Book Reviews

Explorer: The Lost Islands and The Hidden Doors edited by Kazu Kibuishi | Mini-Reviews

Mini-Reviews!

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Book titles: The Lost Islands and The Hidden Doors
Authors: Edited by Kazu Kibuishi + a ton of authors and artists who will be mentioned later in this review
Series: Explorer, #2 & #3
Publisher: Amulet Books (Harry N. Abrams)
Release dates: October 2013 and October 2014 (respectively)
Formats: Hardcovers, 127 pages each
Source: Library.

Add The Lost Islands to your Goodreads:

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Add The Hidden Doors to your Goodreads:

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Read my review of The Mystery Boxes, book #1, here.

Synopsis of The Lost Islands, book #2:

The highly anticipated second volume to the critically acclaimed Explorer series, The Lost Islands is a collection of seven all-new stories written and illustrated by an award-winning roster of comics artists, with each story centered around the theme of hidden places. Edited by the New York Times bestselling comics creator Kazu Kibuishi, this graphic anthology includes well-written, beautifully illustrated stories by Kazu (the Amulet series), Jason Caffoe (the Flight series), Raina Telgemeier (Drama and Smile), Dave Roman (the Astronaut Academy series), Jake Parker (the Missile Mouse series), Michel Gagné (The Saga of Rex), Katie and Steven Shanahan (the Flight series), and up-and-coming new artist Chrystin Garland.

Synopsis of The Hidden Doors, book #3:

A bullied boy discovers a door guarded by a sly monster . . . A painting of a door opens in a forgotten Egyptian tomb . . . A portal in the park promises to turn you into a much cooler version 2.0—if you can just get the bugs out . . . Edited by New York Times bestselling comics creator Kazu Kibuishi, who is also a contributor, the third volume in this highly praised series gathers some of the foremost and fastest-rising talents in comics for kids: Jen Wang (Koko Be Good), Johane Matte (Explorer: The Mystery Boxes), Steve Hamaker (colorist of Jeff Smith’s Bone series), Faith Erin Hicks (Friends with Boys), DougHolgate (Zack Proton series), and Jason Caffoe (Explorer: The Lost Islands and Flight). Readers maynever walk into a room the same way again.


The Explorer graphic novel series is a really cool look at how different authors and artists interpret the theme Kazu Kibuishi gives them. In book 1 it was mystery boxes. In book 2 it was lost islands. In book 3 it was hidden doors. They’re gorgeous books to look at and they’re entertaining to read. They’re definitely aimed at middle grade readers, but some of the stories can be appreciated by older readers. The artwork is absolutely drool-worthy. These are practically coffee table books — gorgeous books for your friends and guests to flip through to show off your awesome tastes. 😀

Here are my brief thoughts on each story to be found in The Lost Islands and The Hidden Doors.

Stories from The Lost Islands:

  • Rabbit Island by Jake Parker. 3 stars. | Lazy-ass rabbits rely on a robot to do their jobs. I loved the unique art style here and faded colors.
  • The Mask Dance by Chrystin Garland. 3 stars. | Um, evil skeleton spirits wearing masks? The art here is stunning.
  • Carapace by Jason Caffoe. 4 stars. | Cutest crab ghost ever. And what luscious, colorful artwork!
  • Desert Island Playlist by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier, colors by Braden Lamb. 2 stars. | Um, a girl meets two versions of herself? Sadly, this one didn’t click with me. I thought it was the weakest of the bunch.
  • Loah by Michel Gagne. 5 stars. | A story about teamwork and trust and fish. My favorite story in this collection by faaar! And so freaking beautiful!
  • Radio Adrift by Katie Shanahan and Stevn Shanahan, colors by Eric Kim and Selena Dizazzo. 3 stars. | Cute but very far-fetched. I did like the pixie egg part, that was funny. Who doesn’t like a good radio-host voice?
  • The Fisherman by Kazu Kibuishi, colors by Jason Caffoe. 3 stars. | The obsession for a giant catch turns out to be pretty dangerous. Not my favorite story of the bunch, but definitely something dramatic to end the book with.

Stories from The Hidden Doors:

  • Asteria Crane by Kazu Kibuishi, colors by Denver Jackson. 3 stars. | Running after a boy, trapped in his dreams. Kinda sad, but definitely cool and Inception-y.
  • The Giant’s Kitchen by Jason Caffoe. 3 stars. | Um, yeah, a young witch helps a giant cook. Strange but kind of endearing at the same time?
  • Luis 2.0 by Jen Wang. 4 stars. | What if you could make yourself look any way you wanted? Damn, Jen Wang’s art style perfectly suits this story about trying to fit in and accepting yourself. By the way, I’ve also read Jen Wang’s In Real Life, with Cory Doctorow, and her art style and colors differ greatly. Jen Wang is awesome.
  • Two-Person Door by Faith Erin Hicks, colors by Noreen Rana. 4 stars. | You can go on a grand adventure — but you need to bring a partner along. Too bad that partner isn’t very interested. This was so entertaining, and I absolutely loved seeing color in a Faith Erin Hicks story. I just read Friends With Boys — and if I’m being totally honest, I liked this short graphic story more.
  • Fish N Chips In Spring Cleaning by Steve Hamaker. 2 stars. | A fish in a bowl and a cat go chasing after a rogue robot they find in a closet. Um, no, I couldn’t do this one. This was weird.
  • Mastaba by Johane Matte, colors by Mary Cagle. 4 stars. | Tomb robbers! And a very cute kangaroo rat. Loved this one!
  • When Is a Door Not a Door? by Jen Breach and Douglas Holgate. 3 stars. | DRAGON. And some trolls (or some type of ugly brutes) who want to capture said dragon. Sadly, for a story with a dragon in it, I wasn’t blown away.

If I average my ratings, each book gets a 3 or a 3.5 star rating, but because the artwork in these books is phenomenal, I’m bumping up my rating to 4 stars for each book. Don’t miss out on these graphic novels if they ever cross your path. The stories might not be consistently awesome, but the artwork is out of this world. ♦

I give The Lost Islands and The Hidden Doors each a rating of:


Have you read The Lost Islands?
How about The Hidden Doors?
If you haven’t, would you be interested to?
Who are some of your favorite graphic novel artists?
Comment below letting me know!

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