Category Archives: Graphic Novel

Pumpkinheads

Finished Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Deja and Josiah are seasonal best friends.

Every autumn, all through high school, they’ve worked together at the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world. (Not many people know that the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world is in Omaha, Nebraska, but it definitely is.) They say good-bye every Halloween, and they’re reunited every September 1.

But this Halloween is different—Josiah and Deja are finally seniors, and this is their last season at the pumpkin patch. Their last shift together. Their last good-bye.

Josiah’s ready to spend the whole night feeling melancholy about it. Deja isn’t ready to let him. She’s got a plan: What if—instead of moping and the usual slinging lima beans down at the Succotash Hut—they went out with a bang? They could see all the sights! Taste all the snacks! And Josiah could finally talk to that cute girl he’s been mooning over for three years . . .

What if their last shift was an adventure?”

I absolutely adored this graphic novel! I feel like that format is very hit or miss for me but it really worked for this one, and it also made me very happy that fall is coming up. (If you’re a fan of the season, you’ll also love this.) It’s very evocative of the season and everything associated with it.

I haven’t been to a pumpkin patch (I don’t think ever, but definitely not as a teenager or adult; if I went at all, I must’ve been a toddler at best) but this makes me want to change that. (Especially around Halloween and especially if there’s any sort of maze involved.)

I also love the characters (especially Deja and her multiple quests). I’m more like Josiah (I pine from afar) so I appreciate Deja because she makes things happen.

This is just a really fun story and I hope for more collaborations between Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks. Highly recommended.

Advertisements

White Bird

Finished White Bird by R.J. Palacio. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“In Auggie & Me, which expands on characters in Wonder, readers were introduced to Julian’s grandmother, Grandmère. Palacio makes her graphic novel debut with Grandmère’s story as a young Jewish girl hidden away by a family in Nazi-occupied France during World War II. Her experience demonstrates the power of kindness to change hearts, build bridges, and even save lives.”

You don’t have to have read Auggie & Me (or even Wonder) to appreciate this story. As the synopsis says, it’s set in World War II (with bookends in the present, as Grandmere tells Julian about her childhood in the 1940s). I have it marked on my blog as middlegrade and YA; children who have read Wonder will probably want to read this, too; I think it’s age appropriate for them but be aware that people die in this.

Also, unlike her other books, this is a graphic novel. That format works amazingly well with this story, and the drawings are beautiful. The story is as heartbreaking as you would expect a story about Jewish people in World War II to be. And yet, as in Wonder, there is a lot of kindness, too. It’s a fantastic story and I hope we don’t have to wait this long for another book from R.J. Palacio.

Highly recommended.

They Called Us Enemy

Finished They Called Us Enemy by George Takei.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A stunning graphic memoir recounting actor/author/activist George Takei’s childhood imprisoned within American concentration camps during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon — and America itself — in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.

George Takei has captured hearts and minds worldwide with his captivating stage presence and outspoken commitment to equal rights. But long before he braved new frontiers in Star Trek, he woke up as a four-year-old boy to find his own birth country at war with his father’s — and their entire family forced from their home into an uncertain future.

In 1942, at the order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt, every person of Japanese descent on the west coast was rounded up and shipped to one of ten “relocation centers,” hundreds or thousands of miles from home, where they would be held for years under armed guard.

They Called Us Enemy is Takei’s firsthand account of those years behind barbed wire, the joys and terrors of growing up under legalized racism, his mother’s hard choices, his father’s faith in democracy, and the way those experiences planted the seeds for his astonishing future.

What is American? Who gets to decide? When the world is against you, what can one person do? To answer these questions, George Takei joins co-writers Justin Eisinger & Steven Scott and artist Harmony Becker for the journey of a lifetime.”

Like Room, the atrocities in here are narrated by a child. George Takei didn’t realize the full extent of what was happening when he, his parents and his two younger siblings were sent to Japanese internment camps (read: imprisoned) but that doesn’t make it any easier for the reader.

This book absolutely broke my heart. We’re never getting better as a country, are we? We’re still afraid of people who we deem as “other” and we just take turns with who that “other” is considered to be.

