Coraline (Graphic Novel Review)

Coraline (Illustrated/Graphic Novel Edition)

How did I get it?:
I borrowed it from Beth!

Previously reviewed by the same author:

Synopsis:

When Coraline steps through a door in her family’s new house, she finds another house, strangely similar to her own (only better). At first, things seem marvelous. The food is better than at home, and the toy box is filled with fluttering wind-up angels and dinosaur skulls that crawl and rattle their teeth.

But there’s another mother there and another father, and they want her to stay and be their little girl. They want to change her and never let her go. Coraline will have to fight with all her wit and all the tools she can find if she is to save herself and return to her ordinary life.

Thoughts:

Perhaps I’m not the best person to review this graphic novel or the original book. I haven’t seen the movie yet either. But do you know what? Based on this graphic novel, I’m going to read the original and watch the movie. I liked the graphic novel that much!

It centres around Coraline who steps through a door in her family’s house to find another house which is incredibly similar to hers… only slightly better. Every single thing seems better in the other house. The toys, the food… Coraline thinks she’s got it good! There’s another mother and another father there though. They look like her actual parents, but they aren’t. They want Coraline to stay with them and be their little girl. They’re determined to change her, but Coraline is fighting back. She wants to be with her true family and return to her normal life.

I enjoyed the illustrations from P. Craig Russell. I thought it was beautifully drawn. The other mother in particular really freaked me out. She really was an unforgettable character. I can still see those black button eyes when I close my eyes!

I thought this graphic novel was super creepy. I hear that the original is too, so I’m excited to read that as soon as I can fit it in.

Would I recommend it?:
Of course!

I thoroughly enjoyed this graphic novel and will be checking out the original for sure!

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Banned Books #36 Saga: Volume 2 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

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Welcome to the 36th Banned Books post which means we’ve been reading Banned Books for 3 years now! Awoohoo! Go us! Celebrations aside, this month we took on Saga: Volume 2 by Brian Vaughan and Fiona Staples.

Saga, Vol. 2 (Saga, #2)

First published: 2013
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2014 (source)
Reasons: anti-family, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group.

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As a relatively recent release my answers for this and the next question are going to be pretty much the same. This month, like last month we’re looking at a book where the focus is mainly on illustrations with few words in comparison. UNLIKE last month, this graphic novel is very, very different. Let me get this straight. I don’t agree with banning or challenging books on any level. I love to get angry about why books are challenged/banned especially when the reasons for doing so are just damn stupid but you know when you read something and you can kind of see why some people might have had issues or been offended? This is the wonderful world of Saga. It doesn’t offend me at all (I’m not easily offended!) but I have been slightly taken aback at some of the images, although I must insist that the art is absolutely stunning and something I can look at for a long time (erm…perhaps unless it’s a very naked, quite terrifying giant monster).

CHRISSI: I actually laughed out loud at Beth’s comment about the naked, giant monster as I nearly took a picture of it to send to her as I was reading it. I agree that it’s easy to see why Saga is challenged. There’s some quite graphic pictures and some very strong language. I don’t think you’d expect that when you pick it up, if you go into it not knowing the controversy surrounding it. I’d totally agree that it has some beautiful images though. The illustrations are stunning… it’s just not for the easily offended (or children!)

How about now?

BETH: Most of the reasons for challenging Saga are completely correct, I hate to admit. Yes, it has explicit sexual content, nudity and offensive language. However, I don’t really agree with the anti-family message. Our two main characters have a small baby, Hazel and are very much together even though they are all “on the run.” Plus in this volume, the grandparents come into play which does show quite a strong family unit, especially when I consider the role of the grandfather in this volume. Also, unsuited for age group. Hmm. Well, it just depends where you make this graphic novel available to be perfectly honest! If it’s in the primary school library that’s a different kettle of fish entirely and completely inappropriate I agree. But if it’s in the local library adult section for teenagers to find for themselves I don’t think that’s too terrible.

CHRISSI: I understand why it’s challenged. I do. I don’t like admitting that, but I do understand why it is offensive to many. I think there should be the opportunity for it to be found in the right places. Like Beth said, a local library would be fine but in a education setting…not so much!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: We looked at the first volume of Saga in our Banned Books for 2016 – please find our post HERE. It had been a while since I read the first six chapters so I did re-read them before embarking on Volume Two and I remembered just why I enjoyed it the last time. As I mentioned before, the art is simply gorgeous and really intricate but the story is also intriguing and makes me want to keep on reading. I’ll certainly be continuing the series and am looking forward to Volume Three!

