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How the World Was: A California Childhood

(La Guerre d'Alan)

3.82  ·  Rating details ·  382 ratings  ·  85 reviews
In 1994, French cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert befriended an American veteran named Alan Cope and began creating his new friend's graphic biography. Alan's War was the surprising and moving result: the story of Cope's experiences as an American GI in France during World War II.

How the World Was is Emmanuel Guibert's moving return to documenting the life of his friend. Cope di
Paperback, 160 pages
Published July 15th 2014 by First Second (first published September 19th 2012)
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3.82  · 
Rating details
 ·  382 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Seth T.
Dec 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: comics
Review of How the World Was by Emanuel Guibert

If you’ve read more than a sturdy handful of my reviews here, you’ll likely have gathered that I love to talk about myself. Or perhaps not so much about myself (in terms of ego) but rather about my life, about the things I’ve experienced, the way things have been. A couple months back, I was trying to describe what I do at Good Ok Bad and I happened upon the description: memoir-based, low-brow lit-crit. The reason I spend so much time telling stories about who I am and have been is that I believ
Tom LA
Apr 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Guibert's art is magnificent. In particular, he has a real knack for drawing people, and he gets all the expressions, positions and proportions absolutely right. As for the story, mmmhhh... this book is following the childhood of Alan Cope, a friend of Guibert, and old guy who agreed to have his memories recorded by Guibert. Therefore, the book reads exactly like what it is: an old guy telling you about his distant past. Unfortunately, he does not come across as an interesting guy at all. I'd sa ...more
First Second Books
Aug 07, 2014 marked it as first-second-publications
Emmanuel Guibert's HOW THE WORLD WAS is the companion story to our previously published graphic novel, ALAN'S WAR, which takes you through World War II from the perspective of one single man.

HOW THE WORLD WAS tackles Alan's youth, growing up in California. It's fascinating -- rather than being a historical story about Big Events or even Big Ideas, it's all the strange and weird and interesting points of an ordinary person's life, and what it was like to grow up in America's past.
Aug 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
I really, really liked this book. I imagine it's not for everyone, but I like memoirs and since my daughter has moved to California, I enjoyed reading of that state in an earlier, simpler time. The author/illustrator has taken stories of his friend's childhood, as related to him before the man's death, and turned them into a lovely graphic memoir/biography. This childhood was during the Great Depression when California was much less crowded and glitzy. The separate little incidents don't particu ...more
Christina (A Reader of Fictions)
Pages read: 50

I know I was almost a third of the way through this graphic novel, so DNFing seems a bit silly, but holy shit am I bored. It's important to record what life was like on a daily basis, sure, but even the parts that should have been interesting are told in this way that makes me feel like a kid sitting in the Peanuts classroom. I don't find anything the slightest bit interesting, except for the full color illustrations that opened the book. Otherwise, bored bored bored bored bored.
Miss Philby
Oct 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Nostálgico, áspero, tierno....Delicioso.
R.K. Cowles
3 1/4 stars
Rebecca Sealfon
Oct 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
Except for the few pages at the end where Guibert markedly shifts his tone to make a confusing connection between the protagonist’s emotions and the protagonist as an “artistic person,” this is a charming tale of the small and large events that make up a child’s life. Like his collaborator Joann Sfar, Guibert has a talent for writing about the introspective moments of a bygone era. He beautifully portrays a child’s foolishness, wonder and sadness.

Other reviewers may criticize the ordinariness of
Dani Shuping
Jul 13, 2014 rated it really liked it
ARC provided by NetGalley

In 1994 a French cartoonist named Emmanuel Gilbert met an American war veteran named Alan Cope. The two became fast friends and Emmanuel decided that Alan’s story needed to be shared with the world. Gilbert shared Cope’s experiences and story as an American GI in France in WWII in a graphic novel titled “Alan’s War.” But Gilbert was not done telling Alan’s story. He began working on his friend’s life growing up in California during the Great Depression. Sadly cope died b
Elizabeth A
Sep 23, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014, graphix
Book blurb: In 1994, French cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert befriended an American veteran named Alan Cope and began creating his new friend's graphic biography. Alan's War was the surprising and moving result: the story of Cope's experiences as an American GI in France during World War II.

Telling someone's biography in Comics form is an interesting choice, and this form captures a sense of emotion that would be harder to do in prose. The art is fantastic, and wonderfully atmospheric, but I was not
Dec 19, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: adult-books
This is a beautiful graphic novel that tells of a life in California before WWII, before smog and crowds. For a second-generation native Californian like myself, this is like hearing a series of nostalgic family anecdotes and stories. There's no real sense of plot- the book is like a series of snapshots that come together to make a contemplative record of a life, of a family, of things gained and lost, of changes that occur over time. The ending is heartbreaking and hopeful.

