A Business Proposal is a comedic story about a sneaky plan, born from desperation, and carried out by two good friends.
The plan is proposed by Yeongsuh Jin, who cannot bear to go on another blind date set up by her father. She offers to pay her friend, Hari Shin, to impersonate her on the next blind date and act in such a way that the date will not want to marry her. Hari accepts the job proposal, because she desperately needs the money to save her family’s business. She has no idea that the blind date is the new CEO at her workplace. Taemu Kang, the CEO, is desperate to get married as fast as possible, so that he can focus on his work without his grandfather nagging him about marriage.
Thus ensues a series of scenes in which Hari, pretending to be Yeongsuh, behaves in what she believes is a terrible way in order to push Taemu away, and the unbothered Taemu insists on marriage. Meanwhile, the real Yeongsuh meets Taemu’s secretary, Sunghoon Cha, and through a misunderstanding believes him to be Taemu. The two fall in love.
Eager to see Sunghoon again, Yeongsuh calls Taemu and arranges a date. The date reveals that she had the wrong Taemu, and that Taemu had the wrong Yeongsuh. Taemu doesn’t care that he had the wrong person and continues to insist on marrying Hari. Vol. 1 ends with Hari trying to decide whether or not to marry Taemu.
The writing includes many fun moments in which the reader becomes worried or frustrated for the main character. The storyline is engaging and hilariously tense. Hari’s character is fleshed out a comfortable amount for the first volume. However, a more in-depth description is needed for the other characters, especially Taemu. He is an expressionless workaholic without any backstory for explanation. Taemu’s expressed only that he wanted to quickly marry in order to get back to work. Some character history providing a bit of context would have been helpful in creating a connection to the reader. Perhaps, the backstory and connection will come in the following volumes.
With the visuals, Narak creates a lovely, balanced atmosphere. Each page is beautifully detailed in soft, cozy colors and gentle lines. Both the colors and line art give the reader warm, pleasant feelings, even while emanating the feelings of stress felt by the characters.
Adults (18+) will find this book appealing, because the main characters are working adults trying to figure out and manage work like and love life. Many adults will find that content relatable.
A Business Proposal Vol. 1 By Haehwa , Perilla Art by Narak Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9798400900334
Cherry is a boy who has trouble communicating but has found a growing voice through the art of haiku. Smile is a popular streamer who wears a mask to hide her large front teeth. One day at the mall they have a chance meeting, or rather collision, that results in a budding friendship. As their bond grows, Cherry is able to talk more and more with Smile, and he finds that when he’s around her, “words bubble up like soda pop.”
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop Vol. 1 is the beginning of a manga series based on the 2020 anime film of the same name. The manga begins with Cherry on his way to his part-time job at day service at a shopping mall (in Japan, a day service is similar to a senior center—a place that has activities for elderly people). Cherry reflects on his inability to communicate with people. He wears a pair of headphones as a semblance of peace and to dissuade people from initiating conversations with him. However, he has found an outlet in the Japanese poem form of haiku, and he shares his creations on the social media site Curiosity. So deep is Cherry’s affinity for haiku that he carries a dictionary of seasonal words meant to help inspire poets.
Throughout the course of Cherry’s day at the mall, the reader is introduced to an eclectic cast of characters including Cherry’s coworkers at the day service, some of the elderly people who frequent the day service, Cherry’s friends Japan and Beaver, as well as Smile. Cherry and Smile’s friendship grows from there.
The art and writing combine to set the scene for a touching story between two people getting to know each other as well as themselves. One neat touch is that even Cherry’s internal thoughts are in haiku – using the 5-7-5 syllable format. The translation notes at the end are helping to bring context to the title, as Cherry sees a bottle of cider that inspired him to think up the phrase “words bubble up like soda pop,” as in Japan, “cider” indicates “carbonated beverage” as opposed to apple cider. The original title of the manga in Japan is, in fact, Words Bubble Up Like Cider.
