from graphic novel blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
While a true graphic novel presents a unified work, in sequential art format that runs through a sustained arc with a beginning, middle and end, related sequential art media can attract and maintain reader interest as well. The comic strip, whether on the web or in paper form, has a tiny arc. Traditionally, strips had three to five panels which presented a set up, a visual joke and a response to it.
Kate Beaton is hardly the first to employ the comic strip as a way of placing moments in history and literature—and the wonderful parodies we can make of these—into comic strip form. She’s a true master of delivering faithfully across quite an expansive collection, however. Who doesn’t want to poke a bit of fun at the predictable impossibilities of Nancy Drew novels? Isn’t it revelatory to consider whether Lewis and Clark were actually successful, given their stated goal? If you’re Canadian, did you honestly wonder how a female patriot got herself entangled with the premier national chocolatier?
And Beaton’s gracefully simple strokes of pen make it easy to digest any of these morsels quickly enough to share around in a group, or provide impetus for some private research (Hmm, who really is the hero in Les misérables?). Beaton must do a fun chalk talk, and imagine how she could skewer any troublemaker in the audience!
Adult/High School–Not a graphic novel but a collection of comic strips, this volume offers truly funny and pithy parodies on events in literary history, the lives of famous–and infamous–politicians, explorers, writers, and everyday behaviors of flawed humans. Matthew Henson gets revenge on Admiral Peary; Victorian ladies swear like sailors; Odysseus confronts the lure of Facebook; Nancy Drew and LBJ both get their due. Most pages contain 6-10 panels, and each black-and-white cartoon vignette includes a note explaining the context. A fair number of the political jokes are Canadian (Keaton is from Nova Scotia) but they work well as a way to show that stereotypes and insights can be held by all parties, not just self-involved Americans. The artwork is expressive and loose, with the occasional cheeky prose (What if Ben Franklin had been more interested in loose women than lightning?) and blue language (Imagine a substitute teacher dissing the child who really is named Tits). Not only fun, but also a good lead-in for teens who may want to explore authors and events they first discover in the riffs here.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA