We have received a number of fantastic graphic novels and graphic memoirs for adults recently (March: Book One, with its sequel out in January 2015 and The Harlem Hellfighters among them). While I'm not really drawn to fantasy/science fiction graphic novels, I love realistic fiction graphic novels (like Raina Telgemeier's YA/middle grade graphic novels) and graphic memoirs such as those written by Lucy Knisley. Her latest, An Age of License, follows Lucy as she travels around Europe while attending a Norwegian comic book convention. Although not as food-oriented as Relish, Knisley's reflections and drawings of the culinary delights she experienced during her travels will satisfy her gourmand readers. Knisley also explores the uncertainties that are inevitable for twenty-somethings: relationships, career issues, etc. Relationships always play a key part in her memoirs: her relationship with her mother is key in both French Milk and Relish, while the effects of a long-term relationship breakup and an impromptu European romance take center stage in An Age of License (her struggles as a young cartoonist is also paramount to the story). If you're a fan, you'll be happy to know that she is working on two new graphic memoirs: one (to be released in early 2015) will focus on taking a cruise with her grandparents, and the second will be centered on preparations for her wedding (2016).
Could Brown Girl Dreaming finally win Jacqueline Woodson the Newbery? (She's received the Honor citation three times: After Tupac and D Foster in 2009, Feathers in 2008, and Show Way in 2006--one of the few picture books in the Newbery canon). Brown Girl Dreaming has received a staggering number of six starred reviews and is on the longlist for the National Book Award. This memoir in verse tells of Woodson's childhood experience living in Ohio, South Carolina, and New York during the Civil Rights era. Moving to her grandparents' South Carolina was a culture shock: not only did Jacqueline have to experience the tragic situation of Jim Crow laws, but she also had to adjust to her southern relatives' accents and become a Jehovah Witness. Just as soon as she had found life in her new neighborhood and family comforting refuges from the evils of segregation, her mother (in tow with a new baby brother) returns from New York and brings the children to the busy and unfamiliar inner city. At the heart of the story are the family and friends connections made (and made difficult by) while dealing with the uncertainty of never feeling like you belong in one place. This is outstanding storytelling about the importance of roots, family, and self-worth. Definitely on my list for Newbery potentials.
Comics Squad: Recess is a fun and wacky tribute to recess from authors that both young readers, parents, teachers, and critics love. That's not an easy feat, let me tell you! Popular characters in children's graphic novels, such as Babymouse and Lunch Lady, make appearances, as do characters created specifically for this edition. This is quality pleasure reading: pure fun.
The followup to Kirby Larson's Duke once again features a child and dog during war time; in Dash, the separation occurs because Mitsi is forced to relocate to a Japanese internment camp after Pearl Harbor is bombed, leaving behind her beloved dog, Dash. The prejudice and hostility toward Japanese-Americans immediately after the United States enters the war leads to confusion and chaos even before her family is removed; once at the camp, the living conditions, sickness, and boredom cause even more troubles, even though new friendships and community connections are made. This shameful event in American history is depicted in an honest and gripping story; the dignity of the Japanese-Americans at the internment camps, the latent racism that lead to the camps, and the Caucasians who tried to help their Japanese-American friends during this trial make for a memorable read.
Edith and Woodrow: The Wilson White House focuses on one of the most shocking aspects of American presidential history: that Woodrow Wilson was so incapacitated by his stroke that his wife essentially acted as president for the remaining term (and attempted to get Wilson a third term). Edith Woodrow's over involvement with her husband's presidency was whispered about even during his term, but the revelation of papers written by Wilson's physician, Dr. Cary Grayson, showed the full and irreversible nature of his illness. (Local history connection: The papers were released by Grayson's sons, who lived in Upperville.) Although detailed to the point of exhaustion at times, this is a remarkable biography.
Put away your expectations about children's books written by celebrities when you see Gus & Me: The Story of My Grandad and My First Guitar. Or an expectation about a children's book written by Keith Richards. Richards and his jazz/big band musician grandfather (everyone called him Gus) were very close; Gus promised him that he would buy him a guitar and teach him how to play when he was old enough. This is a sweet and charming tribute to a beloved grandparent and the importance of mentoring. Theodora Richards (Richards's daughter) has created poignant illustrations of her father, grandfather, and London. A CD of Richards reading the book is included. Everything about this book is lovingly created for young readers, including Richards's simple author biography (Keith later began playing in a band with a group of friends, including Mick Jagger. They called themselves the Rolling Stones.) and a very brief explanation of how Theodora (named after Gus, whose formal name was Theodore) researched postwar London and traveled to London for inspiration show how carefully her drawings were created. Too often, a grandparent only appears in a children's picture book in order to explain death; this is a welcome addition to books about involved and loving grandparents who aren't in the final stages of life (or have Alzheimer's).
From time to time, I am asked to recommend books about Holocaust for children too young for books like The Diary of a Young Girl or Yellow Star. This is, as you can imagine, rather difficult to do. Hidden: A Child's Story of the Holocaust will definitely be one that I recommend. This graphic novel opens with a grandmother telling her granddaughter of how she was hidden by French neighbors and friends after her parents were taken to concentration camps. The enduring sorrow felt by Dounia is evident as she tells her life story--one that she has never fully told her to her son--is powerfully drawn and depicted. This is a remarkable addition to Holocaust literature for children.
When I read reviews that criticized How Star Wars Conquered the Universe for overstuffing the account with too many details, I thought that it would be impossible for me to think that the first history of the Star Wars phenomenon had too many details. After all, I've been a Star Wars fan since I was a kid! Well...as readers will learn, there's nothing that Star Wars fanatics love more than tearing apart anything related to Star Wars. Chris Taylor's analysis of the first Star Wars movie (note: NOT The Phantom Menace) is great reading; chapters about the screening of Star Wars dubbed in Navajo and a visit with the # 1 Star Wars memorabilia collector are worthy reads as well. I browsed chapters and read portions that struck me; when other patrons have had a chance to read it, I'll check it out and read the rest.
This is the first year that I've kept a running tally of my reading (I don't review every book that I read). I'll do a wrap up near the end of the year and reveal the numbers (I'm pretty pleased with the numbers, but I need to do some catching up in YA and I'd like to add a few more titles to the adult fiction section.). There's still a LOT left on my to-be-read list that I haven't read. There are exactly 100 days left until the Newbery, Caldecott, Printz, and other ALA Youth Media Awards are announced! I'm keeping a tally of my picks; you can find them on the right hand side of the blog.
This month's post on the ALSC blog is about forthcoming holiday books.
Jennifer Schultz, Youth Services Librarian, Fauquier County Public Library