Tag Archives: graphic novel

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick. Read in July 2011. Published by Scholastic Press. ARC provided by publisher at ALA Annual 2011.

Wonderstruck begins with two different stories. One, told in the text, is about a Ben, a young man in 1977, whose mother recently passed away, causing him to move in with his aunt and uncle and share a room with his cousin. His mother never told him anything about his father, and when Ben comes across some of his mother’s belongings, he wonders if he can find his dad.

The other story, set 50 years earlier than Ben’s, is told through Mr. Selznick’s illustrations. It follows Rose, a young deaf girl who dreams of New York City from her room across the Hudson river. She also keeps a scrapbook devoted to her favorite silent film actress. When she learns that the actress will be appearing on Broadway, Rose decides she must run away to the city and try to see the actress.

There is a reason these two stories are being told in tandem, but why?

Wonderstruck is delightful! The characters are very well-developed and so likable. Ben is a unique boy who likes to collect special treasures that remind him of moments in his life. He is deaf in one ear, and manages to embrace the benefits of it, such as sleeping on his good ear to block out unwanted noise. He is lonely since the loss of his mom and a bit lost in his aunt’s house. He needs to find someone who can deeply love him now that his mother is gone. Rose is a brave girl and refuses to be held back by her lack of hearing. Her unstable family breaks my heart and I admire how she can rise about it.

I love how the story unfolds and how the connection between Ben and Rose is slowly revealed.

Mr. Selznick’s illustrations are gorgeous. He manages to convey so many emotions in his pencil drawings. Much of the story is character driven and the illustrations allow the author to show, not tell, much of what the characters feel. The book opens with a drawing of two wolves and I fell in love with it. In particular, the second shot of the wolves where the viewer starts to be drawn closer to one is really lovely; I wish I could frame it. Some of settings include museums and those are so well done. Mr. Selznick manages to bring you into each space and allows you to explore the details without ever feeling like you might be lost in a scene from Where’s Waldo?

The research involved in creating this book is evident and much appreciated. I enjoyed getting a bit of a history lesson while bringing details to the story. Mr. Selznick also mentions in his notes at the end that the similarity to From The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler is intentional and that the book is filled with references. I missed most of them and look forward to hearing from those who can point them out.

All in all, Wonderstruck is a delightful book! I’m excited to share my copy with some younger readers I know, and will gladly order it for my high school library. I think it will be easiest for an older elementary student to follow the two different plots, but I think all ages can enjoy the illustrations and the mastery of storytelling displayed in Wonderstruck.


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The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow

The Popularity Papers by Amy Ignatow; read in March, 2010.  ARC provided at ALA Midwinter by Amulet Books.

Another fast five:

  1. I LOVED the format of this book.  It reminded me of the notebooks I had in junior high and high school with my best friends.  Instead of writing notes on loose pieces of paper, we would trade a spiral notebook back and forth.  This book goes a step beyond that, though, with the illustrations.  It is fun to get this glimpse into the friendship between these two girls.
  2. Lydia Goldblatt and Julie Graham-Chang are adorable.
  3. I love that Julie has two dads and it is completely normal.
  4. I think a lot of girls in the late elementary/early middle school range will relate to Lydia and Julie’s quest to figure out how to be popular.  I remember one of my childhood friends starting junior high determined to become popular.
  5. The ending is adorable: the girls make up and list what they learned.  The list could be very after-school-special, but it is not.  They list lessons we all learn, and reminders never grow old.  Lydia’s older sister, Melody, has the best line at the end, “Your friends should be the coolest people you know.”  No doubt, Melody.

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Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Vol. 1

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 by Stephenie Meyer, art and adaptation by Young Kim; read in March, 2010.  Copy purchased for my school library.

Description from GoodReads:

When Isabella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets the mysterious, alluring Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret…

Twilight: The Graphic Novel, Volume 1 begins where Twilight began – Bella leaving her mom, and it ends after the sparklemotion reveal.  (Disclaimer: I don’t consider myself a graphic novel expert at all. I don’t usually like them so I have no vast store of knowledge to base my opinion on.)

