Barbara L. Talcroft
When Mel's dad is kidnapped, no one believes him. How can Mel convince them and find his dad?
Children's LiteratureGraphic novels are quickly taking their place in adult literature, and what becomes fashionable there soon finds its way into children's books. Children have always been attracted to comic books for their snappy action, minimum of words, and their ability to pull a reader along to the end. So, now we have graphic novels for kids. This one, originally from England, does a competent job of keeping most of the dialogue in the frames, and trying for some exciting action in chapters five and six, though it is a bit unbelievable. English bank robbers must be different from American ones if they carry loose money out of a bank in two cardboard boxes and are intimidated by a smallish dog. Still, their apprehension gives the hero, Mel, a chance to redeem himself after inept attempts at magic tricks and the ridicule of rather unpleasant friends. As a finale, Mel and his father (kidnapped bank manager and magician) triumph as a team with their successful sawing-in-half trick. Joker is one tale in the "Graphic Trax" series for confident primary-grade readers or less advanced middle ones (it would also be useful for English as a second language students). It is a better try at a graphic novel than some others in the series, being both easy to read and engaging enough to keep readers' attention to the finish. The glossary, discussion questions, and writing prompts are unnecessary and detract from the illusion of graphic novel excitement. 2006 (orig. 2000), Stone Arch, Ages 6 to 11.
Barbara L. Talcroft
School Library JournalGr 2-4-These two early chapter books work well for reluctant and/or transitional readers. In Joker, Mel works with his part-time magician dad, Magic Max, and attempts to do his own magic in school. If a trick doesn't work, he is teased by a jealous classmate. When his dad is kidnapped and held hostage at the bank where he works, Mel manages to foil the robbery and help rescue him. Themes of honesty, respect, teasing, and showing off are rolled into a simple yet intriguing mystery. Arf uncovers a greedy developer's scheme to shut down the animal shelter when he tries to earn some money as a budding photographer in order to buy his favorite computer game. Through his shots, he is able to expose the villain. Both books use the balloon format for all dialogue, yet include enough narrative above and below the comic-book-style tableaux to develop a full story. Appended discussion questions and writing prompts provide easy follow-through for literacy centers or classroom libraries. Engaging, well-designed titles.-Rita Soltan, Youth Services Consultant, West Bloomfield, MI Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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