It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 12/24/18

On the blog:

In reading:

I’ll be honest: there are sections of Sanity & Tallulah that are a little bit boring. Space ship repair is a major plot point here. It’s like one of those episodes of Star Trek where the Enterprise is on the fritz and nobody can figure out why so they’re running all over the ship trying to diagnose the problems for forty minutes. And of course space ship repair just isn’t that compelling, so you’ve got to rely on interesting characters to make it work, and that’s where Sanity & Tallulah shines. There’s a diverse cast of characters with plenty of personality, including the adults, as well as my very favorite character, Princess Sparkle Destroyer of Worlds, who is a very special cat created in one of Sanity’s lab experiments. I like how it feels like these characters have histories and relationships with each other long before the story begins, and I like how their relationships with each other are slowly revealed over the course of the story. It’s an empowering and often funny story of kids (girls!) saving the day through science. And the color palette is pleasant too (love that pink).

Eoin Colfer’s Illegal is the story of Ebo, a young African boy who sets out on a harrowing journey as a refugee to Europe. Colfer doesn’t minimize the dangers and tragedy Ebo faces. Though there is a happy ending, it comes at tremendous cost. This is a middle-grade graphic novel, but at times it’s not an easy read, even for adult readers. The full-color artwork is stunning throughout. While I appreciate that this book is raising awareness and building compassion for refugees, I do wish that Colfer and Donkin had prepared more responsible back matter that shared the research they did. Who did the authors interview to write this story? What did they read? Where did they travel? Although this is a fictional story, it’s still clearly representative of a real crisis involving very real human beings, and since the authors are not writing from their personal experience, it’s important to provide some sense of how the story was created. More transparency about research would have helped me, though it’s also just hard for me not to be made uncomfortable when I read a book about an African boy written by two white men, especially when the two white men never acknowledge the potential problems and dangers of writing in the voice and from the perspective of an African boy.

By contrast, the adapters of Anne Frank’s Diary go on at length in back matter about the potential problems and dangers of adapting the diary and what decisions they made to try to navigate the different challenges. I appreciated their transparency. I have to admit to being very skeptical about this book–and then totally won over by its brilliance and charm. Ari Folman and David Polonsky quote liberally from the diary and even reprint many entries in full without illustration while also translating the qualities and spirit and tone of Anne and her writing into a graphic work of art that can stand on its own. This adaptation is by turns clever and laugh-out-loud funny and despairing and sad and somehow full of hope–just as the diary itself was. I’ve read Anne Frank’s Diary many times, and I didn’t think it had anything else to say to me. But Polonsky’s art, which manages to be beautiful and playful and deeply respectful of the source material, showed me there’s still something here for me as a reader.

Tillie Walden’s On a Sunbeam is a doorstopper of a graphic novel: 544 pages! I do think that On a Sunbeam suffers, like Walden’s earlier graphic novel, Spinning, from being much too long. Still, the artwork is dazzling, and I appreciate that Walden takes such an ambitious approach to her material. There are two timelines that eventually interweave. In one, two girls meet and fall in love at boarding school. In the other, set several years later, one of those girls joins the crew of a spaceship that travels around renovating damaged buildings. There’s a lot to think about in terms of relationships, family, sexuality and gender identity, and there’s just enough action to keep the pages turning.

Dear Sister is ultimately a sweet story told through letters that a cranky and resistant older brother is at first forced and then chooses to write to his little sister. I am not sure there is anything new here, but there is real charm in the combination of letters and (often very clever) illustrations. A very quick read and worth a look if you can find it.

As always, there is much to love in this Sara Varon graphic novel/intermediate early reader from the clever writing to the colorful illustrations. Plenty of humor and fine lessons in fair trade and sustainability. The back matter shares photos of Varon’s visit to Guyana, which inspired the setting.

6 thoughts on “It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? #imwayr 12/24/18

  1. I’ve been wanting to see Anne Frank’s Diary — Brayla just finished the original a few weeks ago and has continued to talk about Anne ever since. So I bet she’d love to read this one, too! And I’ve been waiting for Illegal. But very good point about transparency in the back matter. I would love to know more about that, as well! Have a wonderful holiday and break, Elisabeth!

  2. I’ll be finishing the year with Swordheart by T. Kingfisher (aka Ursula Vernon), Nevermoor by Jessica Townsend, and Facing Frederick by Tonya Bolden. Almost finished with Swordheart. Kingfisher excels at realistic relationships, even when the novel’s a fantasy and animals talk. I’ve never read Anne Frank. Plan on changing that by reading your recommendation. On a similar note, Jason Reynolds recommended watching Bruce Springsteen on Broadway on Netflix. Even if you’re not a fan of his music, his narrative is compelling. Read you next year.

    • I wish I could be organized enough to know what I’ll be reading over the next week! Your guess is as good as mine! I am hoping to finish some of the books I made it partway through and liked but set aside in favor of something that fit my mood better at the time. Still have a couple of graphic novels to wrap up. Very engaged by Susan Orlean’s The Library Book right now. And need to finish Madeline Miller’s Circe, which is surprising me. Will look for the Bruce Springsteen on Broadway concert. Thanks for that recommendation!

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