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"Now Here’s My Plan": A Book of Futilities

A great collection of cartoons by Silverstein from back in the 60s. While this isn’t a graphic novel per se, Silverstein’s comic use the full page and often tell sequential stories using the space in unique ways. People familiar with his work will see some of his themes emerge. I enjoyed getting to see all new-to-me Silvestein work and was happy I found this.

A.L.I.E.E.E.N.: Archives of Lost Issues and Earthly Editions of Extraterrestrial Novelties

Didn’t know what to expect, just knew that I loved Trondheim’s other stuff. This is definitely more weird and Woodring-like but I think that makes it even more interesting since there are a lot more options when you’re not writing autobiographically and your made up characters speak a made up language. There’s a lot of rich detail and a few simple stories that weave in and out of each other and I thought it was a good read.

Adulthood is a Myth

Such fun! I’d seen this comic online but didn’t know it had turned into a book. I laughed out loud at a lot of these comics which are basically short vignettes about trying to be an adult and also being incredibly awkward. Enjoyable and relatable.

Adventures in Cartooning: How to Turn Your Doodles Into Comics

A super fun story-as-explanation of how you can write and illustrate graphic novels with only a small amount of what people might think of as “raw talent” I really enjoyed this book, geared towards children, of outlining the aspects of graphic storytelling with a “show don’t tell” approach. And a really nice shoutout to Ed Emberly who was always a firm childhood favorite

All Star

Set in a small Vermont town this is a classic townie versus jock story that Lonergan does a great job at explaining and showing without telling you how to feel about it. As someone who lives in a small Vermont town and deals with some of the same issues, it rang really true to me.

Americus

I got this book out not knowing that it was a story about books being challenged in the library. Enjoyed it. The good guys won. It seemed a bit two-dimensional in parts--the local religious people are really out in left field and seemingly nuts--but overall the story of the fantasy-book loving kid who lives in a place where the type of book he likes to read is seen as “evil” is well written and illustrated. Yay for good librarian characters and happy endings.

Andre the Giant: Life and Legend

Box Brown’s style is sort of not my thing. I was concerned, when I read the Tetris book that he did, that maybe it was just a dull story but he also took Andre the Giant’s life and flattened it in a way that i think would really resonate for some people but didn’t quite work for me.

An Anthology of Graphic Fiction, Cartoons, and True Stories

I’m not sure why this collection didn’t do it for me as much as the others. I feel that part of it was presentation.... some of the comics are presented in landscape and some in portrait so you wind up turning the book sideways and back. Some of it was the way Brunetti referred to all cartoonists as “he” in his introduction. And some of it was that I just don’t think our comic preferences overlap that much. There were some great classics in this mix, but a lot of comics that were just long and weird and not really my thing. It’s rare that I skim a comics collection.

Any Empire

Loved this, had a little trouble following it. This richly illustrated story about kids who grow up and move and reconnect all along with a background of war and warlike activities had a bunch of interesting threads but didn’t cohere for me. Might have been the heat wave, might have been the book. It’s made me want to go track down a lot more of Powell’s stuff because while this may not have been my particular story, I like his general style and would like to try something else.

Are You My Mother

I really like Bechdel but this book failed my 50 pages test. After the first 50 pages I found that I was no more interested in reading it than I was when I picked it up. I feel like I should qualify this. I loved Dykes to Watch Out For and I really empathized with what was going on in Fun Home with the gay dad and the creative mother who felt stultified and was sort of chilly. But this book just seemed... not engaging in that way that other people’s dreams are interesting to them but only interesting to you if you are dating them or if you are in them. Bechdel’s anguish about being worried about what her mother would think about the book take up far too much of the beginning of the book and I just got to the point where I wanted to read about her childhood and not more about her therapy appointments.

Aviary Wonders Inc.

I had a very random walk to get to this book. I was doing Wikipedia work, noticed the author fo the book I was currently reading wasn’t in Wikipedia but she HAD won an award. Made a page for her, saw which other award winners wasn’t in there and found this author and book. This book is so simple and yet really complicated. Sammworth is an accomplished artist who works in paints and also printmaking. This short book is supposedly a bird catalog in the near future, so that you can have a cool bird in your home with the assumption that all the REAL cool birds are... gone. Thought provoking and also lovely to look at. So glad I found it.

Awkward

I think I am all done with this series published so far and I have enjoyed them all quite a lot. Sort of “gentle” graphic novels about middle school and all the new stuff that you deal with when you are a kid. This one is about a character who is awkward and tries to do the right thing. Ultimately works out.

Aya

This story is apparently the first in a set of graphic novels focusing on a young woman who is living on the Ivory Coast in the 70s when things were going better. She and her friends have varying degrees of ambition and family “situations” and while I found it hard to place myself in anyone’s shoes to really understand some of the choices they made, I enjoyed being along for the ride and really felt transported to that time and place.

Bad Houses

Sara is a friend and I’d been meaning to read this for a while. It takes on some pretty heavy stuff, both general topics like addiction and bad parenting but also just STUFF. The things we have and why we have it. The central characters are two nearly-adults one of whom has a mom who is an estate sale organizer and other other of whom has a mom who is a hoarder. Things aren’t easy for either of them. They find each other. This book is beautifully illustrated by Carla Speed McNeil and all fits together as a really wonderful slice of life that is at once relatable but also contains people who we may have never met before.

Barely Functional Adult

A great set of illustrated essays talking about some life lessons Ng has learned over the course of her life so far. Not laugh-out-loud funny the way Hyperbole and a Half is but it also feels more grounded and coming from a place of stability. Amusing and reassuring, starting out metaphorical and getting more specific. I read it in one (and a little bit) sitting.

Battle Lines: A Graphic History of the Civil War

This is a great series of very poignant vignettes that bring home the idea of what was really going on in the civil war--the brutality, the spectating, the cruelty, the varied vested interests--in a way that makes it visceral. Even if you feel like you already know abotu the Civil War in the US, maybe especially if you feel this, this is a good book to pick up.

Be Prepared

Being an out of place nerd is difficult if your family is from someplace odd and you don’t have a lot of money. What would make it better? Camp! With people like you! But of course the main character in this mostly-autobiographical tale finds out that people can be terrible anyhow. There’s some redemption here and as someone who never went to camp, I read along with interest. Sometimes it’s great to think “Man I’m glad I’m not a kid again.”

Beanworld Book 1: Wahoolazuma!

Read these all in a row. Reviewed all together.

Beanworld Book 3: Remember Here When You Are There!

Loved all three of these books. Two of them are an old set of stories repackaged and sold with the newer third volume, all put out by Dark Horse. This is one of those graphic novels that you read and enjoy so much you wonder why you have never heard of it before. It’s a very black and white, 2D internally consistent world with a few major and minor players and almost a Mister Rogers type vibe where people are more or less happy if slightly naive and the days have a peaceful repetitive quality to them. Marder’s drawings are simple and yet very full of expression. The story lines are simple and yet open to a lot of interpretation. The characters are archetypes yet also complicated. Folks may also know Marder as the president of the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, a really important organization that helps fight censorship. Marder also has a website which helps keep you up on what he is doing as well as BeanWeb which is a fun [and dormant] fan site.

Beanworld Volume 2: A Gift Comes!

Read these all in a row. Reviewed all together.

Bernie

I am only sorry that this book didn’t cover the time after the primaries and subsequent election. This is a very well done look at the history of the Democratic Party in the postwar era, the increasing bend towards centrism or outright conservativism, and the appeal of Bernie Sanders amidst all of that. I learned a lot about Sanders' background and a lot about the machinations of various factions within the Democrats to do various things. Enjoyable and also creepy.

Best American Comics 2008

Such mixed feelings about these books! I tend to love the :Best American Whateveritis" books because there’s a good assortment of curated stuff. But the comics ones are weird. Because a lot of what is in graphic novels lately is longer form some of these only tell part of a story. And, I have to be honest, a lot of what I am coming for in these is the story. So a piece of a story I find intensely aggravating. And I’m sure this is partly just me, I don’t think this is a BAD way to do things, only that I find it difficult. I also think Barry, though a certified comics genius, likes some different stuff than I do. So there are a lot of familiar faces in here which is great, but also it has a same-y feel to some of what I am already reading. And a lot of stuff that seems needlessly conflict-bound. However, one of my favorite comics is in here (Turtle Keeps it Steady) and it always makes me grin to see it. I’ve got a bunch more of these to read, we;ll see how it all goes.

Best American Comics 2009

There’s some pretty edgy stuff along with some pretty great stuff in this book. More than the last one, I found myself flipping back and forth to the author bios to figure out “Why did they do this?” Sometimes there are good stories, sometimes, there is nothing. Burns has an interesting vision for all of these and I think this issue coheres maybe a little more than last years'.

