From 1927-1944, the world was treated to the soundful stylings of The Carter Family, a singing group out of Virginia made up of A.P. Carter, his wife Sara, and Sara’s cousin Maybelle. They charmed the world with their recordings of country ditties, spiritual numbers, and original songs as put out through two newfangled devices of the day: records and radio. As the years progressed, the line up changed. A.P. and Sara ended up getting divorced and the children of both A.P. and Sara and of Maybelle and her husband Eck, A.P.’s brother, ended up fronting the family. In later years, one of Maybelle and Eck’s girls, June Carter, would become famous in her own right. But this spectacular new graphic nonfiction novel by Frank M. Young and David Lasky focuses on the humble beginnings and successes of the original Carter Family trio. This engaging and interesting story of a family that loved to make music together is told through chaptered progression through the turmoil, happiness, and sadness that came along with the Carter Family and their time in the spotlight. Also, a bonus CD is included in the back to engross readers even more with their beautiful harmony and lovely melodies.
The story itself is extremely captivating. It moves by chapters, which is nice since the book is bit long — their story spanned twenty years plus some, so the length is necessary. Adding chapters allows the book to be accessed at different intervals instead of one long read. Each chapter reads not only as a part of the story as a whole, but as separate vignettes. This allows for different situations to be processed by the reader at each interval, but also as part of the greater story. The Carter Family had quite the adventure and their story is told really well in this format.
The illustrations are so colorful and so bright. I really appreciated the color work in this book. It made it such a joy to read! All the characters are easily identifiable, even though I did have to refer to the illustrated family tree in the front of the book a couple of times, especially when the kiddos of Sara and Maybelle starting getting their turn in the group. The story moved along quite rapidly through the often ten to twelve panels included on each page. You really go along with the story as it progresses, mainly through speech bubbles; there is not a lot of overhead narration going on, which suits the story fine.
I also really enjoyed the illustrations because they reminded me almost of “The Yellow Kid,” like an old-timey type newspaper comic from days gone by. I thought it enhanced the story even more, since it was really evident this story was from a time long past, even though themes within — loss, heartache, longing, poverty and the love of music — are timeless themes. And the way that their singing is illustrated was quite touching. It was almost like I could hear their voices together as I gazed at the panel, full of the color red and a blossoming heart.
Again, what a really fascinating and wonderful look at The Carter Family in a way that was entirely accessible to me. I’ve loved the nonfiction graphic novel titles that have been coming out in the past few years and this is another great addition to the nonfiction side of comics. A definite must read for lovers of history, music or graphic literature!
The Carter Family: Don’t Forget This Song
by Frank M. Young, David Lasky
Abrams Comicarts, 2012