Graphic novels are one of the best categories ever -especially if you’re limited on the amount of time you have to read!! There was plenty of variety in topics and plenty of variety in the amount of words people chose to read, from almost none (me!) to lots and lots (???), but the overall degree of satisfaction with individual choices was pretty darn high. So if you want a suggestion of a story told primarily through pictures, this list is for you!
Chris: Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir by Roz Chast takes us on a journey some of us know all too well—being there for our aging parents in the final years of their lives. I laughed and cried reading it and realizing how similar the human experience is whether one’s parents live in the Bronx or Garfield Heights. Who knew their maddening idiosyncrasies would be so similar in nature and so cherished after their passing? A winner of many awards including 2014 National Book Award Finalist, it’s a great read.
Carol: Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling by Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer is an adaptation of a 1999 work by Marc Mauer. This nonfiction graphic novel looks at how the United States came to have the highest incarceration rate in the world with a population of over 2 million prisoners. With various stories of incarcerated individuals serving as examples, this statistic-filled book shows the failure of our prison system. Mauer suggests that by investing in education, drug treatment, job creation, and a fairer system of sentencing, the need for prisons would lessen.
Lauren: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud is a lengthy graphic novel (nearly 500 pages) but it gives its author plenty of time to draw out (ha! pun intended?) the story of a struggling artist, David Smith, taunted by the absence of what, he believes, should by now be a wildly successful career in sculpture. The story takes a fantastic turn when David makes a deal with Death: he will receive the power to sculpt anything around him into a masterwork just using his hands. The trade-off?—he has just 200 days more to live. Initially the agreement seems acceptable to David, but everything changes when he falls in love.
Lauren (again! -She loved them both!): Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson is a delightful graphic novel geared towards young adults. The story takes us into the underworld and is populated by monsters and ghouls of every sort. Poor Princess Decomposia is left to handle all the official palace duties while he hypochondriac father, the King, remains in bed with a new ache, pain, or general complaint daily. Things start to look up for Princess Decomposia when newly hired palace cook, Count Spatula, enters her life. Count Spatula opens Decomposia up to new ideas about food, friendship, and true love. A charming read!
Beth: How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis is a beautifully crafted graphic novel representing the extremes that humans take in desperate attempts to find happiness. The cover images and many of the included graphics are so beautiful that I feel they deserve to be framed the my wall, rather than shoved between other books on the shelf. The stories seemed to be deep if you gave them some thought, though none of them really grabbed me. It’s worth a look just for the art.
Julie: I “read” Love: The Tiger by Frederic Brremaud, illustrated by Federico Bertolucci, and I’m air quoting because the book’s only words are brief writing at the beginning and end of the story. It shows us a day in the life of a tiger searching for food and the illustrations are, for the most part, incredibly beautiful and as lush as the jungle they depict. It’s a world in which, according to the book, is experienced “an elemental love. A love that mankind can never experience.” I know I didn’t experience it, but it’s worth checking out simply for the illustrations.
Emma: March: Book One is the first in a projected graphic novel trilogy by John Lewis, U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district. He is the sole surviving member of the “Big Six” of the Civil Rights movement and was one of the original Freedom Riders. The graphic novel has Congressmen Lewis sharing Civil Rights history with a couple of young visitors to his office on the day of President Obama’s first inauguration. He begins with his early years in segregated rural Alabama through the birth of the Nashville Student Movement in the early 60’s. An important period of history told in a unique format.
Steve: White Death, by Robbie Morrison and Charlie Adlard, focuses on Italian WWI soldier Pietro Aquasanta and his time in the war. The story is bleakly told and drawn, and centers around the use of “White Death,” which was the purposeful setting off of avalanches using gun and cannon fire to destroy the enemy. Unfortunately the story itself is hard to follow, in part because the characters seem to look all the same, and partly because it is just plain disjointed.
Dori : In Persepolis by MarJane Satrapi, Satrapi illustrates the story of her childhood in Iran after the fall of the Shah in 1979. Her family, hailing from the educated elite, had been protesting the Shah and his violent and undemocratic methods of dealing with adversaries. After the country is turned into an Islamic state, her family is hopeful, but soon the Iraq War begins and it becomes clear that the new regime is deeply dangerous . Satrapi, 10 at the time, can no longer listen to Western music, dress how she likes or go to school with boys, and her extended family faces peril, including her beloved Uncle Anoosh. No wallflower, she often gets in trouble for speaking her mind and her parents, concerned for her safety, find a way to send her to Vienna to boarding school, telling her that they will soon follow. Beautifully illustrated in simple planes of black and white, Satrapi is able to capture individuals and their feelings with simplicity. Her text, too, is sparse, but captures the complexities of life in Iran under the Islamic regime.
Megan: Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson introduces a new superhero for the modern age. Kamala Khan is just an average teen from New Jersey when she suddenly finds herself possessing the superpowers that allow her to morph into her hero, Carol Danvers. Now she finds herself stuck between her two conflicting worlds. On the one hand, she longs for freedom from her strict, traditional Muslim parents on the other, she discovers she is not quite comfortable being Carol Danvers. As she explores the extent of her powers she learns how to be comfortable in her own skin. This new addition to the Marvel family is getting plenty of buzz due to the fact that Kamala is their first Muslim hero to headline her own comic, but Kamala is so much more than her religion and her skin tone. She is a charming and normal teenager just trying to figure things out. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the new Ms. Marvel!
Stacey: I am Pusheen the Cat, by Claire Belton relies heavily on super cute images to reveal the charm of large fluffy cats -surprise! Pusheen and her little sister Stormy have plenty of adventures, apart and together. If you’re looking for something not too taxing on the brain but plenty of aww! -this one’s for you!
Now we’re back to lots of words on the page with Women’s Fiction! If you want to read along with us, please find a book that focuses on a female protagonist and her relationships with those around her. The main theme of the story should be of a woman overcoming a crisis and emerging triumphant. You go girl! (I know, I know but -I had to!)