The Arrival by Shaun Tan

Book Info
The Arrival by Shaun Tan
© 2007 Arthur A. Levine Books, New York, NY
ISBN 978-0439895293

Plot Summary
The Arrival is a striking wordless graphic novel that artfully illustrates a moving story surrounding a father’s commitment to his family. The small family of three lives in a town that is overcome by poverty and the story begins with the father embarking on a journey with only a small suitcase of belongings and a very small amount of currency in search of better financial prospects. He journeys by boat to a strange land with new and unusual architecture, customs, creatures and language. He is required to strategically figure out how to communicate with the people in this new place in order to find a lucrative job, a place to stay, and food to eat. He meets a number of interesting characters along the way, each with their own story to tell, and longs for the day he will be reunited with his wife and daughter.

Reader’s Annotation
Shaun Tan’s The Arrival is a stunning graphic novel that possesses the unique ability to tell a beautiful, creative and moving story through pictures alone.

Critical Evaluation
Having little experience with graphic novels to begin with and absolutely no experience with wordless graphic novels, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with The Arrival. I “read’ through the book a couple of times, keeping attention to detail and still had a hard time trying to interpret exactly what was being implied on each page. I finished the book with a basic idea of the story and I thoroughly enjoyed the artwork and magical creatures that were portrayed, but it wasn’t until I did further research and read other reviews that I felt like I really understood it all. I’m not sure if this is because of my age, my lack of experience with comic books, or if it really is just difficult to understand, but seeing how others were able to take things from the book that could look back and clearly see, I decided it was my own shortcoming. I would hope that teens who are more in tune with graphic novels would have an easier time.

Information about the Author
Shaun Tan was born in 1974 and grew up in the suburbs of Perth, a remote city on the coast of Western Australia. As a kid, there were few things he liked more than an opportunity to make something; drawing and painting things he saw around him, as well as monsters, space-ships, and writing and illustrating poems and story books about other worlds. Most of his practical artistic education came from good art classes in high school; beyond that, he doesn’t have much formal education in painting and drawing practice. He studied English and Fine Arts theory, history and criticism at the University of Western Australia, but eventually decided he wanted to try working as a painter or illustrator. He began by specializing in science fiction and fantasy subjects, initially for magazines, newspapers and books. He soon became involved with ‘pictures books for older readers’ through his contact with young adult writers and publishers, and now most of his time is spent as a writer and illustrator working within this medium. He’s also recently been involved with a number of theatre, film and animation projects, including work as a conceptual artist for Pixar.

His most widely published work, The Arrival , tells the story of a nameless man who must leave his family to seek a better life in a strange and distant land, all told in hundreds of wordless drawings. He am currently working on a collection of very short, whimsical stories called ‘Tales from Outer Suburbia’, about strange things happening in very ordinary places.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Graphic Novel, Wordless Graphic Novel, Steampunk

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Describe your initial interpretation of the story.

Discuss what it would be like to be in a foreign place where communication was difficult to impossible.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
15+

Challenge Issues
N/A

Why Included?
I was intrigued by the concept of a wordless graphic novel and thought it would make a unique addition to my blog project.

Advertisements

Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs

Book Info
Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs
©1980, 2008 Drawn & Quarterly, Montreal, Quebec, Canada
ISBN 978-1897299364

Plot Summary
After years spent cleaning public toilets, Jim is realizing that he may have worked himself into a rut. Ready for a change, Jim begins spending his breaks browsing the local paper for new career opportunities, only to find that nearly everything requires applicants to have “the levels.” It would be so much easier, and not to mention exciting, if he could just become cowboy or a valiant highway man who robs from the rich and gives to the poor! Jim decides to follow his dream and find the excitement he seeks, but he rapidly learns that the excitement may not be everything he expected.

Reader’s Annotation
Jim is tired of cleaning toilets and longs for a career filled with excitement and adventure. He must learn the hard way that change isn’t easy and adventure isn’t always what you expect.

