Sunday, August 17, 2008

Two Intriguing Graphic Novels for Kids

Although the jackets of these books are bright and winsome enough to attract young children, a closer look will reveal the darker side of these stories. On the back jacket of Korgi: Book 1 by Christian Slade (Top Shelf Productions, 2007), a troll-like creature lurks darkly behind a tree. Under an illustration of two anime-cute kids and a pink rabbit (all looking a tad worried) on the cover of Amulet: The Stonekeeper by Kazu Kibuishi (Graphix/Scholastic, 2008), a tentacled horror emerges from a partly closed door.

Korgi is, except for an introduction by Wart, a toad who is Scrollkeeper of a magical village, completely wordless, relying on the black ink illustrations to tell the story, both in panels and full spreads. Korgis, Wart tells us, have brought new joy and energy to a small woodland village inhabited by amiable, pointy-eared folk called Mollies. One day a young Korgi named Sprout chases a winged creature far away, and Ivy, a young Mollie, follows him. They end up falling into a scary place infested by giant spiders and all manner of fearsome creatures, including a troll who wants to eat them. They get away, thanks to Sprout's awesome fire-breathing abilities and Ivy's cool wings, and happily return to the village. However...! A creature bearing a strong resemblance to an evil hamster has spied on them and reports back to its creepy alien-looking master. And thus ends book 1 - to be continued. The atmosphere is pure fairy-tale in that it manages to be both enchanting and menacing. Danger lurks all around Ivy and her village, yet one is certain that the innocence of the Mollies and the bravery of the Korgis will see them through the attacks that are sure to come in the next books. Recommended for ages 6 to adult.

Amulet has some seriously chilling elements to it and should probably be avoided by particularly young and/or sensitive kids. The prologue depicts the terrifying death of Emily and Naven's dad in a harrowing car accident, witnessed by Emily and her mom. 2 years later, Emily, her younger brother Naven, and their mom move to a large and mysterious house that has been in the family for ages. Almost immediately, the family is sucked into terrifying adventure - Emily and Naven find an amulet, their mom is swallowed alive by a gruesome slimy blob with many teeth, and they find their missing great-grandfather, who is apparently an inventor/ruler of the alternate world Alledia. He dies, bequeathing his power and his odd assortment of robots (one of them the pink rabbit) to Emily. They rescue their mom, who has been poisoned, and are chased and attacked by any number of vile creatures. As Book 1 ends, they are traveling (in their great-grandfather's enormous walking house) to another city of Alledia to find an antidote to the poison. Told in classic comic book form on glossy pages and in full color, this is an absorbing and hugely entertaining read. There are several thrilling twists and turns, and the anime-esque illustrations add fascinating details to the story. Not for the faint-hearted or very young, but kids ages 8 and up will be entranced. Oh, and apparently it's being made into a movie starring young Willow and Jaden Smith, children of Will Smith and Jada Pinkett-Smith.

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