Comics and Graphic Novels

NVCL Reads: Canadian Graphic Novels for Children

The great part of graphic novels is that all levels of readers can enjoy them. Listed below are some of these novels by Canadian authors worth a read and exploration. Did you know that graphic novels are great for reinforcing language, memory sequencing and creative writing skills? Not only that but they are fun to read. Stay calm and read on with some our recommendations for the #NVCLreadsGraphicNovel category in our Canada 150 #NVCLreads bingo contest!

toweroftreasureThe Tower of Treasure, by Scott Chantler

As an acrobat in a traveling circus, 14-year-old orphan Dessa Redd flies through the air with ease. Still, she is weighed down by troubling memories. But when her ragtag circus troupe pulls into the city of Kingsbridge, Dessa feels a tickle of hope. Maybe here in the royal city she will finally find her twin brother — or the mysterious man who snatched him away when they were just children.  Meanwhile, Topper, the circus juggler, recruits Dessa and the circus strongman, Fisk, for the job of robbing the royal treasury. Hungry and desperate, both agree, setting off a series of adventures that will take the three thieves from one end of the world to the other in search of Dessa’s long-lost brother. Scott Chantler’s fast-paced story will engage readers while his bold-lined art with richly detailed backgrounds is a tribute to classic comic books.*


luzmakesasplashLuz Makes a Splash
, by Claudia Davila

Residents of the city of Petroville are suffering through the hottest and driest summer on record. Desperate for a way to cool off, Luz and her friends head out to Spring Pond to go swimming. But when they arrive, they’re shocked to discover the pond has virtually disappeared! It turns out a multinational company has purchased the nearby land and is using the water from the spring to make their soda. Meanwhile, back in the city, the gardens in Friendship Park are withering and at risk of dying because of the lack of rain. And now the city has imposed water restrictions in order to conserve. Luz and her friends are just kids, but is there anything they can do to help save two of Luz’s favorite places?*

claireandthewaterwishClaire and the Water Wish, by Jessica Poon

Summer’s over and Claire’s a bit nervous about starting at a new school. She doesn’t care about being popular — she just wants to fit in. Claire is thankful to have her best friend, Jet. But the girls quickly grow apart when Jet wins a digital camera. Jet’s bitten by the shutterbug and seems only interested in snapping photos with the cool kids. Tired of Jet’s antics, Claire strikes up a friendship with Sky, a girl from the local Lovesick Lake community. She learns that the water in Sky’s lake is undrinkable. The community suspects someone’s been secretly dumping waste in it for years. But when the three friends stumble across the polluters’ trail, will they be able to put their differences aside in time to save Lovesick Lake? The Claire graphic novels are built on stories of strong friendships and action-packed fun. Young girls will love to share the adventures of Claire and her friends — and then try the activities at the end of each book!*

thatonespookynightThat One Spooky Night, by Dan Bare-el

This collection of graphic short stories written by Dan Bar-el contains three separate tales of strange and surprising events that all happen one Halloween night. In Broom with a View, a girl’s broom for her witch costume mistakenly gets switched with a broom belonging to a real witch. Featured in 10 000 Tentacles under the Tub are two rambunctious boys who fight sea monsters while trick-or-treating as aqua-heroes, only to discover that their biggest challenge still awaits — in the bathtub. In The Fang Gang, everything gets turned around for four wannabe vampire girls when they meet up with the real thing. Naturally, all the parents are clueless about what’s going on (though in one, the pet dog is in on things!). The stories are just spooky enough and tempered with a touch of silly humor.*

hideandshriekHide and Shriek, by Sean O’Reilly

In this installment from the Mighty Mighty Monsters series, the monsters need to make some rules before they play Hide and Seek:  No flying like a vampire bat, no sniffing like a werewolf, and absolutely no magic!*

 

 
-Linda

* Descriptions from the publishers

 