CHRISSI: Unlike Beth, I didn’t reread the first volume. I went into it cold and luckily remembered a lot from the previous volume. I really enjoyed this volume, possibly more than the first. The artwork is beautiful and I’m intrigued by the story. I can totally see why so many readers are lapping up this series of graphic novels.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Of course!

CHRISSI: Of course!

This One Summer

This One Summer

How did I get it?:
I bought it!

Synopsis:

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It’s their getaway, their refuge. Rosie’s friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose’s mom and dad won’t stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It’s a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it’s a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.

In This One Summer two stellar creators redefine the teen graphic novel. Cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki, the team behind Skim, have collaborated on this gorgeous, heartbreaking, and ultimately hopeful story about a girl on the cusp of her teen age — a story of renewal and revelation.

Thoughts:

I am steadily getting into graphic novels and This One Summer is one that kept on popping up when I mentioned a growing love of graphic novels. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. I thought it was going to be a cutesy read, but it wasn’t. It had much more depth than I had anticipated.

This One Summer is about a summer friendship. Rose and Windy only really see each other in the summer. They have grown apart over time. Windy is a little younger and still wants to have a lot of fun, whereas Rose is maturing and wouldn’t mind talking about guys she likes. Despite them changing, they’re determined to stay friends. They hang out together and watch some scary films. Rose is dealing with some family issues and this makes her holiday destination not as special as it used to be.

I enjoyed how This One Summer deals with issues that so many teens and adults are going through. There’s sexuality, miscarriage, body image and adoption to name a few. As you can see from some of the topics, it really wasn’t the summer read you might expect from the title.

I enjoyed the illustrations and devoured this book. It may not be my favourite graphic novel that I’ve read but it was a fantastic read nevertheless.

Would I recommend it?:
Yes! 3.5 stars

A deeper than you might expect graphic novel!

Honor Girl

Honor Girl: A Graphic Memoir

How did I get it?:
I received it from Walker Books, many thanks to them!

Synopsis:

Maggie Thrash has spent basically every summer of her fifteen-year-old life at the one-hundred-year-old Camp Bellflower for Girls, set deep in the heart of Appalachia. She’s from Atlanta, she’s never kissed a guy, she’s into Backstreet Boys in a really deep way, and her long summer days are full of a pleasant, peaceful nothing . . . until one confounding moment. A split-second of innocent physical contact pulls Maggie into a gut-twisting love for an older, wiser, and most surprising of all (at least to Maggie), female counselor named Erin. But Camp Bellflower is an impossible place for a girl to fall in love with another girl, and Maggie’s savant-like proficiency at the camp’s rifle range is the only thing keeping her heart from exploding. When it seems as if Erin maybe feels the same way about Maggie, it’s too much for both Maggie and Camp Bellflower to handle, let alone to understand.

Thoughts:

I have really got into graphic novels over the past year or so. When I had the opportunity to get my hands on a copy of this book from Walker Books, I jumped at the chance. I was especially intrigued because it was a memoir. That’s another one of my favourite things in a book. It didn’t take me long to read this book at all and I really appreciated that it wasn’t a happily ever after ending.

Honor Girl is all about summer camp and crushes. It’s totally adorable. I really enjoyed following Maggie’s story. It feels odd to say that when this is actually Maggie’s memoir. The graphic memoir pinpoints a moment at summer camp when Maggie had just realised she’s gay and she’s got a major crush on a camp counsellor called Erin. Maggie is trying to work through her feelings and spend some time with Erin at the same time. It’s ever so cute and a little frustrating at points. One of those moments when you just want to force two characters (people?) together. I liked that Maggie had a supportive friend that teased but supported her at the same time. The friendship was adorable and relatable.

Honor Girl is as funny as it is heart-warming. I finished it wondering what Maggie would get up to next!

Would I recommend it?:
Yes!

Whilst this book didn’t blow me away, it didn’t take long to read and will really appeal to many readers!

Banned Books #34 Habibi by Craig Thompson

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Welcome to April’s edition of Banned Books, where Beth and I read a banned book, once a month! This month was Habibi by Craig Thompson.

Habibi

Synopsis:

Sprawling across an epic landscape of deserts, harems, and modern industrial clutter, Habibi tells the tale of Dodola and Zam, refugee child slaves bound to each other by chance, by circumstance, and by the love that grows between them. We follow them as their lives unfold together and apart; as they struggle to make a place for themselves in a world (not unlike our own) fueled by fear, lust, and greed; and as they discover the extraordinary depth—and frailty—of their connection.
 
