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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: graphic novels, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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1. Book Spotlight: Seconds by Bryan Lee O’Malley

I’ll be focusing on graphic novels this week. Hope you enjoy it.

seconds

The highly anticipated new standalone full-color graphic novel from Bryan Lee O’Malley, author and artist of the hugely bestselling Scott Pilgrim graphic novel series

Katie’s got it pretty good. She’s a talented young chef, she runs a successful restaurant, and she has big plans to open an even better one. Then, all at once, progress on the new location bogs down, her charming ex-boyfriend pops up, her fling with another chef goes sour, and her best waitress gets badly hurt. And just like that, Katie’s life goes from pretty good to not so much. What she needs is a second chance. Everybody deserves one, after all—but they don’t come easy. Luckily for Katie, a mysterious girl appears in the middle of the night with simple instructions for a do-it-yourself do-over:

1. Write your mistake
2. Ingest one mushroom
3. Go to sleep
4. Wake anew

And just like that, all the bad stuff never happened, and Katie is given another chance to get things right. She’s also got a dresser drawer full of magical mushrooms—and an irresistible urge to make her life not just good, but perfect. Too bad it’s against the rules. But Katie doesn’t care about the rules—and she’s about to discover the unintended consequences of the best intentions.

From the mind and pen behind the acclaimed Scott Pilgrim series comes a madcap new tale of existential angst, everyday obstacles, young love, and ancient spirits that’s sharp-witted and tenderhearted, whimsical and wise.

Hardcover: 336 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (July 15, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0345529375
ISBN-13: 978-0345529374

PURCHASE HERE!


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2. World of Payne on its way from Tom Sniegoski and Frank Cho

As revealed at Comic Con, then reported in Comic Book Resources, Tom Sniegoski is writing World of Payne, which he co-created with Frank Cho. The story centers around a psychic private investigator named Lockwood Payne, who is actually a modern day sorcerer from an ancient society of witches and wizards and his strange misadventures in the world of the occult and unrealities. Along the way, he's helped by his ever-loyal and unflappable friend, Doctor Hurt, an urgent care doctor in the strip mall next door to Payne's office, and the beautiful Michelle, a witch-in-training.

The series will be told in a hybrid format, mixing traditional comic book storytelling with prose elements. Look for the first volume, World of Payne: Book 0 - Ghost Dog, in Spring 2015. Check out these preview pictures! Click thumbnails below for full-sized images.


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3. Coming in November: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul by Jeff Kinney

wimpyGreg Heffley and his family hit the road in author-illustrator Jeff Kinney’s latest installment of the phenomenal bestselling Diary of a Wimpy Kid series.

Age Range: 8 – 12 years
Series: Diary of a Wimpy Kid
Hardcover: 224 pages
Publisher: Amulet Books (November 4, 2014)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 141971189X
ISBN-13: 978-1419711893

 

Pre-order at Amazon!


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4. Thursday Review: THE WRENCHIES by Farel Dalrymple

Click to embiggen. Totally worth it.Two things to get out there right away: 1. I received a review copy of this book from First Second, and 2. I'd definitely recommend this one for an older YA/crossover audience, due to some fright/violence/swearing... Read the rest of this post

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5. Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece Bell

ElDeafo1 198x300 Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece BellEl Deafo
By Cece Bell
Amulet (an imprint of Abrams)
$21.95
ISBN: 978-1-4197-1020-9
Ages 9-12
On shelves September 2nd

We appear to exist in a golden age of children’s graphic novel memoirs. Which is to say, there are three of them out this year (El Deafo, Sisters, and The Dumbest Idea Ever). How to account for the sudden tiny boom? If I were to harbor a guess I’d say it has something to do with publishers realizing that the genre can prove a profitable one (hat tip then to Smile). We’re beginning to enter into an era where the bulk of the gatekeepers out there, be they parents or teachers or librarians, are viewing comics not as a corrupting influence but rather as a new literary form with which to teach. Memoirs are particularly interesting and have proven to be a wonderful way to slowly ease kids into the big beautiful world of nonfiction. That said, not everyone’s youth is worthy of a retelling. To tell a memoir well you need to have a narrative arc of some sort. One that doesn’t feel forced. For CeCe Bell, her first foray into graphic novels is also telling the story of her youth. The result, El Deafo, is a remarkable look at a great grand question (What to do when you can no longer hear and feel different from everyone you know?) alongside a smaller one that every kid will relate to (How do you find a good friend?). Bell takes the personal and makes it universal, an act that truly requires superhero skills.

Until the age of four CeCe was pretty much indistinguishable from any other kid. She liked her older siblings. She liked to sing to herself. But a sudden bout with meningitis and something changed for CeCe. All at once her hearing was gone. After some experimentation she was fitted with a Sonic Ear (a device that enabled her to hear her teacher’s voice) and started attending classes with other kids like herself. A family trip to a smaller town, however, meant going to a new school and trying to make new friends. When faced with problems she reverts to her pretend superhero self, El Deafo. With subtlety Bell weaves in knowledge of everything from reading lips and sign language to the difficulties of watching un-captioned television. At the same time the book’s heart lies with a single quest: That of finding the absolute perfect friend.

ElDeafo2 327x500 Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece BellThe rise of the graphic novel memoir of a cartoonist’s youth with a child audience in mind really hit its stride when Raina Telgemeier wrote, Smile. That dire accounting of her at times horrific dental history paved the way for other books in the same vein. So where did my library choose to catalog that graceful memoir? In the biography section? No. In the graphic novel section? Not initially, no. For the first year of its existence it was shelved in nonfiction under the Dewey Decimal number 617.645 T. That’s right. We put it in the dental section. So it was with great trepidation that I looked to see where El Deafo would end up. Would it be in the section on the hearing impaired or would the catalog understand that this book is about so much more than the Sonic Ear? As it happens, the book appears to be primarily cataloged as a memoir more than anything else. Sure the information in there about the deaf community and other aspects of living as someone hearing impaired are nonfiction, but the focus of the story is always squarely on CeCe herself.

The real reason I found the book as compelling as I did was due in large part to the way in which Bell tackles the illogical logic of childhood friendships. So many kids are friends thanks to geographical convenience. You’re my age and live within a certain radius of my home? We’re besties! And Bell’s hearing impaired state is just a part of why she is or is not friends with one person or another. Really, the true arc of the story isn’t necessarily CeCe coming to terms with the Sonic Ear, but rather how she comes to terms with herself and, in doing so, gets the best possible friend. It’s like reading a real life Goldilocks story. This friend is too bossy. This friend is too fixated on Cece’s hearing. But this friend? She’s juuuuuust right.

ElDeafo3 329x500 Review of the Day: El Deafo by Cece BellSo why bunnies? Bell could easily have told her story with human beings. And though the characters in this book appear to be anthropomorphized rabbits (reminding me of nothing so much as when guest stars would appear on the children’s television program Arthur) there is no particular reason for this. They never mention a particular love of carrots or restrict their movements to hop hop hopping. They are, however, very easy on the eyes and very enticing. This book was sitting on my To Be Reviewed shelf when my three-year-old waltzed over and plucked it for her own perusal. The bunnies are accessible. In fact, you completely forget that they even are bunnies in the course of reading the book. You also fail to notice after a while how beautifully Bell has laid out her comic panels too. The sequential storytelling is expertly rendered, never losing the reader or throwing you out of the story. One librarian I spoke to also mentioned how nice it was to see that the dream sequences with El Deafo are always clearly delineated as just that. Dream sequences. Fantasy and reality are easily distinguishable in this novel. No mean feat when everyone has a twitchy little nose.