(George Takei is a lot more hopeful about this than I am; he also shares that the government apologized—decades later, Ronald Reagan officially apologized and George HW Bush issued reparations to the American citizens who were wrongly imprisoned due to their ancestry.)

This is not an easy book but it’s a very necessary one. Highly recommended.

Good Talk

Finished Good Talk by Mira Jacob.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A bold, wry, and intimate graphic memoir about American identity, interracial families, and the realities that divide us, from the acclaimed author of The Sleepwalker’s Guide to Dancing.

“By turns hilarious and heart-rending, it’s exactly the book America needs at this moment.”—Celeste Ng

“Who taught Michael Jackson to dance?”
“Is that how people really walk on the moon?”
“Is it bad to be brown?”
“Are white people afraid of brown people?”

Like many six-year-olds, Mira Jacob’s half-Jewish, half-Indian son, Z, has questions about everything. At first they are innocuous enough, but as tensions from the 2016 election spread from the media into his own family, they become much, much more complicated. Trying to answer him honestly, Mira has to think back to where she’s gotten her own answers: her most formative conversations about race, color, sexuality, and, of course, love.

“How brown is too brown?”
“Can Indians be racist?”
“What does real love between really different people look like?”

Written with humor and vulnerability, this deeply relatable graphic memoir is a love letter to the art of conversation—and to the hope that hovers in our most difficult questions.”

I loved this book so much! I was just discussing graphic novels with a friend and I said that I couldn’t think of one that wouldn’t have been just as good or better as a regular novel instead. I mention that because I think this was better as a graphic memoir. It’s incredibly personal but also universal; these are topics we all hopefully grapple with.

There are a lot of things that are hard to discuss and they’re also the things we also most need to talk about.

I know Mira Jacob has written a novel and I need to find and read it. I was really impressed with this and hope to read everything she ever does from now on.

Highly recommended.

Operatic

Finished Operatic by Kyo Maclear. (The illustrations are by Byron Eggenschwiler.)

Summary (from Goodreads):

Somewhere in the universe, there is the perfect tune for you.

It’s almost the end of middle school, and Charlie has to find her perfect song for a music class assignment. The class learns about a different style of music each day, from hip-hop to metal to disco, but it’s hard for Charlie to concentrate when she can’t stop noticing her classmate Emile, or wondering about Luka, who hasn’t been to school in weeks. On top of everything, she has been talked into participating in an end-of-year performance with her best friends.

Then, the class learns about opera, and Charlie discovers the music of Maria Callas. The more she learns about Maria’s life, the more Charlie admires her passion for singing and her ability to express herself fully through her music. Can Charlie follow the example of the ultimate diva, Maria Callas, when it comes to her own life?

This evocatively illustrated graphic novel brilliantly captures the high drama of middle school by focusing on the desire of its finely drawn characters to sing and be heard.”

This is one of my favorite graphic novels. It centers around a middle school girl who’s learning more about music. She develops this huge fondness for Maria Callas and it makes her brave.

I love the idea of little kids (and I’m sorry, middle schoolers count as little!) learning about opera. It makes me feel really happy, like maybe they’re not just listening to uptempo nonsense I haven’t even heard of. (This is probably the grumpiest thing I’ve ever typed.)

This also discusses Maria Callas a little, and basically all I knew was “legendary diva” so that was good, too.

This is all about music and I feel like I always think about how books and movies impact me but I don’t really think about that in terms of music. Part of that is because my personal pop culture choices skew heavily toward books and movies, then TV and my music choices tend to be the same artists I’ve loved for years and there are so many songs that can instantly change my mood (for better or worse) and I love that this book talks about that. Music is so powerful and this honors that.

If you aren’t into graphic novels, this may be a fun way to start. Recommended.

To Kill a Mockingbird (graphic novel)

Finished To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee and adapted and illustrated by Fred Fordham. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“A beautifully crafted graphic novel adaptation of Harper Lee’s beloved, Pulitzer prize–winning American classic.

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ‘em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

A haunting portrait of race and class, innocence and injustice, hypocrisy and heroism, tradition and transformation in the Deep South of the 1930s, Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird remains as important today as it was upon its initial publication in 1960, during the turbulent years of the Civil Rights movement.

