Sunday, April 14, 2013

“If dreams are like movies, then memories are films about ghosts.”

The Unsinkable Walker Bean by Aaron Renier:  Walker Bean grew up on his grandfather's stories of monsters and the high seas, but he never imagined that he would go on any adventures of his own.  When his grandfather comes home deathly ill from his latest voyage, he asks Walker to return something to the sea that he stole.

Walker will have to brave pirates, the royal navy and creatures he never knew existed in order to complete his mission and save his grandfather.

Aaron Renier both wrote and illustrated this graphic novel and it is truly a beauty.  The art is amazing and when his pictures break free of the panels to explode into full pages of art, it is jaw dropping.  

I really liked this graphic novel and I would read it again, however, it felt incomplete.  So many of the things introduced and implied at the beginning are never actually resolved or explored further.  It left the entire novel feeling unfinished for me.  This made the novel a bit bittersweet because I really started out loving it with the curse, the pirates, the adventure and the witches.  Seriously, it was yanking all of my Goonie chains in the most awesome of ways.  It just disappointed me a bit at the end.

There will be a Book 2 sometime in the near future. Eventually.  Maybe someday over the rainbow.  At least this is what the author implies in his acknowledgements page.  I really hope there will be because I am not ready to say goodbye to Shiv, Walker or Genoa.  I want to see more of their adventures and I want to know if everything Renier opened us up to in the first graphic novel will be completed there.  Here's hoping!

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol:  Anya is just having another typical awful day when she falls down an abandoned well.  After waking up at the bottom, she begins to realize that she's not alone.  There's a ghost down there with her.

When the ghost follows her home, Anya isn't worried.  They become fast friends and so many of the things that were going wrong before finally start going right.  But Anya soon sees that something isn't quite right about her new friend, something dark and scary.

What first drew me to this graphic novel was the art.  I loved it.  The soft and curvy lines had me in love with Brosgol's style within seconds.  However, what made me stay was the story.  The story is definitely more about Anya's growth as a person rather than the whole supernatural element.  The ghost in a lot of ways is a catalyst for Anya.   She learns to be herself and to accept herself as she is because of it.  By the end of the novel, she really stands up and abandons all of the things that contributed to making her feel so unhappy.  She becomes a really strong character and it was great to see it play out in the panels of the novel.

I also really enjoyed the fact that Anya was Russian and still struggling with her heritage in the American landscape.  I don't think that is often represented in a lot of stories so it is amazing to see it here.  I went out and bought this graphic novel right after I returned the copy I borrowed from the library.  Definitely a keeper for my personal library.  Now if only I could figure out where to put shelves seem to be overflowing at the moment.

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang: This is the story of Jin Wang's move to a new school and a new community, where everything is different and he feels completely alone.  This is the story of the Monkey King's fall from grace and also the road he travels to redemption.  This also is the story of Danee and his embarrassing cousin Chin-Kee.

This novel had me so confused at first because I was not understanding how all three stories in the book would come together.  I literally thought I was the only one in the world who was going to finish this novel and not make the necessary connections.  But all three stories do eventually come together in the panels of the book and it such a great surprise.   

This is another novel that presents a character  with a different background in the American landscape.  For me, this story was hard to read because it hurt a little to see it unfold and realize that this could be anyone's story.  The hurtful stereotypes and the inability of others to understand shown in this novel is poignant and will speak to anyone who has ever felt like an outsider because of their heritage.   A surprising novel that has a lot to say and does it in an unexpected but refreshing way.

I will definitely be keeping an eye out for more of Gene Luen Yang's work.

(Title quote from: Duritz, A. (n.d.). Retrieved from: )

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