Bone: The Series by Jeff Smith
Scholastic, New York, 2007-2009
Borrowed from the library.
For the past couple of years many older elementary students I know have told me “YOU HAVE TO READ BONE!” I had no idea what they were talking about until I stumbled upon Rose: A Bone Prequel.
Bone is a wonder. Full of characters with big noses, dragons, evil rat creatures, an undiscovered princess and a cranky old women, it is a series of stories filled with mystery, adventure and some terrifying battles. Mostly it is about loyalty, friendship and following through on your promises. There is now a master volume, some 1300 or so pages, but I found reading the books from Volume 1 to 9 to be just perfect.
I love Smith’s artwork, an interesting mix of detail and simplicity, the three comic Bone cousins running about in beautifully drawn and colored forest landscapes and village marketplaces.
There is a Boneville website and an school library controversy. In Minnesota a parent attempted to have the series banned from all the elementary schools in their child’s district. A review committee has heard both sides of the case and voted 10 to 1 against the ban. To quote Melinda Martin, a media specialist from the school district:
“It’s important to understand selection from censorship,” she said. “I respect her right to object to the series, but not for her to censor it for the rest. I feel you would be doing a disservice to our district if you remove this book from our elementary schools.”
It is heartening to find a review committee with such sensibility!
Rose: A Bone Prequel by Jeff Smith and Charles Vess
Scholastic, New York, 2009
This is a prequel to the Bone saga and my introduction to Jeff’ Smith’s series. Princess Rose and Princess Briar are in training to control their “dreaming”. Through an accident an evil dragon has entering their valley and is harming its inhabitants. Who can fight this monster and who controls it?
This is a fun read for middle grade readers. Smith’s story is dramatic, with a light touch of romance, and Vess uses his skills in an Art Nouveau style that is beautifully colored. Due to the size and format of the panels Vess uses clarity and restraint I had not seen in his work before, and uses it to great effect. I enjoyed this and would recommend it to readers new to graphic novels. Now I have to read all of Bone!
Have you read and review this book? Leave me a link so I can add it to my review.
French Milkby Lucy Knisley
Touchstone Books, New York, 2007
A delightful graphic travelogue/memoir containing cartoons, sketches and photographs. It describes Lucy Knisley and her Mom’s month-long visit to Paris in January of 2007.
As you might expect lots of pages are taken up with restaurants and food but there are also lovely street scenes, images from museums, memories of shopping and times when Knisley questions everything she is doing and worried about her future.
Knisley draws with grace and clarity, in simple pen and ink. You can see the influences she most favors, The Adventures of Tin Tin by Herge, American cartoons and old style advertising. The drawings blend well with the photos and it is fun to see Knisley and her Mom juxtaposed with sketches of shops and plates of oysters! I loved this little gem and recommend for people new to the graphic genre.
Lucy Knisley has a website featuring her work. Thanks to Nymeth for introducing me to this artist.
Beth Fish Reads
Pop Culture Junkie
A.D. New Orleans After The Deluge by Josh Neufeld
Pantheon Books, New York, 2009
A harrowing depiction of what it was like to live through the destruction of Hurricane Katrina and the aftermath of that devastating event. Neufeld focuses on six very different people and their experiences before, during and after the storm.
Shortly after the hurricane Neufeld spent time as a volunteer with the Red Cross in Biloxi, Mississippi. The blog entries he kept about that experience turned into a self-published book, which then morphed into A.D. The non-fiction graphic depiction was originally serialized on Smith and then published as a book earlier this year.
I would suggest that anyone who enjoys this book find and watch When the Levees Broke, a HBO documentary film made by Spike Lee. It will blow you away.
Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry
Metropolitan Books, New York, 2008
A graphic novel that is rich and dark like the finest chocolate.
A story starring the sad-faced detective Fernandez Britten as the “The Heartbreaker”, a dectective famed for finding out what you didn’t really want to know about those you love. Britten and his diminutive partner, Brulightly, take on the mysterious death of Bernie Kudos.
