The Reading Pile – January 3
The holiday weekend is busy for some of us but allowed others some extra time for reading comics. Here’s a quick look at the books we’re reading this week; feel free to tell us what you have been reading in the comments section.
Snow Wildsmith: In the car on the way to and from Georgia for the Christmas weekend, I finally got the chance to read some comics for fun. I finally got a chance to pick up the fantabulous Hereville and found out that it completely deserves all the praise it’s been receiving. The art was amazing and I love the new and unique was Barry Deutsch uses panels. In one point, when Mirka is amazed at something she sees, the panel becomes a large exclamation point. Simply beautiful! The story is also very well conceived. A terrific blend of traditional folktale/fairy tale elements, Orthodox Jewish traditions, and gorgeous art.
I also read the graphic novel adaptation of The Amulet of Samarkand, the first book in Jonathan Stroud’s Bartimaeus Trilogy. I could not get through the novel—either reading it or listening to it—but I did manage to finish the graphic novel. I still didn’t love the book and that’s mainly because I couldn’t stand either of the main characters. I know Bartimaeus, the dijinn, is supposed to have ambiguous morals, but Nathaniel, the boy, was too whiny and annoying for me to enjoy the story. The art for the adaptation was strong, though. The graphic novel is voice-over heavy, but I’m not sure that I can see a way around that since the source material is rather voice-over heavy. But Lee Sullivan’s art is eye-catching and moves the story along quickly, which is good.
And, finally, I re-read the Bone series by Jeff Smith, in preparation for a review here at GCFK of some companion books. Re-reading the series only reminded me again of what a masterful piece of work it is. A truly great adventure/fantasy read for a wide range of ages.
Kate Dacey: I also took advantage of the holiday to read some manga. I got an iPad for Christmas (thanks, Santa!), so my first purchase was from the VIZ Media store. Though I’ve read bits and pieces of Akira Toriyama’s Dragon Ball, I’d never read the entire series. I bought the first volume and was pleasantly surprised by the reading experience: the images were crisp, the user interface was intuitive, and the manga looked great in both portrait and landscape view. Revisiting Dragon Ball, it’s easy to see why it’s the manga concerned parents love to hate. There’s a lot of “I saw you naked!” humor that an adult might interpret risque, plus an abundance of flatulence jokes and incidental nudity. It’s a shame that Dragon Ball has such a bad reputation; if I were a pre-teen, I would have enjoyed it enormously, as it’s goofy and rude in a way that appeals to young readers.
Off-line, I’ve been reading The Secret Notes of Lady Kanako (Tokyopop), a fun comedy about a teenager who fills her journal with detailed, often unflattering, observations about her classmates. Harriet the Spy made a huge impression on me when I was a kid, so it’s only natural that Kanako would appeal to me. What surprised me is how well the concept works inside a Japanese high school. Kanako is a genuinely subversive character, threatening to upset the social order by refusing to join her peer group and refusing to be polite. She’s snarky and aloof, just like Harriet, though her observations tend to be more accurate than Harriet’s, since Kanako is spying primarily on other teenagers, not adults. It’s too bad Tokyopop released it so late in the year; I’m worried it may not get the attention it deserves, as it was released in that no-man’s-land between Christmas and New Year’s.
Scott Robins: Over the New Year`s weekend I had a chance to read Two Generals by Scott Chantler. Clearly a work that`s both ambitious and personal, this book is a memoir of Chantler`s grandfather and his experiences overseas during World War II. Although it sometimes falls into the memoir trap of “and then this happens … and then this happens,” Chantler honors his grandfather with an honest story of a Canadian everyman who goes off to war. I can definitely see uses for this book in high school curriculum to get reluctant readers interested in history. The book is also a gorgeous package with a red faux-leather embossed cover and elastic closure to have the book resemble a diary or logbook.
Mike Pawuk: I’ve been reading a bit this week. My first title I read was the first volume in The Unsinkable Walker Bean, published by First Second. Written and illustrated by Aaron Renier, it’s a pleasant tribute to one of my favorite French storytellers, Jules Verne. The story surrounds a young boy’s opening journey on the high seas to save the life of his grandfather from a mysterious illness and a stolen skull-shaped artifact that may hold the key to a lost civilization as well as mysterious monsters that live under the sea. Great stuff and I can’t wait to read the 2nd volume.
I’m also reading 7 Billion Needles by Nobuaki Tadano and published by Vertical, Inc, which is loosely inspired by the novel Needle, by Golden-Age hard sci-fi author Hal Clement. It’s the story of reclusive girl who becomes embroiled in a battle for the fate of the planet when her body (after briefly dying) is co-inhabited with an alien life-form that is out to destroy an evil form known as the Maelstrom—a deadly force that was once reputed to destroy the dinosaurs ages ago.
I also really enjoyed Maoh: Juvenile Remix by Megumi Osuga from VIZ Media. It’s based off a prose story by Kotaro Isaka. It centers around an 11th grader named Ando in the city of Nekota, a town which is on the verge of being modernized to create a better future for the people there. Ando has a unique gift: he can make people say what he wants them to say by just thinking about it. A true ventriloquist. When there arises in the city a young man who has forsaken the modernization of the city and has vowed first to clean up the violence in the city and in schools with the assistance of his group of follows called the Grasshopppers, Ando discovers that their methods of keeping the peace may be worse than the peace the Grasshoppers are promoting. Will he have the courage to stand up for what’s right?
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About Brigid Alverson
Brigid Alverson, the editor of the Good Comics for Kids blog, has been reading comics since she was 4. She has an MFA in printmaking and has worked as a book editor, a newspaper reporter, and assistant to the mayor of a small city. In addition to editing GC4K, she is a regular columnist for SLJ, a contributing editor at ICv2, an editor at Smash Pages, and a writer for Publishers Weekly. Brigid is married to a physicist and has two daughters. She was a judge for the 2012 Eisner Awards.
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