“The Prince and the Dressmaker,” by Jen Wang

“The Prince and the Dressmaker,” by Jen Wang. 288 pages, First Second, February 2018. Hardcover, $24.99, 12+ for adult themes

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find or order all of the books I review at the store.

Jen Wang’s “The Prince and the Dressmaker” has been making headlines in “The Comics Journal,” “Publisher’s Weekly,” and other publications expected for a young adult (YA) graphic novel. More surprising is that it also hit the headlines of magazines like “Forbes.” Most of the press about this book highlights the gender identity of the main character, which is both fabulous and important, especially amidst the buzz about a certain royal romance. I’ll get to all that in a minute. Continue reading ““The Prince and the Dressmaker,” by Jen Wang”

Brave the Wilderness with “Lumberjanes”: A Comic for “Hardcore Lady Types” and the Rest of Us

Another post from the archives: this review was originally published for the Elkhart Truth in early August 2015. The “Lumberjanes” crew has been prolific since then: Volume 8 just came out this past February, and Volume 9 is expected in July.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find all of these books at the store.

Search for “women” and “woods” on the Internet, and you’ll mostly turn up harrowing stories of rescues and close calls. Despite the long history of the Girl Scouts and other nature-oriented organizations, our culture generally expects for women and girls to look something like this in the woods:

The young adult series “Lumberjanes,” however, has no patience for such stereotypes. These campers at Miss Qiunzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for “Hardcore Lady Types” may be briefly startled, but it only takes until the bottom of the page for them to recover, with style and grace, no less:

Continue reading “Brave the Wilderness with “Lumberjanes”: A Comic for “Hardcore Lady Types” and the Rest of Us”

Review of “Real Friends,” by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham

“Real Friends,” by Shannon Hale (Author) and LeUyen Pham (Illustrator). 224 Pages, First Second, May 2017. Paperback, $12.99. Ages 8-12.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find or order all of the books I review at the store.

 

Anti-bullying campaigns are so prevalent these days that, if you don’t have school-age kids yourself, you might think bullying in schools must have been successfully overcome. But we’re human animals after all, and as evidenced by some of our current political figures, there are some really mean people in the world. Thank goodness for books like “Real Friends,” which don’t shy away from the realities of mean people, but help young readers—not to mention adults—put them into perspective.

Shannon Hale has written and co-written more than twenty books and graphic novels—mostly for kids, although the adult series “Austenland” has been successful as well. “Real Friends” is Hale’s first graphic memoir, as having a protagonist named Shannon might suggest. “I changed all the names except my own, Hale told Entertainment Weekly, “because 30-year-old memories and my own flawed perception of events could never do justice to anybody else’s reality.”

We first meet this younger version of Shannon in the late 1970s, when she is on the verge of starting kindergarten, and terrified that she won’t make any friends. That first day of school turns out much better than expected: she almost instantly finds Adrienne, her new best friend. When Adrienne abruptly leaves town, however, Shannon begins her very bumpy road to finding and keeping the “one good friend” that she overhears her mother saying she needs.

Most reviews of this book gush about the way it unflinchingly represents the trials of elementary school’s unique version of mean. To the book’s credit, the character Shannon is shown committing her own fair share of mistakes and small meannesses, too. For the most part, however, we see Shannon suffering the all-too-relatable (for most of us) likes of this,

Continue reading “Review of “Real Friends,” by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham”