Stig & Tilde: Vanisher’s Island by Max de Radiguès

By Maureen Tai, 31 March 2020

“In our town, for as long as anyone can remember, when a kid turns 14 years old, they must leave by boat to one of the hundreds of islands around the town and survive alone, for a year. When they return, they officially step into adulthood. It’s what we call ‘kulku.’ ” – Tilde

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I adore graphic novels published by Nobrow for their large formats, rustic, unfinished paper and striking colours – in addition to their unique and captivating stories of course (see our reviews of other Nobrow publications, Hilda and The Troll  and Akissi, Tales of Mischief ). Stig & Tilde lives up to this tradition, distinguishing itself as an exciting coming-of-age adventure story about, and for, young teens.

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The Unwanted by Don Brown

By Ben, 29 March 2020

IMG_7162‘Stay strong and think
of that word … which they
call “HOPE” ‘ – Sahir Noah

Horrifying thought: the Syrian crisis is almost as old as my son, who turns 10 later this year. As Ben becomes mature enough to understand and to bear some of the more grim realities of the world around him, I turn to The Unwanted, a powerful non-fiction graphic novel, to help him learn about the civil war that continues to rage in Syria, and from which millions of Syrians – gambling with their lives – have fled and continue to flee. Better the soulful pain of open eyes than the empty bliss of wilful ignorance. Continue reading

They Called Us Enemy by George Takei, Justin Eisinger, Steven Scott & illustrated by Harmony Becker

By Maureen Tai, 20 March 2020

“People can do great things, George. They can come up with noble, shining ideals. But people are also fallible human beings. And we know they made a terrible mistake.” – Takekuma Norman Takei

IMG_6837It is in times of crises that the true nature of a person emerges. It is during those same times when individuals in positions of leadership or power can either save or savage. We are witnessing this play out in real time as the world grapples with the novel coronavirus pandemic, and we witnessed this over half a decade ago. At the end of 1941, the surprise attack by the Japanese army of the American naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, marked the USA’s entry into World War II. The lives of thousands of Americans of Japanese descent were irrevocably altered by human decisions and actions based on fear, hate and at the heart of it all, racism. In They Called Us Enemy, a sobering graphic novel that is accessible to and appropriate for even slightly younger readers, we learn how one particular Japanese American family, the Takeis, lived through those challenging times. Continue reading

Dear Sister by Alison McGhee & illustrated by Joe Bluhm

By Maureen Tai, 13 March 2020

“Dear Sister, Life was a lot less complicated before they brought you home. Just sayin’. From, Brother.”

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The sibling relationship is a complex one, especially in the early years. Brothers/sisters who are co-conspirators, confidantes and playmates morph at the turn of a screw into bitter enemies, competitors and annoyances. Anna and Ben, born three years apart, exemplify this dichotomy. My own sibling experience however, was quite different, mostly due to the large age gap of nearly ten years between myself and my younger sister. The paucity of overlapping years made for a more detached connection, at least in the formative years. In my forays into children’s literature, I’ve always been a little disappointed that I haven’t come across any books that feature the unique relationship of spaced-out siblings (as in years of birth, not mental state) as the main plot. Until now. Continue reading

Go With The Flow by Lily Williams & Karen Schneemann

By Maureen Tai, 10 March 2020

“Talking about periods is the first step to taking that period power back.” – Abby

IMG_6353 I was 10. I remember cycling to our neighbourhood kedai runcit (convenience store) in Ipoh, the sleepy town in Malaysia where I grew up. I had to pick up some freshly squeezed coconut milk, a loaf of Sunshine bread and a box of Kotex sanitary pads. The Ah Soh at the store handed me the items, but insisted on wrapping up the box of pads with newspaper before I could leave. I didn’t want to miss the start of Gilligan’s Island so I said I didn’t care if it was wrapped or not. “Shameful mah!” she whispered, pushing the parcel into my hands as if it were contraband. For many years afterwards, her words echoed in my ears every time I went to buy pads, by then for my own use, and my cheeks would burn. Continue reading

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