Comics Connect Kits

Booklist of Titles and Synopses for all 21 Comics Connect Kits

What is a Comics Connect Kit?
It’s one-stop shopping for your class or discussion group all in one container! Listed below are all 21 available kit titles with synopses.

How do I get a kit?

Call your public library (http://www.mvls.info/members) or call the Mohawk Valley Library System at

518-355-2010.

How long can I keep a kit?
A kit is checked out to one patron who is responsible for all of the materials. The group may keep the kit for up to 6 weeks. This kit may not be renewed. Please return kits promptly so they will be available for other classroom/book groups.

Where can I pick up and return a kit?
You can pick up a kit at any Mohawk Valley Library System library. Kits must be returned to libraries during open hours, since they can’t be returned in a bookdrop. Overdue kits will be charted a daily fine, and missing/damaged books will be charged to the person who checked out the kit.

Borrower Responsibilities

  • Any patron of a MVLS member library may borrow a kit.
  • The kit will be checked out on the library card of the person picking up the kit. That patron is completely responsible for the kit and all of its contents.
    • You will be personally billed if the kit is not returned.
    • You will be personally billed if any books are missing or damaged from the kit or are damaged when it is returned.
  • The loan period is 6 weeks.
  • No more than 1 kit can be checked out to your library card at one time.
  • Check contents before returning the kit.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. One of my group members forgot to return their book, who is responsible?
A. The person who borrows the kit is completely responsible for the return of the kit and all of its contents.

Q. My group meets monthly, can I borrow a kit every month?
A. You can reserve up to 6 kits at a time up to a year in advance. No more than 1 kit can be checked out to your card at one time.

Q. I can’t remember what was in my kit when I got it, how do I know what to check for before returning it?
A. Look at the sleeve in the folder in your kit, the kit’s contents are listed there.

Q. Can my group members/class return their own books to the library?
A. No, the Comics Connect Kit must be returned with all copies of the book at the same time.

Q. What if a book is lost or damaged?
A. If your group or class loses an item you will be billed the list price for that item.

Q. May I place a hold on a Comics Connect Kit from the online catalog?
A. No, reserves must be placed through your public library or by calling the Mohawk Valley Library System at 518-355-2010.

Q. What if my class/group has more than 30 members?
A. Use the MVLS Public Library Catalog to request more copies of a title as needed.

Q. Does my local library have space for my group to meet?
A. Give them a call and ask! Many do.

Check out all our kits:

Booklist of Titles and Synopses for all 21 Comics Connect Kits

Adventures in Cartooning Activity Book
By James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost

OVERVIEW:  The superlative Adventures in Cartooning (2009) was a first-rate adventure story and clever comics primer for young readers. This follow-up offers a hands-on approach to creating sequential narrative that kids interested in the form will not be able to resist. Slimmer and lighter on story, the narrative of a knight and his friendly elf questing for fun in the middle of a rainstorm is seamlessly woven into various activities meant to sharpen children’s understanding of and skill with the rudiments of sequential art. All the crucial bases are covered: illustrating expressions, characters, objects, and actions; using codes (like speed lines), perspective, dialogue, and sound effects; and panel sequencing and efficiency. All this culminates in a mapped-out array of blank panels for producing an entire story.  Grades 2-5. –Jesse Karp

From Booklist (review journal)

Astronaut Academy 1: Zero Gravity  By Dave Roman

OVERVIEW:  This charming graphic adventure follows the exploits of child space hero Hakata Soy. Enrolled in an intergalactic boarding school, he navigates his way through the over-the-top personalities of many of his melodramatic classmates. An element of danger is added when fellow hero Gadget creates a new best friend-a robotic duplicate of Hakata Soy that includes one of his “broken hearts.” This robot is co-opted by villainous bird people that set him upon the academy to kill his flesh-and-blood doppelganger. While this title is obviously geared for and can be enjoyed by school-age children, there is also tongue-and-cheek humor that older readers are sure to enjoy. Each supporting character is highlighted in mini-chapters, which gives the book a kind of newspaper comic-strip feel. The black-and-white pencil illustrations invoke the artistic style of a manga, but many of Roman’s unique theatrical elements, including boys concerned with “cool hair” and wheeled dinosaurs used for moon racing, create a universe unto its own.   -Ryan Donovan, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2011.