Maybe we’ve peaked. Maybe we’re seeing as many graphic memoirs for kids as we’ll ever see in a given year. But that can’t be, can it? We all have stories to tell, no matter what our upbringing looked like. There’s always some element in our past that’s relatable to a wide audience. It’s the clever author that knows how to spin that element into a storyline worthy of a younger audience. There isn’t a jot of doubt in my mind that CeCe Bell’s book is going to be vastly beloved by nearly every child that picks it up. Engaging and beautifully drawn, to say nothing of its strength and out-and-out facts, El Deafo is going to help set the standard for what a memoir for kids should be. Infinitely clever. Undeniably fun. Don’t miss it.

On shelves September 2nd.

Source: Galley sent from publisher for review.

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6. A Graphic Novel About Sisters

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Sisters(for ages 8-12) by Raina Telgemeier

When she was young, Raina was so excited to become a big sister. She couldn’t wait to have a sibling to play with! She hoped it would be like having a built-in friend who would never have to go home before dinnertime. But when Amara was born, Raina found having a sibling wasn’t quite what she expected. She was a cute baby, but she cried a lot.

Now that Raina is starting middle school, she can hardly get a minute of privacy at home, especially because she’s crammed into one bedroom with her younger sister and her younger brother Will. To keep the peace between Raina and Amara, Mom and Dad decide to do some room rearranging. Raina will get her own room, and Will and Amara will share the big bedroom. Mom and Dad will move to a sofa bed in the living room.

Will these two sisters finally figure out how to get along?

Sisters by Raina Telgemeier

Check out this video preview of Sisters

! Doesn’t the art remind you of Raina Telgemeier’s other books Smile and Drama?

Do you have any siblings? What do you love the most about having a brother or sister? What parts don’t you love about it? Tell us what you think in the Comments below!

Marisa, STACKS Intern

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7. Interview: Jen Wang

If you like multiplayer RPGs and graphic novels, then you should pick up IN REAL LIFE by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang when it hits the shelves on October 14th. This full-color graphic novel, which has a front-cover blurb o' praise from Felicia Day of Geek & Sundry, is based on Cory's short story. Thanks to Gina at First Second Books, I had the opportunity to read the book early and then virtually meet writer-illustrator Jen Wang. Let's dive right into our interview:

Creative types the world over have had to take day jobs to pay the bills, and many have stories about their worst day job - but let's stay positive here and ask, what has been your favorite day job?

My favorite day job was working the front desk at a hostel in San Francisco, sometime after college. Every day was a different set of people and it was fantastic for observation. Being the host can be challenging but you also got to talk to a lot of cool people who want to know all about your city. I was actually inking KOKO BE GOOD at the time and would try to do a page or so during the slow hours of my shift. There weren’t that many!

What are your favorite mediums and tools of the trade?



I’m pretty standard when it comes to tools. I draw comics with a mechanical pencil and ink with a #2 Raphael 8404 brush. I also have an assortment of Pentel brush pens at various stages of dryness that I like to play around with. I held off for the longest time but I’m ready to get a Cintiq. I think that’s the next step for me!

KOKO BE GOOD, your first full-color full-length graphic novel published by First Second Books, is set in San Francisco, your old stomping ground. What are/were your favorite San Francisco haunts?

I haven’t lived in San Francisco for a while so things have probably changed a lot, but I still love the Castro Theater. They have great programming and nothing is better than that pre-show organ player.

Any cool writing courses, groups, or spots you'd recommend to aspiring authors and artists in the Bay Area?



Unfortunately I didn’t take advantage of many art and writing resources in the Bay Area when I was there, but there’s always volunteering for 826 Valencia, which does great writing workshops for students. There’s also events like Litquake and SF ZineFest that can get you in touch with other creative members of the community. A met a ton of peers just going to A.P.E. (Alternative Press Expo) every year!

What inspired KOKO BE GOOD?

KOKO BE GOOD started with the main character in a short comic I drew my second year of college. Like most people that age I was going through a lot of big changes in my life and she encapsulated all those feelings I couldn’t quite articulate and gain any sort of perspective on. After college I wanted to expand on the story and close out that period of my life with a big project and KOKO the graphic novel was born.

How was it writing a full-length book versus single comics and anthology contributions?

The main difference between the full-length book and the short comic was it took a super long time! Drawing the short comic took maybe less than a week but the book took more than a year to complete.



IN REAL LIFE was based on a short story by Cory Doctorow. Tell us about the journey from short story to graphic novel.

After KOKO I was struggling with my follow up project and First Second approached me about doing the adaptation for ANDA’S GAME, Cory’s short story. I’d never talked to Cory before but he had previously written a great review of KOKO for Boing Boing and was looking forward to working with me and that was super exciting.

Was this your first adaptation based on someone else's story?

Yes! I’d never adapted anything before and part of the appeal was First Second allowed me a lot of flexibility in translating the story to comics. Cory’s prose is very dialogue driven, which would’ve been a little visually static, so I was able to move it in a more action-driven direction. It allowed me to use my skills as a writer too, which made the overall experience more fun for me.



Describe the collaboration process - Did you and Cory review the original short story together, decide what would be changed and what had to be kept, and then you put pen to paper following an agreed-upon beat sheet or storyboard, or did you launch right in and get notes as you went?

I wrote a couple different drafts of the script, and Cory would go over each one and make notes and suggestions. Interestingly the first draft was a very literal translation of ANDA’S GAME, and it was clear I wasn’t very good at faking a Cory voice. The more I followed my gut instincts and wrote as myself the more natural the story became. The final story is very different from the original but it is a combination of my voice and Cory’s vision.



I love the shift in the colour palette between the story's real world and the gaming world. Which colour scheme did you decide on first? Which world was "easier" to create and plot?



The real life material came more naturally, so it was easier to draw as well. I liked drawing real life Anda with her fuller figure and messy hair. For the color palettes, I put a more monochromatic filter over the real life stuff and in the gaming world I just added more textures and didn’t skimp on the color!

Which parts of Anda's story resonate with you?



On a very basic level I indentified with Anda as a teenager who spent all her time afterschool holed up in her room talking to internet friends. I started meeting other cartoonists online at her age and having a place where I could meet peers and indulge in my interests really changed my life. But also Anda is naïve and learning a lot about how the world works. She doesn’t have a lot of life experience, she’s just reading about everything on the internet and thinks she understands it all when she doesn’t. The idea of being well-intentioned but still making mistakes and learning from that is something that really resonates with me.

Are you a gamer?

I’m not that much of a gamer, but I like a lot of indie games.

What games do you play and recommend?

More recent ones I’ve played that I’ve liked are Gone Home, Analogue: A Hate Story, and Monument Valley. There’re also a bunch of cool interactive fiction games out there like the Twine game Howling Dogs by Porpentine. Of course I also play a lot of games on my phone. IN REAL LIFE would not have happened without a lot of Tetris and Plants Vs. Zombies.

I love Tetris. 

What artists -- musicians, actors, painters, authors -- have inspired your personal style?

My drawing style came out of reading lots of manga and watching Disney cartoons as a kid. The weirdest thing about that is I don’t really watch Disney movies or read manga anymore but those roots are so strong they’ve stuck.

Who would you love to collaborate with, if such things were possible?



I think it would be super fun to collaborate with a game designer! Indie games and comics have a lot in common and they’re both exploring new and exciting ways to tell stories. Doing it on my own seems daunting, but working with someone would be so cool!

You hear that, game designers? Contact Jen! :)

Do you have any beta readers who read your early drafts?

I don’t share early drafts with peers because I don’t want too many opinions muddling my focus, but I do share them with my boyfriend, Jake. He’s the perfect sounding board because we have different individual tastes but we tend to agree on what does or doesn’t work. It’s a good way to have perspective on what I’m doing.

