Hidden Systems: Water, Electricity, the Internet, and the Secrets Behind the Systems We Use Every Day by Dan Nott (author and artist) is an enlightening nonfiction graphic novel divided into three main parts. The first part explains the development and infrastructure of the internet. Next, Nott outlines the history and current forms of electricity. He closes with an examination of water systems, which includes the natural water cycle and how humans use water. These three systems are hidden in plain sight and taken for granted until they malfunction, or cease to function altogether. Nott’s goal is to provide an understanding of how these vital systems actually work and how we need to improve them to reduce harm to the environment and to communities. In doing so, we can also sustainably ensure necessary access to all people.
The book is well organized with a table of contents, symbols key, introduction, conclusion, citations and a bibliography. The book is text-heavy, but the historic and scientific explanations are well supported by the illustrations. The panels are mostly in a grid pattern with artwork that depicts people inventing and interacting with various technologies as well as the physical components that comprise these infrastructures. Humorous facial expressions and asides make this book fun and encourage the reader to pay close attention. The restrained color palette keeps the packed pages from looking cluttered. Overall, Nott’s artwork is detailed and wrought with care.
Hidden Systems is cataloged as a children’s book. I found many concepts in this book to be complex and better suited for older readers and teens. Some of these concepts include colonialism and inequity of access. For example, communications systems that began with telegraph lines map geographically with colonial outposts that used communication to maintain control. Much of today’s infrastructure still follows those original lines, so that places of power are more advanced with communications while historically subjugated places are trying to catch up (p. 26-31). Another complex concept is that poorer communities and communities of color typically bear the burden of ill health caused by emissions from coal-burning power plants (p. 113). A mention of dams being financed with debt by the World Bank (p. 210) could confuse the reader who lacks knowledge of the global economy. A teacher, parent, or other adult may help a younger reader parse through these facts.
Recommend Hidden Systems to curious older kids and teens with interests in engineering, inventing, and science in general.
Hidden Systems Water, Electricity, the Internet, and the Secrets Behind the Systems We Use Every Day By Dan Nott Penguin Random House, 2023 ISBN: 9780593125366
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16), Tween (10-13) Creator Representation: Queer,
If you’ve never heard of Peter Dunlap-Shohl, I’m not surprised. As a cartoonist for Anchorage Daily News for decades, he’s one of those Alaskan things that Alaskans know of, but which don’t migrate to the lower 48 (or what Alaskans call “Outside”). I first heard of him when I bought his first title My Degeneration for my graphic novel collection at my previous community college library, in which Dunlap-Shohl wrote intimately about what it was like to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s at an early age.
Now, amazingly, Dunlap-Shohl has released his second graphic novel and he picked a tougher topic, if that’s possible. Probably unknown to most Outsiders, Alaska only became a state (the 49th) in 1959, but its history of federal government department presence (one being the Atomic Energy Commission) predates that. When the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, most scientists did not know what the full extent of damage or radioactive fallout would be. They didn’t know if the damage would last or how long the radioactivity would persist. After the war and as the Cold War began, bomb tests continued for more than a decade all over the world. Dunlap-Shohl tells the story of the AEC’s attempts to use Alaska and its people as a test site to answer questions about both the atomic and hydrogen bomb’s not-so-charmingly-called “non-military uses.” But he casts a wide net—he tells the story from his background as an Alaska native, and the book takes on a memoir/political statement tone as only a book written by an Alaskan can.
Dunlap-Shohl’s art lines are jittery, slashy, and awkwardly misshapen, his human shapes and anatomies a flurry of pen lines, somehow capturing the essence of the shape, thing, or person he intends to portray; they escape being classically proportionate. This accentuates the seriousness of the topic, but writing is where Dunlap-Shohl excels.
