GN: The Stone Keeper (Amulet, Book 1)

cover_amulet

Title: The Stonekeeper (Amulet, Book 1)
Author: Kazu Kibuishi
Publication Date: January 1, 2008
Publisher: GRAPHIX
ISBN: 0439846811
ISBN: 978-0439846813
Format: Graphic Novel (paperback)
Plot summary: In this 1st book of Kibuishi’s Amulet series, Emily and Navin lose their father to a car accident and move with their mother Karen to their great-grandfather Silas’ house. On their first night there, the family is drawn to the basement by a mysterious noise. Once there, Karen is kidnapped by a slobbering, tentacled creature, and the children follow it into a parallel universe filled with demons, strange creatures, and talking robots and animals. Guided by a necklace (the amulet) that Emily found earlier in the day, the children eventually meet Silas. Emily is entrusted with the amulet and its powers. With the help of Silas’ robots, especially a mechanical rabbit named Miskit, they set out to save Karen. The author also hints at the possibility of Emily using the amulet to reverse time to save her father.
Audience: Ages 8 and up
Strengths:
-The action starts right away in the prologue and doesn’t end until the final page. Kids will be immediately drawn in by the story.
-The art is colorful, engaging, and conveys a lot of emotions and plot details that the text doesn’t spell out. The blue and gray panels showing rain, fog, and depicting gloom/mystery are especially beautiful.
-The text is pretty minimal/simple to read and might appeal to the most reluctant of readers.
Weaknesses:
-The death of Emily and Navin’s father in the prologue might upset readers. It is disturbing to see blood coming out of Emily’s mother’s nose and to imagine the certain death of her father after the car plummets down the cliff.
-The storyline is rather conventional and cliche — kids moves into mysterious, possibly-haunted house, discover magical necklace, enter an alternate world and go on an adventure, wrestle with the promise of power, fight evil to save good, etc. This is an okay starting place, but couple the common plot with the lack of rich/complex text, the reader is left wanting more.
-The alternate universe parts of the book seem disorganized and rushed. Emily doesn’t go through the stereotypical learning curve heroes/heroines have with their new-found power, but just “knows” how to use the amulet, somehow. Though the reader isn’t sure the role of the amulet (whether it represents good or bad), we aren’t given much time to decide before Emily makes her choice. The entire decision sequence took 17 frames, with not much insight into Emily’s internal dialog.
Uses: 
-Introduce kids to and teach about the graphic novel genre — elements of GN? reading conventions?
-Good introduction to Kazu Kibuishi’s works.
-Might be a good starting place for kids who are new to the graphic novel genre. As mentioned before, the text isn’t heavy and the plot is easy to follow, so this might be good for very reluctant readers. That said, some of the scenes in this book might be too scary/disturbing for the younger, more sensitive readers.
-Good for kids who are looking to start a new series. Since the first installment is pretty short, kids can decide quickly whether they want to continue with the series or not.
-Teaching about themes such as death/loss of parent, hero/heroism, power, magic/fantasy, etc.
-Appealing to readers of both sexes.
Read-alikes:
-Ben Hatke’s Zita the Spacegirl (2011) – Zita and her best friend Joseph finds a mysterious device while exploring a meteor crater. After pushing the inviting red button, they are transported to a strange planet, where Joseph is abducted by a tentacled creatures. With help of robots, talking animals, and other new friends, Zita must rescue Joseph and find a way back to Earth.
Awards (from CLCD):
-Booklist Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 (ALA)
-Children’s Choice, 2009 (International Reading Association)
-YALSA Best Books for Young Adults, 2009 (ALA)
-Children’s Choice Book Award finalist, 2009
-Cybil Award graphic novel finalist, 2009
-Young Reader’s Choice Award Junior Winner, 2011
-Rhode Island Children’s Book Award nominee, 2010
Other: AR Points 1; Interest Level: Middle Grade; Book Level 2; Lexile Measure 310 (from CLCD)

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