Genre: Graphic Novels

Graphic Novel  assignment for January 24, 2012:

Remember–To quote one of our sheroes, Joyce Saricks: “each platform is only a platform for story.”

 Benchmarks:  Read both Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic & Brian Vaughan’s Pride of Baghdad

 Read a third title in any of the graphic novel formats.

Focus on all the appeal factors, but really think about the interaction of the visual and the textual in Graphic Novels.

Please post your RA review of your 3rd Graphic Novel choices on this RA RT Blog: Any choice will do but please claim your third title down below so that we hear about a variety of titles and authors. Use the Submit 2nd Title Info for claiming and reviewing your choice.

If you would like a few suggestions…

  • Spiegelman, Art. Maus: A Survivor’s Tale. (1986)
    The author-illustrator traces his father’s imprisonment in a Nazi concentration camp through a series of disarming and unusual cartoons arranged to tell the story as a novel.
  • Satrapi, Marjane. Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood. (2003)
    The great-granddaughter of Iran’s last emperor and the daughter of ardent Marxists describes growing up in Tehran in a country plagued by political upheaval and vast contradictions between public and private life.
  • Yang, Gene Luen. American Born Chinese. (2009)
    Alternates three interrelated stories about the problems of young Chinese Americans trying to participate in the popular culture.
  • Moore Alan. Watchmen (1986)
    This stunning graphic novel chronicles the fall from grace of a group of superheroes plagued by all too human failings. The concept of the super hero is dissected and inverted as strangely realistic characters are stalked by an unknown assassin. Originally published as a 12 issue series in 1986 and 1987, WATCHMEN remains one of DC Comics’ most popular graphic novels.
  • Woods, Brian. DMZ; Vol 1: On the Ground (2006)
    A near-future America is torn by war between the Free Armies, who control New Jersey and the inland, and the United States, ensconced in New York City’s boroughs. In the war-torn DMZ of Manhattan, Matty Roth, hired as a phototech intern to a famous battlefield journalist, is stranded when the rest of his crew is killed. Overcoming initial panic, he decides to remain as the sole embedded journalist in the devastated, largely depopulated city. It’s a career-making assignment–if it doesn’t get him killed.
  • Gaiman, Neil. Sandman. Series. (1988)
    The Sandman and his siblings are embodiments of the dark forces of nature—-death, destiny, and other dismaying elementals. They play out their adventures mostly in contemporary settings.
  • Willingham, Bill. Fables: Legend in Exile; bk.1 (2002)
    Follows the adventures of storybook and nursery rhyme characters Snow White, the Big Bad Wolf, and others who live side-by-side with humans in New York.
  • Wang, Jen. Koko Be Good. (2010)
    Koko, a troublemaker who has promised herself to clean up her act, crosses paths with Jon, a promising musician going to Peru to support his girlfriend’s humanitarian mission–a meeting that will change the direction of both their lives.
  • Sievert, Tim. That Salty Air. (2007)
    When Hugh, a humble fisherman, feels the sea has betrayed him, his whole existence is thrown into question, and he takes his revenge on the ocean, putting himself and his family in danger in the process.
  • Nicholas, Jamar. Fist, Stick, Knife, Gun: A Personal History of Violence. (2010)
    Presents a graphic adaptation of Geoffrey Canada’s memoir of a Bronx, N.Y. childhood, along with an analysis of how a chain of events set in motion by 1960s drug laws has led to the child violence on the streets today.

Notes for Reader’s Advisory Round Table – Massachusetts: Reading Public Library:  January 24, 2012

Present:  Michelle and Trisha (Danvers), Eileen (Reading), Tatiana (Methuen), Leane Ellis (Wakefield), Amy (Attleboro), Sarah (Danvers Middle School), Diane Giarrusso (Tewksbury), Jan Resnick (South Hadley)

Next Meeting:  March 27, Peabody Institute Library, Danvers, 9:45 – 12

Topic:  Christian Inspirational Fiction

Benchmark:  Joel C. Rosenberg’s – The Twelfth Imam

For second titles, consider: Dee Henderson or Wanda E. Brunstetter (Amish), or Beverly Lewis

New (to us) series site:  http://nlc.nebraska.gov/ref/booksinseries.asp

Reminder:  For great read-alike lists, subscribe to:  W. 11th and Bluff, the official blog of the Adult Services Department at Carnegie-Stout Public Library,  Duluth, Iowa  http://carnegiestout.blogspot.com/

Graphic Novel Discussion:

