Into the Volcano by Don Wood (Early Reviewer Book)

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I’ve been trying to think of unique ways to describe this graphic novel without using “visually stunning” and “breathtakingly beautiful,” but I can’t do it.  Every panel is a work of art.  The scenes where the lava meets the ocean are perfect.  It’s just ink on a page, but Wood captures the light, the hiss, and the heat.  The graphic novel not only stands up to artistic scrutiny, but also has a gripping story.

It’s a mystery- adventure that appeals to a younger audience, but I found myself engrossed. Brothers, Sumo and Duffy, are pulled out of class unexpectedly by their father to be shipped off to an island with a mysterious cousin they’ve never met.  The whole enterprise is shady, and when the boys meet Auntie, it gets even more suspicious.  The book twists and turns, so the reader is never quite sure who’s good and who’s bad.  The boys have to do some self-reflection.

Wood’s artistic portrayals of the characters captivated me.  I was shaken by overweight Auntie with her greenish-pink skin and broken foot.  I immediately knew something wasn’t quite right with her.  You can almost smell her.  The boys have a  pugish Hawaiian look, which made me not fall for them right away.  That’s a good thing.  Most books aimed at younger audiences try to win the reader over to the protagonist’s side with sentimentality too soon. Wood’s style and scope gives the book a cinematic depth that I have rarely seen in graphic novels.  One panel you’re in the boat with the characters, waves pounding; the next you have a bird’s eye view.  It sets a fast adventure pace that young readers will love.

Overall, I’ll be shocked if Into The Volcano doesn’t win some awards.

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Maus- Art Spiegelman

After playing the Indiana Jones Legos game on the Wii and seeing the triology box set of the movies, my eldest son has become interested in WWII and the Nazis as bad guys.  That reminded me of the seminal graphic novel Maus by Art Spiegelman.  Since the Nazis portrayed the Jews as vermin to be exterminated, Spiegelman draws the Jews as mice and Nazis as cats.  This cat and mouse metaphor makes the reader comfortable with the very serious material using seemingly harmless animal comic characters, but it also creates many levels of meaning dealing with racial stereotypes, nationalistic identities, and the commonality of humanity.

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Art Spiegelman

Terminus

I will spend the New Year at home with my family. No exciting parties- the kids are watching Shrek 2 on TV and eating popcorn. I was thinking of writing about Jim Carroll (the poet, diarist, rock singer) last night, but realized it would take multiple posts and an amount of work I’m unwilling to commit at the moment to do the man justice. I had the pleasure of seeing him give a reading at a local college in the mid-’90s. He was excellent. Among his own work, Jim read a poem by Nicholas Christopher, which sent chills and silence through the room. The poem is called “Terminus.” I posted it below. I think besides Jim’s own “Eight Fragments for Kurt Cobain,” this was the best reading that night. The poem is about the things humans do and have done since the beginning of time. I post it now, at the end of the year, in an attempt to make us think about this long history we have of doing horrible things to one another. Let’s try to change individually. Continue reading “Terminus”