Best American Comics 2011

This one was both the best and the worst of the bunch. I love Bechdel’s stuff when it’s telling stories (Fun Home, Dykes to Watch Out For) and less when it’s sort of more navel-gazey (Are You My Mother). SO this collection has some great long form stories which I really liked, but some of them are incredibly upsetting (totally OK, just not my speed) including some massacres and a child rape. So! On balance another good one and a great addition to the series, but also had some mixed feelings.

The Best American Comics 2012

These are all different, I enjoyed this one more than the last. Mouly was a great editor. Comics for kids included are in the back which is something I haven’t seen in this series before. Panter cover, what’s not to love? ARC was choppy but I bet the final is grand.

The Best American Comics 2013

I always love these but they can be tough to read when they contain a lot of excerpts from larger works that don’t always stand on their own. I was surprised to see a lot of pieces I didn’t know about, but starting it all off with a piece Alison Bechdel’s “Are You My Mother” started everything off on a slightly wrong foot. Great collection but I’d love to see more emphasis on complete pieces.

The Best American Comics 2016

I don’t think Iv’e read any of the books in this series before and I really should. Roz Chast was the editor of this year’s collection of graphic novels and comics. I was surprised how many of them I had read, but also slightly frustrated at how many of them were only excerpts which would drop you right in the middle of a story. Some, most, of them stood on their own but a few did not and I found them an odd choice for this volume.

Best American Comics 2017

Finally done with this series in terms of what I have at home. This one was interesting in that it included a bunch of “outsider” comics. Some of their work didn’t translate well at small sizes, but as always, a good assortment.

Best American Comics 2018

I did a sprint through a lot of these over the summer and I have some left. This was an ARC so it wasn’t in final form which matters more for graphic novel types of things than novels. So,slightly uneven but basically okay. Some great stuff, some creepy stuff, and some weird stuff (or all three!) which is exactly what I’ve grown to expect and enjoy out of this series

The Best We Could Do

Thi Bui wanted to tell her story in a visual way so she learned to create graphic novels. This is her first and it’s captivating. Starting from the birth of her own baby and her mother’s somewhat paradoxical reactions to it, she goes back and explores the background of both her parents as they struggled in Vietnam under the shifting and oftentimes brutal regimes that were there. Bui herself is a “boat person” who was born in Vietnam and came to America when she was very small. This book is especially poignant against the backdrop of the current immigration crisis and our President’s complete mishandling and barbaric response to it.

The Big Activity Book for Anxious People

Found this in a free box at the library. Can’t tell if it’s not funny, I have no sense of humor, the authors are way younger than me, or the pandemic rendered any pre-pandemic discussions of anxiety moot. Some things seemed to be making fun of anxiety and some seemed to act like it’s the most serious big deal thing in the world. In any case, not my jam.

Bird in a Cage

This is a poignant and well-told story about the life of the author’s grandmother and, by extension, the life of the entire family around her. Roher tells this story in a series of vignettes that jump around between her elderly incapacitated grandmother and the family caring for her, and flashbacks that cover the grandmother’s entire life. Many of them center around the family island where they would get together in the summertimes and it’s a nice consistent way of threading the larger story together.

Birding Is My Favorite Video Game

So fun this cute little comic about the natural world! I really enjoyed seeing all the different ways Mosco can tell stories about birds, animals, bears, lizards, insects and all sorts of other neat things. The book is not just lovely but it also has an index to all the animals in the back of it. The cutest!

The Black Diamond Detective Agency

Grabbed it because of the cover and I’d wanted to read more by Eddie Campbell since reading From Hell. This was a short turn-of-the-last-century story about crime and forgery. Well told and illustrated.

Black Hole

[review pending]

Bookhunter

[review pending]

Boxers

The companion to Saints. No idea why it took me so long to read these, they were wonderful & have sent me down a rabbit hole of getting straight on my Chinese history. Yang has a marvelous way of finding a personal thread to weave through an epic time in history. This book shows some of the same characters as Saints but from a very different perspective.

Brave

I try to read every thick graphic novel my library gets. Enjoyed this one which was a tough look at middle school bullying with a sympathetic (though spacey and very relateable) main character who has trouble coming to terms with his own bullying. A lot going on in this book including the fact that many bullies are battling their own demon, and a lot of school nonsense (dress codes, censoring the school paper, cliques and mercurial friendships). Very well done with a wide range of characters.

Breakers

Picked this up in a cheapie bin at Drawn and Quarterly. This collection comes out of a comics artist residency down in Florida with some people you may have heard of and many you haven’t. They have to, among other things, draw every day and this is a collection of some of the stuff they drew. A lot of it is personal in nature and it’s interesting to see some of the same experiences (i.e. "that weird guy at the nude beach") show up as motifs over and over. I’m not sure this work would stand alone as a graphic novel to read for fun, but to get an idea of what was going on during this residency and see the various talents of the people residing there was well worth it.

Button Pusher

A graphic novel about being diagnosed with ADHD before it was really a thing. Page went through a lot of “What is WRONG with that kid?” interactions with the medical establishment before getting a good diagnosis that was helpful. And he’s got a home life that is sort of messy with a dad with a tempeer problem who may be part of the problem as much as he also needs some help. A combination memoir and good factual information about lots of aspects of ADHD. Engaging and interesting.

California Dreamin': Cass Elliot Before the Mamas & the Papas

A great graphic novel about Cass Elliot’s life and times before The Mamas & the Papas really made it big. I had their albums growing up but never really knew too much about the band and this was really interesting. Elliot does not always come across as likeable but then again you understand what she’s about and how the Mamas and the Papas ticked more or less.

Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America

For whatever reason Box Brown writes books I almost love and then don’t. I’m not sure if it’s his drawing style which is good but sort of stilted, or his “ripped from headlines” approach where you get the feeling he’s maybe just illustrating news articles he read. In any case, this is a good story to be told and it outweighs the downsides basically talking about the exact specific ways weed was made illegal in the US and in the world. I learned some things. I got annoyed. I was hoping for a broader approach but was happy with the one I got. A great book to have in your library.

Cardboard

Needed a palate cleanser after the 700+ page book I’ve been slogging through. This book was great. A story of “being careful with what you wish for” about some cardboard came to life. It’s a great combination of real-world characters with a fantastical premise that allows for some really interesting drawing. People learn some small lessons. Great story.

Castle Waiting

I half loved this and half sort of didn’t. It’s a great epic fairy tell full of fanciful characters, a lot of funny and wry jokes and some really great tales. However, for some reason the main tale sort of splits off about halfway through to become the secondary tale which, while also a great story, didn’t seem like the main story. So I kept waiting to get back to the main story which basically came back for a few pages at the end. Weird. Not a reason to not read it, just worth knowing it’s coming up.

Chance in Hell

I had a hard time getting my head around this story of a girl who is raised in some sort of favela/dump and claws her way out of it only to find herself in a bunch of other strange circumstances. I sort of disliked everyone in this story and wasn’t quite even sure how I should feel. Interesting certainly but not as good at other stuff I’ve enjoyed by Hernandez.

Class Act

A look at one of the other kids from New Kid, this is another Jerry Craft high school story looking at issues of race, class and self-identity by watching a group of friends struggle with (new) feelings and their old lives. It’s really well done and it’s nice to see the kid from the last book doing okay, while a lot of the other kids grapple with issues and the ups and downs of their relative social strata which are somewhat transparent but becoming visible to them.

The Complete Concrete

It’s been a while since I’ve read a really good graphic novel. I thought this one was going to turn out to be a superhero type comic but it totally wasn’t. This book is a collection of the first ten Concrete comics. Concrete is the name of a guy made of concrete. You can read more about his origin story in, I think, the second chapter. He decides that since he’s stuck in a super-strong body with keen eyesight, he’s going to try to travel and help people and do some other stuff. He succeeds partly, accompanied by a pretty lady doctor and a “I’m writing a novel” personal assistant guy who is always meeting chicks.

What makes this book stand apart is the excellent illustration -- I can’t imagine how hard it must be to make a 1200 pound man made of cement into a sympathetic character -- as well as the compelling storylines. All the characters are complex and the illustrations are both very good sort of “classic” comic style while also stretching the form somewhat. I finished this book very very eager to pick up the next one.

Covid Chronicles

This was a graphic novel compilation with different artists responding to the pandemic. The time it covers was from early 2020 til October, so taking place during some of the bleaker pre-vax times. It’s not an easy read, but has a lot of different takes on a collective public health disaster and people’s personal responses to it. I really enjoyed the overview it gave me of people’s individual struggles and the interactions they had with people experiencing a thing that was kind of the same but also kind of different.

