The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang

By Maureen Tai, 16 January 2019

img_0250There are some graphic novels that take your breath away not only because they are so exquisite to look at, but because you’ve always dreamed of being able to draw like the illustrator. The Prince and the Dressmaker is such a book, telling the charming story of the unlikely friendship (and ultimate romance) between a dress-wearing Crown Prince and his talented personal seamstress. And the fashion?  To die for. Continue reading

Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven by Brandon Easton and illustrated by Denis Medri

By Maureen Tai, 13 January 2019

“Pro wrestling is theater. People are hungry for a story. Every match, no matter how poorly constructed, tells a story.” – Andre “the Giant” Roussimoff

img_0137I remember coming across a pro-wrestling match on TV when I was an anxious high schooler in Canada. I watched oil-slicked, beefy men-monsters grapple, headlock, punch, kick and throw each other around under glaring lights, egged on by cheering crowds that included, to my incredulity, children.  I didn’t understand the entertainment, and I must confess that I still don’t. But a slim non-fiction graphic novel, Andre the Giant: Closer to Heaven has opened my eyes, and my heart, to one of pro-wrestling’s great heroes.  Underneath that hulking mass of flesh, there was a man with a soul, a mind, doubts and feelings like any one of us. This is his story. Continue reading

Anne of Green Gables adapted by Mariah Marsden & illustrated by Brenna Thummler

By Maureen Tai, 31 December 2018

“I do wish I could imagine away this red hair. I can do that with my freckles and scrawniness and rotten green eyes – even my boring old name, “Anne” – but not this hair. It is my lifelong sorrow.” – Anne Shirley

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On a day traditionally spent in wistful retrospection and excited anticipation of new beginnings, it seems fitting to revisit a much-loved classic that has been retold anew in graphic novel form.  Anne (with an “e”, she’ll have you mind) is the spirited, wildly imaginative and irrepressible protagonist of one of my childhood favourites, Anne of Green Gables by the prolific Canadian author, Lucy Maud Montgomery (1874 – 1942). I think Ms. Montgomery would have found the beautifully illustrated graphic novel adaptation very much to her liking.
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Hilda and The Troll by Luke Pearson

By Maureen Tai, 12 November 2018

“Such is the life of an adventurer.” – Hilda

IMG_8541I am proud to say that I discovered Hilda in her original comic form a few years before she became a Netflix phenomenon. Was it her blue hair, blowing freely in the breeze or her wide round eyes that appealed to me? Or was it the quirky creatures of her world: the creature made of wood with its round bald head completely separated from its tree-stump-like body? the snowy white fox with tiny antlers? the gigantic stone troll with its gaping toothy maw? Or was it the feel of the comic book, its surprising lightness and pages reminiscent of construction paper?

Whatever the reason, we’re Hilda fans, and we’re positive she’ll become a favourite of anyone with a smidgen of adventure in them. Continue reading

hidden by Loïc Dauvillier, Marc Lizano & Greg Salsedo

By Ben & Maureen Tai, 7 November 2018

Sometimes we do things without thinking, too.” – Dounia Cohen

IMG_9532One of the most difficult historical events to explain to a young child is the abhorrent persecution of the Jewish people during World War II, culminating in the Holocaust. But I was determined to make my own children aware of these shameful episodes in history, and I was fortunate to discover hidden, an incredibly powerful graphic novel about a young Jewish girl’s turbulent and heartbreaking childhood in Germany-controlled Vichy, France. The text is simple enough for a young child to read, but the pictures are honest and raw, and pack a deliberate emotional punch that is not easily forgotten.

Ben and I discussed the book after reading it together for the umpteenth time.

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Illegal by Eoin Colfer & Andrew Donkin, illustrated by Giovanni Rigano

By Maureen Tai, 5 September 2018

“It feels like a door has opened. And that I need to step through before it closes”  – Ebo

IMG_7714Illegal charts the harrowing journey that two orphaned brothers make from a poor village in Ghana to promise-laden Italy.  The boys cross lands that offer no sanctuary and encounter exploitative grown-ups who offer no mercy.

Illegal is, by far, one of the hardest graphic novels I’ve read with my children, but in an increasingly fractured and unkind world, it tells a powerful story too urgent to ignore, too important to be forgotten.  It demands to be read. It has to be read.   Continue reading

Akissi, Tales of Mischief by Marguerite Abouet and Mathieu Sapin

By Maureen Tai, 20 August 2018

“With that square head, you look just like a gecko.”  – Akissi

IMG_7519It is hard to miss the copy of Akissi, laid out on the table at Daunt, a bookshop in London. The cover is a startling yellow and has a picture of a little girl the colour of warm cocoa, with an oversized head, large oval eyes and wide toothy grin.  She lives with her mum and dad, older siblings Victorine and Fofana in a square, yellow brick house with blue shuttered windows in the Ivory Coast.

Akissi is full of life, full of ideas and full of mischief – that trait which endears certain book characters to the youngest of readers (think Pippi Longstocking, Matilda, Peter Rabbit and Tom Gates to name a few). Akissi is irresistible. Continue reading