Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World is a pitch perfect historical graphic novel for anyone who wants to learn about brazen rebel ladies throughout history. Pénélope Bagieu started with a list of 50 women whose stories she wanted to tell and narrowed it down to about 30 for the book. In interviews, Bagieu is quoted as saying that one of the hardest choices was deciding “whose stories I could tell a 200 times without getting bored of.”  She especially wanted to showcase that not all brazen rebel ladies are western, white, educated, cisgender, straight women. At the end of the book, Bagieu does include the rest of her list of fabulous women for further reading.

Spanning nearly 2500 years of history, Brazen gives life to women such as Agnodice, one of the first women gynecologists who lived in 350 BCE Athens, to Sonita Alizadeh, an Afghanistan rapper born in 1996. Bagieu covers doctors, scientists, artists, explorers, entertainers: just about anyone from anywhere through time. Some of the women I knew, such as Nellie Bly, Josephine Baker, Hedy Lemarr, and Temple Gradin, are listed but others such as Nzinga, warrior queen of Ndongo and Matamba, Cheryl Bridges, athlete, and Giorgina Reid, lighthouse keeper, are entirely new to me. I found myself especially delighted Bagieu made sure Mae Jamison was included, the first black woman in space who happens to be a sci-fi and comics nerd.

Typically in anthologies or in music, the placement of the stories or songs are arranged by the artist just so, with a theme or an overarching story told via that placement. I could not find such a theme here and this is not to say that the work is haphazard—rather the thoughtfulness of the placement of the brazen rebel’s lives are listed such that you could read about a rebel from 2500 years ago and the next story is of a brazen rebel from the 18th century. The book does not need to be read in chronological order, but I will warn you that when you sit down with the book you’ll likely finish it one sitting, just as I did.

Bagieu wrote, illustrated, and colored the art marking her as a force to reckon with. In another interview, Bagieu selected a “very simple palette of four colors for each story, chosen carefully regarding the era, the country, the global feeling of the story.” In between each story is a two page highly detailed and colored spread of the brazen rebel in action, whether she is warrior queen or Temple Gradin and her cows.

Pénélope Bagieu is known for her attention to detail and the wit of her subjects. Here she gives these ladies all the attention and voice that they deserve. Each brazen rebel is finely drawn and brought to life, their stories may be told over a few pages but each story is in-depth enough to whet a history lover’s appetite. Brazen is listed as age appropriate for older teens, 16+, and up, but it could easily become the favorite of middle grades and up, especially as a reference book for further study. Highly recommended for any collection especially for history lists as well as lists for LGTBQ+ peoples.

Brazen: Rebel Ladies Who Rocked the World
By Pénélope Bagieu
Art by Pénélope Bagieu
ISBN: 978-1626728691 1626728690
First Second, 2018
Publisher Age Rating: Older Teen (16+)

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Hasib and the Queen of Serpents

Many tales from the classic compilation of Middle Eastern folktales A Thousand and One Nights have been retold and entered mainstream Western popular culture, such as Aladdin, Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and the Voyages of Sinbad. But there are so many others in this collection of tales that have yet to be told in modern literature. French cartoonist David B. has created a colorful graphic novel interpretation of one little-known tale. Entitled Hasib and the Queen of Serpents, readers are taken on an adventure throughout the mythological world of the Middle East and witness the age-old tradition of storytelling.

The tale opens with Hasib, a woodcutter, exploring the nearby forest with three lumberjacks. When the men stumble upon a cave with a secret stash of gold, the three greedy men take the fortune and leave Hasib trapped inside. However, instead of meeting a grisly fate, Hasib finds himself in the court of the Queen of Serpents, who keeps him company and tells him a tale about King Bulukiya’s search for the prophet Mohammed. During his search, the King discovers the Queen and a host of other characters, each with their own story to tell.

This specific tale may be unfamiliar to most readers but with colorful characters and an intriguing storyline, the graphic novel is able to bring the story to life. The story within a story technique, commonly used in the original A Thousand and One Nights tales, is used often in this interpretation, bringing readers deeper into the world of Middle Eastern folklore. David B.’s uses a variety of colors and detailed images to invoke this ancient tale. He uses his own artistic style with detailed scenery, disproportionate or snakelike bodies, and anthropomorphized animals. This retelling blends text and art so well, with narrators providing background information for each tale and modern dialogue that keeps the story active from page to page.

Some pages contain one panel that covers an entire page, filled with characters and fantastical scenery. The artist includes the characters Scheherazade and Shahryar, the Persian queen and king from the original tales, reminding the reader which night it is within the A Thousand and One Nights. Readers who enjoy folktales and mythology will be intrigued with this interpretation, especially with the scenes of noteworthy figures of Islamic tradition, such as King Solomon and Mohammed, and characters from Middle Eastern mythology, such as Djinns and the bird Simorgh.

David B.’s Hasib and the Queen of Serpents is an artistic interpretation of an ancient tale of adventure, war, and faith. It will make a great addition to any public library’s graphic novel collection. Adult patrons who enjoy mythology and folklore, along with colorful and expressive comics will want to take a look at this tale.

Hasib and the Queen of Serpents
by David B.
ISBN: 9781681121628
NBM Publishing, 2018
Publisher Age Rating:

The Odyssey

0763642665
   
Odysseus can’t catch a break. After offending the god Poseidon, he endures 20 years of challenges and misfortune. Trapped by a Cyclops, shipwrecked in a supernatural storm, and ensnared in the caves of a nymph, Odysseus must overcome these obstacles and more, while, back home, his wife and son fend off suitors hoping to take his throne. His attempts to navigate home are filled with magic, prophecies, and assistance — as well as hindrances — from the gods. His homecoming is a bloody battle against the traitors hoping to steal the kingdom from him.

Author/illustrator Gareth Hinds bring Homer’s classic tale of Odysseus’s plight to life in this breathtaking graphic adaptation. Hinds explains in his final notes that, although he prefers to break from realism, he included just enough historical touches to give authenticity. He rewrote much of the material, but used direct quotations when it was appropriate. This ability to combine newly imagined material while also staying true to Homer’s ancient poem will delight readers regardless of their familiarity with the original work.

Hinds’ illustrations range from quiet, moody panels to wild, action-filled battle scenes. Nearly every watercolor-and-pencil panel could serve as a standalone artwork. Hinds uses clever storytelling techniques throughout, including a mini-comic-within-a-comic to narrate a minstrel’s song about the Trojan War. When the reader sees an image of a Trojan horse, the nature of the song is clear. This creative framing device is just one example of many wonderful surprises in this book.

This graphic adaptation of an English Lit staple will obviously have its place in the classroom and would be a great companion to anyone studying Homer’s epic poem, but will also be enjoyed by fans of ancient mythology. Rick Riordan’s blurb on the back cover is no coincidence — hand this one to teens who love the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series and are looking for their next great read.

The Odyssey
by Gareth Hinds
ISBN: 9780763642662
Candlewick, 2010
Publisher Age Rating: 12 and up