Everyone knows that kids love graphic novels. But for some young readers, there may be something even better: the so-called “hybrid” novel. “Hybrid” books can, and often do, contain anything and everything. Prose, spot illustrations, full page illustrations, comics strips and long-form comics — you name it. One of the things I love about books that use such a variety of forms is that each one is totally different. For young readers, that leads to a wildly exciting reading experience, as they really don’t know what to expect next, both in terms of the content of the story and the form in which it will be delivered.
Pizazz and Pizazz vs. The New Kid, both recently released from Simon & Schuster/Aladdin and both written and illustrated by Sophy Henn, are excellent additions to the hybrid Middle Grade space. The story is about and told by Pizazz, a reluctant superhero who comes from a large family of them. Why is Pizazz reluctant? There’s the embarrassing outfit, for one thing, plus the humiliatingly superhero she’s been saddled with (it’s not revealed until late in the first book, so I won’t spoil it for you here). Not to mention the fact that it seems every time Pizazz is hanging out with her friends, she has to dash off to somewhere or other and save the day. It all keeps Pizazz from leading a normal life — and that’s all she really wants.
Sophy Henn does a great job juggling the out-of-this-world excitement of Pizazz’s superheroics with more down-to-earth themes and conflicts — ones that every kid, whether or not they’ve got superpowers, will be able to relate to. Add in a boatload of humor and all the bold, exciting illustrated elements, and you’ve got yourself books that kids won’t be able to put down. But Pizazz and Pizazz vs. The New Kid (and no doubt the third book in the series, out September 7) are worth adding to your collection for other reasons, besides. With its mix of text and art, the books can serve as great “bridges” for a number of readers — including those who are beginning to read longer chapter books on their own (the Pizazz books are about 200 pages each) and those who prefer, or are more comfortable with, either full-text books or graphic novels and want to explore the other.
You can meet Sophy Henn and get a sneak peek of the first book in the series here:
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Review by: Jarrett Lerner
Jarrett Lerner is the author of EngiNerds, Revenge of the EngiNerds, The EngiNerds Strike Back, Geeger the Robot Goes to School, and Geeger the Robot: Lost and Found, as well as the author-illustrator of the activity books Give This Book a Title and Give This Book a Cover. Jarrett is also the author-illustrator of the forthcoming Hunger Heroes graphic novel series and the forthcoming illustrated novel in verse A Work in Progress (all published by Simon & Schuster/Aladdin). He cofounded and helps run the MG Book Village, an online hub for all things Middle Grade, and is the co-organizer of the #KidsNeedBooks and #KidsNeedMentors projects. He can be found at jarrettlerner.com and on Twitter and Instragram at @Jarrett_Lerner. He lives with his family in Medford, Massachusetts.