#Review: This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki

Hello my lovelies! I’m so sorry for not posting as much as I normally do. As some of you know, I am part of a team setting up a new school at which I am the librarian. After a series of setbacks (think contractor delays, backordered materials, and so on) we are finally in our building and I have made my way about 80% of the way through our roughly 32, 000 books (text books, teaching resources, and library collection all combined). Needless to say, I haven’t had as much time as I would like for my own personal activities lately!

As I haven’t been able to read as much as I normally do with our extended work schedule, I decided to revisit one of my favourite graphic novels This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki. This isn’t your run of the mill high-action YA graphic novel, but rather it’s slow and thoughtful contemplation on family dynamics and the coming of age, and as a result it tends to have mixed reviews. For this reason alone I have decided against assigning a starred rating in my review, as it is the type of book that everyone will experience so very, very differently. Personally though, I think it’s an absolutely wonderful read, especially for those older teens who are experiencing the pains of once-close friends growing apart.


summerTitle: This One Summer

Author: Jillian Tamaki

Illustrator: Mariko Tamaki

Publisher: FirstSecond

Expected Publication Date: May 6, 2014

Genre: Graphic Novel, YA Fiction, Fiction

Themes: Relationships, Friendship, Coming of Age, Family

Features: N/A


My Rating: – / 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

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.

 


My Review

Okay, so this book won’t be for everyone. I’ve known that from the minute I first cracked the cover. It deals with some tough topics including teen pregnancy, the way girls in particular treat each other, the long lasting effects that miscarriages can have on families, and the ways in which friendships can grow apart as youth mature at different ages. There is no sugar coating, everything is exposed, and I have come across more than a few people that found this baby uncomfortable to read.

Rose is the kind of protagonist that you love to hate. She is actually horrible, and as much as this book is about her, it isn’t about her at all. Her mother is going through a tough time, her father doesn’t know how to support her, and rose being and angsty teen doesn’t do anything to make the situation any better. Throw in there some first crushes, the desire to see your body go through puberty and acquire some assets, and the societal pressures that girls might feel when they are transitioning from child to desirable and you get Rose. The perfect little monster.

I loved Windy too, the way that she holds onto her innocence and her childhood just that little bit longer than her friend. Of all the characters, I related with her the most because I was that girl, the one who still dig beach holes, practiced bad dancing in the living room, and was more interested in playing games and infatuated by the wonders of the world than I ever cared about boys. It was really beautiful to see the differences between the girls, and the families as whole, as it really highlighted the different ways in which people and communities address adversity. Ultimately though, the story is about Rose’s mother, Alice. I won’t say too much because I don’t want to give everything away, but my heart genuinely broke as all the puzzle pieces fell into place. I wanted nothing more than to reach through the pages and hug her.

While I am normally a fan of graphic novels in colour, I really loved how This One Summer was in grayscale. Not only did it leave more room for the imagination to fill in the fine details, for me it really highlighted the fact that there are so many things in life that occupy the grey space beyond black and white. I love too that the majority of the action is implied – this book demands a lot of it’s readers in terms of engagement and as such I wouldn’t recommend it as a first or even early read for those unfamiliar with graphic novels. Many of the frames and transitions are deliberately ambiguous, and there are a significant number of aspect-to-aspect transitions that are not as common in western graphic novels which may confuse some readers or come across as ‘slow reading’. The result however, is a finely crafted mood that envelopes the entire reading experience and truly enhances everything the characters experienced over the summer.

Would I recommend this book? Absolutely! But it does come with a few words of caution. Even though this is a YA graphic novel, there are some readers who just might not be ready for it yet. And for older readers too, it simply may not appeal to their aesthetic or desire for fast-paced graphic novels. Regardless, This One Summer takes on some big issues that aren’t talked about enough, and it is exactly the type of book that fight to keep in libraries no matter how many challenges it might face!

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#ARC #Review: The Lido Girls by Allie Burns

So, I kept stumbling across amazing ARC reviews for The Lido Girls by Allie Burns and I eventually caved in and requested the book on Net Galley. Well, cue the 5 minutes after it’s been downloaded to my kindle when I say to myself ‘oh, I’ll just read the first chapter to get a feel for it’ and then BAM! Suddenly it’s 1:00 AM and my kindle is running out of battery at 90% read…


Lido GirlsTitle: The Lido Girls

Author: Allie Burns

Publisher: HQ Digital

Expected Publication Date: October 2, 2017

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction, Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction

Themes: Independence, Self Discovery, Romance

Features: Recommended Reading, Book Club Reading Guide


My Rating: 5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

Escape to the inter-war years in this emotional story where opportunity can be found at the pool-side in your local lido… 

Change is in the air…

London, 1930s:

Natalie Flacker is tempted by the glamour of the new keep fit movement, but when she is dismissed from her prestigious job in PE she loses the life she so carefully built. Echoes of the war’s destruction still reverberate through her life, and now she is homeless, jobless and without prospects.