From School Library Journal  (review journal)

Billions of Bats  By Scott Nickel; art by Andy J. Smith

OVERVIEW:  Buzz Beaker, boy scientist extraordinaire, has met a challenge that can’t be resolved with his microscope. Her name is Sarah Bellum, “Certified girl genius. With an IQ of 187.6.” Then her extra-extra credit project – the cosmic copier – backfires and fills the school with over a thousand “copies” of her pet bat, Bobo. Yes, Sarah has made a “boo-boo with Bobo.” Only Buzz can save the day. Cartoon cells frame Buzz’s world. Subtle color shading brings depth to digitally finished illustrations and draws readers beyond the confines of the frames to enhance both the comic expressions and the action of the text. Zany art; engaging characters with exaggerated, off-center features; and a problem to solve make this great fun for the younger set as well as reluctant readers.  -Mary Elam, Forman Elementary School, Plano, TX (c) Copyright 2010.

From School Library Journal  (review journal)

Binky the Space Cat  By Ashley Spires

OVERVIEW:  Binky is a housecat with a purpose: to build a rocket ship, explore outer space, and protect his humans from alien domination. So what if outer space is the world outside his front door, or that the aliens Binky battles are actually bugs? He’s a cat with a dream and only the thought of leaving his humans behind will keep Binky from his meeting with destiny. The ink-and-watercolor illustrations in this graphic novel perfectly capture idiosyncratic feline behaviors, and readers will instantly recognize the truth in Binky’s perception of reality and appreciate the humor. The panels don’t stick to a standard grid, keeping the pages from becoming too static, and are easy to follow so children new to the graphic format should have no trouble making sense of the story. With plenty of visual gags and a cute hero, this book is perfect for kids who are transitioning from easy readers to early chapter books, while the dry humor will also keep stronger readers engaged.–Volin, Eva Copyright 2009 Booklist

From Booklist (review journal)

Bone 1: Out From Boneville  By Jeff Smith

OVERVIEW:  After being chased out of Boneville for his greedy, scheming ways, Phoney Bone is trekking through the unknown desert. Fortunately for him, he doesn’t have to go it alone. His two loyal cousins, Fone Bone and Smiley Bone, are by his side after helping him escape the stampede of angry Boneville citizens. Now the three cousins are lost in the desert with no map, no water and no clue what to do. Suddenly, a swarm of buzzing locusts surrounds them. They can’t see left from right. Fone Bone takes one dangerous step and plummets over a cliff. He’s thankful to be alive, but soon realizes that his cousins are nowhere to be found. And so begins Fone Bone’s lonely journey through the mountains in search of his cousins. He endures the harsh winter weather, meets hungry rat creatures and encounters a mysterious dragon that seems to be following him. Fone Bone’s luck changes when he meets Thorn, a beautiful human girl who captures his heart. She invites him to stay at her grandma’s cottage during the winter. Come spring, he can search for his cousins in the nearby village of Barrelhaven, where everyone gathers for the Great Cow Race. Meanwhile, the evil hooded one, ruler of the rat creatures, is seeking “the one who bears the star.” This star-bearer just happens to be Phoney Bone, Fone’s greedy cousin. What did Phoney Bone do to stir up the rat creatures? And why are they seeking him? Will Fone Bone find him and Smiley before the hooded one gets his evil hands on Phoney?

