Can you feel it? There’s a crispness in the air, beckoning you to curl up on the couch with a mug of hot apple cider, or maybe a PSL. Hot Girl Summer is officially behind us, and now it’s time for Cozy Girl (or Boy, or Person) Autumn. Hygge nights, the sweet scent of rotting leaves, Halloween candy at every turn…..if anyone tries to tell you fall isn’t the best season, they’re lying. In between reading spooky stories, planning my Halloween costume, and buying far too many decorative gourds, I picked up a copy of Pumpkinheads by the prolific Rainbow Rowell (her latest book, Wayward Son, came out just few weeks ago), and if you for some reason still need some autumn inspo to really get into the season, this young adult graphic novel should hit the spot.
Set in the span of a single night, Pumpkinheads is a short and sweet story about two high school seniors Deja and Josiah, who reunite every fall at the local pumpkin patch where they’ve worked for the past four years. This pumpkin patch, enthusiastically named DeKnock’s World Famous Pumpkin Patch and Autumn Jamboree, claims to be “the best pumpkin patch in the whole wide world”—a bold claim and, if the artwork is anything to judge by, an accurate one. This night (Halloween) is Deja and Josiah’s last night at the pumpkin patch ever; they’ll be off to college next year. So, determined to live their final day to the fullest, Deja decides it’s time for Josiah to do what he’s been putting off for four years: confess his massive crush to the mysterious “Fudge Girl” girl who works at the Fudge Shoppe across the way. This sudden urge sparks a series of misadventures as, unable to find Fudge Girl, Deja drags the shy Josiah all through the pumpkin patch, past the smores pit and candy apple stand, through the corn maze and the hay ride.
I know it was a couple months ago now, but did anyone else get the chance to go to TCAF earlier this year? I always want to buy ALL THE BOOKS, but physical limitations (e.g. do I have any more space on my bookshelf? No, no I don’t.) and financial ones (i.e. how much can I buy) coupled with moral ones (e.g. how much should I buy) always get in the way.
One of the graphic novels I had wanted to take a closer look at, but didn’t since I already nabbed a couple other titles, was Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki (co-author of This One Summer, which is on our Adult Summer Reads: Nostalgia list), illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell. I follow Valero-O’Connell on Twitter (@hirosemaryhello), so it had been on my radar right from the start. Even with the positive bias in mind, this one sucked me in right away with the composition, the reduced colour palette*, EVERYTHING. Its cast included a wide variety of LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC characters as well, which I appreciated (the protagonist, Freddy, and her on-again-off-again girlfriend Laura Dean are just one of the many non-heteronormative relationships in this graphic novel). When I take a step back and think about this particular aspect of it, the openness of the characters and their relationships in their high school environment, it gives me a bit of pause and I can’t help but think this must all be taking place in an alternate reality where there is no longer any discrimination against LGBTQIA+ and BIPOC people. Seeing a portrayal of a world in which this is the case, but is still based on historical events rooted in reality, was both life-affirming and a bit crushing (because we’re not quite there yet, with some work yet to be done).
I don’t usually read graphic novels, junior graphics even less frequently, but this, I think, is one of those that transcends any attempt to pigeonhole it into a specific age category (see Maurice Sendak on the subject). The only reason I stumbled upon this gem was because I absolutely adore Isabelle Arsenault’s illustrations, which led me to do a search to sate my need for more Arsenault in my life.
Jane, the Fox & Me takes you through the life of a girl being ostracized from her class- and schoolmates, told in quiet, black-brown & white illustrations – the blacks not quite black and, in not being starkly contrasted with the white, soft – with sudden pops of colour that introduce the protagonist’s, Hélène’s, inner world and imagination. The use of colour plunging the reader into the world of Hélène was a lovely touch, the illustrations of Jane Eyre appearing in full colour, seeping out into Hélène’s dull reality through the fox (then again, perhaps not – who knows where the fox existed, in truth?) before she is able to see the world as she saw her escapes from reality before.