Any words of encouragement for female artists and/or gamers who love being creative but are hesitant to realize their potential, who think of their art as a hobby but ought to really turn it into a career?

I can’t really speak for games but the advice I’d give to female artists is, just do it! There’s no reason not to! Indie comics are a very robust and female-friendly community. Put your work online, go to conventions, meet people online, and I promise you’ll find lots of people who will support your creativity. Everyone just wants to read more cool comics!

Visit Jen at http://jenwang.net

Get a sneak peek at IN REAL LIFE at firstsecondbooks.com!

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8. Maus

The twofold brilliance of Art Spiegelman's groundbreaking, autobiographical Maus is the graphic novel's lack of sentimentality and Spiegelman's self-portrait as a secondhand Holocaust survivor. The Holocaust is a widely used trope in Jewish American writing and although Spiegelman treats the subject with the compassion and historical sensitivity it merits, Maus avoids the themes of victimization [...]

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9. Comics Squad: Recess!: Jennifer L. Holm and others

Book: Comics Squad: Recess!
Authors: Jennifer L. Holm & Matthew Holm, Jarrett Krosoczka, Raina Telgemeier & Dave Roman, Dan Santat, Dav Pilkey, Ursula Vernon, Eric Wight, and Gene Luen Yang
Pages: 144
Age Range: 7-10

Comics Squad: Recess! is a new collaborative book produced by a team of today's top cartoonists/illustrators/graphic novelists. It features eight stories, all told in comic strip format. The stories are set in an elementary school environment, and are relevant to the concerns of younger elementary schoo kids. Oh, and they are funny, of course. 

Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, creators of the Babymouse and Squish series, and Jarrett Krosoczka, creator of the Lunch Lady series, are the editors. Babymouse and Lunch Lady make a few cameo appearances before and between the other stories - I guess you could say that they are the informal hosts to the book. Babymouse also appears in one of the stories, repeatedly thwarted in her "Quest for Recess" ("Typical!". Lunch Lady is actually out sick, but Betty is on the job (and stocked up with new inventions) in "Betty and the Perilous Pizza Day".

As I've personally read most of the Babymouse and Lunch Lady books already, I was interested to see what the other authors would come up with. It's quite a varied lot. I enjoyed the tongue-in-cheek humor of Gene Yang's "The Super-Secret Ninja Club", and the frankly adorable cupcake in Eric Wight's "Jiminy Sprinkles in "Freeze Tag"". Ursula Vernon's "The Magic Acorn" features squirrels meeting up with a tiny alien in an acorn-shaped spaceship. "The Rainy Day Monitor" by Dave Roman and Raina Telgemeier celebrates the joys of pretending (with some pretty funny, mostly fake celebrity cameos). Dan Santat, on the other hand, mocks the idea of writing a 300 word essay on The Giving Tree, while giving the teeny-tiniest hint of a middle grade romance. 

My favorite story was Dav Pilkey's "Book 'Em, Dog Man". Pilkey writes this as if it were the work of a pair of comic-obsessed young boys. The story is introduced with a letter written by the disapproving teacher of the boys, like this: "As you will see, this comic book contains multiple scenes of stealing, violence, and unlawfulness... and don't get me started on the spelling and grammar!" Personally, I thought that the second-grade-appropriate spelling was hilarious ("desidid", "excape", etc.). 

But it's all fun. Though the tone and style of the eight stories varies, a common orange and black color palette across the book lends a certain visual consistency. 

Comics Squad: Recess! is dedicated to The Nerdy Book Club, which I thought was a particularly appropriate touch. The Nerdy Book Club members, like the authors of Comics Squad, dedicate their working lives to ensuring the kids find reading fun. 

Comics Squad: Recess! is an excellent introduction for younger kids to graphic novels. Including a range of authors ensures that each reader is bound to find at least one story that resonates. This is a book that all elementary school libraries will want to carry (probably in multiple copies). Just be prepared for requests for more of Comics Squad! Fortunately, the authors have other titles available. Comics Squad: Recess! is the absolute epitome of "kid-friendly". Highly recommended. I'll be keeping my copy for when my daughter is a tiny bit older. 

Publisher: Random House Books for Young Readers (@RandomHouseKids)  
Publication Date: July 8, 2014
Source of Book: Review copy from the publisher

FTC Required Disclosure:

This site is an Amazon affiliate, and purchases made through Amazon links (including linked book covers) may result in my receiving a small commission (at no additional cost to you).

© 2014 by Jennifer Robinson of Jen Robinson's Book Page. All rights reserved. You can also follow me @JensBookPage or at my Growing Bookworms page on Facebook

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10. How Comics Create Life-Long Readers -- interview with Jenni Holm

My students are big-time fans of Babymouse & Squish comics, and they are super-excited by Comic Squad. Jennifer Holm lives in the Bay Area, and has been very supportive of schools and bookstores in the area. Recently she took some time to sit down with me to talk about her work.

Jennifer L. Holm
This interview originally ran in Parents Press, a local SF Bay Area newspaper I write a monthly column for. I wanted to share it here with readers beyond the Bay Area.

Mary Ann Scheuer: The kids at my school are going to just love Comics Squad: Recess -- seeing all their favorite comics characters in one place! Why do you think so many kids love to read comics? What makes them fun to read?
Jennifer Holm: I’m so glad — I really think comics can hook some kids on reading. You know, we’re living in a visual society — with video games, the web, advertising, movies and TV. Comics are the ultimate visual storytelling treat. Did you know that graphic novels are one of the fastest growing categories in publishing and bookselling?

MAS: I’m not surprised! They certainly are the most popular type of book in our school library. I worry that some parents think that reading graphic novels is really simple for kids, but that’s not true. How do you explain this to parents?
JH: I think that comics teach you a lot of great reading skills like inference, character development, setting and plot structure. When Matt and I were kids, we loved collected volumes like Snoopy. It built our confidence as readers. I think that’s part of what’s so satisfying for kids -- getting immersed in the whole world of the story.

MAS: What are you excited about with Comic Squad?
JH: Kids aren’t growing up with newspapers the same way we did, so we want to provide the fun we had with Sunday comics. Comic Squad is the ultimate crossover comic, when all your favorite characters (and some new ones!) get together and have a party. We wanted to give kids a chance to visit with their old friends, but also to have some new fun.

MAS: I love the page Mash-Up Madness and the goofy combinations you came up with. I see kids creating their own comics at school all the time!
JH: I really think that teaching kids to doodle encourages kids to become storytellers. It makes them less scared about doing something perfectly. I love it when kids send us their own Babymouse and Squish comics!

MAS: So what’s the difference between comics we read as kids and graphic novels kids are reading today?
JH: We’re in a total renaissance of comics being created specifically for children. There’s more creative work happening with children’s comics in terms of style, story and genre than ever before.

MAS: What resources do you recommend for parents who want to find graphic novels their kids will want to read?
JH: Definitely seek out your local library and bookstore to see if they have a section of comics just for kids. One of the fun things about our collection is that it can introduce kids to some comic creators they may not have come across before. Here are some suggestions for parents:




MAS: Do you have any new projects that you’re excited about? Can you give us a sneak peak?
JH: I’m really excited about my newest novel, The Fourteenth Goldfish, which comes out next month. It’s set in the Bay Area and combines my love of science and stories, families and friendships.

Thanks so much to Jenni Holm for sharing her time and thoughts. She gives so much to kids -- we are all lucky to have her books in our lives, our libraries and especially our kids' hands.