The first page and the title spread of the volume are in color before transitioning to the traditional black-and-white palette of most manga.The characters are unique and easily distinguished from each other since the artist employs different facial features, hairstyles, and body shapes. When drawn, the backgrounds are detailed and help ground the characters in their environment. When there is a lack of background scenery, patterns, such as small dots, are employed to offset the character. The shading is clean and crisp.
Despite the unique situations in which Cherry and Smile find themselves, the two characters will resonate with teens facing their own challenges and insecurities. The romance is light in the first volume and seems accessible for young teens who may be new to the romance genre.
The manga is currently being translated into English. Due to the short length of the manga series and its appeal of being a media tie-in to the anime of the same name, Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop Vol. 01 is a good option for a teen collection, particularly collections needing more accessible manga for younger teens.
Words Bubble Up Like Soda Pop Vol 1 By FlyingDog Art by Imo Oono Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975364397
Publisher Age Rating: Teen Related media: Movie to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
In the regency era, a marriage of convenience between two people trapped by circumstance may lead either to happiness or the risk of total ruin.
First Second presents Ruined by Sarah Vaughn, Sarah Winifred Searle, and Niki Smith, a graphic Regency romance marketed for fans of Bridgerton. The story opens with the marriage of Catherine Benson and Andrew Davener. Catherine comes from a respectable family and her situation offers a large dowry to whichever man marries her. However, she is overshadowed by swirling rumors that claim she lost her virtue under scandalous circumstances. Andrew’s family has seen a string of deaths, forcing him into the unexpected role as head of a household on the brink of financial ruin. Knowing fully that each is the other’s last chance of redeeming their situations, their wedding is agreeably one of need, not passion.
Such an arrangement naturally comes with difficulty, even before the ghosts of Catherine’s and Andrew’s pasts begin to reappear. But as the couple begins to work together to rebuild the Davener estates and put their affairs in order, something new begins to grow between them. The sparks of love are undeniable, but also terrifying to two people who have found themselves adrift in turmoil they never expected to face. And if they dare to trust one another, it opens their comfortable arrangement up to the possibility of even more heartbreak.
For Ruined, the comparison to Netflix’s Bridgerton series is inevitable. Thankfully, the resemblance goes deeper than the simple trappings of the genre. The world of Ruined embraces a welcome level of diversity. Though the two leads appear to be white, characters of various ethnicities inhabit multiple levels of society throughout the story. Additionally, sub-plots involve side characters of other sexualities and neurodivergence, and all of these characters are integrated smoothly into Vaughn’s version of Regency England. As for the central story, marriage of convenience is a familiar trope, and Vaughn plays it out mostly as expected, though not without some touching moments scattered across Catherine and Andrew’s growing relationship. The writing could sometimes be honed a bit more to the razor sharpness that shines in regency romance stories, but fans of the genre will find plenty to enjoy here nonetheless.
Searle’s art presents a distinct illustrative style, drawing together elements of realism with a decidedly more animated appearance that will work well for some readers, while it will leave others wanting. There are times when the simplicity pays off. In other moments, the story seems to want a rich complexity that the art simply does not capture. However, from lush balls and gardens to moments of intimacy and awkwardness, Searle’s work undeniably portrays the layers and vulnerability of Catherine and Andrew as they are forced to face themselves before they can take a chance on true happiness.
First Second does not list an age rating for this title, but with multiple scenes of nudity and sexual content, Ruined would live most comfortably in the adult areas of any collection. In the end, the book does not rise to the same heights as the Bridgerton show and some similar titles, but it has an undeniable charm which should please readers looking for additional Regency-era romance stories—especially in graphic novel form where this genre of romance is not as common. It may not draw in new readers to the genre, but for any readership that is already onboard with regency romance and related tropes, Ruined is worth considering.
