Category Archives: Graphic Novels

American Born Chinese – Graphic Novel Book Review

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
Color by Lark Pien

Yang creates a mini, modern-day epic about the experiences of Jin, a boy born in American from Chinese immigrant parents.  American Born Chinese garnered many awards, including the American Library Association’s Michael J. Printz Award for Excellence in Young Adult Literature, and appears on many YA top ten lists.

The reader follows him from his first day at a new elementary school through the awkward middle school years. Jin is ostracized by his young classmates because of his race and doesn’t make a true friend until he meets a new classmate, Wei-Chen Sun, who has just immigrated from Taiwan.  Jin struggles with trying to fit into the white culture, especially after he discovers he fancies a white girl named Amelia.  To his dismay, no matter how hard he tries, Jin can never change what skin he’s in.

Parallel to Jin’s story are two other threads in American Born Chinese: a retelling of a popular Chinese folktale about the Monkey King, and look at the life of a white teenager named Danny who endures humiliation every year when his stereotypically off-the-boat cousin Chin-Kee visits from China.  Though disparate in time and place, the three stories all offer characters that are unhappy with who they are born to be, and go to measures to try to reinvent themselves.

American Born Chinese tells a universal story of coming to terms with one’s heritage, and all the baggage that comes along with it.  Moreover, it does it in such a way that is realistic, easy to sympathize with, and sometimes poignant.  Yang and Pien create an inspired combination of text and visuals that literally breaks the barriers of the frames to enhance an already excellent storyline.

This graphic novel is highly recommended for young adult readers.  It was a very quick read (I’m an adult and it took me about an hour to 90 minutes to read), and kept my attention nicely.  The racist remarks may be something to weigh when considering for younger readers, but these comments serve to exaggerate and dispel stereotypes, not to perpetuate them.

Gutter Geek did a thorough review of American Born Chinese here.

Have you read American Born Chinese? What did you think?


Done and done! [with my first MLS class]

Three exams…check.
Class presentation…check.
Final paper…check.
[insert happy dance]

I’ve finished my summer course, and it feels good to have my first MLS class under my belt. Depending on how the 3rd exam grade goes, I should have earned somewhere in the A-vicinity in this course [yay!!].

I got back comments for my final paper (topic=graphic novels and literacy), and they were a bit unnerving. Although I was satisfied with the grade, I was a bit unsettled by what the professor had a problem with. It seems that I had too many citations in each paragraph.  Perhaps it just got tedious to read.

Regardless, I’ll be posting most of my assignments on my online portfolio here.  Now, all that has been posted is my powerpoint presentation.  I hope to post my final paper and my annotated bibliography  in the coming week, so if you’re interested in graphic novels, check again in a few days.

I have about two weeks of relaxation and pleasure reading before the fall semester begins.  Then, I’ll be taking two courses for my MLS, which should work out to be as much of a workload as one summer course [I hope].  Enjoy the summer break, all you QCers out there!

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No Flying, No Tights

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Sorry I’ve been MIA for awhile from my little blog – but I do keep up with my google reader, at least.  I’ve been busy with my first annotated bibliography for my Fundamentals of Library Science summer course, and I’ve let my meager writing fall by the wayside.

My topic of research is graphic novels, and how they can be used in libraries to support literacy.  If you know of any cool websites, please write a comment about it; it would be most welcomed.

A librarian coworker highly recommended this awesome site called No Flying, No Tights, which includes great recommendations of graphic novels, based on age and genre.  I’ve explored it only a little, but so far, it looks like a great readers’ advisory (and personal reading) tool.  Tell me what you think.

After Week One of Library School

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This week marks the official beginning of my graduate school career.  I had my 701 “Fundamentals of Library & Information Science” class twice this week.  So far, we’ve only covered the history of libraries, a topic I find very interesting.  Unfortunately, the professor (and presumably most library students) are bored by illuminated manuscripts and the rise of literacy, so the professor just read aloud from her notes from the text.  On the bright side, I’ve been reading The Library, a new volume that includes a written history of libraries (albeit written without subtle sophistication I’d expect from an academic work), coupled with beautiful photographs of the written word through the ages.

Anyway, I was assigned my first project in class: an annotated bibliography.  Sadly, I made it through a rigorous undergraduate program without ever having done intense research, a skill that will be of utmost importance in my library career.   So, I’ll be learning so much about research as I complete this project and continue in my classwork.  The professor introduced us to two databases last night: Academic Search Complete (formerly Academic Search Premier, which I’ve used before) and Library Literature & Information Science Full Text.  In class, she also had us create accounts on RefWorks, a bibliography-building tool that allows importation of references from other databases.  So far, the research aspect of this 701 class seems very useful to my needs for assignments.

Oh, and back to the topic I’ve chosen for the assignment: how graphic novels can be used by libraries to promote children’s literacy and engagement in reading.  I found a handful of electronic journal articles and brick-and-mortar books in the Queens College library.  I hope to begin really delving into these on Saturday, because I like to let out my wild side on the weekends.

What is your opinion of graphic novels? Have you read any?  What are your favorites? (I’ve only read the adaptation of Twilight and hybrid graphic novel The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian Selznick.).  Please share your thoughts – thanks

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Twilight: The Graphic Novel – Volume 1

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Twilight: The Graphic Novel – Volume 1

Art and Adaptation by Young Kim

Spoiler Warning – But why would you read the graphic novel before the canon?