From http://www.kidzworld.com

Calamity Jack  By Shannon Hale; art by Dean Hale

OVERVIEW:  The stars of the graphic novel Rapunzel’s Revenge (2008) move from the Old West to the big city, and this time the spotlight shines on Jack. After his success during his time on the run with Rapunzel, Jack returns to the city determined to prove to his mother (and to Rapunzel) that he is not the scheming delinquent she believes him to be. Instead, he finds the city controlled by an evil giant and under attack by a mysterious enemy. Jack must come up with his best scheme yet to defeat the enemy, save the city, and prove his worth to the women he cares about most. The urban setting suits this retelling of the familiar beanstalk tale; Nathan Hale’s art gives it a steampunk twist, and the addition of fairy-tale creatures like giants and pixies is natural and convincing. Shannon and Dean Hale have done an excellent job stretching the bones of the traditional fable into a high-action coming-of-age story that will keep young teen readers excited and engaged.–Volin, Eva Copyright 2009 Booklist

From Booklist (review journal)

Clan Apis  By Jay Hosler

OVERVIEW:  The life cycle and natural environment of the honeybee become grist for an entomologist who is both cartoonist and storyteller. Opening with a creation myth (“Once upon a long, long time ago”) and working through the biological, sociological, and ecological changes affecting the life of Nyuki the bee, the text is a combination of authoritative science; appealing, detailed black-and-white drawings; and dialogue replete with humor, pubescent angst, political sloganeering, and more. Nyuki’s colony undertakes migration to a new hive, is beset by a woodpecker, and hibernates through a winter that yields to a revitalizing spring. The bees are nicely individualized, as are the plants and other insects that figure into their lives, and there are a number of clever touches. All in all, this is the sort of science book that even devoted fiction and comics readers will enjoy.     -Francisca Goldsmith, Copyright (c) American Library Association. 

The Ferret’s A Foot  By Colleen Venable

 OVERVIEW:  Guinea pig detective Sasspants and his manic hamster assistant, Hamisher, are among the animals living in absent-minded Mr. Venezi’s pet shop. When Mr. V seeks help to run his business better, the animals get nervous-they don’t want to be sold. While Pants and Hamisher try to keep the status quo, a vandal begins changing the signs on the animals’ cages, making it more likely that Mr. V will hire someone. The guinea-pig detective and his partner are soon on the case, eventually discovering that not every animal is content with the pet shop as a permanent home. The mystery, while uncomplicated and dotted with humorous moments, still allows for some basic deductive reasoning as readers search for the culprit. Back matter includes more information on ferrets and a glossary of mystery terms. -Travis Jonker, Dorr Elementary School, MI (c) Copyright 2011.

From School Library Journal (review journal)

Foiled  By Jane Yolen; illustrated by Mike Cavallaro

OVERVIEW:  The chapters in this clever graphic novel follow the terms of a fencing match, from “Engagement” to “Disengagement,” with successive stages in between. Most of the illustrations are done in two tones as Aliera Carstairs makes it through her humdrum days in high school, where she doesn’t fit in. Color begins to appear when she puts on her fencing mask at Grand Central Station and the fantasy begins. Illustrations complement the text well, with larger pictures reflecting the character’s situation and feelings. After meeting her date and admitting to seeing ogres and dragons when wearing her mask, he thinks she is crazy, but a wild adventure ensues. She loses her weapon but it is returned by a fairylike creature who tells her that the foil her mother purchased at a tag sale is the source of her powers, and she is the defender and now part of a world called Helfdon. The ending will leave readers anxiously awaiting the second installment in the series.  -Karen Alexander, Lake Fenton High School, Linden, MI (c) Copyright 2010  From School Library Journal (review journal)

Houdini: The Handcuff King  By Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi

OVERVIEW:   Following Houdini on the morning of his leap (while handcuffed) into the frigid Boston River, readers gain a remarkably complete picture of his world. They will meet his wife, Bess; his strong-arm man, Beatty; reporters desperate to get a quote; and crowds hungry for a glimpse of him. Most of all, they get to know Houdini himself, who, as an extensive introduction notes, was probably the most famous man in the world at the time. Proud and obsessed–with his skill, his fame, and his wife–Houdini was a showman of the highest order who knew he represented hope to his adoring American public. He also knew that he had an unprecedented talent for self-hype. Avoiding overt, showy tricks themselves, Lutes and Bertozzi use clean, simple storytelling and crisp, clear black-and-white art to create not only a portrait of the man but also that sense of suspense and anticipation Houdini generated in his performances. Endnotes linked to specific pictures offer background on everything from anti-Semitism (Houdini was Jewish) to handcuffs. A bibliography of mostly older adult titles is appended. –Jesse Karp Copyright 2007 Booklist  From Booklist (review journal)

