Tag Archives: Raina Telgemeier

Explorer: The Mystery Boxes

Editor: Kazu Kibuishi

My rating: 3.5 of 5

The great thing–the scary thing–about boxes is that they can contain just about anything. Or nothing. You’ll never know until you open them. It could be something that will change your perspective for the better. Or it could be something that will wreak havoc with your life. Maybe it’s an opportunity for a second chance. But then, maybe it’s best left closed–after all, once you’ve imagined all the things it could be, perhaps whatever it really is might be a disappointment. You never know. . . .

As with Kibuishi’s other Explorer books, The Mystery Boxes is a collection of graphic short stories by various authors/artists focusing on a theme–in this instance, boxes. You’ve got quite the gamut of stories here from creepy (“Under the Floorboards” in which a wax doll tries to take over a little girl’s life), to corny (“Whatzit” in which a weird alien kid is pranked and returns the favor), to moving (notably “The Keeper’s Treasure” and Kibuishi’s own story, “The Escape Option”). Honestly, my opinions about these stories range widely, with some of them being lots of fun and others just being kind of “huh?” for me. Some of them, I just don’t quite get what the author was getting at, I guess. But then, there are stories like “The Keeper’s Treasure,” “Spring Cleaning” (goofy but amusing), and “The Escape Option” that I think still make Explorer: The Mystery Boxes well worth the time to read it.

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Explorer: The Lost Islands

Editor: Kazu Kibuishi

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Perhaps it’s a place where festivities turn to horror. Or maybe it’s a place where stories are broadcast from all over, where magic is made. It may not be an actual place at all, but rather something symbolizing our sense of self. Whatever the case, the idea of a lost island, isolated and strange, is tantalizing and full of equal parts fear and wonder. Come and see what’s there to find.

I’ve read one volume of Kibuishi’s Explorer series previously, The Hidden Doors, which I quite enjoyed. The Lost Islands brings a similar experience–a collection of graphic shorts by a variety of authors/illustrators, all somehow connected by the titular idea. It’s great to see the immense variety that is presented in this collection. You’ve got light, fluffy pieces and scary, adventurous stories and even one that’s contemplative and psychological. All in all, it’s a good selection; I don’t think there was a single story I didn’t enjoy. The art is all excellent, again with a good bit of variety between styles. The stories are generally middle-grade appropriate, but recommended for basically all ages, in my opinion. I especially appreciate that the stories aren’t just existential occurrences; they focus on ideas such as hard work, self-awareness, being true to oneself, and the importance of being a good friend. I would definitely recommend Explorer: The Lost Islands, and I look forward to reading more by the authors/illustrators represented here.

Contributors: Jake Parker, Chrystin Garland, Jason Caffoe, Dave Roman, Raina Telgemeier, Braden Lamb, Michel Gagné, Katie Shanahan, Steven Shanahan, Eric Kim, Selena Dizazzo, & Kazu Kibuishi

 

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Ghosts

ghostsAuthor/Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier

Colors: Braden Lamb

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Cat’s family is moving from the warmth and sun of southern California to the fog and chill of the northern coast, specifically a small old town named Bahía de la Luna. The doctors say it will be better for Cat’s little sister Maya there, that the coolness and moisture will make her cystic fibrosis easier to handle. Maybe so, but Cat’s still not happy about the move . . . or about all the ghost legends that seem to be emphasized throughout the town.

I love Raina Telgemeier’s graphic novels; they’re so full of life and fun, yet they deal with real, tough stuff as well. Ghosts is no exception, that’s for sure. It’s a real ghost story, but not so much a scary one. Rather, this book pulls heavily on traditions such as Día de los Muertos in which the spirits of the dead are friendly and welcome instead of haunting and scary. Not that Cat doesn’t have her share of scares along the way to realizing this. Cat’s part of the story is great in that it deals with very real-life fears–change, family illness, and death for a start. Because let’s face it, real life can be every bit as scary as ghosts, maybe even more so. Maya is the perfect balance for Cat’s uncertainty; however ill she may be, she’s full of life and spunk and energy. She’s just a great all-around character who’s lots of fun to read. I also really appreciated that the author chose to discuss cystic fibrosis and all the crazy stuff people who have it must handle on a daily basis. And of course, the art is classic Raina Telgemeier, so lots of fun there–I really loved all the  Día de los Muertos influences and scenes in the art. Very cool. So yeah, basically Ghosts is a really great middle-grade graphic novel that I would highly recommend for readers 10 and up (including adults).

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Sisters

Author/Illustrator: Raina Telgemeiersisters

Coloring: Braden Lamb

Companion to Smile

My rating: 4.5 of 5

Funny isn’t it, how road trips can bring out the best in relationships . . . and the worst, especially between siblings. Raina and her little sister Amara find this out the hard way as they, their mom, and their little brother Will set out from their home in California all the way to Colorado for a family reunion–taking in the sites as they go to make it a properly educational experience, naturally. All that time stuck with each other in close quarters just makes all those annoying quirks stand out even more! But it’s time these two sisters set aside their differences and band together . . . they’re going to need each other.

I love the way Telgemeier weaves her own experiences together into delightful, approachable graphic novels. I loved this in Smile and found it to be consistently the case in Sisters as well. The story is enjoyable, funny, practical, and (perhaps most importantly) transparently human. I’ve had exactly those sorts of problems with my own siblings when we were younger. The people and circumstances are believable, highly individual yet also, in a sense, universal. And did I mention, the story is very funny? Of course, Telgemeier’s art is perfect for the story as well–definitely an American graphic novel style, full of expression and humor. Also a plus, Sisters is really written for the middle-grade demographic (a group that until recently had been largely ignored by those writing graphic novels) but at the same time, it’s a fun read for all ages. Definitely recommended.

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Smile

Author/Illustrator: Raina Telgemeier

Color by: Stephanie Yue

As though all the usual pains of growing up weren’t enough, one night after Girl Scouts Raina has an accident that knocks out her two front teeth. Oww! In addition to the obvious physical pain, she has to deal with the psychological and social troubles caused by the change in her appearance. It would really help if she had supportive friends . . . but her group isn’t exactly ready to make her feel better about herself. But life goes on, and in time (and through numerous challenging circumstances) Raina begins to find where she fits and to gain the confidence to smile, even if her smile doesn’t look perfect.

I’ve been seeing Smile around for a while, but didn’t realize it was a graphic novel until I picked it up to read. (I know, I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes.) Having read this incredible graphic novel memoir, I was highly impressed. This is a voice that we desperately need today. Telgemeier brings graphic novels from a place of fantasy to where they truly hit home. She speaks honestly and transparently to the struggles of growing up in a voice that we instantly relate to and that is absolutely credible. Moreover, she speaks to the issue of self-image in such a painfully honest manner–as she says in the novel, maybe if we talked about this sort of thing more, kids wouldn’t feel like they were the only ones dealing with this sort of stuff. I think the art fits the story perfectly; it’s expressive and dynamic, honestly showing the characters with all their flaws but also with full, vibrant personalities clearly shining through. I would give Smile high recommendations, especially for kids in that challenging middle-school to high-school time of transition–I know it made me smile!

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