The Rock & Roll Librarian

May 15, 2007

Salmon Doubts by Adam Sacks

Filed under: Graphic Novels,Reviews,Teens — Tyler Rousseau @ 8:54 pm

Geoff is a salmon.

Geoff worries way too much.

Why was he born?

Why do we die?

Why is it so easy for everyone else to meet girls but so hard for him?

Why is it so important to be part of a group?

This graphic novel is far less about plot than it is about the angst which we all go through when examining our lives.  Geoff represents the introspective person who pays attention but just never seems to understand what is happening.  He’s always looking around to see why everyone seems to be in such a hurry to get back where they came from.  He is always worried about whether he’ll meet a girl and spawn.  And in the end, why is any of this such a big deal in the first place.

If a library or school wants to start a book discussion group with a graphic novel, this is a great one to go with as it is easy to justify the message. 

April 10, 2007

Beck by Harold Sakuishi

Filed under: Book Review,Graphic Novels,Teens — Tyler Rousseau @ 12:51 am

I have read plenty of manga and while I have found some series I like, I had yet to find one that dragged me clean down into the depths of manga addiction…

 That is until Beck came along.

14 year-old Koyuki (AKA; Yukio Tanaka) has terrible taste in music.  His self-effacing habits and trouble-making friend, Tanabe, do little to help his loser status.  He has had a crush on Izumi since elementary school but can’t seem to catch her interest… if only he played guitar, then she would notice him.

Beck is a story that finds itself precariously clinging to the threads of reality and the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle.  Harold Sakuishi’s ability to capture teen angst, self consciousness and the sexual deviance/ignorance of a teenager make Koyuki a generally likeable character despite his flaws and loser-ish qualities.

One of the many appealing aspects of this series is how Sakuishi has captured the classic attitudes of different musicians.  The singers tend to have all important ‘me’ attitudes while drummers sort of fade into the background.  Regular guitarists have in your face attitudes, but the really good ones are fairly quiet and let their abilities do the talking.  Anyone who has spent a small amount of time around the music scene will appreciate the connections Sakuishi has made between the artist and their instruments along with their ability.

Beck is rated for Older Teens.  Koyuki’s eyes are known for wandering around women’s bodies and his guitar teacher is a middle-aged sex depraved swinger who doesn’t seem to actually be particularily lucky with women.  That being said, Sakuishi does not go out of his way to make the book sexually explicit or verbally raunchy.  Both language and image come from the context of the story and the characters, neither one are driven for the sole purpose of gratuitous affect.

Needless to say, I am hooked.  I am committed to reading the entire series and super stoked to find out that, July 10th, the Anime series is being released in the U.S.

Please allow me this moment to quote Tom Petty to express my excitement:  “Oh my, my.  Oh hell yes!”

January 23, 2007

Filed under: Graphic Novels,Libraries,Reviews,teen books — Tyler Rousseau @ 12:24 pm

For the first time, a graphic novel has won the prestigious Michael L. Printz Award. Gene Yang, author of American Born Chinese, has crafted an extraordinary book that shows not only the pressures of trying to fit into a culture but the struggle to fight off one’s cultural labels as well.

ABC follows three separate story lines. The first is about Jin, who moves into an American town and is constantly picked on for strange Chinese stereotypes. The second follows Jin’s cousin, Chin-Kee, who visits and is a constant embarrassment to Jin because of he represents typical Chinese culture and stereotypes. The third is of the Monkey King who, after being cast from heaven for not being human, decides to wage war against the gods and prove he can be just as worthy of a god.

In the end the stories do connect, somewhat loosely, and portray the most important message of all: You must be comfortable and accepting of yourself.

I was fortunate enough to have First Second Books send me a free copy of this book for review right before the publication came out. Even though I would have likely cast my vote for another book, American Born Chinese is more than worthy of receiving the honor and notoriety of being the first graphic novel to win the Printz award.

Go, go Graphics!!!

December 30, 2006

Abandon the Old in Tokyo by Yoshihiro Tatsumi

Filed under: Book Review,Graphic Novelist and Artists,Graphic Novels,Libraries,Reviews — Tyler Rousseau @ 9:30 pm

Abandon the Old in TokyoIt is tough to find a book that translates so thoroughly from its original language.  Cultural differences, slang, context just simply get lost in the translation.  It can make the story hard to follow or understand.

This is where Tatsumi’s work clearly stands out above all others.  The words the characters speak are simple, making direct points, and Tatsumi does not waste too much time with extraneous conversations.  His message is clearly conveyed through the expression and actions of the characters.  My personal love for his stories in this book is that they require you to think back on the story and see where the message lies, therefore justifying the actions of the main character.

Like his previous graphic novel, The Push Man, Tatsumi has created an extraordinary collection of stories that may be somewhat unorthodox to American life, but universal in its message.  As Drawn & Quarterly continue to publish more books by Tatsumi, I can only imagine it is a matter of time before he is known as a master of storytelling.

