Here’s a peek at what we have been reading this week. What’s on your night table?
Kate Dacey: I finally got around to reading The Broadcast, a short but effective story centered around a real event: Orson Welles’ infamous 1938 broadcast of War of the Worlds. The Broadcast takes place in a small rural community, where a storm knocks out power midway through Welles’ performance, before it became clear to listeners that the “news bulletins” about alien attacks in New Jersey were fake. In their panic to hide from the “aliens,” the townspeople converge on the home of a prominent banker who has a storm shelter. The twist: not everyone will fit in the shelter, causing the citizens to fight amongst themselves about who “deserves” a space. It’s a nifty premise for a story, allowing the creators to explore the racial and economic tensions within the community. The artwork may not appeal to teens—it’s very loose and impressionistic—but I thought it was effective, capturing the characters’ tremendous uncertainty about what’s really happening. I’m not sure if teens would pick this up on their own, but I’d encourage English and Social Studies teachers to think about using it in the classroom, perhaps for a lesson on H.G. Wells, or daily life during the Great Depression.
Scott Robins: With the library I’m working at finally open to the public, I borrowed the first two volumes of the classic Moomin comic strips published by Drawn and Quarterly. The strips follow the adventures of a family of trolls as they try their very best to find their place in the world. Unlike most contemporary comic strips, the Moomin comics are ongoing and each strip leads into the next for a longer narrative. Full of slapstick humor, “stranger-in-a-strange-land” situations and hilarious blunders, these collections are perfect for lazy Sunday afternoons. Like a lot of classic comic strips, Tove Jansson presents light, innocuous stories but the strips are layered with satirical messages about class, relationships and ‘the proper way to live’ so the strips can enjoyed on multiple levels. This is my first exposure to the Moomin characters and I know people who read their stories as children remember them fondly.
Robin Brenner: I’ve finally read some comics!
I was happy this week to dive into Hope Larson’s Mercury. I kept hearing about the atmosphere in this tale, and the cover is most excellent. Happily, the story does not disappoint from that cover. I really enjoy stories that start as individual timelines and end up being connected, as here when the story of teen girl Josey in 1859 resonates with Tara’s story in 2009. Larson has always had a fluid style, rich with black, and here it works well to highlight the unease present in each girl’s life.
I also was able to begin Joann Sfar’s adaptation of The Little Prince. Like many students of French, I was required to read The Little Prince a few times, and I enjoyed in English the first time around and even more in French. This adaptation is intriguing as it makes the narrator into Saint-Exupery himself, presenting him as a character, and it’s charming to see his actual reactions and conversations with his visitor from Asteroid B-612. I find I do sometimes miss the awkward but endearing drawings from the original (has anyone else ever drawn a fox so wonderfully?) but Sfar does a fine job evoking the original while making the story his own.
Esther Keller: Believe it or not, amidst my very hectic week, I managed to finish a comic! I read the newly released Top 10 Deadliest Sharks, which was released by Zenescope Comics in conjunction with the Discovery Channel. I’m not very scientific minded and sharks don’t really fascinate me, but I enjoyed reading this. While I felt the artwork was fine, it didn’t excite me. The text, on the other hand, was very entertaining and exciting. I liked the tidbits in the beginning like the description of the sharks and the fact boxes that told the average size and the number of reported attacks. The stories that followed varied in excitement and interest. But I actually enjoyed the balance, like how a certain shark (I forget which one now) plays heavily in Hawaiian lore or the attack on a spear fisherman and how he fought back! I think this will be a great boy read and will be a hit for that middle school aged boy (and I’m sure some girls too).