NVCL Reads: Illustrated

Sometimes you want fewer words, and more pictures! Below we have a selection of 5 fabulous illustrated books that can be found on our shelves for your #NVCLreads Canada Reads 150 bingo! Kick off your sandals, find a hammock and get lost in the colorful pages of these beautiful works of art.

tokyoonfootTokyo on foot: Travels in the city’s most colorful neighborhoods, by Florent Chavouet

Florent Chavouet, a young graphic artist, spent six months exploring Tokyo while his girlfriend interned at a company there. Each day he would set forth with a pouch full of color pencils and a sketchpad, and visit different neighborhoods. This stunning book records the city that he got to know during his adventures. It isn’t the Tokyo of packaged tours and glossy guidebooks, but a grittier, vibrant place, full of ordinary people going about their daily lives and the scenes and activities that unfold on the streets of a bustling metropolis.

 

patternsPatterns: Inside the design library, by Peter Koepke

Every season, designers from fashion, home furnishings, textiles, graphic arts, and paper-product industries seek inspiration from patterns to bring their collections to life. Many of these designers – including Beacon Hill, Boden, Calvin Klein, Lululemon, Nike, Oscar de la Renta, Pottery Barn, and Target – look to the Design Library, the world’s largest archive of surface design. This one-of-a-kind book, drawn from the Design Library’s archive, is an exclusive and ultimate sourcebook of pattern and ornament.

 

rebeljesterRebel, Jester, Mystic, Poet: contemporary Persians, by Fereshte Daftari

This beautiful illustrated title tells the story of the evolution of Iranian contemporary art by examining the work of 30 artists. This is art where the ills of internal politics remain astutely masked below a layer of ornamentation, poetry, or humor. What unite the disparate works into a coherent theme are the artist’s coping mechanisms, which consist of subversive critique, quiet rebellion, humor, mysticism, and poetry, hence the publications title.

 

aloneAlone, by Chaboute

On a tiny lighthouse island far from the rest of the world, a lonely hermit lives out his existence. Every week a supply boat leaves provisions, its occupants never meeting him, never asking the obvious questions: Who are you? Why do you hide? Why do you never leave? What is it like to be so alone? Years spent on a deserted rock – a lifetime, really – with imagination his sole companion has made the lighthouse keeper something more than alone, something else entirely.

 

secretpathSecret Path, by Gordon Downie

Secret Path is the heart-rending story of an Indigenous boy seeking to escape the residential school system and return to his family. Alternately hopeful and devastating, Secret Path traces the boy’s fateful journey into the wilderness, lending a personal face to a cold and distant chapter of Canada’s history.

 

– Brie

Patricia’s 2016 Fall Picks

Hurray!  The weather has turned!  Not feeling it?  Hear me out… Now that summer has fled we can all succumb to the urge to curl up with our favourite blanket, a cute cat (or dog, or…), and a hot cup of tea and read until our hearts content.  (Or until someone needs help finding the soccer cleats; whatever comes first.)  Here’s what I’ll be reading this fall:

The ConjoinedSeptember

September is an embarrassment of riches.  Amor Towles’ A Gentleman in Moscow* takes us to 1920s Moscow, where Count Rostov is sentenced to house arrest in the luxurious Metropol Hotel.  Closer to home, Jen Sookfong Lee’s The Conjoined* tells the story of Vancouverite social Dear Mr. Mworker who finds the bodies of her two missing foster sisters while cleaning out her recently deceased mother’s freezer.  In Dear Mr. MHerman Koch, author of The Dinner and Summer House with Swimming Pool, promises to keep us guessing once again.  This time around Koch writes about a novelist who’s obsessed with his neighbour.   My last pick for September is Alain Gillot’s The Penalty Area*, a heartwarming story about an Under 16 soccer team and their downtrodden coach.

The NextOctober

October is usually all about horror.  This year I’ll be making an exception for three books by women writers:  Stephanie Gangi’s The Next tells the story of a Joanna’s search for a happy ending from beyond the grave.  The Comet Seekers* is an ambitious offering from debut novelist Helen Sedgwick; the two main character’s lives are linked via comets.  Finally, Francine Prose’s Mister Monkey* looks like a whole helluva lot of fun. It tells the story of the cast of an off-off-off Broadway children’s musical.

