Girl gets the dream of having own comic strip but has no idea what to write about. This is the dilemma in Girlsplaining by Katja Klengel. The author is so excited about getting the opportunity to create her strip. She dreams of being the Carrie Bradshaw of the comic world. She plans on meeting with her friends and writing about their lives. Thinking about it further, she finds following the Sex and the City formula to be limiting. She doesn’t want to just talk about guys.
Katja is interested in topics like being self-conscious about body hair, pressure to have children, female heroines, and gender-neutral toys. I appreciated the author’s honesty in detailing her anxieties and fears of having children. She shares her internal struggle if this is the right thing for her. On the con side, she worries about pregnancy being painful, having enough money to raise a kid, and not having time for herself. I laughed at her depiction of having a C-section as akin to having someone take a chainsaw to your belly. She also imagined a wrestler jumping on her tummy to push the baby out. On the pro side, she envisions that her kid could save the world and become Sailor Moon!
My favorite section of the graphic novel is the one on toys. Katja recounts how she loved and collected Barbie™ dolls as a young girl. She was really into her brother’s LEGO™ set that featured dragons and knights, but he wouldn’t let her play with it. He instead recommended that she play with her own LEGO™ set. She remarks how that one didn’t have dragons, but a beach bar and girl surfer. I could see from her perspective how this limited her imagination and sense of fun. Why should dragons only be for boys? She notes that her nephew was embarrassed when he was caught playing with a Barbie™. I recall as a librarian, when I was doing a storytime for kindergartners, a young boy chose a LEGO Barbie™ book and a classmate took the opportunity to chide him for his selection. He said, “That’s a girl’s book!” My reaction was to say, “There is no such thing as girl books or boy books, there are just good books.” A parent who volunteered that day gave me a look that said, “Right on!”. I found myself sympathizing with this story because I’ve seen how gendering things limits people on both sides.
The artwork is drawn in shades of pink, Katja’s way of unabashedly embracing her femininity and reveling in it. She throws in a lot of pop culture references such as Sailor Moon, Star Trek, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Family Feud. Katja has an obsession with American pop culture and includes a list at the end of the book of her favorites. People are drawn in a very realistic way, with different body shapes, hair, and facial features. She uses a lot of white background space to highlight certain scenes and to focus your eyes on certain points she is trying to make.
I would highly recommend purchasing Girlsplaining. It talks humorously about a lot of issues that women go through. It is a quick read and highly enjoyable for me. There are some very adult discussions about female body parts and drawings included. This graphic novel is appropriate for older teens who parents feel have the maturity to handle the subject matter.
By Katja Klengel
BOOM! Archaia, 2021
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)