"review" · concenter · fiction · Lit · mystery · recommend · wondermous · young adult lit

{book} there is more than this

more than this coverMore Than This by Patrick Ness

Candlewick Press, 2013.

Hardcover 472 pages in 4 parts

More Than This is hard to talk about without giving too much away. I can’t even ‘tag’ the post w/ a genre as it would prove too suggestive. So I will do my best to keep this spoiler-free because it is a phenomenal book.

You can know that Patrick Ness’ More Than This is the story of a young man Seth who has violently drowned off the Washington state coastline and wakes up on the front walk of his childhood home back in England. The village appears abandoned, weeds grown up, few wildlife, no electricity, years of dust and decay. It is a place that his family had left behind when he was eight but it has always haunted them. The atmosphere is apocalyptic and it only gets more bizarre.

More Than This is a mystery novel as the events leading up to his death are slow to unfold and where he wakes and why is the work of the novel. Both lines of inquiry come together in the end, and both circle the titular longing.

“Worse, it had been accompanied by an equally hard lifelong yearning, a feeling that there had to be more, more than just all this weight.

“Because if there wasn’t, what was the point?” (132)

You should know that Patrick Ness writes one of the most tender and precious of love stories. One of the most exciting selling points of this novel is how much it works to diverge from the usual Teen fare. I think he expresses the depth of feeling many try to do without explicit sexual encounters better than anyone I’ve read of Teen fiction thus far. He impresses me further in separating romantic sentiment from the sexual act later on. 

There is also a lot of heartbreak. More Than This is difficult, and not only on a reader’s patience (Ness is unhurried). Ness deals in difficult subject matters. Skimming goodreads reviews, I saw mentioned more than once that this was an “important book.” To be honest I crinkled my nose at that. Now I owe some apologies. The final chapters are too sincere to be message-y as the journey realizes many of the sentiments before Seth shares what he’s come to learn. There are things young people should know (and heck, older readers could be reminded of), a perspective to consider.

More Than This has some heady-stuff, but Ness proves just as adept at action. There are some crazy chase scenes and a pretty terrifying predator. And the characters are marvelous. I would say more, but, again, I do not want to give too much away. Spared the first person narrator—how refreshing—the third limited observes a well-grounded protagonist. He is wonderfully normal and I especially dig the way his skepticism plays out after waking.

“It’s the kind of story—“

He stops again.

It’s the kind of story where everything’s explained by one big secret…” (237)

Or is it? Seth offers a lot of speculation as to what and how this new place works. Ness doesn’t try to hide the likely reader responses to the events at hand. He’s conscious of tropes, of popular stories and he works with them—and around them. What to believe and questions of where this is all going belong not only to Seth…and seriously, just how horrifying will it get?

This isn’t a novel you escape into. There is too much real life, too many ghosts. But Patrick Ness is brilliant, you should know that—you can expect that, but suspend yourself of anything else as Ness’ work is pushing against your usual Teenage fare, asking the question and understanding that there is more than this.

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recommendations… boys & girls, 14 & up, who want to challenge some of the formulaic in young people fiction, who read literature, not just popular fiction, but for readers of popular works as well; for those who like good writing, are patient, and/or like puzzles. For those who like to experience love, humor, sadness, incredulity, anger, and human folly in a single novel; for those who’ve ever wondered if there was more than this—whatever the “this” is.

of note… find someone(s) to read this with.

though it is a 2013 read: the concenter-quality: a significant deuteragonist; lgbt

"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · recommend · Tales · wondermous

when you haven’t Peter Pan…

30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay Thirty: Dream Animals: A Bedtime Journey

by Emily Winfield Martin

Random House, 2013.

dream animals cover

Furred, finned, or feathered, your dream animal is waiting.

Snuggle up. Open this book.

And get ready to go to your dreams. (jacket copy)

I own two of Emily Winfield Martin’s art prints (so far) from her TheBlackApple shop on Etsy, so I was really excited to hear she had a picture book in the works. Of course, not all artists a picture book author/illustrator make. So maybe I was a little worried, too. This is where I reassure you that Dream Animals really is quite wonderful. You should expect great things.

