Comic Book? Graphic Novel? … Awesome Anyway You Say It!

Graphic novels are a reading format that I love. To me they are much more than comic books. It’s the ability to tell a story using words and pictures together and have it be that much more powerful. I like that so much thought goes into making the drawings speak what the words aren’t saying. And with graphic novels sometimes words come with space limitations, which makes me think the words, phrases and dialogue are chosen with that much more care. For me a successful graphic novel leaves me feeling satisfied that the words and pictures have been designed and combined to present the best possible story, with meaning and feeling perfectly visualized. Sometimes the stories are serious or sad, other times silly and fun, but also a good graphic novel is the best example of team-work and differing arts merging to create a whole new experience for the reader.

I found this snippet on wikipedia and couldn’t resist including it here:

Writer Neil Gaiman, responding to a claim that he does not write comic books but graphic novels, said the commenter "meant it as a compliment, I suppose. But all of a sudden I felt like someone who'd been informed that she wasn't actually a hooker; that in fact she was a lady of the evening."

Since I started blogging, I’ve come across so many fantastic graphic novels because of the terrific bloggers and reviews. This past Saturday I spent the entire day enjoying a few of them. It was so great and I’d like to thank all the amazing bloggers who share my love of the graphic novel – without you, I never would have gotten to enjoy all these great reads :)

Kat & Mouse
Volume 1
Teacher Torture

When Kat’s dad gets a job as a science teacher at a posh private school, things seem perfect – that is, until Kat’s rich, popular classmates shove her to the bottom of the social heap just for being smart. And bad turns to worse when an anonymous student blackmails Kat’s dad to give the class better grades! Can Kat and her rebellious computer nerd friend Mouse, find the real culprits before Kat’s dad loses his job?

Author: Alex de Campi Genre: Graphic Novel (ages 9+)
Illustrator: Federica Manfredi Type: Paperback 96 pages
Publisher: TokyoPop Publication Date: July 2006

My Thoughts
Thanks to Darla D. from Books & Other Thoughts I picked up this cute manga. I found it in the children’s section of the library and without Darla D's review I most likely wouldn’t have spotted it.

This isn’t the type of graphic novel that I would have come across on my own. Having two teen sons means I miss out on a lot of the girly type stuff. But I am so happy that I took a look for this after seeing Darla D.’s review. Kat & Mouse was so much fun! The main character, Kat, is starting grade seven at a brand new school where her dad is going to be teaching science. What I found most appealing about this first of a series is that Kat and her friend Mouse seem like normal teenage girls, also it was nice to see a character who doesn’t fall all over herself to impress the “in-crowd.” Kat comes across as a smart girl, who knows what is important in life. Working hard at school and also working at keeping a good relationship with her parents are things she cares about. And the relationship between Kat and her parents does seem very realistic – they argue, but they care about one another at the same time. Another really fun thing about this book was that the girls use science to solve the mystery, and included at the back of the book is instructions for conducting your own at-home science project with easy to find materials - giving you the chance to experience exactly what Kat & Mouse did. Fun with Science!

Oh and Kat & Mouse Volume 1 Teacher Torture can be read online at TokyoPop!

Other Reviews
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Let me know and I’ll add your link.

Ethel & Ernest
A True Story

Utterly original, deeply moving and very funny, Ethel & Ernest is the story of Raymond Briggs’s parents from their first, chance encounter to their deaths, told in Briggs’s unique strip-cartoon format. Winner of the British Book Award for the Illustrated Book of the Year and acclaimed by the critics, Ethel & Ernest was a huge bestseller on first publication.

Author: Raymond Briggs Genre: Graphic Novel / Non-Fiction
Illustrator: Raymond Briggs Type: Hardcover 103 pages
Publisher: Jonathan Cape Publication Date: 1998

My Thoughts   
This one is thanks to Nymeth of Things Mean A Lot. Nymeth’s review was fantastic as always, but what convinced me I needed to read this was a particular quote she included. I’ve taken a photo of the page that this quote appeared on – it was just as touching and clever as I first suspected.

At first, I was a bit apprehensive about how well the premise of this graphic novel would play out. Ethel & Ernest is the true story of the couple’s relationship, from the first time they meet ‘til the day they die. But the apprehension quickly vanished as I realized that their story was going to be wonderful. Told in quick snippets, it perfectly illustrates a happy, hard and sometimes impossible seeming existence. Through the story of Ethel & Ernest we get to experience how time changes people, places and life itself. Things like war, technology, politics and culture are all examined from this couple’s first-hand point of view. By the end I felt like I had personally known these people and I had a hard time letting them go. Some people don’t think that graphic novels can be as emotionally involving as traditional novels, but I would have to disagree and suggest those people read this one. Reading about their life and seeing the happy moments along with the sad times touched me – and I am not normally a very sappy person. Knowing beforehand from the book’s description that the reader would follow Ethel & Ernest all the way through to their dying days was not preparation enough for the emotion their deaths would provoke – it was heart-breaking but still left a small smile on my face as I recalled how full their lives were. They were not famous, or rich, or extremely lucky – it was how they lived, how they conquered the everyday sadness to be a happy and loving family. We should all be so blessed to live such ordinary, yet remarkable, lives. 

