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:
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.
This adaptation is faithful to the original, and though it’s tricky to adapt a book whose illustrations were so much a part of the charm, Msr. Sfar manages that aspect artfully.
Still I found the story lost some of it’s dreamlike quality in the translation from word to image. Though Msr. Sfar’s illustrations are always charming in and of themselves, here his occasional loopy exuberance or earthy humor was constrained to remain faithful to the ethereal quality of this classic. For Msr. Sfar’s best work see his luminous and wry The Rabbi’s Cat and it’s even-better sequel. Though this was not his best work he doesn’t do the book any ill either.
I liked the adaptation, but it doesn’t stay with me and reoccur at odd moments of the day the way the original did. Here’s one way to describe the difference, when I was a kid reading the book, or having it read to me as a bedtime story I found myself worrying about the prince and his flower and even perhaps crying a bit. Now the characters on the page may cry instead. There’s a distance from the poignance. Or maybe I’m merely older now. Maybe not. I think I remember misting up a little in reading the Rabbi’s Cat Two.
Ultimately I’d sum it up like this: I suppose it says something about the genius of St Exupery’s work that even an artist as stellar as Msr Sfar cannot improve upon it.
Still a nice little book.