Great Graphic Novels (#GGN2025) Featured Review: Cooking with Monsters: The Beginner’s Guide to Culinary Combat by Jordan Alsaqa and Vivian Truong

  • Cooking with Monsters: The Beginner’s Guide to Culinary Combat
  • by Jordan Alsaqa and Vivian Truong
  • IDW Publishing
  • Publication Date: September 5, 2023
  • ISBN-13: 9781684059836

Cooking with Monsters takes place in a world filled with food-based monsters. Hana Ozawa and her friends are first year students at the Gourmand Academy of Culinary Combat, training to become warrior chefs. Hana faces self-doubt as her rival and love interest, Olivia, seems to be a step ahead of her, and she feels her mentor Chef Graham isn’t teaching her enough to succeed. But with the support of her friends, as well as her desire to be like the warrior chef who saved her as a child, Hana is determined to get through this first year.

Alsaqa incorporates action, adventure, and romance to provide a fast-paced and fun read. The colorful palette and anime-style art complement the action-packed storyline. Truong’s art style, mixed with Alsaqa’s descriptions, emphasizes the flavor and spices of the food. A well-developed and diverse set of characters will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Fans of Delicious in Dungeon will enjoy Alsaqa’s monster fighting and cooking graphic novel with a similar style of humor. This is also a perfect book for fans who like action-packed storylines and colorful illustrations such as The Witch’s Throne. If you are a foodie fan of such books as Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma then you will enjoy the food displayed in this book. If you are a fan of My Hero Academia then you may enjoy Cooking With Monsters as they share similar heroes’ journeys.

-Kyler Wesner

Other Nominated Titles

Release Date: December 12, 2023
Release Date: February 13, 2024

#ICYMI: 8 Books You Might Have Missed

It’s almost the end of 2023 and time to submit your last carts for the year!  If you find yourself with extra funds, here are some titles from the last two years that you might have missed. Some are from debut authors that snuck under the radar, while others are old favorites with new projects.

    • There’s No Way I’d Die First
    • By Lisa Springer
    • Delacorte Press: 2023
    • ISBN: 9780593643174

    This debut is for the horror-obsessed teen and pulls out all the tropes in what ends up being a campy, gory romp. If the tropes aren’t enough of a tell, each chapter starts with a quote from a horror movie and gives a hint to upcoming events. This is an homage to all the greats, with references to Stephen King, Scream, a killer clown with superhuman strength that rivals Michael Myers, and a heavy dose of teen drama. It also tries to tie in some political and social commentary and a hint of romance. Does this require suspension of belief? Yes. That’s the point. Hand to your older teens or your horror movie buffs.

    • Holly Horror
    • by Michelle Jabé Corpora
    • Penguin Workshop, 2023
    • ISBN: 9780593386217

    A scary take on our patchwork-clad, bonnet-wearing gal, Holly Hobbie. After her parents split, Evie’s mom moves the family back to her hometown and into the Horror House, so named because Holly vanished from it decades before. As Evie pokes around in the attic and discovers more of Holly’s story, weird things start to happen to her. The book ends on a cliff-hanger and readers will eagerly await book two. For younger teens that are more into supernatural mysteries, rather than slasher stories.

    • 16 & Pregnant
    • by LaLa Thomas
    • MTV Books, 2023
    • ISBN: 9781665917278

    If you are a millennial, you probably remember when this show first aired back in 2009. The show followed teens that found themselves pregnant and documented how their lives were impacted, eventually leading to the spin-off series, Teen Mom. Two teens find themselves dealing with a surprise pregnancy that derails their life plans. All options are discussed and the book does not shy away from health challenges that can accompany a pregnancy. This is an empowering story about friendship and parenthood. This is a great option for those looking for relatable stories about teen pregnancy, as well as viewers of the MTV show. This would also be a great option for parents and teens to read and discuss together.

    • Hotel Magnifique
    • by Emily J. Taylor
    • Razorbill, 2022
    • ISBN: 978059340515

    This 2022 debut is Caraval meets Howl’s Moving Castle and my favorite cover of 2022. This dark fantasy features a magical hotel that moves to a new place every night. Employees of the hotel are magically bound to service and although the hotel is gorgeous and luxurious, it’s a gilded prison. Franco-philes and fans of lush, character-driven fantasy will devour this. Additionally, the stunning cover makes this an easy book to hand-sell.