The switch from the black and white prologue to the full-color chapter one communicates the hard about-face in American life that dawned after the dropping of the bomb in World War II. For instance, page 12 is incendiary in its use of color, but it’s the WRITING, again, where the comic is particularly enjoyable, if that’s possible in so dark a topic. (For example: “Not that we needed MORE ways to die in the Far North. Alaska already had PLENTY of ways to kill its inhabitants.”) It’s an excellent way to introduce young and old to Alaska’s unique history and its importance during the Cold War. I’d already read my share of Alaskan history, but if you’ve never heard of the DEW line, the 1964 earthquake, Elmendorf, The Tundra Times, or the long military, airflight, and federal government program history of Alaska, boy are you in for an introduction! I thought this title was going to be about Edward Teller’s attempts to use a nuke to dig a harbor on the west coast of Alaska (described in minute detail in the excellent book The Firecracker Boys, by Dan O’Neill), but it’s about a lot more than that. I learned a lot of Alaskan history I didn’t know.
Like most journalists, Dunlap-Shohl has a self-deprecating black sense of humor that I instantly took to (“What could possibly go wrong?” or on page 53: “How does compulsory exercise fit with freedom?” “Shut up and run, Commie”), but it’s possibly not to everyone’s taste. I would place this title firmly in the adult section. Some of his claims have been disputed; for instance, Cannikin has also been described as an attempt to understand the way bomb fallout propagates through water and earth, not, “to appease the right wing.” Nevertheless, his page orientation, absence of frame lines, and completely black pages to heighten the suspense about Cannikin is very effective and shows a master at work. The next 13 pages have no words, and hardly any drawings, but are heartbreaking.
This is a compelling addition to other graphic novels that discuss the bomb, like Jim Ottaviani’s Fallout and Jonathan Fetter-Vorm’s Trinity: A Graphic History of the First Atomic Bomb. Since the film Oppenheimer (based on the book American Prometheus) is out and getting lots of press, this title, along with the others mentioned, would make a compelling display within any library. This title includes four and a half pages of footnotes for the reader to learn more about the events in the book.
Nuking Alaska: Notes of an Atomic Fugitive By Peter Dunlap-Shohl Graphic Mundi, 2023 ISBN: 9781637790472
Publisher Age Rating: 16+ NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)
Gen-X kids (who, of course, grew into Gen-X adults) remember coming home from school and watching the latest adventures of Transformers, G.I. Joe, or Thundercats, series that are still remembered fondly and that still have fans to this day. But what was happening to the brains of Gen-X as they watched these shows? Kids were made to believe that they could replicate the adventures of their favorite heroes. All it involved was getting all the figures, vehicles, and playsets featured on these series. Such is the premise of Brian “Box” Brown’s The He-Man Effect: How American Toymakers Sold You Your Childhood.
According to Brown, toy companies made sure that the toys Gen-X kids enjoyed were ingrained in their imaginations as children and even steeped in nostalgia as adults. This is due to a lot of factors, including president Ronald Reagan’s deregulation of children’s television in the ‘80s to the study of how propaganda can influence human emotion. Many of the television shows that kids enjoyed in the ‘80s and ‘90s were actually half-hour long television commercials.
The premise of Brown’s book sounds like something meant to leech the joy out of many Gen-X childhoods but Brown does manage to find a balance between professing his own love for these series while offering an unbalanced assessment. He brings in a lot of facts about the television landscape in the ‘80s, including how it became more of an advertising free-for-all compared to the ‘70s, and even the early days of propaganda techniques that were used by governments during wartime. However, there’s also very detailed histories on the many different action figures and toys that dotted the television and toy landscapes.
The book’s artwork isn’t dazzling, but it doesn’t need to be. Simple black and white drawn panels move Brown’s narrative of ‘80s television/toy advertising but doesn’t distract from all the information he presents. Those familiar with those toys will recognize their favorites like He-Man and Transformers in these drawings, but Brown’s simple pictures make sure that his overall premise remains informative.