Ruined By Sarah Vaughn Art by Sarah Winifred Searle, Niki Smith Macmillan First Second, 2023 ISBN: 9781250769350
Publisher Age Rating: Series ISBNs and Order Related media:
Told in an episodic way, Coral’s story is like that of other teenage girls—except she’s a sea sprite and her best friends are a siren and a dryad. Coral has a lot of responsibilities she must balance between helping her mom sew dresses at her shop to teaching tourists how to surf at the local resort. One day, Coral is surfing in a little cove that rarely sees visitors when a fire ifrit named Nick Inferno washes up on the beach. Quite literally! It turns out he is trying to learn how to surf, but had a mishap and was just floating in the ocean until he was pushed ashore in Coral’s cove.
Coral develops a crush on Nick after talking to him, but he’s not from the area and she doesn’t know if she’ll ever see him again. In the meantime, Coral meets the new dryad assigned to revitalize the area’s nature and helps her learn about social interactions, including the very important reason for always wearing clothes—boys. Coral also bestows the name Lillyana to her new friend. Other slice-of-life and humorous moments are included in the narrative to flesh out the first volume.
My favorite part of this graphic novel is the color palette. The pastels and preference for cool colors in the storytelling and creating the characters evokes calm emotions and pleasant feelings. It also helped the characters with warm color schemes stand out when introduced.
At first, the story felt very episodic with little connecting plot; however, after the first couple of chapters, things start coming together. A mystery about Coral is introduced, misunderstandings abound, and relationships develop at a believable pace. The book also ends with a massive cliffhanger, so be prepared for readers to want the second volume as soon as possible! This is a great addition to any collection that has preteen or teen readers.
Coral’s Reef, Vol. 01 By David Lumsdon Art by Shiei Hollendonner Seven Seas, 2023 ISBN: 9781645059790
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12 NFNT Age Recommendation: Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Dr. Songsakdina “Bun” Bunnakit is a respected coroner. He is 31 and a closeted gay man who has kept his orientation a secret since his first and only attempt at romance with a man ended badly. Apart from some token attempts at retaining a girlfriend for appearances sake, Bun Is largely devoted to his work, with no real friends apart from the prosecutor Pued.
When Dr. Bun is brought in to investigate a young woman’s death, he is quick to dismiss the police theory of suicide. Bun is also suspicious of the young woman’s boyfriend, a teacher named Tan, who hardly seems upset at his girlfriend’s passing. However, as Dr. Bun is writing up his report, he is attacked in his home by a masked man, who says everyone around Dr. Bun will suffer if he doesn’t declare the death a case of suicide.
When Pued disappears shortly after Dr. Bun confides in him about the threats, he once again becomes suspicious of Tan, who is one of the few who knew of his involvement with the investigation. To Dr. Bun’s surprise, Tan comes to him with a solid alibi and wants to help find his girlfriend’s killer. Yet, there is still evidence Tan is involved in the case. More worrying, however, is the growing attraction that seems to be forming between Bun and Tan.
A graphic novel adaptation of a novel by Thai author, Sammon (which has also been adapted into a successful Thai TV drama), Manner of Death, Vol. 1 proves an exciting start to what promises to be an interesting thriller series. I hesitate to call it an erotic thriller, however, as this opening chapter is more focused on the logistics of Bun’s work as a coroner and his amateur detective work with Tan than it is the sexual tension between them. There are sex scenes, but they are tame things compared to the lion’s share of modern yaoi.
Manner of Death, Vol. 1 works equally well as a police procedural story or a romance, depending on which aspect a reader might be more interested in. The opening chapters lean more heavily upon Bun’s work, showcasing his analytic mind as he instructs a medical student in his charge on how a dead body can tell a story as vivid as one by a living person regarding how they died. The focus shifts more toward romance as the story progresses, with Bun battling his feelings for Tan, his own paranoia regarding loving a man, and his logical reasons to take anything Tan says at face value.
The artwork by Yukari Umemoto is good and matches the story. Umemoto utilizes varied character designs to keep the characters from being confused for one another. They are also very good at blocking the book’s many fight scenes.
