The Harlem Hellfighters is a fictionalized telling of the real experience of the 369th Infantry, an African American regiment who fought under the French flag in World War I. Author, Brooks, masterfully puts the reader behind the line of fire with the soldiers and doesn’t shy away from the racism and blight suffered by the men.
Historical facts are peppered throughout the pages: “A whole town gone, every day, for four years,” and we are introduced to the origin of historical phrases: “Colored man is no slacker.” (on a poster recruiting soldiers for a regiment called “The Black Rattlers”.Once training begins, it is obvious that race makes a difference in the equipment and supplies awarded. White troops are issued new guns while the black troops train using broomsticks.
Beautifully interwoven through the story are references too and samples from the poems of Alan Seeger. Seeger was an American poet who fought and died in WWI while serving in the French Foreign Legion. For those who are leery of a war graphic novel which includes poetry, be unafraid, there is plenty of brutality and gore. From rats grinding through the trenches, to lice covering the men’s bodies, to bayonets making impact in soldiers faces and bombs dismembering soldiers, no detail is shied away from.
Perhaps the most noble quality that Max Brooks brings to the story-telling is a sense of humor. To survive such grievous conditions one must have survival tools and humor seems a realistic one for soldiers to latch on to.
The illustrations of Caanan White are perfectly matched to Brook’s writing. I am writing my review based on a black and white preview copy and therefore can’t comment on color and the quality of reproductions on the final print.
This title is an excellent tool for students who struggle with being introduced to new material. Once a reluctant reader sees this perspective of war they will likely be more open to reading more traditional material. This would make a fabulous tool to include in discussing America’s history of race issues and it serves as a meaningful and fulfilling read for any fans of the graphic novels.
My rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Pub Date: April 2014
Page Count: 256 pages
Publisher: Broadway Books
* Thank you Broadway Books for providing this review copy in exchange for my honest review.
David Shafer’s Debut Novel: “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” Could’ve Used More of All Three
This book stirs a flurry of thoughts and emotions without directing them, which is both refreshing and maddening. There are three main characters: Leo: a failed bookstore owner, Mark: former room-mate of Leo and now successful self-help author and Leila: working for a NGO in Myanmar when she sees something that she’s not supposed to.
The strongest moments in the book are when any combination of the characters are woven together. These scenes read naturally and give us an understanding of their personalities and lifestyles. The chapters are each written from the perspective of one of the three and allow the reader intimate takes on each. Things get a bit messy with the underlying plot.
The Committee is an international cabal of industrialists and media barons on the verge of privatizing all information. Dear Diary is an idealistic online Underground which attempts to block the takeover with radical spying, interception techniques and political attacks. Leila, Mark and Leo all come into contact with both groups.
This book is the odd example of when the strengths in the story-telling are also the weaknesses. Shafer uses unexpected word combinations and often chooses words which are not a part of most reader’s usual vocabulary. His use of imagery is stunning: “The points he made were like lily pads on the surface of a lake- the monstrous lily pads he had seen once in a Florida swamp, you wouldn’t want to get too comfortable on those, but you could alight on one briefly, take a breath and move on to the next.”
The biggest disappointment in the novel comes in the last quarter of the book. While hundred’s of pages are spent revealing the story, it rushes to a very unsatisfying conclusion.
My Rating: 3 stars
Publication Date: Aaugust 2014
Page Count: 432 pages
Publisher: Mulholland Books
*Thank you NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.*
"Alex + Ada" is a Slow Brewed, Modern Day, Sci-Fi Graphic Novel with Addictive Wiles
Alex is a successful single man living with a tech driven lifestyle in Sunnyvale, California. His brain is connected to Prime Wave, a system that allows him to control the things around him by thought and voice commands. (ie: he can make phone messages play, or television programs go on and off).
His grandma lives with a much younger, handsome android, an X5, that is so human-like it’s required to show a branding on it’s wrist. She encourages Alex to order one for himself. He’s offended by the proposition, still hoping to find love the organic way. He comes home to find that she has gifted him a X5 and his opinion on the matter soon changes.
Alex finds that he enjoys the android’s company but wishes that she could have independent thought and free will. The magic of this book comes not only in the slowly unfurling and beautifully paced narrative by Sarah Vaughn, but also in the questions that it offers to readers. Would you want someone (or something), to partner with that would love you unconditionally if it wasn’t genuine love? Should you be connected to a Prime Wave system for your convenience if it might be at the expense of your privacy? What would you risk to give independence to an android.
The book is also speckled with humor as Alex’s friends react to his new housemate and the number of calories that the androids must consume (although they look gloriously fit), far exceeds what Alex and other humans can eat to stay healthy.
The illustrations by Jonathan Luna are nothing short of radiant. The plasticity perfection of the androids is well mated with the slightly foppish hair of the humans. the color palette is expansive and yet somehow muted to appealing tones which broaden the scope of the illustrations.
This is a slowly unwinding story but this first volume is an incredible platform to build a series which will keep readers waiting for their next Alex + Ada fix.
My Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Pub Date: July 16, 2014
Page Count: 128 Pages
Publisher: Image Comics
*Thank you NetGalley for providing me with a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.