  • The discussion began with The Pride of Baghdad.
  • Were the animals’ behaviors theirs or the behaviors of humans?
  • Gang rape of lioness was disturbing.
  • The humans had the characteristics of animals.
  • “I didn’t know.” Does that redeem the killing of the lions?  Would the soldier have felt that way if it were another combatant?
  • “What does freedom mean?”
  • Is interspecies communication possible?  Interspecies cooperation?
  • The group felt we need a new vocabulary to describe graphic novels.  Like we need one for audio.
  • Are graphic novels traditional storytelling in a new medium?
  • What level of collaboration is there between author and illustrator?
  • Are graphic novels more or less accessible?  For some of us they are certainly more complex and difficult.
  • Can see why teens enjoy them.  Graphic novels allow for levels of reading/interpretation.  Kids can decode their own view of the story.
  • This novel is an allegory which allows some distance for the reader.
  • Could pair it with Folman’s Waltz with Bashir (Lebanon) or The Zookeeper’s Wife.  With Wood’s DMZ series?  O’Brien – The Things They Carried. 
  • Subtle text, not flamboyant like superheroes text.
  • Colors are dramatic.

Bechdel – Fun Home, a memoir

  • No colors, black and white.
  • The memoir was incredibly revealing.
  • The language is lofty; the pictures bring the text to a more accessible level.
  • Her father is ‘disappointed’ in her; but he is a pedophile; who should be disappointed in whom?

Who is her ‘audience?’  Who would we want to tell that story to?  Herself, then anyone who needs it, to know they are not alone in this kind of cruel treatment?

Leane’s digression on her theory of writer’s choices:  There must be a beginning (who, where, what; choice of narrator voice.)  There must be an ending – did the author know where the story would end all along?  The beginning and end must come together in an organic, logical way.

Third Titles: 

French Milk (Diane, Tatiana) – Travel memoir, candid language, lots of white space around drawings, atmospheric; graphic diary; contemplative, slice of time; comics are the author’s medium.

Stitches (Eileen) – this is a children’s author’s memoir; fast paced, illustrations B&W, eerie, dreary – adds to the fear, atmosphere.  Easy to empathize, powerful, moving; as an adult, he is OK.

Habibi – Thompson (Trisha, Tatiana) – This is set in the modern middle east; complex narrative, lots of layers – magic square; a young girl from an impoverished family is married to a scribe; he teaches her to read and write; when he dies, she is sold in a slave market along with a 3-year-old boy who no one claims so she says he is hers; Habibi is a coming of age story for both the girl and the young boy she adopts; they escape to the desert where she cares for the boy and teaches him to read and write.  Intricate, lush illustration; serious issues dealt with.

The Losers (Book One) – Andy Diggle (Michelle)  Losers – Not!  These are five guys who can do almost anything, although each has a specialty; they are strong personalities; the style is harsh to fit the story; cinematic (books one and two are combined into a movie – must see!)  There is lots of swearing, great espionage – now the guys are black ops.  Exciting; appeal to high school boys and librarians!

American Born Chinese (Sarah) – Fictional memoir alternates among three at first apparently disparate stories; dialogue is very authentic; none of the characters want to be themselves; fast-paced, lots of white space; need both text and pictures; bathroom humor; will appeal to junior and senior high schoolers.

Meanwhile (Amy)a ‘choose your own adventure’ type graphic novel has a very complex track/diagram format.

Meta-maus – Spiegelman – very rich, the making of the Maus books.

Death: the Cost of Living – Gaiman (Leane)One of the books in the Death series; allegory.  In this one, Death is a hot Goth chick; what is life about?  Quick read, enjoyable – great story line, irreverent; ends with a separate segment about how to use a condom; in a very humorous style.

Watchmen – Alan Moore/Dave Gibbons (Jan) – follows two generations of ‘masked vigilantes’ from the end of WWII to the Cold War.  Story has multiple levels and formats.  In the primary story, someone is killing off the remaining costumed adventurers.  One is discredited (he actually has special powers and removes himself to Mars, upsetting the balance of power between the US and the Soviets.)  Who is behind this plot? There are numerous subplots and supporting documentation:  excerpts from one character’s book, police reports, news reports, etc.

Additional titles:

Leane -The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay by Michael Chabon—a novel which won the Pulitzer Prize with graphic novels at the center of the plot.