September 20, 2006

Kampung Boy by Lat

Filed under: Graphic Novels,Libraries,Reviews — Tyler Rousseau @ 3:48 pm

kampung boy coverAlthough this is Lat’s first book to be published in the United States, he is an incredibly well respected writer in Southeast Asia.  The winner of numerous awards, including the Special Jury Award given by the Malaysian Press Institute, Lat is clearly an undiscovered gem in our society.

Kampung Boyis the story of a young boy, Mat, growing up in a rural part of Malaysia during the 1950s.  The story follow Mat as he remembers aspects of his family life, societal norms, mischievous happenings, and the struggle of their town’s way of life among the impeding tin mines.  Eventually, Mat is shipped off to a boarding school in the city.  As he leaves, he wonders what will be left of the town he grew up in.

Kampung boy is a wonderfully drawn and narrated book.  The work between both narration and drawing provide an incredible insight into a foreign culture in which many Americans have trouble grasping, if not view as primitive.  Through Lat’s talents for storytelling, he makes these social boundaries disappear and shows that even though societies may differ, people are generally the same.

Along with my other recommendation for American Born Chinese, this stands out as a superior publication by First Second Books and a must-have for any respectable graphic novel collection.

As for school libraries, I would say this book is good for 7th-12th grade.

September 11, 2006

Rethinking How We Catalog Graphic Novels

Filed under: Graphic Novels,Libraries — Tyler Rousseau @ 11:55 pm

In this instance, I think libraries could learn something from book retailers.We actually do have a graphic novels and Manga section for our collection in the library, but it is strictly for teens.  So, when new graphic novels come into our library, my co-worker and I are faced with the question of whether or not it is acceptable for our Teens to read, Charles Burns’ book Black Hole is the perfect example.  If the themes are ‘too adult,’ we are told to transfer it into the adult collection…Mind you, not an adult graphic novel section, just their fiction or non-fiction section depending on content.

So, here’s the real problem; if we put this in the adult section, it is generally lost among the rest of the books. Most of our graphic novel readers, whose ages span decades in difference, are not going to look in the adult section for these books.

In a year, when it comes time to weed, many of these books may be discarded because of lack of borrows.  Considering how many books are checked out through browsing, it seems an unfair fate for the graphic novel (it isn’t even in the right spot).

Perhaps the answer is to start thinking of graphic novels as a format rather than a genre. 


September 6, 2006

American Born Chinese by Gene Yang

Filed under: Graphic Novels — Tyler Rousseau @ 4:52 pm

abc I was lucky enough to have First Second Books company send me a complete run of graphic novels they are publishing this season.  Overall, I am impressed with the selection of stories they’ve chosen to invest in this year.  The one that stands out as the best of them is American Born Chinese.

 American Born Chinese follows three separate story lines, the person, the stereotype and the lesson.

 Jin Wang desperately wants to fit in, but he is the only Chinese American at his school.  When another Chinese American moves into the school, who embraces his Chinese heritage, Jin befriends him but resents him.  And what to do when he starts falling for an American girl.

In the second story, the Monkey King wants to be recognized as a god.  When he is publicly humiliated at a party of dieties, he dedicates himself to training and tries to become more powerful than all the gods.  As punishment, he is trapped under a mountain and the only means of escape is for him to recognize who he is.

In the third story, Chin-Kee is a juxtapose of all Chinese stereotypes.  When Chin comes to visit , he tortures Jin with his traditions and odd humor.

In the end, Yang manages to tie all three stories together and clearly states the lesson within the book.

Accept who you are and love yourself.

I would say this is a must have graphic for both school and public libraries.

August 18, 2006

Blood Alone by Masayuki Takano

Filed under: Graphic Novelist and Artists,Graphic Novels — Tyler Rousseau @ 1:24 pm

Misaki is a young and loving girl, who was transformed into a vampire. She is watched over by Kuroe who, from his own tragic past, now has the ability to “see” the vampires from the living. Together, they help the police track down a supernatural serial killer whose crimes span almost 50 years.

Do not be suprised if this becomes one of the next big manga titles. From the start, this is a well defined, character driven series, that relies on the psychology of the events rather than the shock of blood and gore.  And the ending of the first volume is simply awesome!

 I am anxiously awaiting the second volume of this series… only a short two months away.

August 10, 2006

Life by Keiko Suenobu

Filed under: Graphic Novels — Tyler Rousseau @ 11:55 pm

This series starts off in a strong direction, a story of a girl who becomes a cutter in order to deal with the stresses of her life.  The first book stays almost exclusively loyal to this issue and treats it as the sole purpose for the series.

As I read the book one, I thought I had come across an important social issues manga.  But, holy smokes, does this take a turn for the strange in the sequel. 

The main character, Ayumi, becomes an unwilling S&M slave of her best friend’s boyfriend.  He commands her obedience by taking pictures and threatening to show them to his girlfriend and school. The clique of friends turns into a catty-type of gang.  The story turns from social issues into a true fictionalized storyline.

This is not to say I didn’t like the sequel, in fact, I enjoyed it a lot.  I just didn’t see it coming. 

As the third installment is readied for publishing, I cannot wait to see what they come up with next.

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