Booklist Reviewers Turn a Phrase
"Fink deals with fearless honesty and shameless self-indulgence,
and she draws it all in a loose, exuberant style that gives a nice
counter-texture to the more serious, soul-searching moments
(not that she doesn't handle the poop jokes with aplomb, too)."
From the Editor
Kids, Read Your Comic Books!
Longtime readers know that I was once reluctant to ride on the graphic-novel bandwagon. I did read comics as a kid (mostly Tintin, with a healthy dose of Weird Western Tales), but I wasted decades of my adult life before returning to stories told panel by panel. In penance, I chronicled this journey the only way I knew how: in a comic strip.
As a parent, it's been fascinating to watch my kids' reading journey. Interestingly, they came at comics the same way I did: backward. My older son was already a strong chapter-book reader when he became fascinated with my single-volume edition of Bone. He devoured that and, when he wasn't rereading Harry Potter, moved on to Diary of a Wimpy Kid and its army of illustrated-novel imitators. My younger son loved reading but wasn't self-motivated—until I put comic books in his hands. Whether Mo and Jo: Fighting Together Forever, or Ghostopolis, or Pirate Penguin vs. Ninja Chicken, or Giants Beware!, he became an enthusiastic reader. Moreover, he began reading aloud, with feeling. More than once, we've found his older brother sitting raptly by his side, listening to his dramatic renditions. (And sometimes, desperate for quiet, we've asked him to please STOP reading aloud!)
Comic books have also encouraged them to write and draw. An innocent suggestion I made one day—"Why don't we write our own comic books?"—took hold, and soon, two bold new series were born: Pie Person Paradox Weird Stuff and The Adventures of Peanut Man. The former, scripted and inked by older son Felix, chronicles an endless pie fight between two mortal enemies, Gordon Lordon and Jonny Appleseed. The latter, by his little brother, Cosmo, tells tales of Peanut Man, with his mighty Nutella cape, facing down foes such as Strawberry Jam Man, Evil Jelly Man, and Muffin Man.
Like most kids, they don't like writing for school. They sometimes complain and procrastinate before composing even a single sentence—but not when they're making comic books. Their spelling may not be perfect, and the subject matter may be silly, but mastery is impossible when enthusiasm is absent. Though comics are just one part of a balanced reading diet, they're an essential supplement for my growing kids.
Spotlight on Graphic Novels
Top 10 Graphic Novels: 2013
By Ian Chipman
Talented newcomers and boundary-pushing veterans rub elbows on this list of the best graphic novels reviewed in Booklist from March 1, 2012, through February 15, 2013. Together, these books illustrate how varied the comics format can be, whether it's high-minded art-comix fare, mainstream heroics, or poignant memoirs.
Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong
By Prudence Shen and illustrated by Faith Erin Hicks
This story has everything: basketball, dastardly cheerleaders, a robot rumble, conniving geeks, a house party, family drama, student-council elections, and a tiny sliver of romance. Charlie, captain of the basketball team, and Nate, president of the Robotics Club, are neighbors and unlikely friends.
By Audrey Niffenegger
Following her eerie graphic novel The Night Bookmobile (2010), multitalented Niffenegger returns to the elegant mode of her novels in pictures (The Three Incestuous Sisters, 2005; The Adventuress, 2006) in this by turns brooding and radiant modern fairy tale.
Read-alikes: Physics in Comics
By Ian Chipman
As Einstein does in Steven T. Seagle and Teddy Kristiansen's Genius, the crew that exploded humanity's understanding of the universe have popped up in a crop of other graphic novels.
By Steven T. Seagle and illustrated by Teddy Kristiansen
The shadow of Albert Einstein looms large over quantum-physicist Ted Marx. As Ted approaches middle age, his output has stalled, and younger, hungrier minds nip at his heels. The director of his think tank sends down an ultimatum to come up with something big or he'll be put out to pasture.
Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth
By Ian Chipman
This year's list of best graphic novels for youth reviewed in Booklist during the past year is particularly diverse, ranging from history lessons to reinvented superheroes to a new look at an old favorite.
Benjamin Bear in Bright Ideas!
By Philippe Coudray
The clever bear and his assorted crew of animal pals from Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking (2011) return for another collection of single-page strips, each one a marvel of economy in setup, delivery, and payoff.
Hilda and the Bird Parade
by Luke Pearson
Pearson's British-import series starring a plucky, blue-haired heroine continues from the equally charming Hildafolk (2010) and Hilda and the Midnight Giant (2012). Hilda and her mom have moved from the countryside, where the little girl loved to explore all day long, to a small European city filled with winding streets, ancient statuary, and strange creatures inspired by Scandinavian legend.
