Archives

THEY CALLED US ENEMY – Japanese-Americans in WWII, by George Takei (Graphic novel review)

Book cover of They Called Us Enemy, by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott; illustrated by Harmony Becker. Published by Top Shelf Media | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Leaving their home and possessions,
not his parents’ choice…
Why? Why!?

His mama’s purse is full of treats for five-year-old George and little Henry as they make the long train trip with her, Daddy, and baby Nancy from their home in Los Angeles to a camp in the woods of rural Arkansas.

Not a vacation place, but an internment camp with barbed wire fences, unfamiliar foods, very little privacy, and their loyalty to the USA constantly in question – boring for kids, disheartening for adults.

Later, George’s family was moved to a facility in the California desert at Tule Lake, another of several concentration camps that housed 120,000 Japanese-Americans and Japanese who were forcibly removed from the West Coast during World War II.

At war’s end, they hoped to move back to their homes and businesses, but their properties had been seized and sold to others… time to start all over again.

Will the US government deport George’s family?
How can they live in a country that hates them?
What will the future be like in a world after war?

This is a sobering portrayal of a dreadful time in America’s history, as seen through a child’s eyes and reinforced by decades of subtle and overt racism against Asian Americans.

(One of the white co-authors had worked previously with Takei and pitched the idea of capturing his childhood memories as a graphic novel. The book’s artist is Japanese-American, creator of Himawari House graphic novel that I recommended here.)

The well-known Star Trek actor and social activist continues to speak out against discrimination, racism, and the rights of all to love and be loved.

What young childhood memory would you write or draw?
**kmm

Book info: They Called Us Enemy / George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott; illustrated by Harmony Becker. Top Shelf Media, 2019. [author site] [co-author site] [co-author interview] [illustrator interview] [publisher site] Personal copy; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

No party for MISS QUINCES, por favor, please! by Kat Fajardo (Graphic novel book review)

book cover of Miss Quinces, by Kat Fajardo; color by Marianna Azzi. Published by Graphix /Scholastic Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A month away from her friends,
no internet, no cellphone service…
a surprise quinceaneara! What?!

Suyapa loves reading graphic novels and trying to draw her own. Her friends in Comics Club will go to Camp Willow later this summer, but not her – Mami won’t let the 15 year old go anywhere (anywhere!) without her older and younger sisters!

Same when their family goes to Honduras for a month – cousins everywhere, people in and out of Abuelita’s house, even going to a village shop with Papi becomes a parade. The introverted teen cherishes moments alone with her artistic grandmother who agrees to do a travelogue comic with her!

Surprise!! Mami has invited the whole town to Sue’s quinceanera, the traditional ceremonies and dances marking a young lady’s 15th birthday as she moves from childhood to the adult world!

But Sue had told them repeatedly she didn’t want a quinces! She hates speaking in front of people, can’t dance, and certainly can’t wear the required high heels!

Abuelita suggests that she and Mami compromise, so Suyapa agrees to the quinces as Mami has arranged it, and Mami agrees to call the camp so she can go with her friends when they get back to New York!

A poufy pink dress (so different from Abuelita’s satiny white one), stepping on her cousin’s toes as she tries learning to waltz, big sister choreographing the big dance, writing a speech of thanks – aggggghhhhh!

When a tragedy strikes their family, the quinces drops off their priority list – but having heard Abuelita’s quinces stories, maybe this is what Sue wants to do after all…

Family or friends, old ways and new ways – happy book birthday to Miss Quinces!

Be sure to grab this just-published graphic novel today at your local library or independent bookstore to see just how pink and poufy that dress is! Compare quinces traditions by reading Once Upon a Quinceanera (recommended here).

What’s your least-favorite family tradition?
**kmm

Book info: Miss Quinces / Kat Fajardo; color by Marianna Azzi. Graphix /Scholastic Books, 2022. [author site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

J is for Japan, living and learning in HIMAWARI HOUSE, by Melody Becker (Graphic novel review) #A2Z

book cover of Himawari House, by Melody Becker. Published by First Second | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A gap year,
a new start,
away from family…far away.

Three young women move to Japan, living with people from other cultures in a Tokyo sharehouse and becoming good friends in this bilingual (sometimes trilingual) graphic novel.

Nao had moved to the US Midwest with her American father and Japanese mother when she and her brother were young, never quite fitting in there. Returning to Japan after high school graduation, she wants to reconnect with her roots and family here.

Tina came from Singapore to learn Japanese well enough to pass the university entrance exams here, close to home and also far away from her boisterous family for a while.

Hyejung left Korea because she was so very deeply unhappy with the treadmill of going to college to get a job to work till retirement; her parents didn’t approve, and they don’t communicate.

Japanese brothers Shinsan and Masaki anchor Himawari House, the elder suggesting festivals they can all attend together, and Masaki being generally moody (what is his problem?).

The girls work at low-skill jobs as they attend gogakuin to improve their Japanese, with not a few cultural mishaps along the way. Thank goodness they can all communicate in English at Himawari House!

Childhood memories are revived as Nao visits her mother’s family in the countryside where she played with her cousins, now also all grown up.

Will Tina and Hyejung pass their entrance exams?
Can Nao become fluent in Japanese during the short time she’s here?
Will Masaki ever come out of his shell?

A fun and thoughtful look at family, expectations, and friendship by the illustrator of the graphic novel version of George Takei’s memoir, They Called Us Enemies (recommendation coming soon).

If you could take a year off from your current life, where would you live?
**kmm

Book info: Himawari House / Harmony Becker. First Second, 2021. [author site] [publisher site] Library book; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Ready…set…MAKE YOUR OWN MANGA! by Elaine Tipping and Erwin Prasetya (YA book review)

book cover of Make Your Own Manga: Create Your Own Anime Comics With Action-Packed Story Fill-ins and Blank Comic Panels, by Elaine Tipping and Erwin Prasettya. Published by Adams Media | recommended on BooksYALove.com

If you love anime and manga,
if you imagine the dialogue you’d write on the next page,
if you sketch and sketch on any paper nearby –
this is the book you need!

Story and art must work together seamlessly in manga, so Make Your Own Manga provides you pages upon pages of practice space for each skill.

Manga artists Elaine Tipping (draws Dubious Company and Licensed Heroes ) and Erwin Prasetya (illustrates Blade Bunny ) give you helpful hints about transfering your imagination to the page, then set you free to create.

Part one – Write Your Own Story – contains six illustrated stories with empty dialogue bubbles so you can practice fitting the story you’ve written into the usual manga framework. Three stories by each author are presented in left-to-right, top-to-bottom pattern, rather than traditional manga reading style, because this is a practice book to help you with the flow of the story. Why are they flying? Who’s the villain? – you decide!

Part two – Write and Draw Your Own Story – is hundreds of professionally drawn comic frames in many styles, just waiting for you to capture your manga! You can divide these 100+ pages into as many anime comics as you like – be sure to note each one’s title and starting page on the blank table of contents at the front of the book.

So get this book now at your favorite independent bookstore or order it through Bookshop.org where you choose the indie bookstore that gets credit, and the books are shipped straight to you! (These aren’t affiliate links; BooksYALove never profits from recommending books)

Whether you’re just starting to draw manga or you’re an experienced creator looking for layout inspiration, grab your pencil and Make Your Own Manga – then keep creating!

What series would you recommend for a first-time manga reader?
**kmm

Book info: Make Your Own Manga: Create Your Own Anime Comics With Action-Packed Story Fill-ins and Blank Comic Panels / Elaine Tipping and Erwin Prasettya. Adams Media / Simon & Schuster, 2021. [Elaine’s site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

ALEXIS VS SUMMER VACATION – all work & no fun? by Sarah Jamila Stevenson & Veronica Agarwal (MG Graphic novel review)

book cover of Alexis vs Summer Vacation, by Sarah Jamila Stevenson; illustrated by Veronica Agarwal. Published by Avenue A Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

School’s out!
Time for summer fun!
Or not so fun…

Alexis is dreading this summer before high school with BFF Lara gone to adventure camp for six weeks, the others in their G&G gaming group traveling away with family… and she’s stuck here, babysitting her little brother and sister for free!

So many changes since her parents divorced recently that the 14-year-old isn’t sure about what she wants to do with her future anymore, likes guys and gals but can’t summon the courage to talk to the girl she has a crush on… sigh.

Mom gets them pool passes so finally they can hang out with other kids. Alexis sees some classmates there and discovers they’re all going to the same high school… even that bully Mack.

Jason works with his dad in their Japanese fusion food truck, and Luke is in lifeguard training, but they both get time off so Alexis introduces them to Goblins & Gauntlets, her favorite role-playing game.

If only Mack would quit picking on Jason, and Luke’s perfect big brother would quit singling him out during exercises, and Alexis would quit stalling and actually go talk to Hayley…

Can the friends level themselves up, as well as their G&G characters?
Will Lara still be her BFF after all summer away?
What if Hayley won’t even talk to Alexis?

This graphic novel takes us through Alexis’ eventful/boring summer as she discovers more about herself with the help of new friends and her much-loved G&G game.

What’s your favorite game to play with friends?
**kmm

Book info: Alexis vs Summer Vacation / Sarah Jamila Stevenson; illustrated by Veronica Agarwal. Avenue A Books, 2019. [author site] [artist site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Best friends vs. sorcery! BEETLE & THE HOLLOWBONES. by Aliza Layne (Graphic novel review)

book cover of Beetle & the Hollowbones, words & art by Aliza Layne; coloring by Natalie Riess & Kristen Acampora. Published by Atheneum Books for Young Readers | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Boring little town,
everything’s the same –
until it’s not!!

As a young goblin-witch, Beetle is apprenticed to her Gran, learning potions and trying to master that dratted flying broom… ho-hum, not real magic like sorcery, is it?

At least the 12 year old sometimes can escape those boring lessons and meet her best friend Blob Ghost, who’s cursed to live forever in the mall. She’s tried so many ways to get them out, of course, but the mall basement always pulls them back.

Oh, great – her former best friend Kat is back from the exclusive Academy, apprenticing to witch Marla Hollowbone who controls so much of their town. Kat has already earned her sorcery stone and is eager to learn more spells and secrets from her powerful aunt.

Ack! Blob Ghost tells her that they’ve learned the mall will soon be torn down – on Marla Hollowbone’s orders!

Can a ghost die twice?
How can Beetle free them from their curse?
Will Kat defy her aunt and help?

Into the depths and into the sky, Beetle will try her goblin-witch best to help her friend, even as Marla threatens her Gran! (Yes, sequels to this strongly colored graphic novel are in the works!)

What’s the scariest adventure that you and your best friend ever had?
**kmm

Book info: Beetle & the Hollowbones / words & art by Aliza Layne; coloring by Natalie Riess & Kristen Acampora. Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2020. [author site] [author interview] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Ballet is all she knows…then what? TINY DANCER memoir, by Siena Cherson Siegel & Mark Siegel (graphic novel review)

book cover of Tiny Dancer, by Siena Cherson Siegel; art by Mark Siegel. Published by Atheneum | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Dance, stretch,
push through pain,
dance, dance… down.

Ballet classes during her blissful childhood in the 1970s set Siena on her life path. Dancing becomes an escape from the sixth-grade mean girls, from missing her big brother when he leaves Puerto Rico for Boston, from Mom and Dad fighting.

Audition for the School of American Ballet? Live in New York City? School with real friends? All wonderful (except leaving Dad back in San Juan).

Siena wants to be a ballerina more than anything, so that means total dedication, practice, and more practice. Summer ballet schools in and out of New York State as she grows just a little taller than is acceptable for the parts that she longs to dance, spotlight roles that go to her classmates.

An ankle injury forces her to sit out some practices at the New York City Ballet company, just as auditions for the next level are starting – the other girls will get ahead! A little pain is worth the chance to advance, right?

No time for boyfriends or hobbies… even in her dreams, she dances.

No carbs, no desserts – a ballerina’s physique is sleek and svelte…or else.

As her ankle’s healing slows and stalls, Siena’s self-confidence dwindles, and the teen feels trapped by expectations, like turning into a statue instead of a whirling, feather-light dancer.

This graphic novel memoir starts with light and lively lavender colors showcasing Siena’s early days, becoming darker and heavier as she struggles with what could possibly come after ballet, the tutu-clad ghost of her young dreams hovering over many sequences.

Where have your childhood dreams taken you?
**kmm

Book info: Tiny Dancer / Siena Cherson Siegel; art by Mark Siegel; backgrounds by Abe Erskine. Atheneum, 2021. [author bio] [artist site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Follow the PIPER, they must! Graphic novel by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg; art by Jeff Stokely (book review)

book cover of Piper, by Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg; illustrated by Jeff Stokely; inks by Gideon Kendall; colors by Triona Farrell; lettering by Ed Dukeshire. Published by Razorbill | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Overrun by rats!
Leaders at wits’ end!
Help, help!

Made deaf as a child by bullies, Maggie tries to avoid Hameln town. The young woman is content to stay in Agathe’s cottage and write far-fetched tales with the older woman for their own amusement.

But the leaders of Hameln aren’t smiling as the rat population thrives, eating their stored grain and biting people (especially after the ratcatcher’s poison kills all the cats instead).

