The first one is a graphic novel called "Illegal" by Eion Colfer and Andrew Donkin. I find graphic novels are not usually my first choice. I read really fast and I love creating my own mental images. I find the graphic novels require me to slow down, read the text and interpret the pictures because they are usually a big part of the story. This one was worth slowing down for. It's about a boy named Ebo. It's told in two different parts and it flashes between the two parts of the story. The story begins with Ebo finding that his brother, Kwame, has left the family home (which is pretty short on family-their parents are gone, their older sister is gone and they have been left in the care of a drunk uncle). Kwame has gone in search of a better life in Europe. Ebo decides he will follow rather than wait for Kwame to send money back and maybe both of them can find their sister. The story flashes around but tells different parts of how difficult a journey this is-there are thieves willing to steal from other refugees, it's difficult to find money, food, shelter, medicine. The terrain is difficult. There are a few kind people along the way, but it's a brutal journey. I think the story accurately reflects the experiences of a lot of people who have been escaping from the Middle East and northern Africa to try to find a better life. I think it's big and scary and I think it will be a great one for big kids to read to help them to understand why someone would take such a big risk.
Here's a book trailer about it.
The other is by one of my favorite authors, Holly Black. It's what I hope is the beginning of new series, because this was a story with lots of interesting characters and lots of questions left unanswered. It's called "The Cruel Prince". The story opens with a happy family, mom, dad, three little girls, when a stranger comes to the door. There are some acts of horrific violence, and when the dust settles, the girls have gone to live with the stranger in Faerie land. I'm in danger of spoiling some of the surprises, but suffice it to say that some of the girls are happier about living with the Fey than others. There is some intense bullying, some graphic violence, political intrigue, wild plot twists, as well as messages about drinking and drug abuse, family loyalty, and finding your own true voice. I thought it was terrific. It will be an excellent addition to middle school or high school library but too big for my elementary readers.