Crush

Was surprised that this book was only a year old because the copy at our library is SO WORN but I think that just points to what a great book it is. This one is in the series along with Brave (which I also enjoyed) and is about the quiet jock type kid, Jorge, having a crush on Jasmine, the drama kid who is a good friend of his good friend. It’s nice to read books about awkward adolescence where the central characters have a strong bond and it’s not all backstabbing and where the system actually WORKS. I know it’s not true for everyone and some may not like this for that specific reason, but it reads true in a lot of ways and, like Chmakova’s other book, the illustrations are really terrific and just add to the story.

The Daughters of Ys

This was a re-telling of a classic Breton folktale and, like many folktales, is grim in a LOT of spots. If you like Frozen-style stories of sisters who don’t quite get along, this story from the guy who brought you Feed, should be up your alley. The illustrations by Jo Rioux were completely gorgeous. A little grim and dark for me as a story.

Depths

[review pending]

Displacement

A look at the Japanese internment camps through the eyes of a modern Japanese American teenager who grew up in a family who had family who were there and never talked about them, and are now living through the Tr*mp years. The story is told through a sort of time travel lens where suddenly a modern girl is put back in time and in the camp. Poignant and informative.

Dog Biscuits

A graphic novel about grappling with the early days of Covid, police brutality, and navigating complicated relationships. Originally released as a series of panels on Instagram and there’s a big afterword talking about its reception there. Not quite my jam, really uneven and I didn’t like the illustration style, but I hope it finds its audience.

Doonesbury: Squared Away

It’s been a really long time since I’ve read a Doonesbury book and I was a little concerned I might no longer know the characters, but this book sort of nudges you to remember, even while it’s telling the story of a whole new generation of hippies and political people and military people. This all took place before Obama’s election so there’s a lot of current US politics basically missing but the undercurrents are the same. Nice to see a bunch of different complex/interesting military threads, not something you usually see interspersed with hippies and academics and the like. If you have enjoyed Doonesbury in the past, you’re likely to enjoy this book.

Dragon Hoops

Gene Yang at a pivotal point in his life/career decides to write a book about a basketball story, despite not ever liking sports very much. He works as a math teacher and is looking for a story. And he finds one, and also kind of makes one. As a fellow non-basketball-enthusiast, I really enjoyed getting the story told to me in this way. A masterful book.

Drama

Another great one from Telgemeier this one dealing with a lot of high school drama in both the literal and figurative ways. Telgemeier is great at having her characters be complex without being inscrutable. I enjoyed this story of putting a high school play together and all the interrelated teen interactions that go into doing something like that.

The Dumbest Idea Ever!

I try to read all the chunky graphic novels that come into my library. Gownley is well known for his Amelia Rules books which I haven’t read so this was all new to me. It’s a great story of basically what it’s like to be a kid with an idea in a dead-end town (mining town in this case) and trying to work on your dreams. Along the way we catch a glimpse of teen romance, Catholic schooling, good parenting and good friendships. I really enjoyed this.

Dune: The Graphic Novel, Book 1

I read Dune earlier this year and was looking forward to seeing a graphic novel treatment of it, but I gotta be honest, I wasn’t wild about this. There’s a lot jammed in there & I think I’d have had trouble following it if I hadn’t just finished the book. For a desert planet, there were a lot of blues and greens in the illustrations and the style just wasn’t to my liking. I found the book a lot more evocative and the graphic novel a lot more kind of standard comic book fare with really busty improbably built women and lots of brooding and.or evil dudes.

El Deafo

Heard great things about this for a while. Happy I finally got to read it. This is a graphic novel about the slightly fictionalized childhood of Cece Bell who has an auditory disability. It talks about her going to school and being self conscious about her hearing aids and interacting with some of the other kids. Really well done with a sensitive afterword by Bell who discusses how her choices and decisions are just one of many in the Deaf community. Very enjoyable.

Embroideries

Iranian women talking in an unfiltered way. Satrapi’s memories of the discussions that happened around her where women revealed their most private stories makes for really interesting reading.

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth: A Novel

I’m always looking for big graphic novels because I read quickly and I want them to last. This was on the shelf at the library where I was working and now I want to read everything that Greenberg has done. It’s based on a storytelling sort of structure. Characters who are in a story and the stories they tell within the story. Maybe even one story in a story in a story, I wasn’t quite sure. There’s a calm at the center of this book that I found really appealing as well as all the other stuff that is good about it.

The Eternal Smile: Three Stories

[review pending]

Fake Blood

I picked this up because it was thick and I had no idea part of it was about Transylvania. What fun! It’s all about being a sixth grader and the good and bad that can happen in a lot of different directions. I enjoyed it, I liked the characters and the illustrations were lively and colorful and compelling. I’ll go abck and try to track down Gardner’s other novels.

Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home

This fell in my lap. A friend’s company publishes this book and he gave it to me. It’s great, instantly familiar since I was punk-scene-adjacent in about the same timeframe that Nicole was and a lot of the stuff seemed familiar. This story bounced around a little and the central piece is her relationship with her dog. The dog is a problem. The girl is a problem. They learn how to navigate the world together. I wish I knew more about some of the stories told in this book (the car accident, what was up with her parents, what was Tom’s deal) but it felt really real, like it was told the way it felt to her. The dog does die in the end, which I guess I should have expected but did not. But it wasn’t a terrible ending and you felt, a little bit, like this would give her a new chapter to do slightly different things with her life.

Fish Girl

Not your usual mermaid story. This one is about a Coney Island style attraction where there’s a young girl mermaid and a guy who acts like he’s Neptune but maybe he isn’t. If you’ve read any of Wiesner’s other books, you’ll recognize his terrific style but the story by Donna Jo Napoli is what really makes it. Complicated, no lusty fisherman, just a young girl trying to figure out what her life is about with her octopus pal.

Flying Couch

Started this book at night but realized 1. it’s non-fiction (meaning it’s for daytime reading) 2. it’s about the Holocaust, in part. A story of three generations of women all somehow coping with the legacy of the concentration camps and what “family” means. A lot of stories gradually getting told. Wasn’t wild about the illustration style, but was going to put it down entirely and the story drew me back in.

Friends with Boys

I first became aware of Faith Erin Hicks when I read the graphic novel that she illustrated, Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong. This story about a homeschooled girl’s transition to a regular high school while dealing with the absence of her mom is written and illustrated by Hicks. It’s a great story that looks at a lot of various gender roles and expectations without bogging you down in a politicky story. The high school felt real, the story felt realistic and not preachy. Very well done.

From Hell

Loved this. I forgot that way back when I was a sort of serial killer enthusiast of a sort and a lot of the little bits of this story came back to me as I was reading it. Moore and Campbell have created a terrific alternate-but-supported history of what may have actually been going on in London in the summer of '88. The librarian in me thrilled to the lengthy afterword which was filled with Moore talking in casual detail about the sources that he’d consulted and talking about which panels were real which were based on good guesses and which were fabricated entirely. A gripping and interesting read.

Fun Home

Too many similarities to list in this autobiographical novel of growing up in a weird house with a weird dad and a fractured family situation. I enjoyed this difficult story about Bechdel’s growing up.

Ghostopolis

I had the rare delight with this graphic novel where I was so into the story and scooting along thinking “Oh what HAPPENS” that I almost didn’t stop to appreciate the illustrations which are truly terrific. I loved this tale of a ghost hunter and the kid that gets sent to the ghost world by accident and the campaign to either get/detroy him or get him back. A lot of overlapping narratives, great pictures not constrained by boring-old-reality and enough of a feelgooder that it’s good for people who don’t usually like “eternal conflict” types of books. So good. Go read it.

Ghosts

I’ve loved Telgemeier’s other graphic novels and was happy to find one in my library I hadn’t read. This book is more of a stretch than some of her other ones--she writes about people of color and she writes about a cultural tradition which is (I think?) not entirely her own. So I both read this book and read what people were saying about the book and the way it represents Latinx culture. Next up to read what disability advocates have to say about the way it represents people with cystic fibrosis. I always learn something from reading Telemeier’s books, just not always entirely from Telgemeier herself.

The Gigantic Beard that was Evil

What a weird funny book. I decided to spend a day looking at graphic novels because I’ve been bogged down in one book the rest of the time. I went to the library in the summer town I’m in and they had almost none! So I got a series about John Lewis and then picked this one up. It’s fun! And weird. At first it starts out seeming to rhyme and I was concerned but then it turns into this super strange story about a guy with a beard that grows and won’t stop, and it becomes a metaphor for all that is safe and all that is unknown and scary. Liked it. Great illustrations.

Go with the Flow

A great high school friend story with the added storyline of girls talking about their periods. Different girls, different experiences including “Why are all the pad dispensers always empty?” and “Why does this hurt so much, am I broken?” There are also the usual ups and downs about meeting people, sexual preference/orientation and just the usual school things. Super well done and without any uterus diagrams.

