Author: Gene Ambaum

Enter Willow Payne / Exit Pat Coleman

Friday was Pat Coleman’s last strip for Library Comic. I know many of you, like me, love Pat’s style, plus all the Easter eggs and celebrity lookalikes he’s been slipping in. He always brings his personality and a huge array of skills to his illustrations, and I hope you’ll join me in thanking him for all his work. Willow Payne will be taking over art duties as of today, at least for a bit. She’s been working with me for years on Unshelved Book Club strips and our Barbarian Girl graphic novel, plus she illustrated The Library Tarot deck. I think you’re going to love her style, too, if you don’t already. -Gene

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Tween Fiction Review: The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge

The Assassination of Brangwain Spurge by M.T. Anderson and Eugene Yelchin. Candlewick, 2018. 9780763698225. 544pp. with a discussion by Anderson and Yelchin at the end, about creating a book in which the illustrations disagree with the text. – Elfin scholar Brangwain Spurge is loaded into a barrel then shot from a giant crossbow, sending him on a journey over the Bonecruel Mountains and into the goblin kingdom. (It goes worse than you’d imagine, even with that start.) He’s a spy with a mission from the Order of the Clean Hand and, unbeknownst to him, possibly an assassin. In the goblin kingdom he’s hosted by Werfel the Archivist, historian at the Court of the Mighty Ghohg, who’s excited to meet an elf despite the history of war between their peoples. Werfel tries to show Spurge the best of the goblin kingdom, and to prepare him to meet (and dance for) the otherworldly and somewhat inexplicable Ghogh. Nothing goes as planned: the […]

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Graphic Novel Review: The Highest House

The Highest House by Mike Carey and Peter Gross. IDW, 2018. 9781684053544. 188pp. Contains #1 – #6 of the series in an oversized paperback. – Moth’s mother sells him as a slave to Clan Aldercrest in order to feed his siblings. It’s soon clear that the Steward sees something special (perhaps magical) in him. After he crosses The Bridge of Sorrows and enters Highest House, Moth begins training as an apprentice roofer. He also begins delving into the mysteries of the House, both on his own and with a powerful being trapped somewhere inside it who speaks to him and wants Moth to pledge himself to its service. – This book has a lot to recommend. It’s from the creative team behind The Unwritten and the original run of Lucifer, both published by DC’s Vertigo imprint. Carey also writes as M.R Carey (The Girl With All The Gifts and its sequels), plus he authored the Felix Castor novels, many other […]

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Graphic Novel Review: To Build A Fire

To Build a Fire by Chabouté, Based on Jack London’s Classic Story. Translation by Laura Waters. Gallery 13 / Simon & Schuster, 2018. 9781982100827. 62pp. An overconfident newcomer to Alaska and his dog walk through the frozen Yukon, headed for camp. He’s distracted by thoughts of warmth and food. The dog, of course, can’t tell its master how much the cold worries it. I can’t think of another comics illustrator as gifted as Chabouté. This short graphic novel combines the best elements of his Alone (an exploration of the mind of an isolated man) and his adaptation of Moby Dick (the time period, and strong, quick characterizations) with a sense of struggle and cold to perfectly express the short story by Jack London. (And maybe this is weird, but I was struck by his perfectly drawn birch trees. And his sticks! Every detail of this book looks perfect.) Worth noting: this graphic novel could save your life if you’re given […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Blossoms in Autumn

Blossoms in Autumn by Zidrou and Aimée de Jongh. Translation by Matt Madden. SelfMadeHero, 2019. 9781910593622. 145pp. – A beautiful romance develops between a former model turned cheesemaker, Mediterranea, and Ulysses, a retired mover. Both are dealing with loss and with getting older when they meet in Ulysses’ son’s waiting room, and their relationship develops from there. My favorite moment: Mediterranea, still afraid of apples because she saw Snow White when she was a kid, examining her aging, naked body in the mirror and seeing the witch. And then there’s the first sex scene — drawn in a sketchier, less colorful style than the rest of the graphic novel; composed without panels, it really captures the timelessness of the moment. – Buy this beautiful graphic novel for your library’s adult collection. And then, for bonus points, maybe put it on display near your large print shelves?  

