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Graphic Novelty²

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April 2020

Paying The Land

“From the ‘heir to R. Crumb and Art Spiegelman’ a masterful work of comics journalism about indigenous North America, resource extraction, and our debt to the natural world”

Author and illustrator Joe Sacco is known for his insightful graphic novels Footnotes in Gaza, Palestine and The Fixer: A Story from Sarajevo. He is a well-regarded comix-journalist who immerses himself in different locations around the world to interview and understand his subject. He once again does this with this recent graphic novel, as he journeys to the subarctic Northwest Territories of Canada to stay among the First Nations Dené tribes.

Sacco begins the book by having some elders share how they used to “live in the bush” at least part of the year, which means their families were living off the land and were often nomadic. Men and women shared duties, with no gender division because if you were alone in the wild, you needed all the life skills, not just half, to survive. This lifestyle began to change with permanent settlements which resulted in specific gender roles, technology such as snowmobiles replaced the dog sleds, jobs in the industries that were advancing into the area and the enforced residential schools run by the government. Not only was a way of life disappearing, but their surrounding habitat was changing, as oil, gas and diamond mines were wrecking the environment.

There was so much to cover and Sacco ably shows the research and time he poured into this project. He interviews several chiefs (who have different ways of looking at the economy vs environment issue), activists, trappers, oil workers, priests and elders. Different chapters tackled some of the big topics – a changing way of life, land claims, and residential schools.

The chapters on the residential schools really stood out, as they devastated the families and tribes in both Canada and the US. Children were ripped from their cultures and identities and told that they must conform to European-type standards. And while those schools have been thankfully closed for a while now, their insidious legacy lives on. The transfer of dysfunction has now moved from their abusers who were strangers (at the schools) vs bringing home that dysfunction to their families so now abuse exists within families. Parental disengagement is rampant, as is extreme alcoholism. These unhealthy cycles are now being passed down to other generations, years removed from the residential schools. Another excellent graphic novel that touches on this disengagement from their tribes and families is The Outside Circle.

At 272 pages, this a dense piece of non-fiction that will take multiple sittings to finish. In fact, even after finishing it, you will want to go back and look at certain chapters to gain even more information. I would suggest that this text-heavy graphic novel could be used in the classroom as a supplemental resource to trying to fully understand some First Nations issues. As with any complex issue, there are no easy answers and Sacco questions after many interviews “Is there really such a thing as the best of both worlds?”. He admits that because he not Native American there are some issues that simply can not be understood. While he was given much access to the communities, there are certain people, events or situations he could not be privy to.

The black and white art shows a comix vibe, which is meant for mature audiences. Not only are the pages filled with a lot of text to convey information, but the pictures are also detailed and precise. Whenever he includes himself in a scene, he draws himself in an exaggerated caricature style, yet everyone else is drawn accurately and with respect. The beautiful landscapes are lovingly drawn in, so then the juxtaposition of seeing how some areas have been destroyed is heartbreaking.

This was a deep and reflective look at life for the Dené, and Sacco tried to wrap it up with a nugget of hope as young activists there are trying to work on a myriad of issues. I would suggest you pair this well-researched book with other books written by #ownvoices authors to get a nuanced view of the joys and struggles of people who live in that region. Thank you to NetGalley for an advance online copy of this thought-provoking story.

-Nancy

Shadow of the Batgirl

Cassandra Cain is the daughter of David Cain, one of the best assassins in the world. His daughter, deprived of speech and literacy, surpasses his talents by reading the only language she knows: body language. While trying to kill a man in Gotham City, Cassandra picks out one word as he is begging for his life, “daughter.” Confused and scared, Cassandra flees without finishing her job, and tries to discover for herself what the word “daughter” means – what it really means. With the help of Jackie, who owns a noodle shop, a librarian named Barbara, and a young man named Erik, Cassandra slowly learns to speak, to read, to think for herself and become the person she wants to be. Not who anyone says she should be.

Cassandra’s story is one every teenager can relate to. She is trying to decide who she wants to be! She is afraid that her past has too strong a hold on her and will dictate her future. As we discover, that’s not always the case! She also is representative of the Asian community. Asian author Sarah Kuhn’s introduction on how much Cassandra Cain meant to her is touching.

