Graphic Friday- Missed Connections by Sophie Blackall

This little book was waiting for me when I got in on Monday morning and by the time that my computer logged on I had read almost all of it.

Blackall discovered missed connections one day on her way home to Brooklyn from Manhattan.  She was used to mining for material, reading old letters and telegrams and other personal artifacts for inspiration, but here was an endless well of possibilities.  Blackall resolved to illustrate one a day and post them to a blog.  This book is a collection of some of those drawings.

This was an interesting read.  The joy of a missed connection is that they are usually short and sometimes they sum up huge emotions.  Blackall’s illustrations were sometimes funny (like the hairy swimmer or the man with the amazing mustache) and sometimes sweet.  Plus, I always like a peek into the lives of others, their shared bear costumes and moments of bashfulness.

All in all, this was a cute, fast read.

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The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston

This is one of those books that kind of makes you ask what you consider to be a graphic novel.  See, when I started at this library, this book was shelved with the young adult fiction.  It wasn’t long before we moved it to the graphic novel section in the hopes that it would get more circulation there.  Even before I read it, I knew this was a neat book and pretty much completely up my alley.  I’d really like to see it check out more.

So, no, this is not a traditional “graphic novel” in that it is not in comic form at all.  Instead, it is told through a scrapbook with tons of 1920’s memorabilia.

Frankie (never Francis) Pratt is the smartest girl in her class.  She is also poor, her father having passed away at a young age and left her mother to care for Frankie and her two younger brothers on a nurse’s wages.  When we first meet Frankie, she is in high school, spending time with her friends and even going on a date with the smartest boy in her class.  She is accepted to Vassar on scholarship but decides to nurse instead in order to help her mother.  However, when Frankie starts a unfortunate relationship with her charge’s grandson, a recently returned war hero, she finds herself on her way to Vassar anyway.

We watch as the 1920’s unfold.  Frankie wants to write and she starts wanting to write like “Mrs. Wharton” but she is soon turned on to Fitzgerald and Hemingway and Joyce.  At college she takes up smoking and bobs her hair.  She goes to New York and Paris and smokes and drinks and has romances.  It’s pretty great.

I really enjoyed this book.  Even if the story is sparse and very “let’s get through everything in the Roaring 20’s,” I found myself caught up in it.  I also googled old brands and found that endlessly fascinating.  This isn’t for everybody but it was definitely for me.

Graphic Friday- Blankets by Craig Thompson

Welcome to Graphic Friday, where sometimes we accidentally post on Wednesday.  We’re working on it folks!

I was surprised to see that this book came out in 2003.  The way Thomson talks about his teenage years, which I placed vaguely in the early 1990’s, made it feel more distant at the time of writing.  You know, I am one of those people who forgets that I graduated 16 years ago so I guess that’s not really surprising.

This book, well, it was a bit of an emotional rollercoaster for me.

Thompson tells the story of his coming of age.  I can’t think of any better way to describe it.  He tells stories throughout that are memories of his childhood, when he shared a bed with his little brother.  Craig says that he was not a very good older brother, that he was sometimes mean to his brother and that he didn’t protect him.  He touches on the inappropriate conduct of a babysitter, a trap that he let his brother fall into and that sent him headlong into religion and the striving for heaven.

Craig takes religion seriously, seriously enough that his pastor asks if he has considered going into the ministry.  Craig hasn’t really considered anything about his future.  Then he meets Raina at winter church camp and he is instantly smitten.  When he goes to stay with Raina and her family in Michigan for two weeks in the winter, he begins to see that he may have missed out on some of life.

This book touched on a lot of sensitive and emotional subjects: religion, abuse, first lover, doubt.  However, I felt like all of these things were handled very well.  I can promise that I was invested in this story after my initial doubt that it was for me.  Craig’s experience of first love and his realization that he may not have been invested enough in the real world felt like legitimate experiences to me.  They felt real.

This was a touching tale but one which I can see not fitting for everyone.

Graphic Friday: Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap

Woohoo!  It’s been a while but I am back with another Graphic Friday!  This week, in a further attempt to catch up my TBR, I read Tin’as Mouth: An Existential Comic Diary.  I loved it.  I simply loved it.  This was the first time in a long time that I have read a whole book, even a comic, in a day.  It was hard to put down, even when I planned on putting it down.

