Cybils and the Graphic Novel Winner and Finalists

rapunzels-revengebyshannonhaleExactly one month ago the Cybils awards were announced for 2008. My sister and I were thrilled to learn that Rapunzel’s Revenge won the prize for the graphic novel/elementary – middle grade category, but I had also read every graphic novel in the category as part of the Children’s Literature Book Club. I liked several of them and thought I would do a quick review of each one, except for Our review of Rapunzel’s Revenge since that was our first Double Scoop, where my sister and I review books together.

I also suggest that if your looking for some good books to buy and/or give as gifts these would make some theresawolfatthedoorbyzoealleygreat gifts.

There’s a Wolf at the Door: Five Classic Tales by Zoë B. Alley, Illustrated by R.W. Alley

This graphic novel almost was my top pick. Yes even over Rapunzel’s Revenge. Written and illustrated by the wife/husband team of Zoë B. Alley, Illustrated by R.W. Alley. There’s a Wolf at the Door is is  five fairy tales that feature ‘The Wolf’ as he attempts to get his meal including The Three Little Pigs, The Boy who Cried Wolf, Little Red Riding Hood, the Wolf in Sheep’s clothing and The Wolf and the Seven Little Goslings. Cleverly written and witty it’s a great read, my daughter and I love this book. It is great with young readers, but I think even older elementary kids would like this book, especially if they like fairy tales.R.W. Alley’s illustrations are fantastic and they complement the text well making you laugh as the poor wolf fails again and again.

intothevolcanobydonwoodInto the Volcano written and illustrated by Don Wood

Two brothers, Duffy and Sumo are sent on a ‘trip’ by their father and pulled out of school to visit relatives on a Hawaiin Island. Of course when they arrive there are some strange things going on and really what is is a trip to locate their mother who is supposedly doing research in Borneo. However, she is underground in a volcano hidden away. Follow these two brothers on an adventure you will not forget.

Now for me this book was okay, I had a hard time keeping the two brothers straight as it is not clear who is who for a while and it took me several trips back to the beginning of the book to figure out who was who. I didn’t like that. I thought that could have been clearer. The storyline did not appeal to me either, but I think though that Don Wood’s illustrations and story plot would appeal to lots of elementary aged kids, especially boys. On the other hand my pre-schooler wasn’t much interested in the book. We didn’t finish it together, so maybe first grade would be better.

jellabybykeansooJellaby written and illustrated by Kean Soo

My daughter desperately wanted to read Jellaby since it had a purple dinosaur on the cover. She didn’t make it through this one either, but she did like Kean Soo’s illustrations a lot. Set in Canada, Jellaby is a mysterious creature aka the purple dinosaur that appears in the woods near Portia Bennett’s home. Portia’s mom has secrets and her dad is missing. She decides to help Jellaby return home and along the way she makes  new friend of the human variety and scary stranger. That’s where the story ends. You have to read the next book to find out what happens to Portia and Jellaby. I liked the book, the illustrations are done in a purple hue, most of the time except for Portia’s friend Jason who wears an orange shirt with a carrot on it. Apparently Jason likes carrots a lot and so does Kean Soo so they are in the book along with tuna sandwiches. It’s a fun read.

thesavagebydavidalmond1The Savage written by David Almond, Illustrated by Dave McKean

I really liked The Savage. It’s not a light-hearted read because the main character, Blue is learning to cope with grief of losing his father, which as the title suggests brings out the savage in him. Instead of writing down Blue’s feelings as the school counselor, he begins to write a story about a Savage who lives in the woods, who watches Blue and occasionally eats people. Through watching Blue and his younger sister the savage learns to be more human and Blue learns to deal with his grief. Now as far as the  illustrations this book is more like a combination of chapter book and graphic novel – not that I’m an expert on graphic novels, but it did seem like a combination of genres. I would recommend this book for older elementary age children or at least read the book with them because of the topic.

chiggersbyhopelarsonChiggers by written and illustrated by Hope Larson

Abby returns to summer camp only to find her camp best friend is too busy to really spend time with her. Then there is the new girl, Shasta, who is strange. She can’t participate in lots of the activities because well she got hit by lightning. Abby also has her first crush on on the guy counselors and it appears he might just like her back.