Swing TimeNovember

Plan to make time for the heavy hitters this November.  Zadie Smith and Michael Chabon both have new fiction coming out.  At its heart Smith’s Swing Time* revolves around friendship and music to tell the story of two dancer friends only one of whom has talent. Meanwhile in Chabon’s Moonglow* a grandfather (who may or may not be Chabon’s own) reveals his deathbed confessions to his grandson.

More Big Name AuthorsHag-Seed

 

Several amazing big name authors have titles coming out this fall — so many that I could have spent a whole post just on them:   Emma Donoghue has The Wonder*, a story based on history about an Irish girl who fasts for four months (September).  Not to be outdone, Margaret Atwood has two offerings this fall:  Hag-Seed* is  a retelling of JerusalemShakespeare’s The Tempest and part of the Hogarth Shakespeare series (October) and Angel Catbird* a comic book about a hybrid man-cat-owl (September).  Maria Semple‘s follow up to Where’d You Go Bernadette, Today Will Be Different* is a big-hearted story of a modern woman whose life is a mess (October). And finally, Alan Moore has that last word on what we should all be reading this fall: his doorstopper Jerusalem* (September).

Happy reading!

-Patricia

Kat’s Spring Picks 2016

 

Although it often doesn’t feel like it quite yet, we’re well into Spring… and I am not doing so well in my efforts to broaden my reading list to titles outside the Fantasy and Sci-Fi genre.  But what’s the point in a New Years’ resolution if you’re not going to bend it a bit?  And, I’ve included a few non-genre (or at least low/no-magic fantasy) titles here, and it’s really the effort that counts, right? …right?  Anyway, here are some of the titles that have kicked off my Spring reading list!

March

nestThe Nest, by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney

Sweeney’s debut novel focuses on four siblings who are very close to finally receiving the inheritance (“The Nest”) that has been put away for them. They are all depending on this money to solve a variety of problems in their lives, many of which they’ve brought upon themselves.  It’s a light but still moving dysfunctional family drama, exploring what money can do to us and our relationships.

 

adulthoodmythAdulthood is a Myth, by Sarah Andersen

And for something much more light-hearted, this is a collection of Sarah Anderson’s “Sarah’s Scribbles” comic,  exploring the theme of young adulthood and it’s expectations, disappointments, and challenges.  For those who have difficulty with the whole concept of being a grown-up (and I include myself there…), it’s thoroughly enjoyable and reassuring.

 

April

everyheart
Every Heart a Doorway
, by Seanan McGuire

This is novella plays on the familiar trope of children finding doorways to other worlds. However, it doesn’t focus on the other worlds themselves; it’s concerned with what happens to those children after they come home, and especially those children who can’t adapt to normal life again. If they’re lucky some of these children find their way to Miss Eleanore’s school, which hides from the parents its true purpose as a place for these children to be understood and helped through the transition, while being around others who have had similar experiences. It’s beautifully written, and McGuire really makes you feel the yearning of the children for their lost worlds. My only warning is that it’s short, and will leave you wanting more!

sleepinggiantSleeping Giants, by Sylvain Neuvel

Told in oral history style through interview recordings and diary entries, Sleeping Giants is enjoyable, straightforward Sci-Fi. It’s premise is the discovery of a giant robot (whose body parts are scattered all over the world) and the team who assembles it.  However, it’s focus is equally on the characters themselves, and how they cope with the challenges – physical, mental, interpersonal, and political – of a discovery that will have massive repercussions for the entire world.

