Aya is a book about a teen-aged African girl living in the Ivory Coast during the seventies (a relative boom time). It's billed as being a graphic nov...moreAya is a book about a teen-aged African girl living in the Ivory Coast during the seventies (a relative boom time). It's billed as being a graphic novel that shows that teens in Africa aren't so dissimilar to those in the U.S. (or teens in general, for that matter) and attempts to break the stereotype of Africa as an impoverished nation where all the kids are starving and/or in the midst of constant warfare.
It focuses on Aya and her two friends, Adjoua and Bintou, as they live their lives in "Yop City", a working-class neighborhood of (at the time) prosperous Abidjan. Aya has aspirations of going to school to become a doctor, while her two friends are more interested in dancing and boys. They secretly hook up with lovers on "reserved" tables in the market square at night (aka the "Thousand Star Hotel") and dream about marrying someone who can set them up with a nice house or even a business (I believe a beauty parlor was high on the list). But all their hijinks (yes, I just used the word "hijinks") don't turn out as planned.
It's almost as much fun seeing them get into trouble as seeing how they then try to get out of it. In fact, it's strangely fun while considering that some of the topics covered definitely border on the melancholy (mainly: needing a man to fulfill your dreams). But this is where Aya comes into play, providing a stark contrast to her partying friends. She doesn't judge them, but her character shows a more modern viewpoint which contrasts against traditional gender roles.
The glossary at the back isn't to be missed, explaining much of the slang used in the book (Tassaba - Ta-Sa-Ba: slang, behind. "Move your tassaba!") as well as how to roll your tassaba in a way that makes men fall at your feet.
The illustrations really bring life to the narrative. The beautiful colors and expressive lines were so seamlessly interwoven with the text that I was surprised to realize that the writer and illustrator weren't one and the same.
An interesting glimpse into one writer's perception of teen life in West Africa in the late 70s.(less)
This graphic novel focused on Jonathan A. (the main character) and his alcoholism, and how his battle with it affected everything in his life. There w...moreThis graphic novel focused on Jonathan A. (the main character) and his alcoholism, and how his battle with it affected everything in his life. There were so many wonderful, poignant, tragic and even funny details... I loved his devotion to his best friend, even when said friend ditched him for no apparent reason. I loved it when he referred to his ex-girlfriend by the city she happened to be living in at the time and came to refer to himself as "her bitch" because he couldn't let her go. I loved how he told part of his story while haphazardly self-buried in the sand trying to elude the police. I loved it when Monica Lewinsky said that the kielbasa looked delicious, causing Jonathan to astrally project to the ceiling out of sympathetic embarrassment for her...
It's hard to "love" some of the more tragic circumstances of the book, but while I can't identify 100% with the realities of alcoholism, I think everyone can identify with the feelings of inadequacy and want expressed in this book. The feeling of almost achieving something, and then losing it again. Hopefulness, and hopelessness, and then hopefulness again.
I was actually confused as to whether this book was semi-autobiographical. The main character is named Jonathan A., after all (the author is Jonathan Ames). But after doing a little research: it seems like it isn't. Just a really well-told tale that is true for different people in different ways.(less)
I'm reading this to my daughter for the first time, and I'm remembering how much I love this book. The way it's written is just so engaging - even som...moreI'm reading this to my daughter for the first time, and I'm remembering how much I love this book. The way it's written is just so engaging - even something like this paragraph describing the family's poverty just sucks you right in:
Mr. Bucket was the only person in the family with a job. He worked in a toothpaste factory, where he sat all day long at a bench and screwed the little caps onto the tops of the tubes of toothpaste after the tubes had been filled. But a toothpaste cap-screwer is never paid very much money, and poor Mr. Bucket, however hard he worked, and however fast he screwed on the caps, was never able to make enough to buy one-half of the things that so large a family needed. There wasn't even enough money to buy proper food for them all. The only meals they could afford were bread and margarine for breakfast, boiled potatoes and cabbage for lunch, and cabbage soup for supper. Sundays were a bit better. They all looked forward to Sunday because then, although they had exactly the same, everyone was allowed a second helping.
Augustus Gloop has been sucked up the chocolate tube, and I'm looking forward to Veruca Salt being pronounced a "bad egg". Does that happen in the book, or just in the movie? More reading will tell.
I'm shelving this for a while. My daughter pretty much freaked out when Augustus Gloop got sucked up the chocolate tube. Normally I'd put more pressure on her to keep going, but that's the very same part that freaked me out when I was a kid.
Must be hereditary.
