Category Archives: Graphic novels

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

More Manga Reading

Rhinoa’s Manga Reading Challenge has inspired me to choose some reading that is very new and different for me, and I’m enjoying my first experiences with the world of Manga. This week I read two more books for the challenge: Manga Shakespeare: The Tempest, and Return to Labyrinth, Vol. I.

The Tempest, illustrated by Paul Duffield, was the second book I’ve read from the Manga Shakespeare collection. I started with Macbeth — the play I am most familiar with because I used it in my 6th grade classroom for 16 years — and I enjoyed it but liked The Tempest better because I liked the artwork better. I’m looking forward to eventually reading all the books in the Manga Shakespeare collection. They’re a fun way to introduce yourself (or a class) to the different Shakespeare plays.

Many years ago, my family and I enjoyed the movie, Labyrinth. A few months ago, my husband and I watched it again on DVD, and I think I liked it even more than I did way-back-when. So for Rhinoa’s challenge, I decided to read the Manga series of Return to Labyrinth, by Jake T. Forbes, to see what happens to the story after the movie ends! At the library, I found Volumes 1 and 2 of what will eventually be a 4-volume story. I finished Vol. 1, and am most of the way through Vol. 2Volume 3 comes out on May 12th.

The story in Return to Labyrinth, Vol. 1 takes place 13 years after the end of the movie. Here’s a short summary from the publisher:

The Goblin King has kept a watchful eye on Toby: His minions secretly guiding and protecting the child… Legions of goblins work behind the scenes to ensure that Toby has whatever his heart desires… Preparing him for the day when he will return to the Labyrinth and take his rightful place beside Jareth as the heir to the Goblin Kingdom… That day has come……but no one has told Toby.

I felt a lot of loyalty to the movie and to Brian Froud’s original artwork and Jim Henson’s wonderful creations, so this book was a little hard for me to accept at first. But, it’s fun to follow the adventure along, so I will continue through the story and read the upcoming volumes, too. And anything that keeps Brian Froud, Jim Henson, and David Bowie fresh in mind is definitely to be enjoyed and appreciated.

To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel

I always wanted to be a ballet dancer, and took a lot of dance lessons as I was growing up. To Dance: A Ballerina’s Graphic Novel really captured my own childhood fascination with and love of ballet, as well as the need to move and fill up big spaces with dance! But this is the story of a passionate young girl who made her dream come true, and her amazing experiences in the ballet world as a young professional dancer! The author, Siena Cherson Siegel and her husband, Mark Siegel, collaborated on this book. It is a lovely little award-winning graphic novel for young readers that I’m going to order for my class library at school.

Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth

By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.

Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth is the very first Manga book I’ve ever read, and I enjoyed the experience. I’ve known very little about graphic novels or Manga, but I’m learning! And I do love Shakespeare in any form, and especially love his MACBETH. Before moving to 2nd grade after my medical leave of absence, I taught 6th grade for 16 years, and our 6th grade classes performed an abbreviated version of The Scottish Play every spring. It’s the thing I miss most about my grade level change. So it was a pleasure to read another version of the play, and experience it in a whole new way.

The world of Manga is quite fascinating. There are visual traditions and things I don’t completely understand yet (MacDuff had 4 arms, for instance, and the story was set in a post-apocalyptic future), but I know that there was always a real fascination and passion for it with some of my students, so I am curious to read more and learn about it. I am also pleased that the Manga Shakespeare books introduce readers, many of them young, to the plays in a way they can enjoy. The language is intact although abbreviated, and “reading” a Manga or graphic novel version of the story is much closer to the performance of a play because of the interaction of the words and the graphics.

The other day I watched an interview on the Seattle Channel with Nancy Pearl (Book Lust) interviewing Mark Siegel, the editorial director of :01 First Second Books, and he talked about the world of graphic novels, and how that world is growing and developing. Not only did I learn a lot about that genre from listening to him, but I also compiled a list of graphic novels that he recommends. I’m heading for the library today to pick up a number of them! It’s a 30-minute video clip, but well worth watching.

This book is my first read for Rhinoa’s Manga Challenge, and I’m looking forward to reading more Manga. I am also counting it as a book read for Historia’s Shakespeare Challenge, and for Carl’s Sci Fi Experience because the setting was changed to the future, so it loosely qualifies.

Rhinoa’s Manga Challenge

The rules are:

• Read at least 6 Manga novels in 2009 (crossovers with other challenges are fine, and please feel free to read more!).
• You do not need to set a list of books to read in advance, just fill them in as you go if it’s easier.

Since I’m not very familiar with the Manga world and all the choices available, I’m going to start by reading some of the Manga Shakespeare! I’m looking forward to this introduction to a whole new reading world! Thanks, Rhinoa!

1. Manga Shakespeare: Macbeth
2. Manga Shakespeare: The Tempest
3. Return to Labyrinth, Vol. 1, by Jake T. Forbes

Maus I: A Survivor’s Tale

Maus 1: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman is a memoir in graphic novel form. It is his family’s story of surviving the Holocaust, an amazing book in two parts, and he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize Special Award for it in 1992.

The story of his parents’ World War II experiences in Poland, their survival at Auschwitz, and the impact of their experiences on his own life, is beautifully told through ongoing conversations with his father. In comic book form with black and white artwork, the stories are told as flashbacks. The Jews are portrayed as mice, and the Germans as cats, and his father’s words, in word bubbles, are quoted exactly from extensive recordings.

I’ve only read a handful of graphic novels, but am fascinated by the art and the storytelling. This book is at the top of the genre, and beautifully done. It was such a moving story, I literally couldn’t put it down, and am now waiting for notice from the library that Volume II is in so I can finish the story.

I heard about this book from Nymeth, who wrote an excellent must-read review of it, and from numerous other book bloggers, so I was anxious to see what it was like. Well … it’s incredible!