Saturday, February 05, 2022

Saturday Morning Cartoons-- Spy School: The Graphic Novel

Gibbs, Stuart and Sarkar, Anjan (illus.) Spy School: The Graphic Novel
February 1st 2022 by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
ARC provided by Young Adult Books Central

This graphic novel adaptation of Gibbs' title from a decade ago is very true to the original. Ben is surprised when he is recruited by the CIA to go to their Academy of Espionage, which is cleverly disguised as a geeky science academy because aside from some cryptography skills, he's not that smart. Turns out that he has been brought in as bait-- the word is put out that he invented a special code, and people start coming after him. The daughter of the man who recruited him, Erica, tells him that all is not as it seems at the school, and there is a mole that must be found. Of course, if Ben can find the mole, he might be able to stay in the school. There is a lot of personal peril-- bombs under the building, people kidnapping and drugging him... but Erica is always saving him. Is the mole a fellow student who just appears to be stupid? Is the principal as stupid as he looks? And what's up with Erica's father? Once Erica tries her own plan to flush out the mole (emailing from the principal's account that Ben has developed Jackhammer, a super code hacker program), will everything work out?

First of all, I like that the style of the original covers was maintained, with the addition of the comic style panels in the back ground. Very clever. My hope with graphic novel versions of chapter books is that young readers will eventually pick up the novel as well, so this tie in is important. 

The illustration style is a little different than some I have seen; a little bit more like a comic book, but not entirely. The font is in all caps, but a very readable san serif font that is not as small as some books. The color pallette is heavy on grays, brown, and greens, befitting the sometimes militaristic aspect of the plot, but does have some pops of color when the mood is being lightened. 

Ben and Erica certainly have the most time on page, and their relationship is noteworthy, but in this version there were a couple of characters that really popped a bit for me; the doddering Professor Crandall who is just pretending to not understand what is going on, Erica's father, who is shown in a sharp suit, and Ben's friend Mike, who hovers on the periphery, trying to understand what is going on with his friend. 

This alternates pages intense with word bubbles with pages that are mainly action, so is well paced and easy to get through. There's still a lot of text, so best for fans of wordier graphic novels. This is not quite as believable as Alex Rider or the Gallagher Girl books, since it walked right along the edge of goofy, but seeing the pictures somehow adds to the believability.

I'm a huge fan of Gibbs' series-- Fun Jungle, Moon Base Alpha, and Charlie Thorne, so it makes sense that his works would get a graphic novel treatment, and what better book to start on than Spy School?

Escabasse, Sophie. What the Hex? (Witches of Brooklyn #2)
September 7th 2021 by Random House Graphic
Public library copy

Effie, having settled in with her aunts in Witches of Brooklyn, finally gets to meet their large group of friends... all other witches. She is also dealing with some friend drama, since Berrit has made a new friend over winter break. Garance has moved to the US from France, and Effie feels left out. While she's grappling with that, there is a street corner where two competing statues are fighting magically, causing horrible weather in a very small area. When Effie finds out a secret about Garance, the two bond. They solve some problems, and Effie feels like the three girls can work together and be friends. 
Strengths: It's hard to escape friend drama even if you have magical powers, so this was a good combination. No one is actively mean to each other, and Effie even tries to have patience with her friend, but there are still hurt feelings everywhere. The magical problems aren't huge, but it's nice that the girls are able to solve them. Lion was a fun character when he shape shifted. The house is a very fun place, the witches are quirky, and Aunt Ma was a fun surprise. A very pleasant magical graphic novel.
Weaknesses: I feel like I missed something-- the aunts seem rather old to be stepsisters of Effie's mother. Maybe it was a witch thing, since they live so long? Also missed why Lion was bright pink.
What I really think: The first book, along with The Okay Witch, circulates well with my students, so I should buy this. 

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