Tag Archives: First Second

Garage Band by Gipi. Translated from the Italian by Spectrum

Garage Band by Gipi

Title: Garage Band
Author: Gipi
Translated from the Italian by Spectrum Publisher: First Second
ISBN: 978-1596432062
Genre: Graphic Novels
Pages: 114
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 4/5

I just finished reading this very heartwarming graphic novel about four teenage boys, their band, and a garage in which they practice. More than anything it is about these four lives, their individual strife and struggles, their dreams and ambitions, and their relationships with people around them – friends and family.

Garage Band is the kind of graphic novel that doesn’t make any point. It doesn’t want to. It is that slice-of-life graphic novel that lets you soak in the moment, the characters, the simple story of them just wanting to create music, their sometimes-misplaced ideology, and what growing-up or on the road to growing-up is all about.

Garage Band is just a bittersweet meditation on teenage life and how whether it is Italy, America, or India, adolescence is just the same. Giuliano’s father kindness leads to the band getting his garage as practice space. That’s where the story begins. They are extremely passionate about their music and are deeply connected to each other.

Gipi’s characters fit in any landscape. The country doesn’t matter. The story does. We get to know the boys and before you know it, the book is over at about 114 pages. The watercolours are restrained but extremely engaging and it all comes alive in contrasting panels. At some point I thought more could have been fleshed out, but I was wrong as I read further. It wasn’t needed at all. Garage Band says a lot and hides a lot. There is telling and showing and in good measure. It is one of those graphic novels that will most certainly stay with me for long and I will reread it very soon.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki and Rosemary Valero-O’Connell

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me by Mariko Tamaki

Title: Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up With Me 
Author: Mariko Tamaki 
Illustrated by Rosemary Valero O-‘Connell 
Publisher: First Second 
ISBN: 978-1626722590
Genre: Graphic Novels, LGBT
Pages: 304 
Source: Publisher 
Rating: 5/5 

Just as the title goes, the book is about Laura Dean, the popular girl at school who keeps breaking up with her girlfriend, Freddy Riley. Well, in a nutshell, this is what the book is about, but there is so much more to it. This graphic novel goes to the heart of teenage dating, sexual orientation, and how does one cope with all of it and more growing up.

This is about a toxic relationship and what it takes to get out of it, or to even understand oneself better while in it or not. Mariko Tamaki does an amazing job of depicting the on and off, and off and on cycle – so amazing that it hits home too hard. At one point, the reader can see themselves in the book, because of course relationships are the same – well almost, and so is the toxicity sometimes that comes with it. At the same time, though the protagonists are teenagers, this book will resonate with readers of any age. We have all been down that road, after all, in one way or the other.

Rosemary Valero O-‘Connell’s illustrations in pink and grey are gentle, grounded in angst and romance. The LGBT cast so to say in the book is diverse, and the plot makes you turn the page faster.  The narrative is sometimes quirky but it all fits in beautifully at the end.

Laura Dean Keeps Breaking Up with Me is about realising your worth in relationships – be it any kind and told with great sensitivity. I wish this book was written when I was younger – basically in my teenage years and needed to know so much more about loving oneself and how sometimes the one you love the most will keep breaking your heart, over and over again. Till you put a stop to it.

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang

Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang Title: Boxers and Saints
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: First Second
ISBN: 9781596439245
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 512
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I had heard a lot about this graphic novel. Almost every book haul had it; almost everyone was talking about it online and offline (to some extent). I knew I had to pick this one up and I did and let me tell you that this one just did not disappoint at all. I had read, “American Born Chinese” as well, so I sort of knew what I was expecting from this one.

“Boxers & Saints” are two individual graphic novels, but can only be read as one, for them to make sense to the reader. The book is set in the late 1800s and at the beginning of 1900. The year is 1898. The place: China. The foreign missionaries are here to stay and not only that; they are going from village to village and town to town, converting the Chinese to Catholics. They mock their Gods and do not let them follow their faith. Amidst this, stands up Little Bao, wanting to fight the foreigners. He has learned to harness the power of the ancient Chinese Gods and begins to recruit an army of Boxers – common folks trained in Kung Fu, to fight the devils (the foreigners). Their power works and to a very large extent they are successful as well. Their trials and tribulations are recorded in Boxers.

On the other hand, there is Saints, lending perspective to the Chinese that turned Catholics, through the eyes of one girl – an unwanted daughter known as Four-Girl. She has never been given a real name by her family. She has always tried to be loved, to be equal to her male cousins. But when she decides to convert, she gets a name, Vibiana and also an identity of sorts, a motive so to speak.

Bao’s and Vibiana’s paths cross very briefly and that you can only know, once you read the novel. Gene Luen builds a powerful construct in the form of a graphic novel. He brings out the themes of religion, alienation, faith, and old versus the new brilliantly through this storytelling form.

