Hot Off the Press!
Highlights from the past week, with commentary from the NFNT gang.
New ih Kids
Graphic Biography: Steve Jobs and Steve Jobs: Genius by Design
Jane, the fox & me
Illustrator Isabelle Arsenault recently won the illustrious Canadian Governor’s General Award for her illustrations for the original French publication of this title. Set in Quebec of the mid 1970s, with Fanny Britt’s exceptional text superbly translated into English by Christelle Morelli and Susan Ourliou, the book is a definite winner in all aspects. It is a thing of beauty with evocative black illustrations on mostly grey toned pages punctuated with the infrequent inclusion of colour that blooms gloriously to a satisfying conclusion. It is ironic, perhaps, that the beauty is wrapped around the very heavy theme of bullying and body image among teenage girls. Hélène has not always been ostracised, but now the loneliness, the hurtful actions of former friends, and her negative self-image is only managed through her absorption into books, currently Jane Eyre. Hélène’s interpretation of the novel is highly reflective of her own voice and thoughts as an individual, highlighted by those infrequent bursts of colour mentioned previously with the full page panel spreads cloaked in soft pastels and introspection. Her focus on Jane’s slenderness and wisdom is offset by Hélène’s respect for her own family and her mother’s unconditional support, although she is not aware of the bullying that her daughter is experiencing. Everything is magnified when the entire class is treated to a nature camping adventure. Hélène needs a new bathing suit which makes her look, in her own eyes, like a sausage. She ends up being in the outcast tent at the camp, silently ignoring everyone else as they ignore her until the appearance of a fox changes everything. “With the fox out front, the outcasts’ tent is transformed into a tent of miracles” (79). The expressive and allusive fox is portrayed in full colour and represents, ultimately, hope, friendship and contentment. Hélène is illustrated with an average build that is disconcerting when contrasted with the negative jibes against her and her acceptance of their truth. She is an appealing character who needs to be coddled and cuddled instead of having to face the attacks on her own. Her resolve, bolstered with her identification with the Jane of her reading, if not necessarily of the original novel, is courageous and engaging. Her quirky character is vividly expressed through the facial expressions, body language, and colour of the illustrations, while her voice is equally lucidly articulated through the hand-lettered font and exquisite translation from the French text. The universality and timelessness of the story is balanced with references to streets and other markers of the city of Montreal and the record player and recordings of several decades past. The historical aspect of the tale, accompanied by the large picture book format of the graphic novel, aids in anchoring the age-old problems of the past securely in the present. Cruelty of classmates, negative body images, lack of friendships, and feelings of powerlessness and inevitability flourished before, are with us still, and quite possibly will be in the future. Recognizing the power of literature, friendship, and self-awareness triumphs and trumps this negativity and is the essence of the gift of this engaging graphic novel. Jane, the fox & me by Fanny Britt Art by Isabelle Arsenault ISBN: 9781554983605 Groundwood, 2013 Publisher Age Rating: 10-16
Classic Fantastic: Vagabond
Classic Fantastic is our series of features on the classics of the format — please check out our other picks for the most important titles, in terms of appeal, innovation, and storytelling, that every library should own.
Tina has a slight problem. While she enjoys fooling around with her occasional boyfriend, James, whenever he arrives home from school, she discovers she is more drawn to her guitar teacher Evan. To complicate things, Evan seems to feel the same way back, despite his own attachment to a girlfriend, conveniently (or not so) in Germany for a few weeks. Tina's friends, if you can call them that, do little to help her figure out her situation, and instead gossip behind her back about her issues and berate her for indecision. Welcome to the story of a girl, as the back of the book announces. Hailed as a teen Sex and the City, Leela Corman's odyssey is a mellow and truthful look at the awkward entanglements, confusing feelings, and sense of obligation that often make up relationships. The sex here is fairly graphic, but far from sensational, and the simple art, all sharp shadows and strong lines, creates just enough of a picture to get the scene across. The chain of events Tina journeys through is vital to getting across the pressures girls feel externally as well as put upon themselves. Silence is almost a character in the book -- we aren't privy to Tina's thoughts, and a great deal of the story follows her in contemplation through the streets and subways of New York. This is the kind of story that feels especially true -- even if you don't live in such a city, or tackle relationships the same way, you can relate to the often painful back and forth of trying to figure out your own head. Subway Series ISBN: 9781891867149 by Leela Corman Alternative Comics 2002
Shut Up, Stop Whining and Get a Life: A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life
Shut Up, Stop Whining and Get a Life is a comic adaptation of the motivational book of the same name by life coach Larry Winget. It’s frank and doesn’t cut corners when giving advice. The advice it gives is logical, practical, and explained clearly, so understanding what he’s saying isn’t hard. The book isn’t preachy and doesn’t look down on the reader, instead giving blunt advice that can be followed with the right investment of effort. The art is blocky, has lots of solid lines, and there’s not much shading in characters. These qualities help give it a more fun feel. Even though you might not think that kind of art a good thing for a book that’s supposed to help you be more productive, it actually helps by making the book more engaging and easier to pick up. This book is for older audiences; there are two pages that touch upon sex (and show a man’s buttocks), but kids and teens generally don’t care about the topic anyway. Shut Up, Stop Whining, and Get a Life: A Kick-Butt Approach to a Better Life by Larry Winget Art by Shane Clester ISBN: 9781610660020 Writers Of The Round Table Press, 2011 Publisher Age Rating:
Super Graphic: A Visual Guide to the Comic Book Universe
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