Along comes a piper in mismatched clothes who promises to rid the town of rats… for a price.

Maggie is a bit enchanted by the piper, even if she cannot hear him playing. She shares with him the story of her family’s downfall at the hands of powerful locals whose evildoings are always hushed up.

Can the piper really save Hameln?
What if the town leaders renege on their deal?
Skilled this piper is, so very skilled…

A well-imagined and wonderfully drawn graphic novel retelling of the Pied Piper story! (yes, by that Jay Asher)

What other retellings of favorite tales do you recommend?
**kmm

Book info: Piper / Jay Asher & Jessica Freeburg; illustrated by Jeff Stokely; inks by Gideon Kendall; colors by Triona Farrell; lettering by Ed Dukeshire. Razorbill, 2017. [Jay’s site] [Jessica’s site] [Jeff’s site] [publisher site] Personal collection; cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Bad news AIN’T BURNED ALL THE BRIGHT, by Jason Reynolds & Jason Griffin (YA book review)

book cover of Ain't Burned All the Bright, by Jason Reynolds; artwork by Jason Griffin. Published by Atheneum | recommended on BooksYALove.com

Three long sentences,
Two Jasons collaborating again,
One vibrant book, willing us to breathe…

His father coughing and coughing in the bedroom, his mother glued to the all-bad-news television. Brother won’t stop playing his video game, sister chatting about what to bring for a protest during a pandemic.

Stuck at home together – will it ever be safe to leave?
After George Floyd’s murder – who wants to be away from home?
TV locked on the same channel – is there better news anywhere?

A Black young man feels like he’s the only family member who realizes how bad things really are, how “worry is worn like a knit sweater in summer” suffocating them all, yet maybe hope can get them through all this.

Jason Reynolds (I’ve recommended his books Boy in the Black Suit; Ghost; Look Both Ways) wrote the story of a young man and his family during that first year of pandemic and protests as three very, very long sentences.

His former roommate Jason Griffin journaled his impressions of 2020 via paint, colored pencil, and collage in his moleskin notebook, then cut out and taped Reynolds’ words onto his artwork whose textures leap off the satin-surfaced pages of this book.

Happy book birthday to this stunning reflection on events of 2020 when so many of us wished we could change the TV channel from its harsh realities to something brighter.

What do you remember most about 2020?
**kmm

Book info: Ain’t Burned All the Bright / Jason Reynolds; artwork by Jason Griffin. Caitlyn Dlouhy Books/ Atheneum, 2022. [author site] [artist site] [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

Gothic intrigue in DIRE DAYS OF WILLOWEEP MANOR graphic novel! by Shaenon K. Garrity & Christopher Baldwin – YA book review

book cover of The Dire Days of Willoweep Manor, by Shaenon K. Garrity (story) & Christopher Baldwin (art). Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books | recommended on BooksYALove.com

A daring rescue,
a ghost in the manor,
a brooding hero with a dark secret…

Haley’s teacher insists that she must write a book report on anything but a gothic romance if the African American teen wants to pass English class… sigh.

When Haley rescues a man from drowning under the river bridge, they emerge from the water into a different world! But what world and when??

The manor house is “three centuries and four European architectural traditions smushed together” on the eerie moors, brooding older brother Laurence says they’re in “the year of our Lord none of your business,” and there’s a ghost that only Haley can see or hear – are they actually inside a book?

Perhaps so, because Haley is now “the Maiden” attired in a long dress, the sinister housekeeper lets a few secrets out, and youngest brother Cuthbert acts more zany by the hour.

But maybe not, because Montague (the brother that she rescued) insists that he was seeking help from her world because a devouring Penultimate Evil was encroaching on Willoweep Manor, a pocket universe that’s the final defense…and there are cracks in the barrier!

As the Bile seeps out, it infects every creature to join in its attack against all things good!

Will the three brothers finally band together instead of bickering?
Can Haley become the Gothic Heroine that Willoweep needs?
Is she trapped in this pocket universe forever?

This clever graphic novel uses every trope, tradition, and cliche of gothic romances to great effect as our intrepid heroine and the desperate caretakers of Willoweep fight to save… everything!

What what you learned from reading fiction that can help in real time?
**kmm

Book info: The Dire Days of Willoweep Manor / Shaenon K. Garrity (story) & Christopher Baldwin (art). Margaret K. McElderry Books, 2021. (author site) (artist site) (publisher site) Book cover image and review copy courtesy of the publisher.