Critical Evaluation
Gentleman Jim by Raymond Briggs is credited as being one of the first graphic novels published in English. Not only is it written in English, it is actually from England. I felt the need to specify this because it features a decent amount of British Slang and references. Jim wants to get out of his dead end job as a janitor for a public toilet, but he doesn’t seem to be qualified for any of the jobs he is interested in because they require “the levels.” He is referring to an element of the British educational system where students take standardized exams in various subjects, and certain jobs require passing grades in specific subjects. This and other references may make it difficult for American teenagers to understand, though the overall story is still very clear. Jim longs for adventure, but is painfully ignorant which is illustrated both by his aloof dialog and visually through drawings where the authority figures who step in when Jim’s adventures go awry, are often sketchily drawn. In general, the book is a social commentary on societal structures that are still relevant 30 years later.

Information about the Author
Raymond Briggs was born in London in 1934, and studied at Wimbledon School of Art and the Slade School of Art, London.  His first work was in advertising, but he soon began to win acclaim as a children’s book illustrator as well as teaching illustration at Brighton College of Art.

He came to public attention when he illustrated a book of nursery rhymes, The Mother Goose Treasury, in 1966, winning a Kate Greenaway medal. Since then he has become one of the most innovative and popular author-illustrators.

Genre
Graphic Novel

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
Do you feel Jim was fairly sentenced at the end of the book?

Jim seems to be content in prison and happy to be considered an expert at something, even if it was exactly the job he was trying to get out of. Knowing this, do you think Jim’s goal all along was really adventure?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues
N/A

Why Included?
I stumbled upon this book while browsing through the YA graphic novels at my library and picked it up because I was drawn to the artwork. I later discovered that it was one of the first English graphic novels and would be a valuable resource.

The Magic Flute adaptation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by P. Craig Russell

Book Info
The Magic Flute adaptation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by P. Craig Russell
© 1990 NBM Publishing, New York, NY
ISBN 978-01561633500

Plot Summary
This beautifully illustrated graphic novel adaptation of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s beloved opera The Magic Flute tells the story of Prince Tamino. He was chased into the land of the Queen of the Night by a giant serpent, but rescued by the Queen’s three attendants who find him incredibly attractive. They report their findings to the Queen, who then approach Tamino and task him with rescuing her daughter, Pamina, who was kidnapped by her enemy, Sarastro. In return, the Queen offers Tamino the hand of her daughter in marriage. Tamino sees a picture of Pamina, instantly falls in love and accepts the challenge and so the Queen presents Tamino with a magic flute to aid him on his journey. Accompanied by his new-found friend Papageno, the bird catcher, the two set off to Sarastro’s palace to rescue Pamina and find true love.

Reader’s Annotation
This graphic novel adaptation of one of Mozart’s most beloved operas tells the story of Prince Tamino’s epic quest for true love.

Critical Evaluation
As a vocalist and musician, Mozart’s The Magic Flute has always been one of my favorite operas. It is a wonderful, magical and even comic-like story, usually performed with very colorful and vivid costumes and sets. Having seen the opera a number of times, I can say with confidence that this graphic novel adaptation of Mozart’s classic does not disappoint. Despite the obvious lack of music, this adaptation is as visually pleasing as its stage counterpart, clearly illustrating the story in vivid detail. The story itself, written not long before Mozart’s death in 1791, features large amounts of symbolism and allusion to Masonic elements, mostly in appearances of the number three as well as Masonic symbols. While these references might be lost on a teenage reader who lacks the drive to further research the story, it manages to stand alone as a beautifully told and illustrated story.

Information about the Author and Adaptor
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers.

P. Craig Russell is an American comic book writer, artist, and illustrator. His work has won multiple Harvey and Eisner Awards. Russell was the first mainstream comic book creator to come out as openly gay.

A graduate of the University of Cincinnati with a degree in painting, P. Craig Russell has run the gamut in comics. After establishing a name for himself at Marvel on KILLRAVEN and DR. STRANGE, he went on to become one of the pioneers in opening new vistas for this underestimated field with, among other works, adaptations of operas by Mozart (THE MAGIC FLUTE), Strauss (SALOME) and Wagner (THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG).