The art by Nicole Goux is very cool. It’s fast and loose, with a very sketchy feel to it. Since Cassandra spends a good portion of the book mute and illiterate, much of the feeling comes through in the art. What’s conveyed is overwhelming uncertainty as Cassandra tries to find her own footing in the world. As the art and characters show us, it’s okay to feel afraid and overwhelmed about feelings.

Just a personal nitpick… there is some unrealistic representation of libraries! There is no way Cass would be able to live in the Gotham City Library for as long as she does without anyone noticing. A branch as big as Gotham’s would definitely have dedicated security or police staff that would sweep the building to make sure everyone was out before closing. I was just so frustrated by that tiny part!!! Of course, this says more about me than the story itself X,D

Readers will love this combination origin and coming of age story of Cassandra Cain, and the edgy art that coincides.

– Kathleen

Kuhn, Sarah, and Nicole Goux. Shadow of the Batgirl. 2020.

Watchmen

Watchmen is a graphic novel that has been placed on such a high pedestal, that I have been nervous about tackling it, feeling I wasn’t ready for it. But with this ongoing quarantine, I felt it was the right time for me to take the time to read it. I paired it with Watchmen: The Complete Motion Comic movie that added limited motion, voice and sound to the originally drawn panels. I took almost a week to watch two chapters a night, and I would read the pages alongside the animation on the screen.

Let’s just get this over with- I did not like the story. But is that the point? I have actually picked up this graphic novel several times in the past but would put it down, thinking that it wasn’t the right time for me to read this acclaimed novel by the supposedly brilliant Alan Moore. It’s one of those books, that you feel if you don’t get it, then you aren’t deep enough to understand it and will feel guilty.  However, it did include some heavy themes I have been thinking on a lot, and that is always a sign of a well-written novel.

Set in an alternative timeline to ours, a few key historical events have changed, leading to a 1980s NYC that is very similar to ours but is just enough different. A former superhero, The Comedian, now a government-sanctioned agent, is found murdered. Rorschach, a vigilante who never quit despite a national law that outlawed costumed adventuring, becomes the narrator of the story as he picks up clues that point to a larger conspiracy. He visits all his former comrades to warn them that they may be in danger; and soon Nite Owl, the second Silk Spectre, Dr. Manhatten and Ozymandias are part of a greater plot to bring about world peace at a great cost. The ideas of what makes a hero are explored, as they all are anti-heroes, and no one is blameless.

Divided into twelve chapters, I found chapter four to be the most intriguing, as Dr. Manhatten recalls his history in a non-linear format of how an accident with an atom reactor in 1959 changed him from a brilliant scientist into the only true superhero of the bunch. Between the chapters were additional backstory inserts that were supposed to be giving readers more insight into the Watchmen world. Some of the supplemental info is presented like reports and articles about the characters’ past and present. Some were more effective than others. A comic book story within a comic book story, the story Marooned from Tales of the Black Freighter, was entwined into the narrative, and at first paralleled the story of being lost and mentally unstable but then became pretentious and unneeded.

I believe what unhinged the story for me were the main characters. They were so unlikable, morally bankrupt and idiotic. I might have been at a disadvantage listening to the motion comic voiced by a man, but Laurie and her mother Sally were just the most petulant and shallow people ever. Moore at no time gave his women characters nuanced or authentic development. I’m sorry, but what Sally agreed to later with The Comedian was stomach-churning after what he had done to her years before, and that Dr. Manhatten’s decision to help Earth was based off that decision was shocking. I get that the characters were supposed to be a deconstruction of what we have come to expect in heroes, that was the whole premise of the book, but when you weren’t rooting for anyone, it becomes problematic.

The art was a mixed bag for me. Every page has a nine-panel layout, with only a few of the panels being enlarged. While a rather straightforward style, it allowed the artist Dave Gibbons to control the pace of the story. The cast of characters that he designed were an interesting lot, he didn’t draw them in a superlative style that we have come to expect from superheroes. The costumes looked homemade and their bodies were realistically proportioned, with Dr. Manhatten being the exception. The coloring by John Higgins was at times surreal, with deep shadows and a psychedelic color palette. All told it made for a distinctive, but not entirely attractive look.

Although I did not care for the narrative, I found the story refreshingly subversive for that era, and I applaud Moore and Gibbons for crafting such a unique story. That the characters, themes, and framework of the story are still being explored in movies, tv-series and other graphic novels today show that the story is a classic for a reason. While not a true fan of this tale, I am intrigued enough to explore some more adaptations of the Watchmen universe, and perhaps my feelings will mellow with time and I will come to appreciate how it changed comic book storytelling forever.

