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Review: Explorer: The Mystery Boxes by Kazu Kibuishi et al

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes
Edited by Kazu Kibuishi

Amulet (Abrams)

ISBN: 9781419700101
Grades 4-7
In Stores

Find it at:
Schuler Books | Your library

I was recently watching one of may favorite television shows, Iron Chef, when one of the judges made an interesting comment about a course comprised of four entirely separate mini dishes. He said that this is a risky move, as now the panel of judges can pick apart each individual dish and find faults. I think this concept applies to literature as well. With a standard book, if it’s good overall, you go one-for-one – success! However, in a collection of short stories like graphic novel anthology Explorer: The Mystery Boxes, each individual comic comes under scrutiny. It’s more difficult to succeed. While some stories stand out more than others, this is a collection that young readers will savor.

Basically, what we have here is a gathering of great comics minds. Each of the seven stories contained within focus on the central theme of a mystery box. Some comics are more straightforward, like Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier’s Spring Cleaning, about two kids trying to keep a magical box away from a cast of wizards in hot persuit. Others are more abstract, like Kibuishi’s meditation on the end of the world, The Escape Option. Spooky is also mined nicely, especially in creepy opener Under the Floorboards by Emily Carroll, about a wax doll with a mind of its own.

The artwork is consistently appealing. Each tale is rendered in crisp full color. Each chapter brings a new artistic style, providing an element of visual interest that young readers will enjoy.

While it can be difficult to see the forest for the trees when looking at a graphic anthology, I will say this – the parts are strong, and they add up to a pleasing whole. A worthy, and likely very popular, addition to your graphic novel collection.

Review copy from the publisher.

Also reviewed by Waking Brain Cells, books4yourkids.com, Karin’s Book Nook, On Emily’s Bookshelf, Mr. Ripley’s Enchanted Books, Kiss the Book, Bart’s Bookshelf.

About Travis Jonker

Travis Jonker is an elementary school librarian in Michigan. He writes reviews (and the occasional article or two) for School Library Journal and is a member of the 2014 Caldecott committee. You can email Travis at scopenotes@gmail.com, or follow him on Twitter: @100scopenotes.