The renewal of spirit through this striking collaboration reflects the way the Apollo has renewed itself through the decades.



This graphic treatment adds a new dimension to a music book that was already hailed as a classic.

Most graphic adaptations aim to reach new generations of readers with a work that is flashier but less substantial than the original. This collaboration between Fox (In the Groove: The People Behind the Music, 1986, etc.) and illustrator Smith represents a new experience for readers, one with an immediacy and vitality that text alone might never approach. Fox’s original was published to wide acclaim in 1983; that book illuminated the significance of the Apollo to musicians and to the Harlem community, detailing how it got to be where it was and celebrating the legacy that lives on. The current project gives Fox the opportunity to update the original and to show how, in the subsequent 35 years, the venue has expanded its offerings, hosting the likes of Chris Rock and Bruce Springsteen and a memorial service for James Brown. The narrative brings readers behind the scenes to the real show backstage and to the hotel rooms where the young reporter conducted his interviews. It also highlights the visual performing styles of some of the most galvanic artists in the history of popular music. Performers who were then unknown and were launched as winners of the Apollo’s Amateur Night competition include Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holiday, James Brown, Jimi Hendrix, Luther Vandross, and Michael Jackson. Fox and Smith effectively present the progression of entertainment styles from swing and tap dance through bebop, gospel and blues, rhythm & blues, soul, and rock. They provide an entertaining, lively narrative with profiles that match the spirit, drawings that seem as musical as the music described within the text.

The renewal of spirit through this striking collaboration reflects the way the Apollo has renewed itself through the decades.

Pub Date: Jan. 8, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-4197-3138-9

Page Count: 240

Publisher: Abrams ComicArts

Review Posted Online: Sept. 25, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2018

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Will appeal to readers who love both graphic narratives and dogs, but it’s not as memorable as the author’s previous memoir.



A graphic memoir about a pet dog is more about the artist who lived with her for 15 years or so.

A bit of a handful from the start, Beija, the puppy that illustrator Georges (Calling Dr. Laura, 2013, etc.) rescued from the adoption center to give to her high school boyfriend, would become not only her rites-of-passage companion, but also her therapist, antagonist, and muse. She was a difficult dog, in some ways just like her owner. As a small mutt with some Shar-Pei and corgi in her, Beija was uncomfortable around strangers and particularly among men, didn’t like unsolicited attention, and tended to attack when she was afraid. As the narrative plays chronological hopscotch back and forth to the author’s girlhood before Beija, there’s an inference that Georges might not have known how to raise a dog right because she herself hadn’t been raised right—that neglect and lack of sensitivity had turned her into “the feral beast of self-defense” whenever the presence of yet another babysitter threatened her. When her boyfriend’s parents refused to let the dog live with them, the artist and her family kept her. Eventually, the author, boyfriend, and dog shared an apartment, where the dog presented plenty of complications, from housebreaking to attacking. They did their best to find her another home, but she kept being returned; no one was able to manage her. Ultimately, they moved from the Midwest to Portland, where the chaos of the punk scene seemed more accommodating for Beija. Ultimately, the artist split from her boyfriend, kept the dog, and went through a process of sexual awakening when she went from considering herself bisexual to gay. Georges covers a lot of material in a narrative that could have used a little editing and is accompanied by black-and-white illustrations that might have benefitted from splashes of color.

Will appeal to readers who love both graphic narratives and dogs, but it’s not as memorable as the author’s previous memoir.

Pub Date: July 18, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-544-57783-1

Page Count: 336

Publisher: Mariner/Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2017

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A history book that wants to be Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of American Empire but comes off more like Larry Gonick’s...



Prolific intellectual Stavans and collaborative artist Alcaraz follow up and expand their first exploration of American culture (Latino USA: A Cartoon History, 2000, etc.) to examine the secret history of the United States of America.

Stavans and Alcaraz offer an opposing view to the sanitized history most of us were taught in elementary school classrooms. As a Mexican-born Jewish immigrant who moved to the United States in the 1980s, Stavans has a passionate response to the erroneousness of American history. “The past is elastic,” he writes. “Its parts shrink and expand depending on who is looking at them and when. Because of this, it’s important to take a contrarian’s viewpoint, to be wary of what the French call idées fixes—lazy unquestioned truths.” From this ambitious beginning, Stavans and Alcaraz track the arc of history, from Christopher Columbus’ unlikely enterprise to find the new world (he didn’t) to the acrimonious relationship between the pilgrims and Native peoples all the way through to our messy, dangerous post-9/11 world. Stavans and Alcaraz examine social movements, pop culture, politics, crime, war and economics, with pithy side comments from the aforementioned peanut gallery. Since it casts its net so wide, it can feel very out of tune from time to time, although Alcaraz’s amusing pen-and-ink style ably captures most of the book’s famous subjects. Stavans and Alcaraz also aren’t afraid to poke a little fun at themselves: “You interject too much out-of-place information! The readers are all confused now,” cracks Alcaraz. Nonetheless, well-read students are unlikely to find too many surprises here. While it makes for an entertaining afternoon, it’s still mostly a surface-level history lesson with a few iconoclastic opinions added in for spice.

A history book that wants to be Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of American Empire but comes off more like Larry Gonick’s The Cartoon History of the United States with more savvy jokes.

Pub Date: June 6, 2014

ISBN: 978-0-465-03669-1

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Basic

Review Posted Online: May 7, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2014

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