-Nancy

 

LeVar Burton Reads: Season Six

I have to admit I was somewhat disappointed with season five of Burton’s podcast, but this season more than made up for it! In fact, I had so many favorites, that I would consider this season the best yet. Plus, I finally caught up with the podcast and was current when he released each story. Before I had been a year behind but worked diligently to listen to each story as it was released in real-time.

Tideline by Elizabeth Bear

In an apocalyptic future, a lone surviving war machine, Chalcedony meets an orphaned human boy. Chalcedony (who is named for a lovely form of quartz) is a sentient robot and teaches Belvidere how to survive, but also teaches him about past civilization and culture from her databases. She helps raise him to maturity, always teaching him, and also building necklaces to memorialize her lost comrades. But her power cells are degrading and she knows she will eventually shut down. She prepares him for rejoining the scattered humans that remain and sends him off with her memorials and tells him to share her memories and knowledge with those he finds. A beautifully melancholy story about sacrifice, humanity and sharing our knowledge for the good of others.

Valedictorian by NK Jemisin

Zinhle is a senior in a near-future dystopia who is true to herself and refuses to lie about her abilities or mask her intelligence even when she knows she will be “culled” at graduation, along with the ten least performing students. Her walled-off society is small and rigid and is not accepting of people who are different, so there is the possibility that the unknown outside world could actually be more welcoming. Reminded me of the 1986 Twilight Zone episode Examination Day and the short story The Lottery by Shirley Jackson.

As Worlds Collide by Stephen Michell

A newly married Canadian couple adjust to a new world order as mythical creatures begin to inhabit their world. They try to make sense of it, as everyone else does, but are rewarded for their quiet observation when two of the creatures speak to them. Later they calmly face un uncertain future together as shrines begin to open around the world, knowing that everyone’s lives are about to change, but it can be viewed as a beginning, not an ending…

SPAM by Savannah Burney

This short story dealt with a mildly racist (can you be mildly racist or are you just plain racist?) bed and breakfast owner who reluctantly shelters a mother and child who have been displaced because of an apartment fire. The curmudgeonly owner has no patience for the girl’s persistent questions, as he is a creature of habit with OCD tendencies, but at the very last moment, he extends a bit of grace to the child. This story included some great character studies, and I appreciated the bit of hope at the end that people can change for the better.

End Game by Nancy Kress

An excellent short story with a nasty bit of a twist at the end. Two young men meet in school, and one goes to become a renowned scientist who wishes to quiet his mental static so he can focus more on his work at hand. He has a medical breakthrough using a junior scientist as a guinea pig and all goes well until it doesn’t. His friend realizes what is happening with the contagious spread, so it’s Twilight Zone ending has an uncomfortable parallel with what is going on in the world today with the Covid-19 virus.

Skinwalker, Fast-Talker by Darcie Little Badger

The beginning opens with the catchy “No shit, there I was”. A journalist for a tabloid-type magazine is assigned a job to research a possible Skinwalker aka a Coyote of Native American lore and is surprised as anyone to find out this conman is the real thing. She is able to con him into revealing his true self but knows that the public actually believing the story is another thing entirely!

Staying Behind by Ken Liu

This story was devastatingly beautiful and well-done. In this speculative fiction tale, technology has advanced so far that human consciousness can now be downloaded, and the world population does so in mass, leaving behind a devastated and depopulated world for those who do not wish to do so. Is this thought-provoking tale the reader ponders what is the better choice- having a utopian online life yet no corporeal existence or living in a world where the remaining population is struggling for existence as the populace loses its technological abilities and they slide towards frontier living. The short story is told through the lens of one family and the ending will gut you, as you can’t help but wonder what you and your family would do under the same circumstances.

A Kiss with Teeth by Max Gladstone

Vlad is a vampire who gave up his bloodthirsty ways when he fell in love with a vampire hunter and had a child with her. He has worked hard to masquerade his supernatural powers and his young son seems none the wiser. But he feels trapped in having to always suppress his urges and is very close to breaking his blood fast by killing his son’s teacher. But this “mid-life” crisis is discovered by his wife and she councils him to be more true to himself so he can be a better father. The ending was pleasing, and I enjoyed the premise of this short story, however, the middle really dragged.