As the jacket copy recommends, this is a book to snuggle up with for the bedtime precursor to dreaming whilst asleep: dream whilst having story time. The opening end-pages show children with their inspirational animal preparing for bed with a bath and tooth brushing and yawning. These children at the closing end-pages are tucked in their beds (or comfy chair) asleep. In the pages between, the children are those carried to their dreams by their animal transport/guide.

dream animals page too

Martin employs these deep and warm concoctions in blues and greens, reds and golds, that I absolutely love in her work. The night skies and dreamscapes are full of color, detail and texture. They breathe. The pages rendering “real life” are inked lines and washes in indigo on a soft blue tinged expanse. There are little hints (besides their stuffy, nightlight or mobile) in the children’s room that follow them into the dreamlandscape. Notice how many of them are lovers of books. From the very opening (end-pages) Martin is building the characters of these little boys and girls. Of course, they are merely illustrative of the kinds of adventures children have when their dream animals take them to dreamland.

dream animals page

The story is shared in gentle rhyme. I like the last child’s piece in particular: “Or will you sail on moth wings/ To the edges of the blue… / To find the very moon and stars/ Are waiting just for you?” Hers is an artist dream. Others are feasts (see above), a woodland faerie gathering, a tea party under the sea, flight on a bicycle with wings. Everything about the story and its illustrations are wonderfully imagined. The ideas and images are lovely to linger over, and lingering is invited. Dream Animals is unhurried. It is a lullaby and perfectly suited for that snuggle time together before tucking yourself off to await your own dream animal.

There is another part of the crafting of this book I want to remark on: a turn of that end-page at the opening reveals not just one of my favorite colors, but a “This Book Belongs to” imprint–you can’t miss it. It is a beautiful touch. The book asks to be personal (owned) and a part of child’s dream-life as well. I imagine that it would be delightful to snuggle in, begin turning the pages in which you know your name will be read, the time and its sentiments dedicated in part to you.

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{images belong to Emily Winfield Martin}

7-Imp’s 7 Kicks #357: Featuring Emily Winfield Martin

Carrie McBride chats w/ Emily Winfield Martin about the picture book, etc.

"review" · Children's · concenter · Illustrator · Picture book · recommend

an ezra jack keats day

30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay Twenty-Five: Keats’s Neighborhood: An Ezra Jack Keats Treasury

w/ an Introduction by Anita Silvey

Viking, 2002.

Keats's_Neighborhood

“This beautiful collection brings together nine of [Jack Ezra Keats’s] best-loved stories, including the 1963 Caldecott Medal-winning book The Snowy Day and Caldecott Honor book Goggles!, plus Whistle for Willie,Peter’s ChairApt. 3, and others. Also included is artwork from an unfinished picture book, The Giant Turnip, published here for the very first time. An introduction by celebrated critic of children’s literature Anita Silvey outlines Keats’s career and inimitable contributions. In addition, four of the most important writers and illustrators working in the field today [Jerry Pinkney, Simms Taback, Reynold Ruffins, & Eric Carle] share their thoughts on Keats and the legacy he left behind. An afterword describes his incredible life, from his childhood in Brooklyn to children’s book legend.” -publisher’s comments

I was thinking I should take a day to post at least one of Ezra Jack Keats’ picture books. Snow usually brings him to mind. Imagine my delight when I found this treasury. walk with me.

“Introduction” by Anita Silvey:

EJKeats“As someone who had experienced both poverty and anti-Semitism, Ezara Jack Keats found himself sympathetic to city children from different races and backgrounds who had suffered as he had. These children mattered to him. But in the early 1960s those children’s faces, and those experiences, simply did not appear in the books that were published.” (7)

Silvey’s opening paragraph introduces (of course) what she wants remembered of Keats. He was both determined and deliberate in his craft to see real life depicted in the picture book: for him this meant urban and multi-cultural landscapes: “In his books […] universal experiences are played out in a city environment, with graffiti and peeling paint, dark corners and alleys, a landscape made beautiful by his own vision” (9).

