Friday, January 10, 2020

Graphic Novel Reviews: 3 Graphic Novels for All Ages

I have been scrambling to try to catch up on my December 2019 reviews so that I can finally move forward to 2020! To that end, I am combining 3 short reviews of graphic novels, each targeted at different age groups, from middle-grade to YA to adult: Sunny Rolls the Dice by Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Are You Listening? by Tillie Walden, and Stanislaw Lem's The Seventh Voyage by Jon J. Muth. I enjoyed all three of these very different but all entertaining graphic novels. I'll review them in age order.

I always look forward to a new graphic novel from sister-brother team Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, and their latest middle-grade book, Sunny Rolls the Dice, did not disappoint. Their first two graphic novels about Sunny were Sunny Side Up and Swing It, Sunny (reviews at the links), and this latest entry continues the story of a young girl in the 1970's trying to manage middle-school. In this book, Sunny is torn between enjoying what her friends call "childish things," like her newfound love of playing Dungeons and Dragons with the boys in the neighborhood, and keeping up with her best friends, who seem to only be interested in fashion, boys, and being cool. And they make it clear that D&D is not cool. As always, Sunny figures it out in the end and is true to herself while also being a good friend, and the Holms' siblings perfectly capture that awkward transition from child to teen. These books are always warm, funny, relatable, and just plain fun, with colorful, realistic drawings, but my favorite thing about them is that they take place in the 70's when I was almost the exact same age that Sunny is in the books, and the authors nail it when getting the details of the era right, from music to clothes (I myself had almost every single outfit Sunny wore in this book!) to TV shows to that classic 70's style in the house. Sunny even gets a cassette player and Love's Baby Soft for Christmas! It's like she's living my life, and I always love going along for the heartfelt, nostalgic ride.

Are You Listening?, on the other hand, is written for a young adult audience and captures many of the issues and struggles of teens. Teenaged Bea is clearly on the run, though she can't decide quite what to do, when she runs into Lou, an older woman from her town. Lou is an auto mechanic who has worked on Bea's mother's car, so they recognize each other. Both of them are a bit vague as to their plans and destinations, but they join up when Lou offers Bea a ride in her small car, which is pulling a little teardrop trailer. Through long days, dark nights, and stops at diners and convenience stores (and the addition of a lost cat to their journey), the two of them slowly let down their guard and begin to open up to each other. At one point, the trip takes a bit of a fantastical turn (freak snow storms in Texas and roads to nowhere), but through these challenges, the young woman and the older woman begin to confess to their reasons for running away, which helps them each address their own issues. Some of those issues are difficult ones and the illustrations are correspondingly dark, as the two of them travel through the night. Somehow, that atmosphere of a dark car at night leads to an unexpected intimacy that Walden perfectly captures here. This is a moving and ultimately hopeful story, about connecting with people and dealing with your challenges.

Sample page from Are You Listening?

Finally, Jon J. Muth has taken a classic science fiction story by Stanislaw Lem, The Seventh Voyage, and turned it into an entertaining and witty graphic novel that is aimed at adults but appropriate for all ages. Though I enjoy science fiction, and especially time travel, I was unfamiliar with Lem's work, but from this story, I think I would like his books and stories very much. In this graphic novel, a space traveler named Ijon Tichy (apparently, Lem wrote a whole series of stories about him) is moving through space in his tiny solo ship when he encounters vortexes that create multiple versions of himself. He needs to make repairs to the outside of his ship and needs an extra person to do it, but his multiples are surprisingly unwilling to help. His small ship soon becomes crowded with different versions of himself from different time streams (i.e. the tomorrow version of himself and the two-days-from-now version of himself), leading to very funny situations as he argues and even fights with himself. This is a large format graphic novel with full-color illustrations showing Ijon and his multiples. I love time travel and alternate time line stories for their complexity, and I thoroughly enjoyed this one that also combines humor into the suspenseful tale. I loved this clever, witty adaptation and will definitely look for more from both Muth and Lem.

Sample page (with maximum Ijon multiples!) from The Seventh Voyage

It was a great month for graphic novels for me!

Disclosure: I received these books from the publishers in return for honest reviews. My reviews are my own opinion and  not influenced by my relationship with the publishers or authors.

Note: This post contains affiliate links. Purchases from these links provide a small commission to me (pennies per purchase), to help offset the time I spend writing for this blog, at no extra cost to you.

You can purchase Sunny Rolls the Dice, Are You Listening?, and Stanislaw Lem's The Seventh Voyage from an independent bookstore, either locally or online, using these links:
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Or you can order any of these graphic novels from Book Depository, with free shipping worldwide.


  1. Graphic novels have come so far in the last 20 years or so. They are now works of art on many levels and these ones look good.