Trisha – Marzi by Marzena Sowa–great pair with Persepolis

Moving Pictures by Kathryn Immonen, Stuart Immonen– Nazi era, working to hide French art from the Nazis

Stargazing Dog by Takashi Murakami– Poignant, manga

Michelle – Captain America: Man Out of Time by Mark Waid, Jorge Molina and Jack Kirby; takes original comic into our era

Superman: Earth One by J. Michael Straczynski and Shane Davis– Full color

Batman: Noel – Batman does The Christmas Carol

Iron Man Noir by Scott Snyder and Manuel Garcia – takes Tony Stark back to his father’s time

The Sixth Gun, Vol. 1 by Cullen Bunn and Brian Hurtt – Cowboys and aliens

American Vampire – Not for Twilight fans, adult ratings

Diane – Psychiatric Tales: Eleven Graphic Stories About Mental Illness by Darryl Cunningham; each story takes on a different psychiatric illness, its effect on a patient and family; memoir; great introduction to mental illness, very humanizing; accessible, frank, plain language; unflinching; unassuming.

Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt – good pairing (novel)

Eileen – Burma Chronicles by Guy Delisle; travelogue

Americus by M. K. Reed and Jonathan David Hill – book banning

Mid-Life by Joe Ollmann  – When the body sags and the honesty lags

SECOND TITLES

sarah woo

American Born Chinese – Gene Luen Yang
Appeal Factors: Authentic dialog, humor, quick read

The book alternates among 3 stories that seem disconnected but become interconnected by the end. First is the story of Monkey King, a character from Chinese folklore, who insists he’s a god but is rejected by the other gods. He refuses to be what he is and as a result wastes hundreds of years in a useless rage. Second is the story of Jin Wang, a Chinese American just trying to fit in at his high school where he experiences bullying, prejudice, and ostracism because of his race. He has a crush on a Caucasian girl and will do anything, be anything, to get her to pay attention to him and return his feelings. The third story involves Danny, a Caucasian who suffers through a visit from his Chinese cousin each year that is so horrible it forces him to move to another school each year after the visit. The cousin embodies every Chinese stereotype you’ve ever heard and constantly engages in cringe worthy actions and dialog. This is the story of an Asian boy trying to make it in a Caucasian world, but it is also the story of any teen who thinks that s/he doesn’t fit in and will contemplate changing his or her personality in order to be accepted. Ultimately the story is about self-acceptance. The art is simple but gets the point across and really adds to the meaning of the dialog. It is the art in juxtaposition to the text that creates the humor in the story.

Note: Much bathroom humor, a number of sexual references, and many off-color jokes

Diane Giarrusso

Wonder Woman: Love and Murder – Jodi Picoult
Appeal Factors: fast paced; WW is more developed than traditionally; good sense of superhero subgenre; J.P. wanted to humanize WW, but also keep her kick-*** attitude; linear storyline with only a few flashbacks

3 comics in 1 volume written by Jodi Picoult, the first female to write in this series. Picoult adds humor and a personal touch to our superheroine. Illustrations are reassuringly classic, but with a modern explicit edge. The
illustrations serve more to illustrate the action, rather than as an equal partner
in telling the story. Especially enjoyed the yellow and blue blocks of text that
were on panels that showed what WW and Nemesis were thinking while they were talking to each other or in the midst of action. WW and Nemesis were a great F/M team with sexual chemistry.

My first superhero comic as an adult. I enjoyed it, but don’t really have anything to compare it to…

Pschiatric Tales – Darryl Cunningham
Appeal Factors: 3 Terms: Poignant, Candid, Sympathetic; unhurried pace; sympathetic unnamed characters each with a different mental illness; B&W illustrations that show vignettes of the stories and characters; authentic, plain, frank and informative language; matter of fact tone; stories mostly take place in a psychiatric ward; each story when added to the next gives more complete picture of the effects mental illness has on the patient as well as those surrounding him/her.

Taking place in contemporary Great Britain, Cunningham relates stories of mental illness based upon his experiences while working in a psychiatric hospital. There are 11 stories of mental illness ranging from depression, cutting, dementia, self-harm, bipolar and suicide portrayed here. Empathetic language and illustrations bring the reader to the end of the book where Cunningham describes his own mental illness. I’m glad that he wrote this book as it humanizes diseases that are still taboo in our society. I would give this book to people who enjoy memoirs; people who liked the movie or novel “It’s Kind of a Funny Story”, and as a non-threatening introduction to mental health issues. I truly enjoyed this book! I also think this book would be interesting partnered with Mr. Chartwell by Rebecca Hunt…

Pride of Baghdad – Brian K. Vaughan, Niko Henrichon
Appeal Factors: fast paced while illustrations compell you to slow down and really appreciate the plot and art; lions, turtles, bears…metaphors for human foibles, but they are also characterized as their own species; dialogue heavy, but with illustrations, move the plot unrelentingly forward; Tone: somber, anxious, uncomfortable anticipation; Frame: I think using animals to characterize and move the plot allows reader to step back to view and process the violence inherent in war; Storyline is linear and emphasizes both creature and events of this tragic event; the story is accessible on many levels and the reader understands that this is just one of the tragic stories of this war.

Re-imagines in text and illustration the events after the Baghdad Zoo was bombed in 2003. Illustrations use desert colors as well as the flaming destruction of war. The Lions are both “lion-ish” and human in their interactions with each other and with the other animals (all the characters are portrayed this way). The reader keeps feeling that humans become animals when they are given the excuse… Not only a re-telling, but also a metaphor for oppression, free will, freedom and the cost of war. Other similar books/authors: Brian Wood the DMZ series, for his unflinching look at human behavior in the worst of times; Joe Sacco, a journalist who created several graphic novels illustrating war zones in the Middle East. I thing novels that discuss archtypal human behavior would be: The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr., Animal Farm by Orwell…

French Milk – Lucy Knisley
Appeal Factors: Pacing: Leisure and easy; Characterizations: centered around Lucy’s experiences, fears and hopes; her parents seem both typical and supportive; Language/Style: candid and simple, excellent descriptions and sketches of foods, whimsical drawings and atmospheric b&w photos; Tone/Mood: watchful and gentle, joural/diary format; Frame: much white space around illustrated frames enhance the leisurely pace and ensure a “petites histoires” tone; Story line: linear, action-oriented and contemplative; a slice of life narrative.

Through whimsical sketches and honest writing, Lucy re-tells her story of spending 6 weeks in Paris with her Mother when they both had milestone birthdays (Lucy turned 22). It intrigues me that this book was published. I really liked it, but at its heart it is a simple slice of life look at a 22 year-old’s trip to Paris. I don’t believe every story has to have a point, and I’m glad I read this, but it is a mystery to me that it was published. I’ll have to read her second book: Radiator Days and get back to you!

Jan Resnick

Owly: The Way Home & The Bittersweet Summer – Andy Runton
Appeal Factors: Pace – easy, gentle; Language/style – simple, expressive, engaging; Story – character-driven; Tone – Poignant, heart-warming; Frame – The woods, anytime

Owly is a kind, but lonely owl – other birds are afraid of him. In the first story he rescues Wormy from a puddle during a heavy rain and nurses him back to health. Wormy has lost his parents who moved furing the rainstorm. Owly helps him find them, but starts to return home even more lonely. Wormy also misses Owly, and the two friends go back home together. In the second story, Owly and Wormy befriend a pair of hummingbirds only to be saddened when they have to leave for the winter. They all learn that “saying good-bye doesn’t always mean forever.” This is an ‘all ages’ graphic novel. Gentle stories with appealing, simple graphics.

Watchmen – Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colourist John Higgins
Appeal Factors: Moderately paced due to the levels of story and complexity; Characterizations: flamboyant in comics style; Story: Intricately plotted and issue-oriented; Tone: bleak, darkly humorous, dark; Frame: Mostly NYC, 1980’s.

Watchmen is a twelve-issue comic book limited series created by writer Alan Moore, artist Dave Gibbons, and colourist John Higgins. The series was published by DC Comics during 1986 and 1987, and has been subsequently reprinted in collected form. Supporting documents, sections from a book, police reports, magazine articles, by and about the characters are interspersed between chapters/issues.

According to the book, masked vigilantes rose to deal with various criminal elements in the 1930’s and 40’s. By the time of Watchmen, this vigilante activity is outlawed. The characters went their own way fading into the real world for the most part, into everyday lives. Suddenly, members of their group are dying – is there an assassin, eliminating them one by one? They make contact with one another to determine what is happening. Watchmen chronicles their search for an answer, an examination of whether real adults would dress in costume, were they brave, necessary or merely sad?

>From Wikipedia: “Watchmen depicts an alternate history where superheroes emerged in the 1940s and 1960s, helping the United States to win the Vietnam War. The country is edging towards a nuclear war with the Soviet Union, freelance costumed vigilantes have been outlawed and most former superheroes are in retirement or working for the government. The story focuses on the personal development and struggles of the protagonists as an investigation into the murder of a government sponsored superhero pulls them out of retirement, and eventually leads them to confront a plot that would stave off nuclear war by killing millions of people.