Tina is a fifteen year old at Yarborough Academy.  For her English Honors class final project, she is keeping an existentialist diary which she chooses to write to Sartre.  The idea is that she will explore philosophical questions and her life and her teacher will mail the diary back to her in three years.  Tina sets to work thinking about who she is and learning how to be.

But, like any fifteen year old, she is going to face a lot of changes in the coming year.  It all starts when her best friend Alex, an ex-Mormon whose parents recently divorced, starts wearing tight clothes, gets a boyfriend, and dumps Tina for a whole new group of friends.  Tina suddenly finds herself pretty much completely alone at school.  She begins spending time on her “bench of existential solitude” but before long she finds herself branching out and filling up her life.

Friend fights.  Loneliness.  Family drama.  First love.  School plays.  Tina is about to learn that she is a lot more than she previously thought.

As I said, I loved this book.  I loved it enough that I wrote down a few quotes from it just to keep in mind.  Tina’s feelings were very accurate to my own past experiences and I felt them achingly along with her.

Graphic Friday- Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel

I read Bechdel’s Fun Home a few months after my father passed away and even though her father and her relationship with him was much different from my own, I found it to be very soothing in my grieving process.  I’m sure that I added this book to my TBR soon afterwards but the two books are very different.  Actually, I recall breezing through Fun Home and kind of expected the same of this.  This was a much heavier book, full of quotes and psychology.  I had a completely different reaction to it.

Bechdel tells the story of her relationship to her mother.  She talks about her mother’s reaction to the book about Bechdel’s father and the many ways that Bechdel has been formed by her mother.  There’s a lot here, about her mother’s disapproval of her homosexuality as well as her disapproval of memoir writing.  There is a deep look into why Bechdel feels envy over other’s successes and how her panic attacks possibly stem from her anger with her mother.  What you end up with is a deep look at their relationship that seems fairly told.

Now, I enjoyed this book.  It got me thinking which is something I love a book to do.  Again, it seemed to find me at the right time, when I am considering my own parenting.  Toward the end of the book, Alison’s therapist asks her a question and tells her to answer the one thing that comes to her mind first.  She asks what she most learned from her mother.  And that question alone sent me reeling, the kind of reeling that pulled me right out of the book so I could look around my own life and see the ties.

This was a great read.  I’m not sure if I like this or Fun Home best or even if the two can be compared.

Graphic Friday- Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya has all of the angst.  She’s worried about her weight because kids used to pick on her.  She’s embarrassed about being an immigrant and doesn’t want to hang around the only other Russian kid in school.  She has one friend who she doesn’t think is particularly great friend.  She’s got a crush on Sean From the Basketball Team but he’s dating Elizabeth who is perfectly perfect.  Then she falls down a well.

Seriously.  While feeling very angsty indeed she stomps off into the nearby woods and falls into an old well.  She’s stuck there for two days with a skeleton and the skeleton’s ghost, a girl named Emily who is about Anya’s age.  When Anya is saved from the well, Emily’s pinky bone somehow ends up in her bag allowing Emily to follow her.

Having a ghost around isn’t so bad.  She can keep an eye out for teachers when you’re smoking.  She can find the answers to your test.  But Emily seems to have a real need to run Anya’s life and before long Anya realizes just how dangerous a ghost can be.

I really enjoyed this comic.  The first few pages felt a little rough but after that I didn’t even want to look up.  A must read, or at least right up my alley!

Graphic Friday: The Complete Phonogram by Kieron Gillen

Sometimes you meet a character, say, and that character strikes you as being a bit of an ass but you stick with it and before long you find yourself thinking that the character maybe isn’t too bad.  Then, by the end of the book you think he’s great and then he hits you with a reference to Hole’s “Beautiful Son” and you’re like, “Dammit.  I knew I liked you.”

And that kind of sums up a lot of my feelings about Phonogram.

I know that I missed a lot because my musical knowledge is lacking and rusty but I also got enough to be heavily entertained.  What do I know about Britpop?  Not a whole hell of a lot but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment, it just added some Googling in and I am all for learning stuff while I read.

Phonogram is a collection of comics built around phonomancers, who are basically music magicians.  And while this system of magic is never really explained or gone into in any depth, that’s absolutely fine.  We all know that music can be magic and it’s cool to see it actually portrayed that way.  What you end up with are some stories about how much music matters and how things change and, really, about moving on and growing up a bit.

Yes, I grew to love Phonogram as much as I grew to love David Kohl and extra kudos for the mentions of my favorite band.