He had vital support, but he also found himself under fire–even to the point of ‘devastation’ and quitting: “At the end of the 1960s and during the 1970s, he faced the ire of the Council for Interracial Books for Children. They claimed that as a white man Keats had no right to fashion books about black characters; in doing so he was stealing money from legitimate African-American creators” (10). He was eventually persuaded to come back.

“The very success of The Snowy Day opened the door for other creative individuals. those publishing books, working with children, and writing books realized that an audience existed that eagerly sought their own faces and lives reflected in their books. […]By bringing multicultural publishing to the forefront of our consciousness, Keats has influenced children’s books for four decades” (11).

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keats snowy day page

The Snowy Day (1962). Snowy days are magical and Peter’s day captures this from the footsteps in snow, building snowmen and angels, rethinking snowball fights with the bigger kids. I know that the cover, that Peter in his red snow-suit is the iconic image, but the image-right is the one that always lingered with me. This is where the dreaming begins, with this little boy in his bed looking out of the window. The facing page, we see him poised at a gateway.

I love the humor and delight in the story. and the excitement that comes with the next morning’s snow. What will Peter and his friend do on this snowy day. There is as much possibility as there is snow in that parting shot as they move off into the horizon.

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“A Word from Jerry Pinkney” (27) on Keats: “Using his skill as a painter and his compassion as a humanist, he enthralled, entertained, and educated children as well as adults. […] He enlarged the world of children’s literature, by instilling his characters with energy and by filling each page with exquisite design and dazzling color.”

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keats whistleWhistle for Willie  (1964) has Peter wishing he could whistle, it would make for a really nice trick. While we have a fairly straightforward narrative of a boy wanting and trying to whistle, there is this highly imaginative boy who finds play where he stands, spins, or hops. He tried to whistle, couldn’t so he turns round and round; he tries to whistle so instead… He’s going to whistle eventually, he is quite determined on this point, but in the meantime he has colored chalks in his pocket and cracks in the pavement to tread. He wants to whistle for Willie, it is a part of play, a part of growing up (e.g. dad’s hat), but in the meanwhile, he is also content with being a child. If he whistles, that would be awesome, if not…he’s got things to do. You read enough children’s picture books and you begin to realize how wonderfully odd this beautifully rendered little story is.

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keats-he3-lettertoamyA Letter to Amy (1968) finds Peter inviting a girl to his birthday party–the only invitee to get an invitation in writing, and the only invitee who is a girl. Peter is nervous, and the rain outside and the wind that ups and carries the letter out of his hands suits his situation perfectly. He worries whether Amy will come and anticipates some teasing by the boys, but when the story closes with Peter blowing out the candles after making his own wish, you know he’ll be alright, he’s come into his own in this moment.

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keats peters chair bPeter’s Chair (1967) is a story wherein Peter’s chair is awaiting the fate off all of Peter’s other baby-hood furniture: pink paint. First his cradle, then his high-chair! The new baby Susie is causing some new changes around the house, “You’ll have to play more quietly. Remember, we have  a new baby in the house.” The parents are not insensitive to Peter, however, gently calling him inside when he’s run away to the front walk. And neither is Peter willing to change–too much. But he is growing up: he’s outgrown the chair, and he’s come ’round to helping his father paint it pink. The transition into being the big brother and yet allowing himself the childhood antics is quiet. Gifting his character with such confidence in action/personality sets Keats apart.

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“A Word from Simms Taback” (59), on how witnessing Keats work inspired his approach: “I realized that I, too, could be more playful, and so I introduced collage elements to my work. […] I wasn’t thinking only of his technique, which is instantly recognizable, but also of how straightforward, warm, and child-friendly his pictures are.

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keats goggles

Goggles (1969) offers us a glimpse of an afternoon. The younger boys outwit the bigger in this adventure with Peter and his friend Archie. Of course, Willie is there to take part when the big boys want to take the goggles Peter finds from him. I may spoil this for those unfamiliar with this story, but I love that moment when Archie laughingly says, “We sure fooled’em, didn’t we?” and you think: yes, Archie, you sure fooled us. He starts out not saying anything, seeming small and meek, and we worry. But turns out he is clever and brave and just as capable as the bigger, bold-red-shirt wearing Peter who stands up to the boys. In a story all about seeing and misdirection, we understand that we should mind what we think we know, about ourselves and others.