 

May

smoke

Smoke by Dan Vyleta

Smoke is set in Victorian-era London, where “sin” – whether it be actions or even just thoughts – is literally visible on a person, in the form of smoke emanating from the body. Upper class society is structured around making oneself as pious as possible, so you almost never display Smoke.  It’s a really interesting concept, and Vyleta’s world-building here is excellent. I especially liked the exploration of class structure here, as it related to the tolerance of Smoke.  Recommended for those who enjoy alternate-history fiction of the Victorian persuasion, with a little fantasy thrown in.

centralstationCentral Station by Lavie Tidhar

Tidhar was the 2012 World Fantasy Award Winner for Osama, and has been compared to classic Sci-Fi giants like Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut.  This novel is almost more of a collection of inter-related stories, and has been described as a blend of speculative fiction, family history, faith, racial and cultural tension, all meditating on what it means to be human. It’s a challenging but rewarding title.

 

Enjoy!

(and thank you to NetGalley for providing advanced readers’ copies!)

 

Freedom to Read 2016

raifbadawiSaudi blogger Raif Badawi became known around the world when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1000 lashes because of his writing.  Many people, myself included, thought to themselves that such a thing could never happen in Canada.  Because we live in a world where freedom of expression is not an inalienable right for everyone, it is important that we appreciate the freedom we often take for granted and renew our commitment to defending freedom of expression for all.  For these reasons, Freedom to Read week is a valuable part of our cultural lives and Canadians and Canadian residents.

freedomtoreadEach year the he Canadian Library Association’s Advisory Committee on Intellectual Freedom, in partnership with the Book and Periodical Council’s Freedom of Expression Committee, conduct a survey identifying library materials that have been challenged.  These materials are those that concerned members of the public have asked to be removed from library collections or reclassified for a variety of reasons.

In drawing attention to some of the more surprising titles on this list, it is not my intention that we scoff at the presumed ignorance of those who challenge library materials, but rather that we open up conversations about why access to materials representing a full range of view points is essential for the health and well being of our society.

Here are some titles that have recently been challenged in Canadian schools and libraries:

warsThe Wars by Timothy Findley

Published in 1977, Findley’s The Wars was most recently challenged in 2011.  The parent of a twelfth grader in Ontario asked that the book be removed from her child’s curriculum because of sexual and violent content including prostitution and gang rape.  The book, which won the Governor General’s Award, remains on the curriculum.

tango.jpgAnd Tango Makes Three by Justin Richardson and Peter Parnell 

This book about homosexual penguins raising a chick together was removed from a Calgary Catholic School Library after being challenged in 2006.  Though for many children this book serves as a compassionate and heartwarming introduction to acceptance, it is clear not everyone feels the same way.  In library catalogues the book has been tagged as “brainwashing children,” and “godless penguins.”

thisonesummerAnd just this week, Canadian graphic novelists Mariko and Jillian Tamaki had their widely acclaimed work This One Summer pulled from the shelves of three American secondary schools in response to a parent’s complaint that the book was inappropriate for a third grader. (I can’t quite figure that one out either.)

If you’d like to learn more about Freedom to Read week, please visit http://www.freedomtoread.ca/.

-Patricia

Gong Hey Fat Choy

February 8th is Chinese New Year – so Happy New Year! Here are a few reading selections to help expand your understanding of this fascinating culture.

Nonfiction:

AgeOfAmbitionAge of Ambition: Chasing Fortune, Truth and Faith in the New China, by Evan Osnos

Looking at the clash between individual aspiration and authoritarian control in the new China, New Yorker staff writer, Evan Osnos, delivers a vivid portrait told through the stories of everyday people. With great narrative flair, the author explores the themes of economic change, censorship, and personal values. Winner of the 2014 National Book Award in Non-fiction.

MasteringChineseCookingMastering the Art of Chinese Cooking, by Eileen Yin-Fei Lo

So what’s not to love about Chinese food? This cookbook provides skill-building lessons, brush drawn illustrations of step-by-step techniques, and great photographs of finished dishes, ingredients, and landscapes. This beautiful book is a great way into the ancient cuisine of China, and is a delight to leaf through as well.

