Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Study Hall of Justice

Study Hall of Justice
Derek Fridolfs
Dustin Nguyen (Illustrator)
Scholastic, 2016  175 pgs
Grades 3-6
Graphic Novel
DC Comics Secret Hero Society Series #1

The team behind Batman: Li'l Gotham and Justice League Beyond collaborate once again on this new series for children, sure to appeal to both the wimpy kid and superhero crowd. This series stars a young Bruce Wayne as he enters an elite private school where things aren't as they seem. He is constantly threatened and bullied, ninja appear camouflaged in the trees, class clowns constantly barrage students with vicious pranks, and teachers encourage violent and lawless behaviors. After several lonely and bewildering days, Bruce makes friends with Clark Kent, a seemingly innocent kid from the mid-west, and Diana, a visiting student from a Greek island. The three comrades work together to try to uncover the secrets behind their new school. The identity of the principal is the mystery at the heart of the book and his identity is revealed by book's end. Bruce, a commuter living alone with only his butler Alfred as his guardian, prefers to be a lone wolf. It takes him time to learn to trust his new companions and discover that he is stronger in a team. By the end of the story the dastardly intentions of the school are revealed and the institution is shut down. The three friends are sent back to their respective homes. A teaser on the last page suggests that Bruce will now be sent to an unknown summer camp where mysteries abound, offering a convenient lead to the next installment.

Not quiet a graphic novel and not really a chapter book The Secret Hero Society will appeal to readers who appreciate an unconventional format. The book is a hybrid of graphic panels depicting the plot, interspersed with memos, e-mails, Bruce's on-line journal, fliers, and documents from confidential files pilfered by Bruce. Some of the action is shown by panels of footage of the hall security cameras to show the reader what is happening without actual narrative. This makes for an unusual story that is sure to resonate with young people who enjoy comics and diary-style fiction. The story itself is creative and fresh, not sticking to cannon, which may annoy older readers, but shouldn't bother kids. Adding Wonder Woman as a character will help to welcome female readers and allow for both boys and girls to feel ownership of the series. The comics are drawn very loosely and felt unfinished to me at times. I am use to crisper drawings when encountering traditional super heroes, but the artists intent may be to offer a new take on these beloved characters, reflected in the non-traditional drawing style. The plot moves along quickly and evil lurks around every corner. Readers will enjoy seeing famous DC villains portrayed as students and will feel empowered getting the inside jokes on their identities. This series is circulating well in my library consortium and has been on the children's best seller list. It will be enjoyed by any young reader who appreciates comics and is a slam dunk for reluctant readers.

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