Archive for the ‘Graphic Novels’ Category

New Jimmy Liao features on the PaperTigers website

Tuesday, May 7th, 2013


PaperTigers Gallery: Jimmy Liao; illustration from his book The Sound of Colors

We are very excited to welcome artist Jimmy Liao to our Gallery on the PaperTigers website.  I love this illustration from his book The Sound of Colors, and I first fell in love with Jimmy’s work when I encountered The Blue Stone a few years ago.  Then, at the Bologna Book Fair in 2010, I was bowled over again by the vibrancy and joyous imagination of his work.  I just wanted to follow the little girl up that blossom-lined avenue!

Bologna Book Fair 2010 - 25/3

…and as for the meadow on the cover of One More Day with You, that you can also see here, along with other examples of Jimmy’s books…

Bologna Book Fair 2010 - 25/3

So I am thrilled that Jimmy has taken a pause on his phenomenal creative journey to join us at PaperTigers.  His books have taken his native Taiwan and also China and Japan by storm, and have been translated into many languages;  alas, they are not as well represented as they should be in English.  Please can we have more!

In our Gallery, Jimmy shares with us images from the three books that are available in English (When the Moon Forgot, The Blue Stone: A Journey Through Life, and The Sound of Colors: A Journey of the Imagination), as well as others — all depicting a physical journey within the realms of imagination: so head on over to the Gallery to find out more about Jimmy and his own personal journey as an artist, and to view some gorgeous examples of his vibrant artwork. (I should perhaps also point out that in the last few years Jimmy has also collaborated with well-known children’s authors to create some wonderfully imaginative children’s books – it would just be wonderful to have more of his own author-illustrator work available too.)

And is it possible that we have more for you? YES indeed!  For alongside Jimmy’s Gallery, we also have a very special Personal View “The Journey of Translation: Walking with Jimmy Liao“, written by author Sarah L. Thomson, who adapted the three titles mentioned above for publication by Little, Brown Books for Young Readers as picture books in English for children.  In the article she talks about the poetry within the books – and her article is itself a poetic tribute both to Jimmy’s work and to the art of translating – do read it!

And do share with us your own experiences of Jimmy’s books…theme_2013_journeys


Book of the Month: Azzi In Between by Sarah Garland

Friday, May 3rd, 2013

Azzi In Between by Sarah Garland (Frances Lincoln, 2012)Continuing our “Journeys” theme over on the PaperTigers website, our Book of the Month for May is the wonderful graphic novel for young readers and older, Azzi In Between by Sarah Garland (Frances Lincoln, 2012).

The cover image of a little girl clutching her teddy bear as she looks warily behind her while walking through a war-torn landscape sets the scene for what is to come, as Azzi and her family flee their unspecified Middle Eastern country and arrive as refugees in the Western city that will gradually become their home…the graphic format and the depth of this story aimed at young readers is also a quality read for older children through to adults…

You can read our full review here, and I also talk about it in my Personal View “Escaping Conflict, Seeking Peace: Picture books that relate refugee stories, and their importance“.

Azzi In Between is also one of the four books shortlisted for the recently inaugurated Little Rebels Children’s Book Award, given by the Alliance of Radical Booksellers and administered by Letterbox Library. The difficult task of deciding the winning book falls to guest judges Wendy Cooling and Elizabeth Laird, and the announcement will be made next week on 11 May at the new ARB London Radical Bookfair.  You can find out more about this exciting  award here, and follow news on the award’s blog.theme_2013_journeys

Week-end Book Review: Azzi In Between by Sarah Garland

Sunday, August 19th, 2012

Sarah Garland,
Azzi In Between
Frances Lincoln, 2012.

The cover image for Azzi In Between, showing a little girl clutching her teddy bear as she looks warily behind her while walking through a war-torn landscape, sets the scene for what is to come, as Azzi and her family flee their unspecified Middle Eastern country and arrive as refugees in the Western city that will gradually become their home.  What the cover doesn’t prepare you for is the book’s graphic format and the depth of this story aimed at young readers but also a quality read for older children through to adults.

War is depicted in shades of grey that contrast strikingly with the bright colors in Azzi’s happy, relatively unaffected home-life – but the war gradually encroaches until the day Azzi’s father, a doctor, receives a phone-call warning the family they must leave.  There follow the hurried departure, a terrifying journey and the bewildering newness of everything at their destination: the food, the language, school… Azzi also desperately misses her grandmother who has stayed behind, and worries that she may never see her again.

