Tag Archives: graphic novel

Chance: Good thing the 5 year old didn’t read it.

R. who is (somehow) now 5 picked out Uri Shulevitz’s memoir Chance: Escape from the Holocaust from the library which was (I suppose appropriately) shelved in the children’s section as it is pitched at an older young adult reader. Anyway, I’m pretty shrug shrug to whatever the kid brings home to read – we’ve read a lot of garbage Little Critter books and a lot of much to adult books about dragons as a consequence – but in this case I thought I’d give it a quick go over before reading it to him (something I have truly not done before – which results in a lot of adapted stories let me tell you).

And not that I won’t read it to him, but maybe not at 5. He is still, after all, afraid of giants and requires illustrations with ‘angry eyes’ to be covered up, so not sure he’s ready for the steady description of a family of Jewish refugees from Poland through Soviet Russia (and back again) during WWII. Like the descriptions are never super graphic, but the relentless hunger, terror, uncertainty and sudden death of loved ones… might be a lot.

It does make me wonder when the right time might be to read books to him (or the other kid) that are… difficult. Like we’ve been reading books that explore racism, or violence, or death or other manner of hard stuff forever – in (I like to think) age appropriate and supported ways. But eventually he will be ‘ready’ for a book like this one – where the fate of the author is genuine chance (or maybe God, but you know, chance) and he’ll have to sit with that. I guess I’ll just leave it to school to figure it out. Ha ha.

But seriously – how have you figured out when to read something with a younger person that might be Hard? Or when have you yourself approached a challenging topic and what did you need to read through it well?


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Filed under Non-fiction

Ducks: Nearly the Best of 2022

Except I finished it Jan 2, 2023. Sorry, Kate Beaton, my kid was barfing everywhere and I couldn’t finish it before midnight on the 31st. Oh well, it’s a great, great way to start 2023: a graphic novel about the oil sands, sexual assault, environmentalism, indigenous land rights and economic ‘opportunity.’

It also made me wildly nostalgic for when my friends and I sent one another Hark! A Vagrant comics. Prompted me, too, to read L. The Princess and the Pony which she totally appreciates because she, too, wants to battle everything and does not like cozy sweaters At All.

Beaton, in the autobiographical account of her two years spent working in the Alberta oil sands, may have wanted to battle everything, but as the book so beautifully captures, figures out that the space for pushing back or speaking out can be so narrow, and that too often, the outcome of saying something is to actually make things worse. In the Afterword, she notes that the oil sands are neither one thing or the other – neither all good or all evil, nor the people there. But as the book explores, that many – many men (including the ones you hold dear) could ‘become’ the crude and cruel men that she encounters, not because they are always like that, but because the material conditions of the isolated camps and worksites makes such behaviours possible and permissible.

Some of you may be thinking, sure, Erin, but a graphic novel? Come on. Your time for graphic novel skepticism is a decade out of date. Put in your library request and be prepared to wait six months. This one is popular and for very good reason (that reason is likely that the New York Times named it a best book of 2022. But you know, probably also because of this fine review).

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Filed under Canadian Literature, Erin's Favourite Books, Fiction, New York Times Notable, Prize Winner

Two Generals: Poor


A poor showing by Scott Chantler, who is by all accounts (if awards are to be thought of as accounts) something of an accomplished graphic novelist. This graphic novel, Two Generals, reminds me of stereotypes of Can lit as suffering from such an inferiority complex that it feels the need to do everything in a painfully dull and sincere way so as to assure readers that it can in fact be taken quite seriously because it follows as the Rules and Decorum of Serious Fiction.  As a result there are panels like the one pictured above where we readers are informed by the (terribly subtle choice of red) colour scheme that something is amiss outside the building. The colour scheme throughout – green is “narrative,” black is “memory” and red is “blood and death” – is so simplistic as to be obnoxious. Similarly, the text of the novel reads as if it were borrowed wholesale from the recorded minutes of the local historical society when the very dullest and driest speaker was at work – e.g. “At 1:30Pm, with the men of the HLI back aboard, the first of the landing craft began to make their way out of the port of southhampton” (56 – and I swear to you, I turned to a page at random) and so lacks any (any) sense of character or a compelling plot. I mean the plot is the INVASION OF NORMANDY and I was bored. And I certainly didn’t care a whit about the death of one of the Generals. Perhaps because I had repeatedly been told that “this would be his last Christmas,” or “not all of them would be alive at the end of the day.” I’m not an uncaring person, but really, I feel an instinctive defense toward indifference and scorn when I’m prompted with such terribly written lines.

Maybe the silver lining here is that in identifying this work as terrible I’ll earn your trust as a reader of Can lit. So while you’d be pressed to find a bigger booster of Canadian history, or a more defensive champion of the triumphs of Can lit, you can know that when I’m praising national works I’m not doing so (just) because I’m a little nationalist, but because often times Canadian authors are busy writing truly remarkable, and often under-recognized, work. This is certainly not the case with Two Generals, which I would hope – despite it’s purported mission of helping us all remember – will quickly be forgotten and not integrated like so many other poorly crafted historical fiction (*cough* Paul Gross’s Psschendaele) into the school curriculum just because the Historica-Dominion Society thinks its a good idea. Oh wow, so turns out I have a lot of hostility toward this particular book. And so as a good Canadian, let me just say: Sorry?

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Filed under 100 Books of 2011, Book I'll Forget I Read, Canadian Literature

Berlin – City of Stones: Building to Better


Little to say about Berlin: City of Stones except that I liked it more and more as the book went on, which makes me think that I might need to continue with the series (how long is the series? I don’t know). My initial dissatisfaction was with the wide cast of characters and my apparent inability to keep them all straight, but as the book went on I worked them out, and so, enjoyed it more (definitely the case where the reader is at fault!).

I did enjoy the attention to Germany in the interwar period, as I find too often the historical fiction I read about Germany seems overly preoccupied with glamorizing Hitler, or making it out like Germany’s history was somehow an inevitability. This book nuances the emergence of National Socialism against a wider international history and a focused exploration of particular families and individuals who made decisions that impacted ‘history’ as we know it now.

I had to say the sexy scenes in the ‘Garden of Eden’ were just weird.

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Filed under 100 Books of 2011, Book I'll Forget I Read