Going into Town: A Love Letter to New York

Originally written by longtime New Yorker Chast who moved out of NY to raise her kids and then realized her daughter didn’t know what a block was! This is partly informative, partly humorous and full of great things that will make you think about (and remember, if that is your thing) the wacky, giant mess that is New York City.

Good Talk

The librarian at the library handed this to be so I could read it before it was even on the shelves. A great, complex story of an East Indian woman dealing w/ encroaching Tr*mpism, her racist in-laws (who don’t think they’re racist), her White (but Jewish!) husband, and their young son and the questions he asks while growing up in NYC. Beautifully illustrated with drawings cut out and collaged over a number of different backgrounds. I had not read Jacob’s novel which I think is what many people know her for. Was so happy to read this.

Grease Monkey

This was one of the more fun graphic novels that I’ve read recently. The introduction by Kurt Busiek really sets the stage. This book was a labor of love, dribbled out as a series of self-published [well, photocopied] comics over years and years. Finally Eldred got a deal with Tor books and the set of comics became an excellent book. When I start explaining the plot and characters it really doesn’t do the story justice “Okay so it’s in the future and 60% of the Earth’s population has been killed and so these aliens come and give sentience to gorillas after the dolphins turn them down...” It’s mostly a human story about living on a spaceport and trying to make time for having a job and a personal life and oh there’s a team of female spaceship pilots and the guy’s boss is a gorilla. The illustration, storylines and characters are top notch. I am only sorry I can not read this graphic novel for the first time again, a lament the introduction’s writer also reported.

The Great American Dust Bowl

This is a great short graphic novel about the dust bowl which is a little odd in what it omits as well as what it includes. According to the sources in the back of the book, it got a lot of material from Egan’s book The Worst Hard Time. I read that book and I’m pretty sure at least oart of it was an indictment of farming practices (lots of land plowed under, in long straight rows) and that was not in this book and it was noticeable. Now it’s entirely possible the author knows better, but I was left confused at the omission. This is an exceptional graphic novel and does a great job at explaining in a really visceral way just why the Dust Bowl era was so difficult to deal with and why so many people left the Midwest during this period.

Groovitude: A Get Fuzzy Treasury

What’s almost more amusing than this book, which I enjoyed quite a lot, is seeing the people who are totally ticked off and annoyed by it on Amazon. I can understand how the content -- a mean cat and a dopey well-meaning dog who live with their ad exec owner and have amusing domestic interactions -- aren’t for everyone, but I’d think that would be the sort of thing you’d know before you bought it, maybe? The only gripe people seemed to have that was legit was that this compendium is basically the first two books combined with some Sunday comics. So, if you already have one of the other books, you may not want this one. I’m not sure why I love this collection so much but having had dogs and cats a lot of my life it just makes me smile a lot of the time.

Guts

Another memoir of Telegmeier’s growing up. This one about her anxiety disorder that manifests itself as eating/digestive issues. This is all about how she and her family tracked down and diagnosed her issues and partly about going to therapy. Her growing up in California with her parents' slightly non-normative lifestyle (all three kids shared a bedroom until Telegmeier was in her teens) and her extended family all play into this. Tense at times but some nice lessons learned (about school, about family, about growing up) and wraps up well with some words from modern-day Telegmeier.

Hark A Vagrant

This was fun! I enjoy her online comic and looked forward to this book. Mostly enjoyable, a little bit of repetitive stuff like “Imagine this story from the book cover” which may have gone on for too many book covers but all in all a delightful read.

Harvey

A short and beautiful graphic novel about a small French community and a young boy within it whose father suddenly dies. I picked this up from a library book sale pile and was impressed by the really interesting illustrations and the way the author seemed to have a handle on how to world of adults looks to children particularly at a difficult time.

Heights

[review pending]

Herding Cats

Every time i find one of these I haven’t read yet I find myself wishing there were a lot more of them. Sarah Andersen does a great job talking about the work she does, the pets she loves and the anxieties she lives with, in ways that are funny and very very relateable.

Hereville: How Mirka Got Her Sword

A neat book about a girl in an Orthodox Jewish community and the funny woman she meets who owns a pig and helps her find a sword. A neat look into a community that many people may not be familiar with (and the book helpfully defines words that readers may not recognize). Great illustrations and a lead character that people can relate to, for whom not everything got right.

Hey, Kiddo

Krosoczka was raised by his grandparents because his mom was a heroin addict. This graphic novel talks about what that was like all the way from when he was a baby, through his adolescence and into his teenaged years. Spoiler alert: he turns out okay but it was difficult and part of the issue was just how much he didn’t know and how it was sort of hard to find out. This book poked me in a lot of the feels because I had a parents with a problem (different than Krosoczka) and I could relate to some of the same weirdnesses that he relates to. Also he’s about my age, a little younger, and grew up in the same slices of Massachusetts that I did so there were a lot of familiar places.

Hicksville

Hicksville is a made up town somewhere in New Zealand where everyone is a comics fan and comics are seen as real worthwhile literature. Dylan Horrocks has made the place up and populated it with real people and tells a story of one local guy made good and what happens to him there. There are quite a few little comic stories within the main story which I found a little difficult sometimes to differentiate but I’m sure that has more to do with my own linear eye than the story itself. Horrocks' style is similar to that of many other US indie comics artists but the range he displays in this graphic novel really shows off his abilities. Good story, good drawings, worth picking up.

Himawari House

I had a slow day subbing at the library, this was on the NEW shelf so I read it all at once. A story about feeling “not at home” in different ways, seen through the eyes of a Japanese-born young woman who moved to the US when she was small and spends a year in Japan in a group living situation with a few other young women and men from other Asian countries. There are some flashbacks to her earlier life and some to the lives of the people she lives with. It’s definitely got one of those summer vibes to it even though it takes place over an entire year.

Home After Dark

I should have thought more closely about whether I wanted to read a “haunting coming of age story” right before bed (answer: no) but this book is both amazing and evocative but also tough to read for anyone who had their own difficult childhood and maybe has a hard time with images and stories of child neglect. So good but also so difficult.

Houdini: The Handcuff King

A great glimpse into one small episode from Houdini’s life which tries to sum up a lot of the complex aspects of the man’s life. Really enjoyable and not just because there are a lot of shots of him hanging out in his underwear.

Hyperbole and a Half

I’ve been a big fan of Allie Brosh’s work, it was fun to revisit, in the run-up to having her new book come out. The graphic novel is full of well-illustrated funny stories about dogs, grappling w/ depression, self-doubt, being a weird kid. It ended on a dark note, w/ her talking about how shitty she actually is (in her own words, not in mine) which left me feeling sort of odd. Like it was clear that she had worked a lot of stuff out--hooray--but also that she was still working on some stuff and maybe didn’t realize that she had more work to do, possibly.

I Was Their American Dream

An excellent graphic novel about being an American kid of immigrant parents from 2 very different cultures--Egyptian and Filipino--and forging your own way while still remaining close to your family. Gharib does a really good job at showing you not telling you how her family’s cultures interrelated as well as talking about herself in a way that is poignant and funny at the same time.

I Will Bite You

One of the things I love about the graphic novel format is the author’s ability to take you inside some strange places you might not otherwise understand. A lot of Lambert’s stories are pretty strange and confusing (to me) but reveal a really interesting mind.

Ichiro

This graphic novel about a two-culture kid is two stories in one. One about a kid from Brooklyn trying to make sense of growing up with an absent (dead) soldier father, and one about the mythological history of Japan. They only sort of line up though you get what the author is after. I found some of the Japanese history stuff a little tough to follow, though still really interesting, but I mostly wanted to get back to the young boy and what his deal was. Not quite enough Tenuki, but is there ever?

Imagine Wanting Only This

My initial review of this was “A melancholy reflection about falling down buildings, health and family issues, and thinking a lot about what it would take to feel "at home.” Gorgeously drawn, doesn’t really go anywhere, even though geographically you’re in a lot of places." The graphic novel rubbed me kind of the wrong way but I couldn’t really put a finger on why. Just mopey white girl ennui I felt like. Then I read this review on Goodreads.

In short, that review is by the mother of the young man whose photos Radtke basically appropriated for a lot of the content in her book. And I think I got a bit clearer of an idea of why I hadn’t liked it. The story seemed to use the emotional content of a lot of people--her boyfriend, this young man, a lot of the people in her life--without being clear that’s what she was doing. And those people were treated badly by her. She starts out kind of obsessed with the pictures of this young man, carries them with her everywhere but then just... loses them somewhere on a trip to Europe. Ick.

In Real Life

Said it before but everything that First Second publishes is great. This is a graphic novel for feminist gamer girls specifically but enjoyable for anyone interested in games or global inequality or just being a high school girl. The story takes place half in-game and half out of it with the general message that it’s all "real life", really.

