Tag Archives: graphic novel

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.

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

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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,

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

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 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.

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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,

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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”.

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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.

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Gavrilo Princip: A Graphic Assassination

1 Oct

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We have a tendency t think that young people who go off and become radicalized are a new phenomenon. It isn’t really so, and Henrik Rehr’s Terrorist: Gavrilo Princip, the Assassin who Ignited World War 1 gives us some insight into how it can happen.

Let me start off by saying that the realistic illustrations are top notch. In black and white, the emulate the newsreels and photographs of the era that would have informed people about the assassination. In fact, when I first opened the book, I almost gasped, astonished at the research Rehr must have done to so faithfully portray the events of the assassination.

Here is an illustration

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Here is a photo taken that day

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The publisher categorizes the book as fiction, and I think rightly so. Although it is filled with excellent research and historical fact, the nature of a graphic retelling of history, full of speech bubbles, almost demands fiction status. The conversations Princip had with colleagues and coconspirators probably rings true, but we will never know exactly what was said.  This is an issue in narrative nonfiction generally, where we see quotes in books, which, when endnotes are checked, revealed that they come from interviews or memoirs. they are what someone remembered themselves or someone else saying. As we work on our personal narratives in writer’s workshop, I tell student to write the gist of what was said as we practice adding dialogue and I suppose that is what Rehr has done here. It works for this book because it is really historical fiction.

All that aside, I found this to be an excellent book and a good introduction to issues of World War 1.

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The Return of Fall Rains

16 Sep

Almost everyone I know is relieved at the weather change. Fall seems to be back: they sky is grey and it seems to have rained overnight. A big El Niño debate is raging: will it be really rainy or really cold?

One of my first winters in Portland, an El Niño year,  it was so rainy they sand bagged downtown for fear the Willamette River would overflow. It didn’t, but floods certainly happened in outlying areas.

This gets me thinking about Don Brown’s new nonfiction book Drowned City: Hurricane Katrina & New Orleans.

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This is a stunning graphic chronicle of the tragedy that hit New Orleans in 2005. As with The Great Dust Bowl, the illustrations are powerful and the text combines facts and details that attest to wide research and reading on Brown’s part.

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Brown does not shy away from telling the hard parts of this story, in addition to the heroic. Graphic nonfiction makes for an easy way to build students’ background knowledge of events that happened before they were born or before they can remember. This book will be an excellent addition to any classroom library.

The book to which my meandering thoughts took me

24 Aug

Yesterday, when I should have been thinking loftier thoughts, my mind took a little trip to Hallowe’en. (I still like to spell it with an apostrophe even though that seems to be going the way of the dodo.) I got thinking about Hallowe’en because, now that I am back at middle school, we dress up for Hallowe’en. And so the eternal dilemma: What will I wear? And can I knit it?

I started thinking about things I could knit as part, or all, of  a Hallowe’en costume. I could where a brain hat with a lab coat.

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And there is quite an array of Viking options. No weapons at school, obviously.

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I will keep thinking on this, but if I am gong to knit for Halloween, I will probably have to get started soon.

Have you ever noticed that when you are thinking about something it seems to pop up everywhere? Well, I went to the library a little bit after my Hallowe’en excursion, and found this little gem:

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Publisher’s Summary: Princess Decomposia is overworked and underappreciated.

This princess of the underworld has plenty of her own work to do but always seems to find herself doing her layabout father’s job, as well. The king doesn’t feel quite well, you see. Ever. So the princess is left scurrying through the halls, dodging her mummy, werewolf, and ghost subjects, always running behind and always buried under a ton of paperwork. Oh, and her father just fired the chef, so now she has to hire a new cook as well.

Luckily for Princess Decomposia, she makes a good hire in Count Spatula, the vampire chef with a sweet tooth. He’s a charming go-getter of a blood-sucker, and pretty soon the two young ghouls become friends. And then…more than friends? Maybe eventually, but first Princess Decomposia has to sort out her life. And with Count Spatula at her side, you can be sure she’ll succeed.

Andi Watson (Glister,Gum Girl) brings his signature gothy-cute sensibility to this very sweet and mildly spooky tale of friendship, family, and management training for the undead.

It is delightful graphic novel. the art is simple black and white, bit this actually adds to the ambiance. The writing is smart and funny. This is an excellent book for kids aged 8 & up.

 

A graphic vacation

5 Aug

“Make hay while the sun shines”

I have only a few weeks of vacation left so I am madly reading as many YA debuts as I can before I have to go back to school. I have my first meeting tomorrow, so the and is nigh. Because I’m mostly reading potential Morris candidates, I haven’t been reading much of anything else. But, every once in a while I will pick up something non-Morris related and take a reading vacation from my required reading. Nimona,  by Noelle Stevenson, was a fantastic choice and I feel refreshed because I read it.