The illustrations, for the most part, are pretty.  I do feel like Mike, Eric, Jessica, and Angela are rendered very generic looking.  I put most of the blame for this on SMeyer as she wrote such generic characters, but if the movies can manage to make those four a bit more complex and interesting, the illustrator had a chance, as well.  There’s random use of photos – enough that I noticed but not enough that I felt like it really served a purpose, which was weird.  Edward is good-looking – prettier than RPattz but definitely more generic looking.

I feel like Bella is prettier than she’s supposed to be.  I know that Edward finds her gorgeous, and that every other Forks male falls at her feet, but SMeyer also made a big deal about how no one in Phoenix noticed Bella.  I feel like she’s supposed to be average looking and graphic novel Bella is more than average.  She often has this random drop of water (sweat?) on her temple, which I assume is supposed to show the reader that she is stressed/nervous/anxious.  Although it also migrates: it appears more under her eye when she is looking in the window of the occult bookshop, and I thought, ‘Why is the bookshop window making her cry? Was she hoping for a bigger sale than the advertised 10%?”  The droplet is there often enough that it grated on my nerves.

I also didn’t like the lettering used.  As previously stated, I don’t read a lot of graphic novels, but I am used to the font being more “comic-y/graphic novel-y.”  The font used in Twilight: The Graphic Novel looks like someone took a copy of Twilight and cut the text out and glued it on to the illustrations, giving it a “make your own storyline to fit the provided pictures” feel.  It reminded me of the comic strip that (used to?) runs in Rolling Stone – “Get Your War On.”  It uses and re-uses a few generic pictures of people and pastes in dialogue for them.  It also gives me a feeling that this is a graphic novel aimed at people who don’t read graphic novels and really just love Twilight.

I think that many Twilight fans will gobble the graphic novels up, but it won’t win over new fans.  It might get some readers to venture into more graphic novels, maybe?

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Top Ten 2009 books

Happy New Year’s Eve!  Today, I thought I would post my Top Ten YA books of 2009.  I cannot rate them more than this; I had a hard enough time just narrowing the list down, so these are in alphabetical order.  They are not necessarily what I think are the best literary achievements nor what might stand the test of time.  These titles are the books that emotionally affected me, that I loved reading and couldn’t put down, books I will gladly read again and recommend to my students.

1. Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl – If I have a hard time falling into a book after reading something, I know the authors have left their mark on me.  Thank you, Ms. Garcia and Ms. Stohl.

2. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins – A sequel that is better than the first. I cannot wait to read Ms. Collins‘ third book in the series.

3. Columbine by Dave Cullen – Yes, Mr. Cullen did not write this specifically for a YA audience, but I think it is so well done, students and adults can be drawn into the narrative and come away with hope and understanding.  This is the best non-fiction I read this year.

4. The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie RyanMs. Ryan‘s book transported me out of my backyard and in to a creepy forest full of zombies.

5. Hate List by Jennifer Brown – Tears and tears!  Thank you, Ms. Brown!

6. I Know It’s Over by C. K. Kelly Martin – My heart broke many times while reading Ms. Martin‘s book.

7. Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. StorkMr. Stork has created such a unique voice – amazing!

8. Skim by Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki – A graphic novel created by two cousins that captures adolescence in a heartbreaking way.

9. The Sweetheart of Prosper County by Jill S. Alexander – I love the way the main character grows and learns about herself.  Also, Ms. Alexander REALLY made me want a rooster!

10. Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson – Wow! Really, well done Ms. Anderson!

Honorable mentions go to An Echo in the Bone, Bear Portraits, Dark Places, and Goat Song.  None of these can really be counted as YA, but I really loved them.  (Reviews will come at some point for An Echo and Dark Places.)

Have a safe and happy New Year’s Eve and I wish you all the best in 2010!

