Maus tells the story of Vladek Spiegelman and his experiences during World War II. His son Art listens to the story in order to create this book. Along the way we learn not only what happened to Vladek before the war and how he met his with Anja, but also during the war and after they came to America. Vladek’s story is not dissimilar to other Holocaust survivors in that he survived and most of those he knew did not. He was very good at working the system and always finding the best possible way to survive. His story of survival is at times hard to read but not as hard has his present life. Vladek as an old man has lost the confidence and gusto he had as a youth. He hoards things and doesn’t get along with his second wife Mala who he believes is after his money (we don’t really learn if she was or not). He and his son Art love each other but have a hard time being with each other. You get the sense that Vladek wants nothing more than to be with his son and Art wants nothing more than to not be there because his father drives him crazy. He would drive me crazy as well, but I also felt very sorry for him. I was moved by how personal this story ended up being. I thought it was going to be just an Holocaust survivor’s tale, but it ended up being so much more. It is really about the relationship between a father and son both racked with survivor’s guilt. Vladek because he survived when so many others didn’t and Art because he never suffered. It is a deeply moving story and well worth the read.
In her first memoir, Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.
When it came to her elderly mother and father, Roz held to the practices of denial, avoidance, and distraction. But when Elizabeth Chast climbed a ladder to locate an old souvenir from the “crazy closet”—with predictable results—the tools that had served Roz well through her parents’ seventies, eighties, and into their early nineties could no longer be deployed.
While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies—an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades—the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; managing logistics; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.
An amazing portrait of two lives at their end and an only child coping as best she can, Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant will show the full range of Roz Chast’s talent as cartoonist and storyteller.
The Fifth Beatle is the untold true story of Brian Epstein, the visionary manager who discovered and guided The Beatles from their gigs in a tiny cellar in Liverpool to unprecedented international stardom. Yet more than merely the story of “The Man Who Made The Beatles,” The Fifth Beatle is an uplifting, tragic, and ultimately inspirational human story about the struggle to overcome seemingly insurmountable odds. Brian himself died painfully lonely at the young age of thirty-two, having helped The Beatles prove through “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” that pop music could be an inspirational art form. He was homosexual when it was a felony to be so in the United Kingdom, Jewish at a time of anti-Semitism, and from Liverpool when it was considered just a dingy port town.
One woman’s personal story of learning she has cancer, fighting it and surviving while trying to still have a normal life and work and plan her wedding. Everyone’s experience with cancer is unique but if you’re looking for a book to let you know what a friend with breast cancer may be going through both physically and emotionally this book should be helpful.
Graphic novel of the true life adventures of William Ayers as an elementary school teacher. Ayers obviously loves teaching and loves his students but has to struggle with administration and paperwork. His approach to teaching is for lots of group activities and lots of kinetic interaction with the learning items. He believes that kids learn best when having fun and feeling like they are playing instead of working. His class is very busy and loud. As an introvert who likes structure I would have been overwhelmed by such a classroom environment, but my niece would love it. I’m sure she and many others students could benefit from this active and social learning process.
Art and madness. Do the two always have to go hand in hand? Is there a reason so many artists/writers/creative types struggle with mental illness? If they had been alive today, in the age of modern medicine and therapy, would they still have been able to create their masterpieces? Ellen Forney finds herself having to deal with this very issue as she, a long-time comic artist, is diagnosed as bi-polar. Forney doesn’t just tell her story; she does her research as well. Forney tells readers about the illness itself, the medications, side effects and so-called “mad” geniuses. Early on in her treatment, she worries about the medication taking away or diminishing her creativity. By the end, she has found a middle ground. Things aren’t perfect and never will be, but readers can tell that Ellen is going to wind up OK.
Marbles is a fantastic graphic memoir. Forney, who is an Eisner-Award winning cartoonist (and the artist for Sherman Alexie’s Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian) does an excellent job of demystifying this potentially devastating mood disorder by putting forth her story in a clear and concise narrative. It is abundantly clear that much of her progress is due to a talented doctor/therapist and a large support network of friends. Even so, it still took years to find balance and which serves as a good reminder to readers that these issues will not go away overnight or on their own. At times humorous, but always honest, this memoir is an excellent example of what the comic medium is capable of.
This collection of web comics starts off were Too Much Information ends, with the birth of Dewey’s daughter, Trillian. Yes, she is named after a character in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. Guess what one of Dewey’s favorite genres is.
It also introduces new employee, Dyna, a library clerk. Dewey and the staff attend the real conference for librarians and book lovers, Book Expo America. In recognition of this, Gene and Bill provide us with conference tips for all and a 12 page comic titled, What Would Dewey Do @ BEA?
This collection also gives their fans a full six months of comics!
This is the 7th collection of web comics by Bill Barnes and Gene Ambaum. All the adventure and humor takes place in a public library. Main character, Dewey, is a snarky teen librarian who also works the reference desk. Join him and his coworkers as they attempt to help the public with their library issues and sometimes more personal issues. You do not have to have read any of the earlier book collections for the stories to make sense. Some reviewers think this collection has the best art and writing in the series. Join Dewey and the library staff to discover a different side of a familiar place.
March tells the story of its author, Congressman John Lewis, and his lifetime of work with the civil rights movement. The first in a trilogy, book one covers Lewis’s early days in Alabama, his meeting with Dr. King and the beginnings of the the bus boycotts and lunch counter sit-ins.
This is a great collaboration between a living civil rights legend and renowned comics creators. Readers will learn about a pivotal point in history from a point of view not seen in history books. Lewis came from humble beginnings and worked hard to change societal attitudes at a time when it was downright dangerous to do so. The artwork is great; detailed and evocative. I look forward to book two.
