Tag Archives: #GNCelebration

Identity: #GNCelebration

29 Oct


Goodreads Summary: Yumiko is a young Japanese woman who has made London her home. She has a job, a boyfriend; Japan seems far away. Then, out of the blue, her brother calls to tell her that her father has died in a mountaineering accident.

Yumiko returns to Tokyo for the funeral and finds herself immersed in the rituals of Japanese life and death – and confronting a decision she hadn’t expected to have to make.

Fumio Obata is a Japanese exile himself.  He moved to Britain in 1991 to study illustration at Glasgow School of Art and never left, so he knows all about the conflict of belonging. This is a lovely book that leads me to an illustrated work, which is NOT a graphic novel.


The Inker’s Shadow, by Allen Say, is a companion to the Sibert Honor Book  Drawing From Memory. 


In The Inker’s Shadow, we follow young Allen as his father  sends him to an American military academy, so that his son could learn English and “become a success in life.”As the school’s first and only Japanese student, he experienced immediate racism among his fellow cadets and his teachers. Allen  an American military academy, so that his son could learn English and “become a success in life.” He works part-time and his talent is eventually “discovered” by a teacher or two leading to special opportunities and scholarships.

Escapist literature #GNCelebration

22 Oct

I am old enough to remember when the Berlin Wall fell in 1989 , but not so old that I remember it going up in 1961.

Simon Schwartz’s The Other Side of the Wall, translated from its original German by Laura Watkinson, tells the story of his parents’ departure from East Germany in 1984.


Telling the story in black and white illustrations reminiscent of Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, 


Schwartz tells us about his parents’ Communist upbringing in the German Democratic Republic and the ideas and events that eventually brought them to the decision to leave. There is some awkwardness as he shuffles back and forth in time, but the reader comes to understand the difficulties his parents suffered through as they awaited permission to emigrate to West Germany.

This book would pair nicely with The Wall  by Peter Sís, about Sís’ youth in Cold War–era Prague,


or  Going Over,  Beth Kephart’s YA novel about young love and an escape across the Berlin Wall from East to West.


 All of these books give readers interesting insights into the Cold War as experienced by those on the other side of the Iron Curtain.

You can join the  celebration and read about more great graphics novels HERE.


An insanely great book: #GNCelebration

15 Oct

Several years ago I read Karen Blumenthal’s Steve Jobs: The Man Who Thought Different. I almost didn’t finish the book because I found Jobs so off-putting. 

I was a little nervous when I picked up Steve Jobs: Insanely Great by Jessie Hartland,


expecting to feel the same anger and irritation at Jobs. Although Hartland talks about Jobs’ difficult relationships with people, I  enjoyed this graphic biography immensely.

The text really focuses on Jobs as an innovator and reveals his innovations by repeating the book’s  subtitle: “insanely great”.


The book follows Jobs’ life in chronological order, but pages are arranged creatively, sometimes with two or three cells per page, sometimes with only one. Hartland’s simple  black & white line drawings make his life interesting and even entertaining.

One of the real strengths of the book is that it does not assume readers know about the technologies that predated personal computers. One and two-page spreads explain “old” technology like arcade games, the history of the computer and how records had to be played on record players. All this is cleverly tied into Jobs’ great desire to make technology better and more beautiful. The overall impression I have from this book is that, for good or ill, Steve Jobs was a man who had a vision and would do whatever it took to implement it. You might not admire his style, but it certainly left me admiring his tenacity in adhering to his ideals.

This graphic biography would be a great introduction to the life of Steve Jobs. It also includes a bibliography in case readers want to learn more about the Apple co-founder.

If you enjoyed reading this post, please check out the other graphic novels recommended during October’s Graphic Novel Celebration.



Telling a terrible truth: #GNCelebration

8 Oct


I have a penchant for non-fiction, and the increasing number of graphic non-fiction books warms my heart. These are excellent tools to expose kids to difficult or complex topics, and discover the joy of reading non-fiction.

In 1993, five-year-old Michel Chikwanine was kidnapped and forced to become a soldier in a brutal militia in the Democratic Republic of Congo. He tells his story in Child Soldier: When Boys and Girls Are Used in War, written by Michel Chikwanine and Jessica Dee Humphreys, and illustrated by  Claudia Davila.


Michel’s rather brutal story is told in a way that kids could understand without being graphic. Ironic in a graphic novel. But Davila’s illustrations help the reader understand how terrifying the ideal must have been.


Narrated in the first person, the story open with Michel’s idyllic childhood as the son of a civil rights lawyer. This is sharply contrasted with the life he experienced in the camp, from which he eventually ran away, and how alienated he felt after returning to his family. Although Michel escaped the militia, his family continued to suffer. His father was arrested and he and his sisters fled the DRC eventually settling in Canada after years in a refugee camp.

One of the last things Michel’s father told him was that everyone can do something to make the world a better place. Michel has become an activist, retelling his story and working to make people aware of the plight of child soldiers all over the world. Backmatter tells more of his story after arriving in Canada and about the work he does. It also provides information about child soldiers in other parts of the world and organizations that are working on their behalf.

Pair this graphic novel with War Brothers:The Graphic Novel,  by Sharon E. McKay and Daniel LaFrance, which is  graphic novelization of McKay’s YA novel about child soldiers in Uganda.


 Both of these books tell a disturbing story in a deeply humane manner and will give kids cause to pause and think.

You can join the Nerdy Book Club’s  Graphic Novel Celebration, or read about more great graphic novels HERE.

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