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Graphic Novels

I Just Finished Reading... Top Picks for December

December 21, 2015 | Diane | Comments (0)

Each month I share my favourite new books for 6 – 12 year-olds that have both kid AND parent appeal. I hope you enjoy them, too!


Elephant JourneyElephant Journey: The True Story of Three Zoo Elephants and their Rescue from Captivity
By Rob Laidlaw
Ages 6 – 9

This picture book tells the true story of Toronto Zoo’s three elephants, Toka, Thika and Iringa, who were relocated to the PAWS sanctuary in California in 2013. The gorgeous oil paintings by Brian Deines show the beauty and intelligence of these wonderful animals, but also reflect the hardship they experienced living in captivity and in a climate so different from where they were born. Toronto readers may recognize local touches in the artwork, including landmarks at the Toronto Zoo and a Toronto police cruiser. This uplifting tale has a hopeful ending and is a great introduction to elephants and animal activism for younger kids.

Child Soldier - When Boys and Girls are Used in WarChild Soldier: When Boys and Girls are Used in War
By Jessica Dee Humphreys and Michel Chikwanine
Ages 8 – 11

Michel Chikwanine was only five years old when he was abducted by rebel militants in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Forced to become a child soldier, he recounts the terror of capture, his escape from the militants and the longing for the childhood that was stolen from him. Set in graphic novel format, this moving memoir retells these events with sensitivity to young readers, while bringing this worldwide issue out into the open. It’s a useful resource for kids who are asking questions about what they see and hear in the news and a powerful example of human resiliency.

By Gordon Korman
Ages 9 – 12

Eli has the perfect life in Serenity – he lives in a peaceful community and doesn’t have to worry about anything. But the cracks start to show after he falls ill when trying to bike outside the town limits with his friend. Eli and the other kids in the town start to question the world they see around them and uncover a terrible secret about themselves that might make it impossible for them to ever live anywhere else. Worse still, there’s no one they can trust – especially not their parents. The fast-paced action, alternating narrators and complex plot will make it tough for readers to put this one down!

Coming in January...

Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m reading for January's post… it’s a big stack, so I know what I’ll be doing during my vacation.

P.S. I'm almost done Full Cicada Moon and it is so, so good!

Pile of books to read for January

I Just Finished Reading…Top Picks for November

November 26, 2015 | Diane | Comments (0)

A Librarian's Desk

As a children’s librarian and parent, I read a LOT of children’s books. The steady flow of new material coming out each season can make it tricky to pick books that appeal to both kids AND adults, but I’m here to help! Each month I’ll share some of my favourite new books for kids aged 6 – 12 that I just finished reading… and couldn’t put down. I hope you enjoy them, too!


Dory FantasmagoryDory Fantasmagory
By Abby Hanlon
Ages 6 - 8

This book is HILARIOUS. As in, laugh-out-loud, struggling-to-breathe-while-tears-run-down-your-cheeks hilarious. Dory, the youngest of three siblings, has an interesting imagination, inventing all sorts of make-believe personalities including: best friend Mary (the monster who lives under her bed), Mrs. Gobble Gracker (enemy #1) and Mr. Nuggy, her fairy godmother. In her attempt to gain the attention and affection of her older siblings, Dory gets caught up in all kinds of trouble, but ultimately proves her mettle with bravery. The funny black-and-white illustrations will entertain kids while Dory’s big personality will endear her to parents.

Dory is, in my mind at least, a cross between Beverly Cleary’s Ramona and Greg Heffley (of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame) and has all the makings of a classic character. While this isn’t exactly a new publication (it came out last fall), the new sequel is, so I recommend checking out both at the same time because you will definitely want to know what she gets up to next.

Sunny Side UpSunny Side Up
By Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm
Ages 9 – 12

It’s 1976, and Sunny Lewin is excited for summer vacation. But at the last minute, she’s sent to Florida to spend it with her grandfather - who lives in a retirement community. Sunny is lonely and bored at first, but after making a new friend, she discovers a love of comic books and adventure. In this new environment, she’s able to reflect on the reason for the unexpected trip – the difficult year her family has spent coping with her older brother’s drug use.

Written as a graphic novel and inspired by the real-life experience of the authors, Sunny Side Up is a compelling story that explores the guilt, sadness and confusion experienced by those who love someone struggling with addiction.

Fuzzy MudFuzzy Mud
By Louis Sachar
Ages 10 - 12

Tamaya Dhilwaddi is a fifth grader at Woodbridge Academy who lives and breathes the ten virtues valued by the school (Charity, Cleanliness, Courage, Empathy, Grace, Humility, Integrity, Patience, Prudence, Temperance) and thrives on routine. Every day she walks to school with her seventh grade neighbour, Marshall Walsh, but lately he’s become distant and unfriendly. After the new kid, Chad Hilligas, threatens to beat him up, Marshall leads Tamaya home via a “shortcut” through the forbidden woods behind the school to evade him. But there’s something much more dangerous lurking in the woods, and it could threaten the very future of the world.

This clever mystery-thriller offers plenty of discussion points, making it a great read for both parents and kids.

Coming in December...

Here’s a sneak peek at what I’m reading next… which titles (if any) will make the cut? Find out next month!

Pile of books for next month

Books in Graphic Format

August 25, 2015 | Peggy | Comments (0)

library note from JacksonIt was no surprise to me that the book Jackson took out to read (and subsequently, accidentally tore) was written in a graphic format. Comics have a long history of popularity with young children (and if I am being absolutely honest, with many an adult, as the wildly popular Toronto Comic Arts Festival can attest).

Educators have long noticed that many readers around the age of 8 and 9 gravitate towards the graphic format. In the past we called them comic books. More recently we have started publishing them in more substantial bindings and called them graphic novels if they are fiction, or graphic format if they are not.


Toronto Public Library has a large collection of these books, fiction and non-fiction alike. They are so popular, that a group of children's librarians has recently put together a list to be published next month of some great reads that are in graphic format. Here is a sneak peek at a few of the titles that will be found in that publication.


Lunch ladyLunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute is the first in a series of graphic novels about a lunch lady who is also a secret crime fighter. Along with her sidekick, Betty, she investigates the strange case of an absent teacher and the creepy substitute who has nefarious plans to become the Teacher of the Year by any means possible. The book is over the top with fun, if impossible, gadgets and will be sure to grab the attention of readers who want a fast paced read. The fact that this is the first of what is now ten books means that readers will have many hours of enjoyment ahead of them.


If your reader is fond of the diary format (think Wimpy Kid), then might I suggest The Brilliant TomgatesWorld of Tom Gates? This graphic novel won the 2011 Roald Dahl Funny Prize, and it was a well deserved award. Laugh-out-loud funny, this book chronicles Tom Gates' experiences at school and home. Set aside time to read this book, and be prepared for those around you to ask "What's so funny?" as you will not be able to keep from laughing out loud!




you wouldn't want to be a pirate's prisoner!A great non-fiction suggestion in graphic format would be You wouldn't want to be a pirate's prisoner!: horrible things you's rather not know. This is one of a series of books that examines history through humour and presented in graphic format. Other titles in this series include Roman Gladiators, exploring the wild west, living in medieval times and the mummification process. Although told with humour, the books are historically accurate, are presented in an interesting and captivating manner, and somethings are just plain gross, a surefire way to capture the attention of the intended audience.


Does your child have some favourite graphic format books? Care to share the titles in the comments section below?



Library Note Goes Viral

August 19, 2015 | Daniel | Comments (5)

On Friday August 14, 2015, staff at the Main Street Branch found this note pinned to an Asterix book in the book drop:

Jackson Letter

Staff were touched with the gesture and found the note adorable. The next day, on a whim, I decided to send the note to our social media team to allow others the opportunity to enjoy it. The note was posted to Facebook by Saturday afternoon. Over the next few days, thousands of likes and hundreds of shares began to pour in for Jackson's note. To our surprise, the news media picked up on the story, with dozens of articles appearing across Canada and the United States. 

