In which Annie (high school teacher, mother of two small girls and a baby boy) and her aunt Deborah (children's bookseller, mother of two young women in their 20s) discuss children's books and come up with annotated lists.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

More great graphic novels

Dear Annie,

Yes! I sell comic books!  Most of them are Graphic Novels these days and they come in many layers of complexity, reading levels, and quality.  We recently expanded our graphic novel section -- I still find some of it beyond me (don't know if I'll ever figure out manga, although I try).  So today I'll only talk about three.


American Born Chinese is great, and it was such a lovely moment when it won the Printz Award for YA books a few years back. You probably already know The Arrival, by Shaun Tan (which Indie Bound doesn't seem to list, so the link is to the author's site) but especially with your student demographic (many first and second generation immigrants, right?) it would fit right in.  It's a stunningly beautiful wordless book which puts the reader inside of the immigrant experience in a fantastical world where everything is just, well, different. Here, for example, is the harbor where the main character arrives after leaving his family behind:

All is strange to him: he can't read the designs on signs, the food is unfamiliar, he doesn't know where he's going.  But other people -- usually other immigrants --  help him out.  He has come from a world of poverty and hunger, symbolized by the shadows of dragons we see in the city he left.  His new friends describe to him why they fled their homes, the most disturbing image being this one:
One can linger long over every page.  There's tons to think about.  I never understood some of the elements in the story (why did they have those animals in the baskets?), but that can be part of the immigrant experience too: you never entirely get the new culture.

Then there's
Smile
, out this year.  It's a memoir by Raina Telgemeier about her years of oral surgery and orthodontia following a bad fall after a Girl Scout meeting.  At the same time, she's going through middle school with difficult friends and hard social situations.  She finally comes out of it all satisfactorily, but it's a sometimes painful ride that feels very emotionally spot-on.  Raina endures clueless doctors who seem so true-to-life I found myself remembering the orthodontist's office from my childhood -- not to mention all the people we dealt with through Mona's orthodontia and jaw surgery. 

For the younger set, a starter chapter book/graphic novel: 
Travels of Thelonious by Susan Schade and Jon Buller. It's the first in The Fog Mound series, a post-apocalyptic fantasy for the 8 to 12 year-old crowd.  Buildings exist, but no people.  Animals talk, and the ones who live where people used to live wear clothing.  The book is both a chapter book, with pages with a normal type layout, and then it breaks into comic book format for four or five pages, then back to regular type.  The story follows Thelonious, a chipmunk from the country, as he comes to the big city and finds friends to help him:


Thelonious wants to find out if the old legends about humans running the world are true.  He and friends go on an odyssey that appears to have concluded with the third book, but in this era of sequels, one can never tell..

Love,

Deborah

1 comment:

  1. Oh, graphic novels! Yay! There are some that I love SO much! The Age of Bronze series, by Eric Shanower, is a retelling of the Trojan War that is mind-bogglingly researched and extremely cool (I have the first 3...I'm not sure the others are out yet).

    Fables, by Bill Willingham, takes fairy-tale characters and sets them in Fabletown, a hidden enclave in New York City, where they've had to relocate to escape the Adversary in the Homelands (and when you find out who the Adversary is, it's shocking and yet totally believable). It's also a pretty adult series, but I think it'd be very appealing for the right teens. The Big Bad Wolf is the Sheriff, Snow White is the Deputy Mayor, there's a flying monkey who does all the office filing, Jack is always around causing mischief (and later gets his own spin-off series), and Cinderella is now a secret agent. It's just awesome.

    And finally, more teen-oriented: the Runaways series, by Brian K. Vaughan (who also wrote Y: The Last Man and is AMAZING), in which a group of kids discover their parents are all supervillains, so they run away from home together (with a pet velociraptor). It's funny (in a Joss Whedon kind of way!) and smart and heart-breaking and totally great, and one of my favorite book series ever.

    Now I have to find the ones you guys recommended...well, after I finish Mockingjay, that is! :) :) :)

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