    • A Million to One
    • by Adiba Jaigirdar
    • Harperteen, 2022
    • ISBN: 978006291632

    Published right before the end of 2022, I think this one snuck past a lot of people. Take a diverse group of teens, put them on the Titanic and add in a heist. Jaigirdar’s previous YA novels have been sapphic romances–here she moves more into action and historical fiction territory. This reads quickly and is a nice option for younger teens that enjoy heists or books about the Titanic. 

    • Something More
    • by Jackie Khalileh
    • Tundra Books, 2023
    • ISBN: 9781774882139

    This romance is about a Palestinian-Canadian teen, newly diagnosed as autistic. She makes a list of all the things she wants to accomplish in high school before she graduates. She quickly learns there is no guidebook for matters of the heart when she finds herself caught between two guys. This is a refreshing take on the classic coming of age story.

    • The Grimoire of Grave Fates
    • by Hanna Alkaf and Margaret Owen, et al.
    • Delacorte Press, 2023
    • ISBN: 9780593427453

    If you have teens looking for a Harry Potter-esque story, hand them this one. It checks all the boxes: a magical boarding school that flies around à la Howl’s Moving Castle or the aforementioned Hotel Magnifique, an evil professor, a murder mystery, and magical beasts. This isn’t really a short story collection, nor is it a traditional novel. Each chapter is by a different YA author and features a different character that propels the plot forward. Some stories are stronger than others–I need a whole book about Diego, please! This collaborative effort has something for everyone and is a great option for younger teens.

    • A Heavy Dose of Allison Tandy
    • by Jeff Bishop
    • Putnam, 2022
    • ISBN: 9781984812940

    Don’t be fooled by the cotton candy cover!  This book is a lot of things–technically it’s speculative fiction. You could also consider it a romantic comedy. It should be about a boy having the best time of his life, the summer after his senior year. But ultimately, it’s about a boy that suffers a torn ACL, leaving him stuck on the couch recovering from surgery, while dealing with a really bad breakup with his girlfriend, who happens to be in a coma from a car accident, which makes it pretty weird that Cam can see and talk to her while on his sofa. Tandy is chaotic and will have you laughing and weeping, reminiscent of the John Hughes movies referenced throughout. This was my favorite debut of 2022 and one of my favorites of the year. Hand to your older teens– especially your broken-hearted high school seniors

    -Megan Nigh

    Amazing Audiobooks (#AA2024) Featured Review: Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli

    • Imogen, Obviously by Becky Albertalli
    • Narrated by Caitlin Kinnunen
    • HarperCollins Publishers Inc. | Balzer & Bray
    • Publication Date: May 02, 2023
    • ISBN: 9780063045903

    mogen works to be the best LGBTQIA+ ally. She makes space for her queer best friends and is the most committed member of her high school’s Pride Alliance group. When she visits when she visits her best friend, Lili, at college her identity will be challenged. As it turns out, Lili told her new friends that Imogen is her ex-girlfriend. As Imogen plays the part, she begins developing feelings for Lili’s new friend, Tessa. Imogen is hopelessly heterosexual, right? It is not only Imogen who will come to terms with her identity but also the important people in her life. Assumptions are not unique to one group of people and Imogen must face these challenges from unexpected places.

    This cute romance packs a punch by digging deeply into the concept of identity and proves that the path to sexual identity is personal and unique for every individual. This audiobook makes room for a wide range of readers, especially those questioning their own sexuality, by showing that not every story follows the same path and can have unique twists. The narration enhances the lightness of the story and eases listeners into its depths. 

    Fans of Albertalli’s previous works will flow easily into Imogen’s world. Those who love Julie Murphy, Hannah Moskowitz, and Adam Silvera will enjoy this novel as well.

    -Sarah Carpenter

    The Selected Lists teams read throughout the year in search of the best titles published in their respective categories. Once a book is suggested (either internally or through the title suggestion form), it must pass through a review process to be designated an official nomination.

    Each week, the teams feature a review of one of the officially nominated titles. Additional titles to receive this designation are listed as well. At year’s end, the team will curate a final list from all nominated titles and select a Top Ten.

    Booklist: New LGBTQIAP+ Nonfiction for Pride Month

    June is LGBTQ Pride Month: a time celebrate and recognize the impact that LGBTQ people have in the world. June was chosen for Pride Month as a way to commemorate the 1969 Stonewall riots that have been seen as the landmark event that propelled the movement for LGBTQ civil rights.

    Continue reading Booklist: New LGBTQIAP+ Nonfiction for Pride Month

    Understanding Microaggressions Through a Graphic Novel

    Each year, the school where I work provides in-house professional development for its faculty and staff, and last year the focus was on microaggressions and implicit bias. I was lucky to be a part of the team who helped lead the PD sessions, which focused mostly on teaching the adults in our community how to recognize and deal with microaggressions at school.  