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keats jennies hatJennie’s Hat (1966) features Jennie and her disappointment in the hat her Aunt sends her–“It’s such a plain hat!” Using some bird friends and collage-work, Keats fashions a more delightful hat for his protagonist. The story moves from admiring others’ hats and nature’s wonders to combining the two in a creative act that becomes Jennie’s Hat. Jennie didn’t understand that the plain hat was an opportunity to design something unique to her.

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keats 08_hi_cat_420x216Hi, Cat! (1970) makes Archie its star, a funny actor who turns an ice cream mustache into a gran’pa figure, a paper bag into a Mister Big Face, and a fence into a Tallest Dog on a Walk show. But animals aren’t always cooperative, and the new cat in the neighborhood is especially troublesome. All Archie had said was “Hi, cat!” and hilarity, I mean, trouble ensues. Maybe the cat isn’t so bad to have around after all…he certainly makes for improvisational action and opportunity for Archie. It’s delightful to think he might stick around (after that last scene).

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“A Word from Reynold Ruffins” (89) on Keats: “He could spend days considering character, color, and composition. I’ve watched him ponder one or another color of paper he had hand dipped, trying to choose between them. All such decisions were painstakingly arrived at. Yet from this effort, he panned a golden classic–The Snowy Day. […] In the sixties Ezra believed there should be children’s books characters other than Dick and Jane, their Granny, and her damn blue birds. And he did something about it.”

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keats-k14-apt3Apt. 3 (1971). Sam, with little Ben in tow, take us on a tour of their apartment building as they sort through the sounds and smells to find which apartment was responsible for the harmonica music. They are surprised by what they find–at first frightened and then delighted. The landscape itself will hold the same for children reading/listening to this from homes unfamiliar with apartment living–there will likely be fear at first, but they should find what Sam and Ben do: the magic in the human experience: the different sounds and colors and secrets and stories. They become aware of the importance of paying attention, investigating, and exploring the world with others–and dare I say, through art? Keats brushwork does translate into harmonica.

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“A Word from Eric Carle” (101) “would say Ezra’s sparkling eyes were the first impression I had of this gentle and kind man. […] I remember Ezra as having a keen eye for beautiful women! But most of all, I remember his generous spirit. He was an experienced professional who reached out to me, a greenhorn at the threshold of entering the world of picture book making.” –bless him for that!

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keats louieLouie’s Search (1980). You know those stories where the protagonist goes searching for something and who knows what they end up finding? Treasure falls out of the back of the truck and leads to a pretty hairy situation. But than said hairy situation turns into something remarkable once the enormous shadows settle into a human person. This story seems bizarre to me, one that I do not think would work in any other landscape but the one in which it is placed. I like the way it questions the romance other picture books spin with regards to the subject matter it tackles.

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keats - pet showPet Show! (1972) You’ll get a blue ribbon if you’ll just show up for the pet show with your pet, which makes it tricky when Archie’s cat fails to make an appearance–anywhere. Archie has to get creative. He brings Al. But the cat does finally arrive and in the unexpected company of an old woman. In a story about a diverse but close community and the personality of it and the individual, little wonder that uncomplicated ending about cats and ribbons and who and what belongs to whom.

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keats _ezra jackThe collection closes with “About the Author” who was born Jacob Ezra Katz on March 11, 1916. I will leave it for you to read, only to conclude as it does: “Keats gave the world more than one hundred books featuring children from every race and ethnicity. Keats never forgot the faces and experiences of his childhood, and in his stories and art he made his neighborhood known and loved throughout the world.”