This would be a good pick for any library’s adult graphic novel collection, but it really fits into its media studies collection because it explains how Gen-X kids, myself included, had indeed had our childhoods sold to us. Brown has come to terms with it, even explaining how he still fondly remembers the days he played with these toys, meaning it would also be a good read for Gen-X kids who want to learn how their favorite toys came to be.
The He-Man Effect How American Toymakers Sold You Your Childhood Vol. By Brian “Box” Brown MacMillan First Second, 2023 ISBN: 9781250261403
The past two years sure haven’t been easy for Oscar! First, his beloved Papa was killed in a vicious winter blizzard near their farm in Minnesota and Oscar had to take over as the man in the family for his mama. It was just the two of them to run the farm, but Oscar promised his papa he’d take care of everything. Then his mama met Mr. Morrow, they got married and now they were on their way to Chicago! He might as well be going to the moon! Mr. Morrow seems like a kind man, but too much had been crammed into the last few weeks, and it was all he could do to keep from being sick. Such huge buildings! So many people! And what’s that smell? Mr. Morrow seems to know everyone, and everyone seems to know him. He says Oscar will love his new house, but he’s not sure. About anything.
They’ve no sooner arrived in Chicago than their bags are stolen, and Oscar tries to make it right by following the thieves! He doesn’t have much left from Papa, but it’s all in his suitcase, and those sharpies can’t have it! Little does Oscar know that one of the city’s biggest fires in history has just started. Will he find the thieves and their suitcases? Will he be able to find Mama and Mr. Morrow again, in a burning city that he doesn’t know? There’s plenty of suspense in this brightly illustrated story that teaches about the 1871 Great Chicago Fire. The pages are sharply and crisply drawn, and the frames are arranged in a straightforward predictable way. The pages aren’t text heavy either – the story flows right along, creating tension page after page. Kids will be able to put themselves into Oscar’s shoes and learn what it was like to be a young person in 1871, how a firefighter did his job then, and how transportation worked. (How Oscar doesn’t get run down by a horse in this book, I’ll never know.)
There is a small bit of violence on two pages when Oscar finally catches up to the gang and one tough shows a knife. Nothing explicit is shown in the rush of people to leave the burning areas of the city, but it’s implied. There are 8 pages of further information in the back of the book so kids can learn more about life in 1871 Chicago. The pages help put the events into historical context with sections like “How Chicago Grew”, “Fiery Dangers” and “What Caused the Fire?”. These pages are compassionately written, explaining difficult topics like prejudice and tragedy.
This is recommended for middle readers in grades 5-8 and should appeal to ages 7-12. One does not need to read other titles in the series to read this.
I Survived the Great Chicago Fire (I Survived Graphic Novel #7) By Lauren Tarshis Art by Cassie Anderson Scholastic GRAPHIX, 2023 ISBN: 9781338825152
In 1852, 400 Chinese laborers in transit to the Americas mutinied against the white ship captain profiting from their transportation. Terrorized by British forces and accused of piracy by British and American courts, the rebels briefly won freedom, but never saw justice. Pairing a short graphic novel with academic essays, The Cargo Rebellion: Those Who Chose Freedom surfaces a buried history of Chinese and South Asian labor exploitation that took place throughout the nineteenth-century colonial world.
Written by academics Jason Chang, Benjamin Barson, and Alexis Dudden and illustrated by Kim Inthavong, The Cargo Rebellion opens with a short comic narrating the historical development of the so-called “coolie trade” that saw Chinese and South Asian indentured laborers transported to the Americas under exploitative conditions that the authors characterize as human trafficking. The Robert Bowne mutiny is briefly recounted, as well as the subsequent international legal battle that pitted American and European systems of imperialism against Chinese efforts to combat trafficking.
The comic provides a clear overview of the political and economic context under which Asian unfree labor proliferated in the nineteenth century. Its text skews academic but is still accessible, elevated by Kim Inthavong’s emotive full-color art. The last pages connect the history of Asian American labor with the contemporary practices of transnational slavery and trafficking. The authors issue a call to action for readers to stand against a system of “racial capitalism” and work toward “a global ethics of de-objectification.”