In Waves

A super poignant and sad memoir about a young woman and the boy who adored her. She learned to surf and this story is partly about the history of surfing and partly about her eventual death (spoiler!!) from cancer. I was not expecting a cancer story and I was expecting a surfing story so I was a little surprised at the direction this took but it was a well-told and really great story nonetheless.

The Incal

This is one of the very few graphic novels at my local academic library. I really wanted to like it, and enjoyed the first third of it, but then it got a little too magical for me and I lost the thread of what was happening. It felt, to me, less and less grounded in an actual plot thread and more a complex allegory for... something. At any rate, I put it down at one point and did not pick it up again.

Is This the Way to Fiction?

I’ve got a standing search to look for graphic novels that I haven’t already read when I am browsing paperbackswap and if I have any credits available I’ll try to get the things I haven’t read that aren’t manga. This was an interesting but uneven collection of Sassaman’s work. It was strongest during his childhood recollection pieces, about the Marx Brothers and about going to the Jersey Shore (particularly poignant this month) and least strong where he was just outlining slice of life stuff. He’s a good illustrator, but a better storyteller when there is a story to tell but it seemed like sometimes he’d make up a story if one wasn’t readily available. I’d like to pick up some of his other work to see if it gives off a different vibe.

Jar of Fools

I had read this comic when it was serialized in The Stranger a long time ago and recently came across the graphic novel. It’s more fun to read this story in one sitting because a lot of the smaller vignettes are best understood as parts of the whole and you’re left feeling really bleak and terrible in small doses otherwise, or at least I was. This is a poignant story about a drunk magician trying to get over the suicide of his brother, with an ex-girlfriend he still loves and a mentor who is in and out of a rest home. He meets people who live under the bridge in a car - a confidence man and his daughter -- and they all try to muddle their way through life.

The illustrations and the plotline are totally excellent in this short novel; the palpable ennui is the perpetual extra character and the stark black and white drawings give the reader a real feeling of isolation and hopelessness. That said, the book has its strong and uplifting moments and this first installment ends on a cautious up note.

Jerusalem: Chronicles from the Holy City

Other than the Sinead O’Connor earworm, this book was a really great year-long sketchbook of being the trailing Canadian spouse of a woman working for Doctors Without Borders. There’s a lot going on in Jerusalem, between the various border walls and crossings, to the relationship between the non-profit workers and the people in the surrounding communities. Delisle doesn’t get too judgey about it but does do a credible job drawing what he sees.

Jews in America: A Cartoon History

500 years of Judaism! This isn’t all about the United States though it does draw trendlines between what was happening in Europe and then what eventually happened in the US w/r/t Jewish people. Some attention but not overly much about the Holocaust. Not as many woman as I might have liked but that might be history or it might be sexism, so hard to tell. As a graphic novel, it’s not great (a lot of tell-not-show) but I don’t think that was what it was going for, really is more like is says on the cover “cartoon history” and it was good at that.

Kaput and Zosky

Fun space comix! I guess part of them are illustrated by Trondheim and part of them are illustrated by Eric Cartier. I have to admit not noticing the difference between the images. This was mostly taken from a television show (I guess?) that I did not know either. It’s mostly amusing spacemen who try to go to different worlds and take them over with amusing results.

Klezmer: Tales of the Wild East

Finished this book right after New Year’s Eve. I’ve been reading a lot more Judaica lately and enjoyed this look into what exactly klezmer music IS, as told through a story of a bunch of random musiciains who find each other. Great story with a lot of interesting facts and extra details there at the end. Apparently this is just book one so I need to go find book two!

La Perdida

Found this at a library book sale and it was a totally pleasant surprise. Jessica Abel is always one of my favorites but I didn’t know much about this one. It’s a really interesting story about a woman who decides to go down to Mexico and the people she meets and interacts with there. it doesn’t go anywhere you expect it to go and the illustration and the entire storyline are all really high quality. Highly recommended.

Large Print

Enjoyed this. Love these guys. Everyone should buy a copy of this book, two maybe.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me

Another great graphic novel from First Second, this one about a complex world in which the person you are with isn’t maybe the person you should be with. We’ve all had these bad relationship situations and this one is told empathetically and honestly. It’s another great story by Tamaki, illustrated by Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, looking at a confusing and complicated teen romance and all the conflicting feelings you can have about things that aren’t really going your way. Some really solid friendships help round this out.

The Library

A swirling collection of vague ideas made really interesting by Chihoi’s illustration style. It was fascinating for me to see hs sketches of his deceased father coming back and ... doing things. I thought I was the only one with zombie dad dreams. The library part is minimal but overall it’s an interesting book outside of the usual moody graphic novels I usually read.

Life Sucks

I’ve missed the YA vampire craze. I enjoyed this graphic novel a lot. The premise is nothing too special -- what if normal ordinary people were vampires and had to live and work along with the rest of us. What if one of them was a vegetarian? What if he developed a crush on a goth chick? This well-drawn and well thought out Adrian Tomine-like bleakish (yet full color) story is one of the better graphic novels I’ve read this year.

Lint Boy

This book was actually sort of upsetting for what is, i am sure, supposed to be a tale about overcoming adversity. Lint Boy comes from the dryer and is captured by a mean sort of sadistic woman who tortures him and the other toys she finds, trying to make them prove they are alive. They plot an escape. I don’t know if it hit me in the feels for some particular reason or what, but I found the sad toys really difficult to deal with and interact with. Well done and well illustrated but maybe not for some kids

Lio: Happiness Is a Squishy Cephalopod

This is more a collection of strips than a graphic novel. I saw this book in the library and thought it was more the story of a boy and his squid, but it’s so much more. It’s really weird and dark in a way that makes it mostly-palatable for a newspaper strip but only just barely. Lio is a weird kid with a penchant for creepy-crawlies, robots and other weird kid stuff. These strips have almost no words i them (no one ever talks) but they are incredibly deep and layered just the same. As a huge fan of Gahan Wilson’s “kid” character, Lio has some of the same weirdnesses, updated for this century.

Little Nothings: The Curse of the Umbrella

Loved this. These little comics are filled with small autobiographical sketches of Trondheim, a well known French cartoonist. He draws himself and his wife and children as anthropomorphic birds and makes small slice of life one-pager comics about the things they do including deciding to get cats, the ins and outs of public transportation and concerns about malaria. It’s quite amusing in a droll sort of way and the illustrations are marvelous.

Long Way Down: The Graphic Novel

I did not read the novel this graphic novel is based on but the story comes across pretty well. It’s a really gripping story about growing up in a tough neighborhood, with a moral code that doesn’t always serve you, where revenge is not optional but you’re not always sure you’ve got the right person Lovely watercolors by Danica Novgorodoff that are so well done. Written by Banned Books Week honorary chair Jason Reynolds. Have not read the longer novel, I suspect it’s heartbreaking.

Low Moon

A weird and interesting spare graphic novel by a Norwegian cartoonist who usually goes by the pen name Jason. I found this at the library and it was one of the thicker graphic novels that I hadn’t yet read. It’s a collection of four sort of weird stories all of which feature vaguely animal-like characters in more or less human situations. There’s a bleakness and a strangeness to their interactions that I found pretty interesting.

Lumberjanes Vol. 1: Beware The Kitten Holy

Liked this, but was expecting it to be somehow AMAZING and it was only very good. I think I’ve been really lucky in that I’ve had access to a bunch of great graphic novels with cool female leads that I have had a bunch to choose from. I enjoyed this book but it wasn’t one of my favorites of the genre. There’s clearly a whole culture built up around it and yay hooray for that.

Mad Night

Enjoyed this slightly strange mystery graphic novel about Judy Drood and her hapless pal Kaspar Keene. I missed the first installment, so there were a few things I didn’t quite get. The lettering style took some getting used to and I wasn’t prepared at all for the really high body count and some of the graphic dismemberment that happened. Overall, really good, just don’t read it before bed.

Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!

A super fun romp with a kid with a smart kid with a big imagination and his talking dog. I don’t read many graphic novels that are actually for kids but this one had enough to still be interesting to an adult lady while having kidlike themes (time machines! dinosaurs! science fairs!). I’ll definitely try to track down the other ones.

Manfried the Man

What if cats were human sized and had cat sized humans as pets? That is hte entire premise of this graphic novel which winds up being about much more than that. Super fun. I am not totally sure why all the man-pets are men, but maybe there’s some reasoning behind it. Well-drawn and well-written, this was a fun romp for the last read of 2018.

Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo and Me

Loved this book which outlines a few years during which Ellen Forney got diagnosed with bipolar and tried to work her shit out. It’s an honest and real look at both the highs of mania but also the real lows of depression and how she worked with professionals, family and friends to try to get a grip on managing her bipolar.

March: Book One

The first in a series of three graphic novels about the civil rights movements particularly the events happening in the mid to late sixties, interspersed with the inauguration of Barack Obama. Lewis was really at the forefront of a lot of important events and this is a more personal look at the ones he was participating in which provide context from a specifically black perspective on what was going on behind the scenes.