Today it is easy to find information. Too much and too easy to come by maybe. Is it accurate? Is it reliable? In this Unshelved daily e-comic collection the staff of library workers help Mallville’s citizens make sense of all that information while dealing with their worrisome budget problems. All the regular staff are present: Dewey, the teen librarian, Tamara the children’s librarian, Colleen the reference librarian, Mel the director, Dyna a cynical new librarian and Bucky the page still shelving books in his book beaver costume. Meanwhile Dewey’s girlfriend Cathy has a big surprise for him.
Ed Piskor has taken on an extremely ambitious undertaking in his on-going Hip Hop Family Tree comic strip. Originally serialized online at Boing Boing, the comic has now been collected and bound for our reading pleasure. Beginning with some of the earliest house parties and rap battles and moving up through rap’s mainstream breakthrough in Blondie’s single, “Rapture”, this first volume has a lot of ground to cover. The end of the book features an index and discographies, both of the artists and the beats/breaks frequently used by DJs.
I totally get why the format is used for this history of hip hop, but I still can’t help but feel like there’s something missing here. It gets difficult to keep track of all the names and alliances. There are definitely tons of noteworthy moments featured throughout, but more organization and contextual information would have been helpful.
Smile is the true story of Raina Telgemeier’s journey through orthodontia. It was not a pleasant or a short journey. It began with an overbite and a fall resulting in the loss of her two front teeth. The journey consisted of false teeth, braces, surgeries, headgear, and four years worth of visits to various dental professionals…all during junior and high school. Poor Raina! Throughout it all Raina is also dealing with boys, pimples, friends, mean girls, and all the other trials and tribulations of high school. She comes through it stronger and happier, but it is not an easy journey.
As someone who has had braces and retainers (thankfully not four years worth) I completely sympathized with Raina. They are an invented torture to make our teeth look perfect. They work but are definitely not pleasant. I winced with her when her braces were being tightened and when all she could eat was mashed potatoes. I think Raina definitely remembers this time of her life perfectly and she really captured it on the pages of Smile. The story and illustrations embody the torture of braces and the agony of middle and high school. I would recommend this to just about anyone.
A Game for Swallows is a graphic memoir of life in Lebanon during their civil war in the ’80’s. Zeina and her family live in an apartment building that is situated right next to the dividing line. One night, Zeina’s parents leave home to check on family members across town, risking their lives to pass through various security checkpoints and sniper territory. While the parents are out, the neighbors drop in to check on Zeina and her little brother. As time passes, more and more of the apartment’s inhabitants make their way down to Zeina’s apartment because the foyer there is the safest room in the building. Before long, everyone they live with is grouped together in the small room. As the bombs start falling, the adults tell the children stories and fix them food to help them keep their mind off of their absent parents. The reader learns a bit about each character and how the war has affected them.
It’s a sweet story and it gives the reader a bit of perspective on how everyday citizens dealt with an ongoing civil war in their own backyards. The artwork will definitely draw comparisons to the now-classic graphic memoir, Persepolis, with its bold, black-and-white illustrations. It is, however, stylistically different and well-suited to the story it tells. I wish there were more to the story. Readers not familiar with the region’s troubled history will probably be left with more questions than answers. The ending feels very abrupt and anti-climatic, which is probably best for the real-life individuals involved, but not as exciting or compelling for the reader.
A beautifully illustrated novel by the author of The Invention of Hugo Cabret, which the movie Hugo is based on. This novel combines two separate children’s lives into one coherent story through text and full page illustrations. An imaginative book that won’t soon be forgotten. Even though it’s a children’s book the story and drawings may be appreciated even more by adults.
It started with a visit from spirits. In 1991, Kony claimed that spiritual beings had come to him with instructions: he was to lead his group of rebels, the Lord’s Resistance Army, in a series of brutal raids against ordinary Ugandan civilians. Decades later, Kony has sown chaos throughout Central Africa, kidnapping and terrorizing countless innocents—especially children. Yet despite an enormous global outcry, the Kony 2012 movement, and an international military intervention, the carnage has continued. Drawn from on-the-ground reporting by war correspondent David Axe and starkly illustrated by Tim Hamilton, Army of God is the first-ever graphic account of the global phenomenon surrounding Kony—from the devastation he has left behind to the long campaign to defeat him for good.
This graphic novel tells of a lesser-known chapter of Abraham Lincoln’s life. It begins well before his presidency, before his marriage to Mary Todd. It follows a young Lincoln through his early days as a struggling lawyer. Set-back after set-back drive Lincoln into a deep, dark depression that nearly kills him.
I must confess I did not know a whole lot about Lincoln’s early life as most historical documents focus on his presidency and the years leading up to it. This graphic novel presents a less-than-glamorous tale of a man trying to find his way in the world. The stylized artwork may not be to everyone’s liking, but this is still a very accessible book that adds an extra dimension to the life of one of America’s greatest historical figures.
Arab in America is an interesting look at what it is like to be Arab and Muslim in a post-911 America. Toufic El Rassi delves into his personal history and the history of the Middle East to give us a look at what it is like to be discriminated and hated just because of how you look. He not only talks about his personal experiences, but he highlights others who were caught up in the anti-Muslim tide; some innocent, some not so much. As a white, middle class America I really don’t know what it is like to be hated and feared because of my ethnicity or looks. Arabs and Muslims have known for a long time. This book opened my eyes to the different ways we might discriminated against groups of people and it educated me on the difference between Arabs and Muslims and what has been going on in the Middle East. An excellent read and a good source of information into the current and past political climate in regards to Arabs/Muslims.
I received a copy of this book from Toufic El Rassi at ALA 2013. Thank you!