Reviews by Caser
Home School to High School
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It's Maggie's first day at Sandford High School. Until this year, she has been home schooled with her three older brothers. Now she's on her own, navigating crowded hallways and classrooms. She soon meets the mohawked-coiffed Alistair and his bubbly sister Lucy, who befriend Maggie and help her come out from under the shadow of her brothers.

Oh, did I forget to mention that Maggie has been stalked by a ghost in a graveyard for the past seven years? And that her mother recently abandoned their family for reasons unknown? As these developments are gradually (and seamlessly) revealed, readers will find themselves pulled more deeply into the tale, searching for answers along with Maggie and her new friends.

Author and comic artist, Faith Erin Hicks, creates a vivid portrait of Maggie's family as well as their community through black, white, and gray shading. Deep character expressions are effectively portrayed, and Hicks' use of alternating panel sizes carries the narrative along swiftly.

Highly recommended for grades 8 - 12.
Sign Paperwork, See Elves
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I'm steadily working my way through Publishers Weekly 2012 Best Books in Children's Fiction, and I was recently smitten with Luke Pearson's gorgeous and enchanting graphic novel, Hilda and the Midnight Giant.

Hilda and her mother are nestled happily in their mountainside home when they are besieged by tiny, invisible elves who demand they move their house. After befriending one of the elves (and signing a stack of paperwork), Hilda is granted the ability to see the elves, and she works her way up the chain of bureaucracy to find a diplomatic solution. On her travels to the elven prime minister and king, she meets an ancient, mysterious giant who unlocks secrets about the mountain she calls home.

Fans of Jeff Smith's Bone series, Miyazaki's work, and the Adventures of Polo series by Regis Faller will enjoy Hilda's spunkiness as well as Pearson's art.
Jeffrey Dahmer, High Schooler
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Derf Backderf's fifth graphic novel, My Friend Dahmer, is doubly haunting, for both its unintentional as well as its intentional darkness. The author is quick to blame the adults in Jeffrey Dahmer's life, mostly his mother and his teachers, that should have seen Dahmer's downward spiral and intervened during middle and high school. But the author fails to recognize his own culpability in not seeking help for his (sometime) friend, who is obviously falling into severe alcoholism, and who he also bullies and then shuns. If you want a real downer to read, this is the book for you!
Portal to Richard Thompson
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I've recently started peeking into the depths of Richard Thompson's catalog of music, which spans 40+ years, so the question arises: where should I start?

I suggest this live solo acoustic record, Small Town Romance, as a portal.

The record features songs from RT's early band, the seminal Brit folk rock group, Fairport Convention, along with a selection of songs from his seven albums with his former wife, Linda Thompson, and other songs from his solo career.

Since he's playing solo acoustic, the music highlights his tremendous guitar playing skills, his powerful baritone, and of course his sharp, thoughtful songwriting talents.
EP Not B-Sides
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Usually when I hear that an artist is releasing an EP, I think they're cleaning out the b-side tracks from their last album to make some extra shekels, which I think is a good idea, but not something to get really excited about for the listeners. But not Kristian Matsson. These 5 songs are as good as anything from his full length albums, both lyrically and by their production value. Track 2, The Dreamer, is one of my favorite songs by The Tallest Man on Earth.