But connections made on a summer holiday, with her best friend Delphi, create opportunities. When Natalie is offered a summer job at a lido at the seaside, she jumps at the chance. But is she up to the challenge of taking on a group of unfit women in need of her help?

Set against the backdrop of the beginnings of the pioneering keep fit movement; this is a feel-good reminder of just what’s possible when you find the courage to follow your heart.

Spend a very British summer with The Lido Girls!

 


My Review

I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked this baby up, but I really wasn’t expecting to get so wrapped up in this book and so quickly. It had everything that I look for in women’s fiction – strong female characters that buck-up against societal expectations, a fantastically whimsical historical setting, amazing fashion, and a healthy dose of drama. Now add in the Women’s League of Health & Beauty and this fitness nut was absolutely hooked. It was amazing!

It’s clear that every inch of detail is well researched from the costumes to the language and phrasing, and from the diving to the roles and restrictions on women in the inter-war years. I really appreciated the inclusion of sources and recommended reading, not just because my librarian self loves seeing sources cited, but because it always lends a sense of realness and historical grounding. I know that not everyone reads the notes and extras included in the back of a book, but I really appreciate when these types of things are included for those that wish to know more about certain historical periods, events, and persons as they are always a fantastic jumping-in point for further exploration.

Now, on to the characters. I love Natalie and Delphi, and think that they make a fantastic pair when it comes to carrying a story. Their understanding of one another, as well as their unwavering loyalty in spite of circumstances, is something that I found really touching. I love that neither is perfect, that they make mistakes, and that at times they are their own worst enemies. And better yet? I love that they both get their happy ending without having to be ‘rescued’ by a man! I call for more women’s lit like this! Don’t get me wrong, a steamy little romance and the finding of true love is certainly an enjoyable staple in a great many books, but I prefer when happiness is found within the self and not through attachment to another.

I really enjoyed the gritty exploration of the issues during this time. It’s clear that it wasn’t easy for anyone between the wars. Money was tight, the landscape of working society shifted dramatically as women were needed to fill positions while the men were away (and many loved this taste of new-found freedom) and then were made redundant once again when they return, those men that did return from the war carried inexplicable damage, and then add in the recession, the loss of families and loved ones, and another looming war and you pretty much have the perfect storm. All of this was packed into The Lido Girls, and yet it never managed to feel overwhelming.

Would I recommend this book? Oh hell yes! I could keep going on about it for ages it’s so amazing! I’m sitting here hoping that the beautifully open ending has left it open to a sequel, and one that would be set in Canada to boot! And let’s not forget to mention that little ‘times are changing’ blurb on the front cover, hello, still relevant! I love, love, loved this book – so don’t let the summer read recommendation limit the season in which you pick this baby up.

 


Many thanks to Allie Burns and HQ Digital for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#Early #Review – Heart and Brain: Body Language by Nick Seluk

Okay, time for me to admit a guilty pleasure – I freaking love the Awkward Yeti collections by Nick Seluk, so when I saw that there was another collection set to be released in October I couldn’t resist the temptation. I know, I know, I should probably get a novel review up here some time soon, but I’m hoping you’ll love this funny and relatable little gem as much as I did.


heart and brainTitle: Heart and Brain: Body Language: An Awkward Yeti Collection

Author: Nick Seluk

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing

Publication Date: October 3, 2017

Genre: Sequential Art, Comics, Humour, Webcomics, Nonfiction

Themes: Mental Health, Inner Struggles, Life Balance, Bodily Functions

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

From the New York Times bestselling creator of the hugely popular Awkward Yeti comics comes the third collection in his Heart and Brain series.

Heart and Brain: Body Language continues the adventures of the loveably conflicted sentimental Heart and rational Brain, as well as other bodily inhabitants like Gallbladder, Muscle, and Tongue.

Warm-hearted and laugh-out-loud funny, these comics bring our inner struggles to vibrant, humorous life.