P. Craig Russell’s website.

Genre
Graphic Novel

Curriculum Ties
Arts/Music

Booktalking Ideas
Discuss the Masonic symbolism in the story.

Reading Level/ Interest Age
12+

Challenge Issues
N/A

Why Included?
I included this graphic novel because the Magic Flute is a classic story, and due to its original form as an opera, it possesses greater artistic value for teens today.

Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Book Info
Scott Pilgrim’s Precious Little Life by Bryan Lee O’Malley
© 2004 Oni Press, Inc., Portland, OR
ISBN 978-1932664089

Plot Summary
Scott Pilgrim is just your average twenty-three year old Canadian slacker. He lives with his gay roommate and best friend, plays bass in a rock band, and has an adorable high school girlfriend who adores him. Scott thinks his life is pretty awesome, until a gorgeous and fashionable mystery girl on rollerblades starts invading his dreams and then turns his life upside down when he sees her delivering packages at the library in real life. Soon after, she shows up at a party thrown by a mutual friend and he discovers that she is an American named Ramona Flowers who is working as a delivery girl for Amazon.ca. Scott has to make this dream girl his, no matter what the cost. So, he starts by ordering a package, starting him on the quest for her heart. Little does he know, she comes with some baggage in the form of seven evil ex-boyfriends who Scott must defeat in order to be able to call Ramona his girlfriend. Can a freeloader like Scott reign victorious? Or will he be love’s martyr?

Reader’s Annotation
Scott Pilgrim is just your average twenty-three year old slacker barely getting by, but his life turns upside down the mysterious Amazon delivery girl Ramona Flowers moves to town. Can he face certain death in the form of her seven evil ex-boyfriends to win her heart?

Critical Evaluation
Scott Pilgrim provided my first introduction to manga, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The story is fun, engaging and easy to read with interesting and complex characters that the reader will fall in love with. The book is definitely geared towards the indie crowd and those who have a love for video games, though in the world of comic books this is likely the norm. The book is chock-full of obscure as well as blatant references, making it a fun challenge to try and pick them all out. The dialog is very well written and complimentary to the also impressive artistic style.

Information about the Author
Bryan Lee O’Malley was born on February 21, 1979 in London, Ontario, Canada. Growing up, he realized that he his love of creating comics was the only thing in his life that he continually wanted to do, and decided to make it his vocation. He has pursued other interests such as film making in college, and creating music under the band name Kupek, a band in which there is only one member, namely O’Malley.

O’Malley started his main career in comics by doing illustrating and lettering work for Oni Press, then went on to release his first OGN, Lost at Sea, also through Oni. These set the stage for his next project: the Scott Pilgrim series – which would become his main vocation for the next six years.

Currently he resides in Los Angeles with his wife and fellow cartoonist Hope Larson.

Visit the author’s website.

Genre
Manga, Graphic Novel

Curriculum Ties
N/A

Booktalking Ideas
If you had a subspace suitcase, what would you keep in it?

How could Scott have better handled the situation with Knives Chau, having pursued Ramona while still technically dating Knives? Were his decisions wrong, or would you argue the case of true love?

Reading Level/ Interest Age
14+

Challenge Issues

  • Potentially inappropriate age difference for the Scott/Knives relationship.
    • Scott – 23, Knives – 17

Defense options

  • Be aware of your library’s collection development policy.
  • Be familiar with the material in question, and the context of the questionable content.
  • Assert the principles of the ALA Library Bill of Rights, and standards of intellectual freedom.
  • Consult online book reviews, and others who have read the book.
    • The book is set in Canada, which might have different laws regarding consent. Nothing sexual occurs between Scott and Knives, and he moves on to a more adult relationship.

Why Included?
After reading this series I absolutely fell in love with it and can see how it would appeal to teens, so including it was pretty much a must. It’s just an overall fun read that teens will enjoy and potentially relate to.