Battling Boy by Paul Pope

BattlingLynn:  Super-star  graphic artist and writer, Paul Pope gave himself a challenge:  write a super hero book that kids would love without oceans of spraying blood.  Battling Boy (Roaring Brook/First Second Oct. 2013) is the result and it is terrific!  I flat-out begged for a copy at ALA and fell upon it immediately when the publisher kindly sent me an arc.  Pope gives readers a respectful yet funny hats-off to super-hero tropes while doing something fresh and packed with kid appeal.

Acropolis is beset with monsters but they were held in check by the hero Haggard West.  Were – because now Haggard is dead and the city is besieged.  Two new heroes, each unknown to the other, are on the scene but being a monster fighter is a tough gig! A twelve-year-old godling is sent to Acropolis to prove himself on his Turning Day.  Armed with an array of T-shirts that impart powers, Battling Boy discovers beating monsters is harder than he thought.  Meanwhile, Haggard West’s daughter has taken over her father’s secret headquarters and is preparing to enter the fray. A cliff-hangar ending leaves readers ready for the second installment RIGHT NOW!

I loved the vivid color-saturated art work with the stubble-jawed heroes who actually have to struggle against a wild array of imaginative monsters and Pope’s use of panels is masterful.  The characters are so appealing.  Battling Boy is everykid, initially full of confidence and dismissing his Dad’s suggestions, ditching the cape despite hints that it is no ordinary cape, and taking credit for something he didn’t do.  Here are superheros minus the angst and gore that will appeal to middle grade and middle school students without sacrificing battles, monsters or suspense.

Cindy: Lynn and I lucked out summer while wandering through the ALA exhibits and happened upon the Graphic Novel stage just as Paul Pope was being introduced. Holy comic book, Batman. I am a new fan. Lynn reads more like a 12-year-old boy than I do, but I still enjoyed this book a lot and have just gotten them in at both middle schools on my latest book order. They should be an easy sell.

So the magic t-shirts? There are 12 of them, each with a different animal totem made from enchanted fabric and painted with “inks made of pulverized moonblood.” If the Tyrannosaurus Rex shirt is any indication it will be great fun to follow this series and see what happens when he wears the Constricting Boa tee or the Curious Orangutan or….the Field Mouse? I can’t wait! Get your teens reading this now…it’s a natural for your Riordan fans as well as your GN readers.

Tomorrow we are presenting our Best Books (2013 edition) at the Kalamazoo Public Library’s 2013 Youth Literature Seminar and in addition to hearing keynote Ally Condie of Matched series fame and Booklist guru Michael Cart, we are eager to hear Robin Brenner of No Flying No Tights presentation “discussing the controversial role women play in comics: as creators; how women are portrayed; and female fan acknowledgment.” It should be amazing. And YOU should be there!




About the Author:

Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan are Booklist reviewers and middle-school librarians who have chaired both ALA’s Best Books for Young Adults and the Michael L. Printz Award for YA Literature committees. Follow Bookends on Twitter at @BookendsBlog. You can also find Cindy at @cdobrez and Lynn at @482april.

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