from graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
Continuing in a summer reading—and summer reading promotion—vein, Dan Zettwoch’s first graphic novel provides a stunning array of possibilities: a summer-visit-to-the-country marbled with social and political commentary and served up with intriguingly detailed but accessible schematics of cell tower construction, live bait farming and lifestyles doomed by commercial zealots as well as the weather. Covering more ground (and airspace) than most 64-page-long stories can muster, Birdseye Bristoe also shows off such tightly worked consistency in plotting, visual exploration, and science lessons that it can snare readers in search of character-driven tales, mechanical information or a launch pad for intelligent discussions of faith-based commercialism.
The appeal factors here offer numerous hooks as a display anchor. Point younger teen boys to your magazine alcove, if it includes backfiles of old Popular Mechanics (the end papers here will have given them a taste of the peculiar ads they’ll find there). Got a career database that needs some pushing? Reading here about Sonja Pike’s ascendancy as a crane operator offers a genuine example of how to apply personal devotion to an earning capacity. With so much news about the conflation of church memberships and social agendas, there’s a heaping serving of intrigue in want of mining through thoughtful analysis here. And speaking of mining, the explanation of how steel is made and tempered for high rising communications towers lies in wait for other materials you might own; Bruce Springsteen’s Youngstown may be hiding in your music collection.
I’m not going to delve into the craft and innovation possibilities for old soda bottles suggested here except to say that, with a dozen bungee cords on hand to go with those three-liter plastic jugs, you could throw one heck of a maker space book party!
Adult/High School–With surprising lyricism for a visual story about commercial corruption in a rural American community, Zettwoch immediately pulls readers into a richly plotted and subplotted graphic novel that features intriguing and mostly sympathetic characters and a fully detailed catalog of how a variety of mechanical structures actually work. The elderly fellow who gives his name to the book’s title is ostensibly just a live bait farmer, circa 1998, hosting a summer vacation visit from his great grandniece and -nephew. Through the two teens’ eyes, readers move from observing the sublimely inventive homemade fixtures and appliances of the family homestead to the decidedly ominous meetings held to announce that a cell-phone tower project is in the works. Zettwoch, who has a proven talent for drawing detailed and accessible cartoons showing how various mechanical and natural structures work integrally, combines a rousing good tale of political shenanigans with provocative insights on what makes–and breaks–a community when the local porn shop (for truckers passing through on the highway, of course) is literally overshadowed by greedy outsiders. Far from being heavy-handed, this fully packed visual and narrative experience offers fresh air and a sardonic eye twinkle on its way to implosion. Zettwoch’s pages are packed with loopy black-ink cartoons on a yellowed newsprintlike ground, pencil-colored to highlight ice-cream soda mustaches, a light-bulb joke, and the settings of scenes depicted against floorboards or grass-mowing patterns.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA