I’m reading it aloud with my 5th grade son. We aren’t quite finished, but I wanted to post my thoughts, and point you to my phone interview with the creators, who helped me explain exactly how this new series came to be. It’s not a comic book, it’s not a graphic novel. It’s a full (very long, in fact!), novel, with a few images per chapter, but the whole thing reads very visually. In spite of the fact that it’s so long, I think that a reluctant reader, especially one interested in super heroes and already a fan of comics, would definitely be engaged by this book.
Steven Lee is on a school trip to China when he gets involved with the Zodiac team after he hears something strange going on in the basement of the museum he’s visiting. He sees something strange. Twelve pools, an eerie green light, and a large shipan (the Chinese zodiac) hung from the ceiling. When he sees the odd spectacle of a man seeming to appropriate this power, he realizes he may be in trouble. When he feels the power of the tiger go into him, he wonders if he might have found his destiny. When Maxwell spies him, Steven realizes that he’s not pleased, and Steven has a choice to make.
Carlos and Jasmine are trying to prevent Maxwell from getting too much power, and Steven goes with them to find the others who hold the powers of the Zodiac.
The new heroes are all so different — overweight, drifters, big, small, male, female — which makes the book more interesting, and also probably gives every reader someone different to root for or identify with.
There is a lot of action, but also a lot of internal drama, in regards to each person’s mission and the way each character — hero — sees themselves.
CONTENT NOTE: There is the violence that you would expect in a super-hero story, handled in the same way that you would expect in this genre. It is definitely a story of good versus evil, where the good might have to do things that don’t always seem “good” to combat evil, and the bad guys are definitely bad. There are also a few mild swear words.
Learn More at DisneyZodiac.com
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It was interesting talking to the creators of the series, because they are hard at work on the second book now, so stay tuned for even more action.
I especially liked the fact that artist Andie Tong — who has been successfully working as an artist, commercially and in the publishing world — answered my question about any advice he might have for future illustrators (i.e. my daughter) in a way that she’s already taken to heart:
I think everyone has a different path. And every artist experiences different things. For myself, I went the safe path first. I’m actually a multimedia designer in my profession. I graduated a graphic designer, but I always liked drawing. So, whenever someone asks me, I always say have a backup plan because illustrating is very competitive. There’s so many artists out there. So, you got to be the best of what you do in a sense to be noticed, and I know networking’s also important. But essentially, for myself, if illustrating fails for me right now, I will attempt to go back to design. The long short of it is you want to do something that’s fun. And design is the closest thing I could find to illustrating that’s just kind of creating still.
But in terms of illustrating, just keep drawing every day. Keep drawing. My mom told me off when I was growing up, and I would always have my study book on top and my drawing book on the bottom. So, you’ve got to study, of course, as well. But just keep drawing every day. Just draw something. And that would be my advice to you.
And to improve, for me, look at other artists and what they do. And you know you don’t have to copy exactly, obviously. Give credit if you’re doing that. But just take bits and parts from every different artist in what they do best for that particular artist. And maybe he or she draws the eyes very beautifully. And so, maybe you just take that bit from that artist. And then I guess use it in your style. And eventually, as an artist, you will find your style.
And so, yeah, just keep drawing every day is my advice.
But first enter to win a copy of the book and an original character sketch by Andie Tong:
Prizing provided by Disney Enterprises.