Watchmen is difficult to read – there are so many threads, illustrations are so complex. It offers numerous themes for discussion. Most librarians should be aware of it. Could be paired for discussion with Neil Gaiman’s American Gods.

Michelle Deschene-Warren

The Losers, Book 1 – Andy Diggle, Jock
Appeal Factors: Storyline & Character; Fast paced; Art that matches the tone of the plot – hard, unflinching, limited primary color palette, great use of shadow (which, again, echoes the tone of the story)

The Losers are a special ops unit comprised of five men in possession of highly specialized and honed skills: Clay, tactical command; Jensen, technical genius; Cougar, unmatched sniper; Pooch, transport and mechanical master; and Roque, demolition and explosives expert. Targeted for elimination by a shadowy man working for a branch of the CIA, the Losers are presumed dead, but are alive and well and planning the ultimate payback for the man – known only as Max – who took everything away from them. Max really should have made sure they were dead, because the Losers never lose, and you know what they say about payback.

Storyline and character are neck-in-neck for the biggest appeal of this graphic novel. The story itself is action-driven – lots of guns and explosions – but there is also a mystery element in that 1) the team doesn’t know anything about Max aside from his code name, and 2) they have to unravel why they were targeted for elimination, and how to get to the people responsible in order to make them pay. For readers who enjoy military or spec-ops fiction, this book is a no-brainer, but the puzzle piece nature of the plot may also appeal to fans of mystery and espionage. The characters, all disparate individuals who have come together and formed a tight bond, are larger than life, clearly defined by strong personalities, which makes watching them work together a whole lot of fun. Aside from the violence, the only thing to be cautious of is the language: these boys do enjoy naughty words. The art isn’t as detailed as it is in other graphic novels, but it perfectly fits the tone of the story. Oh, and it’s a two volume set; keep that in mind for readers who might be a little disgruntled when they get to the end of book one to find out that nothing has been resolved. Also, there is a FANTASTIC movie based on this graphic novel; it is funny and action-packed, highly quotable, and stars some really, really hot (and perfectly cast) guys. Bonus!

Batman: Noel – Lee Bermejo
Appeal Factors: GORGEOUS Art; Story; Character; Tension

Batman meets Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in this gorgeous graphic novel. Bermejo has placed Scrooge’s coat, so to speak, on Batman’s shoulders to great effect. All things considered, Batman: Noel is actually a fairly faithful adaptation of the classic in that Batman has three visitors, there’s a young boy named Tim, and the events of one night make Batman/Bruce Wayne reevaluate his actions. The story reveals a great depth of emotion, something that may not normally be attributed to superhero literature (but should, always), and watching Batman/Bruce Wayne struggle to reconcile what he set out to do and what he has actually done is…really quite stirring.

That said, even if the story didn’t work as well as it does, this book would be worth its weight in gold for the art alone. It is phenomenal. Nuanced, remarkably realistic, and done in gorgeous full color. You can see emotions play out on the characters’ faces, can almost feel the chill in the air as snow falls down, covering the streets of Gotham, and it conveys amazing tension. A superlative addition to the ranks of superhero graphic novels.

Captain America: Man Out of Time – Mark Waid, Jorge Molina
Appeal Factors: Character; Storyline; Frame; and Expressive, full color art

It’s 1945, and Steve Rogers -  known to the world as Captain America, super soldier – and his best friend Bucky Barnes are in Germany, holed-up after a successful mission. When transfer orders come down, the duo heads out, and tragedy strikes. Bucky is killed, and Cap, well…He wakes up seventy years in the future, surrounded by a group of costumed people. Struggling to reconcile his place in this new world, Steve must learn to work with a group of superheroes known as the Avengers while desperately searching for a way to get back to his own time in order to save Bucky. The problem is, the new world needs Captain America every bit as much, and going back just may have a catastrophic effect on the time stream.

Steve Rogers and his super soldier alter ego is, in my opinion, one of the most compelling, sympathetic characters in the superhero cabal. This particular story revolves around Cap’s rebirth and immersion into the Avengers, which may appeal to fans of the Marvel film franchise who have decided to seek him out in print. For a leaping off point, it’s not a bad place to get to know him. (Though you’ll likely find that readers will then want to go back and dig into his history, because this book offers no details on how or why he became Captain America.) There’s a lot of American history briefly covered in this graphic novel; Steve, after all, missed decades of progress, and is given a lesson by Tony Stark – Iron Man himself – on the ways in which the world moved on after Hitler was defeated. One thing I will say is, despite this book having a very narrow focus on one aspect of Cap’s story, the man will likely break your heart as you watch him struggling to find his way. This story also features Tony/Iron Man, Thor, and several other Avengers (who aren’t set to be featured in the upcoming movie).

