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BOOK REVIEWS, Contemporary Realistic Fiction, Fantasy, Graphic Novel, Middle Grade Readers, Teacher & Parent Recommendations, Young Adult Readers


Bad IslandBad Island is a graphic novel by the author of Cardboard (a creative, well-plotted story about magical cardboard with both good and evil tendencies).  Bad Island relates the parallel father-and-son stories of a brave, generous alien race and a modern, 21st-century family.

In the aliens’ story the son wants to fight with his father against an evil race of beings trying to bully and enslave a smaller, weaker one.  Father tells Son he is not old enough and must be patient.  Son, eager to prove Father wrong, disobeys and flies to join the battle.  Through evil enemy trickery Son is captured and imprisoned IN an island populated with hideous, dangerous creatures (in order to keep all others away).

The modern-day story finds teenager Reese locked in a similar struggle with his father.  Reese and his younger sister Janie are going on a family boating trip with their parents.  Reese is furious at being forced to go along and his father is fully aware of this fact.  Teenage angst gives way to survival mode when the family’s boat is caught in a terrible storm.  The boat is destroyed; Reese and his family are stranded on an island.  Unbeknownst to them it is the very island which imprisons the ancient alien Son–and all the evil creature defenses that surround him.

Thus TenNapel skillfully brings the two storylines together, interweaving them into a fast-paced adventure as Reese and his family try to stay one step ahead of the island’s monstrous inhabitants.  The suspenseful narrative and climactic scene, as well as the subsequent reunion for the alien Father and Son and Reese’s own new insights into his own father and their relationship are supremely satisfying–and very touching.

TenNapel’s intricate plot and strong underlying father-and-son theme make this graphic novel an extraordinarily enjoyable read.


Ghostopolis is another sensational work by Doug TenNapel.  His first graphic novel, it is the genesis of TenNapel’s brilliant father-and son theme, although this story expands to address father-daughter relationships as well.

Garth is a young boy with an incurable disease.  When we first meet him his mother is taking him to a doctor for a fifth opinion, searching for some answer that will save her son.  A single mom who ran away from a drunken, neglectful father, married, was then abandoned by her husband when Garth was very young means Garth is his mother’s whole world.  He is everything she has and she is fighting to save his life.

At the same time we meet Agent Frank Gallows–an operative for the Supernatural Immigration Task Force.  Their job is to apprehend ghosts who have escaped from the Afterlife and send them back(think Men in Black for the Dead).  Through an unforeseen (literally) error Agent Gallows sends a ghost back to the Afterlife while it is touching Garth so that Garth is transported back with it.

Agent Gallows is fired as the Task Force begins preparations for a Retrieval Team to rescue Garth.  Agent Gallows, feeling horribly guilty, goes to a special friend for help in mounting a rescue effort of his own.  What follows is TenNapel’s now well-established heart-stopping narrative adventure for both Garth and Agent Gallows.

Garth meets his maternal grandfather in the Afterlife and helps both his grandfather and his mother gain new insights into forgiveness and love.  He serves as the bridge for healing the old wounds between these two people.  Agent Gallows finds his true center and is able to break out of the jaded funk he’s been in for so many years.  He offers wise, genuinely heartfelt counsel, courage and comfort to Garth and performs an incredibly selfless act of compassion.  As a result he is able to open his own heart without fear to others.

What sets TenNapel apart from so many other authors is the depth of his character development.  I have become a serious fan of Doug TenNapel’s work.  Like Eric Shanower’s OZ series and the Hales’ Rapunzel series, TenNapel’s work is visually stunning in both text and illustration.  If you enjoy graphic novels or have been searching for a great example with which to explore them, TenNapel’s work is an excellent place to start!



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