    One of the most valuable resources I used during this process was the graphic novel As the Crow Flies by Mellanie Gilman (2018 Stonewall Book Award Honor, 2019 Amelia Bloomer Book List Selection). In an instance of true serendipity, we added the book to our library collection just as I was starting to work with the professional development team. When I read it, I realized how perfectly it illustrated microaggressions and their negative impacts (literally and figuratively). 

    Continue reading Understanding Microaggressions Through a Graphic Novel

    Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction

    As we embrace more inclusion in our media, strides are being made for more diverse representations in literature. The result is that we are starting to see where there are major gaps. When it comes to books featuring queer characters, those that are not exclusively heterosexual or cisgender, we are slowly building the canon of books that feature prime or side LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer) characters. When we continue the acronym to be inclusive of sexualities to LGBTQIAP, we see where we are lagging, and it is in those IAP (Intersex, Asexual, and Pansexual) representations.  In young adult fiction we had the groundbreaking 2015 teen novel, None of the Above by I.W. Gregario featuring an intersexed teen, as well as the 2014 Alex Award winner Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin, but there have been few to use the word asexual or pansexual to describe characters.

    Asexuality in YA Fiction

     

    Asexuality can be very isolating, especially as a teen when your peers are experiencing crushes, talking about love interests, and/or sex. You can feel like something is wrong with you, especially if you don’t know what an asexual is. It can be very validating when you meet a character on the page that experiences the world similarly to you, yet it is rarely called out in text, so it is often more of a kinship than a chance to understand one’s sexuality.

    Asexuality or “Ace” is a spectrum. One can be asexual and/or aromantic, demisexual or a gray ace. Society as whole seems to make assumptions and misjudgements about Aces and asexuality, which can be invalidating to others experiences, another reason why it never hurts to have more representation in media forms so there can be both “mirrors and windows.”

    Below are book titles that have characters that identify as asexual. It usually isn’t the story, but just a part of who they are.

    Young Adult Fiction with Asexual Characters

    Quicksilver by R. J. Anderson

    The second in the sci-fi thriller Ultraviolet Series, follows the character of Tori. In a new home and with a new identities, Tori and her family are on the run to hide a secret about her unusual DNA. Just when she thinks they might be able to pull it off, someone from her past shows up showing she is not as safe as she thinks.

    Tori, the main character, is explicitly asexual, and her asexuality is integrated throughout the story. Tori’s sexuality is only one facet of this multidimensional, strong, female character, who is dealing with high stakes situations.

    The Movement Volume 1: Class Warfare by Gail Simone

    A group of young super-heroes rise up to take back the streets of their corrupt city sparking a revolution that goes viral world-wide. The corruption leads to one of their own being kidnapped by police, those that are supposed to protect, and issues between the “haves” and the “have-nots” rise up.

    This is a full cast of characters all unique from one another. Tremor, aka Roshanna Chatterji (previous from comic series Secret Six), comes into this new series where she identifies herself as asexual. Her story arc isn’t focused on sexuality, but rather her path to redemption for previous grievances. Continue reading Booklist: Asexuality in Young Adult Fiction

    Throwback Thursday: Weetzie Bat

    With dozens of new YA books released each week, it’s easy to get focused on the new and exciting books soon to hit shelves. That doesn’t mean that we want to forget about old favorites or older titles that may be easily overlooked yet could still be a hit with the right reader. Our Throwback Thursday posts will highlight backlist titles, prolific authors, and classics of YA.

    My discovery of Weetzie Bat was a bit of a fluke. This past summer, I recall looking up popular and cult books in the 1990s and cross-referencing those titles with my library’s collection. I came across Weetzie Bat and the synopsis intrigued me. I vaguely recalled the title from my teen years, but I had not read it yet. When I placed a request for the title and it arrived at my library, it was surprisingly small and had acid colors on the cover.

    Weetzie Bat, written by Francesca Lia Block, was originally published in 1989 and is the first of five books in the Dangerous Angels series. Other titles in the series include: Witch Baby (1991), Cherokee Bat and the Goat Guys (1992), Missing Angel Juan (1993), and Baby Be-Bop (1995). Block was awarded the 2005 Margaret A. Edwards award for substantial contribution to literature for young adults.

    Weetzie is a quirky girl with a platinum blonde flat top and her best friend is Dirk. Both are searching for love in dream-filled Los Angeles. Weetzie describes her perfect man as My Secret Agent Lover Man and she finds him when Dirk finds Duck, a blond surfer dude. They all live happily ever after in their shared home. Well, sort of.