The art is really expressive in that, words aside, you can see what the characters’ are thinking, feeling. (Another reason Steve will break your heart. His face! His posture. *sob*) And the color is beautifully done.

Superman: Earth One – J. Michael Straczynski, Shane Davis
Appeal Factors:

Iron Man Noir – Scott Snyder, Manuel Garcia
Appeal Factors: Storyline; Character; Retro-y art

Iron Man Noir is an AU in which Tony Stark – rather than his father, Howard – is alive and having marvelous and dangerous adventures in the 1940s. In the story told here, Tony, searching for a means to prolong his life by finding something that will keep his failing heart in good working order, sets out to discover Atlantis and a mythical element thought to have incredible power. He runs across familiar foes – Baron Zemo among them – and brings along his associate James Rhodes, his comic book chronicler Pepper Potts, and works on a metal suit with Jarvis.

This one is just a lot of fun. Readers unfamiliar with Tony Stark/Iron Man will enjoy it if only for the Jules Verne/Edgar Rice Burroughs nostalgic feel of the story (which is furthered along by the art), but longtime fans of the character should also enjoy it – especially with the walloping twist towards the end. This Tony carries a little less baggage (mind, I did say a little), and only hints at the “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” the (awesome) movies (and some of the comics) have portrayed him as.

Leane Ellis

Death: The High Cost of Living – Neil Gaiman & Mike Dringenberg
Appeal Factors:: Mythology/Characters/Pace

Death is a hot Goth chic who saves a boy who is contemplating suicide and takes him on a journey with her so he can see other people and their struggles. Death as a character works. She is hot but this is an allegory and defines what there is about life that is worth living. Good pacing makes you turn the pages–illustrations support, embellish and contradict the text. Dramatic and dark colors add depth to the story and reading experience. The High Cost of Living is a continuation of Harvey Award-winning fantasy writer Gaiman’s series detailing the cosmic duties of a loose family of seven immortals. Not quite Gods, they embody realms of psychic experience: Dream, Desire, Despair, Destiny, Delirium, Destruction and Gaiman’s very popular character, Death. All part of the Sandman series. Humorous and real. After this story–there is a short story about how and why you should use a condom–wry and technical–very helpful and a non-threatening way to share knowledge. I would read more and sundry.

Tricia Arrington

Habibi – Craig Thompson
Appeal Factors: Character, Complex Storyline, Setting

Set in modern Middle East, Habibi tells the story of Dodola who is married off to a scribe at a very young age. Her husband teaches her to read and write and often tells her stories from the books he is transcribing. When he is killed by bandits, Dodola is sold into slavery, where she meets Zam, a young boy who no one else claims as their child. They both escape and live for a time on an abandoned ship in the desert. Dodola gets food from passing caravans. As Zam gets older he follows Dodola to the caravan and witnesses her being raped. Zam decides that he will find another way to feed them, so Dodola doesn’t have to provide sexual favors in exchange for food. While he is off trying to find food, Dodola is captured by the guards for the local Sultan and becomes part of his harem. Though they are not far apart, Zam and Dodola spend years trying to find each other.

Habibi is not for the faint of heart. The structure of the story revolves around the magic square and each chapter represents part of the square. Each chapter begins with a religious story that reflects the story of the two main characters. The artwork is intricate and brings to life the stories and the lush setting of the harem. Language, writing and story are important themes throughout as are issues of religion, race and sexuality.

Possible Dealbreakers: rape, nudity and sexual scenes, violence

Stargazing Dog – Takashi Murakami

Appeal Factors: Character, Tone

Although this is manga, don’t think of your stereotypical manga characters. Stargazing dog is told from the point of view of a dog named Happy who is adopted by a Japanese family. While he is technically the daughter’s dog, the father of the family soon becomes his sole caretaker. Daddy is a mild-mannered man. He works hard, but he is not ambitious. He loses his job, and after a time of unemployment, his wife files for divorce. Daddy decides to take Happy on a road trip along the coast. Stargazing Dog is about a dog who wants what he can’t have and a man who can’t keep up with the pace of his world. Keep the tissues handy!