Let Those Who Would (aka The Segment) by Genevieve Valentine

Very 1984 with how the news was being manipulated and shown to the public. In this world, the news agencies would rather create their own stories with actors instead of interviewing real participants so that way they can control the narrative. Orphaned children are used as pawns in these stories, and one young woman helps another realize how much danger she will be in if she acts in the next segment. This is the second story that was found in the anthology that I read several years ago,  After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia. The story gained deeper meaning through LeVar’s reading of it.

Recitatif by Toni Morrison

The story begins in the 1950s when two young girls, Twyla and Roberta, meet at an orphanage although both of their mothers are still alive. You are told they are of different races, but Morrison deliberately does not give any obvious markers of who is who, to force the reader to decide according to their preconceived notions. These two will meet again at different stages in their lives- in the late 1960s and then again several times in the early 80s. As adults, their marriages and life stations differ broadly, and they get caught up in some racial strife as their town is redistricting their schools and it affects their children. In addition to the ambiguity about their race, how memories can be imprecise was addressed, which made me reflect on my childhood memories with a friend I had a following out with. How I remember some shared experiences could be very different from hers and gave me a lot of food for thought. Considering this story came from Morrison, I am not surprised that it is among my favorites from LeVar’s podcast.

The Foster Portfolio by Kurt Vonnegut Jr

The Foster Portfolio, set in 1951, was a fascinating peek into human nature. A young investment counselor meets the modest Foster family to help them with their finances and discovers the husband is sitting on a huge inheritance that he is keeping from his wife. The repressed husband is intent on providing for his family with his own labors and doesn’t wish to touch the money, despite having to work two jobs and pinch pennies to afford things for his wife and son. He wants to honor his mother who sacrificed for his family when his father left his family to play the piano and get drunk in bars. This all seems decent until you find out he is hiding a double life from his wife- but it’s not what you would think. The ending made me think of secrets in a marriage, and the judgments we place on our children and spouses, and how some obligations can become warped if not addressed. You must watch this delightful 2017 short movie (19 min) adaptation of the story: https://vimeo.com/399253153

My favorites this season were Tideline, Staying Behind, Recitatif and The Foster Portfolio. Burton visited some of the same authors he has featured before, but for good reason, as I enjoyed listening to each story. As I am finally caught up, I now will turn to Marvels, a podcast about the Fantastic Four, since I loved the two seasons of Wolverine’s podcast. I look forward to season seven of LeVar’s podcast, “But you don’t have to take my word for it.”

-Nancy

Magus of the Library (Vol. 1)

Theo Fumis is a young boy who is a little… different. He has long ears that are a different shape than everyone else in his village. He also lives in the slums with his sister, who works to put him through school. Theo is a smart boy, and more than anything else in the world, he loves to read books. Unfortunately, the library in his village doesn’t allow those living in the slums to use it, leaving Theo to sneak in and out whenever he wants to read. He longs for adventure, for a hero to whisk him away, and perhaps to join the Great Library himself someday. Four kafna – librarians from the Great Library – visit his village to check on the library’s status. One in particular, Sedona Bleu, opens his eyes to the great wide world ahead of him – and shows him that sometimes, we need to be our own hero.

I have to admit, I checked this out from work out of curiosity. A manga with lead librarian characters? Sign me up! I didn’t expect to like it as much as I did.

The setting is pretty interesting. It’s a mix of fantasy and history with Middle Eastern and Indian elements (which, if I’m being honest, is a cocktail of all of my favorite things!). The architecture and character’s clothes have the elaborate, decorative detail found in those cultures. Social standings of the characters appear to be determined by the Indian caste system. Though we know Theo comes from a poor family, his heritage remains a secret. In this story, humans and mythical creatures live side-by-side, so I am eager to both see more of this world and discover who Theo really is.

The linework of this graphic novel is incredibly tight and precise. It has to be, in order to fit all the intricate decorative elements mentioned previously, but the precision suggests that this is not Mitsu Izumi’s first rodeo. The only complaint I have is that sometimes the flow of the panels isn’t always intuitive. I got confused at more than a few parts by reading ahead or behind where I was supposed to. Perhaps this can be attributed by my novice manga-reading skills.

All in all I was just as impressed with the art as I was the blending of many different elements to create a promising story – which just happens to also star librarians 😉

– Kathleen

Izumi, Mitsu. Magus of the Library (Vol. 1). 2019.