Other Reviews
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The Invention of Hugo Cabret

A Novel in Words and Pictures

Orphan, clock keeper, and thief, Hugo lives in the walls of a busy Paris train station, where his survival depends on secrets and anonymity. But when his world suddenly interlocks – like the gears of the clocks he keeps – with an eccentric, bookish girl and a bitter old man who run a toy booth in the train station, Hugo’s undercover life and his most precious secret are put in jeopardy. A cryptic drawing, a treasured notebook, a stolen key, a mechanical man, and a hidden message from Hugo’s dead father form the backbone of this intricate, tender, and spellbinding mystery.

Author: Brian Selznick Genre: Childrens Fiction (ages 9+)
Illustrator: Brian Selznick Type: Hardcover 544 pages
Publisher: Scholastic Press Publication Date: January 2007

My Thoughts   
This is a book I’d seen reviewed all over the blogiverse and I really didn’t think it would be something I would be interested in. So what finally prompted me to give it a read? Chickens! Yup, after reading Bethany’s review and seeing that she awarded Hugo Cabret a Stellar 5 Chicken Book Rating, I knew this would be a fantastic review. For more Chicken rated reviews, check out Dreadlock Girl Reads!

It feels as though I am the last person in the world to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret, and now I’m kicking myself for having waited so long to read this amazing story. So why did I wait so long? That old bad habit of judging a book by it’s cover! The cover seemed so garish to me that I never would have guessed there was a treasure between the covers. The basic plot is outlined above and I won’t bother going through it again here, and honestly I’m not sure that the story would have worked quite so well for me without the outstanding artwork. The illustrations are the exact opposite of the color explosion on the cover. Saying that they are black and white is impossible though, because I am certain the art contains thousands of shades of grey. The depth and detail to these illustrations is mind-blowing! The story would be perfectly magical for a child’s bedtime story, but be prepared to finish this book in one sitting, because it’s definitely a page-turner and make sure to spend lots of time examining the gorgeous pictures.

At Home With Books
Bart’s Bookshelf
Becky’s Book Reviews
Dreadlock Girl Reads
Hidden Side Of A Leaf

Other Reviews

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Let me know and I’ll add your link.

The Tale of
One Bad Rat

Helen Potter lived a happy life until she got lost in a nightmare of sexual abuse. Now she's on a journey, a journey which takes her through urban and rural England along the same path that another Potter, Beatrix Potter, once took. Across the decades, two lives touch, and Helen discovers that the strength of two is far greater than one. Bryan Talbot constructs a very special story in The Tale of One Bad Rat which immediately endears the reader. The victim of child sexual abuse, Helen Potter becomes the armored knight before her own personal demons in this story of heroism and courage.

Author: Bryan Talbot Genre: Graphic Novel (ages 16+)
Illustrator: Bryan Talbot Type: Trade Paperback 136 pages
Publisher: Dark Horse Books Publication Date: October 1995

My Thoughts   
This one caught my attention when Kailana posted one of her awesome Dear Dewey reviews. I’d seen this around a few times, and I must be completely oblivious but it wasn’t until I read her review that I finally saw the connection this graphic novel has to Beatrix Potter.

The cover design, the title, even the color palate are so reminiscent of those beloved little Potter books I used to read constantly as a child. But my Beatrix books were full of happy little animals with not many problems, and The Tale Of One Bad Rat is quite the opposite. It’s a story of abuse, anger, sadness and loneliness. But it’s also a story that shows how a person can fight back against everything that might destroy them. It’s about self-discovery, renewal of the spirit and courageousness. It’s a book that really pushes home the idea that no matter how much you hate yourself, other people or the life you have – you are the only person who can make positive changes. But it also emphasizes that you don’t have to do it alone. By learning to trust the right people and by following the heroes you respect, happiness is possible. Motivational self-help books have never been my thing. Often I find that they hand out a lot of crap that confuses more than enlightens. With The Tale Of One Bad Rat, the reader follows a young woman who must search and battle to find herself and her happiness, while along the way she must learn to shed the guilt and hate she feels for herself. This, for me, was one of the most beautiful and motivating stories of survival. And another thing, which some might not find as fascinating as me, this book addresses the horrible fault that lies in judging things, whether by believing false stereo-types or misinformed beliefs. Rats are not bad creatures, I’ve seen rats who are family pets and are more loving, well-behaved and clean than other families human children. It’s all about the animals for me :)

Books of Mee
Comics’ By Products
Hidden Side Of A Leaf
Nothing of Importance

Other Reviews

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So there you go, four fantastic graphic novels! Originally I had planned to include 12 mini-reviews in this post, but I have the terrible habit of blathering on and this ended up being much longer than I’d planned. But if this is something anyone would like to see more of, I would love to continue highlighting my comic reading with these combined mini-reviews.