The Andalucian Friend
By Alexander Soderberg
Get ready for another round of hype in which one more heavily promoted Scandinavian thriller will be touted as "the next Girl with the Dragon Tattoo." It's a shame, really, because this gripping crime novel, the first in a trilogy, deserves to stand completely on its own.
In the Body of the World
By Eve Ensler
After traveling to 60 countries and talking to women who "had experienced violence and suffering," internationally renowned writer and activist Ensler thought she had heard it all, but nothing prepared her for the brutality of the Congo.
The Last Train to Zona Verde: My Ultimate African Safari
By Paul Theroux
Having traveled overland from Cairo to Cape Town in Dark Star Safari (2003), Theroux intended, 10 years on, to resume the trip, this time heading north up the west side of Africa, avoiding the "safe and well-trodden routes."
By Harlan Coben
Coben, the first mystery writer to win all three of the big crime-fiction awards—the Shamus, the Edgar, and the Anthony—is an absolute master of the time element in his thrillers. Usually, he sets a clock running, or a bomb ticking, in the first few pages.
Books for Youth
By by Lemony Snicket and illustrated by Jon Klassen
What if the dark meant more than the absence of light? What if the dark were someone? Laszlo, dressed in blue footie jams, his hair precisely parted, is afraid of the dark. Mostly, the dark lives in the basement, but one night, when his night-light fails, it arrives in Laszlo's room.
By Holly Black and illustrated by Eliza Wheeler
A trio of adolescents goes on a quest to satisfy the demands of a ghost. Sounds like standard middle-grade fare, but in Black's absolutely assured hands, it is anything but.
House of Secrets
By Chris Columbus and Ned Vizzini, illustrated by Greg Call
When director Columbus and author Vizzini collaborate on a title, it's guaranteed to be cinematic and imaginative. The series opener introduces the bickering but affectionate Walker siblings: 15-year-old bookworm Cordelia, 12-year-old lacrosse player Brendan, and 8-year-old dyslexic Eleanor.
By Margaret Stohl
Stohl's dystopian California harbors a corrupt government, a teeming underclass who slave away in the Hole to serve that government, and the mysterious Icon children: individuals who survived a horrific alien attack on Earth that stopped all power sources and shut down cities all over the world.
Thursday, February 21, 2013 3:44 pm
Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalists
Posted by: Sarah Hunter
L.A. is where it isn't 10 degrees, right? In case you haven't guessed, we've passed the happily tramping-through-the-snow phase in Chicago's winter to the point where any place warmer than the temperature at which moisture from your breath freezes your scarf to your glasses starts to look mighty appealing.
Monday, February 25, 2013 8:00 am
Posted by: MaryKate Perry
From what I can see of the people like me, we get better but we never get well. —Paul Simon
Well, maybe; maybe not.
Friday, February 22, 2013 12:52 pm
For His Fans
Posted by: Mary Burkey
Scott Brick, narrator extraordinaire, shares a personal story that begins: Fact is, I have cancer. Read more about his inspirational journey to change the ending of his story on his blog, Scott Brick Presents.
Wednesday, February 20, 2013 11:49 am
Homer, by Elisha Cooper
Posted by: Cindy Dobrez and Lynn Rutan
Cindy: Let me start by assuring you that the dog who stars in Homer (2012) does not die. Homer is old, though, and his age shows as the day starts with Homer on the porch watching the busy activity of his family (including other more sprightly pups of various breeds).
Friday, February 22, 2013 8:00 am
Web Crush of the Week: Tor.com
Posted by: Karen Kleckner Keefe
Science fiction and fantasy publishing imprint Tor maintains a vibrant site that highlights not only their own work but also posts stories, news, and has a really great blog.
The Best Comics You Could Be Reading for Free Right Now
By Ian Chipman
Despite the digital angst consuming the world of publishing, comics haven't had much of a problem adapting to the online age. The ease with which creators can whip up a strip and deliver itdirectly to readers, or even tinker with story lines by incorporating immediate feedback from fans, has made for some smashing successes in the world of webcomics. The line between print and web gets blurrier by the day, but I thought I'd highlight a few favorites of mine that you can get in both book and byte form. Yes, just about every comic has some sort of online presence, so the rule—which I'm almost certain to break, because that's just how I roll—is that these all had to begin their existences as webcomics. I think I can live with that, but let's just see how it goes.