"review" · Children's · concenter · Picture book · recommend · series

meet annelore parot’s kokeshi

30 DAYS OF PB 2013 aDay Twenty-Four: Kokeshi Kimonos Book 

by Annelore Parot

Chronicle Books, 2011.

kokeshi_kimonos_1“With a padded cover and slickly designed pages, this interactive book introduces traditional kokeshi dolls, popular in Japan. Rendered in manga style, the dolls wear kimonos; readers are invited to help one kokeshi select her kimono, assist another as she samples new hairstyles, and lift flaps to locate another kokeshi’s apartment. With a clean aesthetic and diminutive animal friends throughout, it provides an insider’s view into a gentle world of dress up. All ages. (Sept.)” Publishers Weekly

Browsing the shelves, it wasn’t only that Kimonos was faced outward, but it stood out. You can guess why…and it isn’t only because my eye is drawn to red. Once I had it in hand, I knew it was coming home with me. I love these interactive books. And well, I do love pretty things. Kimonos is pretty. Annelore Parot, is not afraid of color and patterns. Her choices alone recommend a lingering look, but most of the activities require an attention to details.

Kokeshi_Kimono_interior-2-1-475x478

There are games of differentiation and matching and memory. There are lifting flaps and turning of pages that engage the reader/listener interact in the layering of the story. The educational quality includes translations of Japanese words as well as an introduction/exploration of cultural dress and relationships. Playing dress up usually involves a scenario that reflect social/cultural scripts and Parot optimizes this.

Kokeshi-Kimonos-Annelore-Parot-2Kokeshi-Kimonos-Annelore-Parrot-3

{of the bottom image: the two characters in their apartments are who you see when lifting the flap; on the flaps are text.}

We meet different Kokeshi characters in Kimonos, but French author/illustrator Annelore Parot has a series of Kokeshi books and products, Aoki (below) is just one I happened to find on the shelf. There is also a Kokeshi club site. These would have been dangerous for me when Natalya was young.

aoki coverAoiki (a Kokeshi book) by Annelore Parot

Chronicle Books, 2012

“Meet Aoki She may be the smallest Kokeshi, but Aoki’s infectious enthusiasm can make anyone laugh. On her whirlwind trip to Tokyo, she will ride a high-speed train, dance under cherry blossom trees, and visit a zen garden. With sneak-peek flaps, fun die-cuts, and lavish gatefolds, this interactive exploration will enchant Kokeshi fans of all sizes.” –publisher’s comments

aoki4

aoki interiorThere are even more flaps, memory games, translations, and ways to keep the reader/listener on every page. While Parot constructs a story to follow, it is not so tight that the book couldn’t be picked up or set aside depending on time or interest. It could easily work as a quiet activity book, but I think, like Kimonos, this is one to play with together–because one, it is fun; and two, there is no answer key. This one is good for early grade school. It is doll-play. But even so, use this as an excuse to interact with that lovely child in your life.

{*books are translated into English; images belong to Annelore Parot}

"review" · cinema · concenter · recommend · wondermous

{film} alambrista

notes from film class {film history II}: Alambrista! (1977)

alambrista posterWritten/directed/photographed by Robert M. Young, who is one of the creators of American Independent Film. This is his first feature film. He wrote w/ Michael Roemer and directed photography for the remarkable Nothing But a Man (1964). The film stars: Domingo Ambriz (Roberto), Trinidad Silva (Joe), Linda Gillen (Sharon), Ned Beatty (Angelo Coyote), w/ Edward James Olmos (1st Drunk).

We watched the re-edited/remastered version of 2003, which was outfitted w/ a new soundtrack (the score by Dr. Loco and Los Tiburones del Norte.) The DVD is available when acquiring the eponymous book of essays inspired by the film by some pretty important scholars (one of whom, I just realized was my film professor!). Criterion Collection also has it, so if you have HULUplus.