 


My Review

 

I LOVE the Heart and Brain series. It is like Seluk snuck inside my brain and found a way to make my anxiety, coffee addiction, and conflicted feelings about exercise undeniably humorous. This collection of one panel/ page comics is so down to earth that everyone will find something that strikes a chord. As always, the conflict between heart and brain is one that we all have to deal with. Budget vs. desire? Yep, that’s covered! Hopeless over thinker? That’s covered too! Throw in muscle cramps, food cravings, and a few token organs that occasionally annoy you and this baby is spot on the money when it comes to realistic humour.

The art work is simple and effective featuring bold lines, block colours, and cartoonishly abstracted representations of the organs. Seluk even manages to poke fun at these abstractions at one point through having heart dress up as anatomically correct, and it was cute little moment to plug the line of never trying to be something that you’re not. I have always enjoyed that while the brain often sweats, wears glasses, and is depicted pouring over a computer or papers while the heart chases butterflies and wears a batman cape. Okay, so it reinforces the stereotypes of rational vs impulsive people a little, but the trope is instantly recognizable and easy to understand even if you haven’t followed the webcomic or read the previous collections.

The beauty of this collection lies in it’s simplicity – it depicts real problems and situations, uses clean and easy to follow humour, and it doesn’t rely on fancy graphics to make up for a lack of content. And seeing as it’s filled with punchy one-liners and a few good book buying reference I can’t help but recommend it as a perfect short read. This is exactly the kind of book that I would leave out in my house to keep both guests and my husband occupied – or better yet, put this baby in a professional office or waiting room!

Also, just because I can, I’m going to take this moment to recommend The Awkward Yeti’s Complete Lack of Focus Volumes 1 & 2. So good, so funny – you need them in your life.


Many thanks to Nick Seluk and Andrews McMeel Publishing for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#Early #Review: Fish-Boy: An Inuit Folk Tale by Vanita Oelschlager

I recently put out a call for recommendations of diverse books that I might be able to add to my school library collection, and this little beauty was recommended by a former professor who particularly ecstatic about it’s release early next year. This is my first picture book review, so please be gentle!


fish boy

Title: Fish-Boy: An Inuit Folk Tale

Author: Vanita Oelschlager

Illustrator: Mike Blanc

Publisher: Vanita Books

Publication Date: May 1, 2018

Genre: Children’s Book, Folk Tale, Picture Book, Inuit Tales

Themes: Family, Friendship, Kindness, Origin Tales

Features: Glossary


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

The Arctic region of North America is a land of long days, icy cold, hardy people and peculiar creatures. The Inuit people there have made traditional use of remarkable folk tales to find truth and explain the mysteries of an astonishing world.

In Fish-Boy, An Inuit Folk Tale, Vanita Oelschlager retells a tale passed down by a wise old Inuit. It’s an origin story involving a little magic and a very odd boy with a large heart for friendship. On a journey with his new father, he must confront misfortune and the malice of cold hearted villagers. But he has a way.. and a lesson for all in the virtues of kindness and hospitality.


My Review

I so wanted to give Fish-Boy a five star review, and then my inner academic reared it’s ugly head. The voice of the writing is perfect for reading out load and the art is so insanely beautiful that I could just sit and stare at all day long. Seriously. It’s that gorgeous. And yet, I have some reservations about a millionaire American philanthropist retelling Inuit folktales. Research as I might on the acceptance of Oelschlager’s retellings of other folktales, I can find very little on how her process and sources and thus approach this tale with a grain of salt. I will take the stance that no-news is good news on this font (vis-a-vis cultural appropriation), but I definitely prefer to see folktales retold by those who live and breathe the cultures from which such tales stem.

But, nit-picky brain aside, I can’t wait for this book to print! I don’t care that I will be buying it new, and in hardback, but this baby is going into my school library collection as soon as possible because it is so dang good. It might seem a little text heavy to those who are used to picture books, but when it comes to folktales, the text embodies oral traditions while the illustrations spark the imagination and set the tone. I am absolutely in love with the story within a story, and also how Fish-Boy explores not only the origin of the ‘sea-parrots’ but also the origin of Fish-Boy’s family.

True to Oelschlager’s roots, Fish-Boy reflects themes surrounding growing up, conflict resolution, the treatment of others, difference, and adoptive families. The orality of the book makes it perfect for reading out loud, and as such, also serves as a wonderful medium through which to start these conversations with children either one-on-one or in a group setting. It is so hard to do oral stories justice in writing, and this Oelschlager’s retelling breathes in life, details, and action that are too often lost as folktales are translated to the page. This book is incredible and that the value of it’s lessons should not be overlooked. I was caught up in it’s magic, and I am sure that I will read it many, many more times in the years to come.

