“In the end, the only certainty may be that America had lost one of its most original and outspoken leaders.” page 101
Malcolm X: A Graphic Biography by Andrew Helfer, art by Randy DuBurke.
Serious Comics, Hill and Wang, Farrar Straus and Giroux, New York, 2006.
Graphic novel biography, 102 pages plus extras.
Lexile: not leveled
AR Level: 6.6 (worth 3.0 points) .
A black and white comic-style graphic novel biography of Malcolm X.
For some time now, I’ve been trying to find a great middle grade children’s biography of Malcolm X. I’ve gotten some from the library, and purchased a few. So far none have greatly impressed me, which is why I’m just now getting around to reviewing them. Children’s biographies of Malcolm X have a tricky balance to strike. Islam must be included, since it was an important part of his life and work. His militant views (and later ideas about a more hopeful society) can’t be left out, but should be presented in a way appropriate for children. It’s a tall order.
An original, #ownvoices can’t-miss middle grade graphic novel.
Malice in Ovenland by Micheline Hess.
Rosarium Publishing, Greenbelt, MD, 2016.
MG speculative fiction, 126 pages including extras.
Not yet leveled.
Lily Brown is not going to camp this summer, or on a fancy vacation. She’ll be staying home, eating her mom’s new ‘healthy’ organic cooking, caring for their plot in a community garden, and doing extra studying. Her mom goes away for a weekend and Lily’s almost done with her chore list when she loses an earring inside the oven and discovers a magical world where they aren’t too happy about the sudden lack of grease in her family’s kitchen.
There’s no way that my summary has done this book justice. There are so many things going on here, and everything is wonderful. This is a book that kids love to read, and that parents can feel good about their kids reading.
Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel.
Mariner Books Imprint, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, New York, 2006, my edition 2007.
Graphic novel memoir, 232 pages.
NOTE: This book is intended for adults, not children.
After reading a good portion of this, it felt familiar. I think I read at least part of it before either as a library checkout, or an excerpt posted online or put in another anthology. This was published at about the time I went through a lot of graphic novels, so it’s conceivable I read this and either did not finish or simply forgot it because of the volume of books I was reading at the time (once upon a time I used to finish a book every day).
This story explores both the author’s understanding of her sexuality and gender expression as well as her father’s death. Bechdel comes to terms with being a butch lesbian raised in a small town by brilliant but self-absorbed parents. She writes about how she learned about her own sexuality, coming out to her parents, being drawn to men’s clothing even as her gay father tried to feminize her, making her wear dresses and do her hair a certain way.
Shortly after her mother asks for a divorce, her father jumps into the path of a truck while Bechdel is away at college. There are some signs it may have been a suicide and others that it was an accident.
The story is even more darkly comedic because the Bechdel family owns the local funeral home. This part-time job means the kids grow up playing between caskets and see bodies being embalmed at an early age. The “Fun Home” of the title was the family’s nickname for the funeral parlor. However the title could also refer to their family home; lovingly restored by her father with little input from the rest of the family, it was a dollhouse in which they still had to live.
A unique spin on both superhero life and adulting.
Johnny Hiro: Half Asian, All Hero by Fred Chao.
Tor, New York, 2012 (some materials previously published in other formats).
Everyday superhero graphic novel, 190 pages.
NOTE: This is a work of fiction although I’m not posting it on Fiction Friday.
Johnny Hiro is your average half-Japanese busboy with a knack for running into the absurd on the streets of New York. He works in a sushi restaurant and dreams of one day being a chef, but is content to come home to his Japanese girlfriend Mayumi Murakami.
This was a fairly random find. I had never heard of this book, never read a review of it or seen a promotion of it before coming across it at a local used bookstore. The half Asian in the title and a cursory glance through the pages, combined with the price, was enough for me to purchase this delightfully whimsical book.
This gorgeous and gritty graphic novel will educate everyone, not just indigenous Canadians, about institutional racism and other topics.
The Outside Circle by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, illustrated by Kelly Mellings.
House of Anansi, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 2015.
Adult graphic novel, 120 pages.
CODE’s 2016 Burt Award for First Nation, Inuit and Métis Literature Winner.
Pete and his younger brother Joey only have each other and their drug-addicted mother to get through their violent, gritty urban life. But when their mother’s boyfriend pushes them too far, Pete ends up in jail and Joey in foster care. What will happen to their family? Can Pete’s gang become their new family?
This book is about Canadian urban aboriginals. Because I am American and not indigenous, I was surprised by the way it sucked me in as we read about generational poverty and the systematic dehumanization and institutionalized racism that had affected Pete’s entire family. So much of what I read applies to so many other groups, and reading about Pete and his family was an easy way to absorb how these things can alter a family for generations at a time.
Cece Bell just wants to live her life and make friends without her hearing aids getting in the way. This graphic novel memoir will appeal to a wide range of students.
El Deafo by Cece Bell, color by David Lasky.
Amulet Books Imprint, Abrams, New York, 2014.
Graphic novel memoir, 242 pages.
Newberry Honor winner, 2015.
Lexile: not yet leveled
AR Level: 2.7 (worth 2.0 points)
Cecilia Bell just wants to live her life, make friends and have fun. But she lost her hearing after a bout of childhood meningitis, and now she has to wear hearing aids. Even worse, at school she has to wear the phonic ear, a special device that allows her teacher’s voice to travel from a microphone directly to her ear. She soon discovers that most teachers forget to turn the phonic ear off, allowing her to hear them anywhere in the school building. This leads to an imaginative fantasy life where she transforms into El Deafo, superhero with mesmerizing rosebud underwear and the power of feedback! Meanwhile, in real life she’s trying to navigate friendships in the hearing world, a tricky business as the only student in her school who can’t hear.
Penelope (Peppi) Torres has a few rules for surviving at a new school. But on the very first day, she runs right into a shy boy in the hallway. What do you do when you’re associated with the school nerd on your first day? Why shove him away of course!
Beyond the Peppi/Jaimie drama, the main plot of this book follows her friends in the art club as they fight for the right to a table at the annual school club fair while bickering with the science club, their biggest rivals.
So why am I reviewing this book? Well, Peppi is clearly a person of color. My guess based on her portrayal and name is that she’s Latina, but it never really comes up. In fact, this book is incredibly diverse, with most ethnic groups represented by at least one character. There is a girl wearing a hijab and a character in a wheelchair. The characters have ethnically diverse names and sometimes appropriate backstories as well. But the best part of this? It has nothing to do with the story! There is a full plot which just happens to have a diverse cast of characters.