I'm four-starring it based on my own recollection from reading it as a kid. May go up later after my daughter feels ready (if ever) to try it again.(less)
Ghost World is a melancholy but funny graphic novel that centers around Enid and Becky, two recent high school graduates who (happily) outcast themsel...moreGhost World is a melancholy but funny graphic novel that centers around Enid and Becky, two recent high school graduates who (happily) outcast themselves from what they see as normal, boring, ridiculous society. They love to mock the people in their town, and they're pretty tightly banded until Enid's possible departure for college casts a pall over their future together.
I can see why this is considered a classic comic or graphic novel. Although set in the nineties, the characters didn't seem dated to me. Their jaded-ness is eternal.
I got this book from the library, and it just sort of sat around for a bit... then I got some sort of update from GoodReads and I saw that it was on s...moreI got this book from the library, and it just sort of sat around for a bit... then I got some sort of update from GoodReads and I saw that it was on some sort of "hot reads" list, so that sparked my interest again and I picked it up (baa).
The story itself (a bunch of teenagers in a post-apocalyptic world are thrown into a huge arena and they try to hunt each other down and kill each other until only one of them is left) reminded me a bit of Stephen King's The Long Walk, and it carried a similar tension throughout (mostly from knowing that there was only going to be one survivor). At first I wasn't that drawn in, but then it became one of those books that's hard to put down because you just have to find out what happens at the end. And that's kind of unfortunate, because the end of this book doesn't really end because it's the first book in a series.
I think a good description of this book is that it's a "page-turner", but in all fairness I have to admit that I'll probably be turning the pages of the next installment, so: three stars.(less)
Reading this graphic novel was like being invited to tea with a group of Iranian women, except that the talk turned (interestingly enough) to arranged...moreReading this graphic novel was like being invited to tea with a group of Iranian women, except that the talk turned (interestingly enough) to arranged marriages, cheating husbands, and faking your virginity. The images strengthened the words in such a way that when I was done reading it I actually felt like I knew and had spent a little time with these women.
It's interesting, because their conversation makes it seem like they have some power (while living under harsh social restrictions) but as a Western woman reading this book, their idea of what constitutes power is hard to accept. Like many women, they talk about plastic surgery - nothing unusual there. One woman even goes so far as to admit that she had fat removed from her ass and injected into her breasts, which led to this comment about her husband: Of course this idiot doesn't know that every time he kisses my breasts, it's actually my ass he's kissing...
But to me, there's not a lot of power in that. More sadness that you'd have to take that small victory when you're more likely stuck in a marriage that you didn't (and don't) want.
It's hard to judge these women, though. Their stories are told in such a way that it's easy to just listen and admire them for having a voice and telling their stories. Many are in fact divorced, and share many of the same love concerns and troubles as women everywhere, as well as the same strengths and weaknesses. It's definitely worth reading as a reminder that women everywhere share a connection.(less)
At first, Tender Morsels drew me in, but the middle kind of lost me (it seemed a little tedious to me).
Lately, I've been hearing "If you don't like a...moreAt first, Tender Morsels drew me in, but the middle kind of lost me (it seemed a little tedious to me).
Lately, I've been hearing "If you don't like a book, put it down. There are too many other good books out there you could be reading."
But I'm not very good at that. If I see the tiniest bit of merit in a book, I'll keep plugging away. And I saw that in this book. The end did actually pull me back in, but mainly because it did a good job of tying up all the loose ends and revealing what happened to all of the characters.
What's it about? A woman named Liga, whose life has had so many horrible cruelties visited upon it that she's granted her own "heaven" - a town similar to the one she lived in, but with none of the things that previously bothered her. Mean people? Out. Ale houses? Out. Even her ramshackle cottage is repaired and becomes a lovely place to live. But the other people who inhabit this world are merely shadows of those in the real world.
There she raises two daughters, but as they get older rifts occur between her heaven and the real world, allowing them to overlap. And one of her daughters isn't satisfied with the sanitized heaven. She wants more.
Sounds good, right? I thought so, too. Mainly in the beginning and the end.(less)
This is a great book for a weekend afternoon read. The illustrated glimpses in Lauren R. Weinstein's Girl Stories are drawn (no pun intended) from her...moreThis is a great book for a weekend afternoon read. The illustrated glimpses in Lauren R. Weinstein's Girl Stories are drawn (no pun intended) from her own life, and if you're looking for a laugh you'll find it here. The stories are mainly from her middle school years, and focus on her as an uncool, arty kid who desperately wants - of course - to be one of the cool kids. But that plan doesn't quite work out, and in one of my favorite parts of the book she turns to her idol, Morissey, and together they frolic in graveyards, disdain meat, and revel in their awkwardness.
