized, and mean to Justin. (His stock phrase is "Stop looking like me!") Justin realizes that being organized makes his day go smoothly, and he is pleasant and kind to everyone, so he has lots of friends. When Jeremy gets a prize from a cereal box, it turns out to be a ring that actually grants wishes and turns him into Cosmic Commando, the main character of his favorite video game. He has some fun with this, accidentally turning one of his classmates into a giant before returning to his original (but perhaps a bit smaller) size. However, when the villains from the video game start hunting Jeremy down, things become dangerous. Luckily, Justin reads a book of cheat codes and can figure out how to help Jeremy, but his twin doesn't really want his help. Can the boys learn to work together to defeat the villain Skorn and save their school from being demolished?

This graphic novel will appeal to readers who enjoy Eliopoulos' illustrations in Brad Meltzer's I Am biography series. There is a good amount of text on the page; just enough to move the story forward and not so much that the text is tiny or takes a long time to read. The full color illustrations have clean lines and are vibrant and humorous, and it's nice that Justin is always shown in blue while Jeremy is in red.

Eliopoulos has twin sons of his own, so his description of the twin dynamic is interesting. I don't know that I have ever seen a depiction where the twins don't like each other. Jeremy is a rather reprehensible character, but he does grow and become a better person during the story, which is good to see. There's a lot of longing for closeness on Justin's part, and he seems like such a together kid that I really felt sorry for him! Not many graphic novels manage to work in a significant emotional element, so this was impressive.

The lower reading level of this book will make it popular amoung the Super Amoeba and Lunch Lady crowd. Superhero stories are always popular, especially when they are combined with illustrations. Winnick's Hilo is somewhat similar to this, and readers who enjoy the action and fantasy of that will certainly like Cosmic Commandos.

Beasley, Cassie. Tumble & Blue
August 29th 2017 by Dial Books
ARC provided by the publisher

Blue Montgomery is dropped off at his grandmother's house in an extremely small Southern town by his father, who races cars for a living. His father claims it's so the two can reconnect, but in reality, Blue's father has a hard time dealing with the fact that Blue's family curse is to lose at all competitions, while his father's talent is to win everything. Blue's grandmother is glad to see him, but the large family is gathering at her house to see if one of them can be granted a  new fate by a mythical swamp alligator during the once-every-hundred-years red moon. Two hundred years previously, a Montgomery and a Lafayette met in the swamp and made a deal with the alligator, which resulted in the family's curses and talents. Blue is glad to meet his cousins Jenna, Ida and Howard who are all living with the grandmother for various reasons, and makes friends with a new girl next door, Tumble Wilson. Tumble parents had been living in an RV but rented a house to provide Tumble with stability. She is a fan of Maximal Star's book How to Hero Every Day and tries to follow its precepts to make up for an incident in the past that resulted in her older brother's death. Tumble's attempts at hero-ing don't end any better than Blue's competitions. When Blue's great grandmother announces that she will die in 38 days (she knows this because of her talent), the Montgomery family starts to put together a "talent show" in her honor. Tumble and Blue try to work on improving their own talents, and in doing so, learn more about their own personal histories.
Strengths: Beasley is a good writing, and this read smoothly and quickly. Tumble and Blue both have interesting motivations and evolve as characters. The magical realism will appeal to some readers.
Weaknesses: This felt like a book I'd read before (maybe Law's Savvy?), and the trim size is very odd, if the finished book is anything like the ARC. (Seems oddly square and short.)
What I really think: Not as depressing or hard to read as this author's Circus Mirandus, but not one that is likely to see much circulation in my library.

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