Category Archives: Graphic novels

New Books

A number of new books arrived this weekend for my birthday. It’s so fun to see what my family chooses for me when they buy me books. My daughter sent me a Kindle book I’ve been interested in reading for a long time. My brother and sister-in-law sent the two hilarious squirrel books along with a very interesting-looking book written by their friend. And not in the photo is the first book in a Japanese Manga series from Byron, because he knows I’ve been enjoying those. My reading heart is warmed by all this book love!


A Man and His Cat

My first book read in 2022 was a manga/graphic novel called A Man & His Cat, by Umi Sakurai. It is a story about a lonely widower who adopts a cat and of all the changes that happen because of that new relationship. It was delightful!  A gentle, sweet story that warmed my heart was the perfect beginning for 2022!

And then I discovered that it is the first in a series of six books — oh joy! — so I’m off to the library to find the other volumes!

I read this book as part of Dolce Bellezza’s Japanese Literature #15 challenge.


They Called Us Enemy


They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, is a beautifully written and illustrated autobiography of his childhood years when he and his family were relocated to the American concentration camps during World War II.  This is a book that I think should be a must read for everyone. It is so alarmingly relevant today, and I mean this very day, with Iranians now being detained at our borders and children that continue to be separated from their families and incarcerated at our southern border!

from the publisher:

In a stunning graphic memoir, Takei revisits his haunting childhood in American concentration camps, as one of over 100,000 Japanese Americans imprisoned by the U.S. government during World War II. Experience the forces that shaped an American icon—and America itself—in this gripping tale of courage, country, loyalty, and love.

I was very moved by this book and learned a lot that I didn’t know about that shameful period of time in our nation’s history. It was both moving and uplifting. An excellent book, in my opinion, and one of the most important books I’ve read in a long time!


On a trip to the library recently, I picked up two little books that I ended up just loving. Author Brad Meltzer, who is well-known for his thrillers and mysteries, has written a book for his daughter and another one for his sons about inspirational people….our “heroes.”  And he also has written a series of graphic novels about heroes. The series is called Ordinary People Change the World, and I’ve read a number of those and liked them very much, too. I definitely would have bought all of these books for my class library if I was still teaching.

In both Heroes for My Daughter and Heroes for My Son, there is a one word description of the character of each person he writes about. For his chapter on Dorothea Lange, the word is “Eyewitness.” For Wilma Rudolph, it is “Uncatchable.” And for Thurgood Marshall, it is “Trailblazer.” The last three stories are about his daughter’s Great-Grandmother (“Irrepressible”), and her Grandma (“Designer”), and her Mother (“Fighter”).  He tells the story of each person so his daughter can understand what was/is special and heroic about the person, and he also includes direct quotes so that she can hear from each person directly.

The graphic novels are little biographies of different heroes, and are nicely written and nicely illustrated.

These are lovely, hopeful, inspiring books, and are certainly not just for children. They were inspiring to me, a nice antidote to the ugliness we see so much of these days.

November Reflections 2018

With the darker, colder days arriving, I found it much harder to keep my spirits up during November. That’s not unusual for me, or for many people at this time of year, especially in the Pacific Northwest.  Seasonal Affective Disorder is real. The change of light, the shorter days, and staying indoors more on colder days can lead to melancholy or depression. My reading is my personal antidote to that SAD feeling. It broadens my perspectives and gives me new ways of looking at the world. That cheers me up and also gives me a new appreciation for friends and family.

So with that said, November turned out to be a pretty good reading month for me. I enjoyed getting lost in a variety of books — a mystery, some classics, a Christmas book. I read a number of graphic novels this month, and I’m liking that genre more and more. I especially loved Debbie Tung’s Quiet Girl in a Noisy World, and look forward to her new book, Book Love, to be released in the U.S. on January 1st. My favorite book this month was Michelle Obama’s, Becoming, because it was full of courage and dignity, and hope.

For those of you living in the northern hemisphere, I hope your reading in November was enjoyable and an antidote to the darker, colder days. And for the rest of you, I also hope your November was spent immersed in wonderful books!

My November reads:


Quiet Girl in a Noisy World

Isn’t it terrific when you stumble across a book that seems to have been written for you personally? I found that book this morning in my library’s digital collection! Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert’s Story, by Debbie Tung, is a graphic novel about introverts and how difficult life can be for those of us who are “quiet people.”

from the publisher:

This illustrated gift book of short comics illuminates author Debbie Tung’s experience as an introvert in an extrovert’s world. Presented in a loose narrative style that can be read front to back or dipped into at one’s leisure, the book spans three years of Debbie’s life, from the end of college to the present day. In these early years of adulthood, Debbie slowly but finally discovers there is a name for her lifelong need to be alone: she’s an introvert. The first half of the book traces Debbie’s final year in college: socializing with peers, dating, falling in love (with an extrovert!), moving in, getting married, meeting new people, and simply trying to fit in. The second half looks at her life after graduation: finding a job, learning to live with her new husband, trying to understand social obligations when it comes to the in-laws, and navigating office life. Ultimately, Quiet Girl sends a positive, pro-introvert message: our heroine learns to embrace her introversion and finds ways to thrive in the world while fulfilling her need for quiet.

I identified with so many different parts of this book. Here are a couple of my favorite panels:



This little book is important because in very positive ways it explains and validates the life experiences of an introvert. For many of us, it’s not easy being an introvert!

I’m going to buy my own copy of this book to share with my introverted daughter, my introverted son, and my introverted grandson, as well! Also, I have already preordered her new book, to be released on January 1, 2019. It’s called Book Love, and I already know I will love it.

