Category Archives: graphic novel

A happy camper she is not…

be preparedVera does not fit in, not at the slumber parties with her school friends, and not – as it turns out – with the other immigrant kids at camp.  This is one of those, “well, it seemed like a good idea…” stories.

For her wealthier friends, going to camp all summer is just a part of what you do.  Maybe you go to horse camp or tennis camp.  Or maybe if you’re Vera, you just hang out on an empty playground all summer.  Until you find out there is a Russian camp your mother just might let you attend.

Somehow your prayers have been answered, and you think you can do all the cool things the other kids are talking about.  Until you get there and find out that it seems pretty much like the rest of your life. Sigh.

A fun read, even if the memories of camp it brings back are not all happy ones.  Perfect for summer.

Be Prepared by Vera Brosgol

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Add this one to the stack

dragon slayerIt’s a quick read – loads of color, fun folktales, a wand, some fools, older siblings who are a pain.  That kind of thing.

It’s a great addition to the comics/graphic novels for kids, and it’s nice to see the storytelling include traditional stories in format that appeals to them.  Imagination, tradition, fun.

The Dragon Slayer: folktales from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez

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Building a strong community with tiger grass and calypso

new shoesNew Shoes is a story of friendship, taking risks, rescues, and listening to people who don’t agree with you about how they see a situation.  Is it possible that someone else might look at a situation in a completely different but also correct way?  What a mind-blowing idea in this world of fake news and polarized political life!  But I digress.

Francis the Donkey is out there doing his thing in the world, producing amazing shoes from the best materials.  He’s just gotten a commission from one of his favorite singers – a manatee who sings calypso – and then one of his suppliers goes missing.  What to do?  If you’re Francis, you find a friend and go looking, hoping for the best in an entirely new place.  You also take reference materials about what you’ll see, so that you don’t look like a fool in front of the capybara and pale-throated three-toed sloth.  You ask questions; you figure things out.  Sometimes you aren’t 100% happy with what you learn, but you look for solutions instead of playing the blame game.  In the end, you just might find you’ve gained more than you could possibly expect, and you’ll also have some awesome ideas for new shoes.

New Shoes by Sara Varon

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Graphic novel? Picture book? Both?

small thingsI hadn’t thought about it lately, but this book reminded me that even the shape of a book sometimes leads you to make assumptions about who it should speak to.  This one is big, like a picture book, although the format is more graphic novel-like.  There’s no real text to help you out, either, and it’s all grayscale, so even the colors don’t clue you in.

It could be a way to talk through how the small things in life wear at you, tear you apart, leave you without defenses to meanness or negativity.  It could be a path into a discussion about depression and how it affects people (large and small).  It is on the edge of breath-taking and has a hint of hopefulness about it, but only at the very end, and that feeling for me does not overwhelm the sadness or grayness of it all.

I showed it to my husband who doesn’t read many picture books or graphic novels, and he commented that it really wasn’t what he expected.  Exactly.  It doesn’t make it better or worse, but it left me wondering if I needed to have a stronger opinion about it than just, “wow.”  See what you think.

small things  by Mel Tregonning

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Clem Hetherington – archaeologist, orphan, risk-taker

clemMiss J. at the library suggested this one, and it’s a thrill ride from page one.

Clementine Hetherington is on the run from pretty much everyone, including the police, bad guys, supposed good guys, and fellow competitors in the Ironwood Race.  Fortunately, she’s got a robot brother, Digory, and a seriously dangerous but fast vehicle.  Does she win the race?  Will she find out more clues from her past?  Can she and Dig recover some stolen artifacts and (mostly) return them to a safe home?

Loads of fun.  I can’t wait for the next one.

Clem Hetherington and the Ironwood Race by Jen Breach and Douglas Holgate

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War. What is it good for? Again.

Groundwood Logo TextIt seems like days, but I know it was actually weeks ago that I posted about another middle grade book about war—Playing Atari With Saddam Hussein.  This one is a graphic novel, based on Deborah Ellis’s classic, The Breadwinner.

Adapted from the film version directed by Nora Twomey, the story is a familiar one.  Power struggles, militarized conflict, outcomes no one particularly likes – in this case, only the strict Taliban and their thugs like the idea of limiting women so much.  People who just want to live their daily lives struggle while those in power find ways to exploit their standing.  No surprise there.

Parvana has to disguise herself as a boy in order to be able to provide for her family, and while the disguise allows her some freedoms she doesn’t have otherwise, it also brings complications – fear of bullies with guns, for one thing.  With her father jailed for having forbidden books, her life and that of the rest of her family is trapped in survival mode.

