It’s well-intended, and these are mostly words of wisdom, but the artwork inspires more than the words, which, if timeless,...

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ZEN PENCILS

INSPIRATIONAL QUOTES FOR KIDS

It’s hard to imagine Calvin Coolidge and the practice of Zen joining forces, but Than gives it the old-school try.

Not just Coolidge (in an unusually prolix turn), but the Stoics Seneca and Epictetus; Margaret E. Knight, Amelia Earhart, and Marie Curie; Jack London, Theodore Roosevelt, and Jacob A. Riis—all are grist for Than’s mill, which turns their inspirational words into short, graphic meditations. “Happiness is like a butterfly,” starts one of Than’s paneled episodes, a lovely bit from Henry David Thoreau that the cartoonist follows through eight pictures until the old, white man who has been trying mightily to catch a butterfly gives up and then dozes off while fishing—at which point the elusive butterfly appears on his shoulder. The aphorisms can be straight-out sharp, like that of the Dalai Lama’s “But basically, we are the same human beings.” Others feel ambiguous—Seneca: “All cruelty springs from weakness”—or dry as tinder—Sir Ken Robinson: “We have to rethink the fundamental principles on which we’re educating our children.” Than’s characters are easy on the eye, but perhaps there are a few too many transformations into superheroes, and many strips are radically decontextualized from their speakers’ work, as in Riis’ stonecutter. Thumbnail biographies of at most four sentences follow.

It’s well-intended, and these are mostly words of wisdom, but the artwork inspires more than the words, which, if timeless, can still feel musty. (Graphic nonfiction. 10-18)

Pub Date: Oct. 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-4494-8721-8

Page Count: 128

Publisher: Andrews McMeel

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 2017

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SMILE

Telgemeier has created an utterly charming graphic memoir of tooth trauma, first crushes and fickle friends, sweetly reminiscent of Judy Blume’s work. One night, Raina trips and falls after a Girl Scout meeting, knocking out her two front teeth. This leads to years of painful surgeries, braces, agonizing root canals and other oral atrocities. Her friends offer little solace through this trying ordeal, spending more of their time teasing than comforting her. After years of these girls’ constant belittling, Raina branches out and finds her own voice and a new group of friends. Young girls will relate to her story, and her friend-angst is palpable. Readers should not overlook this seemingly simply drawn work; the strong writing and emotionally expressive characters add an unexpected layer of depth. As an afterword, the author includes a photo of her smiling, showing off the results of all of the years of pain she endured. Irresistible, funny and touching—a must read for all teenage girls, whether en-braced or not. (Graphic memoir. 12 & up)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2010

ISBN: 978-0-545-13205-3

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Bantam Discovery

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2010

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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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