Flying Pigs and Ludwig II: Two New Steampunk Graphic Novels

Lynn: Sentient pigs, Ludwig II, hot air balloons, and steampunk may sound like unusual elements for a graphic novel, but the results are high-flying fun for middle-school readers! Take a look.

Castle in the Stars: The Space Race of 1869 (2017) by Alex Alice is a gorgeous, action-packed adventure with enough gadgets to make Jules Verne proud. A year after Seraphim’s mother disappears during a scientific expedition, he receives a mysterious letter. Whomever sent it claims they have recovered his mother’s logbooks and summons Seraphim and his father to Swan’s Rock in Fussen Bavaria. On their journey, Prussian agents attempt to capture them, and Seraphim learns that the Prussians hope to steal the logbooks, overthrow Ludwig II, take over Bavaria, and conquer space using his mother’s discoveries.

You can’t go wrong with Neuschwanstein Castle as a setting, and the watercolor illustrations are a terrific mix of soaring romantic scenes and exquisitely detailed renderings of blueprints and crazy machinery. Spies, assassination attempts, cinematic action, and plenty of humor make for a wild ride right up to a heart-stopping cliffhanger of an ending.

In Nick Abadzis’ Pigs Might Fly (2017), flying machines in the world of Pigdom Plains stay aloft through a combination of science and magic. Teenager Lily Leanchops, daughter of the famous engineer, Hercules Fatchops, is working secretly to develop what her father has not yet managed: a plane that flies without magic. She is close to success when Pigdom’s enemies, the Warthogs, invade. Lily rises to the occasion to protect her fellow porkers. Her successes makes her famous, but when her identity is revealed, Lily’s furious father grounds her. The danger is real for Pigdom Plains, and it will take all trotters on deck to save their home.

Full of punny wordplay, this airborne porcine adventure is set in a time that looks like our own early 1900’s. Plenty of action and aerial dogfights (or should I say pigfights?) propel the plot, but serious issues like gender roles and self-knowledge add heft to the exciting story. Jerel Dye makes excellent use of panels and his pigs, while definitely pigs, are sympathetic and easily recognizable as individuals. You can bet your tusks that the ending will have readers squealing for the sequel!




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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