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Publisher’s Summary: Nemeses! Dragons! Science! Symbolism! All these and more await in this brilliantly subversive, sharply irreverent epic from Noelle Stevenson. Featuring an exclusive epilogue not seen in the web comic, along with bonus conceptual sketches and revised pages throughout, this gorgeous full-color graphic novel is perfect for the legions of fans of the web comic and is sure to win Noelle many new ones.

Nimona is an impulsive young shapeshifter with a knack for villainy. Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain with a vendetta. As sidekick and supervillain, Nimona and Lord Blackheart are about to wreak some serious havoc. Their mission: prove to the kingdom that Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin and his buddies at the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics aren’t the heroes everyone thinks they are.

But as small acts of mischief escalate into a vicious battle, Lord Blackheart realizes that Nimona’s powers are as murky and mysterious as her past. And her unpredictable wild side might be more dangerous than he is willing to admit.

You really should read this graphic novel!

Ah, summer!

24 Jul

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To be honest, I don’t even remember picking up the ARC of Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matt Holm. But, as I was looking through the now organized box of ARCs I got in San Francisco, this one surprised me. How did it get there? I have no idea, but I ma sure glad it made it home.

Scholastic’s summary of this graphic novel is very brief: From the groundbreaking and award-winning sister-brother team behind Babymouse comes a middle-grade, semi-autobiographical graphic novel.

Following the lives of kids whose older brother’s delinquent behavior has thrown their family into chaos, Sunny Side Up is at once a compelling “problem” story and a love letter to the comic books that help the protagonist make sense of her world.

We meet 10-year-old Sunny as she arrives at the airport in Florida in 1976.  Although a summer in Florida sounds like fun, Sunny is spending it with her grandfather in his retirement community while her parents deal with her older brother’s substance abuse problem that they are trying to keep secret. Fortunately for Sunny, she befriends Buzz and together they explore the world through comic books. And talking with her grandfather and Buzz helps Sunny deal with the problems that lead to her trip to Florida.

This book deals with some tough issues, but is done in a very appropriate way for the target audience (grades 3 and up). As always, Holm & Holm have created a book that is more serious than Babymouse or  Squish , but just as endearing and readable.

Some graphic traffic

9 Jan

I finally feel as though I have my rhythm at school…just in time for the weekend. Here are a couple of fun graphic novels for the younger set that might be perfect for a wintery weekend.

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Goodreads summary:After Bird and Squirrel crash land in the South Pole during a raging blizzard, a penguin named Sakari thinks Bird has come to rid her village of a hungry Killer Whale. But when Squirrel finds out that Bird will actually be fed to the Killer Whale as a sacrifice, they hatch a crazy plan to escape. With a good timing, a little luck, and help from Sakari, they just might make it out alive. Or they might end up as whale food!

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Goodreads summary: When a young Cleopatra (yes, THAT Cleopatra) finds a mysterious tablet that zaps her to the far, REALLY far future, she learns of an ancient prophecy that says she is destined to save the galaxy from the tyrannical rule of the evil Xaius Octavian. She enrolls in Yasiro Academy, a high-tech school with classes like algebra, biology, and alien languages (which Cleo could do without), and combat training (which is more Cleo’s style). With help from her teacher Khensu, Cleo learns what it takes to be a great leader, while trying to figure out how she’s going to get her homework done, make friends, and avoid detention!

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Goodreads summary: The Stratford Zoo looks like a normal zoo… until the gates shut at night. That’s when the animals come out of their cages to stage elaborate performances of Shakespeare’s greatest works. They might not be the most accomplished thespians, but they’ve got what counts: heart. Also fangs, feathers, scales, and tails, in The Stratford Zoo Midnight Revue Presents Macbeth.

A sequel

29 Sep

Very often, I am disappointed by sequels. At best, I find a sequel equal to the first book. I was pleasantly surprised to find Sisters by Raina Telgemeier BETTER than Smile, which was excellent.

 

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Perhaps that’s because it brought back memories of car trips as a child, sharing the backseat with my twin sister, and the love-hate relationships only sisters can have.

The story is centered around a family summer car trip to Colorado, without Dad. embedded into the stories are flashbacks of Raina’s desire for a baby sister and the reality of what having one actually means.Their relationship is rocky and doesn’t improve when a baby brother arrives. It is only once in Colorado that they begin to realize what it means to be a sister and start working on building a better relationship.

A fun, quick read in Telgemeier’s trademark style.

Wordless

10 Sep

My adventure with Laryngitis continues. What better book to share today than The River by Alessandro Sanna.

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This  beautiful , mostly wordless, graphic novel  takes us on a journey along the banks of Italy’s Po River. It is divided into four sections, telling four stories, one for each season, and begins with Autumn. I so prefer the word Autumn to the more mundane Fall.

The River explores our physical. emotional and spiritual connection to place. It is simply beautiful.

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