Archive for the ‘Graphic Memoir’ Category

Review of El Deafo, by Cece Bell

Saturday, February 7th, 2015

el_deafo_largeEl Deafo

by Cece Bell
color by David Lasky

Amulet Books, New York, 2014. 240 pages.
Starred Review
2015 Capitol Choices Selection
2015 Newbery Honor

El Deafo is an endearing and engaging graphic novel-style memoir. I’m not quite sure why everyone is presented as human-rabbit creatures, but that’s part of an informal graphic style that will pull kids in.

Cece Bell got meningitis when she was very young – and lost her hearing almost completely. El Deafo is her story of growing up deaf – wearing hearing aids, learning to lip read, and navigating the ways different people treated her because she was deaf.

Cece got to attend Kindergarten in a class with other kids with hearing problems, but her family moved and she had to go to first grade with hearing students. She’s given a high-powered hearing aid connected to a microphone the teacher wears around her neck. Cece discovers she has a superpower – she can hear what her teacher is saying or doing anywhere in the building.

But making friends is difficult. First, there’s the friend who dominates everything the two do together. Then there’s the friend who always e-nun-ci-ates (which is harder to lip-read) and makes a huge deal of Cece’s deafness.

Cece also illustrates ordinary friendship perils that become larger. For example, she can’t lip read at a slumber party once the lights are shut off. And that boy she has a crush on – what will he think when he sees her with her extra-large hearing aid at school?

This book’s friendly format will catch kids’ interest, and give them a glimpse of what the world might be like if you couldn’t take hearing for granted. No preaching is needed – Cece tells her compelling story, and kids’ eyes will be opened.

cecebell.com
amuletbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/el_deafo.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Please use the comments if you’ve read the book and want to discuss spoilers!

Review of The Great American Dust Bowl, by Don Brown

Monday, June 23rd, 2014

great_american_dust_bowl_largeThe Great American Dust Bowl

written and illustrated by Don Brown

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2013. 80 pages.
Starred Review

When I see a history book for kids presented in comic book form, full of facts and graphic details, I think, “Goodness! Why don’t they all do it this way?” I can’t call it a graphic novel, but it’s a graphic history book. It’s in comic book form and doesn’t only tell you what the Dust Bowl was like, it also shows you.

I’ve heard a lot about the dust bowl. But now, with the aid of these pictures, I feel like I know what it was like to experience it.

Don Brown gives us an overarching view, even giving the factors that built up to it, but he also focuses in on the experiences of people. He shows how small people and cars and telephone poles were compared to the clouds of dust. The page about bugs has quite a gross-out factor:

Bugs that should have died in colder, wetter weather or been eaten by birds and bats killed by the drought now turned up everywhere. Centipedes crawled across ceilings and walls, tarantulas marched across kitchens, and black widow spiders lurked in corncribs and woodsheds.

“The ants were so thick and so bad that you could swipe handfuls of them off the table and still have more ants on the table.”

The picture with that shows the woman who is speaking looking askance at a table covered with ants.

There’s a dramatic page, mostly filled with a dust cloud, dwarfing a car and telephone poles. The words written in wavy lines across the cloud say:

Storms could blow for days and be immediately followed by another and another, making for unrelenting blows for weeks on end.

Raging, grit-filled winds shattered windows and scoured the paint off houses and cars.

Trains derailed. Telephone poles were knocked to the ground.

Altogether, Don Brown gives readers vivid detail about the Dust Bowl, and they understand some of the causes and the scope of the problem. (I had never realized before that during that time, even New York City got hit with a dust storm that made lights necessary during daylight hours.) They even have some warnings that it could happen again.

The book is artistic as well. If you leaf through the pages, you notice right away that Don Brown has used different panel arrangements on each set of pages, and keeps the story varied and interesting.

This is history that will stick with you.

hmhbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/great_american_dust_bowl.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of March, Book One, by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

March
Book One

by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Top Shelf Productions, 2013. 123 pages.
Starred Review
2014 Coretta Scott King Honor Book

This is not a graphic novel, it’s a graphic memoir, and all the contents are true. Congressman John Lewis tells about what it was like for him as a young man involved in the Civil Rights Movement. The comic book format combined with the personal remembrances give this book an immediacy that will stick with the reader.

There’s a frame that’s in place on the day of Barack Obama’s inauguration. The congressman is telling two kids visiting his office what it was like when he was their age. And then he tells how he first heard about people speaking up for civil rights, and how he went to nonviolence training, participated in and organized sit-ins, and began the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

This is only Book One. There’s a sort of prologue scene crossing the Edmund Pettus Bridge during the March on Washington. We don’t get that far in the story, though we do learn, right at the start, that of all the speakers that day, John Lewis is the only one who’s still around.

This graphic memoir makes history come alive in a dramatic way.

I’m reading it because it’s the last contender I hadn’t read for School Library Journal’s Battle of the Books, which starts next week. I’m not surprised to find some powerful reading here. It fits in well with the other contenders.

topshelfcomix.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/march_book_1.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of Feynman, by Jim Ottaviani

Friday, December 21st, 2012

Feynman

written by Jim Ottaviani
art by Leland Myrick
coloring by Hilary Sycamore

First Second, New York, 2011. 266 pages.
Starred Review

How to make the life and work of a brilliant, if quirky, physicist accessible to the general reader? Jim Ottaviani and Leland Myrick have done an amazing job by putting the biography in graphic novel form.