At once contemporary and timeless, Habibi gives us a love story of astounding resonance: a parable about our relationship to the natural world, the cultural divide between the first and third worlds, the common heritage of Christianity and Islam, and, most potently, the magic of storytelling.

Habibi by Craig Thompson
First published: 2011
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: nudity, sexually explicit and unsuited for age group

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: As a fairly recent release (2011), there aren’t going to be many differences in my opinions as I don’t really believe attitudes have changed that much in the past six years or so. I’m finding expressing my opinions about this graphic novel quite difficult and apologies if my words aren’t coherent! I have such mixed views on this book, you see. The good, the bad and the downright ugly. Can I see why it was challenged/banned? Well, er….yes I kind of can. This is NOT to say that I agree with banning books, not in the slightest! I can however see why this book may have been controversial. There are a LOT of adult themes in the books that may not be suitable for younger readers mainly involving rape and graphic sexuality. Of course the book should be available to read but perhaps not in settings where much younger children have access to it.

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I don’t agree with banning books as I don’t think people should be ‘told’ what they can and cannot read. However, this book is one of those books that it’s easy to see why it’s challenged. It’s certainly controversial and it deals with many contentious issues. There’s some quite graphic sexuality, nudity and rape which isn’t suitable for younger readers in my opinion. I’m not sure if this book is intended to be for adults, but that’s certainly what it came across to me. A work of adult literature!

How about now?

BETH: See previous answer! So the reasons for banning/challenging this graphic novel are nudity which there is an abundance of. Seriously, every other page seems to have a naked character on it (probably 95% of them are female, I have to say which I’m not going to even get into but which made me slightly uncomfortable for my own feminist sensibilities). Then there’s the fact it’s sexually explicit and that is certainly the case. Naked bodies are not a bad thing don’t get me wrong but some of the sexual scenes which mainly involve sex that is non-consensual are incredibly graphic. Finally, it states that it’s unsuited for the age group. Here’s where I have a bit of confusion. I don’t know what age group it’s actually meant to be aimed at? Yes, it’s a graphic novel which may make you automatically think of younger readers, however the themes are so adult that it cannot be anything but an adult read.

CHRISSI: I can see why it’s challenged. I read a wide range of literature, but this one made me feel particularly uncomfortable and that’s quite something!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: First of all, this book is absolutely beautiful. It’s a beast at about 700 pages long but don’t be intimidated by it’s size, I read it quite easily in two sittings in the space of a couple of hours. The illustrations are fantastic and some parts of the story I really enjoyed but other parts….I could just see why it may be offensive, especially to some cultures and religions. I didn’t really enjoy the stories within stories that talked about the similarities between Christianity and Islam as religions either which is strange as I normally like that sort of thing. In this novel however, it just made the narrative feel quite bumpy – if that’s the right word!

CHRISSI: Despite my uncomfortable feeling whilst reading this book, it didn’t take me long to read at all. I found it interesting in parts and offensive in others. It was a mixed bag for me, like Beth, but I’m leaning more towards not enjoying the reading experience.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: I’m going to say maybe as I think some people will love it, other people will not so much. It’s a Marmite kind of book!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- Others might enjoy it,  but it was too much for me.

Banned Books #33- Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

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Welcome to March’s edition of Banned Books (a little late, sorry!) where Beth and I have read Fun Home by Alison Bechdel.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel
First published: 2006
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2015 (source)
Reasons: violence and other (“graphic images”)

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH:  This is one of those books where I don’t necessarily agree with the reason for challenging/banning it but I can understand why someone may have had problems. I don’t think a book should ever be banned outright and people should always have access to it but in some cases, it might not be suitable for younger readers. There is however one reason I’d like to point out as I’m confused about it – the violence part. Now I’ve just finished this graphic novel/memoir and I really am racking my brain to remember any specific incidence of violence. There is a couple of slight incidents at the beginning where Alison’s father hits her or her brothers but it isn’t portrayed terribly graphically which I was a little relieved about as that would hit a bit too close to the bone for me.

CHRISSI: I can somewhat understand why this book has had some issues. There’s some er… rather risque moments that I can imagine would be a bit difficult to handle in the classroom. That’s not to say that I don’t think it should be challenged and banned completely, but from a teaching perspective… I wouldn’t dream of having this in the library unlike some of the other books that we’ve read for this feature.

How about now?

