Review: As the Crow Flies
Summer vacation. I spent years in summer camp… most of them were spent crying and counting down the days until it was time to go home. The only year of summer camp that I really enjoyed was the year I was a “pioneer.” The program was centered on the rustic outdoor experience; hiking, canoeing, and the like. But we did have a bunkhouse and most nights were spent indoors. Even if we did have to trek a half mile to use the bathroom. Which thankfully had stalls and running water.
As the Crow Flies
By Melanie Gillman.
Iron Circus Comics. 2017. ISBN 9781945820069
PBK, $30. 272pp.
Grades 7 and up
Charlie didn’t have a bathroom, because her week-long stay in an all-white Christian camp is spent recreating the journey of a group of women, who long ago set out to escape the confines of a male dominated world, by trekking up to a mountain for a religious ritualistic experience. But Charlie is uncomfortable with some of the comments and the lack of diversity in the group, especially with regard to how the group leader speaks. Charlie is having difficulty finding her place, though she finds a sympathetic companion in one of the girls who is exploring her own gender role.
Gillman does a great job of depicting Charlie’s misfit feelings. Readers will find Charlie shy and uncomfortable—not so much in herself but her experience. She feels out of place, but not in the typical teenage angsty out of place, but rather in her sense of self and race.
While the story is centered on Charlie and her innermost feelings, the story’s art centers on the nature that surrounds her. The two complement each other to give a full story. The beautiful and meandering natural scenes with earthy color tones give the story an inner peace that readers know must be coming. The story doesn’t quite resolve—not everyone makes nice and sees the errors of their ways, and the group doesn’t suddenly become diverse—but it’s Charlie’s resolution of her own acceptance and sense of self that makes the story work.
This might not fly off the shelves, but let it find a quiet corner. It will resonate with many readers.
About Esther Keller
Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. She also curates the Graphic Novel collection for the NYC DOE Citywide Digital Library. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 4 and regularly reviews for SLJ and School Library Connection (formerly LMC). In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.
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