Graphic Novel Round Up, December 2014

In Real Life
by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
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Content: There’s a couple instances mild swearing and because it’s about economics and gaming, it’s in the teen section of the bookstore. That said, A (who is in 5th grade) read it, understood most of it (at least the general idea), and really liked it. It’s in the teen graphic novel section of the bookstore.

I’ve never read anything by Cory Doctorow, but I was intrigued by this when it came into the store, and after reading a review of it for the Cybils blog I knew I needed to pick this one up.

Anda is a gamer. Which makes her a bit of an anomaly in her new school in Flagstaff, Arizona. So when a woman comes to their tech class, inviting them all to join this new online gaming community, Coarsegold, Anda jumps at the chance. Once inside the game, though, she soon finds out things are not all coming up roses. She hooks up with another player, Sarge, who introduces Anda to the world of gold farming. Actually, Anda and Sarge’s job is to kill off those who are gold farming — harvesting virtual gold for real money.

But then Anda befriends one of the gold farmers, a Chinese boy who goes by the English name, Raymond. She discovers that he’s being forced to work for hours on end without a break, for very little money and no health coverage. So, she gets Involved.

I enjoyed much about this foray into the gaming world. I enjoyed Anda as a character, and that Jen Wang drew her realistically. Even her avatar, which was slimmer and “whiter” than Anda was, wasn’t Barbie perfect. I enjoyed the fact that the introduction to the gamer world was a girl, as well. Especially with gamer-gate, acknowledging that girls are gamers, too (and good at it) is a good thing. Doctorow mentions in his introduction that this is not just about gamers, but it’s also about economics and making a difference. And I could see that as well; it’s a primer how electronic transactions take place and a reminder that in this world, no one is truly ever disconnected from anyone else.

Fascinating.

I Remember Beirut
by Zeina Abirached
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Others in the series (loosely speaking): A Game for Swallows
Content: Much like Hidden, this is about the effects of war on everyday people. It’s pretty matter-of-fact, but it feels like an older graphic novel. It’d be in the teen graphic novel section of the bookstore.

This is basically Abirached’s memories of growing up during the war in Lebanon. Her  house was in the middle of what she called “no man’s land”, which was a zone in between the worst of the fighting and the safer places in Beirut. Her memories are organized roughly chronologically, and range from the mundane — how they showered — to the macabre — her brother loved collecting bits of schrapnel — to the sad — when a neighbor had to move because their house got blown up.

Done in the same stark black and white drawings, it’s a reminder that no war is without casualties, and that sometimes those casualties are the everyday lives of people who aren’t even involved in the fighting. 

Graphic Novel Roundup, June 2014

I discovered that 1) I’m reading more graphic novels than usual right now. Perhaps because I’m picking up a bunch for K at the library due to summer reading. Her goal is to read 36 graphic novels by the end of July. She’s read 15 so far. And 2) I really like these graphic novel roundups. Here’s what I’ve been reading this month.

Will & Whit
by Laura Lee Gulledge
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Content: The cover is misleading; it’s not a romance. Not really. Thematically, it’s a little mature — it’s in the teen graphic novel section — but I’d give it to an interested 10- or 11-year-old.

The Will in the title is Wilhelmina Huckstep,  girl whose parents died in an accident recently, the summer before her senior year. She’s living with her aunt, who runs the family antiques store. The Whit in the story is Tropical Storm Whitney which causes the entire town to lose power, thereby creating a situation where everyone has to be unplugged from their technology and interact with each other. It’s delightfully drawn, and balances the dark — Will grieving for her parents and trying not to be a burden — and light — her wonderfully eclectic friends, and the Penny Farthing carnival they put on. There is some romance, with a couple of Will’s friends, but it was very sweet and not at all central to the plot. A delightful summer read.

Hereville: How Mirka Met a Meteorite
by Barry Deutsch
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Others in the series: How Mirka Got her Sword
Content: There’s nothing. I’d let K read this, though she might be a bit confused with the Yiddish words. It’s in the middle reader graphic novel section.

Mirka has her sword, but she longs for more adventures. Instead, she’s stuck at home, knitting berets (its the only thing she can knit) because she’s grounded. Her stepmother, Fruma, just wants her to make reasonable choices. But Mirka is impulsive — something I love about her — and as soon as she could, she went back to the troll for her sword, craving something More. Then the troll sends a meteorite to earth, and the witch changes it into another Mirka. Suddenly, Mirka’s got someone she hast to share her life with. It’s complicated, and Mirka learns that adventures sometimes aren’t all they’re cracked up to be.

Like the first, this one is a delightful mix of Orthodox Judiasm and fantasy. And it works wonderfully. I adore Mirka, I love learning about her life, and I love the adventures Deutsch gives her. Fantastic.

A Game for Swallows
by Zeina Abirached
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some talk of war and killing, so thematically it’s pretty intense. But, I wouldn’t object to giving it to a 10- or 11-year-old, if they expressed interest. It would been in the teen graphic novel section.

I know absolutely nothing of the Lebanese civil war that happened in from 1975 to 1990. I was a teenager in a small town in America, and it just wasn’t on my radar. But, thanks to Abirached, I have gotten a glimpse into what life was like for those going through it. The book takes place entirely in one night in the foyer of the apartment of two children as they wait for their parents to come back from their grandparents’ house. It shouldn’t be that big of a deal, but in East Beirut, full of shelling and snipers, it is. The foyer is the only safe place in the apartment, and their neighbors — from the young(ish) handyman to the older couple to the former French teacher to the older woman who has been a nanny for a family for 65 years — congregate there in the evenings. The mood ranges from celebratory — they make a cake and enjoy a game of Scrabble — to tense — when they find out that the children’s parents had left an hour earlier and had still not arrived. It’s a picture to how life goes on in the face of war, in the face of uncertainty and in the face of death. Done in very stark black-and-white drawings, it’s a very simple and powerful tale of human resilience.