Following the comic are three academic essays by Dudden, Chang, and Barson: a detailed discussion of the mutiny and its legal aftermath, best practices for teaching Asian indenture in the classroom, and a study of Afro-Asian culture in the United States through the lens of music history. The essays contain valuable information and ideas, but there seems to be a missed opportunity to use the comic format to bring some of this material to life—in particular, details of the mutiny and legal dispute might have added depth to the rebels’ narrative, and historiographical details would help explain why stories like the Robert Bowne mutiny are so hard to reconstruct.
A related pitfall of the essays is that they give the book a scholarly bent that makes it much less accessible to younger readers. High school students are unlikely to persist when they come to the denser academic text. Again, it feels like the graphic novel format is underused, specifically, its potential to draw in a larger audience.
Nevertheless, The Cargo Rebellion stands out as virtually the only publication by a non-academic press about nineteenth-century Asian labor trafficking. Its important subject matter makes this title a good fit for university libraries, as well as general adult nonfiction collections that emphasize Asian and Asian American history and social justice topics.
The Cargo Rebellion: Those Who Chose Freedom By Jason Chang, Benjamin Barson, Alexis Dudden Art by Kim Inthavong PM Press, 2023 ISBN: 9781629639642
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+) Creator Representation: East Asian Character Representation: American, Chinese
As a young person growing up in Fairfax County, Virginia, Lauren Haldeman played soccer on a public field next to Manassas National Battlefield Park. Here, bullet shells and other Civil War artifacts were so common that players walked the field before games to prevent injuries from stray metal. The soccer field wasn’t the only space in Haldeman’s childhood marked by Civil War violence—in the woods, her brother once found a human femur, likely the remains of an amputated limb, while Haldeman herself was visited by disturbing nocturnal visions that had the features of hypnagogic hallucinations, but felt more like hauntings.
Blending graphic memoir, poetry, and history, Team Photograph assembles a narrative from these fragmentary encounters with Northern Virginia’s Civil War past. This book isn’t a traditional historical narrative about military campaigns or battle maneuvers; instead, Haldeman is interested in the emotional legacies of violence, whether encountered through commemorative spaces such as national parks, archival objects, or individual acts of remembrance and erasure.
The book is organized as a series of short comics interspersed with poetry sequences, showcasing Haldeman’s craft in both forms. Dense, deft lyrics evoke powerful, if slippery, emotional responses to history; a sequence of poems titled “An Incident” are particularly memorable conjurings of Haldeman’s childhood hallucinations, shot through with dreamy, unsettling weirdness. The book’s colorful art operates as a counterpoint to the literary register of its text, wolf-headed figures stand in for soccer players and Civil War soldiers serving as a playful distancing effect. Both the words and pictures are layered with historical allusion: images copied from antique photographs, quotations from primary documents, and erasure poetry crafted from texts as diverse as the Washington Post and the poetry of Walt Whitman.
Haldeman’s repurposing of historical texts and images gives Team Photograph a feeling of collage, a creative melding of present and past that resembles the artifact-strewn soccer field of her youth. These “overlays of space,” as she describes them, are sites for Haldeman to craft personal responses to Northern Virginia’s violent past, whether contemplating the meaning of her childhood hallucinations, exploring resonances between team sports and military combat, or grieving the death of her brother in a random act of violence in 2012. Yet Haldeman’s project isn’t simply to impose her own story on the past. She positions herself as “a vessel, a thing possessed,” an artistic mode that allows her to channel the voices of the Civil War dead, who, “having died now cry out / to be seen.”
This openness to the voices of the past means relying on serendipity to guide the narrative, even when it surfaces stories that were missing from Haldeman’s childhood understanding of the Civil War. One narrative excursion uncovers the history of the Robinson House, an African American historical site at Manassas National Battlefield Park that was destroyed by arson in 1993. Haldeman, who is white, isn’t sure it’s her place to tell this story, but she decides to use a newspaper article to construct “erasure poetry” about this contemporary act of racist violence, drawing parallels between the arsonist’s destruction of historical memory and her own ambivalent attempts to reconstruct it.
