American Born Chinese

118944American Born Chinese is a graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang. It mixes a contemporary story with Chinese folklore (the Monkey King).

It is an interesting take on racism focusing on a young man who is embarrassed of his heritage, family and friends. Jin feels like he needs to be more white to attract the girl he likes.

I enjoyed the story and I think it will appeal to ages 12-15. Colourful and imaginative illustrations grab reader’s attention but it’s also a story with heart.

This book has won many awards and I think it could work for a graphic novel book club.


Format preference isn’t laziness

When I’m working the reference desk and someone asks if we have a book I know we have in multiple formats and I ask if they want print or audio I often get rude remarks. This weekend someone said “audio book, the height of laziness! I wouldn’t be caught with one of those”.

I argued that some people who enjoy print also enjoy audio in certain circumstances. I find listening to books while trying to fall asleep or for commute’s common reasons for starting to get into audio books.

The thing is, even if someone ONLY listens to audio books, this doesn’t make them lazy. There are several learning styles and not everyone absorbs information they see as well as what they hear. Auditory learners can read print but may find it to be more work than it is worth to them, if they have to struggle through it they aren’t likely to read for pleasure. Asking an auditory learner to always read print is like asking a lefty to write only with their right hand.

There was a time when left-handed people were considered less skilled, even though after being forced to learn how to use their right hand they had more skill overall than most right-handed people. I think the same is true of learning styles. We used to force everyone to learn the same way or read the same way, but this meant not everyone was getting to their full potential.

By promoting audio books, the library isn’t loosing print readers but gaining people who wouldn’t have been readers or library users (or who would have been minimal users).

I personally prefer print because I find audio books dreadfully slow, and I have a hard time paying attention. This doesn’t mean that audio books are sub-standard. Librarians and teachers are often print learners, because that’s the type of people who are attracted to the professions. This is problematic because it means classrooms and literacy outreach are often bias towards this type of learning. Kids, teens and even adults need to see that all formats are valued by public institutions, so I will continue to ask what format is preferred.

The same goes for graphic novels, I think they extremely undervalued by many educators and parents. I will continue to offer them as an option.

Serenity: The Shepherd’s Tale

I’ll begin by pointing out that I’m a Browncoat (huge fan of Firefly & Serenity), I think that goes without saying since I am reviewing a graphic novel that serves as the back-story of a character from the series. If you aren’t familiar with the series you need to rectify that, because it is an inexplicable masterpiece. Who would have thought the story of two rebels, a mercenary, a doctor, a pilot, a mechanic, a prostitute, a preacher, and a half crazy psychic living on a ship taking odd jobs and smuggling would have been the greatest thing in the world? It really is though, there’s a depth to the overall plots, a unique sense of humour in each line, amazing chemistry between gorgeous actors, and unlikely but loveable “big damn heroes” as the characters.

Now to the graphic novel!

The unfortunate thing is that of course you don’t get to experience the glorious ensemble of character that make the show so vibrant. This is just Shepherd Book’s story, but that’s ok because he was always a mystery on the show and I NEEDED to know why he knew the things he did, and got the special treatment he did by the Alliance that time he was injured.

I enjoyed the way Zack structured the story, moving backwards in time. It felt like peeling back the layers of Book. His life as revealed here fits perfectly with the character we know. This is a very short graphic novel, but it gives us what we crave.

Warning: it has some bloody scenes that I found disturbing. Of course I hide behind a pillow whenever someone says “reaver” so you may be braver.

First Time I’ve LOVED a graphic novel

Fray cover artTitle: Fray
Author: Joss Whedon
Penciller: Karl Moline
Inker: Andy Owens
Colorists: David Stewart and Michelle Madsen
Letterer: Michelle Madsen   

This graphic novel came out years ago, before I was interested in graphic novels, so I am late reviewing it but I would like to talk about it anyway in case someone else missed out on the initial publicity.   

Why I picked up this graphic novel:   

  • I liked Buffy
  • loved Angel
  • have spread the Firefly and Serenity love to several friends
  • Toy Story is my favourite cartoon
  • I often break out into Dr. Horrible songs
  • I could go on and on about Whedon’s brilliance

What I loved about it:   

  • The art by Karl Moline is so gorgeous that if I owned this (I borrowed it from the ORL ) I would put it up on the wall or make cool end table with some modge podge or something because honestly it’s fantastic. I will most definitely be looking for more by Moline.
  • Melaka Fray is not Buffy or Faith with a new hairdo, she’s her own character. She’s tough but kind and her weaknesses are as endearing as her strengths.
  • The effect of twins on the slayer heritage is interesting
  • Loo the hyperactive little girl with run on sentences is one of my favourite parts of the book. She’s adorable despite her deformities and I don’t think the story would be the same without her
  • Twists near the end are enjoyable
  • You don’t need to be a Buffy fan to keep up, it’s in the distant future of the Buffyverse and stands alone really well
  • The introduction to the graphic novel (including both the Jeph Loeb intro and the forward by Joss Whedon) is hilarious if you are already a Joss fan, and I really admire the way Whedon talks about how he wants women represented in comics.


Why YOU should read this or purchase it for your library   

  • Action
  • More character depth than I’d expect in a graphic novel
  • A strong female protagonist
  • Glorious art
  • I think it can be enjoyed by those new to graphic novels and those who know more about them. The text isn’t too hard to follow (figuring out what order to read text is sometimes a problem for me with comics) but it’s complex with scenes that spill out of the frames (I love that).

frayaction shotfray art

dabbling in graphic novels

Graphic novels are gaining in popularity, and my library has a decent selection, so I am trying to read one a month to slowly get into them. I find they take me a long time to read compared to a book the same size because I process words a lot faster than pictures. Paying attention to both the images and the text is challenging for me, I get a couple panes ahead and need to backtrack to read the opposite medium.

good neighbours cover artAugust’s graphic novel for me was the Good Neighbours by Holly Black. I picked it because I loved Black’s The White Cat and Tithe. While I didn’t enjoy it as much as her other works, I liked certain elements:

  • the way Rue and her friends wear masks in their stunts is parallel with the way the fairies take on human appearances
  • the multiple choice way she looks at things, outlining the possibilities of what happened to her mother

I had difficulty because the lore is not explained as well as in her novels. It was too short for me to have a clear understanding and predict things like what happened to the dead girl.

The only two graphic novels I have read before this are Watchmen and Avalon High. Watchmen was a bit over my head and took me a very long time. I could tell it was brilliant but I was too new to graphic novels. Avalon High lacked substance for me, it felt like a movie preview, showing glimpses of the best parts but lacking the meat of the story.

To Black’s credit she fell in between the two for me. She had substance, but you don’t have to be a graphic novel or comic book enthusiast to appreciate it. Kudos to Ted Naifeh for some awesome art work in illustrating the story.