CountryDrivingCountry Driving: A Journey Through China from Farm to Factory, by Peter Hessler

Road Trip! Acquiring his Chinese driver’s license, Hessler sets out to track how the automobile and improved roads are transforming China. He follows the Great Wall, and then moves to a small farming village which dramatically alters before his eyes. Finally he ends up in a city where he witnesses the shift from agriculture to industry. Along the way, Hessler writes movingly about the average people who are reshaping the nation.

Fiction:

frogMo Yan – Frog

You might know Mo Yan as the 2012 Nobel prize winner for literature.  Mo sheds light on the far-reaching implications of China’s one-child policy in Frog.  Tadpole is a playwright writing a play about his aunt Gugu, a midwife and steadfast Communist who performs abortions to demonstrate her loyalty to the party.

 

threebodyCixin Liu – The Three-Body Problem

2015’s Hugo Award Winner was this hard science fiction Chinese novel in translation. The Three-Body Problem attempts to answer an age-old SF question: What happens when humans and aliens make first contact? The book is the first in an anticipated trilogy; volume 2 is due out later this year.

americanbornchineseGene Luen Yang – American Born Chinese

Yang made news earlier this year when he was named the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature in the US.  If you haven’t already, I urge you to read his graphic novels starting with American Born Chinese. It tells three intertwined stories about characters longing to fit in.

You can read his inspiring inaugural speech online; his powerful closing sentiments echo our own,

Let me end by encouraging you to read without walls. Find a book with someone on the cover who doesn’t look like you or live like you. Find a book about a topic that you don’t know much about. Find a book that’s in a format you’ve never tried before: a graphic novel, a words-only novel, or a novel in verse.

Read without walls and see what happens.

I bet it’ll be something amazing.

恭禧發財!

-Michael and Patricia

Terrific Canadian Graphic Literature

I started a post on graphic novels and found that I had selected all Canadian books, and they’re great. So here are my top graphic picks (3 of 5 are non-ficiton), none of which could be confused with comic books.

OutsideCircleThe Outside Circle, by Patti LaBoucane-Benson, art by Kelly Mellings

From the 2016 Canada Reads Longlist comes this striking graphic novel about Pete, a young First Nations man caught in a cycle of poverty, violence and trauma. Ending up in prison, Pete realizes that he must make changes in order to survive and to be an example for his younger brother. It’s a hard-hitting but hopeful story, beautifully illustrated and beautifully told.

Tangles: A Story about Alzheimer’s, My Mother, and Me, by Sarah LeavittTangles

Graphic storytelling might seem like a counterintuitive choice for a poignant memoir about a daughter and a family coping with the mother’s dementia, but the spare artwork and candid prose work really well here. Though it is something of a harrowing read, Leavitt manages to incorporate humour along with the tragedy. Ultimately this is a moving story of a family’s love during an excruciating time.

EssexCountyEssex County, by Jeff Lemire

This trilogy of graphic novels set in Ontario explores the Canadian psyche through community, hockey, winter, loneliness, and great art. A superhero-obsessed orphan, estranged brothers, and a community nurse draw us into this small-town world. Lemire’s spare text is beautifully wrenching and the illustrations perfectly match. By turns poignant, sad, and amusing, this is a great read.

Skim, by Mariko Tamaki and Gillian TamakiSkim

Goth teen Kimberly Keiko Cameron (aka Skim), is an outsider, a wannabe Wiccan, and in love with her female English teacher. When a classmate commits suicide, Skim descends into a depression that no guidance counselor platitude can reach. A lovely coming-of-age story with artwork derived from the best Japanese traditions. Lovely.

FatherlandFatherland, by Nina Bunjevac

This memoir / family history deals largely with the author’s father – a Serbian nationalist – whose experiences during the Second World War left him an embittered drunk. When the father dies by accidentally setting off a bomb he was preparing for a terrorist act, the family must deal with the consequences and face their unsettling history. The illustrations drive the narrative in this one and are truly extraordinary.

What’s your favourite piece of graphic lit?