With its blending of narrative modes and genres, Team Photograph is a richly layered reading experience that will give readers of poetry, literary nonfiction, and experimental comics plenty to mull over. The book is particularly recommended for communities who are currently debating contested Civil War landmarks, offering a model for reading these spaces, and their histories, generatively and against the grain.
Team Photograph By Lauren Haldeman Sarabande Books, 2022 ISBN: 9781956046007
Oh, how tough life must’ve been back in the late 1700s! Our narrator, Abigail Adams, takes the reader through the history of democracy from as far back as we know to the present day.
We are taken on a journey through the beginning ideas of democracy from Ancient Egypt to its spread and rise in popularity throughout Europe. The book focuses on how democracy came to be how it is today in the United States. It chronologically explains not only major events and turning points, but highlights lots of interesting facts.
Author, Don Brown, doesn’t sugar coat this story either. It was clearly not a smooth, straight path to arrive where America is today. Examples include startling events such as the entire Roanoke colony failing to survive, and disappearing after being one of two colonies sent by King James I to colonize in Virginia. Meanwhile the colony in Jamestown barely survived and even had to resort to eating their deceased neighbors to prevent starving to death. It is not graphic or inappropriate for children, the author simply shares harsh facts of the challenges people faced. It ends on the note that things are not perfect and there are still areas in which America can improve to ensure a free and fair democracy for all.
Author and illustrator, Brown, has a simplistic drawing style that makes reading a densely fact filled book like this a lot more fun. Oftentimes, pictures add a lot of clarity for the reader, such as providing a map of the location discussed, or visually showing the struggle that people faced. This adds a lot of clarity for readers who could be unfamiliar with some of the vocabulary used. To end tis work, there is a timeline included, a short biography of Abigail Adams and a very well done section of references that include corresponding page numbers.
Overall, this is an awesome nonfiction graphic novel. It is packed with information, nicely illustrated and includes a full reference list at the end. I have never read a middle school graphic novel that has so much detail and is so well researched. I am really impressed with this book and look forward to learning more by reading the rest of the books in this series.
Big Ideas That Changed the World, vol 4: We The People Vol. 4 By Don Brown Abrams, 2022 ISBN: 9781419757389
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11), Tween (10-13)
I am beginning this review with two caveats. First, I am a mother of a daughter who works in the trades and while she has not worked in Fort McMurray, she has experienced many of the same behaviors that Kate Beaton confronted in her two years in the camps. Second, I am an Albertan who has visited both the city and the camps in the oil field areas numerous times. Throughout the several readings of this graphic novel I was reminded again and again of the stories from my daughter and the observations I took away on my short visits. The contradictions innate in the oil-rich area around Fort McMurray has become better known outside of Canada in recent years, but it has always been controversial for the Canadian culture, economy, and, more even more recently, politically.
This was an amazing read, one that I highly recommend for everyone but especially for young women going forward in a disastrous misogynist society. Beaton’s memoir explores through her dialogue a myriad of complex issues including abuse of economic and human resources, lack of respect for the Indigenous inhabitants and culture, sexual harassment and rape, commodification, environmental destruction, isolation, and personal identity. These conversations, and graphic novel, begin with the home life she had before leaving her small town in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia to travel across the country for lucrative jobs in the oil sands of Alberta to pay down student loans. She was 21, naïve and unknowing, when she arrived. Her readers, through her bleak illustrations and chronological recording, journey with her in her personal discoveries of the enormity of the environmental tolls on the land and the people who work at the various sites.