Knights of the Lunch Table (3): The Battling Bands  By Frank Cammuso

OVERVIEW:  In the best episode yet in Cammuso’s Knights of the Lunch Table series, our guy Artie takes up his dad’s old guitar, forms a rock band, and in spite of the hazards of school bullies, a nasty principal, and having to solve a mystery to find the Singing Sword triumphs over some personal issues as well as musical challenges. As ever, science teacher Mr. Merlyn and the crusty school custodian offer advice without coming across as know-it-all adults. Artie enhances his band’s prospects by accepting a singer in spite of her apparent romantic interest in him, and he bests the bullies in a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors.     -Goldsmith, Francisca Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist (review journal)

Manga Math Mysteries 1: The Lost Key  By Melinda Thielbar; illustrated by Tintin Pantoja

OVERVIEW:  In this easy-reading graphic novel, four students at Sifu Faiza’s Kung Fu School Joy, Amy, Sam, and Adam have a bad encounter with two members of a soccer team, Tom and Stacy. Tom steals the key to the Kung Fu School from Joy, to whom it was entrusted by Sifu. To figure out where Tom and Stacy have stashed all of their stolen martial arts equipment, the four kids use their math skills to calculate how much is missing and to figure out directions to the soccer field. The story is engaging, with lively color art by Pantoja, and it demonstrates how math is integrated into everyday life. Calling the series Manga Math Mysteries is only partially accurate; Pantoja’s art is manga-influenced, but the format is more in line with American-style comics. Elementary math teachers looking for a fun way to show students that math really does matter may want to use this in class. This is the first in the series, with three additional volumes currently available.–Kan, Kat Copyright 2009 Booklist  From Booklist (review journal)

Owly, Vol. 1: The Way Home & Bittersweet Summer  By Andy Runton

OVERVIEW:  In this nearly wordless bit of graphic fun, Runton tells two stories about Owly the little owl. In “The Way Home,” lonely Owly rescues Wormy from a thunderstorm, and, after nursing him back to health, helps him find his way home. “The Bittersweet Summer” tells a slightly more complicated story about friendship, as Owly and Wormy befriend two hummingbirds during the course of the spring and summer, and say goodbye to them when they migrate south for the winter. Owly is a delightfully sweet book. The whimsical black-and-white art is done with great facility for expressing emotion, and Runton’s reliance on icons and pictures in lieu of the usual dialogue makes the story perfect for give-and-take between children and their parents; even readers older than the target audience will appreciate the book’s simple charm, wisdom, and warmth. Tina Coleman  Copyright © American Library Association.

From Booklist (review journal)

Robot Dreams  By Sara Varon

OVERVIEW:  Dog wants a friend. Dog builds a robot. The two go to the library to get movies, and they make popcorn. They go to the beach, and the dog encourages the robot to play with him in the water. Robot is unable to move afterward because he has rusted stiff, and the dog finally leaves him there on his blanket on the sand. Seasons pass, and both Robot and Dog reflect on what happened, and both are changed because of this experience. The canine goes through a series of friendships that are unfulfilling in different ways: a duck goes south for the winter, a snowman melts, and the anteaters expect him to share their lunches. Meanwhile, the robot is lying on the beach, immobile but awake. He dreams of being rescued, of making new friends, of reuniting with Dog, of never having entered the water in the first place. While he dreams, his body is covered by sand and snow, is used for parts by scavengers, and even serves as a nesting place for a bird. This almost wordless (and dialogue-free) graphic novel is by turns funny and poignant. The cartoon artwork is clear and easy to understand. Varon uses a muted palette of earth tones with great skill. This book is like those board games that can be appreciated by anyone from 8 to 80. It is a quick read, but it will stay with readers long after they put it down.  Andrea Lipinski, New York Public Library (c) Copyright 2010. From School Library Journal  (review journal)

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook  By Eleanor Davis

OVERVIEW:  Julian Calendar, 11, is a supersmart transfer student trying desperately to fit in at his new middle school. Just when he starts to believe that he’ll never find his place, he discovers two other brilliant minds and together they form the Secret Science Alliance. These three braniacs create their own book of blueprints for such cunning creations as “the stinkometer,” sticky and dangerous gluebombs, and the flying “Kablovsky Copter.” However, their blueprints are stolen by evil Dr. Stringer, who has plans for them. Davis’s first long-form comic is packed full of detail down to every minute tool in the Alliance’s workshop, and the flying words and panels move the story at a quick pace. Davis’s creativity is evident from the myriad gadgets and schemes of the story. Children will see, through these inventions and the triumph of the protagonists, that science can be cool.-Carrie Rogers-Whitehead, Kearns Library, UT (c) Copyright 2010.  From School Library Journal  (review journal)

Sons of Liberty 1
By Alexander Lagos and Joseph Lagos; art by Steve Walker; color by Oren Kramek

OVERVIEW:  Two young slaves on the run, pursued by a bounty hunter and his ferocious pack of dogs, are experimented on by Ben Franklin’s heinous son William and wind up with electrically charged superpowers. Overseen by Ben himself as well as true-life abolitionist Benjamin Lay, the slaves bring some hurtin’ back to their tormentors. History offers few villains as vile as slaveholders, but this graphic novel is far from being a simple revenge thriller. The use of historical figures and well-researched (but embellished) history, and a willingness to flesh out characters and set up situations to pay off in future installments, makes for an uncommonly complex, literate, and satisfying adventure. The slick art, with wiry figures reminiscent of Mark Bagley’s Ultimate Spider-Man work, feels more modern than the story suggests and will be inviting to teen readers. In the style of Robert Morales and Kyle Baker’s Captain America: Truth (2004), this first installment of a series respects history (with some dramatic liberties taken) and uses superpowers effectively as an empowerment allegory.–Karp, Jesse Copyright 2010 Booklist

From Booklist (review journal)

Sons of Liberty 2: Death and Taxes
By Alexander Lagos and Joseph Lagos; art by Steve Walker; color by Oren Kramek

OVERVIEW:  Graham and Brody, escaped slaves gifted with superpowers, remain at the center of this continuing pre-Revolutionary War saga of political intrigue and reimagined history.  As Benjamin Franklin seeks to stop the stamp tax from falling on the colonies and enemies attack his good name, Graham attempts to arrange an escape back to Africa along with his love, the slave girl Isabel. With the English aristocracy colonizing new territories of foulness, this lacks any complex shades of gray. However, the embellishments, literate dialogue, and several historical truths effectively counterpointed with glossy contemporary art keep things fun and suspenseful.  –Karp, Jesse Copyright 2010 Booklist  From Booklist (review journal)

Trickster: Native American Tales  Edited by Matt Dembicki

OVERVIEW:  This graphic-format collection of Native American tales featuring an old folk favorite the trickster hits an impressive trifecta of achievements. First, it’s a wildly successful platform for indie-comic creators and an excellent showcase for their distinctive styles. From David Smith and Jerry Carr’s heroic, animation-inspired Trickster and the Great Chief to the Looney Toons zaniness of Rabbit’s Chocktaw Tail Tale, by Tim Tingle and Pat Lewis, there’s a bit of visual panache here for every taste. Second, this is one of the very infrequent graphic novels to focus on Native American themes and events, a surprising absence that this book along with Shannon and Dean Hale’s Calamity Jack (2010) remedies with respect and imagination. Lastly, as Native American folklore is so directly tied to the culture’s spirituality, this proves the rare graphic novel that handles such issues without specifically attaching them to standard religious practices. With stories that vary in emotional tone, matching the ever-shifting appearance and character of the trickster himself and the lessons he teaches and learns, this collection is an ideal choice for dipping into over and over. A dandy read for those interested in history, folklore, adventure, humor, or the arts, and a unique contribution to the form.    –Karp, Jesse Copyright 2010 Booklist  From Booklist (review journal)