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Graphic Novel Review: Kiss Number 8

Kiss Number 8 by Colleen AF Venable, illustrated by Ellen T Crenshaw. First Second, 2019. 9781596437098. 314pp including a conversation between Venable and Crenshaw in the back. At the beginning of the book, Mads (Amanda) kisses one of her best friends from church, and she kisses her back, which starts some very difficult times for Mads. Flash back to a month earlier where she’s hanging out with her friends Laura (quiet) and Cat (party girl), avoiding the affections of Laura’s hot younger brother Adam, and on the verge of finding out that her father has a secret (Mads suspects he’s had an affair, but it’s pretty clear she’s wrong). Mads and her dad are super close, so the whole situation is difficult for her and her family, though it does give Mads a chance to get to know her mom and others better. It’s always hard to review a graphic novel with a plot built around a secret, but here’s […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Sister BFFs

Sister BFFs by Philippa Rice. Andrews McMeel, 2018. 9781449489359. 144pp. – Philippa Rice and her younger sister Holly star in short comics (and texts) where they clearly love each other and also get one each other’s nerves. It didn’t long much to draw me in — the messy endpapers remind me of my daughter’s room, and the dedication to Rice’s older, kinder, prettier sister Kate (and the anti-dedication to Holly) had me laughing. This book has it all: fart jokes, familial cruelty, awkward selfies, and essential oils, plus a discussion about kissing Tom Jones for money. – Other comics by Rice: Soppy My Cardboard Life

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Graphic Novel Review: The Great North Wood

The Great North Wood by Tim Bird. Avery Hill Publishing, 2018. 9781910395363. Not a thick book with lots of pages, but they’re oversized and beautifully colored. This graphic novel is a mediation on the place in the UK where an ancient forest used to be, a guided tour through time (and a bit through space) led by a fox. In the first scene, the fox is enjoying whatever leftovers it found in a takeout box in front of a fast food chicken place, now. And then it’s the ice age, and then trees are starting to grow. It’s not quite linear, it’s a bit magical, and it’s got way more pink (and much, much less green) than you’d expect in a book about a forest. There are people, too, in stories about Honor Oak, Ned Righteous, Gipsy Hill, and more. It achieves a sense of stillness, and it’s beautiful. – Many thanks to the pro at my local library system […]

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Fiction Review: Recursion

Recursion by Blake Crouch. Crown, 2019. 9781524759780. 336pp. – Crouch is a master of putting a unique spin on time travel puzzles, then weaving those into intense and emotional family stories. His novel Dark Matter was one of my favorite books of 2016, and I had just as hard a time putting this one down. (Here’s the Unshelved Book Review comic about Dark Matter: http://www.unshelved.com/2016-4-29 ) – There are two stories in Recursion, that of Helena Smith, a neuroscientist researching memory to help her mom, who is in the late stages of Alzheimer’s, and that of Detective Barry Sutton, a man mourning the accidental death of his teenage daughter eleven years ago. Smith gets a blank check from a mysterious source, to fund the development of a device she wants to invent but that she’s discussed with no one. Sutton fails to stop a suicide, and is then kidnapped and offered a chance to make his life right. Both narratives […]

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YA Fiction Guest Review: A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending)

A Story About Cancer (With a Happy Ending) by India Desjardins and Marianne Ferrer, translated by Solange Ouellet. Frances Lincoln Children’s Books, 2019. 9781786039774. 96pp. – The way cancer is discussed in fiction is very different from the way cancer really feels. In fiction, it’s often used as a shorthand for an unavoidable tragic death or someone bravely battling an illness. Unfortunately, that often spills into the way people treat people with cancer. – This book, written after a girl in cancer treatment asked the author for a cancer story with a happy ending, is more about how cancer really feels. The narrator is a teen with leukemia. She hates the awful pale green, pale pink, and beige of the hospital walls. She hates how the smell of the hospital, like “disinfectant and illness,” sticks to you after you leave and asks her mom to spray her room with lavender. She hates how people look at her like she’s going […]

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