When hundreds of ducks are snagged in a hazardous tailings pond and a co-worker dies in an onsite accident, Beaton becomes highly cognisant of the global and environmental consequences of the tar sands and camp life. At the same time, she must also contend with the rampant sexism, sexual harassment, and crassness of many of her male co-workers and bosses who have also come from away (the Maritime provinces). Her use of dialogue is effortless and natural, bringing the various characters to life, including Kate herself. There are flashes of subtle and wry humor that provide a welcome balance to the reading experience. Her use of muted grays and the proliferation of wordless panels exemplify the vastness of the landscape and the giant machinery. Beaton’s layout of mostly small panels emphasized the confined environment for the workers and herself. Her illustrations of the interiors reveal the limited spaces and rooms crammed with bed bunks, other furniture, and tools. These interiors are in direct contrast to the vastness of the exterior landscape and sky that she brings to life so effectively, often is full page spreads.
The isolation, loneliness, bleak lifestyle, and the lack of normalcy take its toll on the people in the camps. Some people handle it admirably, but so many were physically exhausted and mentally stressed in living conditions as foreign as the landscape. Her portrayal of the people she encounters and the experiences she has had in the various camps is candidly sincere. She relies on her own acute observations, underlining her personal connections with the people, land, and machinery. The graphic novel is commendably honest. The responses to the fate of the ducks contrasted to those of the Indigenous health and land concerns and the mental health of the migratory workers within and without the boundaries of the oil industry was frightening and telling. The repercussions of this willingness to overlook the dangers of the oil fields because of commercial gain underlies her novel but Beaton is never didactic in her remarks. This is a story that honors critical thinking on behalf of readers.
Beaton suffers through several horrendous experiences but maintained her humanity with her online connections and her creation and postings of Hark! A Vagrant webcomics. Her homepage for the webcomic eventually garnered half a million visitors each month and led to the publication of her first picture book, The Princess and the Pony and the printed collections of Hark! The story ends with hope as Beaton pays off her loan and returns to Cape Breton and her newly found career as a successful cartoonist. Here too, unfortunately, there is another repercussion of her time in Alberta. Becky, her sister who also worked in the oil sands, is diagnosed with cancer. Beaton writes about this in her afterword and later in an article for New York Magazine’s The Cut discussing the failure of the medical world in responding to Becky’s symptoms seriously in much the same way as the suffering of other workers and the Indigenous were treated with silence in previous decades.
Honest investigative reports from journalists and books such as Ducks help illuminate that silence and deserve a large audience. Highly recommended for high school students with a caveat regarding the inclusion of sexual abuse and mental distress. This is an essential purchase for public libraries and highly recommended for academic libraries as well.
Ducks: Two Years in the Oil Sands By Kate Beaton Drawn & Quarterly, 2022 ISBN: 9781770462892
Publisher Age Rating: Adult
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+), Older Teen (16-18) Creator Representation: Canadian, Character Representation: Canadian,
Tommie Smith is the subject of one of the most iconic images from the Civil Rights Era, of two black men holding gloved fists high in a Black Power salute during the 1968 Olympics. In Victory. Stand!: Raising my Fist for Justice, Smith tells his story behind that moment. The graphic memoir, co-written with Derrick Barnes and illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile gives an account of Smith’s life leading to the Olympics, his choice to make the political statement, and the aftermath.
The book opens with a race, specifically the 200 meter sprint finals. Despite a sharp pain in his thighs and a whirlwind of thoughts, Smith leaps at the sound of the starter pistol. We then immediately flashback to his childhood, 1949 in Texas. Throughout the next few chapters, Smith flashes back and forth between the story of his childhood and school years in the segregated South with his iconic race at the ‘68 Olympics.
Smith and Barnes juxtapose his pain and resiliency during the race with the harsh realities of living and growing as a Black boy surrounded by racial injustices. His parents were sharecroppers who were hardworking and kind, but treated in a way that was obviously cruel and unfair, even through the eyes of a young Smith. He talks about the ways he perceived these inequities, and the moment when he first came to the understanding that this was all about race. In college, Smith begins to realize that his voice matters. It is with that knowledge that he makes the decision to run in the Olympics and raise his fist to the sky. The last chapter details the trajectory of his life in the aftermath. Unfortunately, it felt rushed and included details that were not relevant to the theme of sports and the Civil Rights Movement. I also wish that the parallels with the 200 meter race and his life extended further into the story. However, these are small imperfections in an otherwise fascinating book from an important voice from history.
