Saturday, July 24, 2021

Saturday Morning Cartoons- Bad Sister and Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots

Harper, Charise Mericle. Bad Sister
July 13th 2021 by First Second
E ARC provided by Netgalley

This graphic memoir, which seems to be set in the 1970s, given the fashions, level of supervision for children, and other clues, deals with Charise, who spends a lot of time with her younger brother, Daniel. While the two generally play well together, neither child is great about thinking through their activities, and Daniel often ends up injured. There is also some tension between the siblings caused by the parents, who often take the side of the younger child in instances such as Charise not letting her brother use her art supplies. While the activities the children engage in would shock and horrify parents today, they were pretty standard back in the day-- playing with a giant truck inner tube and rolling it down the hill or throwing it with a child inside, climbing trees, riding bikes, dumpster diving, and running and jumping in the house with couch cushions as "safety features"-- were all quite common. On top of this, however, is a lot of deep seated anger on Charise's part that makes her feel that she is "bad" and that she means Daniel harm. Sometimes she does. One of the causes of this anger might be her undiagnosed prosopagnosia; she thinks that Daniel's ability to recognize people is a superpower, but this is not really fully investigated. When her actions (as well as Daniel's willingness to go along with them) result in graver injury, her guilt intensifies and she tries to be a better older sister. 
Strengths: As someone who would put on a plastic space helmet and try to jump a culvert at the bottom of a hill on a big wheel with my brother hanging on behind me, I can attest to the fact that this is an accurate portrayal of childhood activities in the 1970s! My brother and I also had a game in the care that involved balancing on our foreheads on the back of the seat and see who could stay up the longest. What sets this apart is Charise's guilt about how she treats her brother, and her exploration of their relationship and how she can improve it.                                
Weaknesses: I would have liked to see more about the prosopagnosia, but I'm sure that parents in the 70s would have assumed a child who claimed this was lying. Just the way it was! 
What I really think: This will be popular with readers who like a bit of family tension with their graphic novels, like Telgemeier's Sisters, Knisely's Stepping Stones, or Jamieson's All's Faire

Dadey, Debbie, Jones, Marcia, and Low, Pearl (illus.)
Vampires Don't Wear Polka Dots: A Graphix Chapters Book (The Adventures of the Bailey School Kids #1)
August 3rd 2021 by Graphix

The 1990s creepadelic series is back in a new graphic novel version. Eddie, Melody, Howie, Liza, Carey and Ben are back at Bailey school. Eddie and the class's bad behavior has scared off their previous teacher, so when Ms. Jeeper's arrives, they feel that they can take care of her quickly. However, there are things about the new teacher that give them pause. She is from Romania, has bought the local haunted house that seems to have coffins in the basement, and has an eerily glowing green pendant and a talent for subverting any bad behavior very quickly. The kids don't let this stop them, and sprinkle garlic in the classroom in order to try to get rid of the teacher. All of their efforts fail, and they come to terms with their unusual new educator. 
Strengths: Like Applegate's Animorphs, Roy's A to Z Mysteries, and Osbourne's Magic Tree House books, the Bailey School Kids books were something I was always on the lookout for at garage sales and the thrift store, and there are probably still most of the original 51 books in my attic! The graphic novels will appeal to a new generation of readers, for whom the original 80 page books are just too long, and too black and white. The characters are updated to include more vague diversity; the original characters were never identified as being of any specific cultural background, but the graphic novel shows more children of color. Low's illustrations have a good creepy edge to them, and the story seems to be fairly true to the original. 
Weaknesses: The 1980s were not a pleasant time, and I forget that the 1990s were perilously close to that time. Eddie's poor behavior seems particularly unpleasant and out of place in a post Wonder world, and I wasn't amused by the classes attempts to get their teacher to leave. (See The War Against Grandpa for comparative 1980s kidlit.)
What I really think: Because my middle school readers want a lot more murder in their creepy tales, I probably won't buy this series unless the purported Netflix series becomes very popular and students ask for this, but this is a MUST purchase at elementary schools, where it offers just the right amount of creepy thrills for younger readers. (Unless you are my younger daughter, who was super creeped out by these and wouldn't even allow the books in her room!)

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