Watching Bryan generously transform the bittersweet into beauty is watching the meaning of art.

INFINITE HOPE

A BLACK ARTIST'S JOURNEY FROM WORLD WAR II TO PEACE

Renowned artist and children’s-book creator Bryan shares his journey through World War II.

Best known for his brightly colored paintings of flowers and joyful scenes, here Bryan shares a part of his life that was less bright. Bryan was in his third year of art school when he was recruited to join the U.S. Army in 1943. Training for service in an all-black battalion, being deployed to Europe to fight with the Allied Forces on D-Day, and spending months trying to get his men back home—these experiences did not stop Bryan from pursuing his development as an artist. He was always drawing and sketching, and his fellow soldiers and even some of his superiors encouraged him to do so. His years in the Army are effectively detailed in a multimedia format that has the intimate feel of a scrapbook being shared by the author. The main text is a retrospective narration surrounded by extensive primary documents: old photographs and documents, handwritten letters (whose contents are also set in a small blue type for easier reading), paintings, and sketches, both standing alone and overlaid on top of photographs. So many unique yet universal aspects of the human experience are touched upon in this lovingly shared memoir: the passion that kept an artist going through the most difficult times, the contradictions of war against Nazism with segregation at home and within the U.S. Army.

Watching Bryan generously transform the bittersweet into beauty is watching the meaning of art. (note, sources, index) (Memoir. 10-adult)

Pub Date: Oct. 15, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-5344-0490-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Caitlyn Dlouhy/Atheneum

Review Posted Online: Aug. 26, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2019

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A rich and deeply felt slice of life.

JUST PRETEND

Crafting fantasy worlds offers a budding middle school author relief and distraction from the real one in this graphic memoir debut.

Everyone in Tori’s life shows realistic mixes of vulnerability and self-knowledge while, equally realistically, seeming to be making it up as they go. At least, as she shuttles between angrily divorced parents—dad becoming steadily harder to reach, overstressed mom spectacularly incapable of reading her offspring—or drifts through one wearingly dull class after another, she has both vivacious bestie Taylor Lee and, promisingly, new classmate Nick as well as the (all-girl) heroic fantasy, complete with portals, crystal amulets, and evil enchantments, taking shape in her mind and on paper. The flow of school projects, sleepovers, heart-to-heart conversations with Taylor, and like incidents (including a scene involving Tori’s older brother, who is having a rough adolescence, that could be seen as domestic violence) turns to a tide of change as eighth grade winds down and brings unwelcome revelations about friends. At least the story remains as solace and, at the close, a sense that there are still chapters to come in both worlds. Working in a simple, expressive cartoon style reminiscent of Raina Telgemeier’s, Sharp captures facial and body language with easy naturalism. Most people in the spacious, tidily arranged panels are White; Taylor appears East Asian, and there is diversity in background characters.

A rich and deeply felt slice of life. (afterword, design notes) (Graphic memoir. 10-13)

Pub Date: May 18, 2021

ISBN: 978-0-316-53889-3

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Little, Brown

Review Posted Online: March 31, 2021

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 2021

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Humble, endearing and utterly easy to relate to; don’t miss this one.

THE DUMBEST IDEA EVER!

The charismatic creator of the Eisner-nominated Amelia Rules! series recounts his beginnings as a cartoonist.

From the very first panel, Gownley’s graphic memoir is refreshingly different. He’s not the archetypal nerd, and he doesn’t retreat to draw due to feelings of loneliness or isolation. Gownley seems to be a smart kid and a talented athlete, and he has a loyal group of friends and a girlfriend. After he falls ill, first with chicken pox and then pneumonia, he falls behind in school and loses his head-of-the-class standing—a condition he is determined to reverse. A long-standing love of comics leads him to write his own, though his first attempt is shot down by his best friend, who suggests he should instead write a comic about their group. He does, and it’s an instant sensation. Gownley’s story is wonderful; his small-town life is so vividly evinced, it’s difficult to not get lost in it. While readers will certainly pick up on the nostalgia, it should be refreshing—if not completely alien—for younger readers to see teens interacting without texting, instead using phones with cords. Eagle-eyed readers will also be able to see the beginnings of his well-loved books about Amelia. He includes an author’s note that shouldn’t be overlooked—just be sure to keep the tissues handy.

Humble, endearing and utterly easy to relate to; don’t miss this one. (author’s note) (Graphic memoir. 10 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 25, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-545-45346-2

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Graphix/Scholastic

Review Posted Online: Nov. 13, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2013

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