This volume is rated for ages 16 and up. I feel this is an appropriate rating, given the mature subject matter. There is no outright nudity, and the sexual elements of the romance are relatively tame for this sort of comic. Yet with a storyline centered around violent deaths and flashbacks dealing with suicide and child abuse, this is not a comic for the weak of heart or of stomach.
Manner of Death Vol. 1 By Sammon Art by Yukari Umemoto Yen Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781975352080
Publisher Age Rating: 16+ Related media: Book to Comic
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Thai Character Representation: Gay
Cade is a shy, horror-movie-obsessed teen living in rural Texas. Surrounded by homophobia, he figures he’ll never be able to come out as gay, let alone find a boyfriend. Anyway, he has other things to worry about. His family is low on money, so his parents insist that Cade get a summer job at a ranch, which pays better than the more comfortable indoor jobs he would prefer. It’s hard labor, but on the plus side he gets to work with Henry, the teenaged son of the ranch owner. Henry is attractive, mysterious, and possibly interested in Cade. But there are rumors swirling around the ranch. People have died. In fact, the whole situation reminds Cade of a horror movie. Will he be the next victim?
This is a retelling of Jane Austen’s novel Northanger Abbey, in which a young woman allows her love of Gothic novels to color her perception of the real world. Like the heroine of that novel, Cade sees and hears a few strange things and lets his imagination fill in the gaps with terrifying theories. Changing the Gothic novels to horror movies and the setting to a lonely ranch in modern-day Texas makes for a creative update. Cade’s unease and sense of being in danger are supported by encounters with racist and homophobic locals—a situation based on the author’s own experience growing up queer, closeted, and Latine in rural Texas.
Cade comes from a class background that is underrepresented in teen fiction: his blended, multiracial family is struggling financially, living in a rural area where military service and religion play a large part in many people’s lives. This adds to Cade’s isolation, as there is a lot of homophobia in the local culture. Even his generally well-meaning stepdad casually uses homophobic language. Henry, too, has struggled to reconcile his identity with his church’s condemnation of queer people.
A content note at the beginning advises that the book contains “moments of homophobia, misogyny, racism, domestic violence, animal cruelty, and confronting death.” There is a character whose past includes becoming suicidal and spending time in a mental health facility, and another character uses stigmatizing language about it. And although he is seeing a therapist and working on his anger issues, Henry can be violent, which is an alarming quality in a love interest. There are also a handful of swear words, up to and including the f-bomb. Despite all that, though, this story is not grim throughout. It is, after all, a romance, with plenty of sweet moments and—eventually—a hopeful ending.
The art is cute and expressive, with a simplified realistic style reminiscent of Faith Erin Hicks. The book is two-color, with shades of red and pink punctuated by bold black and lots of deep shadows, especially in the creepy parts. Horror movie fans may notice a few classic film posters in some of the panels.
This is a creative retelling that stands alone. Sometimes sweet and sometimes gripping, it addresses tough topics but also brings humor and smooches. Hand it to fans of Kevin Panetta’s Bloom and Alice Oseman’s Heartstopper.
Northranger By Rey Terciero Art by Bre Indigo Harper Collins Harper Alley, 2023 ISBN: 9780063007383
Publisher Age Rating: 13+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16)
The Color of Always: An LGBTQIA+ Love Anthology, edited by Brent Fisher and Michele Abounader, contains 13 short stories by a host of different writers and artists. As a whole, it’s a solid collection that portrays different sexual and gender identities, though it lacks significant representation of characters of color. Some stories stand out more than others. Letting It Fall, Long Away, All That Glitters, and Ever More Myself were my favorite stories of the bunch.
The first of those, by Priya Saxena and Jenny Fleming, pairs an expressive art style with a simple yet effective story of self-discovery. It’s beautifully summarized by a couple panels on pages 41 and 42. We see Padma, our POC protagonist, with a sad, crestfallen expression after sleeping with a presumably cisgender heterosexual man she meets at a party. Contrast this with her look of hopeful excitement on the following page when she locks eyes with Anne on campus.
