I don't review graphic novels on the blog very often, which is in no way a reflection of their importance in the Painter home. Bit is a huge fan of graphic novels. Baby Mouse was integral in her early chapter book reading years. She owns and reads the Amulet books, anything by Raina Telgemeier, and the Zita the Spacegirl books regularly. She has declared Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson the best graphic novel she's ever read. She insisted I read it. Then she proceeded to plop it in my lap every time I sat down. And constantly asking if I read it yet. My own child was stalking me with a book. So I read it and I wholeheartedly concur. This is a fabulous book.
Astrid's mom takes her and her best friend, Nichole, to a roller derby match one night, and Astrid comes away with stars in her eyes. When she discovers there is an opportunity to go to a derby summer camp, she jumps at it. Astrid assumes Nichole will be there with her, but Nichole has already made plans to go to ballet camp. Worse, Nichole seems to want to spend more time with Astrid's worst enemy talking about make-up and boys. As the summer begins, Astrid's life seems to be spiraling out of control. She has lost her best friend and roller derby doesn't come as naturally as she assumed it would. But Astrid sticks with it, and learns just as much about friendship and teamworks as she does about skating.
Astrid's story is one of discovering passion, persevering when things get hard, learning to atone for mistakes, and friendship. It's also an empowering book. Astrid is brave and hardworking, but she is also selfish and headstrong. She steamrolls Nichole a lot and doesn't realize it. She also mocks the things Nichole is interested, not realizing this is as belittling as when she is mocked by Nichole's ballet friend. I liked the way the book highlighted the different interests of the girls without making one better or worse than the other. Yes, this book has a lot of roller derby in it, but Nichole is as strong and sympathetic a character as Astrid is and her interest in ballet is shown as important and valuable too. The feeling of fear about entering middle school, their changing relationship, and what the future holds are realistically demonstrated in both girls. But this is Astrid's story and it is through her mistakes and bold action, defeats and victories, that Jamieson tells an amazing story of the power of teamwork and forgiveness.
The way Jamieson explains roller derby is brief, through, and folds well in to the rest of the story. The art is vivid and colorful. The whole book is a treasure from start to finish. It's a must have for MG readers....more
This was an interesting hour's read but it didn't really impress me that much. I liked Anya but felt the story was predictable and that the message waThis was an interesting hour's read but it didn't really impress me that much. I liked Anya but felt the story was predictable and that the message was the most prominent feature. It was a good message, just not very subtle. It is difficult to read this and not compare it to American Born Chinesewhich I thought was much better....more
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel and the story would not work as beautifully as it does in any other format. TheReview originally posted here.
American Born Chinese is a graphic novel and the story would not work as beautifully as it does in any other format. The illustrations are essential to the story. Yang brilliantly moves the story with a character's facial expression and body language. The more I ruminate on this book the more brilliant I find what he has done here (hence my growing love). Whatever I say can't express how layered with meaning it is. To have accomplished that with sparse words and pictures shows Yang to be a master of his art.
You can probably tell by the title and synopsis that this is a story about cultural identity. There are three separate stories that combine in the end. Jin is Chinese but he is also American and he feels the pull between the two keenly. It makes him feel not wholly Chinese and not wholly American. He has two friends, also Asian Americans, and they don't really fit with the rest of their classmates and have racial slurs tossed at them. Paralleling this is the character of Chin-Kee in the middle story, an embodiment of every Chinese stereotype and joke out there. Yang drew him with big buck teeth, slits for eyes, and a a long braid down his back. He has him switching his r's and l's, wanting to bind the feet of pretty girls, answering all the questions in class correctly, and eating "clispy flied cat gizzards wiff noodle" for lunch. At one point Chin-Kee breaks out in a rendition of "She Bangs" on a table in the library that is very reminiscent of William Hung's American Idol audition.
This isn't just a story about finding your cultural identity as an immigrant though. Nor is it only about the cruel absurdity of cultural jokes and stereotypes. It is at heart a story about embracing who you are and you were created to be. The third story in the book stars The Monkey King, a character from classical Chinese literature, born of a rock. He attains powers by attaining the four major disciplines (from Taoism) and no longer wishes to be a monkey. That is when he is visited Tze-Yo-Tzuh, "he who was and is and shall forever be", who tells the Monkey King that he was created a monkey and better learn to accept it. During this encounter Tze-Yo-Tzuh's speech is taken from Psalm 139, which is all about the unique and specific way an individual is created by God. Why Yang chose that text and that specific phrase to describe Tze-Yo-Tzuh interests me greatly. It is another melding of east and west, like Jin is himself. I don't think it is meant to be taken as wholly symbolic. It's still exercising my brain.
These three stories come together in the end in a wonderful twist that raises some other interesting questions and discussion points that I can't mention without spoiling the end. There's lots to think and talk about here which always makes a book better.
I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that the entire book is hilarious and has a sarcastic, tongue in cheek tone that I, of course, adored....more
Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl
Seriously, with a tag line like that how can you not want toReview originally posted here.
Yet Another Troll-Fighting 11-Year-Old Orthodox Jewish Girl
Seriously, with a tag line like that how can you not want to pick up this book? I have been waiting to get my hands on it since it came out. My library, which I think has a bias against graphic novels, has just received copies. I jumped on them, or one of them, enthusiastically.
I loved every moment of my experience with this book. And it is a book you experience, you don't just read it. I love the whole graphic novel concept but haven't had the opportunity to read many (See above, about my library's bias. To be fair, they have quite a good collection of graphic novels. They just aren't as on top of ordering new graphic novels as they are ordering new novels.). Even with my limited experience, I can say that this is a work of art. The illustrations pull you into the world of Hereville and make you feel a part of it. The expressiveness and unique features to each character make you feel like you know these people. I loved Mirka and her entire family. The text is awesome too. You just want to root for Mirka has she pursues her dream of owning a sword and fighting dragons.
The book also gives the reader insight into the life of an Orthodox Jewish community. (One of my favorite pages is the one that explains how the girls are all required to wear white shirts and long dark skirts, but that doesn't mean they all dress alike. Hilarious illustrations and explanations accompany.) During the course of Mirka's adventurous week sixth day is a part of it and what the family does for Shabbos included. This fits right into the flow of the story and is not at all a lecture on customs. It is very interesting though. There are various Yiddish phrases scattered through the dialogue (with definitions on the page). Then there is the incident with the pig, which scares Mirka and her siblings something fierce because they've never seen one. No need for anyone in Hereville to keep a pig after all. What I liked most about this element is that it portrayed a character whose religion was very much a part of her identity and the identity of her family and presented it how it is.
This is a book that any person, no matter age or gender, can find something to delight in....more