If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

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11. Comics Squad: Recess -- lots of laughs & great fun! (ages 8-12)

The surest way to make my kids happy? Invite all their friends over to play, give them pizza & ice cream, and let them do whatever they want to do. The next best thing? Bring them the newest comic book that's got stories from all their favorite authors. Kids I've talked to are super excited about Comics Squad, a new collection of short stories edited by the creators of Babymouse, Squish & Lunch Lady. Heck, the school librarians I know are super excited about this, too!

Comics Squad: Recess!
edited by Jennifer L. Holm, Matthew Holm & Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Random House, 2014
your local library
Amazon
ages 8 - 12
*best new book*
Kids don’t need any convincing that recess is the best time of the day, but they’ll have a blast celebrating it with some of the favorite characters. This anthology features eight short comics, some featuring favorite characters like Babymouse and Lunch Lady, and others introducing new characters.

One of my favorite parts is the Mash-Up Madness, showing how kids could combine their favorite characters for some wacky fun:


I love listening to kids make connections between the comics they read here and others that they know. One 10 year old thought "300 Words" was hilarious and asked, "Is Dan Santat the guy who wrote Sidekicks?" Yep -- she was totally right.

Many kids have a much deeper knowledge of graphic novels as a body of work than teachers and librarians. They recognize the visual styles of artists they love. They'll spot Raina Telgemeier's comic in here right away. This collection not only will appeal to kids who get a chance to visit their favorite characters like Babymouse and Lunch Lady. It makes them feel part of this larger phenomenon -- graphic novels for kids.

Watch this terrific trailer and you'll get a sense of just how much fun these comics creators have had putting this together. I also really enjoyed reading Jarrett Krosoczka's post in the Nerdy Book Club about how Comics Squad developed as a project between friends and colleagues.



A must have for our school library! The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Random House Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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12. Suffragette Lady: An Interview with Kate Charlesworth

On International Workers’ Day, the 1st of May, Jonathan Cape published Sally Heathcote, Suffragette, the second graphic novel written by Mary Talbot

, a semi-fictionalised history of the Women’s Suffrage movement in Britain, and a really well researched and gripping piece of work, in my opinion, and should be read by everyone, everywhere, as it is still hugely relevant to the times we’re in right now. On her previous book, Dotter of Her Father’s Eyes, the artwork was all done by her husband, Bryan Talbot, but he was committed elsewhere this time ’round, so they needed an artist who they could work with, and who would understand what they were trying to do. They chose Kate Charlseworth, a Scottish cartoonist who had cut her teeth in the heady days of the British gay rights struggle, back in the 1970s and 1980s. So, when I got the chance to interview her – having previously interviewed both the Talbots [Bryan here, but Mary not online, I'm afraid] – I jumped at it.

FrontCovercropped

Pádraig Ó Méalóid: how did you become involved with the Sally Heathcote project?

Kate Charlesworth: In 2011, Bryan told me that Mary was working on the script of her second graphic novel – with a Suffragette theme – and would I be interested in drawing the pages, as he was committed to his Grandeville series, and just didn’t have the time.

And yes, I was interested!

PÓM: have you know the Talbots for a while, then? Or is it just that the comics world is a small one?

KC: Well, I’ve known Bryan for years, though our paths didn’t cross very often. And I’d never met Mary until I began working on her script. I suppose the comics world was a much smaller world back then. But Bryan knew my work.

PÓM: Any idea why Bryan asked you to do this, specifically?

KC: Hmm. given that he wasn’t available – Grandville – I think both he and Mary felt that it would be appropriate that a script written by a woman about the Suffragettes might be also illustrated by a woman. Although he was familiar with my work he found a drawing of mine – Virginia Woolf at Home, a sort of Bloomsbury pastiche; very detailed, very realistic, black and white line (not my usual style at the time) – which convinced him I could achieve the effect they were after.
VIRGINIA WOOLF@MONKS HOUSE

PÓM: What other work had you done, before this, which we might have seen?

KC: I was one of the contributors to Nelson, from Blank Slate Books, edited by Rob Davis and Woodrow Phoenix, and some years ago I was involved with Carol Bennett’s Knockabout imprints – Fanny and Dykes’s Delight – plus a couple of Knockabout editions, um, 7 Ages of Women and Women Out of Line. There’s a theme emerging here.

But most of my working life has been spent drawing cartoons, strips and illustrations in the mainstream press. I had a strip in New Scientist which ran for years, up til 2001, Life, the Universe and (Almost) Everything. I put the Almost in, in case Douglas Adams objected, which, amazingly, he did – or at least, his agent did. But you can’t copyright a title, and I carried on for a few more years. I had strips in the gay press from very early on – when there was a hard copy gay press – Gay News, The Pink Paper – very political times they were too. And I had a strip in The Guardian for a couple of years – Millennium Basin – pretension and nonsense in Islington, really.

There’s lots of stuff on the website.

PÓM: is there no longer a hard copy gay press in the UK, then?

KC: Not much. A couple of mainstream glossies (though they don’t ignore politics and important issues) and, I suppose, some small press and indie zines. And I’m guessing a bit there.

A combination of the internet and changing social attitudes pretty much removed the need for the papers and magazines which informed the community, acted as a lifeline for isolated LGBT folk (posted in plain envelopes) and, massively important, personal ads and contacts.

In its heyday, Gay News, a fortnightly paper, carried a 24-page literary supplement!

The golden age of the gay press…

PÓM: I’m guessing there wasn’t much money to be made working for small press at the time, or am I making a massive – and incorrect – assumption about that?

KC: Has there ever been? I was lucky enough to earn a living in the mainstream – newspapers, magazines, publishing (so different today – digital, less illustration commissioned for fewer hard copy publications, commissioning rates dropping like stones) so I didn’t really do that much small press stuff, if by small press you mean comics. The gay press was more about community, identity and politics. I sometimes worked for small mainstream publishing houses, and their rates could be perfectly decent. But mostly, not a great deal of dosh around.

PÓM: I know you’ve done at least one other book-length comics work, The Cartoon History of Time. Was this an out-growth of the strip in New Scientist?

KC: Yes, it was. And the New Scientist strip in turn rose from the ashes of a weekly black and white strip in The Independent, basically about Quantum Physics – I can’t right now remember it’s exact name… But it was pretty heavy going, no chickens. The science editor had done astrophysics at uni, so that’s what the strip was about. The Cartoon History of Time has recently been republished by Dover Books!

PÓM: I’m also very impressed to note you are in AARGH! I have a couple of copies of that somewhere, including one that I occasionally attempt to get the contributors to sign.

KC: Why thank you. I think that came after Strip Aids, which was put together by Don Melia, a gay cartoonist who was incensed by the attitude of the Evening Standard‘s cartoonist (Jak, I think) to the AIDS crisis (Don alas himself had AIDS, from which he subsequently died). He contacted comic artists – Hunt Emerson, Mark Buckingham, Dave Gibbons, for instance, and cartoonists – Steve Bell, Frank Dickens, Kipper Williams – 80-odd artists reflecting a positive attitude to HIV/AIDS. Several of us were working in the gay press at the time (1987) and we were invited to contribute too. I mention this in particular because that was my first contact with comics. I met Tony and Carol Bennett from Knockabout; Woodrow Phoenix too. Don and his partner Lionel Gracy-Whitman also published the fabulous Heartbreak Hotel series.

PÓM: Did you actually have a background in science, or did you just become the default science cartoonist, the way Bryan Talbot was the default Adam Ant cartoonist, at one point?

KC: Not in the slightest. In fact, a couple of folk who knew me at school didn’t believe it was me, I was so rubbish at maths, chemistry and physics. Though earlier I’d been pretty good at something called ‘science’ – had the maths taken out, y’see.