The digital galley I
Nicola Mansfield
Jan 07, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Entirely Engrossing! This is the prequel to "Alan's War", which I haven't read yet. Written in a first person perspective, it is the story of Alan Cole's life growing up, and his family's, during the Great Depression. A touching story from a man with deep insight into the human condition. Rivetting. Guibert's art is fantastic! Though I haven't read "Alan's War", I have read "The Photographer" and the style is similar to it. Guibert uses his own pencil sketches plus actual photographs along with ...more
Sarah Pascarella
May 17, 2017 rated it liked it
This graphic novel is more a collection of memories rather than a traditional story, with lovely artwork and languid pacing. It was so languid, in fact, that I was jolted by the story's major event when it arrived. Overall, I appreciated how the graphic novel form is used here—it refashions something larger out of what is basically reminiscing.
Jan 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: bande-dessinée
Un magnifique dessin qui sert une très belle narration. Un plongeon très sensible dans l'enfance d'Alan et un voyage dans la Californie avant la seconde guerre mondiale. Une rare justesse dans la manière dont le graphisme répond au texte.
Jun 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
nonfiction (childhood stories from a ww2 veteran/grandpa). More stories from Alan of Alan's War. Maybe not as riveting as the war stuff, but I enjoyed these. I miss having a grandpa.
May 02, 2018 rated it liked it
I read this mostly for the California childhood aspect. It was interesting to see what's the same and different, and there were moments of nostalgia and even touching emotion. Overall, the feeling I had, though, was of waiting for something to happen. The book is like listening to an elderly relative tell you about their life, but without being related to them, or really connecting. There were moments I thought could have been plumbed for more depth. Sometimes the reactions portrayed were fairly ...more
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2019-read
A book full of nostalgia for a time that I was not a live and a person I did not know. I thoroughly enjoyed the read. This is the story of Alan Cope, from the time he was born until he was roughly 10 years old. He tells the story from after WWI, which his father served and prior to WWII. It is a family history, as well as just some random memories for growing up. It was a good read, good storytelling and great art work.
Dec 12, 2018 rated it really liked it
My first time reading a "graphic novel," one that is told as much in pictures as in text. And I loved it. Yes, very different than simply reading . . . the photos tell some of the story, too. It was a lovely experience, and this was such a good, well-told "story" of a California childhood, that I'm definitely going to look for more of this author's work. And other authors who are also producing graphic books.
Aug 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2018
Just below five stars for me. What a beautiful graphic novel. A simple recollection of anecdotes of a pre-WWI Californian childhood. Gorgeous pen and ink to match. A decent amount of How the World Was felt familiar in a way, and maybe only in a way that comes from being a 3rd generation Californian. Parts of this touched me deeply, and even though 'nothing really happens' (as some might complain) I found this graphic novel settling calmly and peacefully into me.
Vittorio Rainone
Alan Ingram Cope ci racconta il suo passato remoto: quando era bambino e l'america avea un ritmo e un aspetto diverso. La povertà della grande depressione, i piccoli giochi inventati, con mezzi di fortuna, le amicizie fortuite e le grandi riunioni con i parenti. L'infanzia di Alan ha un sapore nostalgico, impreziosito dai soliti splendidi disegni di Guibert, come foto ricalcate a contorni spessi. Dopo la guerra di Alan un giusto complemento alla trilogia.
Lisa Macklem
Nov 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautifully and lyrically illustrated. Guibert brings Alan Cope's childhood to life. Like most authentic memoirs the story is told piecemeal and in fragments - as memory is. I loved how the illustrations broke with expectation and encouraged the reader to delve more deeply than simply the pictures or the words went on their own.
Elle Kay
Jan 13, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book
A simple graphic biography of growing up in California in the depression era. The author befriended Alan Cope in the 90's and as well as writing a memoir of his WW2 experiences, he put together this book about Alan's childhood. Easy to read and interesting.
Cynthia Anderson
Nov 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
A moving and odd graphic novel.
Feb 07, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: library-books
Sweet. The story had a familiar feeling to it.
Andrea Mullarkey
Mar 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: graphic
In addition to writing and drawing graphic novels for children, Guibert has done a few nonfiction titles for teens. In Alan’s War he wrote about the experiences of soldier Alan Cope during World War II. In this book he returns to Cope’s story, now telling of his childhood and adolescence in pre-war Southern California. I picked this up as a BAYA review book and I continue to be mystified about why this was in a stack of books for teen librarians. The exposition is spare and the topic is not nece ...more
BAYA Librarian
In addition to writing and drawing graphic novels for children, Guibert has done a few nonfiction titles for teens. In Alan’s War he wrote about the experiences of soldier Alan Cope during World War II. In this book he returns to Cope’s story, this time telling of his childhood and adolescence in pre-war Southern California. It is a lovely, lyrical book. Cope’s memories of his childhood experiences, what Los Angeles and surrounding areas were like, and his family history are charming, almost qua ...more
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Melissa Mcavoy
I thought this was fascinating. Words and illustrations drop you into the life of a young boy growing up in California during the 1930's. It has some of the feeling of "a Death in the Family" in the sense that an adult looks back and remembers early events that have shaped and influenced his life for decades and that formed his understanding of the world. There is very little vanity and no posturing, just honest recollections that tell a quietly compelling story and give us a sustained look into ...more
Michael Altman
Oct 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I would recommend this book to everyone I know. I think that it is quite a wonderful journey of a young boy's recollections of growing up in California early in the 1900s

For anyone who has spent any time in California and is familiar with the smog of L.A. and the traffic jams on the 101 and the 405 and the more industrialized texture of California since the 1950s, this book will be a refreshing and eye opening look at how pristine and beautiful this state once was.

This story takes the reader way
May 03, 2015 rated it liked it
I was attracted to this book because of its wonderful drawings of Southern California in the 20s and 30s. Although lots of development took place after World War II, enough of the places depicted here remained into my childhood in the 50s and 60s so that I was intrigued enough to buy the book. I was disappointed by the book's content, which was more specific to the main chatacter's childhood and family than I had expected. I was hoping for a more general look at California childhood experiences ...more
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Emmanuel Guibert has written a great many graphic novels for readers young and old, among them the Sardine in Outer Space series and The Professor’s Daughter with Joann Sfar.

In 1994, a chance encounter with an American World War II veteran named Alan Cope marked the beginning of a deep friendship and the birth of a great biographical epic.

Another of Guibert's recent works is The Photographer. Show

Other books in the series

La Guerre d'Alan (3 books)
  • La guerre d'Alan, #1
  • La guerre d'Alan, #2
  • La guerre d'Alan, #3