Having this in graphic novel form will appeal to a lot of young readers, especially those who are interested in social justice issues.  It’s a view into another world, and that’s an especially good thing for those of us with the advantages of technology and development and education and relatively safe daily lives.

The Breadwinner: a graphic novel – based on the book by Deborah Ellis and adapted from the film by Nora Twomey

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Good surprises.

prince dressmakerLooking at the cover, I was not so sure if we were leaning towards traditional fairy tale or girl power story with this one.  But what the heck?  It’s a graphic novel, I thought.  It won’t be long, and I can always bail on it if it’s too sappy, I thought.

Then BOOM, several pages in I find myself thinking, “Welllllll, I was not expecting that.”  That might apply to a lot of things, but definitely fits this book.  It probably reveals some privilege and/or bias on my part that I was surprised, but that was quickly followed by thinking what an excellent story it really is.  There’s friendship, love, secrets, family drama.  This book has it all, along with some painful moments and realizations about growing up and becoming who we are meant to be.  They do live happily ever after, though, which is maybe the thing we should focus on and hope for, right?

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

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References you will enjoy*

grace for gusMost grown-ups think picture books are for little kids.  If you read a lot of them, though, you realize that there is much more out there than Dr. Seuss and Goodnight Moon.  Not that there’s anything wrong with classic picture books.  They can be awesome, too.

But once in a while, picture books are as much for the parents as they are for the younger set.  This one is like that.  Among the many pop culture references I found on my first read were Alfred Hitchcock, Woody Allen, Tintin, Charlie Brown, Andy Warhol, and Sanford and Son.  But you’ll want to read it again, because I left out Van Gogh and Jethro Tull.

It’s mostly a wordless graphic picture book, which is pretty much always an ok thing by me.  There’s a lot to look at, but if you’re just following the story, that’ll work, too.

Take a look!

Grace for Gus by Harry Bliss

*I once watched a show called “Sandwiches you will enjoy” – pretty much the perfectly descriptive show name.  I’m always looking for good titles.

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Girl power — now with comics!

brazenI know.  I’m a total sucker for exactly this kind of book – cool stories about smart women, fun facts, charming and engaging illustrations.

You might say I’ve been glowing and gushing about a lot of books lately, and you’d be right.  This one is really, really good.  Really.  There are a few women I knew already and many I didn’t, but all of their stories are compelling and just plain fun to read.  I read the whole thing in two days, but I could easily see reading one biography a day, or just going back and rereading the book several times to look for little details I missed.

It might be especially wonderful to me–I do love me some women’s history–but the format is one that would appeal to all kinds of people from teens to old ladies with open minds.  It’s the way it’s told that really made it come alive.  And although some people might be uncomfortable with its discussion of controversial topics, others might find that to be a great selling point.  We all know there are nice books about super amazing women out there, but somehow they don’t all sing, do they?  Too much dense text on the page?  Boring pictures?  Not much zing?

I don’t know what it is, but this one has exactly the right combination of all the things I want to read, maybe more than once.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World by Pénélope Bagieu

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Pain finds its voice

neverthelessOne of my library friends passed this on to me not long ago, suspecting that I might appreciate both the language and the art of it.  Many of us have revisited long-set-aside incidents in the wake of the #metoo movement, either in quiet moments on our own or while chatting with our previously labeled “feminazi” friends.  Now we are part of something bigger, right?

speakI started reading this new graphic novel version of Speak just a day or two after getting O:the Oprah Magazine’s March 2018 issue.  (I don’t read a lot of magazines these days, but once in a while, I’ve been known to splurge on a magazine subscription.  My $5 is paying off big-time now, too!) If you have time to seek it out, take some time to appreciate the #USTOO art on page 105. It is painful to read, but most women I know can relate to multiple incidents on it.  Key to what it and some of the pieces accompanying it relate is the fact that change will not come from silence.  We are not alone, but if we keep things quiet, we feel like we are, and things don’t change.

Melinda feels like she’s alone, despised, ignored, and so many other adjectives.  Her story – being raped at an end-of-summer party by a popular predator – comes out over the course of her freshman year.  The art in this version is brilliant, highlighting and connecting the words and story with images that make you feel it all the more intensely.  Can she see the people who would help her?  Can she trust the people who are supposed to be supporting her?

This moment is the perfect one for this book – one more opportunity to start some tough conversations with young people, as well as our friends, partners, families.

Speak: the graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll

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