I suppose the strip worked because I was interested in a lot of stuff – it was so flexible – I had everything in it from quantum physics to cutlery. It was a good excuse to draw things I liked. Animals, birds, ponds… Drawing instruments… Women in science… daft jokes…

PÓM: At what point did you get involved with Sally Heathcote? I know Mary Talbot did the writing, but had Bryan done some sort of breakdowns on the art before you got to it, or were you involved before that?

KC: Mary also broke down the script into pages and panels, and Bryan prepared the layouts, designed the panels and did the lettering. The only thing I did before that was to send some character sketches. Once we’d agreed that I’d do it, I did a couple of sample pages and we took it from there.

Sally script sample
Mary Talbot’s script for Page 74 of Sally Heathcote, Suffragette

I’d get a batch of around 8 pages in Photoshop layers – page grid, lettering layer and layout – he drew direct to screen with a tablet.

BRYAN'S PAGE 74
Bryan Talbot’s layouts for Page 74 of Sally Heathcote, Suffragette

PÓM: Do you draw electronically, or the old-fashioned way?

KC: Actual drawing, 100% ‘traditionally’. But in Photoshop, I often clean them up, colour them up, add effects… fun but painstaking.

Page74Copy
Kate Charlesworth’s finished art for Page 74 of Sally Heathcote, Suffragette

PÓM: How much research did you have to do at your end? I presume Mary Talbot already had her own research done – and this is very much right slap-bang in her given field, anyway – but I presume there was research for contemporary clothes, backgrounds, and the like?

KC: Yes, Mary – and Bryan too – supplied most of the specific reference material – architecture, particular photographs and set-pieces – transport – various bits of background – and all the posters. They form an important element of the book. Some as visuals, giving the flavour of the period, others as important parts of the narrative.

I had reference sources of my own, too – apart from the internet I’ve accumulated a pretty good reference collection, which I used to augment the reference I’d been provided with – sometimes I found a clearer image, which was helpful; there’s an awful lot of detail in there.

Costume was really up to me, and I tried to use outfits from source photographs wherever I could – very few of the characters in the book are invented – though Sally herself is, of course.

Although Bryan was very clear about the look and feel of the backgrounds, he always encouraged me to add extra touches. We were all rather obsessed with accuracy, and constantly checked images and ideas.

PÓM: Now that I’ve finally had a chance to read the book: Sally Heathcote is, I’m guessing, a fictional character who’s there as our Point-of-View character, with pretty much everything going on around her, and most of the people, being genuinely historical?

KC: Yes, Mary created Sally as a character who could take us through the story without being tied to any particular aspect of it, as would have happened if she’d focused on, say, Christabel Pankhurst or Emmeline Pethick-Lawrence. So in this narrative Sally, a young girl from the poorhouse, taken on by Mrs Pankhurst as a maid-of-all-work, observes the movement from the early days, becomes an activist, witnesses the movement split, and the beginning of war. She also represents a working class voice in what is perceived as a predominantly middle class movement.

PÓM: Just a brief technical question: Who did the colours and the final lettering?

KC: Bryan did the lettering.

Sometimes he specified colour and tone on the layouts – firelight, night scenes, for instance – early on he came up with the idea that Sally should be a redhead – she stands out wherever she is on the page.

Originally the plan had been only to use the green and purple of the WSPUs as spot colour, but early on in the process we (more or less collectively) decided to expand the palette – purple for Mrs P, brown hair for Em Pethick-Lawrence; red for blood, flame etc. I coloured the artwork up first in watercolour and finished it off in photoshop.

Ta-da…

PÓM: I have to say, I loved the book. I have a young lady friend who works in publishing in London, and who is active in union activities, and I want to get her a copy. How has the reaction been to it, so far?

KC: Great!

4-5 star reviews so far – really good reception. Bryan and Mary doing [BBC Radio 4's] Woman’s Hour tomorrow morning, which is brilliant. They only wanted two, which suited me. Should shift a few more copies!

PÓM: One thing I noticed in the book was that there are several instances of threats of sexual violence against the suffragettes. Was there a lot of this at the time, do you know? Considering that there has been a lot of talk recently about rape threats to women online, do you think this is all just part of an ongoing use of threats of sexual violence against women, by men, and that, in a way, there’s nothing new under the sun?

KC: Threats of sexual violence against the suffragettes – there must have been. Any references in Mary’s story – well, same old, same old. Exactly your comment ‘there’s nothing new under the sun‘. Online threats are just easier to make. Some men (and some women too, alas) will always be threatened by women trying to achieve any sort of equality.

Perhaps overt threats of sexual violence were more taboo in Edwardian Britain – what seemed completely acceptable was the depiction of extreme violence towards Suffragettes, and what we’d today describe as torture – often taking the form of comic postcards. Women having their tongues cut off; jokey force-feeding. But hey, they were jokes! So that was all right, then. Very often on these cards, it’s suggested the woman ‘can’t get a man’ she’s invariably an ugly ‘old maid’; she neglects her children, she’s a sexless old freak.

PÓM: Am I right in thinking that this was finished and ready to go a good few months back, but Jonathan Cape wanted to hold it until Mayday, for fuller impact?

KC: Sally was finished in early June, last year. We’d been expecting a Christmas/New Year publication, so were surprised by the turn of events.

I don’t know if May 1st was deliberately chosen for the connotations of that date or not, but I heard that the Spring publication was brought forward from October 2014!

PÓM: Did you enjoy doing all this? It’s quite a different end of the business from what you usually do, isn’t it?

KC: Yes, I enjoyed working on Sally very much indeed. I’ve always pretty much made all the decisions, at all stages, myself. Once I realised that I didn’t have to make any of the basic decisions about layout, placing characters, emotion – even light and shade (and it didn’t take long) – I relaxed into it and concentrated on realising Mary and Bryan’s vision of Sally, with a sort of overwash of my style and contributions. I was conscious of becoming very proprietorial towards someone else’s character, and it was rather a wrench when I finally finished the book (even though I’d been practically counting down the days).

PÓM: Are there any plans afoot for the three of you – or just you and Mary Talbot – to do any further work together?

KC: Well, Mary has already written and I’ve illustrated the concluding chapter of a collaborative graphic novel (IDP 2043 – ‘Internally Displaced Person’ – a dystopian, post-diluvial action tale set in the Scottish borders) commissioned by the Edinburgh Book Festival*, to be launched at this year’s Festival. Pat Mills, Hannah Berry, Irvine Welsh amongst others are also involved.

I have my own graphic narrative which I’m starting work on soon, so I’ll be pretty busy for some time – but if Mary ever wanted to make a sequel to Sally – never say never!

PÓM: Can you tell me more about this graphic narrative you’re going to be doing?

KC: It’s a combination of personal memoir and the arc of LGBT history/life (specially the L) in Britain from 1950 to the present day. Lost worlds of the 50s, 60s, 70s… Role models, heroes/heroines. A Girl’s Guide to Sensible Footwear. It’s going to take quite a while.

PÓM: Thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview, Kate, whilst you were running around the country signing books!

KC: Many thanks – and hope to see you in Dublin!**

[*The Edinburgh International Book Festival is on from the 9th to the 25th of August 2014, and Kate Charlesworth will be appearing there, along with Bryan and Mary Talbot, on the 23rd at 12 30, as well as at a launch that evening for IDP 2043, along with the other contributors.

**Sadly, Kate and I never did get to meet in Dublin, as she was flying in for a visit within hours of my flying out to Paris for a few days. C'est la vie!

]

1 Comments on Suffragette Lady: An Interview with Kate Charlesworth, last added: 7/14/2014
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13. SIX-GUN GORILLA REVIEW: All That And More

BOOM_SIX-GUNGORILLA_001v1_A

Let’s start with that title, shall we?