Not only do they present the scope of Richard Feynman’s accomplishments, including such a wide variety from work on the atomic bomb to work on the committee investigating the space shuttle’s explosion, they also present the basic idea of some of his pioneering concepts in physics. And they talk about his personal life, including his first wife who died not too long after their marriage, and his defense of a man who was running a strip club, and his decision to give up drinking.

The one thing I didn’t like? It was hard to tell apart all the physicists in their shirts and ties. I finally got to where I could spot Feynman by his crazy hair, but that was about as far as I got.

However, this book inspired me to want to read more about Feynman, and it was a fascinating and interesting story in its own right. It didn’t inspire me the way Feynman’s Rainbow did, but it was another side to a man who made a big difference on our planet.

This is Teen Nonfiction, and I decided to post it on the regular nonfiction page rather than the Children’s Nonfiction page, because even in the graphic memoir format, it’s going to go way over the heads of most children, but most adults won’t mind reading a comic book about a great scientist.

firstsecondbooks.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/feynman.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I write the posts for my website and blogs entirely on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

Review of To Timbuktu, by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg

Tuesday, April 24th, 2012

To Timbuktu

Nine Countries
Two People
One True Story

by Casey Scieszka and Steven Weinberg

Roaring Brook Press, New York, 2011. 492 pages.

This book reminds me of Mo Willems’ You Can Never Find a Rickshaw When It Monsoons. Both are about overseas adventures taken by people fresh out of college, complete with plenty of illustrations. To Timbuktu, however, has more text, since the cartoonist, Steven Weinberg, teamed up with a writer, Casey Scieszka. It’s less light-hearted because of having more text, but it also gives a lot more information about their cross-cultural experiences.

Casey and Steven met as students abroad in Morocco. They decided, after graduation, that they would go overseas together. This is the story of their adventures.

I think they had the most fun in China, where they spent the first six months and both taught English. That section is especially fun, with the descriptions of the kids and their antics trying to teach. After that, their time was a little less structured. Casey had a grant to study Islam in the schools in Mali, and Steven was working on his art.

The story is fascinating, and you’ll learn a lot about the countries they visited. Okay, I confess: I didn’t even know that Timbuktu was in Mali, let alone what living there is like. I didn’t know there’s a language spoken in Mali called Bamankan, or much about Mali at all.

I actually met Casey Scieszka at ALA Annual Conference a couple years ago when I was fangirl-ing her Dad, and I liked her very much. They said at the time that she was writing a graphic novel. This isn’t really a graphic novel; it’s an illustrated memoir. But it’s heavily illustrated, and that makes it all the more fun. After all, since they visited these cultures I know nothing about, it’s nice to have pictures to help understand.

This is an excellent book for anyone who’s ever dreamed of picking up and traveling around the world. You can enjoy their experiences without having to get hot and dirty.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/to_timbuktu.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.

Review of Drawing From Memory, by Allen Say

Tuesday, February 7th, 2012

Drawing From Memory

by Allen Say

Scholastic Press, 2011. 64 pages.
Starred Review
2011 Sonderbooks Standout: #4 Children’s Nonfiction

Drawing From Memory is not quite a graphic novel (make that graphic biography). There are some speech bubbles, but the majority of pictures don’t have them. This is a remembrance with lots and lots of pictures. The pictures vary from drawings to photos to comics to realistic paintings.

Allen Say moved into his own apartment (from his grandmother’s house) when he was not-quite thirteen years old. Shortly after moving to the apartment, he read a story about a boy three years older, who was apprenticed to Noro Shinpei, one of the most famous cartoonists in Japan. Allen decided to find him and ask to be an apprentice as well.

The book tells the story of Allen’s years with his Sensei, learning and growing, and eventually getting the chance to go to America. He talks about the process of learning to draw, those who learned with him, and especially the close relationship with his teacher. Best of all is the wide variety of illustrations that accompany the story and make it alive.

This is one of those wonderful books in large format that may get hidden in the Biography section of the library. This isn’t the sort of story you’d want for a report, but it’s very much an inspiring story of someone’s life and about finding and following your calling. This is a delightful book.

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/drawing_from_memory.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on an Advance Review Copy I got at 2011 ALA Annual Conference.

Review of Smile, by Raina Telgemeier

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Smile

by Raina Telgemeier

Graphix (Scholastic), New York, 2010. 214 pages.

Smile is a graphic memoir — graphic meaning the comic-book format, with no reflection at all on the content.

In this book, the author tells the true story of the awful saga with her teeth when she was in middle school. Just when she was ready to get braces, she had an accident and knocked out one front tooth and jammed the other into her jaw. The dentists and orthodontists made heroic attempts to fix and straighten those teeth, and this book tells vividly, with a nice sense of humor, the long involved process.

Of course, just telling about teeth wouldn’t be interesting. But Raina Telgemeier puts in the story of finding her place in middle school and finding out who her true friends were. In middle school, no kid wants to stand out, but Raina’s smile alone made her look different.

This book will draw kids to pick it up and read it to the end. The vivid pictures draw you in, and you’ll find a certain fascination with all she had to go through. Ultimately, she learns to face life with a smile!

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Nonfiction/smile.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from the Fairfax County Public Library.