Based on Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

Under the auspices of Ms. Meyer, Young Kim has created a beautiful graphic novel that follows our favorite vampire-lover to halfway through the first Twilight novel.  This is the first ‘real’ graphic novel that I’ve read, so it’s a whole new medium for me to take in.  Ms. Kim tells the story fluidly, with illustrations and textual interjections that keep a smart pace.  She manages to keep the true spirit and tension of Twilight, while leaving aside minor details that aren’t vital to the telling of the story.

Judging by the graphic novel itself, Young Kim didn’t seem to draw (punny?) too much inspiration from the movie adaptation, except perhaps that the character Jessica resembles Anna Kendrick from the film series.  Kim’s drawings are really mesmerizing, and portray a more well-rounded Bella than in the films; her facial expressions make her seem like she actually has doubts and fears and is really human.  Drawings of Edward, although not in line with my taste in men, showed powerful contrast between his good and bad days (aka satisfied vs. hungry).  Billy, with  his hat shadowing his warning expression, was incredibly close to what I’d imagined while reading the original text.  Overall, the graphic novel was far less emo and Bella was far less angry than in the movie version; this was an advantage of this volume for me.

Bella and Edward

The story frames use an interesting combination of black and white drawings and edited photo backgrounds.  For instance, Bella is drawn in at the Phoenix airport, surrounded by a [photo of a] real terminal.But what really captivated me about this retelling was the use of color; Ms. Kim used technicolor only sparingly, and to heighten the meaning and delivery of important scenes.  Here are some examples:
1. When Bella dreams about Edward an a mysterious wolf facing off, she sees the wolf in an Earthy, bloody red.
2. Edward describes why twilight is his favorite part of every day, shimmers of topaz[!]-like orange and yellow break through the background sky to lend our cold hero some power in getting the reader to sympathize with his turmoil.
3. The meadow – Yes, the cliches remain, but the strong influx of greens and golds gives us a clue as to what sort of elated joy Bella and Edward felt, finally knowing that they were, for now, safe and happy in each other’s presence.

Although I thought some scenes were a bit brief or glossed-over, I had no problem with continuity because I’ve read the canon and am familiar with the storyline and characters.   So, I recommend this graphic novels to readers who are already well-versed in Twilight-ology.  Note: Even though I’ve listed this under “Children’s Books,” I do it with reservation; just as with the original, Twilight‘s themes, attitudes, and [eventually] content is best for mature/older teens or adults, in my opinion.  Personally, I enjoyed the graphic novel far better than the movie, and on par (granted, in a different way) with the original novel.  For a first graphic novel read, I’m impressed and I look forward to more!

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The Invention of…a New Kind of Graphic Novel

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The Jacket CoverInvention of Hugo Cabret – A Novel in Words and Pictures

by Brian Selznick


Everyone I’ve talked to who has read this 2007 novel has simply raved.  It took me a few months to take their advice and give it a go, but boy, I’m glad I did!  Not only did it feature beautiful black-and-white drawings and a cool 1920’s setting, but The Invention of Hugo Cabret had a gripping storyline that kept me on the edge of my seat and took my heart for a ride.  In its mysterious European tones, “Hugo” reminds me of the dark memories in Zafon’s amazing Shadow of the Wind, but for children, and with a completely different story.

As the opening scene unfolds through a series of captivating full-page drawings, we see the iconic Parisian skyline illuminated by the morning sun.  The focus zooms to the train station where we follow a young boy down a remote, unlit hallway, through an antique metal grate, and into the veiled world of behind-the-walls mechanization.

Our hero, Hugo, is a pre-teen orphaned Parisian boy whose cunning is only matched by his desperation.  He moves like a phantom as he keeps all of the stations’ [analog! yes!] clocks to astronomical precision, and makes daily rounds to steal food to survive in his covert existence.  All he has left of his family is his clockmaker father’s notebook, filled with drawings of a so-called automaton.  As Hugo struggles to hold to this remembrance in the face of danger, he unearths a past long-buried by its owner.

Close-Up of HugoThe Invention of Hugo Cabret is historical fiction, and was inspired by the true story of a broken, neglected collection of mechanical figurines in Paris that were once used by magicians to impress 19th century audiences.  Additionally, Selznick incorporates characters based on important pioneers in the early film industry, and in doing so, adds another layer of historical intrigue.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a masterpiece not only in its unforgettable storytelling, but in its deft combination of magical text, rich illustration, and occasional original photos as well.  What makes “Hugo” special is how it uses illustrations to do more than enhance a storyline; the action of whole sections of chapters is carried forward my series of illustrations.  According to my future-librarian friend Emily, this  sets Selznick’s novel apart from other illustrated works: the pictures are an integral part of the novel, on par in importance with the text.  I’ve heard from teachers that thanks to its inventive use of interspersed illustrations, the novel captured new young readers who had been resistant to the written word.  Now that’s what I call great children’s literature!  Selznick’s form is practically poetic, and inspired in me a feeling of wonder.  My curiosity kept me turning page after page, until I reached the imaginative ending and the last glimmer of moonlight disappeared into the night.

I highly recommend this amazing work of literature and illustration, for children and adults alike.

Here are some links if you want to learn more:

Official Book Website: contains an impressive collection of information, multimedia, and links related to the history behind Hugo.

Movie Details: Martin Scorsese is directing a (live action?) version of the book, starring Ben Kingsley, that will premiere in 2011.Hugo Cabret

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