Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Graphic Novel Round Up

I was in a graphic novel mood there for a while, and I read through a handful that were pretty wonderful, and each as unique as one could hope.

Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer - Written by Trina Robbins and illustrated by Anne Timmons and Mo Oh, Lily Renee is the true story of an Austrian Jewish girl saved from the Holocaust by the Kindertransport, sent to England, and reunited with her parents in America where she eventually becomes a comic book illustrator.  All throughout her story, Lily faces danger, oppression and disappointment with an almost stoic grace and good will.  She works hard through many jobs, from mother's helper to baby nurse during the Blitz to catalog illustrator and clothing model before finding her calling drawing such comics as "Werewolf Hunter" and "Senorita Rio", about a secret agent nightclub singer who fights Nazis in South America.  Robbins handles the historical elements of Lily's story very well, inserting facts along with narration in a seamless flow.  The art of Timmons and Oh seems perfectly suited to tell this tale, the style seeming both classic and modern, with intricate historical detail.   Back matter includes lots of great information, including info on concentration camps vs. British internment camps, facts about British money and Prime Ministers Neville Chamberlain and Winston Churchill and a look at American wartime comic books written or illustrated by women.  It also includes photos of the real Lily Renee and her family. 
Lily Renee, Escape Artist: From Holocaust Survivor to Comic Book Pioneer by Trina Robbins, ill. by Anne Timmons and Mo Oh.
2011, Lerner Publishing Group
Library copy

 Bake Sale - Sara Varon, author of the charming Robot Dreams, is back with another tale of friendship.  Cupcake owns a bakery.  He is best friends with Eggplant, and together they play in a band (Cupcake plays the drums, Eggplant the trombone).  One day Eggplant announces he's planning a trip to visit his Aunt Aubergine in Turkey and Cupcake discovers a reason to want to tag along.  Turkish Delight, the best pastry chef in the world, and Cupcake's personal heroine, is business partners with Aunt Aubergine.  Suddenly, Cupcake must think of a way to make more money to afford the ticket to go to Istanbul with his friend and meet his idol.  This rejuvenates Cupcake's baking skills and business acumen and sends the little guy all over New York City having tiny bake sales.  When it comes time to buy his ticket, however, Cupcake finds that some things are more important than meeting your idols.  Varon’s story is sweet but never sugary, and her clean, simple lines and bright, inviting colors make a perfect match.  Persnickety adults like myself might find themselves wondering what is the difference between Cupcake and the cupcakes he bakes, but kids will not likely find themselves pondering such bizarre ideas. (Another one: Cupcake and Eggplant visit and Turkish bath, and in between the steam room and the sauna, they don bathrobes, but when they leave the establishment, are once again wearing nothing.  What’s to hide?  And for that matter, why didn’t Cupcake’s icing melt?).  There’s something a little grown up about the tale of grown-up matters of these various food items, but kids will enjoy the easy reading, the light humor and the universal theme of friendship.  Even between food groups.
 Bake Sale by Sara Varon
2011, First Second
Library copy

Hera, the Goddess and Her Glory – Man has this graphic novel series from George O’Connor got legs.  The first two volumes, Zeus and Athena were fabulous adaptations of the Greek myths, and this installment is no different.  It is part the story of Hera, goddess of the air, the sky, marriage and childbirth, and that of Heracles (Hercules to you Roman fans), whose name literally means “The Glory of Hera”.  O’Connor opens his story by calling Hera the only thing great Zeus has ever feared, then proceeds to show us why.  But what’s great about this book is that it doesn’t present Hera as a vindictive harpy; she has her reasons for being upset with Zeus after all.  She is wise to Zeus’ transgressions, and yet agrees to be his wife and queen regardless.  O’Connor’s Hera is no fool, but a flawed goddess often caught up in revenge against her husband, taken through the lives of his illegitimate children.  In matching the stories of Hera and Heracles, O’Connor is able to show both sides of the goddess: the jealous, cruel side that sends Heracles on his path of his infamous twelve labors and the side of the goddess often ignored by male storytellers.  O’Connor tells the story of how Hera would leave Olympus and her husband once a year and take down her hair, wash herself in the river and restore her maidenhood.  In the author’s note, O’Connor makes mention of the myths of Greek women that were so seldom told, and jokingly calls his book “the Hera Reclamation Project”.  I think he found in Hera a story that ached to be told without judgment, and at this he has succeeded.  Hera reads well as part of the “Olympians” series, but stands on its own strong feet as well.
 Hera, the Goddess and Her Glory by George O’Connor
2011, First Second
Library copy

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