After the birth of his first child, Roberto (Domingo Ambriz), a young Mexican man slips across the border into the United States. Seeking work to support his family back home, he finds that working hard is not enough.~IMDb

One of the things that makes the film remarkable (by people in the know) is its verisimilitude with the undocumented worker’s experience. Roberto’s lessons on survival is depicted with the flavors of humor, charm, and horror. His exploitation takes on complexity when we not only see his dehumanization at the hands of coyotes or farmers, but in the ignorance or adoptive attitudes of intimate companions as well.

alambrista

Roberto believes that he could better support his family by crossing into the United States; ignoring his mother’s concerns; disbelieving that he will disappear as his father had—fate unknown. He slips into the US and quickly finds the value in being both a part of a group and separate. He meets up with Joe who instructs him on how to escaped notice as an undocumented worker and how to become more appealing to their white benefactors (of whom white women are included).  Work is found via networking and happenstance encounters and following people into the backs of trucks only to return on buses as if it were all some out of body experience—it certainly seemed out of body in the sense he was no one, just another body in the field.  At one point, he is offered a good-paying gig that the viewer understands very quickly is highly dangerous. We’d already witnessed him so sick as to be incapacitated and we worry that is only a matter of time before he comes to a really bad end. And the film offers us several options for a “bad ending.”

A young white waitress Sharon (Linda Gillen) takes him in and it becomes important to read the intentions even in kindness—and just how painful miscommunication can be. There is so much human emotion translated on film that Young makes it difficult to judge his characters. No one is innocent, but no one appears inherently evil either (okay, the ag industry…). Even the police and immigration agents are given latitude in portrayal. The most scathed is the coyote and the policy and industry that supports them. Actually, America and its machinery is pretty well damned, too. Can anyone leave the film with a romantic feeling for the US still intact?

alambrista (1)

When Roberto slips through the first time, he is alone and on foot. Picked up and returned to Mexico by the US government, he is then recruited by a coyote to work in Colorado to replace striking workers. Here, we get the 36 hours in the back of truck, packed in among others. And soon we learn the fate of Roberto’s father. While the work is hard, it is also unyielding. The costs have accumulated and are weighed—and Roberto breaks. He is a human man who came to work to provide for his wife and child. The journey has taken him so far away. I find that his plight should resonate with more than just those audience members intimate with the undocumented and/or migrant farm worker. Hope and assimilation in America requires your soul of you, more so at different levels of the hierarchy.

The film has a lot to say, to show. The actors/characters Domingo Ambriz (Roberto) and Trinidad Silva (Joe) are particularly entrancing. I mentioned humor and there is a tenderness. The film is really very beautiful. I marveled to find that Young held the camera throughout. He has a steady hand and an enviable eye. The construction of the story, everything—the music—Alambrista! is an exquisite film.

"review" · comics/graphic novels · concenter · music · recommend · young adult lit

{comic} days like these

days like this coverDays Like This

Written by J. Torres

Illus. by Scott Chandler

Oni Press, 2003.

I slipped this one off the Library shelf, my eye caught by a cover with three young black women on it. 1960s isn’t a fascination for me as a general rule, music included, but I was curious. That it is J. Torres and Oni Press, didn’t hurt. Shall I just get it out of the way and say: I liked it.

It is the early 1960s and recent divorcee Anna Solomon is about to strike out on her own in her ex-husband’s world: the music business. She isn’t the only one launching her career. A fresh young female song writer is looking to sell her work where she can, and three high school singers are starting out where many do: the church choir and a school talent show. Its just good timing that the three paths should intersect, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t going to be easy.

Ben (the ex-brother-in-law: So I hear the little divorcee is starter her own record company.

Anna: With those ears, I imagine you can hear rhinos mating in Africa.”

Ben: Do you have any idea what it takes to run a record company?

Anna: I’ve been watching you Solomon Brothers do it for years. Learned what to do from Abe, what not to do from you.

Ben: Well, won’t you be surprised when it turns out to be more complicated than making meatloaf or starching a shirt…

Nice, guy, huh?! but such is the attitude with which Anna is confronted. Time is another conflict. Launching a record label and organizing a young up-and-comer is time consuming. Her daughter Ruth, who is the reason Anna was at that talent show, makes the introduction to lead singer Christina and her trio before fading into the background, reminded that if she gets hungry, they are well-stocked in frozen dinners. Illustrator Scott Chandler relates most of that story by placing and not forgetting a Ruth left behind and trying to negotiate her parent’s divorce and mother’s new career on her own. It is a testament to the book that Anna doesn’t come off as looking like an absolute villain; plenty has to do with her other admirable traits; much of it has to do with writer J. Torres’ decision not to moralize in that direction—and he doesn’t have to, you can sense an equilibrium of consequences in the offing… No, the stern frown is directed toward those conservative cultural notions that prove destructive (including self-).

