Category Archives: Graphic Novel

Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap

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Tina's Mouth

Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap, ISBN: 9780618945191

Overview: Tina is a shrewd observer of high school culture, with its cliques and fashion obsessed shallow people. She’s recently been dumped by her best friend, Alex, so she has plenty of time to compose a journal to Jean-Paul Sartre as an English class assignment. In it, she’ll muse about her older brother and sister’s troubles with love, her embarrassing extended family, and the boy she likes but can’t seem to figure out. Tina writes with wit and just enough angst to make this a fun and enlightening read.

Critical Evaluation: There is not much new territory covered in this graphic novel, but it is still an enjoyable story. Tina’s issues are familiar, though they are seen through the lens of an Indian American family. So her brother and sister experience dating woes, just like anyone else, but they are mostly caused by their parents’ attempts to arrange a marriage. Or there is Tina’s breakdown of all of her aunts, from the gossiping ones, to the drunken aunt who hands out advice like, “Marry a European.” Even with familiar tropes, I like the way Tina thinks about things and infuses every situation with the snark and eye rolls so characteristic of teens.

Some reviews on Goodreads have complained about the drawings of the book. I had no issues with them and found that I thought they matched the text quite well. They are more basic, but this is a style common in many other illustrated novels, like Persepolis or from the children’s section, Diary of a Wimpy Kid. That the book is supposed to represent a teen’s journal lends even more credibility to the simplicity of the illustrations. That in itself is also very reminiscent of Daria, which I assume must be an influence on this novel.

Reader’s Annotation: Tina contemplates high school, her embarrassing family, and why she can’t understand boys in a journal addressed to Jean-Paul Sartre. This may be one of the funniest class assignment you’ll read.

Information about the author: Keshni was born to Indian parents and raised in the San Francisco area. She studied literature at Berkeley and film at UCLA. She now lives and works in New York City.

“Tina’s Mouth” is her first novel. She is primarily known as a filmmaker. She also contributes frequently to “The Daily Beast” website.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor, Realistic Fiction

Curriculum ties, if any: Tina creates this journal for his English honors class assignment on existentialism, so this could be a fun way to talk about existentialism and Jean-Paul Sartre.

Booktalking Ideas: Tina is very reminiscent of Daria, and even though Daria was current when I was in high school, I think she remains popular in a cult sense. For those who hadn’t heard of Daria, I would emphasize how funny and snarky she is.

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Tina is a sophomore in high school and deals with issues common to high school students. The expressed purpose of the book from Tina’s perspective is for an existentialism assignment, which I think will resonate more with older teens.

Challenge Issues:

  • Language
  • Drug references
  • Sexual references

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with the book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This book meets the recreational needs of teens. I also think that the controversial elements included are commonplace in some teens’ lives, and deserve representation in the books that they read.

Why did you include this book? : It was recommended to me and seemed like it would provide another angle to my project. It also provides the perspective of a non-white teenager.

Reference Page:

Keshni Kashyap author biography (2013). Goodreads. Retrieved from http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/2867364.Keshni_Kashyap

Nothing can possibly go wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks

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nothing could possibly go wrong

Nothing can possibly go wrong by Prudence Shen and Faith Erin Hicks ISBN: 9781596436596

Plot Summary: Charlie and Nate are best friends. It’s been that way since they were children. They’ve changed in a lot of ways since then, Charlie getting into sports and becoming more popular, and Nate joining the robotics club at school, but their friendship stays constant. But things start to go wrong. Charlie’s girlfriend Holly, the head cheerleader, breaks up with him. Both Holly and Nate want funding from the school, so Nate runs for school president, and she makes Charlie run against him. The race is getting cutthroat, and Charlie is put in the middle.  Then Nate and Charlie come up with an idea for everyone to get funding. The Robotics Club will to enter a robot battle by souping up a robot. But they are going to need financial backers, and Holly and her squad are looking like the only option. Can they convince her to work with them? Can they get along long enough to pull this thing off?

Critical Evaluation: Graphic novels have some advantages over straight text novels. You have both written and visual ways to express your story. There’s something beautifully simple about simply drawing someone’s embarrassed or hurt expression, as opposed to describing it. On the other hand, there is overall less space to get your story across in a graphic novel. The way a character can really get their point across in just a look. I really enjoyed the way the text and illustrations complemented each other in this story. There didn’t seem to be much excess in that sense. Don’t get me wrong—there is a lot of skill in being able to convey the same thing through writing, which is also beautiful, but graphic novels are easy. It’s not surprising that they are so popular with reluctant readers. This was the case in this novel. The main characters backgrounds are shared over a couple of mostly wordless pages of their shared experiences. It’s clear through the way they talk to each other that even when they are mad at the other, there’s too much history between them. I found the language and conversation (since that is the only text available) to be authentic sounding and helpful at conveying emotions, connections, and moving the plot along. This is not necessarily a great work of art, but it is a lot of fun.

Reader’s Annotation: When school budgets get cut, both the cheerleader’s uniforms and the Robotics Club’s supplies are on the line. A fierce political battle begins for president of student council begins, but maybe, if they work together on a robot rumble, everyone can get the funding they want. The only problem is, they hate each other.

Information about the author: This is Prudence Shen’s first book, while Faith Erin Hicks has written several before. Both considered themselves geeks as teens, though Faith tried to hide it. Prudence says she was obsessed with X-Files as a teen and intense reading. Faith would spend hours alone in her room writing stories, but didn’t feel comfortable sharing her nerdy tendencies with friends.