Is his death a suicide or a murder? The lovely Charlotte Maughton wants to find out the truth. As Britten digs deeper he uncovers blackmail and revenge and the startling possibility that to do the right thing one may need to be remain silent.
Beautifully drawn, with subtle washes of color, this book is a stunning first effort. I want to see more from Hannah Berry.
If you have reviewed this graphic novel please leave a comment so I can link to your review.
Robot Dreams by Sara Varon
First Second, New York & London, 2007
Another wonderful book published by First Second, this wordless graphic novel is all about friendship, loss and redemption. Robot Dreams is beautifully colored in soft muted tones.
We follow this story through a year, watching the seasons change month to month. The story starts with Dog putting together a “build it yourself” robot. They watch movies, eat popcorn and spend time together. Due to a foolish mistake they become separated. We follow both their thoughts and dreams through the round of the year and finally to a bittersweet resolution. This is a lovely tale.
The Color of Earth by Kim Dong Hwa
Translated from the Korean by Lauren Na
First Second, New York & London 2009
What a wonderful graphic novel! Again, First Second has published art in book form. The first of three in a series, I may just have to break my no-new-books vow and get the whole set.
The Color of Earth tells of the daily lives and the world of two generations of Korean women. Sometime in the past, in a quiet rural village of Namwon, Ehwa lives with her mother, a widowed tavern keeper. They are best friends and tell each other many secrets. The story is filled with flowers and rain. In beautiful black and white drawings and poetic language we watch Ehwa growing up. As each spring passes she learns about her changing body and begins to learn about life. As Ehwa grows, her mother, left alone at young age, rediscovers love.
The artist, Kim Dong Hwa is famous in Korean for creating sunjung, comics for young girls, known as shojo in Japan. The Color of Earth is something completely new, a sunjung style manhwa (manga in Japan), enjoying great success with an adult audience, both men and women. It is a beautiful book that tells a wonderful story. I can not wait to read the next part, The Color of Water.
White Rapids by Pascal Blanchet
translated by Helge Dascher
Drawn & Quarterly,
Montreal, Quebec, Canada
White Rapids is graphic novel that tells the story of the tiny, company-built town of Rapide Blanc. Conceived and designed in 1928 by the Shawinigan Water & Power Company, who were building a hydro power dam in the far northern woods of Quebec, the town attracted engineers and workers needed to run the power station. Accessible only by railroad, it was a self-contained community, with churches, a school, a co-op and all kinds of modern amenities. Blanchet’s retro-inspired art work, inked in browns and oranges, captures the feeling of the time, the belief that anything was possible with science and technology.
Blanchet tells the story clearly, with few words. It is a testament to the time and the the people who built and lived in Rapide Blanc. It is lovingly dedicated to his father. I really enjoyed this book and think would be a perfect introduction to the graphic novel genre.
Burma Chronicles by Guy DeLisle
Drawn and Quarterly, Montreal, Quebec,2008
This wonderful graphic travelogue tells the story of Delisle’s trip to Burma, also know as Myanmar. Delisle’s wife works for Medecins Sans Frontieres ( Doctors Without Borders) and she, Delisle and their son, Louis, are stationed in Burma for a year.
DeLisle uses simple black, white and gray scale drawings to tell a whimsical tale that includes some cultural and political insight into this beautiful, troubled country. He shares his time with Louis’s playgroup and his experiences teaching an animation class. There are also stories of his travels into the countryside with the MSF team. I loved the simple storytelling style and the clear, clean images.
This is DeLisle’s third book after Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China and Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. I intend to read both of them as soon as I can get them from my library!
Slow Storm by Danica Novgorodoff
First Second, New York & London 2008
A beautifully illustrated story of two young people, a illegal immigrant from Mexico and a women bullied and harassed by her brother and co-workers. Through a series of incidents they meet and spend time together.
The storm, a mix of thunder, lightening and tornadoes, brews around them and in them. The landscape, the people and animals are rendered in stunning ink and water color .
There is not much dialogue, it is not needed. Novgorodoff uses her art to tell this story, and I loved it. It is sad, kind and compassionate. Another fine title from First Second.