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.
I don’t read nearly as many graphic novels (or comic books, if you will) as I used to. To be honest, I often find myself a little intimidated about starting in on any long-running series – because I can easily get through three or four volumes on a regular day’s commute, I find it especially hard to manage reading comic series’ through the library, and since that’s where I get all of my reading material these days, it means i mostly stick to regular old prose. But, that’s not really a great excuse! The thing is, there’s plenty of great stand-alone graphic novels out there, and I have been remiss in dropping them off my reading repertoire.
So, anyway, as a reminder to myself to get back into the graphic novel-reading game, here’s a list (in no particular order) of some of my favourite stand-alone graphic novels:
Pride of Baghdad Brian K. Vaughan
Pride of Baghdad, by Brian K. Vaughan
Based on true events, this graphic novel follows the story of a pride of four lions that escaped from the Baghdad zoo following an American bombing raid. The lions ‘ newfound freedom is, inevitably, fraught with danger and new challenges that they can’t understand and were not prepared for.
To be honest Niko Henrichon’s artwork is more than enough reason to pick up the book, but I also found the story deeply affecting, as the lions leave behind the caged safety they’ve always known, instead choosing freedom, whatever the cost (and the cost is high). Continue reading