With the help of Sabeen, an assistant at school who was once a refugee like her, Azzi begins to settle in and make friends.  Then a school gardening project reminds her of the precious beans her parents have managed to bring safely all the way with them. Determined to plant them, she rushes home that afternoon only to discover that her mother has cooked them as a special treat for Azzi’s supper.  All is not lost, however, and there is much to be positive about at the end of the story: though more mature readers will pick up on the tempered quality of Azzi’s father’s answer when she asks if he is now happy – “I think you are making me happier, Azzi.”  Indeed, all the people Azzi comes into contact with are kind and welcoming but it is clear that her parents are managing to shield her from the brunt of their worries, as revealed by the shadows under Mother’s eyes, and the fact that Father is too tired when he comes home in the evening to share the new words he has learned that day.

Sarah Garland wrote Azzi In Between, which is endorsed by Amnesty International UK, after spending time with refugees in New Zealand.  She has created a gem of a story that is told with great sensitively and insight.  A perfect choice for reluctant readers and students like Azzi, learning English as a second language, every school should have this book readily to hand for every child to read – and perhaps it should also become compulsory reading for all government employees who work with asylum seekers.

Marjorie Coughlan
August 2012

Week-end Book Review: Drawing from Memory by Allen Say

Sunday, December 11th, 2011

Allen Say,
Drawing from Memory
Scholastic Press, 2011.

Ages 10+

Before even opening Allen Say’s latest book, the play on words of the title, Drawing from Memory, gives the reader a frisson of anticipation, enhanced by the simple cover illustration, a self-portrait of a young Allen Say floating, perhaps, in contemporary consideration of what has now become past. By the time we meet the illustration again in its context of an elated twelve-year-old Say having moved into his own one-room apartment, we are well and truly engrossed. Both before and after that defining moment in Say’s life, drawing is central to his existence. His childhood was not straightforward but Say recounts it with a lightness of touch in both words and pictures that is perfectly attuned to his readership. My favourite is perhaps the juxtaposition of a very small Allen drawing, drawing, drawing. Next along, a small boy walks away from his latest work, as his parents look in anger (father) and horror (mother) at the wall that has been turned into an artist’s canvas. The accompanying text, meanwhile, gives his father’s veto of art as a career for his son. This balance of humor and underlying tensions continues through the book, which ends with Say’s departure for America at the age of fifteen, “ready to start a new life with what I could carry on my back.”

Devotees of Say’s work will find vignettes linking to his previous books: however, the greatest parallels can be drawn with Say’s autobiographical novel The Ink Keeper’s Apprentice, for which Drawing from Memory is an absolutely must-have companion. For here at last is a full portrait of the real Sensei Noro Shinpei, the famous cartoonist to whom Say rather precociously and wholly pivotally apprenticed himself. Included in the narrative are photographs, nuggets of wisdom, and absorbing examples of Shinpei’s work. These include two cartoon characters that were Say and his fellow-apprentice Tokida, getting out of all sorts of scrapes. How wonderful is that! Further background about his later contact with Shinpei, who died in 2002, is given in Say’s moving Afterword.

Throughout the book, Say provides many vivid portraits: as well as his family, Sensei and Tokida, there is his art teacher Miss Goldfish, and her former pupil Orito-san, who taught Say karate as well as drawing from classical sculpture. And through it all is the self-portrait of a young man: his determination to be an artist no matter what, set against a complex family background and the cultural context of post-war Japan.

The story of Say’s childhood is a compelling one. It is fitting that, as an artist, he should tell it through pictures as well as words: and indeed, Say’s skilful combination of illustration and writing renders this account a masterpiece of graphic storytelling.

Marjorie Coughlan
December 2011

Shaun Tan’s The Arrival Is Set to a Musical Score

Monday, December 5th, 2011

Thanks to Zoe Toft at Playing by the Book for alerting me to this video of Shaun Tan’s award winning book The Arrival set to a musical score on the Sydney Opera House’s website.

Watch highlights of Shaun Tan’s visual masterpiece The Arrival featuring a live score by Ben Walsh and The Orkestra of the Underground.

The Arrival is a migrant story told as a series of wordless images. With his Orkestra of the Underground, Ben Walsh pooled a diverse range of musical talent and composed a score to accompany Tan’s beautiful illustrations in a rare and unique audio-visual experience.