Jonathan Auxier’s “The Night Gardener” is the Perfect Amount of Fantastical Spooky for Young Readers
The Night Gardener is Jonathan Auxier's second book and like his first title, Peter Nimble and His Fantastic Eyes, it stands out for it’s originality, strong voice and engrossing world building.
Summary: It has been arranged by their missing parents that brother and sister Molly and Kip will be working for the Windsor family on the other side of the sour woods. as they embark on their journey they hear tales of the area being haunted and that there is a mysterious evil energy that lives at and around the Windsor house.
"So, tell me this: what kind of fever turns a house inside out and makes flesh-and-blood people vanish into thin air?"
The kids quickly learn that there is deep sadness at the Windsor household. Master Windsor seems to be in a constant state of worry, Mistress Windsor withers away physically before their eyes and the Windsor kids suffer from gluttony and selfishness. Add to this the massive tree which begins to engulf the home and the money collectors who come to the house and Molly and Kip have much to fear.
Written with a whisper of old English the text reads like a Grimm Fairy Tale that was lost and has been rediscovered. The Night Gardener himself is just scary enough to make the read unforgettable but so scary that children will fear any tree that they encounter.
Auxier is proving that he has a unique and strong storytelling style for readers who appreciate a bit of lore and a respectful nod to classic style. This book feels as though it comes from our history while it reels at a modern pace for contemporary readers.
This would make a great read-aloud and is the perfect choice for grade school and middle school readers who enjoy some fear around the autumn months. I highly recommend The Night Gardener. It is one of my favorite reads of the year.
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Pub Date: May 2014
Page Count: 384 pages
Publisher: Amulet Books
*Thank you Amulet Books for sending me a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.
Here Kitty Kitty - Hello Kitty Arts & Crafts at East End Studio Gallery, ONE NIGHT ONLY!
Don’t miss out on this fun and timely exhibit celebrating Hello Kitty’s 40th birthday!
There will be a wide variety of art to view and buy as well as numerous vendors who will be selling merchandise from cards and hair clips, to notebooks, bags and ornaments.
(Work in progress by artist Blue One Thirty)
(Work in progress by Lizbeth Ortiz)
El Deafo by Cece Bell is One of the Most Important Graphic Novels of the Year
El Deafo is a funny and sweet tale about a young girl coming to terms to living with her newly acquired disability, a hearing loss as a side effect from meningitis. What makes the book special is that each character has idiosyncrasies which make them feel more authentic than the traditional flat graphic novel character. For example, Cece wears a bathing suit whenever possible.
This is the rare autobiographical graphic novel that introduces readers to the reality of the subject without requesting sympathy. The story flows easily and educates in the process. The drawings picture book quality and become electric when Cece dons her alter-ego super hero.
This is a fun, inspirational read which would benefit any child and should be used by parents and teachers alike to encourage empathy and understanding towards people with different needs.
Banksy is Back!
Notorious Street Artist and prankster Banksy posted two tweets on Twitter last week after nearly four months of silence. During the week there had been buzz about the painter.
— banksy (@banksyny) August 15, 2014
There was a piece on the Chicago news claiming that a new piece by the artist had come up overnight in L.A. The main flaw with the story is that Banksy tends to take credit for his work and there has been now reassurance that the piece is by him.
Perhaps what got Banksy to come forward was the scathing article in The Daily Beast titled: Graffiti Artists Turn on Banksy: The Rise of Art Hate. The article discusses how quickly Banksy paintings have been destroyed when they are put on the street, there is a claim that he has gone corporate. His work does sell for inordinate amounts and perhaps the furor over his work has increased.http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/08/06/graffiti-artists-turn-on-banksy-the-rise-of-art-hate.
Whatever the cause for his return, welcome back Banksy! We’ve missed you.
Raina Telgemeier’s “Sisters” is a Winning Sequel to “Smile”
In 2010 Raina Telgemeier's auto-biographical graphic novel Smile was published. It received both critical and commercial success. In the book Telgemeier shares the story of her own sixth grade experience of falling, damaging her teeth and requiring braces and headgear. Readers could empathize with Raina’s fear, frustration, embarrassment and confusion.
Raina is back with her sister Amara and their little brother Will in Sisters. We are introduced to the characters in fun anecdotes which give us a peek at the family dynamics and home life. We journey with the children and their mother for three weeks on a road trip in which we learn that their parents are separated. Far from being an issues book, Sisters explains the family’s situation as an aspect of the girl’s life, not as a moral or ethical issue. The story begins and remains being told from Raina’s perspective and this slice of life will be relate-able for many teens.
Telegemeier has a whimsical, comforting drawing style with an impressive skill set reminiscent of influences, Calvin and Hobbes and Foxtrot which she mentions in the book. The brightly colored frames and love-able characters can be enjoyed as a supplement to Smile but can also be equally enjoyed and appreciated as a free standing work. Sisters is a must for Grade School and Middle School Libraries and will be enjoyed by readers of all ages.
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pub Date: Aug. 26, 2014
Page Count: 208 pages
*Thank you Scholastic Books for providing me with a review copy of this title in exchange for my honest review.