Now, this most beloved and acclaimed novel is reborn for a new age as a gorgeous graphic novel. Scout, Gem, Boo Radley, Atticus Finch, and the small town of Maycomb, Alabama, are all captured in vivid and moving illustrations by artist Fred Fordham.

Enduring in vision, Harper Lee’s timeless novel illuminates the complexities of human nature and the depths of the human heart with humor, unwavering honesty, and a tender, nostalgic beauty. Lifetime admirers and new readers alike will be touched by this special visual edition that joins the ranks of the graphic novel adaptations of A Wrinkle in Time and The Alchemist.”

I’m just going to discuss the adaptation as a graphic novel, because hopefully by now, you’ve all read it. (If not, please read it. It’s amazing.)

I’m not really a huge fan of graphic novels, although I’ve tried to be. There are great ones, and there are a bunch that I’ve loved, but by and large, I prefer books with prose and without pictures. I was also incredibly skeptical about the need to release arguably the greatest American novel as a graphic novel. It doesn’t need a gimmick to get people to read it; it’s phenomenal by itself.

I said that to say this: This adaptation is fantastic. The illustrations are sharp and everyone looks as they’re described in the novel. (Which is to say that no, Atticus doesn’t really look like Gregory Peck.)

This is a fantastic version and if you know someone who hasn’t read TKAM, this could be a good gateway. I think a lot of people may be uneasy about reading something that seems like homework if that’s all they know about it. Graphic novels are a lot less intimidating. (I don’t mean that to sound snobby and yes, I know there are a lot of excellent graphic novels.)

Highly recommended in any form.

Hey, Kiddo

Finished Hey, Kiddo by Jarrett J. Krosoczka. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

Hey, Kiddo is the graphic memoir of author-illustrator Jarrett J. Krosoczka. Raised by his colorful grandparents, who adopted him because his mother was an incarcerated heroin addict, Krosoczka didn’t know his father’s name until he saw his birth certificate when registering for a school ski trip. Hey, Kiddotraces Krosoczka’s search for his father, his difficult interactions with his mother, his day-to-day life with his grandparents, and his path to becoming an artist.

To date, nearly one million people have viewed Krosoczka’s TED Talk about his experience. Artwork from his childhood and teen years will be incorporated into the original illustrations for the book.”

This book is both incredibly personal and incredibly universal. Jarrett grew up mostly being raised by his grandparents; his mom was in and out of his life (she was a drug addict) and he didn’t know his dad until he was in high school.

So where’s the universal part? It’s that we all have to come to terms with the fact that our parents aren’t perfect and they did the best they could. Jarrett does this with a great deal of maturity and grace. I wouldn’t say that he makes it seem easy but he also understands that it doesn’t have anything to do with him.

The best part of this is the fact that it also includes cards and letters that he got from his mom. It’s clearly a graphic memoir anyway, but seeing those artifacts is a stark reminder that this isn’t a story; it’s Jarrett’s childhood. It’s a choice that makes this particularly poignant.

I also love that Jarrett chose to tell this memoir with pictures and words, not just through prose. It’s clear that art was one of his sanctuaries as a child (and probably still now). I haven’t read his other books but I want to. He’s a solid artist and author. (His others seem to be fiction, but I hope there’s another memoir.)

Rx

Finished Rx by Rachel Lindsay. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Goodreads):

A graphic memoir about the treatment of mental illness, treating mental illness as a commodity, and the often unavoidable choice between sanity and happiness.

In her early twenties in New York City, diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Rachel Lindsay takes a job in advertising in order to secure healthcare coverage for her treatment. But work takes a strange turn when she is promoted onto the Pfizer account and suddenly finds herself on the other side of the curtain, developing ads for an antidepressant drug. She is the audience of the work she’s been pouring over and it highlights just how unhappy and trapped she feels, stuck in an endless cycle of treatment, insurance and medication. Overwhelmed by the stress of her professional life and the self-scrutiny it inspires, she begins to destabilize and while in the midst of a crushing job search, her mania takes hold. Her altered mindset yields a simple solution: to quit her job and pursue life as an artist, an identity she had abandoned in exchange for medical treatment. When her parents intervene, she finds herself hospitalized against her will, and stripped of the control she felt she had finally reclaimed. Over the course of her two weeks in the ward, she struggles in the midst of doctors, nurses, patients and endless rules to find a path out of the hospital and this cycle of treatment. One where she can live the life she wants, finding freedom and autonomy, without sacrificing her dreams in order to stay well.”