The Unsinkable Walker Bean  By Aaron Renier

OVERVIEW:  At first glance, this graphic novel looks like a mishmash of time-honored seafaring fantasy-adventure tropes: ancient curses with vague hints of Atlantis and a lost treasure; pirates more lovable than rascally pitted against greedy starched-shirt colonial naval types; and of course the outwardly meek but plucky-under-fire boy hero. But while Renier certainly hits all of those notes, he isn’t content to simply let the story coast once under way which takes only a panel or two to get cracking. Instead, he keeps throwing newer and neater elements into the fray. The excitement centers around a cursed skull stolen from the lair of two deep-sea crustacean witches. Like all who look upon the skull, Walker’s beloved Grandpa falls deathly ill when he finds it, and the boy sets out to return the skull from whence it came. In two of the more impressively clever feats, the inventive lad turns a pirate ship into a proto-all-terrain vehicle and uses an enormous blank canvas to recreate the night sky, subverting the navigational course of the ship. The generous page size lets reader dive into Renier’s quavery and painstakingly detailed cartooning, and he really shows off his stuff with a bounty of full-splash dazzlers.  Though a smidgen light on characterization, this comic really is just about everything you want from a rip-roaring adventure: exciting, deep, funny, and scary, with tremendous villains and valor galore.–Chipman, Ian Copyright 2010 Booklist  From Booklist (review journal)

Zebrafish  By Sharon Emerson

OVERVIEW:  Several friends, led by the purple-haired Vita, try to figure out how to make their band work despite the fact that no one knows how to play anything. But when Vita, whose older brother is a cancer researcher, learns that band-member Tanya has leukemia, she begins to wonder how their upcoming performance might be put to a greater good. Emerson’s graphic novel (developed with Peter Reynolds’ FableVision media company) succeeds on several levels: the characters are credibly diverse in personality and appearance, and their individual stories are carefully twisted into a full and complex story arc. Additionally, information about leukemia’s physical toll on a young patient and research methods to combat it are integrated cleanly and without didacticism. Full-color panels vary in size and shape, with scenes moving from the stage to a soda shop to the back corridors of the hospital. Gentler and for a younger crowd than Judd Winick’s Pedro and Me (2000), this bouncy cartoon story nonetheless mines equally serious territory, and stands a good chance of finding wide popularity to boot.–Goldsmith, Francisca Copyright 2010 Booklist  From Booklist (review journal)

Zeus: King of the Gods  By George O’Connor

OVERVIEW:  This 12-volume series debuts with the origins of Zeus. O’Connor begins his retelling by starting from literally nothing. Then a simple brown circle introduces readers to Gaea, or Mother Earth. The creation of Olympians unfolds slowly with simple straightforward lines and silhouettes. Dark browns and blacks echo the early development of the Titans.  The first fully rendered face is that of the infant Zeus, with his birth symbolized in a pastel palette. This new race of Gods is visually and strikingly different. Zeus’s virility and vitality both bring the story to life and make it accessible to young readers. Zeus’s encounters with gods, particularly his battle with his father Kronos, are visually compelling. Images of grasping hands, thunderbolts, close-up visages, gaping holes in the earth, and silhouetted bodies bring Zeus’s struggle for dominance into clear focus. Oversize panels reinforce the heroic proportions of the story. It is telling that from such a simple beginning, the complex story is able to evolve naturally to a satisfying conclusion, as depicted on the final page showing Zeus and the new race of numerous immortal gods. O’Connor clearly hints throughout the retelling that more stories are forthcoming: “And that is a tale for another day.” Endpapers show the Olympian Family Tree. Back matter includes an author’s note, notation of Greek words, discussion questions, and recommended reading. This ultimate superhero story will appeal to anyone who enjoys Greek mythology or great comic art.-Barbara M. Moon, Suffolk Cooperative Library System, Bellport, NY (c) Copyright 2010.  From School Library Journal  (review journal)

Comics Connect, a collaborative project of the Mohawk Valley Library System and Upper Hudson Library System, is supported by funds from the New York State Library’s Family Literacy Library Services grant program.

MVLS Board of Trustees Meeting

Thursday, October 20, 2016
9:30 AM, Fort Plain Free Library

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