Calling a story “Six-Gun Gorilla” is a bold and audacious decision, one that’s guaranteed to attract a specific kind of person and give many others pause. If you come to this book cold, you will very likely either somersault with glee or scratch your head and wonder, ‘huh?” And that’s fair.

But after you’re done scratching your head you should grab the book from the comic shop shelf and buy it, or snatch it from you friend’s desk and implore them to let you borrow it, or click on the button that takes a little bit of money out of your bank account and tells the mailman to bring you a copy.

No matter what you think it is, Simon Spurrier and Jeff Stokely’s Six-Gun Gorilla is more than that. It is a title that simultaneously obscures and illuminates, promising something very plainly while hiding something deeper, something emotional, something meaningful.

At this point, If you’re a culturally savvy purveyor of obscure fiction,  you might start to feel smug. You might be thinking of a certain fifteen-part serial published in a British adventure magazine in the 1930s. You might believe that such knowledge  gives you a leg up on what to expect, and better information on which to base your decision on whether to pick up or pass on this book.

You too, would be wrong. That’s not to say that such knowledge won’t be rewarded in reading Six-Gun Gorilla, it’s just belaboring the point: this book isn’t what you expect it to be. It’s so much better.

The story starts simply enough. Our hero is a librarian who lost everything: his job, his love, his home, his car.  With nothing else to lose, he signs up for a suicide mission to the Blister, a strange frontier where electricity and combustion doesn’t work and the high noon sun will burn you alive. Figuring out why he’s there, and what he’s supposed to do is part of the fun.

It’s a big reason why Ramón Pérez’s cover for the miniseries’ first issue (which doubles as the cover for the collected edition) is just as perfect as that title: it tells you exactly what’s inside the tin, but hints at something more.

Yes, there is a giant talking gorilla with huge freaking revolvers in this book. But what’s up with that there glowing blue face? And why do I need to ‘stand by?’ That’s not very Six-Gun. That’s not very Gorilla.

I can’t wait for you to find out. For you to be treated to Jeff Stokely’s art, which breathes hot, vibrant life into this neo-Western fable. For you to puzzle over this world as pieces are doled out to you in a manner that is spare but never frustrating. For you to be surprised at the depth of emotion hiding in plain sight.

Consider this line a spoiler warning if you’re already intrigued enough to give this book a chance. You don’t have to read anymore. This is for those that need the extra push.

Six-Gun Gorilla is a comic that knows you might think it silly. On the other hand, if it wore its true ambitions on its sleeve, you might think it pretentious. To come out and say that it is a story about stories might be intriguing, but it also does it a disservice, as does the word “meta.” The former denotes a certain self-importance, the latter a smug cleverness. The book is neither.

It’s about fiction and memory, relationships and honesty, pain and loss, beginnings and endings, media and meaning.

It’s also about a big-ass, gunslinging gorilla.

Give it a read.

When you’re done, let’s talk about all the stories we know, and why we know them. Let’s speak of the world’s we’ve been to that don’t exist, and why we keep them on our shelves. Let’s count all the lies we love because they make us feel, and why we need them.

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14. Cleopatra In Space: Target Practice, by Mike Maihack (ages 8-12)

Do your kids love graphic novels? I know many parents tear their hair out worrying that their kids will only read comic books and graphic novels. But please, please believe me that these books can really feed a child's imagination. They draw us in, asking the reader to be much more actively involved in creating the story than a movie does. One of my students' new favorite graphic novels is Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice. Hand this to fans of Amulet and Zita the Spacegirl.

Cleopatra in Space:
Target Practice
by Mike Maihack
Graphix / Scholastic, 2014
Amazon
your local library
ages 8 - 12
This fun mash-up between ancient Egypt and outer space features a young Cleopatra who’s more interested in combat training than algebra lessons. Cleo is zapped into the future by a mysterious tablet and learns that an ancient prophecy declares that she is destined to save the galaxy from the tyrannical rule of the evil Xaius Octavian.

Maihack pulls in readers with his colorful artwork, charming heroine and plenty of action. I especially love Cleo's spunky, fearless character. Just look at Maihack's use of color, angles and expression.
Here's what my friend and huge sci-fi reader Charlotte has to say about Cleopatra in Space over at Charlotte's Library:
"A must for fans of Zita the Spacegirl and Astronaut Academy.

A must for those who want books with strong girl characters to offer young readers of any gender, and, Cleo being brown girl of ancient Egypt, a great diverse read!"
You can also check out the Kirkus Reviews and SLJ's Good Comics for Kids review. I know kids at our school can't wait for the next in this fun new series!

The review copy was kindly sent by the publishers, Graphix / Scholastics Books. If you make a purchase using the Amazon links on this site, a small portion goes to Great Kid Books. Thank you for your support.

©2014 Mary Ann Scheuer, Great Kid Books

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15. A Journey into Graphic Novels

secondsI consider myself a big nerd and comics seem to go hand in hand with the social status. I never really got into comics (or graphic novels) and when I did attempt I never knew where to start. There are millions of reboots and story arcs for the thousands of different superheroes out there but which ones are good and where do I start? It was Scott Pilgrim that started my journey into graphic novels and with Bryan Lee O’Malley’s Seconds recent release, I thought now would be a perfect time to talk about the graphic novels I love.

As an easy way to distinguish between comics and graphic novels, I call single issues (30-40 pages) a comic and a graphic novel is the anthology that contains a full story arc (normally 4-5 single issues). What I find really interesting about a graphic novel is that it is simply a new way to tell a story. It is not always about the superhero, graphic novels can explore high concepts in a whole new way.Maus

Take the only graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize, Maus by Art Spiegelman. In this story we read about Vladek Spiegelman and his wife, it is biography of living and surviving Hitler’s Europe. The graphic novel not only addresses the holocaust and life in a war torn country it does it in a unique way. Exploring the reality and fears of surviving in a visual way, the Jews are depicted as mice and the Nazi’s hunting them as cats.

persepolisThere is also the autobiographic story of Marjane Satrapi  in Persepolis, a coming of age story of a girl living in Tehran during the Islamic Revolution. The whole concept of cultural change works really well in this graphical depiction. There is even an animated adaptation which is worth checking out (even if it is exactly the same). If you prefer a more quasi-autobiographical story maybe try Ghost World by Daniel Clowes or even something by Chris Ware like Jimmy Corrigan or Building Stories.

sex criminalsFinally, if you prefer your graphic novels to be about superheros or people coming to terms with their new found powers, I have some suggestions for you as well. Hawkeye: My Life as a Weapon by Matt Fraction is the first story arc in this new Hawkeye series and explores a life of a superhero outside fighting crime and saving the world. Also by Matt Fraction, with the help of Chip Zdarsky is the weird and wonderfully dirty Sex Criminals. This is a story of a woman that discovers that time freezes after an orgasm and the shenanigans she can get up to with so much quiet time. This graphic novel will not be for everyone; if you want something very different that is full of dirty visual puns then I would recommend it.

I would love to recommend more comics but some of my suggestions are not yet released as a complete story arc yet. If you are interested in more graphic novel suggests let me know in the comments below. I hope this will give you some suggestions if you have never tried a graphic novel before. I’m also happy to take more recommendations in the comments below. Happy reading.