Having seen a news report, a neighbour alerted Jackson’s mom. The family was pleasantly surprised by the attention and reached out to the media. We were able to arrange a meeting with Jackson earlier this afternoon at the library, where we presented him with a gift basket to thank him for writing the note and for being such a great sport in dealing with the overwhelming amount of media interested in the story.


Asterix pic

Jackson, an avid reader, says that the Asterix series is one of his favourites. The series follows the protagonist Asterix and his friend Obelix through various adventures as they attempt to resist Roman occupation. You can see the TPL’s selection of Asterix books here. It is one of the most popular comic series in the world, having been translated into over 100 languages.




TintinJackson also loves The Adventures of Tintin, another series carried by the TPL. Written by Belgian cartoonist Georges Remi under the pen name Hergé, this series follows Tintin, a young reporter, and his fairthful dog, Snowy, as they embark on adventures full of slapstick humour, mystery, and science fiction.







Finally, you might want to also check out Jeff Smith’s Bone series. Smith combines epic fantasy tales with light-hearted comedy in a similarly structured comic format; it’s perfect for the seven to twelve age range.






Here’s hoping your children will enjoy these titles as much as Jackson does. Just be careful that they don't rip them when reading in their bunks ;)


Ways of expressing information

January 14, 2014 | Peggy | Comments (0)

As we enter the time of projects galore, children are often looking for ways to express their ideas and understanding in unique and interesting ways. The review that follows is from the National Reading Campaign review program for children's books. It highlights a book that demonstrates many ways of expressing information in fun and engaging ways. Some of the formats are very accessible, and could easily be created in the projects assigned to your children. Read the review below (reprinted with permission) and let me know what you think!

  Feudal worldIt’s a Feudal, Feudal World: A Different Medieval History Written by Stephen Shapiro Illustrated by Ross Kinnaird Annick Press 48 pp September, 2013 Ages 9 to 12

Take a highly amusing and informative romp through the Middle Ages with Stephen Shapiro and Ross Kinnaird. Covering the period from 500 CE to 1500 CE, this author and illustrator team gives us infographics of all sorts (pie charts, diagrams, timelines and more) along with informative text and entertaining cartoons.

Infographic books are hard to do well but, when successfully executed, are excellent tools for allowing readers to access the information through a variety of routes. Shapiro and Kinnaird make sure we know that the Middle Ages was much more than knights and castles. In accessible, inventive and engaging ways, they cover technology, travel, religion, social structure, childhood, farming, trading, wars and disease. For instance, the Notre Dame de Reims cathedral and the Great Mosque of Cordoba are compared for height and area using things young readers will relate to, like giraffes and footballs fields. European Marco Polo’s trip to China and Chinese monk Rabban Bar Sauma’s expedition to Europe are laid out like contrasting board games. Shapiro and Kinnaird throw in interesting trivia as well, like the elephant sent from Iraq in 802 to the emperor Charlemagne or weird bits of marginalia in medieval manuscripts.

Whether you want to compare the length of school buses and Viking longboats (two buses equals one longboat), find out who was most likely to die from the Black Death, or even make sense of the nine Crusades, Shapiro and Kinnaird will inform and entertain. It’s a Feudal, Feudal World is a great book for expanding young readers’ understanding of this period, while also engaging them in ways that will help them absorb and remember the information. Bravo.

Gillian O’Reilly is the editor of Canadian Children’s Book News and a children’s book author.

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License.

Kid Lit Trends for 2013

December 20, 2012 | Scott | Comments (0)

As librarians, we see first-hand what materials kids are actually reading and getting excited about. Over the past few years, there’s been a lot of anticipation in children’s books with new trends bubbling up to the surface each year. But what does the future hold for children's literature?

Scholastic Book Clubs Editorial Director, David Allender, recently shared 10 trends that he believes will dominate in children’s lit in 2013:


Below is the list of trends along with some suggested books from Toronto Public Library’s collection so your kids can get ahead of the trending curve with their reading choices.