What is most interesting is that no one or rather very few people know of this time in Chinese history. Luen Yang brings that to fore, which is done subtly with Chinese Gods on one hand and Joan of Arc (yes you read that right) on the other, for inspiration and a struggle – both individually and for a nation.

“Boxers & Saints” is a graphic novel well thought of – from every single perspective. If you want to read something unique and different, when it comes to the graphic novel, then this is the perfect read for you. Highly recommended!

Here is a brilliant book trailer:

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Book Review: The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders by Emmanuel Guibert

The Photographer by Emmanuel Guibert Title: The Photographer: Into War-Torn Afghanistan with Doctors without Borders
Authors: Emmanuel Guibert, Didier Lefevre, Frederic Lemercier
Publisher: First Second Books
ISBN: 978-1596433755
Genre: Graphic Novel, Memoirs
Pages: 288
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5/5

I have always been a fan of Graphic novels. From the time I started figuring them out or rather discovering them. It was with Sandman I think and what a place to begin. At that time, I used to think that graphic novels only felt good when narrating a fictitious tale. I was so wrong and so mistaken. Over the last couple of years, I have read some brilliant non-fiction graphic novels – from Joe Sacco’s Palestine to Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle, these guys know how to wrench your heart through the form of drawings and words in blurbs.

The Photographer - Image 1

This is what intrigued me about the first book in the “A Year of Reading the World” challenge which I have undertaken (inspired from the blog of the same name, started by Ann Morgan) – and the country to start with was Afghanistan. I did not want to start with the usual Khaled Hosseini (I love the guy’s writing but I wanted to discover something new). I had already read, “The Patience Stone” by Atiq Rahimi and loved it and yet I wanted something new. I then saw a title which intrigued me and that was “The Photographer” by Emmanuel Guibert.

Now let me tell you something about the book. This is not your regular graphic novel. It is definitely more and in the way that a reader would love to explore more books of this nature (if they exist). The book is a graphic novel mixed with pictures as taken by the said photographer in the title – Didier Lefevre.

The Photographer - Image 2

Didier left Paris at the end of July 1986 to go to Afghanistan. It was his first project as a photojournalist, documenting the journey of Doctors without Borders into war-torn Afghanistan. That was the time; the Soviets were fighting the Afghan Mujahedeen. This was the time the US of A was supporting Afghanistan, unaware of how it would backfire years later. The book though is not about that. The book is about the war and help and moments of respite as seen through Lefevre’s lens.

“The Photographer” is all about the perception and unbiased (mostly) perspective of a man with a camera and the need to capture it all. The book is created and compiled by Guibert along with Didier’s photographs. The war-torn Afghanistan as seen by Didier makes a perfect setting alongside its history. The people, the places, and their stories are beautifully captured and Guibert does justice to every single word and illustration – to go with the photograph. This book is a great beginning to how it all started – to how a country was ravaged, torn and how some selfless doctors also tried to save it. Most of all, it is about a photographer and how is life changed completely.

Next Up in this Challenge: Albania: The Palace of Dreams by Ismail Kadare

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Book Review: Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Title: Anya’s Ghost
Author: Vera Brosgol
Publisher: First Second, Macmillan
ISBN: 9781596437135
Genre: Graphic Novel
Pages: 221
Source: Publisher
Rating: 4/5

Anya’s Ghost is a great graphic novel for young teens – especially for young girls. The themes touched on this novel are universal – body image, being a part of a group or clique, the need to belong and the need to identify your roots and not let go of them, no matter what, and not to mention ghost busting as well.

Anya’s Ghost is one of the few graphic novels I have read this year and I enjoyed it to the hilt. I always have felt that writing a graphic novel is far more difficult than writing a short story or a novel for that matter. It isn’t easy. It takes a lot to add words to images and vice-versa; however Vera Brosgol does an amazing job of it.

Anya is a regular 9th or 10th grader at a lower-tier public school, who is embarrassed of her immigrant past. She has no friends at school, except for Siobhan. One afternoon, Anya has a fight with her and storms off into a nearby forest where she falls in an old well. There she makes an acquaintance of a ghost from 1918 named Emily. She has been hovering there next to her skeletal frame for years, mourning the death of her fiancé in WWII and herself at the hands of a murderer. One of Emily’s bones accidentally enters Anya’s bag and once she is out of the well, she realizes that Emily is here to stay. Before long, Emily and Anya become friends and Emily helps Anya overcome all her problems – with boys, fashion, school homework and friends. Anya’s world is idyllic till Anya realizes that all is not what it seems and what she has got herself into.

Vera Brosgol has very intelligently through a ghost story merged the issue of identity and what it means to get over one’s foreign-ness in America. Brosgol seamlessly weaves through being funny, touching and thrilling. This is a book that can be enjoyed by all and for every graphic novel lover, I would recommend it so it can take the place on the shelf close to American Born Chinese and Blankets.

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