Would I recommend it? Absolutely! And as an added bonus it aligns with our elementary school curriculum in many Canadian provinces. Not only is it a beautifully written and illustrated book, but it would make an excellent teaching/ library resource as well. Whether you are buying this book for your family, your library, or your school – you won’t be disappointed.

 

Fellow book-lovers, I need you opinion! I would like to start reviewing some more children’s/ picture books but haven’t yet decided on how I want to integrate them into the blog. Would you prefer to see individual posts, or a monthly round-up with mini reviews? I’d love to see your thoughts!

 


Many thanks to Vanita Oelschlager and Vanita Books for providing an advanced copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

#Book #Review: Hockey Karma by Howard Shapiro

This week I am taking on reviewing a duo of graphic novels by Howard Shapiro. Yesterday I reviewed The Hockey Saint and today it’s Hockey Karma. Each book packs a heavy punch into a short number of pages, and while the stories revolve around the struggles of growing up and finding your place in the world the messages transcend well beyond the hockey rink and are bound to be relatable to a wide variety of audiences.


karmaTitle: Hockey Karma

Author: Howard Shapiro

Publisher: Animal Media Group

Publication Date: November 1, 2016

Genre: Graphic Novel, YA, Sports Fiction

Themes: Hockey, Relationships, Addiction, Alcoholism, Fame

Features: N/A


My Rating: 4.5/ 5


Synopsis

From Goodreads…

The highly anticipated sequel to the award winning “The Hockey Saint” taking place ten years after “Saint” ends. The legendary Jeremiah “Jake” Jacobson, now thirty two, has been the world’s best hockey player over his fourteen year career because of his out of this world talent level and his smart play. But he can’t stay on top forever, and when he starts making mistakes on the ice, his career and family life start to crumble.

At the same time, Tom Leonard, his agent and best friend, is completely overwhelmed by a project that he and Jake were supposed to be working on together. A project that could have a huge impact on people throughout their city in need of a helping hand. As Jake sinks deeper into a funk over his lost status due to his deteriorating play and the emergence of teammate and rookie phenom Barclay Pedersen, Tom realizes he’s on his own. At the same time he rediscovers someone from his past who he never thought he’d see again. In that burgeoning relationship, Tom discovers the importance of taking chances and starts to believe in himself.

Can Jake break out of his downward spiral and Tom finally find the courage to step out of Jake’s shadow?


My Review

While The Hockey Saint was good, Hockey Karma takes everything to another level. The art is absolutely stunning, the writing shows growth and maturity, and the characters and their actions also reflect a similar degree of growth. The ten year difference in the characters has really been embodied, and the challenges that Tom and Jake are facing are no longer the trials of adolescence.

I’m not going to lie, I was hoping to see Tom and Jake playing on the same hockey team, but I also think that it’s important to show how few players actually make it into professional sports – even after they have been college stars. The storyline of Jake struggling with an up-and-coming edging him out of the team also particularly relatable. It doesn’t matter if it’s in sport, the office, or even volunteer efforts, there will always be a new batch of brighter, more energetic, and potentially more talented new recruits is always waiting in the wings. It important to learn how to mentor them and welcome them into the fold with grace and this is the perfect tale to relay the dos and don’ts of how this can be done.

I was also pleased to see the return of the addiction theme, as well as the expanded discussion on how addiction affects friends, family, and relationships. I want to talk more about it, but I’m afraid of spoilers! All I can say is that the behaviours, comments, and depictions were so incredibly realistic that I would consider this more of a life-lessons book than a hockey book, and I don’t even feel bad saying it!

Finally, I really, really loved Tom’s story. Whether it was his romance, his relationship with Jake, or his self-discovery through the revitalization project he genuinely felt like someone I might know as I made my way through the book. The presence of volunteerism and community involvement (and sudden withdrawal from it) was incredibly impactful and I’m glad that it was carried over from The Hockey Saint. Without question, I was rooting for Tom at that end that everything would come together in his project and really wish that it were a real thing because I would be so involved with it!

As usual, the art was fantastic, particularly the hockey scenes. I loved the subtle differences between the first and second book, as well as how the characters were shown to have aged. The colours were vibrant and expressive, and I was never once left guessing what a gesture or moment meant. The transitions were seamless, and the pace was consistent throughout. I wish I hadn’t been so glowing in my review yesterday! Because, we’re basically talking about something good that was made even better.

Would I recommend this book? Heck yes! The Hockey Saint and Hockey Karma and hands down amazing graphic novels, and straight up relatable and relevant stories!

 


Many thanks to Howard Shapiro and Animal Media Group for providing a copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.