There's also some useful information in the book, such as tips on making Barbie clothes (cutting up balloons to make swimwear is simply genius) as well as how to really get a boyfriend (he might be a total asshole, but you'll still get one).
This book is funny, but it also has enough sensitivity and depth to keep it from being "just" a laugh. The awkwardness of adolescence with all its thrills and agonies is captured here.(less)
I loved this book as much as I loved the prequel (Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat). The themes become a bit more complex as Emmy tries to deal w...moreI loved this book as much as I loved the prequel (Emmy and the Incredible Shrinking Rat). The themes become a bit more complex as Emmy tries to deal with fitting in with potential new friends versus being friends with a bunch of rodents (and doesn't always make the right decisions). I liked that about it because it just made Emmy seem more real.
And that's a sweet thing about this book - even though it's about a girl who can talk to rats and rodents, shrink down to four inches in size, and even become a rat herself - she's still a very "real" character. She embodies many of the traits that I'd like to see my own child develop: thoughtfulness and a curiosity for life, the strength of character to be true to yourself, and the ability to recognize your mistakes and do what you can to make things right again.
I'm not sure what Lynne Jonell has planned, but I'd love to see a series of these books.(less)
I discovered and became really interested in graphic novels in the last year, and that path finally led me to Maus. If anything could be, Maus is like...moreI discovered and became really interested in graphic novels in the last year, and that path finally led me to Maus. If anything could be, Maus is likely the "classic" graphic novel, if not simply one of the most well-known. And with good reason.
The story - part Art Spiegelman's re-telling of his father's experience of the Holocaust, and part an exploration of their relationship - has as its characters mice (the Jews), pigs (the Poles) and cats (the Nazis). I was thinking about why he chose to use animals rather than people, and realized the sad metaphor that mice are "exterminated". In a way, it also removed familiarity with Holocaust images so that it helped them to be seen in a new light (a detached light, at times).
An interesting part of the novel is that it isn't at all a sympathetic portrayal of Spiegelman's Dad. He's often extremely frustrated and angry at him. I guess having lived through the Holocaust doesn't necessarily make you a saint to your children, and Spiegelman definitely doesn't pull any punches here. As the child of a Holocaust survivor, he's also dealing with the fallout of his father's experiences.
I didn't realize that this was only Part 1 (duh) of the story. I wish I'd known to have Part 2 on hand, because the end of this book definitely isn't an end. More like a middle.(less)
I first picked this book up when I was browsing at the library because I loved the cover design. I loved the simplicity of Jonathan Bean's illustratio...moreI first picked this book up when I was browsing at the library because I loved the cover design. I loved the simplicity of Jonathan Bean's illustration and the combination of sweet Emmy and the ill-humored rat in the tree above her. The thoughtfulness of design continues inside with illustrations that together make a flip book along the outer edges of the pages. This book had me hooked visually right from the start.
Story-wise? I really loved Emily and the Incredible Shrinking Rat. It was sweet and funny and cheeky and had a wonderful plot. I also found it to be refreshingly innocent - it didn't have a lot of the flash that many books for young kids today seem to have (due of course, to their non-existent attention spans*).
My daughter is about to turn five, and I think that she's only very slightly too young for this but I'll definitely be reading it to her in about a year. I wouldn't be surprised if this became one of her favorite books. It's already one of mine.
*I hate it when books make this assumption about kids... that everything has to be bright and shiny and super-fast paced in order to keep their attention. EATISR was anything but those things, and was still completely engaging.
Did I mention that I loved it? Because I did. (less)
After I read The Graveyard Book (which I really liked) someone recommended Coraline to me (also by Neil Gaiman). There are actually two versions of C...moreAfter I read The Graveyard Book (which I really liked) someone recommended Coraline to me (also by Neil Gaiman). There are actually two versions of Coraline - a regular novel and a graphic novel - and I picked up the graphic version.
I liked it, but I felt that it didn't flow as well as some other graphic novels I've read (I kept thinking that all the dialogue was simply cut out of the book and combined with illustrations, although that may be an unfair assessment). The story line was good - a young girl travels through a doorway and discovers an alternate reality inhabited (and created by) her "other mother", who's a scary imitation of her real mother - and when her "other mother" kidnaps her parents, she has to match wits with her to get them back.
I wish I'd read the regular novel first. I would have like more back story and details, and while I feel the dialogue and illustrations in the graphic novel were OK, I wasn't blown away. I'll probably check out the novel now to see if I can get that extra level of depth that I felt was missing.(less)