Christina is the “Tina” of “the Tiaras,” and she dreams of being a star. We learn that she dreams this primarily through her mother who is valiant in her defense and encouragement of Christina signing with Anna. Her opposition? her husband Luther who thinks the choir should be the extent of his daughter’s ambitions, to say nothing of his feelings about the hell dimension that is the music world.

Have you heard about this Little Richard character? The man who wears make-up? Only man I know wears make-up is a clown! And then there’s Elvis! Stealin’ black folks’ music and gyratin’ on the TV, making all the young girls lose their heads… and speaking of young girls, what about Jerry-Lee-what’s-his-name marrying his teenage cousin!

And there is no convincing him after he finds out they’ve taken the “Christ” out of “Tina.” Even so, it is a study in marital dynamics the way two very determined parents pursue what they think is best for their child; especially the mother—who is finally fed up talking around one of the central issues in the story. What is a concern other than dreams? money. She is going to see to it her daughter will rise out of poverty and if she can do it while doing something she loves? The manipulative tactics may be uncomfortable for some, but for most: all too familiar. However, this is an issue upon which Christina’s mom is willing to take risks. All the women in the Days Like This have reached a decisive moment (Christina on the cusp) and prove self-determining.

The third path, which is actually the first one we meet, is Karen Prince age 17 and a go-getter in her own right. Along with the “Tiaras” (who are brilliant), she makes up the lighter, more comedic moments—well, when Anna isn’t telling some man what she thinks, that is. Karen bridges Anna’s boldness and Christina’s youth. She has just sold her first song with persistence and happenstance. But she crushes on boys and admits her own father had his doubts when trying to envision her future—a new golf-bag helped. In the end, you understand what Luther and other must: there is no stopping these women.

Not that all the men in the story are discouraging. Anna’s ex does not share his brother’s view of Anna’s capabilities. And Anna has made contacts in a male-dominant industry, with strings she can pull. One resource is a song-writer whom she wants to pair with Karen—as her b-side of the record. Ben, for all his “rat faced” remarks, bought Karen’s first song. And even Luther is complicated by what he is unwilling to say…those manipulative tactics look less manipulative as time passes; the wife is just giving him his plausible deniability—until she is no longer willing to give him that.

days like this prv51_pg1

The artwork, all in black and white, is reminiscent of the 60’s if not earlier. There is a nice balance of text and illustrated expression; engaging and easy to follow.  Torres references ‘60s culture, but most of the historical weight is in Chandler’s clean-lined renderings. And while Torres tries to off-set the serious with quick wit, Chandler provides his own sense of well-timed humor. Days Like This is a beautifully plotted out piece in form.

That the story is set in the ‘60s creates a nice conversation about that time in our country and in the music of the times; however, plenty of it still resonates today. Women and men both are faced with difficult decisions under the pressures of a lot of cultural baggage. The development of the girl’s image (weight, song choice) are abbreviated allusions any reader of the present will pick up on and connect with.

The story is a quick read, Torres choosing his moments carefully. The book ends as Tina and the Tiaras are properly launched, however it creates enough momentum behind a positive trajectory that you understand how it will all play out for our protagonists. The optimism isn’t in the present day reader, but in the characterization of the women (and men) in story.

"review" · comics/graphic novels · Illustrator · recommend

{comics} womanthology: the past & present

Womanthology-Cover-BigI’ve a few sections more…and I’m debating hosting a giveaway.  I cannot (presently) afford the cost/shipping of Heroic, but there are installments of Space that look doable. I’ve birthday money that may persuade me to at least makes sure a copy of Heroic ends up in your local (public or school) library… Yes? No? Would you be in?

Meanwhile…three remarkable inclusions in Womanthology: Heroic that should make your comic artist heart a bit hungry.