March: Book Three

The third book in this series.

March: Book Two

The second book in this series

Mark Twain’s Autobiography, 1910-2010

Far too clever for its own good this book just did not resonate with me, Was hoping for a graphic novel. What I got was a bunch of “What if Mark Twain were alive and had a totally different sense of humor than he actually has” Not good.

Monster: A Graphic Novel

Sometimes my little clunky book software doesn’t do my reading justice. In this case, this book was Sims' adaptation of Walter Dean Myers' book that was illustrated by Dawud Anyabwil. My metadata, it is terrible. I liked this book but I think it was sort of not aimed at me. It’s about a kid who is getting in trouble for maybe being involved in a crime and looking at the different parts of that situation (jail, court, family, school, future, past etc) I had a slightly hard time understanding it but this was taking a book and turning it into a graphic novel so I appreciate that there may have been a lot getting smushed in there. Above all, the illustrator’s style stands out. It’s great, evocative and really helps propel the story along. You can get a sense of this literally just looking at the over. There’s a stylized-for-effect sense to all of it.

Monstress

This was a gorgeous graphic novel which I picked off of the library shelves and I enjoyed looking at it but the storyline was way too dark and sadistic for me and I couldn’t keep up with it, too upsetting.

Mooncop

Brand new graphic novel by Tom Gault that tells a somewhat lonely story of someone assigned to police the moon as people gradually move away. Short book with a lot to look at, incredibly well done.

My Favorite Thing Is Monsters Vol. 1

I started out with this as a morning book and then switched it to being an evening book which was a terrible idea! This book is terrifically dark and includes a lot of difficult topics--Nazis, child prostitution, poverty, gay bashing, mom-with-cancer--and it pulls no punches. I wish I had known when I started it that it was Volume one because there are a lot of questions I still have and I have to wait for the next volume. But this is SO GOOD. The illustrations are a fascinating mix of various types of drawing all on lined notebook paper. Captivating storytelling and a main character (who looks like a cute little monster which makes you think early on this won’t be quite as creepo as it turns out to be) you can totally relate to.

My Friend Dahmer

John Backderf who writes under the name Derf Backderf was in junior high and high school with Jeffrey Dahmer. Dahmer was a weird kid even back then and this well-researched (and well cited) graphic novel talks about a lot of the weird stuff about Dahmer before he became Dahmer the serial killer and was just Dahmer the weird kid who lived in the house on the hill. Well done without being overly sentimental or gruesome, this is a good way to get more of the story of just what happened to that kid to make him go so wrong as a man. Troubling but also very good and well told.

The New Kid

A really well done graphic novel about being the new kid in a school. But it’s more complicated than that. Jordan Banks is a Black student going to a fancy private school. So not only are some of the kids weird about his race (with sort of micro and macro-aggresions towards him and the other students of color) but also the teachers trot out a lot of the familiar tropes ("Why are you so angry?" etc). Craft does a really good job at teasing out the subtleties of many different types of intersections of race and class, so a lot of these interactions ring true.

Not Funny Ha-Ha: A handbook for something hard

I didn’t know what this book was when I picked it up. It’s a very well done book basically about “So you’ve decided to get an abortion, what does that mean exactly” and guides the reader through the two different major types of abortions, surgical and medical. Lots of good information and Hayes is really clear that people shouldn’t rely on it for medical advice but since we know people often go to book (or their friends) before they’ll check with a doctor, it’s very good that books like this exist. My only real concern with this book is that both the women look really really upset the entire time. Not that abortion isn’t serious but it definitely makes it look like they’re feeling one specific way.

Nothing Can Possibly Go Wrong

Another great graphic novel from :01 (First Second). Everything I’ve picked up from them has been terrific. This one is about a jock and a nerd who are friends and who face a bunch of different challenges in high school culminating in a holidaytime robot competition. Great illustrations from Faith Erin Hicks make this a really worthwhile read.

On A Sunbeam

This book started as a webcomic but I picked it off of the library shelf because it was LONG and it was a graphic novel. It’s great. There are no boys or men in it, though there is one character who uses they/them pronouns. And the gender balance isn’t really central to the story which is more about growing up and space travel and figuring out what you really want out of life. Also it’s lush and lovely despite having an oddly restricted color palette. An excellent read.

The One Hundred Nights of Hero

I was captivated by Greenberg’s earlier book and was happy to find this on my small town library’s shelves. It’s a great weaving of stores within stories which I’m not always up for but I enjoyed very much. Greenberg has a way of having her characters tell stories that are at the same time relatable but also of another time and place. Very feminist and female-centric, I appreciated getting to read mythology that had female heroines at their centers.

Pashmina

Unlike the book I read before this one, this book is basically perfect. Chanani was born in India and came pretty quickly to the US and so this is a story about a girl who is wondering about where she’s from and wondering about her family. There is a magic shawl and it gives her some and not all of the answers. Chanani is a skillful artist and storyteller and I enjoyed even the difficult parts of this story and want to make sure it’s on everyone’s to-read lists.

The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors Without Borders

Lefèvre was a photojournalist how took a trip into Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders in 1986 during the Soviet War. This was in a pre-technological era where he carried all of his cameras and lenses over miles and miles of inhospitable terrain and through locations with inhospitable (and hospitable) people. His photographs, many of which weren’t published until this book originally came out in 2003, shows a part of the world that many of us know (or knew) almost nothing about. Lefèvre discusses the world that DWB do and explains in some detail how they manage to do the jobs that they do. This is a graphic novel (published in this country by the always awesome :01 and put together by Emmanuel Guibert) written around Lefèvre’s story and his photographs.

Pinky and Stinky

Fun and for kids, this short story about two intrepid piglets and their space adventure was fun and is worthwhile reading for anyone who enjoys Kochalka.

Please God, Find Me a Husband

Grabbed this out of the Widener basement. It’s a great mix of wonderful accessible cartooning along with a storyline I understood but could not entirely empathize with. The author is in her 30s and single and really really wants to get marries. She is also quite religious. She approaches that issue and tries to figure out what to do about it. The book is very religious but not preachy if that makes sense and I really enjoyed how much the author let us in on her inner monologue of this journey. Also it does NOT wrap up with her finding a husband which I appreciated.

Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Biruté Galdikas

A great graphic novel about women who do primate research. It tells three interesting stories and doesn’t shy away from the fact that Dr. Leakey was maybe a little creepy.

Prisoners of the Sun

This was the follow-up to The Seven Crystal Balls. I’d never read Tintin before and this was a gift from a young friend and I dove into the first book and he graciously sent me the second. I liked it. Don’t really know from Tintin. My favorite character is the dog. These are very “of a time” meaning they’re basically racist, for the most part, and are not really that thoughtful about cultural differences and there are barely any women in these stories. Given the context, I enjoyed this as much as I could. Nice drawings. Fun dog.

The Property

I loved this rich story by Modan about a Jewish grandma and her granddaughter taking a trip to Poland to find out about The Property, a building that had belonged to the family before the war and lost afterwards. The story is beautifully told and has a lot going on that works at many levels (for example, three languages are spoken and this is handled by them being written using different cases). You get to understand some of the human sides of what was going on in Poland that wasn’t just Nazis and war crimes. Lovely book.

Pumpkinheads

My software doesn’t let me credit the illustrator and the writer of books so I’ll mention here this was written by Rainbow Rowell. It was a delight from start to finish. Could totally relate to autumn themed nonsense being about to head into it in Vermont, and also enjoyed all the snacking. A lot of fun stuff going on in the background of this one and each page is worth a longer look.

Pyongyang

A fairly chilling graphic novel about the Canadian graphic novelist’s trip to North Korea to briefly help out in an animation studio there. While he has a relatively straightforward role there, he notices that the people around him are all kind of bending over backwards to pretend that what is going on there maybe isn’t really going on. Delisle is always watched, always followed, frequently lied to while believing that many people there are also lying to themselves.

Refresh Refresh

Depressing but poignant story about a bunch of kids in rural Oregon growing into their teenage years without their dads who are off fighting the war in Iraq. Hard to read but very worthwhile.

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen

A great fun book about growing up foodie. I enjoyed Lucy’s tales of her childhood and travels and her formative food experiences. Some neat recipes, some neat stories, all wonderfully illustrated in a fun slim volume that gave me an enjoyable evening’s read.

Rex Libris Volume One

I got a phone call from the guy who is making this graphic novel into a screenplay soon to be a major motion picture, we hope. I had heard a lot about it and hadn’t read it, so I ILLed it from my local library, expecting great things. And while I am still looking forward to the movie, I can’t say as I enjoyed the comic. The story is great, but the illustration is computer-generated which just isn’t my taste. There’s also a metanarrative running through the entire story that I found sort of confusing and distracting. Plus the type is SMALL and while this has never been a problem for me in any other graphic novel, it was a problem here. So the book gets returned to the library, unread.

