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Who Doesn’t Like a Book With Pictures? May 19, 2010

Posted by stacey in Genre Book Discussion, Graphic Novel.
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My favorite phrase when it comes to talking about a graphic novel is, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.” But what else can so perfectly describe these stories told primarily through illustration and only enhanced by with a few, strategic words? But these aren’t like the comic books you read as a little kid, these books have some serious topics mixed in with the fantasy and the humorous stories. Maybe you’ll want to try one of the books we read? Or maybe you’ll want to come in and choose one of your own…

Carol: The Alcoholic, a graphic novel written by Jonathan Ames and illustrated by Dean Haspiel. This book is about a guy, called Jonathan A, who wakes up in the arms of a stranger and isn’t sure how he has arrived there. As he retraces his steps, we learn that he has been on a drinking bender after a girl has broken his heart. Set against the backdrop of New York City around the time of 9/11, Jonathan actually reveals that he’s been drinking since high school and spirals out of control every time this on-again off-again relationship goes ‘off,’ this becomes more of life story about how his addiction to alcohol is causing him to lose everyone he loves. At the end of the novel, there is no resolution. Jonathan continues to struggle with his addictions. This was a sad story, but also an important one that might shed some light into the workings of the alcoholic mind. With language and sex, this one may not be for every reader. I enjoyed Ames’ depiction of New York City and thought that his treatment of the events of 9/11 was both excellent and heartbreaking. Despite the grimness of the story, there is some humor, including a restaurant scene in which Monica Lewinsky makes an appearance.

Emma: Genesis by R. Crumb is an illustrated retelling of the first book in the Bible. The major events in Genesis are included, from creation until the death of Joseph. The book is based on the King James Version of the Bible and Robert Alter’s The Five Books of Moses. It’s an amazing work four years in the making. However in my opinion the images are sometimes shocking. The genealogies are overwhelming and the characters begin to look alike.

Janet: Stitches by David Small is a graphic memoir of his childhood from age six to sixteen. An award-winning children’s illustrator and author, Mr. Small has depicted his painful childhood with many haunting illustrations and fewer words. His saving grace was his talent as an illustrator. Stitches is a heart wrenching book that is not to be missed.

Rosemary: Happy Happy Clover by Sayuri Tatsuyama is a graphic novel for children, which features Clover the bunny and all her furry friends in the Crescent Forest. Young readers will enjoy Clover’s many adventures. Through darling illustrations and a fast-paced story line, Tatsuyama explores many childhood topics. There are problems with friends, issues with stubbornness, and big secrets to be kept, but Clover is up to any challenge.

Ann: The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar is a graphic novel by the well-known French comic artist, who won a prestigious award for this book. The cat, whose name is not mentioned, belongs to the rabbi and his daughter who live in Algeria in the 1930’s. One day the cat swallows a parrot and suddenly he’s able to speak. He decides he wants to be educated in Jewish law and to have a Bar Mitzvah. This cute (but adult-themed) story about a smart aleck cat and the rabbi and his family acquaints us with Jewish culture as well as the other cultures of the time in Algeria (Arab and French). It also tells the tale of the rabbi, his worries about keeping his position, the marriage of his daughter, and a trip they all take to Paris (the cat goes too, of course). The illustrations are rather squiggly with lots of small lines of dialogue. At the end of the book is a picture of the artist and his own cat; the cat in the story looks very much like the author’s cat.

Julie: The Plain Janes with text by Cecil Castellucci and illustrated by Jim Rugg. Jane is enjoying a coffee when a bomb at a sidewalk café changes everything. Her mother insists the family move out of the city to be “safe” and Jane has to deal with the aftershocks from the attack in the foreign and unfriendly world of suburban high school.

Dori: Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is the story of a pompous professor of architecture in New York. After his marriage to art professor Hana fails, Asterios takes a bus out of town and becomes an auto mechanic, moving in with a working class family whose matriarch is a New Age aficionado. Themes of religion, philosophy and aesthetics round out the storyline, while the art amazingly reflects the text through color, line and placement.

Megan: The Big Book of Barry Ween, Boy Genius by Judd Winick. Barry Ween is a 10 year old genius. In fact, with a 350 IQ, he is the smartest living human. With the help of his faithful friend and trusty sidekick, Jeremy, Barry uses his superhuman intellect to cause all sorts of trouble. The Big Book of Barry Ween is a compilation of all of Barry’s adventures. These adventures include time travel, talking gorillas, aliens, the CIA, art thieves, and turning Jeremy into a dinosaur. The black and white illustrations are action-packed and full of detail. The dialogue is dripping with sarcasm, wit, and foul mouthed humor. Fans of Calvin & Hobbes will appreciate the Barry Ween collection.

Stacey: Percy Gloom by Cathy Malkasian features an odd little man who’s dreaming of a job that will allow him to write cautionary statements for everything and anything in the world. Critics love this graphic novel for both its images and its story line. If you’re ready to embrace a new genre to expand your horizons, you could find this title intriguing too.

Next stop in our genre exploration tour: women’s fiction! These books focus on a woman and her relationships. They can have elements of mystery, suspense, humor, or romance, but are really about a woman succeeding against the odds.




1. littlegirlwithabigpen - May 20, 2010

“The Arrival” by Sean Tan is amazing.
No words. None.
But the illustrations are SO well done that I cried while reading it. It’s about displacement and feeling lost where you are. Immigration, foreign lands etc. Really amazing stuff, you should check it out!

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