2017 Series Spotlight
Our definition of “series” here at the Bulletin continues to shift, so while we originally required a story arc to be told over three books or more to grab a spot on our notable list, this year a duology forced us to bring that requirement to two. , we couldn’t possibly ignore the gorgeous storytelling found in Bardugo’s gripping heist plot. Anderson’s The Seeds of America trilogy is a breathtaking tale long in the making, while Winick’s graphic novels are fabulous middle grade outings packed with action and emotion. Clear some shelf space for these sets.
Anderson, Laurie Halse. Chains. Simon, 2008. Gr. 7-10 (BCCB 11/08)
— Forge. Atheneum, 2010. (BCCB 11/10)
— Ashes. Atheneum, 2016. (BCCB 11/16)
The political complexities of race, slavery, and the founding of our country are made personal here, as the books follow runaway slaves Isabel and Curzon, whose paths criss-cross as the British colonists fight the crown. Both slaves see an opportunity for freedom in allying with either the Loyalists or the Patriots, but there’s betrayal at every turn. Utterly engrossing in both setting and storyline, this will make readers want to race through Isabel’s and Curzon’s journeys even as they contemplate the hefty emotional and historical weight behind them. In each volume, Anderson crafts her source notes into a reader-friendly Q&A discussion and appends a glossary of eighteenth-century terms.
Bardugo, Leigh. Six of Crows. Holt, 2015. Gr. 7-10 (BCCB 11/15)
— Crooked Kingdom. Holt, 2016. (BCCB 10/16)
There are heist stories with ingenious plotting, and then there are heist stories like Bardugo’s duology that raise the ante with luminous writing, fully credible characters, and a richly developed world. The ruthless and often cunning Kaz Brekker has secured a crew to capture of scientist who developed a mind and strength altering drug. As leader of the six infiltrators, Kaz propels the action, but the other five rise far above the status of supporting cast with riveting backstories spun out with exemplary timing. Inej, “the Wraith,” is gifted at knifeplay and stealth but can’t sneak into Kaz’s heart; Fjerdan soldier and Grisha killer Matthias harbors a shameful passion for Nina, a Heartrender Grisha who can destroy an enemy with the wave of a hand; sharpshooter and gambler Jesper keeps another skill tightly under wraps; Van Eck’s son, Wylan, proves his value as more than collateral to ensure his father’s reward money. Fans of Bardugo’s Grisha series will be thrilled with this spin off but readers need no previous knowledge of that series to be fully satisfied by this superb set.
Winick, Judd. Hilo: The Boy Who Crashed to Earth; written and illus. by Judd Winick; color by Steve Hamaker. Random House, 2015. Gr. 4-6 (BCCB 11/15)
— Hilo: Saving the Whole Wide World; written and illus. by Judd Winick; color by Steve Hamaker. Random House, 2016. (BCCB 4/16)
— Hilo: The Great Big Boom; written and illus. by Judd Winick; color by Steve Hamaker. Random House, 2017. (BCCB 1/17)
Each volume of this sharp, impeccably written graphic novel series is a treat, with the titular Hilo staving off Earth’s destruction with his friends D.J. and Gina while negotiating complicated friendship and family dynamics. Evil vegetables, giant canary like monsters, and a (delightfully) bellicose warrior cat bring plenty of action, but there’s some serious emotional heft here as robot Hilo reckons with his creator and the deadly purpose for which he was created. D.J. and Gina, childhood buddies, are remaking their relationship as middle graders, and insecurities plague them both, a situation many young readers will be familiar with. Winick is a master at adding new characters judiciously to his diverse cast while also looping back to explore the established ones in greater depth. The free and loose panel structure along with cartoonish sound effects and expressions lend this a breezy accessibility—readers dipping their toe in the GN world will be persuaded by Hilo and crew to dive in head first.