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Fiction/Young Adult/Fantasy

The Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute by Jarrett Krosoczka


 Krosoczka, Jarrett J. Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute. 2009. New York, New York: Random House, Inc. ISBN: 978-0-375-84683-0 & ISBN: 978-0-375-94683-7.


In this graphic novel written and illustrated by Jarrett Krosoczka, the Lunch Lady in this series stars as the protagonist hero who is out to save the day from evil characters. This book is the first in the series in which we meet a set of characters including the Lunch Lady and her trusty sidekick, Lunch Lady Betty. In this book, the Lunch Lady grows suspicious as a teacher with a flawless attendance record suddenly is replaced with a strange substitute. Upon further investigation, the Lunch Lady discovers the mystery behind the “Cyborg Substitute” and receives a little help along the way.


In this first of the series of Lunch Lady graphic novels, we meet all of the characters in this book, beginning with the evil-fighting female-hero Lunch Lady, equipped with a series of lunch accessories that double as high tech gadgets (like the spork that doubles as a phone).  We first meet three students, Hector, Dee and Terrrance, and their own arch nemeses, Milmoe. The three students think that the Lunch Lady lives a dull life, and begins a quest to uncover who she really is. This superhero comic features a limited color palate of yellow, black, blue and white colors, and is filled with common comic book onomatopoeia such as “Brrrriiinnnnnnnggg!” and “Screeecchh,” as we follow the protagonist on her crime fighting adventures. Humor is a key element in this comic as we see when Lunch Lady Betty serves pizza with gravy, or when Lunch Lady interjects statements such as, “Well, then it looks like today’s special is a knuckle sandwich!” (Krosoczka 2009). This modern day adventure is one that is meant to allow students to imagine as it takes place with common characters they would see on a daily basis in a common school setting. It is meant to allow readers to question the so-called “dull” lives of the people they encounter everyday and know only topically.


“Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute is a great first book in a series that will have early chapter readers coming back for a second serving.” – Reading Review

“With plenty of silliness and slapstick in the text and panel art alike, this comic should alleviate lunch-line boredom with visions of servers wielding fishstick-nunchucks and growling, ‘Today’s special is a knuckle sandwich.’” – Publisher’s Weekly

“This graphic novel alternates between boxy, regular panels and full-page spreads, keeping readers’ visual interest piqued. Filled with goofy puns and grayscale art with cheery yellow accents, this is a delightfully fun escapist read.” – Kirkus Review


Awards won: From the Random House website:

WINNER 2009 Kid’s Indie Next List “Inspired Recommendations for Kids from Indie Booksellers”
WINNER 2010 Cooperative Children’s Book Center Choices
NOMINEE New York State Charlotte Award
WINNER IRA Children’s Choices

Related books: Lunch Lady and the Mutant Mathletes by Jarrett Krosoczka, Lunch Lady and the Author Visit Vendetta by Jarrett Krosoczka, Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians by Jarrett Krosoczka, Lunch Lady and the Bake Sale Bandit by Jarrett Krosoczka


Random House: A Teacher’s Guide to Graphic Novels:

Lunch Lady website contains “finish the comic” and other activities:

Teaching Books: Author Interviews, book trailer, and links:


The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman


Gaiman, Neil. The Graveyard Book. Illustrated by Dave McKean. 2008. New York, New York: HarperCollins Publishers. ISBN: 978-0-06-053092-1 & ISBN 978-0-06-053093-8


In this fantasy book by Neil Gaiman, author of the well-known Coraline, this dark yet funny novel begins with an infant and a murderer called “the man Jack.” Ghostly and supernatural characters share a graveyard space as their home when an infant crawls into it during the murder of his family. Hoping to help the boy, the ghostly Owens couple decide to adopt the boy and raise Bod, (short for Nobody Owens because he “looks like nobody but himself”) as he earns access to the graveyard along and some supernatural powers of his own.  As Bod grows up he meets friends and will soon come face to face with his past and resolve his childhood encounter with “the man Jack.”