Roadstrips: A Graphic Journey Across America

I didn’t read the description too carefully and I thought this was about road trips, but it’s actually a bunch of cartoonists, people you’ve heard of and a few you probably haven’t, talking about when they sort of had their “Aha!” moment about realizing they were American. The strips are distributed and introduced geographically and of course there’s a preponderance of strips about places you’d suspect cartoonists would live, but they’re all really interesting, reflective and of course really well drawn. Enjoyed this a lot even though it wasn’t about road trips after all.

Rolling Blackouts: Dispatches from Turkey, Syria, and Iraq

I had this on my table for literally months. I think I was afraid it was going to be a little graphic or grisly because it was about wartime, but it wasn’t like that at all. In a weird way it was a little dull. It was about a group of young journalists with a lot of money who toured the Middle East n search of a story. And they found, of course, that people’s stories are complicated. And their central story is about one of the friends, someone who joined the military, who travels with them. He feels good about his role in the war, being in the military, but his journalist friend feels he should’t... and that seems teo be the central conflict in the book. Glidden is clearly a talented artist and story teller, but I was only sort of into the story she was telling.

Saints

I’ve been making up for the last year of no graphic novels from the library with a vengeance. This was great, I knew it would be. It tells the story of the Boxer Rebellion from the perspective of the Christian converts who were on one side of it. I’ve got Boxers in the queue.

Salvatore 1: Transports of Love

An excellent graphic novel with tiny type about a dog who is looking for the love (dog) of his life, meanwhile there is a pig with a bunch of babies who is trying to get him to fix her car. Or something. Slightly absurd, very well illustrated and told, this book is a delight but sadly only part one of a series.

Satchel Paige, Striking Out Jim Crow

Big fan of Sturm and this is a good graphic novel, but it’s mostly NOT about Paige but rather racism in the Jim Crow South. Worthwhile topic! But not what I was expecting. I was really looking for more of a baseball book and this was definitely not it. I had questions about the appropriateness of the AAVE dialog that were not really answered by me reading more about the book.

Scarlett Takes Manhattan

A terrific porny romp through old time New York and burlesque shows and the weird relationships between cortesans and politicians and women and men. This was written and illustratd by friends of mine and while it’s likely not quite right for the library, it was great reading and enjoyable storytelling.

Science: Ruining Everything Since 1543

Another collection of stuff I’d only known about from the web. Weinersmith is a very prolific comics guy and I’d seen a lot of his stuff online. This is a collection of the science-only stuff he’s done. Enjoyable! Some of it makes more sense if you know him and where he comes from, I was a little confused because I actually didn’t know what SMBC (Saturday morning breakfast cereal) stood for. And as far as “comics turned into books” the repro is really good but some of the other design elements (page numbers, whatever) could have been more part of the design. I’m sure some of that stuff is costly though and this book is not just funny and a great gift for any scientist but it’s also super AFFORDABLE which is excellent.

The Secret of Invisibility

I’ve been enjoying John Ralston’s comics online for years and was very pleased to see that he had come out with a young adult novel. I read this book back to front in a few days. It’s the story of an awkward boy who moves to a new town where he doesn’t know anybody and encounters a secret.... He also spends a lot of time at the library and meets a kid in town who enjoys doing the same things. The story rings true and is reminiscent of one of my favorite stories of all time Alan Mendelsohn, the Boy from Mars. There are neat little naming jokes and complementary illustrations throughout. It’s a good read, feels good in your hands and looks great.

The Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook

A fun romp through the world of an unlikely alliance of nerdy kids who love science. The illustrations in this book are reminiscent of Chris Ware with a lot of little details that reward a close look at every page. Fun story. Neat kids. Something for everyone.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength

This is a different tour through Bechdel’s life than some of her recent titles, it talks about her preoccupation with fitness through her whole life (before it was really a thing) and reflects on what that might have been, or is, about. She goes to a lot of discursive places some of which were more interesting than the others but to me what was so interesting is that I really didn’t know she was sporty at all. And as someone who had an upringing that was like hers in some ways and very unlike hers in other ways, I am always curious to read more meoir-style stuff from her.

The Seven Crystal Balls

Somehow I had never managed to read a Tintin book before this one? This one was good, an odd story with odd characters, vaguely racist and the first of a two-partner. I will try another one soonish.

Sheets

A nice concise story about the complicated world of death, loss, the afterlife, and the current life we’re in. Relateable. Good teenage angsty story that winds up okay.

Shirley Jackson’s "The Lottery": The Authorized Graphic Adaptation

This is an adaptation of Jackson’s original short story by her grandson, a graphic novelist with his own reputation and style. I liked his intro where he talked about what little he remembered about Jackson and what he was told about her by his family. I liked the stark adaptation since it seemed so familiar. After reading reviews, it was interesting to me that one of the main critiques was that this is nominally a story that resonates with people of all ages and yet this particular version, since it’s illustrated and includes a bathtub scene and some frontal nudity, can’t easily be used in schools. Which made me think all over about what is an isn’t allowed within societies and if maybe that was part of Hyman’s point.

The Silence of Our Friends

I’m sorry I missed this when it first came out but I guess my library didn’t carry it and I don’t have a lot of other graphic novel options here. This is a complicated story about the South, Texas specifically, and what it takes to deal with all the racism, institutional and otherwise, that just permeates the culture there. The title comes from an altercation on campus where the police basically open fire on black protestors while white onlookers, some of whom are friendly with the protestors, don’t really react. It winds up being okay in the story because there is a crucial aspect to their disinvolvement that solves some larger issues but it still made me feel weird as a sort of moral. In any case, well drawn and written, this is a great companion graphic novel to John Lewis’s March series.

Sisters

The library where I am for the summer does not have a good graphic novel section. However I always check it. This time they had one book by Telgemeier that I hadn’t read before, Sisters. I have a pretty close relationship with my sister but I didn’t always. I thought I could relate to this book. I could not. I found their relationship sort of confusing and a bit of a conflict without resolution. At the end of the book (unless I missed something) we thought the parents might get divorced but we weren’t sure. There was a graphic novel device of having the flashbacks be sort of sepia toned that I found a little confusing. In the past I’ve found Telgemeier’s stuff pretty accessible so maybe this was just a miss for unrelated reasons, but I’ve really liked all the rest of her stuff.

Sloth

Another great combination of illustration and storytelling by Hernandez. This one is a high schoolish tale of romance and rock and roll and one [two?] character who is in a coma for a year and emerges ... slow. Also an evil lemon grove and the mysterious things that happen there.

Smile

As someone who went through a lot of really annoying dental stuff when I was too young to really be able to deal with it, I loved this graphic novel about the time when Telgemeier lost her two front teeth and had to deal with a bunch of corrective dentistry at just the same time that she was becoming a teenager and entering junior high school. Well written and illustrated, very very relatable.

Snapdragon

A remarkably rich graphic novel that covers a lot of territory while at the same time being something that a young adult would enjoy. A little bit magical, a little bit life-affirming, but also full of skeletons both real and metaphorical. From the creator of Lumberjanes which should tell you all you need to know. A great story. I particularly enjoyed the Jack character who is both a witch and not-a-witch and is a character shown with more compassion than you might expect.

Solutions and Other Problems

It’s a pretty rare humor book that will get me laughing out loud. Brosh has a really wacky sense of humor and an ability to laugh at her past self that feel authentic. She goes deep into some low-key stuff and skirts over some heavier stuff like her own mental health challenges and a serious breakup. This is a thick volume that cohered (I felt) better than her last book and I was happy to read it.

Spanish Fever

A great collection of short vignettes by Spanish artists along with an intro contextualizing the history of Spanish comics and sequential art. I didn’t know about almost all of these artists and while some of the selected pieces didn’t really do it for me, there’s a huge range of skills and abilities on display and it was a terrific read.

Speak: The Graphic Novel

This is a powerful graphic novel about high school and ostracization. I did not read the original book but really enjoyed this version of it, illustrated by Emily Carroll, though I needed to switch it to my “daytime reading” pile from my nighttime reading pile because it was too dark for nighttime. It’s a story about a terrible thing that happens and the aftermath which is, in some sense, just as terrible. I related to the character who was isolated in her own home with self-absorbed parents and friends who always seem to be after something and who are also trying to just make their way in the world. I think the story works especially well as a graphic novel because a lot of the imagery is almost better seen than read.

Spinning

This is a very good but also hard to read story about Walden’s younger years as a competitive figure and synchronized skater, while also experiencing being a lesbian in Texas with a not-particularly-supportive family. She gets comfort from unlikely places. Walden has said that she wanted this book to be more about a feeling than a specific history if this time in her life. I felt a lot of it was familiar (weird uncaring parents, peers who could be truly awful) in ways that weren’t always confortable but which felt really true and honest.