Oh and if you have any recommendations for great graphic novels that you’ve enjoyed or that you’re looking forward to reading – let me know!

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


Bart's Bookshelf said...

Isn't the artwork in Hugo just fantastic?!

Nymeth said...

lol, I've always loved that Neil quote. It perfectly sums up my feelings on the terms, and the reason why I tend to say "comics" is to do my small bit to rid what is a perfectly good word of elitism and prejudice. The medium doesn't need to change its name to become worthy of respect and acceptance. It is what it is, and that is more than enough.

I'm so glad you enjoyed Ethel & Ernest as much as I did. I know just what you mean...we know from the start they're going to die at the end, but I was still all teary-eyed when it happened. But it also made me smile, because like you said, they lived good lives.

I can't believe I still haven't read Hugo Cabret *slaps self* And we also agree about Bad Rat. I really did like how the book helped debunk some of the myths about rats you see around. Poor rats.

And yes, I would LOVE to see more posts like this one! As for recommendations, I started The Complete Bone by Jeff Smith yesterday, and it completely lives up to its reputation as an excellent series.

christina said...

I think that you sold graphic novels beautifully. I was a bit unsure (and feeling slightly snobby toward them) but that's changed considerably. The author/illustrator really needs to take the painstaking time to to express their tale with few words.

Love the format of these reviews. :)

bermudaonion said...

You're not the last one to read The Invention of Hugo Cabret - I haven't read it yet. I did add it to my wish list after Bethany's review, though.

Lenore said...

Love Hugo and love that Neil Gaiman quote!! I was in a comic book store yesterday, and I saw a bunch of graphic novels I wanted. I pointed them out to Daniel for my upcoming birthday.

bkclubcare said...

First, I must say that I love the look of your blog and how easy it is to follow you around. if that makes any sense?
Second, what awesome mini-reviews these are!
and trust me, I'll probably be the last person to read the Hugo book. I think I want to read the Ethel & Earnest one first. It sounds sweet and wonderful.

Kailana said...

I just read Ernest & Ethel, too, but have not reviewed! Good graphic novel selections, though. I had read three of the four!

Belle said...

I always love your graphic novel reviews. My main problem is that the local library doesn't have a very good graphic novel collection, but they do seem to add new titles all the time so I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

softdrink said...

I haven't read Hugo Cabret...but I think I need to.

Have you heard of The selected Works of T.S. Spivet? It's not a graphic novel, but it is heavy on the illustrations. It's a beautiful book.

Andi said...

Yum! Love me some graphic novels, and I especially love that Neil Gaiman quote. Hilarious. The Invention of Hugo Cabret was a favorite of mine a couple of years ago, and I was just telling Chuck (the graphic designer boyfriend) that he must read it because he will fall completely in love.

I see some new-to-me books here that I can't wait to check out!

bethany (dreadlock girl) said...

That is too cool! I love everything about that post, it is neat that you highlighted other bloggers, that you were so sweet and the way you laid it all out in such an organized fashion!!

I am personally thrilled that you loved Hugo, the artwork was the tipping point for me. I checked it out from the library,but I know when my boys are a little older I will have to have this one in our own home lib. So glad you enjoyed it!!!

Happy reading!(and thanks for the link, and saying such sweet things about my stellar 5 chicken award...that means a lot to me.)

Zibilee said...

Wow, What a great feature! I really like the fact that you do several mini reviews of books in this genre. Great reviews, now I will have to go check out a few of these awesome sounding graphic novels!

T.C. Robson said...

Oh, I absolutely LOVED Hugo Cabret! The artwork was wonderful and the story brilliant! It's been a long time since I've read it, over a year and a half ago now, but I still remember it vividly. Also reviewed it, too - the review is on my blog, located here:

Darla D said...

I burst out laughing at that Gaiman quote - too funny! I'm so glad you enjoyed Kat & Mouse - it is a fun book, and I'm looking forward to the others. And Hugo Cabret - that is a stunning book! My daughter loved it so much that she carried it around with her for weeks after she'd finished it, just so she could dip into it now and again. I love that book. Sigh.