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16. Review of This One Summer

tamaki this one summer Review of This One Summerstar2 Review of This One SummerThis One Summer
by Mariko Tamaki; illus. by Jillian Tamaki
Middle School    First Second/Roaring Brook    320 pp.
5/14    978-1-59643-774-6    $17.99

Rose Wallace and her parents go to Awago Beach every summer. Rose collects rocks on the beach, swims in the lake, and goes on bike rides with her younger “summer cottage friend,” Windy. But this year she is feeling too old for some of the activities she used to love — and even, at times, for the more-childish (yet self-assured) Windy. Rose would rather do adult things: watch horror movies and talk with Windy about boobs, boys, and sex. In their second graphic novel — another impressive collaboration — the Tamaki cousins (Skim, rev. 7/08) examine the mix of uncertainty and hope a girl experiences on the verge of adolescence. The episodic plot and varied page layout set a leisurely pace evocative of summer. Rose’s contemplative observations and flashbacks, along with the book’s realistic dialogue, offer insight into her evolving personality, while the dramatic changes in perspective and purply-blue ink illustrations capture the narrative’s raw emotional core. Secondary storylines also accentuate Rose’s transition from childhood to young adulthood: she’s caught in the middle of the tension between her parents (due to her mom’s recent abrasive moodiness and the painful secret behind it) and fascinated by the local teens’ behavior (swearing, drinking, smoking, fighting, and even a pregnancy; the adult situations — and frank language — she encounters may be eye-opening reading for pre-adolescents like Rose). This is a poignant drama worth sharing with middle-schoolers, and one that teen readers will also appreciate for its look back at the beginnings of the end of childhood.

From the July/August 2014 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

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17. Reviews in Tandem: THE SHADOW HERO by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew

Welcome to another installment of Reviews in Tandem, where we both have our say about a book we've each read in an informal back-and-forth discussion. This is going to be a shorter review than many, because it's a graphic novel, and it's too easy to... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on Reviews in Tandem: THE SHADOW HERO by Gene Luen Yang and Sonny Liew as of 6/30/2014 6:02:00 PM
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18. Review of the Day: The Dumbest Idea Every by Jimmy Gownley

DumbestIdea1 206x300 Review of the Day: The Dumbest Idea Every by Jimmy GownleyThe Dumbest Idea Ever
By Jimmy Gownley
GRAPHIX (an imprint of Scholastic)
$12.00
ISBN: 9780545453479
Ages 9 and up
On shelves now.

Is it or is it not a good idea to tell young people that they are special and unique? It’s a legitimate question. When I was growing up the emphasis in school was clearly on self-esteem. On Track and Field Day everybody got the standard participation ribbon. Effort, even minimal effort, was rewarded. And if you grew up in a small town there was the extra added benefit of getting to be a big fish in a small pond. The combination of being told you were one-of-a-kind, the best of the best, and more combined with local aplomb has a way of going to a kid’s head. It’s the stuff of the best memoirs, actually, but usually of the adult or YA variety. Not a lot of kids stop to think about how they stack up against the rest of the world when they’re trying to find their feet. What makes The Dumbest Idea Ever different, then, is that it combines the familiar children’s book motif of “finding the thing that makes you special” and the takes it one step further to say “but not THAT special . . . and that’s okay.” I’ve never really seen anything like it. Then again, I’ve never really ever seen an artist like Jimmy Gownley – a guy who has paid his dues and just cranks out better and better work all the time as a result. And The Dumbest Idea Ever gives us a hint of how he got started.

Jimmy’s not special. He was for a while, making the best grades and acting as the star of his Catholic school’s basketball team. But a bout of chicken pox followed by pneumonia changes everything. When Jimmy’s grades start to slip it feels like they’re now out of his control. And faced with the knowledge that he’s no longer special, Jimmy starts turning to the comfort of his comic books more than ever. When a comic he writes inspires a friend to suggest he do something a little more realistic, Jimmy’s not convinced (hence the book’s title). Yet a realistic comic is exactly what propels him out of local obscurity into small time stardom. Now he’s dating the cutest girl in school, getting interviewed by the local news, the works! It’s all going great, but what happens when you discover that the work you’ve been doing isn’t as big and important as you always thought? What happens when you realize that you’ve only just begun?

DumbestIdea2 300x214 Review of the Day: The Dumbest Idea Every by Jimmy GownleyI’ve noticed an odd little theme in the middle grade (ages 9-12) novels of 2014. A lot of books are tackling the idea of what it means to be average. Books like Absolutely Almost by Lisa Graff, where the kid really isn’t exceptional and never will be. It’s like we were afraid to talk about this to children in the past, opting instead to drill it into our kids that they have to excel in everything at all times. Now in the age of helicopter parenting and overbooked schedules, literature for kids is backing off a tad. Admitting that while some kids really are extraordinary, for others it’s okay not to be top of your class or the best in all categories. The journey Jimmy takes in this book starts with his fall from grace as the golden boy of school. It’s the slippery slope of no longer being top dog and then having to deal with that.

I’m one of those children’s librarians who honestly thinks that Jimmy Gownley’s Amelia Rules series is one of the greatest graphic novel arcs in children’s literary history of all time. I own every single book in the series and reread them constantly. For me, Gownley’s characters are flesh and blood and real to me in ways I’ve almost never encountered anywhere else. What’s more, the books get better as they go and aren’t afraid to bring up big questions and dark issues. When Gownley ended the series I was heartbroken. I waited with baited breath for him to give me something similar. ANYTHING, really. So when I heard that he’d penned a graphic memoir of his own life as a kid I was thrilled beyond measure . . . and wary. I’ve been burned before, man, and memoirs of children’s book authors are tricky things. I love ‘em but they’re tricky. Does the writer encapsulate their entire life or just a section? What’s interesting about The Dumbest Idea Ever is that it’s the closest thing I’ve found to Raina Telgemeier’s Smile. Yet through it all there is something distinctly Gownleyish about this entire endeavor that you’d never mistake for anyone else. And how he chooses to frame the book is exceedingly smart.

DumbestIdea3 Review of the Day: The Dumbest Idea Every by Jimmy GownleyThe heart of the novel, as I see it, is the personal journey we all have to take at some point. We all want to be good at something. Preferably something cool that few others around us are as good at. We want acclaim for this specialness. And then, ultimately, what we really want is universal love and acceptance, preferably without a whole lot of work. It’s that last desire that’ll get you in the end. The crux of the book comes with Jimmy visits New York City for the first time. In some ways, NYC was created for the sole purpose of crushing little souls, like Jimmy, into the dust under its grimy shoe. No matter how good you are at something, there’s somebody in NYC who’s better and the city isn’t afraid to let you know about that fact repeatedly. And when you face the fact that you are, indeed, ordinarily a big fish in a small pond, what do you do? Do you try to better yourself so that you can compete in a big pond, do you relegate yourself to your small pond (no shame in that), or do you give up entirely? That’s something kids everywhere need to think about, even if the choices we’re talking about won’t be something they need to deal with for a couple years.

The thing that librarians tend to forget about children is that they love reading about older kids. You think large swaths of 17-year-olds are reading Archie comics just because the kids are in high school? Not even. So when Jimmy allows himself (so to speak) to enter into high school and to start dating, I didn’t even blink. My worry is that someone will read this book, see that the character ages, and slot this book solely into the YA section of their bookstore or library. And certainly there’s nothing wrong with that. A teen would get a lot out of Jimmy’s journey too. Still I think there’s a lot of value in letting kids see what happens when a child like themselves has their ego squashed into a small pile of goo (to their betterment). It’s nothing something I’ve found in that many books for children, after all.

I live and work in New York City where all the kids I see are little fishies in the world’s biggest pond. You’ll always find little ponds within a big one (my metaphors are breaking down – abandon ship!) so kids will always find people and places that praise them, even when surrounded by a mass of other talented people. That said, NYC kids miss out on the experience of feeling special in a smaller setting. It’s something that yields remarkably creative people, and if they follow that drive to keep going and to succeed based on their own hard work then you sometimes end up with something really cool . . . like The Dumbest Idea Ever. It’s a graphic memoir covering a subject both original and incredibly familiar. Your children’s book bookshelves are better off with this book on them.

