Amy Says Read This

Seriously, you should totally read this.

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All My Friends Are Dead by Avery Monsen and Jory John

Monsen, A., & John, J. (2010). All my friends are dead. San Francisco: Chronicle Books. ISBN: 978-0811874557

Annotation: Various archetypal characters face the reality that life has dealt them the short end of the friendship straw.

Reaction: This book sort of startled the laughter out of me. It starts with how sad the dinosaur on the cover looks, and then an old man finds out the last of his friends has died. And it’s so sad. And funny. The reader hears from a lonely tree, a sad clown, a mixtape of Slow Jamz, and more about the state of their friendships. The words are simple, and the book uses repetition in both the text and illustrations, revisiting a few of the characters several times throughout the book and repeating “all my friends are dead.” Younger audiences wouldn’t understand the morbid humor, but older readers would be able to appreciate the funny/sad combination the authors have created.

Avery Monsen’s Website

Book’s Website


This book is on the 2011 Students’ List for “Books receiving votes for Top Ten Favorites from students in Summer 2011.”


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Hereville: How Mirka got her sword by Barry Deutsch

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Deutsch, B. (2010). Hereville: How Mirka got her sword. New York: Amulet Books. ISBN: 978-0810984226

Annotation: Mirka is an 11-year-old Orthodox Jewish girl who is more interested in slaying dragons than knitting lessons with her stepmother, but first she needs a sword.

Reaction:This book is so much fun! It’s set in an imaginary Orthodox Jewish town, which is so isolated from the rest of the world Mirka doesn’t know what a pig looks like. Deutsch depicts Orthodox practices and includes words and phrases in Yiddish, with English translations at the bottom of the page, which exposes the reader to a religion which is not often experienced by very many people. The inclusion of these practices illustrates that despite the differences in religion and manner of dressing, the kids in the story have all the same desires, dreams, problems and concerns that all kids have, and by having 11- and 12-year-olds read Hereville, teachers can introduce more diversity to a kid’s worldview and hopefully, make him or her more tolerant of others’ differences.

Deutsch makes very creative use of panels within his graphic novel, often leaving characters unbounded on a plain background to highlight their emotions or actions. The characters all have distinct physical characteristics and expressive faces, despite the simplicity of the drawings. Deutsch conveys everything the character is feeling through a few changes in the drawings of the eyes, eyebrows and mouth. The coloring of the book, done by Jake Richmond, are distinctive and seemingly simple. The first 3/4 of the book is done in shades of orange and black, providing a sepia tone to the illustrations, while the last quarter of the book is done in mostly purples to indicate nighttime in the story.

The story ends with some mysteries still unexplored, particularly about Mirka’s stepmother and her association with the witch, which means that I’m highly anticipating the release of the second volume in November!

Mirka is an awesome heroine for girls in 5th and 6th grades. She’s strong and fearless, and she doesn’t worry about how others perceive her. Thankfully, though, she’s not perfect. Deutsch has created a well rounded character who is flawed; she regrets some of her impetuous actions and suffers the consequences, which makes her relatable to readers and even more endearing.

This is absolutely on my Top Ten Favorites list for this class, and I would HIGHLY recommend it to everyone.

This book is also on the 2011 Students’ List for “Books receiving votes for Top Ten Favorites from students in Summer 2011.”

Hereville was nominated for an Eisner Award, a Harvey Award, an Ignatz Award, the Andre Norton Award, and won the 2011 Sydney Taylor Book Award — the only graphic novel ever to win (Hereville website).

Media: Photoshop and Cintiq tablet, which, according to Deutsch, is a “kind of interactive pen-on-screen tool” and is also colored in Photoshop (copyright page).

Author’s Website

Book’s Website

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Arachne Speaks by Kate Hovey

Image found here.

Hovey, K., & Drawson, B. (ill.) (2000). Arachne speaks. New York: Margaret K. McElderry Books. ISBN: 0689829019.

Annotation: This poem retells the Greek myth of Arachne, who challenges the goddess of weaving and is turned into the mother of spiders as punishment.

Reaction: As a Classics major in my undergrad days, this poem really called to me. I have always been fascinated by Greek mythology (hence the Classics degree), and I remember devouring any retellings of the myths I could get my hands on at age 11 or so, which is the age of kids to whom I would recommend this book.

Hovey emphasizes Archne’s arrogance and superiority and lets the reader know that she brought her punishment upon herself. Athena, in this poem, is angry with Arachne’s unyeilding pride, but she also is protective. When Arachne weaves a tapestry of the gods’ shameful deeds, Athena calls for the North Wind to destroy it before “the wickedness she’s sown…spreads” and the other gods discover her work and dole out an even harsher punishment than being turned into a spider.

The characters in Drawson’s acrylic paintings are reminescent of figures in Greek pottery, though modernized, and set the tone for this poem. The faces are expressive, and the reader can see the pride on Arachne’s face and the anger and dismay on Athena’s. My favorite thing about the illustrations, though, is the crowd of admirers that follow Arachne around, whose hyper expressive faces act as a Greek chorus for the poem, reacting to the action of the poem.

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website

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Beasts of Burden: Animal Rites

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Dorkin, E., & Thompson, J. (ill.) (2010). Beasts of Burden Volume 1: Animal rites. Milwaukie, OR: Dark Horse Books. ISBN: 978-1595825131

Annotation: Burden Hill has it’s share of ghosts, witches and worse, and it’s up to a band of dogs (and one cat) to protect the community from all these supernatural threats.

Reaction: This book is made up of 8 short stories, with the animals facing a new threat each time, though by the end, the stories begin to have an on-going, over-arching mystery as well. The gang of animals in these stories unexpectedly find themselves the heroes and protectors of their home, and they’re loyal, brave (even when they don’t want to be) and committed to their cause and each other.

The watercolor drawings of the all these family pets fighting supernatural terrors is what really makes this book delightful. Thompson brings to life the characters, giving each animal a distinct personality, without making them look cartoony or like animal versions of people (like the animals in Disney’s Robin Hood are).

This book is a fun graphic novel for mature readers; there’s some minor swearing and a just enough violence, blood and gore that I would not suggest it for a reader under 15 or so.

This book depicts personification by giving the animals speech.

Author’s Website

Illustrator’s Website