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Picture Me This (with a Graphic Novel or two?) March 22, 2012

Posted by stacey in Genre Book Discussion, Graphic Novel.
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Have you been wondering if it’s possible to discuss a story told mostly through images, with an occasional assistance from text? Well wonder no more… You can! And we did! How do I know this for a fact? Graphic novels, stories told primarily through artwork, were the latest and greatest genre under our department’s microscope –and this is what we found:

Megan: Fables, by Bill Willingham is an exciting mash-up of beloved fairy tales characters living in a modern setting. Driven from their homelands by an enemy known only as The Adversary, the survivors established a safe haven in a heavily glamoured luxury hotel in modern-day New York City. After centuries of peace, Fabletown has found itself in the midst of political upheaval and dramatic change. Gorgeous color illustrations, clever reimaginings of familiar characters, and a suspenseful storyline will have readers eager for more.

Dori: Berlin, City of Stones: Book One by Jason Lutes is the first of a trilogy about the Weimer Republic, the period in Germany between the two World Wars when there was political democracy and a flourishing artistic culture but a looming shadow ahead. This book takes place over eight months from 1928 to 1928 and the unfolding events are told through the lives of a large cast of characters. There’s the romantic entanglements of Kurt Severing, a journalist and Marthe Muller, an art student. There’s another story line featuring a working-class family who find themselves at odds over their political allegiances. Another follows a young Jewish newsboy who is the target of anti-Semitism. Lutes is able to capture a sense of the ominous future, from the begging war veterans, to the rising Nazi party, to the Communist rallies. His stark black and white drawings and distinct panels capture the events and the reactions of his characters, some with no text at all. I’m looking forward to Berlin, City of Ashes: Book Two.

Emma: Drawing from Memory by Allen Say is part memoir, part graphic novel, and part history. The reader follows the young life of writer/illustrator Allen Say. It’s his story of life in Yokohama, Japan, as a small boy to his middle school years in Tokyo apprenticed to cartoonist Noro Shinpei, his “sensei” (teacher) and “spiritual father”. At 15, Allen is given the opportunity to immigrate to the United States with his father and his father’s new family, and this is where the novel abruptly stops. The graphic novel is a beautiful mixture of watercolor paintings, original cartoons, photographs, and maps.

Carol: Two Generals by Scott Chantler is a graphic novel based on real life WWII experiences of the author’s grandfather Lew Chantler and his best friend Jack, two recruits of the Canadian Highland Light Infantry who cross the Atlantic in 1943. Readers get to know Chant and Jack as their regiment is trained in England. Their downtime is spent enjoying the pleasures that overseas life offers, but little do they know, they will end up taking part of the famous attack on the beaches of Normandy. In the book’s second half, the men head to France, where many will face death as they play a pivotal role in the war. In words and pictures, we see the horrors of war and the bravery and honor of the men who fought and those who died for their country. The artwork is fantastic as the colors of the scenes change from khakis, to reds, indicating dark moods or scenes of battle. The author wrote this moving story using his grandfather’s journal and letters.

Julie: Don’t be scared that Vera Brosgol’s first book is in the teen section and a graphic novel – oh, and the title is Anja’s Ghost. It’s a well-written, well-illustrated twist on the coming of age novel, still with the angst any teenager feels about fitting in, especially as a Russian immigrant in a suburban high school. But it’s Anya’s encounter with a ghost that changes her path, for the good and the bad.

Janet: Mister Wonderful by Daniel Clowes tackles the issue of later-in-life dating. The story line features Marshall and Natalie who have both been in long term relationships. Their blind date was arranged by mutual friends. Their first date is fraught with ups and downs that seem to spell disaster. Will there be a second date? You’ll have to read this lackluster book to find out.

Ann: Doggone Town by Stefan Petrucha & Sarah Kinney scripting and Sho Murase providing artwork is #13 in the series, Nancy Drew, Girl Detective. The series brings the world’s most famous girl detective, Nancy Drew, into the graphic novel format. In this story a lost dog leads Nancy and her boyfriend Ned to the small town of Nevershare, but why are all its citizens gone except for Ms. Byra Tussle, the dog Togo’s owner? If she is his owner, why does she get his name wrong? Then again, why does Togo seem afraid of Byra? With Nancy Drew on the case you can bet the mysteries get solved!

Rosemary: Underwire by Jennifer Hayden is a collection of 22 illustrated stories. They explore subjects near and dear to Hayden’s heart. She is in her late 40s and expresses what many women go through during those years. There are personal health issues right alongside the wish that her children didn’t have to grow up so quickly. She hopes she is still attractive to her husband, and the sequence where they go out for an anniversary dinner is touching. A few words of caution: Hayden’s drawings and language are of the in-your-face style.

Chris: Lost & Found by Shaun Tan tells three tales–all dealing with loss. The first, The Red Tree, tells the story of an unhappy girl whose life is filled with gloom until she happens upon a bright spot, symbolized by a red tree. The Lost Thing, tells of a man who finds a lost object/human that speaks to him and compels him to find a special place for it. And the third, The Rabbits, tells a tale of people experiencing change; they ultimately lose their old ways and find new ones. Afterwards, author/illustrator Tan talks about the symbolism in his tales in a unique and captivating way.

Steve: American Vampire, Vol. 1 , by Scott Snyder and Stephen King, illustrated by Rafael Albuquereque, tells two intertwined stories. It is ultimately a tale of vampires, but it pits the traditional European vampires, think pale, afraid of the sun, with a new breed, the American vampire, who are actually stronger in daylight. Skinner Sweet is a bank robber in the American West in the 1880’s who is involved in a shoot-out, and blood from a European vampire drips into his blood before he dies, creating this new breed. Shoot ahead to 1920’s Los Angeles and he is tracking down aspiring actress Pearl, who is also a newly infected American vampire. Blood, guts and gore ensue in this fabulously written and drawn story.

Stacey: Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Volume One by Tove Jansson is a collection of her daily comics published by the Associated Press beginning in 1953. Her daily comics were meant for adult readers, not the children reading the Moomin books, and so were allowed to have a darker, bleaker feel in general. Ms. Jansson’s comics are full of whimsical characters showing a wide range of emotion, a feat only such a talented artist could have achieved.

The next time we meet up for thoughtful discussion, we’ll be delving into the world of Gentle Reads! A book that fits this category will have a pretty mellow feeling; there are no extreme feelings or bold action. A gentle read will focus on a small community of people, with an emphasis on the everyday ups and downs of lives quietly led. I can’t wait to see what books we’ll all wind-up choosing! (I wonder what *I’ll* be choosing?)

— Stacey

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