Currently Reading: March


img_2512On a trip to the library today I picked up two books that I think are very important right now. The one I started first is March, by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell.  It is the first volume of a three part autobiography in graphic novel form. I’m already caught in the first volume and look forward to reading all three.

The second book I checked out and will read next is 1984, by George Orwell. When I first read it in high school it seemed so impossible (thank goodness!) and the year so far away. Not in today’s America, though. How sad to say that it seems chillingly timely right now!

Click here to read a NY Times article about 1984.



The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey

A graphic novel for readers young and old, The Adventures of Rabbi Harvey, is a lot of fun to read.  The research that author, Steve Sheinkin, did for this book was to read as many Jewish folktales/stories for children as he could find. Then he combined those stories with his childhood love for comics and for the “wild west” and created Rabbi Harvey.

The stories are delightful, and are indeed full of wisdom. And the book will make you smile and laugh. Click here to see a sample of one of the stories.  Click here to read an interview with author, Steve Sheinkin.

I read this book (and am looking forward to reading the sequel, Rabbi Harvey Rides Again) for Callista’s Jewish Literature Challenge 2010, and Chris and Nymeth’s Graphic Novels Challenge 2010. Great fun!

Another One for Dewey

american_born_chinese.smAmerican Born Chinese, by Gene Luen Yang, was on my list for the Dewey’s Books Challenge. Both my husband and I read it last weekend and really liked it. It’s an award-winning graphic novel published by one of my favorite publishing companies, First Second, which I’ve written about before on this blog, here and here.

This book has an interesting design. It is three seemingly unrelated stories that all come together at the end with a powerful impact. It is so well done, and deserves the numerous awards it has received.

From the Publisher:
“All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighborhood, he suddenly finds that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he fall in love with an all-American girls.

Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kun-fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn’t want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god…

Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he’s ruining his cousin Danny’s life. Danny’s a basketball player, a popular kid at school, but ever year Chin-Kee comes to visit, and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse…”

The author, Gene Luen Yang, also teaches at a private high school in the San Francisco Bay Area. His web site, Humble Comics, has a section for educators about using comics and graphic novels in the classroom. Another section, called “Factoring with Mr. Yang,” shows the power of using comics in a math learning unit. Very interesting and creative teacher!

There are a lot of blogger reviews of this book, but one of the best and most creative was done by Joanne, at The Book Zombie. Click here to read her excellent review of this book.

Unfortunately, Dewey’s web site, The Hidden Side of a Leaf, is offline again, so I couldn’t go back and reread what she had written about this book. It was very sad for all of us in the book blogging community to lose her last year…her reviews were always sparking my interest.

Rapunzel, Rapunzel

Illustration by Gustaf Tenggren 

The fairy tale of Rapunzel always seemed weird to me as I was growing up, so it wasn’t one of my favorites. But I have just read two books that retell the story of Rapunzel: Zel, by Donna Jo Napoli, and Rapunzel’s Revenge, by Shannon and Dean Hale, and I have a new understanding of and appreciation for this old tale. I also read an excellent article by Terri Windling on the historical and cultural background of the Rapunzel story. It is well worth reading, also.

Napoli’s Zel is a dark and psychological retelling for young adults. It is told in first-person narrative for each of the three main characters: Zel, Mother, and Konrad, the one who brings her love and freedom. With this type of narration, you completely understand the story behind each character, and the reasons for each character’s actions. It is a story of obsessive love, abuse, and of the redemptive power of love. I listened to the audiobook version, narrated by Alexandra O’Karma, and it was a powerful rendition of a powerful story! This is not a story for young listeners/readers.

On a much lighter note, Rapunzel’s Revenge, a graphic novel by Shannon Hale and her husband, Dean, was a lot of fun. Definitely in the category of a “fractured fairy tale,” this graphic novel is set in the wild, wild west, and Rapunzel’s long, long braided hair is used as a lasso and very effective weapon throughout the book. The humor is silly, in the best possible sense of the word, and I chuckled all the way through it. Lots of fairy tale fun from an author I always enjoy!

Two more books read for Carl V’s “Once Upon a Time III challenge!

Robot Dreams

Robot Dreams, by Sara Varon, is a wordless graphic novel for children. Library Journal called it a “small, “simple” story of friendship and letting go…

…A dog purchases a robot kit so that he might have a friend to hang out with. The robot, a mellow type, enjoys hanging out with the dog, eating popcorn, watching movies, and going to the library. A trip to the beach, however, turns out to be a less than stellar idea when the robot goes swimming only to rust up and find that it can no longer move. The dog goes home for the night, intending to take the robot along later. Unfortunately, the beach is closed the next day and the poor robot is stuck on the sand, dreaming of things both good and bad. As the months go by, both robot and dog have their own small adventures, real and unreal. By the end, however, they each find new and separate companions. The last image in the book is of the robot seeing the dog with another robot, and understanding that this is a case when you’ve just got to let the person you love go.

This is another very nicely done graphic novel published by FirstSecond Books, a company with vision and a great place to start if you are just discovering the world of graphic novels. They are pulling in the best authors and artists, and their collaborative projects are terrific! I highly recommend spending some time on their web site!

Awards for Robot Dreams, by Sara Varon:

• A New York Public Library Book for Reading and Sharing
• A Publisher’s Weekly Best Book of the Year
• A Kirkus Review Best Children’s Book of the Year
• BCCB Blue Ribbon Title
• ALSC Notable Children’s Book
• YALSA Great Graphic Novel
• NYPL Book for the Teen Age
• An NCTE Notable Book in the Language Arts

“…unmistakably joyful.” —Kirkus