    The surprising part about this story is its breeziness, not only in plot, but with important topics like sexuality, AIDS, and abortion. While the story touches upon these topics, it never comes off as didactic. The story resembles a punk rock fairy tale, just without any saccharin details. You are not entirely sure, though, if Weetzie is a bit shallow since her outlook on these tough topics is without pithiness.

    However, I could easily see how the story became a cult classic and helped define the Young Adult genre. As a teen in the 1990s, there weren’t very many books for teens. Mainly, you would either read classic children’s literature or adult books. At my favorite neighborhood bookstore, I recall that the “teen” section was a shelf situated within the children’s area. It is possible that I would have enjoyed this book as a teenager, but I definitely appreciate it as an adult with its magical realism and mature topics. I spent my early years in southern California (yes, technically I’m a Valley Girl), and something about this story reminds me of the late 1980s and early 1990s of my childhood with the descriptions of palm trees and the very California-ness of the plot.

    Weetzie Bat still enjoys fictional celebrity status as a style icon according to Rookie Mag. You can check out the article (and fun photos) here. Also, supposedly, the story has been optioned to become a movie that has yet to come out. You can read more about those details on Francesca Lia Block’s website here.

    Final thoughts: I recommend this book for readers that like their fiction brief, southern California fairytales, and for those interested in LGBTQ themes.

    –Diana Slavinsky, currently listening to Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets on audio in her car (though, not writing while driving because that would be dangerous) Continue reading Throwback Thursday: Weetzie Bat

    Diversify YA Life: LGBTQ Fiction and Non-Fiction

    If your library is anything like mine, your LGBTQ displays and books are among the most popular in your collection.  LGBTQ fiction and non-fiction is what we like to call window and mirror books.  When teens see themselves in the book, it’s a mirror.  When teens see other people in the book, it’s a window.  Either way, LGBTQ books serve many purposes.  Bullied teens can find inspiration and the will to live in these books.  LGBTQ books can be cathartic to the teen who feels alone.  Teens with LGBTQ friends or family members seek out these books to understand and/or support their loved ones.

    Diversify YA Life LGBTQ

    Below is a list of books that feature LGBTQ teens from all genres including non-fiction, humor, paranormal, romance, and graphic novels. Continue reading Diversify YA Life: LGBTQ Fiction and Non-Fiction

    A Series of Fortunate Events: Library Collaborations that Help LGBTQ Young Adults Transition to College Life

    Co-presented by university librarian Amanda Melilli, head of the Curriculum Materials Library at the University of Nevada Las Vegas, and Las Vegas (Clark County) high school English teacher and department chair for English in Clark County Ashley Nebe, this session focused on their collaborative relationship, designed to support and encourage LGBTQIA teens both in their high school years and during the transition to college. We also heard from authors Ann Bausum, Susan Kuklin, David Levithan, and Mariko Tamaki on their thoughts for supporting LGBTQIA youth during the transition from high school to university.

    ya_symposium_2015

     

    Nebe spoke (inspirationally!) about the incredible growth of the GSA chapter at her high school, and the work that they have done to partner with other LGBTQIA-serving organizations and allies in the community, including Melilli’s library. The high school group now runs a student Talent Showcase in an open-air setting at the high school that has become a large event with strong participation numbers from students (with the larger community invited). They participate in the community-wide Pride Parade each year, which gives them a chance to make personal connections with college-age LGBTQIA students and faculty before arriving on the university campus themselves. Some key take-aways: Continue reading A Series of Fortunate Events: Library Collaborations that Help LGBTQ Young Adults Transition to College Life

    Documentaries for Teens: LGBTQIA+ Issues

    Documentaries are sometimes overlooked forms of media for both education and for entertainment. They cover all types of subject matter and can tell intimate, moving stories. This series focuses on documentaries that may appeal to teens, and each installment will focus on a particular theme. To honor LGBTQ history month, this installment spotlights documentaries that portray the LGBTQIA+ experience of today’s teens or historical queer communities.

    I’m Just Anneke

    This short documentary is the story of a gender-nonconforming teen and their supportive family. Libraries can purchase it through New Day films. Educators can also find a discussion guide.

    Do I Sound Gay? 

    This thought-provoking documentary explores the idea of a “gay voice” in popular culture, with commentary from George Takeii, Margaret Cho, David Sedaris, and more. It will be available on DVD (and Netflix) in November. Continue reading Documentaries for Teens: LGBTQIA+ Issues