  1. BullyingThe Misfits by James Howe – four middle school misfits band together to stand up against their bullies and decide to run for student council elections 
  2. Science FictionA Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L'Engle – a young girl and her brother must travel through time and space to find their lost father 
  3. Intriguing NonfictionOff to Class: Incredible and Unusual Schools Around the World by Susan Hughes - readers will see how kids study in school in India, Russia, China and many other countries
  4. Novels in Cartoons –  Big Nate series by Lincoln Peirce - hilarious comic book adventures of sixth-grader Nate and his antics in school
  5. Kid Lit on the ScreenSea of Monsters by Rick Riordan - the 2nd book in the Percy Jackson series hits theatres in August 2013
  6. WarCanada’s Wars by Jonathan Webb - a look at Canada's involvement in wars throughout history
  7. Tough GirlsRapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon, Dean & Nathan Hale - this adventurous take on the classic fairy tale has Rapunzel wielding her long hair as a lasso just in time to save the day
  8. Survival StoriesHatchet by Gary Paulsen - the award-winning survival story about a boy lost in the Canadian wilderness
  9. Spotlight on DiversityDrama by Raina Telgemeier - LGBT themes are explored in this graphic novel about a young girl and her friends working on a school musical
  10. Nature Runs AmokWave by Eric Walters - the story of a young Canadian boy and what happens when he's confronted with the unthinkable - a tsunami

Misfits Wrinkle Offtoclass 

Bignate  Seaofmonsters Canadaswars

Rapunzels Hatchet Drama Wave

Toronto Comic Arts Festival is this weekend!

May 3, 2012 | Scott | Comments (1)

BoneLooking for something to do with your kids this weekend? Something that will Instantly transform you into parental superstars?

The Toronto Comic Arts Festival is happening this weekend (May 5-6) at the Toronto Reference Library and this year hosts some of the biggest names in comics and graphic novels for kids.

* Jeff Smith – creator of BONE

* Jennifer and Matthew Holm – writer and artist team for BABYMOUSE and SQUISH

* Kazu Kibuishi – creator of AMULET

* Andy Runton – creator of OWLY

* Raina Telgemeier – author/illustrator of SMILE

And many more!

OwlySponsored by Owlkids, the two days of the show are packed with programming at Toronto Reference Library’s Novella Room on the 2nd floor. There you’ll find FREE comic book giveaways, tons of workshops and Amuletpresentations led by comic book creators, a kids graphic novel reading lounge and crafts led by THE ART GARAGE.

As well, there will be a number of special programs at St. Paul’s Church, a five minute walk from the library, featuring many of the creators mentioned above along with signing times so kids can have their books personalized by the creators themselves.

For more information, be sure to visit

I read all the Elephant & Piggie books!

September 2, 2011 | Scott | Comments (3)

BirdheadAnd now I love these guys!

The Elephant & Piggie series was devised by creator Mo Willems. Willems began his career writing and working in animation for Sesame Street that earned him six Emmy awards. He then went on to write for other animated series until he began a successful picture book author career. His creation known by most is Pigeon, a gregarious, outspoken and hilarious bird who demands to drive a bus, to stay up late, to have a puppy and more.

PlayoutsideKnown mainly for his picture books, Elephant & Piggie, a beginning readers series, marked a bit of a departure for Willems, however, they are just as funny and successful (three of the books in this series won Theodor Seuss Geisel Awards). The same off-beat and wacky sense of humor seen in his work on Sesame Street and various animated series is all over Elephant & Piggie.

The series appears simple – two characters, cautious Gerald, the elephant and carefree Piggie, the pig engage in conversation, often leading to a problem. The two must work together solve whatever dilemma is in front of them leading to a hilarious punch-line at the end of the book. The two are a model for friendship—they care about each other and help each other out, whatever the situation.

20101117-We Are In A Book Heavily influenced by graphic novels, Elephant & Piggie features minimal text, only dialogue in word balloons. Willems plays with the word balloons and changes their shape, size and style to give readers clues on how things are being said. Characters zip on and off the page and even acknowledge the reader in one of my personal favourites in the series.

I spoke with a couple teacher friends of mine who all rave about this series and its versatility in the classroom including:

- Helps children with sight or high frequency words
- Demonstrates skills in problem solving, predicting and inferring
- Provides children with text awareness with the series’ use of symbols and rebuses
- Allows readers a better understanding of characters

Full of charm and laughs, this series is great for both reluctant and newly independent readers.

