Month: November 2015

Monster: A Graphic Novel, written by Walter Dean Myers, adapted by Guy A. Sims, and Illustrated by Dawud Anyabwile

The Young Adult Literature classic, Monster, by Walter Dean Myers has recently been transformed into a beautiful graphic novel by Guy A. Sims and Dawud Anyabwile.  The black and white visuals striking depict the classic storyline:  Steve Harmon is a teenager who is on trial for murder and robbery.  Written in the screenplay format, the reader is able to experience the events with Steve:  The movie is more real in so many ways than the life I am leading. No, that’s not true. I just desperately wish this was only a movie.

Steve is making this film for one of his classes, and the themes of the graphic novel—guilty by association, impact of decisions—is the same as WDM’s classic, award-winning (it won the first Printz Award in 2000 and was also a Coretta Scott King Honor book and National Book Award finalist) novel.  As Steve notes:  Sometimes I feel like I have walked into the middle of a movie. Maybe I can make my own movie. The film will be the story of my life. No, not my life, but of this experience. I’ll call it what the lady prosecutor called me … Monster.  Striking imagery makes the court scenes more vivid and seemingly real.  The graphic novel format also helped me keep all of the individuals in the court room straight.

This wonderful adaptation must have been a challenge, for the screenplay format limits a lot of the information given in a traditional novel.  Creators Sims and Anyabwile (who are brothers) also had to contemplate what to emphasize and leave out from the book.  The filming thread is heightened in the graphic novel, and the court scenes became more impactful for me.

The timely topics brought about by this novel are ones that everyone should be discussing today, and this book is one way to broach the topic with teens.  Although I think that reading both the novel and its graphic novel version would be preferable, I realize that Walter’s provoking novel can be powerful in either version (although I’m not sure I would have caught everything that happened at the beginning of the novel if I hadn’t read the book first.)  Be sure to check it out.

My favorite interviews with Myers:

http://www.npr.org/2011/06/17/137223046/a-writer-and-his-father-and-a-barrier-between-us

http://www.npr.org/sections/codeswitch/2014/07/03/327854809/the-late-walter-dean-myers-wrote-in-the-language-of-teens

The Marvels by Brian Selznick

“You either see it or you don’t.”

The Marvels starts out much like its two predecessors, The Invention of Hugo Cabret and Wonderstruck, with amazing, expressive visuals.  This artwork propels the reader through the first half of the book (around 387 pages) and introduces us to Billy Marvel in 1766, who is aboard a ship that later sinks in a storm.  Billy’s older brother perishes, but Billy survives and has found himself on an island.  Just after he buries his brother, a great fire overtakes the island and Billy is rescued by another vessel that sees the flames.  When Billy returns to London, he is widely known as the shipwrecked survivor.  He eventually finds his home in the Royal Theater, and his descendants go on to have an amazing legacy in the theater for generations.

Selznick’s story shifts into the narrative form and introduces us to Joseph in 1990.  Joseph happens to be running away from his boarding school.  His parents are overseas, and he is looking to find his uncle, Albert Nightingale.  Albert lives in a beautiful, ornate home in London and seems preoccupied with Joseph not touching or disturbing anything in his home.   Joseph is intent on figuring out the mystery about the house, his unusual family, and where he really belongs.  Albert doesn’t always help him with this endeavor, however: “Stories aren’t the same as facts!” Joseph shouts. “No,” Albert reasons, “but they can both be true.”  This fantastical adventure story’s two plotlines eventually do fuse together in a somewhat unanticipated way.

This is a beautiful, innovative book.  Although this book didn’t quite capture my heart like The Invention of Hugo Cabret, my mind relished the narrative mystery and the overall complexity of artwork and text.  Based partially on a true story, this imaginative book about family, friendship, family, love, tragedy, grief, art, and more.  It’s evident that Selznick keeps pushing his talents to the next level, and you’ll enjoy taking this journey.  It is definitely a marvel worth checking out.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

I really didn’t want to read this book.  Perhaps it was due to the hype (so many students told me to read it) or maybe it was because I wasn’t quite in the mood for a book that seemed to mirror The Hunger Games and Game of Thrones.  It took two tries to get past the first chapter.  Once I did, however, I loved each thrilling moment that came my way.

What’s to love?  The protagonist, Celaena Sardothien, isn’t always perfect (sometimes she’s annoyingly immature).  She is, however, similar to Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games series because she is a true warrior (assassin, in fact).  She takes things into her own hands and isn’t apologetic for doing so.  Even though she is weaker at the beginning of the novel, Celaena’s ferociousness blazes through subsequent chapters after she is given time to heal from her enslavement in the Endovier salt mines.  As she notes, We all bear scars…Mine just happen to be more visible than most.

Celaena was brought to the Glass Castle under a guide by Crown Prince Dorian, who wants Celaena to be his representative in a brutal competition.  If she is able to defeat the other competitors (and therefore become the King’s Champion and the new royal assassin), she will earn her freedom after a few years of service to the king.  This is what she wants most in the world, and her focus stays on this prize throughout the novel.

As Celaena begins her training for the competition, Captain Chaol Westfall (Captain of the Guard and Prince Dorian’s close friend) is at her side both to push her to be ready for the coming battle and also to ensure that she doesn’t escape.  Competitors start dropping, both from the competition and from some apparent evil in the castle.  In the middle of all of this is a developing love triangle between Celaena, Dorian, and Chaol.

It took Maas 10 years to publish this novel, which began as fanfiction.  It’s easy to see why it became so popular—it’s a fast-paced thrill ride with a protagonist with whom everyone can connect.  Celaena is strong (mentally and physically), but she’s not perfect.  In fact, she’s not always even likable.  Her flaws made her seem more real amidst this world of fantasy.  Because many of the other characters were cardboard in nature (including the evil King, who disposed of magic in the realm), Celaena becomes even more intriguing.  She wasn’t easy to anticipate, and you never knew what she was going to do next.

Celaena is also an assassin who loves to read.  As she says: Libraries were full of ideas–perhaps the most dangerous and powerful of all weapons. She also knows the power of books: …I can survive well enough on my own— if given the proper reading material.  Overall, this is a great escapist read for anyone seeking a thrill ride in young adult literature.

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