Category Archives: Book Review

Spiral-Bound: Top Secret Summer by Aaron Renier

I have to admit that what first caught my eye about Spiral-Bound: Top Secret Summer was how the cover is designed to look like a spiral notebook. On the front there are fake 3-hole punches, a barcode aSpiral Boundnd price tag, and a picture of a dog, rabbit, and elephant falling into the open mouth of a monster that’s been sketched across the cover. The back looks just like the brown cardboard of your regular spiral notebook, and the spine looks like a spiral binding, complete with a pencil stuck down inside. As I flipped through the pages I saw that they were made to look like lined paper, and there were doodles and notes jotted down on the inside covers and title page. As I started reading Spiral-Bound, I felt like I was reading a real notebook, and the design immediately dropped me inside this magical story filled with secrets and mysteries. It was like I had stumbled across a secret portal to another world and had been sent on a great adventure.

The story centers around a lively cast of characters: there’s Turnip, a talented but insecure elephant who is prone to daydreaming; Stucky, a friendly and confident dog; Ana, a plucky and determined rabbit who aspires to be a writer; and Emily the bird, who is a photographer and loyal friend to Ana. All of the characters are hiding a secret or two, and the town they live in has a secret of it’s own. Turnip and Stucky are in a sSpiralBound2ummer art camp that’s making a top-secret sculpture garden that will be unveiled at the town park. The only problem is that there’s mysterious monster living in the park pond that the townspeople fear will eat them. Ana and Emily work for the local underground paper and their boss, a turtle named Kipper, has Ana assigned to do a review of the sculpture garden. But Ana is determined to unravel the mystery of the monster, and with Emily’s help she begins a secret investigation to uncover the truth. Luckily for them the paper has a series of hidden passages that lead to underground tunnels that the pair uses in their search for the facts. Kipper also gives Ana a top-secret notebook that shows all the passages and tunnels written in invisible lemon ink. As the tension gets higher and secrets are revealed, the characters make discoveries not only about the town, but about themselves as well.

Even though it was the cover that made me pick Spiral-Bound, what really made the story come to life was Renier’s skill as a storyteller. One way that Renier does this is in how he writes the characters so that they feel like real people with real personalities. They all have their strengths and flaws, and Renier shows how when they work together they are able to solve their problems. Renier also gave them these quirky little traits, like how Turnip creates sandwich art, or how Stucky has a passion for clay, and how Ana created a zine of recipes called Seconds? Try Thirds! that helps convince Kipper to hire her as a writer. The other thing that I really liked about Renier’s storytelling was how the characters and plots work together to create an entertaining story. Turnip, Stucky, Ana, and Emily’s stories are all interesting on their own, but it’s even more interesting to see how Renier weaves them together in the end. So if you’re looking for a little mystery and an escape from the summer heat, I’d definitely recommend taking an adventure filled trip into the world of Spiral-Bound.


Reviewed by Jenna Batchelor

Tagged , , , , ,

Review: Drama

A Review of Raina Telgemeier’s Drama by Southwest’s own Jenna Batchelor!

Ever since Callie Marin’s mom took her to see a production of Les Miserables, Callie has been in love with theater. After that fateful day she surrounded herself with the music and posters from her favorite plays and musicals and tried to learn everything about them that she could. When Callie started sixth grade she saw a flyer asking for students to join the stage crew of Eucalyptus Middle School’s drama department. It was at that point that Callie’s “new life began.” Now a seventh grader, Callie is in charge of the set design for the drama department’s production of Moon Over Mississippi. Callie’s got big plans for the musical but will she be able to pull them off?

Raina TelgDramaemeier’s Drama follows Callie throughout the school year as she deals with drama, whether it’s on stage or off. On stage, Callie is determined to make Moon Over Mississippi a hit and dreams up some big ideas to make the sets fun and exciting. One of these ideas is to have a canon go off during an important scene but the confetti poppers aren’t working the way Callie had hoped. On top of that, Callie and the rest of the drama department are dealing with budgets, ticket sales, and with actors causing trouble that could undo all the hard work everyone has put into the production. Off stage, Callie is making new friends, having fights with old friends, and dealing with boy drama. Along the way Callie learns a little about herself and learns how to follow her heart.

One day when Callie is putting up an audition flyer for the musical she meets twin brothers Justin and Jesse and invites them to try out. The three then become friends and Callie learns that Justin loves acting since it means he gets to be the center of attention. Jesse also enjoys theater but downplays his abilities because he is unsure about how he feels about being in the spotlight. Jesse tells Callie he allows Justin to take center stage because of his uncertainty. Just like Callie, Jesse is still trying to figure out who he is and what he wants. Callie finds herself crushing on Jesse but she isn’t sure Jesse feels the same way about her. As a reader it was fun to see Callie, Justin, and Jesse share their love of theater and learn from each other. I truly cared about Callie and her friends and wanted to see how their individual dramas unfolded.

What made Drama an enjoyable read was Telgemeier’s ability to tell a great story. Part of what makes Telgemeier a great storyteller is in her use of bright and playful drawings. One of my favorite scenes is when Callie is showing Jesse her favorite book on set design. To illustrate this, Telgemeier draws Callie and Jesse hopping into the book and then into the different sets that are pictured. While in a set, Callie tells Jesse, “I want the audience to believe that the actors really live inside of the world onstage.” Having Callie and Jesse jump into a set like that made me feel that they were really living inside the world of the book.

Another way that Telgemeier made the story feel real was by using events from her own life as inspiration for things that happened in the story. In the author’s note Telgemeier says that she was in a few school productions when she was a teen, and that it was thrilling to see everyone work together to pull off the show. As a reader I felt that same thrill, and that made the story feel real and exciting. Along with that, Telgemeier showed that when things don’t go off as perfectly as planned they end up being much more interesting because of the imperfection. Overall, I really enjoyed Drama and would definitely recommend it to anyone who is a fan of comics, theater, or plain old drama!

Best Kids/Teen Comics of 2012

‘Tis the season for best of lists. I’ve asked a couple of different folks to give me their favorite kids and teen comics from 2012.

StaceyToday’s list is from Stacey Lunden. You may recognize her from the Chapel Hill Public Library. She’s a Children’s Librarian, an aerialist (that’s really her, for real –  it’s crazy), and a computer programmer. Basically she’s a super busy lady. But most importantly she loves comics! Especially kids comics. So here’s a list of her favorites from this year.

(If you want to check them out just click on the cover to see if your library has a copy in.)

Kids Comics:

The Secret of the Stone Frog by David Nytra

The Secret of the Stone Frog
by David Nytra

A Wrinkle in Time by Hope Larson

A Wrinkle in Time
by Hope Larson

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel

Cardboard by Doug TenNapel








Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite by Barry Deutsch

Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite
by Barry Deutsch

Into the Woods - Bigfoot Boy #1by J Torres

Into the Woods –
Bigfoot Boy #1
by J Torres










Teen Comics:

I’ve put these in two different groups because the teen comics though, awesome, might not be appropriate for everyone, so just something to consider.

Chopsticks by Jessica Anthony

by Jessica Anthony

Friends with Boys by Faith Erin Hicks

Friends with Boys
by Faith Erin Hicks

Tagged , ,