December 4, 2013
We had another great visit with Professor Ching’s evening class in Children’s Literature and Materials at the University of Maryland’s graduate College of Information Studies. We tend to haul a few boxes of books up there to show examples of great books, but spend more time discussing the history and relevance of comics. I always enjoy the back and forth with the students that follows since its fun to talk comics with bright and interested people.
Here I’m circling back to follow-up on a few questions raised or books we discussed, as well as to offer resources helping you find other great books we recommend, especially those in our collection.
As promised our Recommended Graphic Novel List is available as a Google doc that we periodically edit to add more titles that make it into our various collections.
You will also find more recent reviews on here of course, and on the Takoma Park Maryland Library’s Comics Page.
After the jump (and in following blog entries) I’ll suggest books that relate to some of the topics we discussed, starting with 3 books on mental illness.
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November 17, 2013
Good-hearted but impulsive kid contracts super-powers, tries his best — but being a hero is never easy.
We featured this book at our most recent Comics Jam, projecting the book up on the screen to read with the kiddies of the after-school crowd. A fun read-aloud, the dialogue is clever and funny, the story lopes along at an easy pace once it gets rolling. The feel is something of a cross between Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Spider-man — though unlike Greg Heffler (protagonist of the Wimpy Kid series) fun-sized hero Andrew Ryan isn’t, you know, a jerk. He’s a good kid who idolizes the local superhero named Defender, trying to live up to his example. Even without powers Andrew attempts to make his world a better place, to confront bullies or help kids in need (in one sequence attempting some dashing derring-do involving a tire swing to rescue Halloween candy from the greedy clutches of sidewalk goons — with the usual disastrous results). read more »
November 8, 2013
I recently had a chance to visit Emerson high school in Washington DC to talk with students about their graphic novel memoir projects. I brought with me a stack of great books to provide examples of what can be done with the format. Here’s a selection of the best of them:
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November 4, 2013
Local comics artist Gareth Hinds sits to discuss various projects, his process, etc. Signing his latest: Romeo & Juliet. Thurs 11/7, 7:30PM in the Childrens’ room. 101 Philadelphia Ave. Takoma Park MD 20912
Librarians discovered Gareth Hinds in the guise of his shuffling slouching inky and murderous monster Grendel. Hinds’ 2007 interpretation of the Beowulf saga won fans and strong reviews with his lush and muscular reworking of the hero’s tale. His Grendel steals the show from the title character though, leaving his greasy imprint and bloody footsteps through out the first half of the story.
Beautifully painted, rich in color and mood, Beowulf became a must-have for public libraries, with a story strong enough to capture the interest of reluctant readers, (with plenty of gore and conflict) yet adding the gravitas of classic literature to the collection. It is the broccoli of the library shelves: it’s good for you! And if mom makes you eat it, hey, it can be pretty good! If you add some of this to your plate mom might let you also have some (modern era) superheroes as well.
Subsequently Mr Hinds has adapted The Odyssey, King Lear, The Merchant of Venice, and now Shakespeare’s iconic tragic love story. He’s now working on Shakespeare’s ‘Scottish Play’. Come talk with him about process, materials, inspirations etc. — in our Children’s room at 7:30, Thursday 11/7. Our friends at Politics and Prose will be selling books if you want a signed copy.
October 4, 2013
Comix maestro Paul Pope (Batman: Year 100) debuts the long-awaited ‘Battling Boy’: Teen gods and science heroes vs the monsters, Thursday OCT 10 at 7:30 in the kids room.
Artists, critics, and comics aficionados will tell you there’s no one quite like Paul Pope working in American comics today. With his hyperkinetic line contrasting with strong lush inkwork his panels alternately brood and slouch or animate themselves on the page, fizzing and hissing with energy. He has produced well received independent and adult titles (see Heavy Liquid, 741.5973 POPE in our catalog) or worked new creative angles on big name projects (critically acclaimed Batman: Year 100 — 741.5973 BATMAN).
In Battling Boy Pope he gets to play with a lighter touch, creating a coming-of-age heroes tale starring teen gods, action-science soldiers, and a world overrun with huge monsters and nasty boogeymen. He allows himself to play in a realm that harkens back to the pulp science fantasy stories of a more innocent era (Flash Gordon, or works by Jack Kirby) while keeping a contemporary feel.