This dark novel is introduced with a sinister beginning as we meet “the man Jack” and his sharp knife. With most of the novel continuing in a graveyard, it would seem that this book would shape into horror story, but we are instead introduced to a series of interesting and funny characters which lighten up the mood of the book with their quirky personalities and funny lines such as “Bartleby says that thou dost have a face like unto a squished plum (Giaman 2008, 43).” The black and white illustrations in this book by Dave McKean comply with the dark theme of the graveyard and are scattered eerily throughout the book. Giaman tells this dark story with a light hearted tone that youth can easy identify with as we watch young Bod grow up and have adventures of his only that only a human can have who lives in a dual world of the living and the dead. Young readers are able relate to the protagonist Bod in this “coming of age” supernatural adventure story that begs for a sequel.


Wistful, witty, wise—and creepy. – Kirkus Review

“The Graveyard Book is endlessly inventive, masterfully told and, like Bod himself, too clever to fit into only one place. This is a book for everyone. You will love it to death.” —Holly Black, cocreator of The Spiderwick Chronicles

“This is an utterly captivating tale that is cleverly told through an entertaining cast of ghostly characters. There is plenty of darkness, but the novel’s ultimate message is strong and life affirming.” Booklist (Starred Review)


Awards won:

Winner of the 2009 Newbery Medal
Winner of The Hugo Award 2009

Locus Award for Best Young Adult Book

Related books: Coraline by Neil Gaiman, M is for Magic by Neil Gaiman


Author Neil Gaiman reading the entire The Graveyard Book:

Multnomah County Library Lesson Plan:

Interviews, Links and Lesson Plans:


The Book Thief by Markus Zusak


Zusak, Markus. The Book Thief.  2006. New York, New York: Knopf Books for Young Readers. ISBN: 9780375842207


In this New York Times Best Seller, we are taken to the setting of Nazi Germany. Death himself is the narrator of this book and he first encounters nine year old Liesel Meminger, while she is attending her brother’s funeral.  Liesel’s mother is unable to care for Liesel and sends her to live with foster parents, and she develops a close bond with Hans Hubermann, her foster father who comforts her after her nightmares of her brother’s death. Liesel steals her first book at her brother’s funeral, and is taught how to read by Hans. Liesel’s life then evolves and she meets other people who will impact it the most. Max, the Jew hidden in the Hubermann’s basement, Rudy, her partner in crime and neighbor, and the mayor’s wife, Ilsa Hermann. With each character, we learn their heartbreaking stories, and we wonder where Death will find them all in the end.


In this novel by Markus Zusak, we encounter the life of a young girl during World War II. Before being sent to live with a foster family, Liesel Meminger’s life is already tragic when Death visits her at her brother’s funeral. With Germany as its setting, this novel begins by introducing the reader to likeable characters that keep you on edge wondering if they will survive their miserable circumstances. With poverty, rationing, and the ever threatening Nazi party on their backs, Liesel and her friends also face daily fears of air raids. This book’s Nazi party and youth ties with young Rudy, also ignite a strong memory of Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti. As the book’s title indicates, Liesel Meminger is not an angel, she befriends the mayor’s wife, Ilsa Hermann only to steal books from her even after she is invited to borrow them. Although we see this side of Liesel, we also love her as she reads to neighbors and Max, a Jew hiding in the Hermann’s basement. Even with Death as a narrator, readers are still encouraged to believe this story because the style of writing is so beautifully, even poetically told that it allows for readers to thoroughly empathize with each character and their heartaches. All the while the suspense in the book grows when readers understand the setting of the book, know each character and are forced to ask, “Who is Death here for?”


“The writing is elegant, philosophical and moving. Even at its length, it’s a work to read slowly and savor. Beautiful and important.” Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)

“Zusak not only creates a mesmerizing and original story but also writes with poetic syntax, causing readers to deliberate over phrases and lines, even as the action impels them forward….An extraordinary narrative.” School Library Journal (Starred Review)

“The Book Thief will be appreciated for Mr. Zusak’s audacity….It will be widely read and admired because it tells a story in which books become treasures. And because there’s no arguing with a sentiment like that.” Janet Maslin, The New York Times


Awards won: National Jewish Book Award, 2007 Book Sense Book of the Year Award for Children’s Literature, 2007 ALA’s Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults, Kathleen Mitchell Award, New York Times #1 Best Seller

Related books: Hitler Youth by Susan Campbell Bartoletti, I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak


Random House Reader’s Guide:

Teaching Books Lesson Plan Links, Interviews with the Author, etc.:

Schmoop Lesson Plan:


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This entry was posted on August 5, 2013 by .
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