What to read after BONE?

August 25, 2011 | Scott | Comments (0)

Bone One graphic novel series parents might recognize from hearing excited requests and seeing their kids devour volume after volume is Bone by Jeff Smith. Bone is truly one of the best children’s graphic novels available because of its wide appeal across age groups, gender and genres. Imagine a trio of wacky cartoon characters thrust into a Lord of the Rings-style, high fantasy adventure with a little bit of romance thrown in also. With only nine volumes in the series, (along with a few companion books) it doesn’t take long for kids to polish off this great series.

If your child is new to graphic novels, a reluctant reader or just a hungry graphic novel fan, keep up their reading momentum with more graphic novel reads. Here’s a few examples of fantasy-related books you can suggest once they’ve finished reading the entire Bone adventure.

Amulet by Kazu Kibuishi Amulet
Two siblings, brother and sister, discover the true identity of their great-grandfather, which leads them to discovering their own magical abilities and sends them on an otherworldly adventure to save a magical land from an evil Elf King.

Walker The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier
Reluctant hero Walker Bean sets off on a voyage to return a cursed skull to its rightful owners, a pair of merwitches, after his grandfather falls ill from its magical powers. But everyone wants the skull for their own selfish purposes including a strange Doctor and a band of pirates.

Mouse Guard by David Petersen Mouseguard
Enter a world of medieval mice and the Mouse Guard, a brotherhood of warriors sworn to protect their fellow mice by providing safe passage or protecting them from predators. This is a great book for more mature readers with its more realistic depiction of war and battle.

Artemis Artemis Fowl, a graphic adaptation of the novel by Eoin Colfer
The popular Artemis Fowl series is about a criminal mastermind who gets wrapped up in a world of dangerous and deadly fairies. This graphic novel adaptation of the first book is sure to capture the attention of fans of the original series and those being introduced to Artemis for the first time.

Fans of Bone and Jeff Smith should note that he will be appearing at Fan Expo Canada this weekend!

Graphic Novels 101 for Parents

July 23, 2011 | Scott | Comments (0)

Kid-boy-reading-comics-in-torch-light-in-bedSummer reading is a great time for kids to relax and read stories they enjoy. More often than not, I’ve seen kids with their noses buried in their favourite graphic novel or comic book. Now before you start saying that comics aren’t real reading or that they’re often inappropriate for children (or even if you already are a supporter of graphic books), please read on.

First, here are the terms you need to know to effectively understand and engage the reading of graphic books with your child:

Panel – squares or rectangles on a page that contain a moment of the story
Gutter – the space between panels
Word balloons – contains the speech or thoughts of a character
Captions – contain information about what’s happening in the panel or about a character
Sound effects – visual representation of sounds in a panel like POW! or BAM!

The ‘graphic’ in graphic books refers to their visual nature and is not a blanket term for sex and violence.  In 2010, the number of available books in the children’s graphic novel category increased by 67%. And lucky for avid readers of these, there’s now a huge selection to choose from.

This selection includes:

Graphic novels for the very young, like Toon Books, feature only a few words and a few panels per page
Graphic novels for early readers, like Babymouse and Lunch Lady, feature simple stories, strong single characters, fun and humour
Graphic novels for independent readers include a wide range of stories and art styles and feature genres like nonfiction (Edu-Manga: Anne Frank), fantasy (Amulet), mystery (Secret Science Alliance) and humour (Tiny Tyrant)

Many of the traditional biases towards graphic novels being ‘junk’ reading have been dispelled by literacy professionals and educators who have determined great value in engaging with these books.

Graphic novels for children…
-          engage reluctant or at-risk readers
-          sharpen visual literacy skills
-          aid in developing skills of inferring and predicting
-          provide kids with an understanding of story sequence
-          provide scaffolding for children to understand advanced vocabulary and themes
-          connect children to other literature

Toronto Public Library has an amazing selection of graphic novels for children so be sure to visit your local branch and check them out!

Join in the discussion of great reads for children and tweens and tips for how to build the love of reading for your family.