Just Another Reason Why Wells are Creepy


In celebration of purchasing an air conditioner after a brutal day of 105° heat I picked up some books and laid in bed and read.  All day.  It was magical.

I tore myself away from Game of Thrones (if you have read these books you understand the magnitude of that statement) and grabbed the YA graphic novel Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol.

Anya’s voice is strong and easily relatable.  As a Russian immigrant, her story of exclusion, awkwardness, and self deprecation can be applied to any kid who has ever felt like an outcast or just not cool enough.  And when she befriends a
ghost at the bottom of a well who is willing to support her, those same kids can relate to her enthusiasm for that support.  But this story wouldn’t be any fun if all was hunky-dory after that, now would it?

Brosgol’s choice of moody purples that soak each panel is a perfect reflection of Anya’s emotions and creates a not-terrifying-but-still-creepy ghost story setting and, later, a down-right-terrifying ghost story setting.  Way to be multifaceted, purple.

I also appreciate how Brosgol dynamically overlaps images and text that are easy to follow despite the absence of cell lines.  When this happens you can’t help but stop and really feel the moment.

Like this image that I ruined by using my zero photography skills.

Oh, and take some time to look at the cover art of this book.  It is really smart and I don’t want to give away too much but think about what it means to you before you open the book, finish it, and then take a look back.  For me, the image transforms and that transformation is exactly what happens within the text.  It is so smart and it just keeps pulling me into the book over and over again in search of new things.


Wanna see more?  Check out this 17 page preview at First Second!

Published in: on July 25, 2011 at 11:15 pm  Leave a Comment  

Water, Please.

Boston has been down right hot.  As a southern gal, I pretty much eat this up.  I brew slightly sweet black tea with lemon slices and head outside.  It has gotten to the point where back deck reading doubles as sun tanning because bathing suits are the only way to remotely feel comfortable.  See, nerds can be tan too.

Appropriately, on an afternoon that peaked to a toasty 93 degrees I read Matt Phelan’s The Storm in the Barn which is set in the dusty, hot, draught of Kansas during the Dust Bowl years.  Main character, Jack, longs to please his father who is struggling to overcome the demise of his farm.   Mixing the folklore of the Jack tales and a snapshot of American history, Phelan puts together a piece that in itself is engaging, but also creates an interest in other genres.  I mean, I spent a whole hour on the Internet exploring the Dust Bowl phenomena and I only stopped because it was getting dark outside, for goodness sake.

Important to note is that there are a lot of gorgeous details about the art and construction of The Storm and the Barn.  Typical of Candlewick publishers, this is a beautifully put together book and the illustrations have a soft, airy movement to them that I have come to associate with Phelan’s work (HERE is a great interview with him, full of his sketches and other works).  The creams, beiges, and browns make you yearn for tall glasses of water and the soft relief of shade.  When you finally rest your eyes on the soft blue haven of the barn that holds the secret to the town’s misfortunes you physically feel a release.

For a reader who learns fast, who can pick up the ‘reading’ of graphics quickly, this is a great book. The text is sparse and heavily relies on the images to tell the story.  The book eases you into the understanding of how comics work, how images story tell, and then works its way to a more artistic structure.  Unfortunately, I do think some of Phelan’s sequences are difficult to read.  In most instances, Phelan’s technique makes really strong, memorable moments, but in others, the images are choppy and harder to decipher.  I mention this because graphic novels can be hard to read for young readers who have no experience in the genre and I find that this book may be frustrating at times, particularly since the confusion happens in pivotal moments.  I, for one, think it is worth it because you get beautiful moments like this.

Published in: on July 1, 2010 at 9:45 pm  Leave a Comment  

How Shakespeare Got Cool

OK, look.  Shakespeare did some good stuff.  But golly dolly I did not give a flying flip about his dramatic irony and jester jokes in highschool.  And, honestly, as an adult I wish he would have stopped recycling characters, plots, and jokes but that is beside the point.  Alas, what is the point?  Imagine…this cover on the book shelves

Those eyes tear me up every time.  What word is there other than tragic to describe Gareth Hind’s illustrations.  Hinds has taken Shakespeare’s King Lear and whittled down the text to a clear, yet authentic, telling of the play and presented it as a graphic novel.  His characters freely move about the page mimicking the space of a theatre and sometimes there are even dotted stage directions that imply the character’s past steps.  Right now you should be thinking ‘what a genius!’  Like any graphic novel the smallest details have their own story to tell and Hind’s work is no different.  Pay attention to color, when borders do make an appearance, and alterations in style.

I have been a fan of Hind’s work since Beowulf and this did not disappoint.  I enjoyed the play through a new set of eyes where Shakespeare’s world is uniquely envisioned and viscerally moving and I never thought that would be something I would say.  If I ran into the 15 year old Kristin on the street I would hand her my grass stained copy of this book, tell her to stop being so surly (including about Mr. Shakespeare), and to throw away every pair of stretchy pants she owns.

Published in: on April 26, 2010 at 2:53 am  Leave a Comment  

Good Job, Mr. Smalls.

My library finally e-mailed me the news that David Small’s Stitches was nestled on a shelf with my name neatly tucked into its pages.  About freakin time.

As always, I did the responsible thing and disregarded the 25 book reading list for my upcoming class, scrunched into bed, and opened up Stitches to its dramatic, ink soaked first page.

Now lets face it.  I expected it to be a beautiful book.  Small has more than proved his artistic brilliance.  Stitches’ lively and sometimes terrifying images stay with you long after the book has been closed but geez how many more articles can we read about that.

“But, Kristin”, you say, “didn’t you just claim in that previous dull post that you are interested in children’s books?!” And, alas, dear fictitious reader, you are correct.  While Stitches is published by the adult W.W. Norton & Co and you will most likely find it in your library’s adult Nonfiction (possibly their Graphic Novel section if they are hip and with it), this book has YA written all over it.  Apparently I am not the only genius throwing around this idea since the ALA’s Alex Awards recognized it as an adult book with YA appeal, but I was still rather flabbergasted when my local librarian gawfawed at me when I suggested its potential as a YA book.

No one is going around saying that Stitches is a roaring good time.  Yet young readers eat dismal stories for breakfast.  They love that stuff.  Small’s moments of childhood frustration, neglect, and fearfulness hit home with young readers and are similar to emotions seen in YA realism.  For librarians, Stitches arises the issue of how much do we restrict the subject matter of books that we hand to young readers?  Is it irresponsible to give a 14 year old a book that question’s adult voices and shows blurry images of nudity or is it even more irresponsible to limit their view of these truths of our world?  I’m in the mindset that it is pretty naïve of an adult to think that teenagers have not already discovered these things on their own and if they already know the world why not give them books that are amazing.  Ones that potentially aid in their negotiation with this ugly beautiful world.

My biggest hope is that some nerdy kid will be pursuing the super hip library’s Graphic Novel section and pick it up.  In the least, they will leave the book stoked that their grandmother is not trying to set ablaze dear old grandpa.  That’s an uplifting thought.

Published in: on January 24, 2010 at 8:27 pm  Leave a Comment