ROCK THE BOAT
(Augustine Coll/Tim Lay/Paul Shinn, Banter, £13.99) This fast, furious and funny graphic novel is a clever reworking of Jerome K. Jerome’s classic Three Men and a Boat – using incidents and even snatches of dialogue from the original, but translating the story into that of a young rock band, Jerome Jerome, travelling by boat along the Thames in order to cause a stir at the Reading Festival… and wreaking all kinds of havoc, mostly unintentionally, along the way. Fans of the Victorian best seller will recognise the wry wit and a good deal of the landscape – both physical and social – in this thoroughly modern romp, despite the gap of over a century between their publishing dates; and although familiarity with Jerome’s comic memoir is certainly not required to enjoy the edgy artwork and pacey plot of Rock the Boat to the full, it would be an interesting exercise to share an equivalent extract from each of them with a KS4 class and encourage students to compare and contrast the two.
WE ARE ALL MADE OF MOLECULES
(Susin Nielsen, Andersen Press, £12.99) Two narrators share the unfolding of events in this surprisingly powerful novel about growth, change, acceptance and courage; Stewart is academically gifted, but socially inept, and still trying to come to terms with the death of his mother, two years ago. Ashley, meanwhile, has the shiny hair and tiny waist of a high school A-lister – she’s popular but not terribly smart, and her good heart is currently hiding under a heap of social expectations. Plus, her father has recently moved out… shortly after coming out. When Ashley’s mother and Stewart’s father move in together, it’s clear that it will take a while for the family to reshape itself – and everyone involved has some tough lessons to learn along the way. Nielsen doesn’t sugar-coat the harsher elements of her story, but she is very much writing for teenagers rather than young adults; and her protagonists are not afraid to be children, even when they are tackling the same problems that are troubling the grownups around them. This is perceptive, honest and kind writing, that is refreshingly hard to pigeon-hole.