Faith Erin Hicks was born in rural British Colombia. She lives along the ocean in Halifax, Nova Scotia.  Prudence Shen was born in 1984, and now lives in New York.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Humor

Curriculum ties, if any: The characters in the book are working on a robot, which I know has engineering, hence scientific and mathematic relations, so perhaps there is a connection there.

Booktalking Ideas: I would highlight the humor, the classic comedic pair up of groups that hate each other, and of course, robots!

Reading Level/Interest Age:  Characters are juniors and seniors in high school. Publisher’s Weekly suggests this book for ages 12 and up, and School Library Journal for grades 6-9, but both think older readers will enjoy it as well.

Challenge Issues:

None. There is no sexual content and very little rough language. One reviewer on Amazon said that she felt totally comfortable giving it to her 9 year old to read. So, I’m going to assume that this is a pretty safe bet.

Why did you include this book? : It sounded like an entertaining read, and represents a particular kind of graphic novel.

Reference Page:

About Faith Erin Hicks (2013). Faith Erin Hicks website. Retrieved from http://www.faitherinhicks.com/about/

Prudence Shen author page. Macmillan website. Retrieved from us.macmillan.com/author/prudenceshen

Shen, P., Hicks, F.E. (May 10, 2013). Why being a young geek will make you a cool adult. Huff Post Books. Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/prudence-shen/why-being-a-young-geek-wi_b_3254296.html

Manga Man by Barry Lyga

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Manga Man by Barry Lyga, Illustrated by Colleen Doran ISBN: 9780547423159

Plot Summary: Marissa seems typical on the outside; she’s beautiful, popular and dates a sports star. So no one can understand why she would dump her boyfriend and start dressing in costumes. Around the same time, Ryoko, a manga character with androgynous looks, falls into Marissa’s world and each is entranced by the other. Ryoko has some difficulty fitting in with his looks and the way he leaves behind puddles after crying or speed lines when he runs. That doesn’t matter to Marissa, but her ex-boyfriend and the rest of the school aren’t so sure of that. What’s worse, lying beyond the borders of the page (a meta element of this comic) is a monster that could destroy their worlds.

Critical Evaluation: I read a fair amount of graphic novels, but I’ve been a little intimidated by manga so far. This provided a lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek look at both types of comic. I noticed pretty quickly that the Western world was drawn in what I think of as 80’s style, with big hair and that style of clothes. I couldn’t tell whether this was supposed to be funny or not. As far as the mood goes, this book hits most of the comedic marks with me. Ryoko provides most of the comic relief with exaggerated emotions demonstrated and visible in that world to everyone around him. When he sees Marissa and hearts encircle his head, everyone else can see those hearts as well, and is totally confused by their presence.

This book also does something that I haven’t seen a comic do before (not to say that other comics aren’t doing it). That is to expose the borders around the illustrations and have characters find them and get out of them. There are quite a few self-referential moments in the book, like this, or the very concept of a book that combines two different graphic worlds. However, what the book struggled more with is to make these characters seem real. Again, maybe that was the point. I never felt like I got to know any of them well enough; they remained rather one dimensional, and seemed to exist mostly to move along the storyline. But my overall impression of the book is a good one.

Reader’s Annotation: What would happen if Eastern manga-style comics met Western graphic novels? This goofy love story about a boy and girl who learn to love and survive across the borders of their vastly different worlds.

Information about the author: Barry Lyga is the author of many young adult novels, such as The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and Manga Man. He was born in 1971 in Southbridge, Massachusetts. As a child and teen, he was obsessed with comic books, even though the adults around him discouraged that interest.

He majored in English at Yale, where he looked at comic books from an academic standpoint. He then went on to work for Diamond Comic Distributors. He now lives in New York. His first book was published in 2006 and his writing is highly regarded by critics and teens alike.

Genre: Graphic Novel, Fantasy, Manga

Curriculum ties, if any: I would be very impressed if a teacher taught a unit on graphic novels, and the variations within, which this book would fit into quite well.

Booktalking Ideas: I would play on the popularity of both styles of comic and emphasize the wackiness of this story. I think mentioning elements like the giant beads of sweat that Ryoko has, or the way his cheeks color when he’s embarrassed would be funny to mention.

Reading Level/Interest Age: This is about older teens, and does have some violence and sexual scenes. Publisher’s Weekly recommends it for ages 12 and up, while School Library Journal considers it best suited for grades 9 and up.

Challenge Issues:

  • Sexual situation
  • Violence

Defense Strategy:

  1. First, I would want to be familiar with book. As I’ve read this book, I’d be aware of potential issues that could be challenged. In the case of a book I had not read, I would want to have access to reviews.
  2. Then I would put together a rationale for why this book is included in the collection. This rationale would include:
    • Bibliographic Citation of the book.
    • A description of who the book is best suited for.
    • A summary of the book and applicable other information, such as biographical information about the author.
    • My justification for including the book. This would include how it fits in with the selection policy and library mission statement, and include its educational significance if applicable or the impact it could have on readers.
    • Copy of selection policy and library mission statement at my library.
    • ALA Library Bill of Rights
    • Good and bad reviews of the book
    • Alternative works a student could read
    • Reconsideration form if patron is not satisfied with rationale
  3. When talking to patron, I would listen to their concerns without getting on the defensive and attempt to sympathize with their concerns. In some cases, all an upset patron needs is to be able to vent and know that someone is listening to them.
  4. If needed, I would send the challenge up the chain of command.

This book meets the recreational needs of teens and as such, they should have access to it.

Why did you include this book? : I don’t know much about manga, but I thought this might be a fun way to introduce myself.