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July 29, 2013
Brother is set against brother in the excellent Crogan’s Loyalty, historical fiction set in the Revolutionary War.
This year during school visits we discussed historical fiction and I figured I’d take this space to highlight a few standout titles in our Graphic Novel collection.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad.
This book works hard to do a great deal all at once in a very small space. Pages are always cramped in a digest sized book, and while this works fine for manga where often one entire page is filled with a single panel, here Hale manages to cram action, information and dialogue into dozen or more panels per page.
Within those size constraints Hale does fairly well. Young comics readers won’t have to guess to untangle the flow of action sequences. and his flash-forward narrators (soon-to-be-hanged spy Nathan Hale and the Greek chorus of participants at his hanging) only occasionally obtrude on the flow of the story. Now and again the nincompoopery of the hangman character fails to hit the funny bone, but otherwise the story serves its purpose: teaching younger grade-level readers about a significant period of history in a breezy easy way.
The book is not trying for resonance or humanity or perspective. It seeks to make history kid-friendly. For graphics non-fiction it works pretty well, even if here at the library it doesn’t create its own audience or compel readers in to eagerly yank it from the shelf. To me well-done period fiction or non-fiction works best when it ignites further interest in the topic or era. I ask myself not whether I learned something but: do I care to know more?
Crogan’s Loyalty by Chris Schweizer
Contrast with Chris Schweizer’s excellent The Crogan Adventures series. These well-researched historical fiction action graphic novels follow the adventures of various ancestors of the Crogan family. Tales of morality and moral ambiguity are told father to son to illustrate ethical lessons and a bit of history.
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February 24, 2012
Before shelving a book in our collection, no matter the review nor recommendation, here at the Takoma Park MD Library we always run a ‘panel check’ on every graphic novel we add.
This means I read a great many comics of course, the point here is to confirm where a book belongs in our collection, and in our children’s section to avoid any upsetting surprises for patrons hunting for an appropriate book for their kid. Adult language, realistic violence, sexually charged situations, mature topics– these are all reasons why a book may step up the ladder to the next higher age category. (See promotion criteria at the bottom of this article).
Occasionally we get ambushed by a wolf-in-sheep’s-clothing and buy a book intended for a young audience, but discover a single panel of art that bumps it to a higher category. Kid-to-grown-up ‘booby-trapped’ books are especially upsetting when an otherwise great story, appropriate for all ages, is derailed by unfortunate racial stereotypes or caricatures.
Here is a smattering of otherwise excellent books that are tainted by their own prejudices.
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December 21, 2011
Letter from a Grad Student at the University of Maryland, college of Information Sciences
I am looking for suggestions for graphic novels or comic that are either 1) science fiction or 2) contain science content in some other way (ie a prose example would be half brother by kenneth oppel) for an afterschool program I will be designing for 6th graders in DC. Any thoughts? I welcome all suggestions. Thanks!
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November 29, 2011
“I didn’t come here to change my style. I came here because I want to be happy again.”
The mostly true visual diary of the author (under the pseudonym ‘Stacy Black’) who finds herself in a psychiatric hospital following a self-destructive incident. At seventeen, living with her boyfriend, separated from her family, graduated from high school, she loses touch with herself. After punching out panes of glass, she asks her mother to commit her to a psychiatric hospital.
Once there she tries to maintain her sense of self while coming to grips with a numbing depression, her unhealthy relationship with her boyfriend, her difficult family dynamics. read more »
November 18, 2011
Many of the best comics produced today begin as webcomics. The reason is simple, it costs little to nothing to post your content online seeking an audience, where back-in-the-day creators would self-publish only after maxing out credit cards for the initial print run, or going the ‘zine route and taking a job at a copy shop for the free print-outs.
Now the world is wide open, we’re in a renaissance for comics art as the technology provides both new tools for production and an instant outlet for an audience to find the work.
Granted the traditional publishing houses often overlook these series as they don’t fit the industry standards, however since the entire web-scape can track them down and lay eyeballs on the content, occasionally these books attract enough readers to encourage a real-world publisher to risk a print run.
(Better still, librarians who are searching for new books but want to get a preview may take a peek to see if the book fits their own standards).
Here are two in that category that I’d recommend you enjoy.
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