Fables: Legends in Exile

Fables is the Goodread’s I Read Comic Books book of the month selection with the theme being a fairy tale/folk tale/mythology adaptation. Kathleen read the entire series and loved it, and I had read a spin-off series about Jack of Fables and disliked the character but not the book, so I was pleased to get the push I needed to start the series myself.

Fractured fairy tales seem to be a dime a dozen nowadays, with it often being a literary trope, but this first volume gets it just right. Set in New York City, famous fairy tale characters have been banished from their kingdoms centuries ago by a mysterious Adversary and forced to move into the “Mundy” (mundane) world. Most of them live in a luxury high rise apartment with a divorced Snow White as their deputy mayor and The Big Bad Wolf aka Bigby as their sheriff. The main plot centers as a murder mystery when Rose Red, Snow’s estranged sister, is discovered to be missing and her apartment is drenched in blood. Bigby is tasked to solve the crime.

I enjoyed the crime thriller feature of the story (always a preferred genre of mine) mixed in with humor, adult themes, and the obvious fantasy aspect of it. I loved how Prince Charming was a Lothario who bedded any female, while Beauty and the Beast were a long-suffering couple with marital issues. Jack (Jack the Giant Killer, Little Jack Horner, Jack and the Beanstalk, Jack and Jill, Jack Be Nimble, Jack Frost, and Jack O’Lantern) was a scheming cad, Rose Red was a party girl, and Bluebeard a slimy playboy. Snow White and Bigby definitely had chemistry, and you know a relationship between the two is sure to develop in the future. The world-building was excellent, and this story is strong enough to be standalone, yet, most readers will be clamoring for more adventures with this unique cast. Part of the pleasure is figuring out who some of the characters are and reconciling how they are portrayed now with what you remember about them from their original fairytales.

The illustration style was attractive, although I wasn’t a fan of the cover or the opening pages to each chapter. I personally liked it more realistic, as shown by the pictures I attached. There were some fun splash pages, with me liking the office that Snow was in, for it showed artifacts from their fairyland-era. Plus, for visual clues any time the past was referred to, an ornate frame would be drawn around the panels which were a nice nod to the fantasy origin of this narrative and often were purple-hued. Because of the quarantine, I had to read this volume online through Hoopla so it was hard for me to really examine the illustrations like I would with a physical book.

This first volume is a delightful, but very mature, look at postmodern reimaged fairytales. I very well might continue with the series, but I will wait until I can read physical copies again, for a graphic novel’s appeal lies in the art, and I wish to savor all the intricacies that are drawn into the series.

-Nancy

This was a laugh-out-loud scene about poor Pinnacho. In later volumes, his appearance changes dramatically, and not to my liking at all.

Diana: Princess of the Amazons

Eleven-year-old Diana is lonely! She is the only kid on the entire island full of Amazons. Though she loves her mother and all her aunts, she feels like everyone is now too busy for her. Remembering the story of her birth, she sculpts a friend out of clay and sand and tries to breathe life into her. To Diana’s surprise, her friend Mona comes to life! Mona and Diana run around, have fun, and create mischief together. It’s all fun and games until the daring Mona tries to recruit Diana into a prank that – in Diana’s opinion – goes too far. Did Diana create a friend, or a monster?

Shannon and Dean Hale are a husband and wife team of juvenile books. Shannon has written the award-winning Princess Academy and the Ever After High book series for children. It’s easy to see here why they make a good team! Their Diana is too old to consider herself a kid, but too young for anything else. She feels like it’s impossible to be like the women she’s grown up with and looks up to. They perfectly captured that frustration and loneliness everyone her age feels.

The art is, frankly, adorable. I loved the soft, rounded, and expressive figures, which children will love and are easy to look at. The palette is bright and colorful, in jewel tones that perfectly reflect Diana’s island home. The limited action scenes read a little goofy to me, as I’m an adult reading a children’s book, but there is no excessive violence and no blood. I’d happily give it to a child who expresses interest in it without worrying that they would get scared.

Here is a rare book of a Diana who is not yet Wonder Woman, but not a child anymore either. The target audience will see their own feelings reflected in Diana, and will easily be able to navigate the adorable art.

– Kathleen

Hale, Shannon, Dean Hale, and Victoria Ying. Diana: Princess of the Amazons. 2020.

