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February 4, 2011 Edition

The World’s Greatest Super-Heroes, by Paul Dini and Alex Ross


The highlight of this oversized volume is the full-color realistic art, but the stories are very strong, too. Introduced by a two-page spread of the lead character’s origin (Batman, Wonder Woman, Captain Marvel, and the Justice League), each story is full of the intrigue, adventure, and strong human interest that have captivated readers for generations.

Dawn Land, by Joseph Bruchac and Will Davis


Trouble comes to the home of Young Hunter’s family in the form of Stone People, who kill his parents and mark his older brother with a dark spirit that can’t be cast out. Years later, Young Hunter has grown to manhood with his grandparents, but his older brother, Weasel Tail, has turned feral and left the village. Young Hunter is sent on a quest that takes him away from his new love and into the land of the Salmon People, where he learns to fight with a new weapon, and further on to where the Stone People live. Along the way, he loses one of his wolf companions, meets a young woman who has lost her family, and reunites with his brother. Based on the novel of the same name and steeped in Native American legend, this will transport readers back 10,000 years to the Abenaki territory and a time of great crisis.

Pinocchio, Vampire Slayer, by Van Jensen and Dusty Higgins


This offbeat story takes place in a decidedly non-Disney universe, where Geppetto has been killed by vampires, the Blue Fairy has grown old, and Pinocchio, still an enchanted puppet, is on a mission to avenge his father. Haunted by the ghost of his long-squashed cricket companion, he chases vampires down dark alleys, only to have them turn to dust when killed. Without proof of their existence, the townspeople refuse to believe the vampires are real and Pinocchio becomes increasingly frustrated. When he discovers that his old nemeses, the Fox and the Cat, are in league with the vampires, he ramps up his efforts to convince the townspeople of their danger. Black and white drawings enhance the moody strangeness of this first in a new series.

The Best American Comics, edited by Neil Gaiman, Jessica Abel, and Matt Madden


Gaiman, as this year’s editor for the annual collection, argues that this is much more of a sampler of really good comics. And sampler it is: the styles and subjects vary widely, from a colorful and cleanly-drawn snippet of Gabrielle Bell’s childhood in Mixed Up Files, to Derf’s black and white Crumb-esque story of a rock concert gone strange in The Bank. Excerpts from twenty-five artists’ work range from stand-alone stories to comic strips. Browse through to find artists you’ve never read before or to rediscover old friends in new places.

Good Eggs, by Phoebe Potts


Potts chronicles her distress at not being able to get pregnant, but somehow makes it both self-deprecating and totally serious. Also, very funny. In addition to her fertility issues, she works in marriages, religion, pets as surrogate kids, depression, and social expectations. Watch her pictures carefully: thanks to her deft hand and wit, her buildings speak through their signage, her pets express their opinions on goings-on to themselves (and the reader), and in one memorable sequence she explains in-vitro fertilization in a way you’ve never imagined it before. There’s no happy ending here, but a strong sense of family and an openness to other futures that is heartwarming and satisfying.

Spot the Plot, by J. Patrick Lewis, illustrated by Lynn Munsinger


This is just the thing for well-read beginning riddlers: a series of puzzles about stories. Each page offers verbal and visual clues to a different book ranging from short picture books (Madeline, The Story of Ferdinand) to longer chapter books (Charlotte’s Web, The Wizard of Oz). The young boy and girl detectives, accompanied by their intrepid canine companion, dodge a farmer, try on shoes, and ride a train through a blizzard in the quest for answers. Some titles, of course, will come more easily to mind than others, but parents and caregivers can use this as a (short) reading list for some of the classic children’s stories, too. (And there’s a title and author list at the end if you need hints!)

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