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Stitches by David Small

Stitches by David Small: Read in September, 2009 – copy purchased for my high school library

Description from Good Reads:

Finalist for the 2009 National Book Award (young adult category): the prize-winning children’s author depicts a childhood from hell in this searing yet redemptive graphic memoir.One day David Small awoke from a supposedly harmless operation to discover that he had been transformed into a virtual mute. A vocal cord removed, his throat slashed and stitched together like a bloody boot, the fourteen-year-old boy had not been told that he had cancer and was expected to die.

In Stitches, Small, the award-winning children’s illustrator and author, re-creates this terrifying event in a life story that might have been imagined by Kafka. As the images painfully tumble out, one by one, we gain a ringside seat at a gothic family drama where David—a highly anxious yet supremely talented child—all too often became the unwitting object of his parents’ buried frustration and rage.

Believing that they were trying to do their best, David’s parents did just the reverse. Edward Small, a Detroit physician, who vented his own anger by hitting a punching bag, was convinced that he could cure his young son’s respiratory problems with heavy doses of radiation, possibly causing David’s cancer. Elizabeth, David’s mother, tyrannically stingy and excessively scolding, ran the Small household under a cone of silence where emotions, especially her own, were hidden.

Depicting this coming-of-age story with dazzling, kaleidoscopic images that turn nightmare into fairy tale, Small tells us of his journey from sickly child to cancer patient, to the troubled teen whose risky decision to run away from home at sixteen—with nothing more than the dream of becoming an artist—will resonate as the ultimate survival statement.

A silent movie masquerading as a book, Stitches renders a broken world suddenly seamless and beautiful again.

I liked this, and recognize how well done it is, but I was never caught up in it.  (I keep trying different graphic novels and most just don’t ever sweep me in like a regular book does.  While I just can’t seem to fall in love with these books, I am VERY aware that this is just me and continue to buy them for the library as there are so many students who love them.)  It is a heartbreaking yet hopeful story that I do think many will appreciate.

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Garage Band by Gipi


Garage Band by Gipi: Read in September, 2009, copy purchased for my high school library

From Good Reads:

Four boys with turbulent home lives find refuge in the music they play together and in their friendship.When their only amp blows a fuse and the deadline to make their demo tape is pressing, they decide to steal in order to replace it. Events rapidly spiral out of control: will this be the end of everything the bands worked for?

I have to admit that this graphic novel by Gipi left me feeling “eh.”  I didn’t hate Garage Band, but nothing really stuck out for me.  I honestly don’t even really have much to say about it.  The illustrations didn’t grab me either, but I think it is the style of them.  The way the characters are drawn made me recall the illustrations in Harriet the Spy, which I always found creepy as a kid (loved the rest of the book, though).  I do think there will be people who enjoy this, so take my opinion on it for what it is worth – not much at all.


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Life Sucks by Abel, Soria, and Pleece


Life Sucks is a graphic novel co-written by Jessica Abel and Gabe Soria, and drawn by Warren Pleece. Dave is the night manager for the Last Stop, a convenience store in LA. He is crushing on Rosa, a gorgeous girl who frequents the goth club that is located in the same strip mall as the Last Stop. Unfortunately, Rosa has a pretend-vampire goth boyfriend. Rosa is unaware that Dave is a real vampire, turned by the owner of the Last Stop in order to make him the best night manager possible. Dave and Rosa start to become friends, but he ends up having to compete for her attention against the surfer vampire Wes.

Life Sucks is like Clerks meets Twilight – only because vampire Dave refuses to kill people like Edward. It’s funny to see where Dave gets his nourishment – obviously not from animals like Edward. It’s much more like Clerks, with Dave stuck in his convenience store job, with his friend who closes up shop to visit him. It’s a very fun read, lots of smart humor. The illustrations are great. Definitely one I would have no problems recommending to guy or girl readers – there is enough here to appeal to all. 

4 stars

I’m only beginning to get into the graphic novel world, thanks to suggestions from YALSA’s Young Adult Literature Symposium I attended in November. I’ve bought a lot of manga for my library but I don’t read it. I’ve tried, but it just doesn’t appeal to me. Life Sucks and Skim are the types of graphic novels I can get in to and enjoy, and I look forward to finding more.

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