Anyabwile’s illustrations in gray, black, and white, are filled with texture, movement and emotion. Throughout the book, the illustrations add depth to the story. Much of the emotion and drama comes through in the backgrounds with textures, shadows or expansive black. Anyabwile also did a notable job capturing Smith’s growth from child to adult, sublely adjusting looks and style as time goes on.
At pivotal moments in Smith’s life, Anyabwile steps away from Smith’s story to illustrate more striking images reflecting the reality for Black people in America. When Smith’s family eventually moves to Southern California in hopes for a better life, the very next page features a haunting two page spread with a mother and her young children screaming in pain. In the background a Black man hangs from a tree next to a burning cross. Other images include references to such events as the 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing and Martin Luther King’s Assassnation. Smith came of age at the dawn of the Civil Rights era, as he was finding himself and his place in the world, these moments and realities helped to shape who he became. Anyabwile deftly illustrates these pages. They are awash with black and expand beyond the panels typical of most pages in the book. These events are monumental and his illustrations reflect their importance.
Victory. Stand!: Raising my Fist for Justice is a notable addition to the graphic memoir genre. It is a definite purchase for my high school collection. Tommie Smith is an important voice from the Civil Rights Movement and I think this book will appeal to a broad range of readers.
Victory. Stand! Raising My Fist for Justice By Tommie Smith and Derrick Barnes Art by Dawud Anyabwile W. W. Norton & Company, 2022 ISBN: 9781324003908
Publisher Age Rating: 13 and up
NFNT Age Recommendation: Older Teen (16-18), Teen (13-16) Creator Representation: African-American, Black, Character Representation: African-American, Black,
When the world began, lush forests and cool ponds were created all over the Earth. A goddess, Gaia, constructed everything. It was peaceful and perfect, but not for long.
This story presents an environmentalist and feminist perspective on the life of Greek goddess, Gaia. These two authors have taken a lot of artistic freedom to weave together a new version of her. In the original Greek mythology, this tale contains a lot of brutal circumstances of murder, incest, and pretty cruel events. In this version, her story is very much simplified. Serious scenarios are lightened by other characters, such as the three sisters, Clotho, Lachesis, and Atropos. These three pop onto the sidelines of panels and make humorous little comments as the story follows along with Gaia’s husband and her many children’s adventures. Chapters divide up major events, making it more clear for the reader which set of characters are going to be focused on, as there are a lot to keep track of. Like the first installment in this series, we start off with an overview of who all the major gods, goddesses, demigods, and mortals are and conclude with a glossary and bibliography.
This is another beautifully put together piece in this growing collection of tales of Greek Goddesses. It follows the same style as the first book that came out in this series, Athena. The pages are simple with full color drawings and a large variety of different panel styles. Full page graphics zoom in on important and often dramatic plot points with a scattering of a little bit of text to go along with it. The text is a bit on the small side, which should be fine for young readers with good eyes, but it was a little difficult to read it all the way through without feeling like I was straining a little at the end.
Overall, this book is more like a work of art than a non-fiction history text. The pages are beautifully illustrated with minimal text. It’s printed on quite thick paper, making it appear like a larger book than it actually is. This is a very quick read. It would be a nice addition to any elementary or middle school library, but not essential. I wish it was longer, had more historical details, and used a larger easier to read font.
Tales of Great Goddesses: Gaia Goddess of Earth By Imogen Greenberg Art by Isabel Greenberg Amulet Books, 2022 ISBN: 9781419748615
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12
NFNT Age Recommendation: Easy Readers (5-9), Middle Grade (7-11)