BETH: This book is now over ten years old and still reads as very contemporary so I don’t think attitudes would have changed too much in that short period of time. I was surprised at the graphic sexual imagery that there is, I wasn’t really expecting that and although I wasn’t personally offended by it it might be a bit too much for very young readers. It shows a lesbian scene and I was quite pleased that this kind of thing is being included in graphic novels. The other graphic image is of a naked male corpse which again I wasn’t perturbed by but might frighten those of a more sensitive disposition. 

CHRISSI: I’d have to agree with Beth, there are some images that might be a bit too much for some. I’m happy that it’s an LGBT graphic novel/memoir, but the male corpse was a little bit too much for me!

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: Unfortunately I was really disappointed by this book. I thought Alison Bechdel certainly led an interesting life, being brought up in a funeral home with a gay father and coming out as homosexual herself later in life made for a fascinating read. However, I didn’t really get on with the story as a whole, the literary references to Proust and Fitzgerald seemed a bit over the top and unnecessary at times and I would have enjoyed it more if she had specifically focused on the relationship between herself and her late father.

CHRISSI: Beth asked me what I thought of it before she started it and I didn’t want to spoil her reading experience. However, I really didn’t like this book. I thought it was going to be really interesting, it certainly has potential to be a fantastic read but I felt the story as a whole didn’t gel well for me. I was bored at points which isn’t what you want from a book.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Probably not.
CHRISSI: It’s not for me!- This book didn’t capture my attention.

Banned Books #27 Bone by Jeff Smith

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Welcome to this month’s edition of Banned Books. This month we read Bone by Jeff Smith.

Bone Complete Set, Volumes 1 9: Out From Boneville, The Great Cow Race, Eyes Of The Storm, The Dragonslayer, Rock Jaw, Old Man's Cave, Ghost Circles, Treasure Hunters, And Crown Of Horns

Synopsis:

Three modern cartoon cousins get lost in a pre-technological valley, speanding a year there making new friends and out-running dangerous enemies. Their many adventures include crossing the local people in The Great Cow Race, and meeting a giant mountain lion called RockJaw: Master of the Eastern Border. They learn about sacrifice and hardship in The Ghost Circles and finally discover their own true natures in the climatic journey to The Crown of Horns.

Bone, Volume One (Issues 1-6) by Jeff Smith
First published: 1993
In the Top Ten most frequently challenged books in 2013 (source)
Reasons: political viewpoint, racism, violence

Do you understand or agree with any of the reasons for the book being challenged when it was originally published?

BETH: I can’t believe this graphic novel is over twenty years old! It was first published in 1993 which doesn’t seem that long ago to me and I don’t think attitudes have changed too much in the past twenty years so, as with most of our banned books, I don’t agree with the reasons for it being challenged when it was originally published. I was struggling with reasons why this book had been challenged as I read it and I deliberately don’t look at the reasons why until I write this part of the review. To be honest, I’m pretty dumbfounded. The violence – yes, I get to a point…but political viewpoint and racism? I must have been reading a different book?

CHRISSI: Like Beth, I was really searching for a reason why this book was banned. I read it over a week ago and nothing has stuck in my mind for a reason why it should be banned. Political viewpoint and racism- I really couldn’t pick out ANYTHING, so if anyone does know why then please enlighten me! Yes, there were certainly some violent scenes but nothing overly shocking, although I can understand why some educators wouldn’t want it in their classroom or libraries.

How about now?

BETH: In a open, liberal society (we would hope!) there’s even less reason for any book to be banned or challenged (the exception is if it is being considered as a taught text for some age groups in schools). As I mentioned above, I struggled with two of the reasons for this graphic novel being challenged as I don’t really remember any instances of either political viewpoint or racism in the narrative! The only thing that made me a bit wary of it being available for all age groups is that some of the monsters in it, known as the rat creatures, are a bit scary and I can imagine it being a bit too frightening for certain children. I still think it should be available in case they fancy scaring themselves a bit though!

CHRISSI: I have said before that censoring a book can make children (and adults alike) more keen to try it out. Like Beth, I understand that the violence and scariness might be unsuitable for certain children, but in the main part, I don’t see that it should be banned now. Children can see much worse on the TV, in the news, or computer games.

What did you think of this book?:

BETH: This was a bit of a strange one for me. I liked the artwork and some of the characters like Thorn and her grandmother were very endearing, (others very irritating) and I did laugh out loud at a couple of points in the story. However, I wouldn’t rush to read the next one in the series. Apparently Neil Gaiman is a fan though, which makes me slightly more curious to read on.

CHRISSI: I didn’t really like this book. I wasn’t hooked by the story. The artwork was good, but it didn’t capture my attention.

Would you recommend it?:

BETH: Maybe!

CHRISSI: It’s not for me!