Category: book review

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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Graphic Novel Review: Dark Angels of Darkness

Dark Angels of Darkness by Al Gofa. Peow Studio, 2018. 978187325373. 170pp. http://www.peowstudio.com/ – On the inside of the dust jacket, Gofa (pen name of Alex Gouin Fafard) says he “wanted to make a book for the five-year-old me…What I liked most was creating cool characters.” The book is full of superhero hybrids that recall Dragon Ball, especially the battles full of over-the-top declarations and explanations that I could never quite follow. If you’ve read Michel Fiffe’s Copra, I can say this is fun in almost exactly the same way, with art that feels like a quickly drawn distillation of many things I love, and a mix of colors –so many yellows and purples — that fully supports the often out-of-control level of action. I could not explain the plot if you held a gun to my head, but there’s no need, it’s entirely extraneous to my enjoyment of this book.  

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Graphic Novel Review: Alpha

Alpha: Abidjan to Paris by Bessora and illustrated by Barroux. Translated by Sarah Ardizzone. Bellevue Literary Press, 2018. 9781942658405. 128pp. Alpha Coulibaly, a cabinetmaker in the Ivory Coast, has had no news of his wife and child. He hopes they made it to Paris, and are at the home of his sister-in-law. But they didn’t have French visas, and neither does he, despite the fact that his grandfather fought for France in WWII. Knowing he might die before reaching Paris or finding his family, he sets out after them. His journey is difficult and expensive, long and dangerous, full of false promises and people who want to take what little he has. The emotion of Barroux’s simple art and layouts pulled me along on Alpha’s journey. This book stands out, along with Don Brown’s The Unwanted, from other graphic novels about the current refugee crisis.

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Graphic Novel Review: The Hidden Witch

The Hidden Witch by Molly Knox Ostertag. Scholastic Graphix, 2018. 9781338253757. 204pp. – This sequel to Ostertag’s The Witch Boy is just as good. It continues the story of Aster, a boy who wants to learn to be a witch with the girls, and his non-magical friend Charlie. Back at school, Charlie befriends a new student, Ariel, who is secretly a witch and who sends some nasty magic Charlie’s way. Aster is having a hard time catching up with the girls, so Grandmother offers him the opportunity to improve his skills by helping with a special project (something in The Witch Boy). While other creators might turn the story toward a huge battle, don’t expect that here; the emphasis is really on friendship and helping one another even when it’s difficult, forgiveness, and being true to oneself. Ostertag’s art throughout is fabulous — my favorite pages involve literal meetings of minds and frightening shadows.

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Graphic Novel Review: Woman World

Woman World by Aminder Dhaliwal. Drawn & Quarterly, 2018. 9781770463356. 260pp. – What would the world look like if men not-so-suddenly disappeared and the world went through a series of natural disasters? “…this is the story of a village in this new world.” And the story is pretty great, from the little girl who thinks all men must have been like Paul Blart to the design of a new flag to a grandmother trying to explain the phrase “that’s what she said” to her granddaughter. In a world with no men, no one sees dick-shaped clouds anymore. It’s pretty much the most lighthearted, good-natured post-apocalyptic graphic novel ever. One more thing to recommend it: the final comic provides one of my favorite endings to a graphic novel ever. – Left this one on the dining room table and told my daughter I thought she’d enjoy it, but she beat me to the punch — she said she used to read […]

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