“Women of the Past: Life Stories and Artwork by the Women of Comics History,” “Creator Interviews: In-depth Interviews with Professional Women in the Comic Book Industry” and “How to Create Comics!: In-depth Articles Teaching you the Ins and Outs of Creating Comic Books!” Highlighting the first two sections are a sentence from each and thus merely a scratch of the surface. The last is list of what articles & artists Womanthology: Heroic is offering.

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“Women of the Past” (311-21) editor, Laura Morley.

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“Tarpe Mills and Miss Fury” (312-3) by Trina Robbins. June Tarpe Mills (1912-1988) was “contributing to comics the likes of The Purple Zombie and Dare Devil Barry Finn when in 1941, beating Wonder Woman to the punch by six months, she debuted Miss Fury, the first major costumed action heroine in comics.”

“Nell Brinkley” (314-5) by Trina Robbins. “By the 1920s, Nell [Brinkley (1886-1944)] was drawing an early from of comics, though without panel borders or speech balloons.”

“Rose O’Neill” (316-8) by Colleen  Doran. “At the age of 14, [Rose O’Neill (1874-1944)] entered an art contest sponsored by the Omaha World Herald. Her drawing skills were so advanced that the judges were unable to believe the winning entry was the work of a girl with no formal training.”

“Ethel Hays” (319-21) by Colleen Doran. The incredibly skilled Ethel Hays (1892-1989) “not only produced a beautiful catalogue of work, but supported and encouraged the careers of other young women cartoonists.”

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“Creator Interviews” (300-10) editor, Jennifer Doudney. Click on the names for links to their sites; these women are being interviewed for a reason (included info quoted from each woman’s site). The questions vary, some tailored to the specific woman, many general and of the fun/interesting sort.

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Colleen Doran (“illustrator, film conceptual artist, cartoonist, and writer whose published works number in the hundreds.” the example client list is impressive): “Don’t try to be famous, try to be good.”

Devin Grayson (“Best known as a mainstream comic book writer for DC’s Batman titles, Devin is also a novelist, video game scripter, RPG enthusiast, essay writer and copy editor.”) : “I never writer anything without making a music soundtrack/playlist for it first.”

June Brigman (artist, teacher, co-creator of Power Pack (Marvel) and draws newspaper strip Brenda Starr.) “I was one of those horse-crazy girls. If I live long enough, I’ll be a horse-crazy old lady.”

Louise Simonson (comic book writer & editor best known for her work Power Pack, X-Factor, New Mutants, Superman: The Man of Steel, and Steel): she explains why she “prefers the traditional heroes to the current anti-hero trend”—and I couldn’t pick one, nor did I want to type the section out.

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Nicola Scott (comic book artist out of Australia whose works include Birds of Prey & Secret Six): loves Wonder Woman and her favorite food? Bacon.

Robin Furth (personal research assistant to Stephen King, author of The Dark Tower: A Concordance, volume I.): “Meet up with other comic book writers and artists. Pair up, talk about the work. Support each other. Collaboration is a magical experience.”

Wendy Pini (co-creator of the Elfquest series, most recent project Wendy Pini’s Masque of the Red Death) : “some words of caution: self-publishing on the Internet takes technical know-how. You need to network with experienced other to learn the ropes. And only a very few web-comics manage to turn a profit.”

Posy Simmonds (British newspaper cartoonist & writer/illustrator of children’s books): answers: “what do you think is distinct about the UK’s comics and cartooning culture, as compared with traditions in continental Europe and the US?” great question.

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“How to Create Comics” (277-99) editor, Rachel Deering. links to names will give you a sense of their work.

How to…Write Comics! by Barbara Kesel

How to…Draw in Ink! by Ming Doyle

How to…Ink Comics! by Barbara Kaalberg

How to…Color Comics! by Nei Ruffino

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How to…Letter Comics! by Rachel Deering

How to…Draw Monsters! by Fiona Staples

How to…Color with Markers by Jessica Hickman

How to…Color Digitally by Alicia Fernandez

How to…Draw Hands by Qing Han

How to…Build a Sketch by Katie Shanahan

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{images thanks to this lovely book preview page}

my most recent Womanthology: Heroic post which will have links to all previous installments. lazy, I know…