I had a hard time with the illustrations just because they were in black and white, which made it harder for me to initially tell who was who. Same thing with black and white movies or shows, sometimes it can be harder to tell who is who when everyone has either white or black hair. I also though this fit better for girls above age10, just because it also deals with periods, crushes, first kisses, and references to dungeons and dragons, etc so probably not for kindergarteners as it would go over their head.


Rapunzel’s Revenge (all Hale breaks loose) by Shannon and Dean Hale illustrated by Nathan Hale

Our 1st Double Scoop by Cari and Holly

First off, we are tremendously excited to present Rapunzel’s Revenge as our first ever double scoop! As big fans of Shannon’s other books, and with a little Rapunzel experience of our own, we felt almost compelled to choose this tale. We weren’t sure what to expect from a graphic novel and a co-author, but were intrigued, to say the least. After writing this review together, we have more respect for Shannon and Dean (writing a piece with someone else is hard work)! Lot’s of give and take makes us curious what type of arguments might they have had? Not that we would know anything about that . . .

****Stay tuned for our own “Rapunzel” reader’s theatre following the review.****

*Warning: Spoilers Below!

What we liked

Holly – I identified with Rapunzel trying so hard to do daring things, but it wasn’t natural at first- she was a total klutz and that is so like me!

Cari – I enjoyed Rapunzel as a female heroine who rescued herself and her family and saved the day without a prince charming. She’s independent, actually more like interdependent, she works with other people to accomplish her goals, but she doesn’t use her good looks to get her places.

Holly – The fact that Rapunzel still loved and related to her mom even though her mom had been a slave in the mines and thus didn’t look beautiful on the outside- this was poignantly satisfying.

What we didn’t like

Holly – Emily was a hideous ugly brat of a girl. I don’t know if I would have rescued her.

Cari – and spoiled! I don’t like the idea of a child, Rapunzel, being traded for lettuce. (I know that has nothing to do with the writing it’s just part of the original story. As a child it didn’t bother me too much, but as a mother it pulls on my heartstrings.)

What about the illustrations?

Holly – I loved the illustrations. The cover’s probably my favorite, and when Rapunzel looks mad (page 129, last frame). It was a change for me to try and read this type of book. It helped when I studied each illustration with my boys to figure out more of what was happening. Very visually stimulating!

Cari – I had to slow myself down and force myself to look at the pictures, otherwise you miss a lot of the story. Once I got the hang of it, it was really fun. I could tell they live in Utah as I saw some similarities to Zion’s National Park. Really liked how the words and pictures worked together to create a story.

Surprises we found

p1010031Holly – I liked the explanation of how Rapunzel’s hair grows long. That’s one thing that has always bugged me about the fairytale- how in the world does anyone get hair that long? Read the book to find out the reason!

Cari – It does explain a lot about the hair. My daughter would love that to happen to her (the long hair part, not the locked in a tower part). She did inform us that we can cut her hair when it reaches 100 meters, but she is worried about it falling in the toilet. Makes you wonder about Rapunzel.

Holly- I was surprised that more than one fairytale was involved.

Cari- I liked Jack and his bean that got him in trouble.

Holly- Yep and then all Hale broke loose!

Any good life lessons to share?

Holly- I like when Rapunzel got her hair cut off (maybe I shouldn’t like it since I have a little experience in that department, ahem). I got a lot of satisfaction that Rapunzel could still have power without her hair and we both think that it shows you don’t have to have a special power to help yourself out of a bad situation.

Cari- I didn’t like that the wicked mother, Gothel, cuts off her hair. (Ack!! What does that say about me. Just remember I was a young child). Not cutting other people’s hair is a good lesson.

What were the kiddos favorite parts?

Cari – My daughter saw the book on the couch, and spent over an hour ‘reading the book’ going page by page.  And then she put a bookmark in it and went to eat breakfast. She desperately wants to read it. I am planning on giving the book to a niece so I told her that we could read it, and that she could ask Santa to bring her the book. I can assure you Santa will be most happy to bring the book.

