Complex even for history buffs, this one requires and merits a second read.

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MARCO POLO

DANGERS AND VISIONS

Italian cartoonist Tabilio and translator Schwandt breathe some new life into Marco Polo and his travels in this debut graphic novel.

Using Polo’s Il Milione as a launching pad, this fictional biography explores the Venetian traveler as much as it does his travels. Captured and imprisoned by the Genoese after the Battle of Korcula, an injured Polo awaits the negotiation of his release and meets Pisan writer Rustichello. When Polo’s fluency in the language of Cathay (a medieval name for China) sparks his curiosity, Rustichello convinces Polo to share the story that would eventually become Il Milione, with an added focus on Polo’s coming-of-age. The chronicle of Polo’s daunting travels and perilous adventures with his father and uncle takes on fantastic proportions as it intertwines with dreams, visions, and Tabilio’s transporting illustrations that are as complex in content as they are simple in style. Although it seeks to humanize the nearly mythic figure of Marco Polo, the narrative does not offer a challenge to its source material’s Western, Christian worldview, and the resulting perspective on Asia’s myriad cultures and history is awash in colonial exoticism. However, small anachronisms and metafictive comments from Rustichello invoke the many centuries of debate around Marco Polo’s travelogue, situating readers to question where his perspective might depart from truth.

Complex even for history buffs, this one requires and merits a second read. (afterword, glossary) (Graphic historical fiction. 14-adult)

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-1-5124-3069-1

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Graphic Universe

Review Posted Online: May 15, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1, 2017

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A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today.

THEY CALLED US ENEMY

A beautifully heart-wrenching graphic-novel adaptation of actor and activist Takei’s (Lions and Tigers and Bears, 2013, etc.) childhood experience of incarceration in a World War II camp for Japanese Americans.

Takei had not yet started school when he, his parents, and his younger siblings were forced to leave their home and report to the Santa Anita Racetrack for “processing and removal” due to President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066. The creators smoothly and cleverly embed the historical context within which Takei’s family’s story takes place, allowing readers to simultaneously experience the daily humiliations that they suffered in the camps while providing readers with a broader understanding of the federal legislation, lawsuits, and actions which led to and maintained this injustice. The heroes who fought against this and provided support to and within the Japanese American community, such as Fred Korematsu, the 442nd Regiment, Herbert Nicholson, and the ACLU’s Wayne Collins, are also highlighted, but the focus always remains on the many sacrifices that Takei’s parents made to ensure the safety and survival of their family while shielding their children from knowing the depths of the hatred they faced and danger they were in. The creators also highlight the dangerous parallels between the hate speech, stereotyping, and legislation used against Japanese Americans and the trajectory of current events. Delicate grayscale illustrations effectively convey the intense emotions and the stark living conditions.

A powerful reminder of a history that is all too timely today. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: July 16, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-60309-450-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Top Shelf Books

Review Posted Online: Aug. 5, 2019

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A tribute to young people’s resistance in the face of oppression.

BANNED BOOK CLUB

In 1983 South Korea, Kim was learning to navigate university and student political activism.

The daughter of modest restaurant owners, Kim was apolitical—she just wanted to make her parents proud and be worthy of her tuition expenses. Following an administrator’s advice to avoid trouble and pursue extracurriculars, she joined a folk dance team where she met a fellow student who invited her into a banned book club. Kim was fearful at first, but her thirst for knowledge soon won out. As she learned the truth of her country’s oppressive fascist political environment, Kim became closer to the other book club members while the authorities grew increasingly desperate to identify and punish student dissidents. The kinetic manhwa drawing style skillfully captures the personal and political history of this eye-opening memoir. The disturbing elements of political corruption and loss of human rights are lightened by moving depictions of sweet, funny moments between friends as well as deft political maneuvering by Kim herself when she was eventually questioned by authorities. The art and dialogue complement each other as they express the tension that Kim and her friends felt as they tried to balance school, family, and romance with surviving in a dangerous political environment. References to fake news and a divisive government make this particularly timely; the only thing missing is a list for further reading.

A tribute to young people’s resistance in the face of oppression. (Graphic memoir. 14-adult)

Pub Date: May 19, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-945820-42-7

Page Count: 192

Publisher: Iron Circus Comics

Review Posted Online: Nov. 19, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2019

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