Locke & Key: Season One

Locke & Key is one of my favorite graphic novel series, for as I said, “Locke & Key is truly one of the best graphic novels I have ever read, hands down.  It just dominates. Joe Hill and Gabriel Rodriguez are superb storytellers, and this first novel makes me anxious to read the rest of the horror series”. So I was so excited to learn that it would be turned into a television series. A pilot had originally been shot for the Fox network in 2011 but they never picked it up, then Hulu had the rights but ultimately passed on turning it into a series, and finally, Netflix obtained the rights and the series debuted this February. As with many Netflix series, all ten episodes dropped at once, but I’m a busy mom who works full time, and it took me two months to finish all the episodes.

The story begins in California when a disgruntled student kills Rendell Locke,  and his grieving family heads back to Massachusetts to the Locke family estate. Nina, a recovering alcoholic is hanging onto her sobriety for dear life, while trying to help her three children adjust to their new home and reality. Tyler and Kinsey are in high school, while the youngest Bode is still in grade school. While out exploring the grounds, Bode finds a supernatural woman hiding in the well, and she convinces him to release her and help her find magical keys that are hidden around the estate. But she is malevolent, and we soon discover she was behind the killing of Rendell. He had been hiding secrets from his youth, as he too, knew of the key’s powers and how they could be twisted for evil. Now, this new generation of Lockes is battling for their lives, and pull some other people from the community into the mess.

Casting is key in any series, and I feel they really hit it out of the park. I loved all thee of the Locke children with the youngest really authentically capturing the wide-eyed innocence of Bode. The older two made the same short-sighted mistakes as they did in the graphic novel, with Tyler doing his best to be the level headed one and Kinsey’s lack of fear being a problem. The series eliminated a character who raped the Lockes’ mother and helped killed the Locke father, so Nina’s back story wasn’t as tragic and her character was allowed more growth.

I was very pleased with the series- it was a strong adaptation of the source material, especially as the pilot episode was co-written by author Joe Hill. The graphic novel was definitely in the horror genre with fantasy elements, but I’d say the series did a 180° with it skewing more towards fantasy with a few horror elements. This worked well, as some extremely dark issues were eliminated, which opened the narrative up to more ages, although it was still for a fairly mature audience.

While the series faithfully replicated much of the plot from the six-book series, many threads were left unexplored as to give the tv series room for growth if it was picked up for a second season- and it was! There were some fun reveals in the last few minutes that will lead to the Locke family facing more adversity, as there are two new demonic foes who are masquerading as friends. I look forward to more adventures with the Lockes!

-Nancy

Go With The Flow

A friendship story. Period.

Go With The Flow is an empowering book about friendship, pushing back against injustice, and yes, menstrual periods. The story revolves around four sophomores- Abby, Britt, Christine and new student Sasha. When Sasha unexpectedly has her first period at school and leaks through her pants to her horror, the other three girls take her under their wing and help her get a pad and a change of clothes. While in the bathroom they discover the pad dispenser is empty, as usual, which angers them. But their kindness leads to a friendship with Sasha and soon their trio is now a quartet.

The narrative takes place over a school year, as the four girls navigate school, crushes, bullying and of course their changing bodies. Abby, in particular, takes it upon herself to object that the school administration doesn’t prioritize women’s health and access to sanitary supplies, while they always find the money for the football team. She steps up her protest by staging provocative art about periods in the building that gets everyone’s attention, yet puts her friendships at risk. Abby is later able to achieve a broader audience with a blog post that goes viral and is able to raise money that will go to schools to help with providing access to supplies to students.

What I appreciated was the varied home experiences of the girls. While two girls come from two-parent homes, one lives with her single mom, and another with her Grandma. One girl is questioning her sexuality, while another faces an unknown medical future as she possibly suffers from endometritis. When Sasha’s mother finds out she had her period, she doesn’t offer her any advice, she just silently hands her supplies with no guidance on how to use tampons. This is true to life for some girls who gain their knowledge through their peers and now a book like this. Not all the narrative threads are tied up, but I found that refreshing, for we are only looking at a window of time in their life.

The illustration were cute and anime-like and will appeal to a middle school audience. Each page had typically three to five panels and they flowed well, but there was enough variety with splash pages and some blog entries to mix it up a bit.  Appropriately, the color palette is red. The art will remind you of Raina Telgemeier’s, which is praise indeed.

I applaud the author and illustrator, Williams and Schneemann, for taking a taboo subject and making it completely relatable. This is a perfect book to put in the hands of preteens, for it can serve as a primer for what to expect. This sweet tale about bodies, friendship and activism is a winner.

-Nancy

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