Sagetree- note the yard stick tucked in the branches

Holly – It took me three days to read through the entire book with my boys. They kept begging me to read it to them and loved it, although I must say they were not so thrilled with the kissing part at the end. My boys really liked the coyotes because we live by coyotes. We frequently warn our boys not to wander into the sagebrush partly because of our furry neighbors who really do have very sharp teeth and are always looking for a meal (we have incredibly tall, thick sagebrush here in Central Washington- more like a child sized forest of short sage trees). So it was a good reminder for them.

What about stereotypes?

Holly – I liked that Rapunzel wasn’t a voluptuous cat-woman type that is so typical of comic books. I appreciated that Rapunzel didn’t show lots of cleavage in order to be a credible heroine which is one of my least favorite things about most comic books. One of the things that is especially important to me is that I don’t want my boys thinking that women have to wear next to nothing to be cool or successful and appreciated by men. I think that this book accomplishes all that and much, much more!

Cari – Ditto for my daughters. It was fun to see Rapunzel deal with the stereotype of – “you’re a girl, you couldn’t possibly do that”, and prove people wrong. Especially when she would help someone at first and Jack would get the credit. It’s like they didn’t see her. It was nice to read this book and it’s definitely one I want in my library for my kids for those reasons plus, its a fun book.

Holly- I agree this is a great book to have on holiday give-away and wish lists- even though the heroine is a girl, the book has universal appeal and will be appreciated by most readers over age 4 (the boys might feel a little self-conscious about liking it at some age point). I’ve tried reading comic books, I know this is a graphic novel (what exactly is the difference?) but I liked this better and highly recommend it.

Cari – A graphic novel is a type of comic book, generally longer then a comic book and tells a story beginning to end. Does that help? I looked it up. Great question. Did I just sound like a teacher? Graphic novels were very popular at my middle school thanks to the principal who introduced them. The kids ate them up.

Now for a little “Rapunzel” reader’s theatre story of our own.

cari_hollyNarrator: Once upon a time there were two sisters, Cari and Holly,

Holly: Cari was jeolous of Holly’s beautiful long tresses.

Cari: Um, yeah, do I have to admit it? I’d rather not talk about this. (Sigh) Okay. . . It all started when Holly’s hair got longer than mine. I couldn’t take it anymore! I’m older so naturally I should have prettier, longer hair, right? Well, I knew I had to do something to retain my position as the Rapunzel of the family. Sooo. . . I snuck the scissors out to the backyard and told my innocent, gullible little sister that we were going to play a new game: Haircutting!

Three to four months after the haircut

I would go first and then after she sat really still so I could do a good job, then it would be her turn to cut my hair. (insert conspiratorial cackle). Of course, I butchered her hair almost to the scalp so that she couldn’t possibly ever compete with my golden tresses again. Even better than that- she had to get her hair cut like a boy. If she hadn’t worn dresses you never would have known she was a girl!

Holly: I worshiped the ground my sister walked on- why wouldn’t I believe every word that came out of her mouth? Oh yeah, and did I mention I was 3?

Narrator: All was quickly forgiven and long forgotten until one day . . .

First day of school - Holly 1st grade, Cari 2nd grade

Cari: Holy Moly! Holly’s hair is longer than mine again! What happened? I thought I took care of that! It’s a good thing she’s so young and gullible- she probably won’t even remember the last time we played haircutting! “Oh Holly!” (sing-song voice)

Holly: Oh goody, my big sister wants to play with me! Hmmm. This is a new game. I don’t remember ever playing it before. Sure, I’ll sit nice and still in the swing. Well, as still as I can seeing as how it’s a Swing! I can’t wait until it’s my turn to be the haircutter this is so much fun!

Narrator: May we have a moment of silence? Drum roll please . . .

Cari: (muttering:) “Oh shoot. . .”   (out loud:) “Um, I don’t like this game anymore. We’re going to play something else.”

Holly: Hmmm. . . I don’t like this. “That’s not fair! Come back here it’s my turn! Cari, where are you going? Cari? . . . CARI!”

Mom: Holly? What happened to your hair?

Holly: “Ummm. . .  Cari did it?”

Cari: Caught again! But at least I’m still Rapunzel! Oh all right, I’ll apologize. “Um, Sorry?”

For more information on Rapunzel’s Revenge and the sequel , Calamity Jack (coming 2009/2010) please see

This book has also been nomintated for a Cybils Award. More information available at