On shelves now.

Source: Borrowed printed copy from library for review.

Like This? Then Try:

  • Smile by Raina Telgemeier

Other Blog Reviews:

Professional Reviews:

Interviews:

Misc: This is fun. Mr. Gownley went back to the schools portrayed in this book to talk about the experience of writing it.

Videos: A low-key book trailer rounds us out.

 

 

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19. Books 5 And 6. "Boxers" And "Saints" By Gene Luen Yang

My last two Book Challenge books.

First off, this is a two volume set. Be sure to read Boxers first.

Boxers and Saints are Gene Luen Yang's terrific historical graphic novels about the Boxer Rebellion. They're treated as one work because the books treat the same material from different points of view. I knew nothing about the Boxer Rebellion before 3:00 this afternoon. By 8:00 this evening, I had a working knowledge!

So in 1900 a secret organization in China called the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists led an uprising of  peasants against western foreign influence, including the spread of Christianity. They were known as "Boxers" to the west because they practiced exercises they believed would give them powers. Presumably westerners thought they looked as if they were boxing. The Boxers fought against and killed "western devils" and "secondary devils"--those Chinese who either worked for westerners or accepted Christianity, the western devil's faith.

Boxers deals with the experience of a young villager named Little Bao who becomes the leader of the Righteous and Harmonious Fists. Saints deals with the experience of Four-Girl, a young villager who becomes a Christian. One of the particular pleasures in these books is that Four-Girl, the protagonist in Saints, is a minor character in Boxers. Little Bao, the star of Boxers, is a minor character in Saints.

Though, really, neither of them could be called minor.

Earlier today I had trouble with the long descriptions in Haters. The thing with a good graphic novel, and these are good graphic novels, is that the graphic images carry the descriptions and even some of the action. The author doesn't have to stop everything to tell readers how someone is dressed or what their surroundings look like. You can just suck in basic story, character, information.

Reading a good graphic novel is such a rush because you can take in so much so fast.

I am out of books, but it's 9:00 PM on Sunday, anyway. I'm ending this year's 48 Hour Book Challenge on a definite high.

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20. The Cynja, by Chase Cunningham & Heather C. Dahl | Dedicated Review

Get ready for some serious action in the first volume of a new comic-book-style picture book series about malicious cyber attacks, The Cynja.

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21. Learn About “The Cynja” with Chase Cunningham and Heather C. Dahl

The cyber world is filled with battles between good and evil—it’s as thrilling as any comic book—and yet it didn’t have its own superhero. So we started thinking, what would you call someone with super powers in cyberspace? What would they look like? They’d need to be smart and stealthy, wouldn’t they? And have awesome weapons? And before you could say “DDoS attack!” we had “the Cynja”—a cyber ninja!

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22. Artmaster Shirow Di Rosso Discusses “The Cynja”

Shirow Di Rosso is the Artmaster behind the new comic-book-style picture book series about malicious cyber attacks, The Cynja.

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23. Graphic novels for middle schoolers

From poignant historical fiction to introspective coming-of-age tale, hilarious space caper to action-packed superhero story, four new graphic novels for middle-schoolers showcase the range of the graphic novel format.

faulkner gaijin Graphic novels for middle schoolersIn Gaijin: American Prisoner of War, thirteen-year-old Koji Miyamoto is living in San Francisco with his (white) mother when Japan attacks Pearl Harbor. Despite being only half-Japanese, Koji is forced to relocate to the Alameda Downs Assembly Center across the bay. There he wrestles not only with his father’s temporary absence from the family but also with a gang of boys in the camp who constantly bully him — for being a gaijin, a foreigner. Through astute choices of medium, color, and composition, author/illustrator Matt Faulkner creates a vivid and compelling internment-camp drama for young readers. (Disney-Hyperion, 11–14 years)

tamaki this one summer Graphic novels for middle schoolersEvery summer Rose Wallace and her parents go to their cottage on Awago Beach. But this year Rose starts to feel too old for the activities she used to love — and, at times, even for her younger (and more childish) friend Windy. Meanwhile, Rose is caught up in the tension between her parents and fascinated by adult behaviors the local teens are trying on. In This One Summer, author-and-illustrator cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki examine the mix of uncertainty and hope that a girl experiences on the verge of adolescence. Dramatic purple-blue ink illustrations capture the raw emotional core of this story set at the beginning of the end of childhood. (Roaring Brook/First Second, 11–14 years)

maihack cleopatra in space Graphic novels for middle schoolersYanked from first-century B.C. Egypt to the Nile galaxy thousands of years in the future, Cleopatra (quick with both a quip and a ray gun) is hailed as a messiah destined to crush the evil Xerx. Author/illustrator Mike Maihack’s Cleopatra in Space: Target Practice portrays a time-warped Egypt in crisp line art, muted jewel tones, and striking perspectives that create riveting panels featuring futuristic pyramids and a flying-sphinx motorbike. After Cleo single-handedly vanquishes mummy robots and tosses out another one-liner (“Let’s wrap this up”) readers will be clamoring for more of Maihack’s dynamic illustrations, campy humor, and, of course, more Cleo. (Scholastic/Graphix, 11–14 years)

yang shadow hero Graphic novels for middle schoolersWorld War II–era cartoonist Chu Hing reportedly wanted his comic superhero the Green Turtle to be Chinese; not surprisingly for the time, his publishers balked. Now seventy years later, author Gene Luen Yang and illustrator Sonny Liew vindicate Hing in The Shadow Hero, which imagines the Green Turtle as “the first Asian American superhero.” Hank wants to lead a quiet existence in the Chinatown of noir-ish (fictional) San Incendio. But his mother has higher aspirations for Hank: she wants her son to be a superhero. Humor, strong characters, and cracking good action — plus a nuanced portrayal of Chinese American culture — keep the requisite trials and tribulations of the superhero-in-training fresh. (Roaring Brook/First Second, 11–14 years)

From the June 2014 issue of Notes from the Horn Book.

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24. Online Course Registration Deadline is July 14

ALSC Online Education

ALSC Online Education

Whether you’re going to Las Vegas or not, ALSC has great professional development opportunities for you. This summer ALSc is offering three online courses focusing on red-hot topics that you can take back to your library.

Each courses will run between four and six weeks and will be taught in an online learning community using Moodle. All courses are offered asynchronously (self-directed) meaning you won’t need to logon at a specific time. Courses start Monday, July 14, 2014.

Children’s Graphic Novels 101: Selection, Evaluation and Programming for Children
6 weeks, July 14 – August 22, 2014

Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Programs Made Easy
4 weeks, July 14 – August 10, 2014, CEU Certified Course, 1.2 CEUs

Storytime Tools
4 weeks, July 14 – August 10, 2014, CEU Certified Course, 2 CEUs

Detailed descriptions and registration information is available on the ALSC Online Education site. Fees are $115 for personal ALSC members; $165 for personal ALA members; and $185 for non-members. Questions? Please contact ALSC Program Officer Kristen Sutherland, 1-800-545-2433 ext. 4026.

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25. Monday Review: THIS ONE SUMMER by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki

The awesome team of Canadian cousins behind the wonderful graphic novel Skim (reviewed here) is back with a thoughtful, sometimes-wistful, sometimes-wrenching, always poignant look at what it feels like to grow up. Rose Wallace and her parents have... Read the rest of this post

0 Comments on Monday Review: THIS ONE SUMMER by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki as of 6/23/2014 8:27:00 PM
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