Split-Level Dykes to Watch Out For

It’s fun to read these all totally out of order. This one is back when everyone was moving around, when Clarice has a crush on Gonger, when Mo met Sindney, when the bookstore was just starting to sell sex toys, when sometimes you could glimpse a nipple in these comics. Bechdel delivers. All these books are just great.

Step Aside Pops

I continue to love everything that Beaton has done. This book is possibly even better, a little funnier, fewer experimental things, than her last one. Enjoyable all the way through.

Stitches: A Memoir

[review pending]

SuperMutant Magic Academy

Liked it. A book by the same author as This One Summer. I was the first person to check it out of my library. It’s a collection of small comics that, combined, tell the story of a school full of mutants who are also teenagers. You learn some things, you wonder about some things, you never figure some things out. Really interesting and well put together.

Teach Yourself Fucking

I’d wanted to own a copy of this book since I’d seen it on the shelves of Left Bank Books and finally go a copy for my birthday this year. It’s got a lot of little comics and clippings that resonate with me of being a very particular sort of Anarchist-Jew-NYC style that I found fun to read even though a lot of the general messages were tropeish (cops suck, government sucks, capitalism sucks) even if I agreed with them. Cover is the best part of the whole thing. Was good to get to engage with Kupferberg in this way.

The Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances

I really like reading about people with non-traditional approaches to exercise. Inman was a fat kid and lives in some sort of crazy fear of becoming a huge blerching mess again. Running a lot lets him eat what he wants ( a truly terrible assortment of food if he is to be believed) and this is how he wants it. He has advice which may or may not work for you and a lot of funny anecdotes and images to go along with them. If you have a complicated relationship with exercise, you will like this.

Tetris: The Games People Play

Got this from a friend whose Wikipedia page I helped with, so not something I would have maybe chosen on my own. Brown is clearly a real talent with a great style and every panel had things you love to look at But this story? About who owned the rights to Tetris? I both loved it for how nerdy it was but also it wasn’t MY nerdiness so sometimes it felt like a slog. And the truly amazing parts of it (all that flying around and communicating when that sort of communication was HARD, and the guy who murdered his family) were sort of downplayed. Brown pulls it off but I’m not sure if this is one of those graphic novels you want to show to people to show off the form An odd story and I learned some things.

They Called Us Enemy

George Takei (rhymes with OK) tells the story of the years he spent in an internment camp as a child. Well told, beautifully illustrated, tied in nicely with current govt. malfeasance. Tough read, good read. It doesn’t have so much graphic detail that it’s not appropriate for kids, but at the same time it’s interesting how it totally elides over Takei’s gay advocacy work even as it does casually mention his husband. A curious book, a story well told.

This One Summer

A coming of age type of graphic novel where the main character goes to the summer place she’s always gone to and does the same things, sort of. Lots of depth and nuance in this vacationers vs townies, kids vs. teenagers vs. adults. I felt a lot of the emotional atmosphere of this story rang very true.

This Was Our Pact

Such a great story! This one kept not going where I thought it was going to go and despite some pretty difficult circumstances, there’s a gentleness and warmth to it that fills it in. It’s an immersive slightly fantastic tale of kids and a mystery that turns into a lot of other mysteries. Talking bears! Weird bridge frogs! Stories about stars! Boys on bikes! Celestial fish! Just a joy all around.

Thoreau at Walden

Surprised I’ve never put anything from John P on this booklist before since I’ve always been a fan of his work. This is a short set of vignettes involving Thoreau taking his words more or less verbatim (and noting where liberties were taken). It takes some of his choice quotations and little bits from his book Walden and illustrates them. As someone who grew up around Concord I liked seeing the settings and just the love of that part of the natural world. Porcellino did a good job not shying away from Thoreau’s relative privilege (and semi-weirdness) while also getting across why people found his words so compelling.

Through the Woods

Really an exceptional graphic novel of very short horror fiction. Carroll has a real way of telling ominous stories that have a really subdued creepiness to them and she doesn’t shy away from showing you the full-on awfulness of some of the creepy things and in other cases just hinting art them.

Town Boy

Enjoyed this book about growing up in Malaysia. Not a lot going on, but the author’s quirky illustrations and little vignettes with so much going on visualy are evocative of Sergio Aragones and a joy to look at.

Uneasy Happiness

Another in the Little Nothings series. Enjoyed this a lot but maybe not in the OMG way I felt when I read the first one. Terrifically illustrated and Trondheim gets himself into some interesting situations which makes the autobiographical stuff work so well.

Upgrade Soul

What a weird and complex and lovely graphic novel following the path of two older folks who decide to undergo some radical new treatment to.... do something and it doesn’t turn out like they expect. And it gets weird. And creepy. Mostly in good ways. The author really gets to explore a lot of issues (race, class, gender, disability culture) while all the while telling one story that is mostly a love story. Hard to put down, would love to see this made into a movie.

A User’s Guide to Neglectful Parenting

Sort of funny? I feel like this might be more amusing to people who didn’t have neglectful parents. I’m sure a lot of it will “ring true” to people in any case and I enjoyed the illustrations and the setup but some of the punch lines just seemed cruel and unfun to me.

V is for Vendetta

Enjoyed the movie. Really wanted to read the original graphic novel. I found the graphic novel a bit more confusing, had a hard time telling some of the characters apart and, for once in a rare while, actually liked the movie better. There is some great extra stuff at the end including Moore talking about where they got their idea from and a few other things, but from a pure “I like this story, which version works best?” position I found the narrative structure of the movie and some of the plot choices easier to follow.

Watchmen

[review pending]

White Bird: A Wonder Story

Other than the fact that this didn’t look like a WWII/Nazi book when I picked it up, I liked this. It takes someone who is a sort of side character in the Wonder world and explains a little bit about the history of that person and their family. Ultimately, this is a story about a Jewish girl in WWII who has to hide out in a barn for a really long time to escape the Nazis. There’s a lot more to it than that, but it definitely is worth reading, though a little graphic at times.

Wizzywig

A friend lent me this book to see if it would be appropriate for her library which serves high schoolers and middle schoolers. I liked the book a lot but it’s not really a kids' book. It’s the story of one hacker--a made up guy though people familiar with the hacker scene will recognize aspects of several known hackers--from when he was a small smart bullied kid living with his grandmother to the point where he is on the run trying to stay ahead of the law who wants to prosecute him for various hacking exploits. A lot of the story is told form the vantage point of his childhood best friend and so it has sentimentality without the sort of omniscient third person perspective which works for this book. The protagonist is seen as persecuted but also sort of a sociopathic jerk in some ways which makes the story more readable than if it were just some hero hacker story. There are a lot of other side characters like the tv pundit who has sort of made his name “knowing” things about the hacker and the authorities who know something is being done wrong but aren’t sure what. A great read, one of my favorite graphic novels of the past year.

Woman Rebel: The Margaret Sanger Story

I am so pleased that Bagge took the time to research and write this great story about the real life of Margaret Sanger. Not only is her story important and basically the story of birth control access in the world today, but Sanger was also a complicated woman and Bagge did the research and seemed to want to specifically address a lot of the critiques that other coverage--positive and negative--has attracted. So you see him specifically covering things like her talk before a KKK audience or the death of her daughter, or her many romantic dalliances with various men and you get a fuller picture of Sanger the woman, not just Sanger the icon or Sanger the nurse or Sanger the wife. A large section at the end has Bagge going page by page through much of the 75 page book giving citations for what he knew about the events that he portrayed and how he decided what to show and what not to. A great read for fans of Bagge or Sanger.

Your Black Friend and Other Strangers

More of this! Jim brought this from home because he thought I’d like it. The opening essay int his short graphic novel is all about why people should become anarchist. Which is, honestly, not a lesson I needed but I’m always interested in what brings OTHER people into deciding that. Passmore explores how various social identities (chosen and not chosen) can intersect or overlap. In particular looking at how progressive white people do and do not handle their shit with regards to race. His opening title story is the most “accessible” but there’s a lot of other weird and great stuff in here, some of it a lot more abstract. It’s rare that i find something that falls into the weird comix genre that I feel I can relate to or that seems meaningful but this was one of those.

Zita the Spacegirl

Everything :01 does is amazing. This is a fun romp to another planet with a nifty young girl. It has fun monsters and robots and its not too scary. Very worthwhile.

Zot

This book is the complete collection of all the Zot graphic novels that were published in black and white form together with a lot of commentary by Scott McCloud. As someone who has yet to read Understanding Comics, and who grew up down the road from where McCloud lived [only a few years later] I found his sidebar discussions almost as interesting as the comics themselves.