Sunday, October 1, 2017

To Dance!

To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel by Siena Cherson Siegel. Illus by Mark Siegel (Atheneum/Richard Jackson Books, 2006, 64pp.)

Husband/wife team Siena Cherson Siegel and Mark Siegel collaborate to produce a graphic memoir of Siena’s ballet training from ages 6 to 18. Simple but effective color drawings illustrate the hard work and sacrifices required in this honest, kid-friendly memoir geared towards older children. The story of her experiences is a fine model for young girls who wish to follow—or rather, dance—in her footsteps. Recommended for Ages 9-14.

Almost as Good as the Original Classic

Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein: The Graphic Novel by Gary Reed. Illus by Frazer Irving (Puffin, 2005, 176pp.) 

Reed and Irving deliver a clear, straightforward adaptation of Shelley’s classic novel that older children will be able to both enjoy and understand. Soft, surreal, black and white illustrations set the stage for this gripping, elegant narrative. Facial expressions are never dull, and at times border on the melodramatic. The centerpiece of this work is the Monster himself – towering and lanky with long, disproportional limbs, this creature is dark and frightening, yet expressive and laden with undeniable human thoughts and emotions. Part of the Puffin Classic Graphics series, this graphic adaptation is one that can certainly stand apart from the original. Recommended for Ages 11-15.

An Excellent Addition to Multicultural Literature for Young Adults

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang (First Second Books, 2006, 233pp.)

In a traditional Chinese fable, the Monkey King, no longer content with his lowly origins, studies Kung Fu and aspires to become a god, while the gods themselves, unhappy that an outsider has tried to emulate their glory, seek to punish him. Yang cleverly modernizes this tale by interweaving its themes of pride and disillusionment with the experiences of Jin Wang, a young Chinese boy who moves to America with his parents. Although Jin tries to fit in at his new school, he encounters xenophobic attitudes from his mostly white classmates. Like the Monkey King, no matter how much he tries to shed his Chinese identity and take on an entirely American one, he finds that his heritage is always close behind. This poignant and moving tale examines the unique experiences and troubles of duel-heritage children in America. It was the first graphic novel to win the American Library Association’s Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, and also a finalist for the National Book Award. Recommended for Ages 14-Up.

Stirring Memoir of an Iranian Childhood

Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon, 2004, 160pp.)

This graphic memoir documents the Iranian childhood of Marjane Satrapi, the only child of Marxist parents. Beginning with the Islamic revolution of 1979, the author uses black and white drawings in a simple comic-strip format to invoke Iran’s tumultuous history, from prehistory days, to the eventual overthrow of the Shah and the triumph of the restrictive Islamic regime. At the heart of this memoir, however, is Marjane’s beloved family. Her supportive parents, grandmother, and relatives are as endearing as the spirited, outspoken young girl who narrates their family’s story. Persepolis came to the silver screen in 2007, and was named a New York Times Notable Book. Recommended for ages 16-Up for language and violence.

Truly Disturbing

Deogratias: A Tale of Rwanda by J.P. Stassen (First Second, 2005, 80pp.)

Stassen documents the 1994 Tutsi genocide in Rwanda through the eyes of the title character, Deogratias, a member of the Hutu ethnicity. The story begins with the massacre’s aftermath: Deogratias, traumatized by the recent past, wanders from place to place like a disturbed animal, even imagining at times that he’s a dog. As the narrative progresses, the reader pieces together fragments to reveal the horrifying truth. While Stassen doesn’t show the violence as it happens, his depiction of a murdered woman towards the end of the book proves to be disturbing enough. With its vibrant colors and its gut-wrenching content, Stassen’s work will leave the reader feeling unsettled long after the story is finished. Originally published in France, Deogratias won YALSA’s Great Graphic Novel Award, and was named one of ALA’s Best Book for Young Adults. A helpful introduction provides readers with a brief history of Rwanda, its colonization by the French, and the political factors that paved the road to genocide. Recommended for Ages 16-Up for language, sexual content, and violence.

All Staggering, Moaning, and Drooling Toxic Spit, But No Bite

Source: Author Website
The Zombie Survival Guide: Recorded Attacks by Max Brooks. Illus by Ibraim Roberson (Three Rivers Press, 2009, 144pp.)
Max Brooks, author of the popular Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection from the Living Dead, provides the text for this imaginary take on how zombies influenced the course of history. (Did you know Hadrian’s Wall was built to keep out zombies, not Scots? That Egyptians removed the brains of their dead to prevent them from rising again as zombies? That even Sir Francis Drake had an undocumented run-in with some zombies on the high seas?) Unfortunately, while Recorded Attacks gains points for creativity, it loses them for lack of substance. This graphic “novel” (if one could call it that) doesn’t really tell a story, or even provide characters for us to follow. Instead, it presents a collection of anecdotes, using realistic pencil illustrations and text boxes to provide the reader with suggestions of how and why history happened as it did if there zombies really existed. A good try, but unfortunately doesn’t play out to its full potential. Recommended for Ages 16-Up for zombie violence and some nudity.

Not As Good As "Persepolis," But Still Worth A Look

Chicken with Plums by Marjane Satrapi (Pantheon Books, 2006, 84pp.)

The author of the popular Persepolis returns with another gem to the genre. Satrapi uses her trademark black and white drawings to construct a tragic portrait of her great uncle, Nasser Ali Khan, a famous tar player (resembles a lute) who pined away after his wife destroyed his prized instrument in a fit of rage. Although the protagonist’s story is not nearly as endearing as the one charted by Persepolis’ spunky heroine, fans of Satrapi’s earlier work will find themselves entertained nonetheless. Recommended for Ages 16-Up for language and some nudity.