Best of Teens 2010 - Graphic Novels
2010 Best for Teens: Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush, by Luis Alberto Urrea & Christopher Cardinale
When Mr. Mendoza arrives in the rich green town of Rosario, which bubbles with humidity and the smell of mangoes, the self-proclaimed "Graffiti King of all of Mexico" changes the small village forever. In a starred review, Kirkus said, "Urrea's delightful tale of morality and meaning is rendered masterfully by Cardinale's boisterous illustrations, their bold outlines providing heft to the surrealism." After reading Luis Alberto Urrea's story, Christopher Cardinale went straight to his sketchpad, but he realized that he could not rely on photos alone for his images. So he traveled to Rosario in Sinaloa, Mexico. "There, I saw the landmarks that came to life in Luis's writing and I sketched portraits of the townspeople," says the artist. "Through this process I attempted to absorb some of the magic of the place to bring back to my drawing table in Brooklyn with the hopes that it would soak into the graphic novel."
2010 Best for Teens: Yummy, by G. Neri & Randy DuBurke
This is the sad, true story
of an abbreviated life. Robert “Yummy” Sandifer grew up—if that’s what you can call it when you die at 11—on Chicago’s South Side. Abused and abandoned, he was an angry kid, and he shared that anger unreservedly. But Yummy packed a teddy bear as well as a gun, and G. Neri plants him squarely in ambiguity. Victim or criminal? Fact is, he was both. Another fact—he killed a young girl during a shooting spree to impress the older members of his gang. “Both politicians and media were having a field day sensationalizing this tragedy,” says Neri. “But the truth was hard to find amongst the rhetoric.” Randy DuBurke’s artwork is shadowy and ominous, Yummy’s chaotic, emotionally discombobulated life tumbling from panel to panel. With this graphic form, Neri hopes to “[show] these harsh realities to urban boys who don’t read, before
they get sucked into gangs.
2010 Best for Teens: Smile, by Raina Telgemeier
Junior high school—there ought to be a law against it, maybe some provision of the Geneva Convention as a crime against humanity. Puberty, pimples and poisonous pals—pick your potion. Add a Sisyphean regimen of dental barbarity—braces, headgear, retainers—and welcome to Raina Telgemeier’s graphic memoir of adolescence. “When I was 11 years old, I tripped and knocked out my two front teeth,” says the author. “Smile
attempts to recapture my insecurity about my appearance and the isolation I felt as my friends seized the opportunity to tease and torment me.” But wait. Amid the grief of classrooms, boys and even an earthquake (Telgemeier grew up in San Francisco), there is something else at work. The illustrations are buoyant and strong, even as they take cues from an angst-ridden everyday to which any junior high schooler can relate. A smile, despite the hardware, may well be the ticket to survival.
2010 Best for Teens: The Odyssey, by Gareth Hinds
Graphic adaptor Gareth Hinds applies to Homer's hexameter his own poetic compression in prose form, staying true to the pace and tension of the heroic journey. Accompanying his retelling is his graphic translation of the imagery, utterly true to itself while evoking the enthralling detail of Mitsumasa Anno and the clarity of David Macaulay. "The Odyssey is a book I've always wanted to adapt," he says, "in part because there is so much to work with visually-fantastic monsters, gods, battles, shipwrecks-but also because its tells a remarkable story that continues to resonate after 2,000 years." Odysseus comes across as morally inconsistent and a consummate liar, yet he is also smart, strong and eager to drink in life's glorious strangeness. Lashed to the mast to hear the Siren's call, drilling a hot poker into the eye of Cyclops-you can't get much more compelling than that.