Simon travels around Sweden for four months, staying with people who sign up to host him via a website. It’s his personal rumspringa -- he tries to drink and drug and sleep with as many women as possible before returning to Stockholm and a woman he may or may not love. Simon meets a lot of people, reflects on his life, and then returns home. He even gets a death threat along the way.
Why I picked it up: Never read a Swedish comic before.
Why I finished it: I’ve never seen a graphic novel done in two panels per page. I’m a fan of comics like Mister O, Fell and Peanuts where creators stick to a layout and figure out how to use it to great effect. In many cases, this brings out the best in writers and artists by forcing them to tell their stories within a boundary. This thick little book is also extremely fast-paced and includes only the highlights of Simons’ adventure, not every detail.
I'd give it to: Al, who tore through my Snakepit collections when he visited our place with his wife. He was shocked at the content and the concept, and this book shares some similarities. I have a feeling my friend Sam would like this, too, because she enjoys Rich Stevens Diesel Sweeties.
The second and final volume of one of my favorite autobiographical webcomics. DAR often deals with sex, sexuality, art, marriage, friendship, and there are a number of strips about farts and poop in this one. (This may look familiar -- we did an Unshelved Book Club strip on Volume One earlier this year.)
Why I picked it up: Couldn’t wait to get a copy after reading volume one, but I had to wait until it was published this spring.
Why I finished it: The comics are honest and funny, and that was enough to keep me reading. I also love the contrast between the highly polished later strips in the first half of the book and the earlier strips in the second half.
I'd give it to: Sarah, who would love the highly personal aspects of this, wouldn’t be scandalized at how Erika shares her sex life, and may know some teens who she should recommend it to.
Katarina Bishop was born into a dynasty of thieves. Not just your average, everyday thieves – her parents took her to the Louvre when she was three so they could case it. By fifteen she wants a normal life and pulls off a con that creates an identity she uses to get into a boarding school. However, she’s soon expelled and leading a band of young family members to pull off an impossible heist and save her father.
Why I picked it up: Carter’s clever writing is always fun and the sly “I know something you don’t and I look better than you” look on the teen girl’s face on the cover made me smile. (I know that look, I have two teen girls).
Why I finished it: Who really stole the paintings? What diabolical mind could have pulled off the theft AND framed Kat’s father for it? How in the world could Kat figure out where the paintings were, and then how could a group of kids steal them back, unnoticed?
I'd give it to: Mike, who loved The Thin Man movies, because the story is so much fun and fast paced. The Peanuts (a group of sweet girls I've adored since they were five) who don’t take any nonsense -- they would love both Katarina, who is smart and feisty, and her bad boy.
Goldie is feeling stifled by her community, where kids are kept from anything that could be dangerous by the Blessed Guardians. Today she will undergo the Separation ceremony, where the chain that literally binds her to an adult will be broken. But the villainous Fugleman interrupts the rite, claiming there is danger present. The Guardians want to separate Goldie from everyone she knows, for her safety. She runs away and ends up at a strange museum that seems to be alive, where rooms switch places and the history the contain can be deadly.
Fugelman wants to use the museum’s exhibits to secure his grip on power. The dogged Guardians want to get Goldie and her friend Toadspit, another runaway. First they’ll have to defeat the museum’s defenses, and get past Goldie and the museum’s odd occupants.
Why I picked it up: The publisher invited me to a dinner with Lian Tanner, and I had a very stimulating discussion with her. Also, the fantastic cover painting contains clues about the story.
Why I finished it: When Fugleman and his men begin nailing the doors and walls of the museum into place, preventing the rooms from changing to confuse them, a dreadful sense of inevitability began to grow. How could the museum would step up its defenses? I also enjoyed Sinew, the museum’s main caretaker, who gives the kids tons of responsibility as well as training. He lets them bear some risk and reward for the first time in their young lives.
I'd give it to: My nephews who are not big readers, but would be sucked in by the sentient, deadly Museum of Dunt, particularly the war-ravaged Dirty Gate, a room complete with soldiers and battlefields. Also Izzy, who would feel that the the tomboyish Goldie would make a good friend.
Thaddeus is the center of his parents’ universe until his baby sister is born. Wanting life to return to normal, he schemes to get rid of his sister with progressively less-likely plans. Then she begins burbling prime numbers in sequence. He is convinced she is a dangerous alien, even before she begins burping up Pokemon-like balls that contain advanced, sock-knitting slug creatures. He is sure that this is his ticket to getting rid of her. He is also determined to save the world so that he can make all men wear fu-manchu-like facial hair in a style he calls the Thaddeus.
Why I picked it up: Since reading Yang’s American Born Chinese I have been a fan of his sparse yet emotive drawings.
Why I finished it: Thaddeus’ face speaks volumes as he processes his insecurity after the arrival of his new baby sister.
I'd give it to: Single children of all ages who never experienced the joy that a sibling can bring. Sam J., who has a new brother in the house that he sometimes enjoys, and that at other times he’d rather return to the factory.
Matt wakes up in a field hospital in the Green Zone in Iraq with only patchy recall of the explosion that got him there. As he recovers, he begins to suspect that he doesn't remember his part in the death of a civilian child, and that his buddies and the brass might prefer it that way.
Why I picked it up: It's a war story told from a teen point of view, and it made a couple of my coworkers' top ten of 2009 lists.
Why I finished it: It's full of details of the strange everydayness of life in Iraq like care packages of Little Debbie cakes, desert heat and cold, playing Halo, and the thousands of choices about right and wrong and survival. You can see the richness and accuracy of detail and emotional impact that McCormick got from the many hours of interviews with veterans and their families.
I'd give it to: My peeps in the cancer survivor group, who would understand Matt’s reluctance to tell his family and friends what he’s going through, even though they care enough to ask.
Ray is a world-famous musician, surrounded by women and money, but his muse has left the building. Nick got laid off months ago, and his wife does't know he's working at a shady collectibles store. Phoebe is searching for her father. Steve is a huge huge fan of Ray, but he’s off his meds. Caprice just got over a messy breakup. And Lily works for Ray's management agency. As this graphic novel begins, their six lives start to spiral together.
Why I picked it up: Big fan of Robinson's Box Office Poison, which inspired me when I was considering going back into cartooning. I still reread each of his books every year or two.
Why I finished it: Ray's life fascinated me. I think it has good lessons for when I become a world-famous musician, surrounded by women and money.
I'd give it to: Chris Baldwin, author of the wonderful webcomic Spacetrawler. I think he'd appreciate the intricate (and intertwined) plot lines.