Long Away, by Tilly Bridges, Susan Bridges, and Richard Fairgray, successfully blends genres as it uses time travel to allow transgender protagonist Victoria to speak with her father. Victoria’s dad passed away before she realized her true self. The shifting color palette separates past from present, the art style is really cool, and it has a positive, heartfelt message of acceptance. Another story in the collection, Sea Change by Lillian Hochwender and Gabe Martini, uses a science fiction premise but doesn’t achieve the smooth, clear narrative that I appreciated about Long Away.
All That Glitters and Ever More Myself focus on the nuances of gender expression. The former, by Michele Abounader and Tench (Aleksandra Orekhova) features a drag queen acting as fairy godmother to Dane as they (no pronouns are used so I’m going with they/them for Dane) chafe against the gender expectations and perceptions of others. Ever More Myself, by Kaj E Kunstmann, tells the story of androgynous Kaj who is still developing their gender expression. While remaining PG-13, it also briefly discusses safe and joyful sexual exploration between two queer people (boyfriend John is bisexual).
Finally, I’d like to mention that Both Sides is the only other story besides Letting It Fall that has a main character who is obviously a person of color, and that person, Zara, is the only Black main character in the entire anthology. It dismayed me that Zara’s was a depressing cautionary tale about a break-up, particularly the risks of being in a romantic relationship without working through past trauma. I would have liked to see more stories celebrating Black queer joy, even though I know queer break-up stories are just as important to tell as sappy/sexy romances are.
The Color of Always belongs on library shelves because it adds to the growing body of work by and about LGBTQIA+ people. It primarily portrays gay, lesbian, nonbinary, and transgender characters although it falls short on POC representation. It is suitable for teenage and adult readers and it was a quick read that people without a lot of graphic novel reading experience can get into.
The Color of Always An LGBTQIA+ Love Anthology Vol. By Brent Fisher, Michele Abounader Art by Elyse Malnekoff A Wave Blue World, 2023 ISBN: 9781949518245
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18)
Character Representation: Gay, Lesbian, Queer, Gender Nonconforming, Genderqueer, Nonbinary, Trans,
Insomniacs After School is the most surprising, delightful, and charming book I have read in quite some time. It is a simple slice of life book that, thanks to its sincerity, at no point let me down. I wondered constantly if something exciting, paranormal or extraordinary might happen. It had all the hallmarks of a book that was about to toss a curveball at the reader, but it didn’t and yet I was never disappointed.
The books opens with a student at Kuyo High School telling another why they no longer have an astronomy club. It is a ghost story about a girl who supposedly threw herself off the top of the astronomy tower. Then other members of the club started dying mysteriously. It’s an interesting way to open the book, and it is what set me up to think something unusual might happen at any time. However, we learn in time that one of our protagonists made up the story to keep people away from the astronomy tower. Isaki Magari cannot sleep and as someone who had childhood illnesses, she doesn’t want people making a big deal about her sleep now and fussing over her. Ganta Nakami can’t sleep either and it makes him grumpy which keeps people at bay, so he doesn’t have many friends. He doesn’t want to go to the nurse because he’d be going all the time and he doesn’t want people to think there is something wrong with him. They both discover that the disused observatory is quiet, comfortable, and entirely theirs for the taking.
Magari and Nakami bond over their inability to sleep and the feeling of being an outsider because of it. There is a cat that befriends them and harasses one of their teachers, stealing lettuce from Kurashiki Sensei’s sandwich. They find they can actually sleep when together in the observatory and so they try to make time to be there together. Kurashiki Sensei one day chases the cat all the way up to the observatory trying to get her food back and stumbles upon their secret. She isn’t mad, she isn’t judgmental, but she is required to report it to the school. Fortunately, they work around this by reviving the astronomy club and Nakami and Magari become the first members.
The publisher has this tagged as a romance genre book, which may be true later, but in this volume I would say you only get a glimpse of attraction. Magari certainly seems to sense she has feelings for Nakami, but never speaks them out loud, even to herself. Nakami realizes he only wants to come to school to see Magari, but he can’t quite sort out if it’s more than to be able to sleep. This may develop into a relationship in further installments, but for now it’s entirely chaste as two high school students try to navigate making friends with someone very different from themselves. That said, the art certainly wants you to find Magari adorable and charming.
The strength of the art is how effectively it’s used to forward the plot with wonderful subtlety. Characters are framed in-panel to help shape our feelings about them, much like a movie director giving us cues wordlessly. Each character is distinct and the world is fully recognizable without any panel being overstuffed or too busy to enjoy. It feels like choices were made specifically for pace and atmosphere so that there is never a wasted moment; everything is about creating an almost ethereal world for our sleepy protagonists even in the middle of a school day.
This book is rated Teen and while I understand that rating, there is nothing here that would prohibit tweens/junior high readers from enjoying it. As an adult, the art and tone captivated me immediately and I have already preordered all available volumes for our library. For libraries considering this book, at the time of this writing there are 13 volumes available in Japanese. English translations may be slow to follow, but there will be a lot more to come. I am recommending this to readers at my library who are looking for books that are not heavy action or high emotion stakes. This is a gentle read that still satisfies, and I think will find a lot of different types of fans.
Insomniacs After School, Vol. 01 By Makoto Ojiro VIZ Signature, 2023 ISBN: 9781974736577
Publisher Age Rating: Teen NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13)
Creator Representation: Japanese Character Representation: Japanese
The Girl That Can’t Get a Girlfriend is a semi-autobiographical manga about self-loathing, self-discovery, and ultimately, thankfully, a story of self-acceptance and love. Mieri introduces herself to us as a Japanese office worker living in the U.S., setting up the narration she will provide to catch us up to the present. In middle school she found herself attracted to anime women, but didn’t realize until she was in college that she was gay. She takes us through her journey from repressed tomboy to self-actualized adult, but that journey is anything but easy. The line that summarizes the experience of this book best happens late in part two: “Little did I know that Ash would become my first girlfriend and that we would break up after a month of dating and that I would spend 4 years in hell trying to get over her.”
Mieri is a sophomore in college when she has her first relationship and while it is very short lived it winds up dominating the next four years of her life. It’s immediately apparently that Mieri has very little self-confidence. In the early chapters she is repeatedly putting people on pedestals. This is as equally unfair to herself as it is to these people in her life. She feels she hasn’t earned the love and consideration she’s shown. This causes an imbalance between them which, in her mind, seems impossible to overcome. The trend for most of this book is Mieri experiencing so many firsts in life and trying to reconcile what they might mean, while not loving herself enough to take care of herself. She tries to work hard enough to earn the love of others or to keep a relationship working even when it’s not.
The central character to Mieri’s journey of discovery is her first girlfriend Ash, who she meets on summer vacation when she visits her grandparents in Japan. After the early, tentative days of dating, they say they love one another and promise to stay together even after Mieri has to fly back to the U.S. for school. Things fall apart when Ash learns that Mieri isn’t graduating as soon as she thought she was. It’s basically a semester later, but Ash has had several long distance relationships with boyfriends that didn’t work out and she won’t wait a year for anyone again. Mieri is initially heartbroken, but decides she will get an internship in Japan so she can try to win Ash back. What she thinks is a grand romantic gesture ultimately falls flat when she learns Ash is seeing someone new. From here she spirals into depression and loneliness as she has no friends in Japan. She could have wallowed forever, but she slowly comes to embrace the life she actually has. She becomes a better friend, gets back to drawing manga, and carving out an identity for herself. There isn’t a clean resolution at the end of this book, but only in service of setting up the next installment.
The redeeming part of this book is that Mieri never gives up on herself and even when things are dark, she doesn’t engage in self-destructive behavior. The style of this book and it’s incredibly frank honesty reminded me at times of Nagata Kabi’s work in books like My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness and My Alcoholic Escape from Reality. The difference between these is that Mieri does not spiral into such dark places. She’s depressed, she’s sad, she’s lonely, but she’s never actively self-harming. I think that’s important because it makes this story accessible to more people, especially teen readers. There is one kiss in the entire book and you only see the back of someone’s head, so it’s not prurient in any way. Viz has this rated Teen and I agree with the assessment for placement in a library collection. As someone who has had a first infatuation, a first love, and first heartbreak, I was able to identify and empathize with this story. It left me wanting to tell her to hold on and keep trying. I felt parental in that moment. For readers who haven’t lived these things I imagine it only makes you read faster to see how she resolves these feelings and if she will find a happy ending. I enjoyed this book and have already purchased it for our library. Autobiographical (or semi-autobiographical in this case) manga and graphic novels have a huge reach and wide audience appeal, this book is no exception.
The Girl That Can’t Get a Girlfriend By Mieri Hiranishi VIZ, 2023 ISBN: 9781974736591
Publisher Age Rating: Teen
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: Lesbian Character Representation: Lesbian
As I Enfold You in Petals begins with several pages of wordless panels and near wordless panels depicting people in a huge line waiting to enter, one family at a time, the home of Benny the Bank, a notorious bootlegger first met in the first volume. The people are waiting to impress Benny on his birthday with promises and gifts. The winner will receive a substantial amount of cash, but it is an almost impossible task.
Curtis joins the line. He has just returned to Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, after fighting forest fires and six weeks in rehab for alcoholism. His gift is definitely a surprise for Benny: his lost watch, found when Curtis was fighting fires. Curtis does not want the cash; he wants title to his grandfather’s home which is now owned by Benny. Curtis is interested in helping others in Fort Smith in the struggle with alcoholism and wishes to connect with Louis, his grandfather. Louis’ legacy is as a healer who received his gifts from the Little People and Spirit Helpers.
Curtis’s invitation to the Little People is through a song which is witnessed by Benny and Crow, a mysterious female friend of Benny’s. Benny tells her “As I Enfold You in Petals,” a poetic phrase borrowed from letters he read from Curtis’s father to his wife. The reader also discovers Benny’s secret wishes and his illness in his conversations with his sons. All is dependent on Curtis regaining the trust and support of the Little People.
Written byRichard Van Camp (he/him/his) a proud member of the Tlicho Nation from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, illustrated by Scott B. Henderson, Donovan Yaciuk and Nickolej Villiger. The first volume, originally published in black and white, has been completely revised by the four creators to provide a fresh and colorful rendition of the story. The newly released volume (2022) includes a precise essay regarding the background of this story as well as an essay on the interactions between the Japanese and the Dene.
It is a delight to have such a positive depiction of Dene spirituality and the people in this superb story of hope, strength of spirit, and redemption. The story celebrates family connections, memories, and stories through the text and the stunningly illustrated and colored illustrations. The pacing created by the panels, along with the rich and diverse coloring scheme, enfold readers into this story of cultural awakening and knowledge, leaving them satiated and complete. The characters and setting are vivid and authentically brought to life while the revisiting of memories is clearly delineated by sepia tones providing an accessible and seamless reading experience. Materials in the back provide information and cultural context about traditional Inuit tattoos that appear in the graphic novel.
The Spirit of Denendeh: As I Enfold You in Petals Vol. 2 By Richard van Camp Art by Scott B. Henderson, Donovan Vaciuk, Nickolej Villiger, Highwater Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781774920411
Publisher Age Rating: 15+
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Indian American, Dogrib Dene, Character Representation: Indian American, Dene, First Nations or Indigenous, Addiction