This edition of Bite-Sized Book Reviews is a graphic novel double feature. Sometimes, I have tons to say about the books I read, and other times, not so much. This column collects my thoughts on books I've read in fewer words than my standard reviews.
Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas
by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks
I had never heard of Primates at all until suddenly a bunch of blogs put them on recommended lists and set it apart from being charming and informative. I found the book to be both these things, as well as super accessible, especially for young readers.
Though technically some of the book's material is fiction, largely because the creators weren't witness to its events,
illustrates the absolutely true stories of the three women listed above, who impacted science in a big way. It gives readers a highlight reel of their achievements, and what it took for them to get there.
This book has wonderful composition, and if its purpose was to get me interested in learning more about its leading ladies, it succeeded. I'm also now sure that I'll be passing this book on to many tiny hands as the children in my family and circle of friends grow old enough to enjoy the material. It isn't a "girly" book aimed at girls - it's for everyone, and everyone can benefit from its wisdom. One of my favorite nuggets from this book: you're never too old to get started with your life's work.
An exclusive excerpt of this title is available at BoingBoing.
Star Wars Jedi Academy by Jeffrey Brown
I devoured this book like nobody's business. Brown had won me over with his book Vader's Little Princess already, and I couldn't wait for more.
Jedi Academy stars a middle school-aged kid Roan who dreams of becoming a pilot, and his whole world takes a turn when he's rejected from pilot school and instead recruited for the Jedi Academy by Master Yoda. If you're a Star Wars fan, you know it's unusual for a kid to be taken in at that age, but if you aren't all that familiar with the way things work in the Star Wars universe, you aren't left out.
The author doesn't assume that readers know everything about Jedis and galaxies far, far away, and it makes this book kid-friendly as well as a nice entry point for folks of all-ages into Star Wars in general. For adults, it's a fun diversion to toss into the TBR pile, and if you're already a fan you'll enjoy all the little jokes, puns, and other references jumbled in to Roan's narrative.
Jedi Academy's structure is that of a journal, and it's all in Roan's perspective. He writes in it, tapes clippings, and doodles in his journal, and a few people have compared this to Diary of a Wimpy Kid. I haven't read that, but it sounds like a good point of reference.
One of the things I really admire about this book though, is its subtle focus on bullying. Roan deals with a couple of difficult characters who tease him for one reason or another pretty much all the time. As he gains confidence in himself and becomes happier with his situation, he learns how to deal with them in a positive way, without aggression, and by avoiding needless confrontation. There's also a great Yoda PSA tossed in for good measure about how to deal with bullies.
Buy it at Amazon, or click here to buy it from ThinkGeek.
Both of these are fantastic all-ages reads and I highly recommend them!