On the surface, this is a very simple story. Rachel is institutionalized against her will after she spirals during a manic episode. The text and drawings are both incredibly large.

Take a closer look, though. While Rachel is what the eye is drawn to (we’re in her head, after all, and we see her thoughts), we also can see the stricken expressions of the people who are watching her slide ever further out of control.

There’s also the fact that she works for an advertising agency and that her job is to promote mental health drugs. At the same time, though, no one knows she’s been diagnosed as bipolar, so she’s basically marketing these drugs for people like herself. The ethics of this are starting to get to her, which ultimately lead to her quitting. (Well, and there’s the fact that she’s in a manic episode, snapping at people and spending a lot of money.)

This is a profoundly emotional story and it’s one that I think will affect the reader. I think most people now know someone with a mental illness, and this does a great job of showing what that’s like. Hopefully people already have empathy for those who suffer from depression or this, or whatever they were diagnosed with and if not, I think this will help show just how out of control Rachel was and how much it wasn’t her fault.

Recommended.

Luisa: Now and Then

FInished Luisa: Now and Then by Carole Maurel. I received a copy for review.

Summary (from Amazon):

“At 32, Luisa encounters her 15-year-old self in this sensitive, bold story about self-acceptance and sexuality. Single, and having left behind her dream to become a renowned photographer, she is struggling to find out who she is and what she wants. In order to help and guide her younger self, she must finally face herself and her past. When Luisa finds herself attracted to a female neighbor, things become even more complicated… Insightful and funny, this is a feel-good coming-of-age story.”

This was the last book I got at ALA and the first one I read. I’m a new fan of graphic novels and this one sounded amazing.

It’s incredibly specific (Luisa—at both ages—is someone who’s not entirely sure who she is or what she wants) but I think it’s also universal. Many of us can probably relate to the idea that we aren’t who we thought we’d be when we became adults. Some of us have better lives, sure, but there are probably also major disappointments that our teenage self would have to cope with.

But more than that, this is also about coming to terms with your sexuality. For a variety of reasons, teenage Luisa couldn’t admit that she liked girls. (There’s no label here, but I’m guessing she’s bi, because Adult Luisa does discuss dating men. Not that it matters, necessarily, but representation matters and I feel like we don’t see much with bi protagonists.)

When I was talking to the woman at the booth, she mentioned that she thought this was exactly what the world needed right now. It’s a bold statement but now that I’ve read Luisa, I agree. We all need to come to terms with who we are. And we also need to try and evolve in the right direction.

This is an amazing story with absolutely gorgeous images. Highly recommended.

Herding Cats

Finished Herding Cats by Sarah Andersen. I always forget how I categorize these.

Summary (from Goodreads):

“Sarah valiantly struggles with waking up in the morning, being productive, and dealing with social situations. Sarah’s Scribbles is the comic strip that follows her life, finding humor in living as an adulting introvert that is at times weird, awkward, and embarrassing.”

Sarah Andersen is me. I feel like every third cartoon is something that is so ridiculously me, it’s as if I drew it. (If I had any sort of artistic talent, WHICH I DON’T.) She’s smart and funny but also feels a lot (A LOT, THOUGH) and definitely seems to prefer animals to people. (This seems like an obvious preference, though, and I support it.

I know that we probably all went through a phase where we read cartoon books (Garfield collections, maybe, or Alison Bechdel’s famous cartoon collections*) and maybe outgrew them. Even if you think you have, definitely give these books a shot. They’re hysterical and they may make you feel less alone in the world. If they don’t apply to you at all, we’re probably not friends. ;)

For me? Every time I hear there’s a new collection, I immediately preorder them. It’s the best purchase of any given week and probably month. Highly recommended.

* = Oh, was that just me? I regret nothing.