Click here to watch

Week-end Book Review – Gandhi: A Manga Biography by Kazuki Ebine

Sunday, November 20th, 2011

Kazuki Ebine,
Gandhi: A Manga Biography
Penguin Books, 2011.

Ages 10-14

Award-winnning animation artist Kazuki Ebine’s Gandhi A Manga Biography appears at first glance to be an ideal meeting of form and content that will appeal greatly to young adult readers. The greyscale-illustrated book provides an easily digested overview of Gandhi’s life, including specific events in South Africa and India that tested and strengthened his resolve to resist all temptation toward violence. Ebine’s project is something of a ground breaker for a genre that is often associated with aggressive action stories.

As the page order is reversed (to left-to-right), the book will be an easy introduction to manga for readers accustomed to western page layout. Ebine’s skill as a draftsman is evident, particularly in his portrayal of Gandhi as he ages. Over the 192 pages of the story, Gandhi is taken from a precocious child through his education as a barrister in England to his appointment in South Africa, where his action on behalf of Indian civil rights inspires his growing conviction that only peaceful resistance has the moral force to overcome injustice, and finally to India, where he works with Nehru but fails to stop the political forces leading to the partition and to the creation of Pakistan.

Compelling as the story is, the execution is somewhat disappointing. Penguin’s second in its manga biography series (an earlier volume featured the Dalai Lama) badly needs an editor. The text is riddled with awkwardness, from the many instances of agreement error (Japanese doesn’t distinguish singular from plural) to amusingly goofy expressions. (My favorite is “When I first heard your speech, I was so inspired as if you boiled my blood.”) The only closing punctuation marks are exclamation points and question marks. The lack of page numbers is an inconvenience. Young readers expecting a deeper understanding of Gandhi’s life and moral development may find that in this case, the manga form is less adroit than usual at conveying story through image.

Despite these hindrances, manga enthusiasts will appreciate getting biographical information in a favored format, and Penguin’s effort to present Gandhi’s life and precepts to a generation of more visually-oriented young adult readers is laudable. Let’s hope the editorial glitches are worked out as the company publishes further inspiring lives in the manga genre.

Charlotte Richardson
November 2011

Shaun Tan at Seven Stories

Friday, August 26th, 2011

On Wednesday, Older Brother, Little Brother and I had the thrill of hearing this year’s Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award winner Shaun Tan speak at Seven Stories in Newcastle, during his whistle-stop visit to the UK. I’ve loved his work since being mesmerised by The Arrival four years ago; and we’ve also had the privilege of featuring Shaun’s work in our PaperTigers Gallery. Shaun’s picture books truly tap into something essential in our existence so that no matter how old you are and whatever your life experience, there is something there for everyone to absorb and distill. His books have had a big impact on the boys too, and it was a real eye-opener for them to meet their creator and hear about the drawn out process and sheer hard work that goes into producing a book. Now we are all desperate to see the Oscar-winning short of The Lost Thing!

Older Brother was most struck by Shaun saying that imperfection was a “very important concept for an artist”; and that he is always aiming for simplicity, because it’s through that apparent simplicity that he can achieve layer upon layer of meaning. Then accompanying the text with unexpected illustrations to create further tensions – but he pointed out that he wouldn’t call his work surreal per se: rather, the unexpected juxtaposition of familiar objects in his work is what is surreal.

Little Brother especially loved the first in Shaun’s series of cartoons depicting a day in his life: Waking to the Sound of a Solitary Cicada – a huge cicada looming in through the open window. He’s still laughing about that (but, as is so often the case with Shaun’s work, for me, the more I think about it, the more the funniness is tempered with a feeling of unease…). Little Brother also came home thinking about the humor and tensions achieved by people/creatures doing extrordinary things as though they are completely normal – like feeding Christmas decorations to a huge, friendly monster-machine aka the Lost Thing. And when Shaun pointed out that, as per the element of the familiar present in all his creations, the Lost Thing is a cross between a dog, a horse and an elephant, yes, you can absolutely see it.

I was bowled over by (more…)

Week-end Book Review: The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography by Tetsu Saiwai

Saturday, May 21st, 2011

Tetsu Saiwai,
The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography
Penguin Books, 2010.

Ages 12+

Manga biography is a great way to introduce historically significant personages that would appeal widely to certain readers, especially young adults: and Tetsu Saiwai’s manga biography The 14th Dalai Lama does just that. The 14th Dalai Lama aims to inform readers of the life of the 14th Dalai Lama from his birth until the present day. The story is a dramatic one – from its beginning in 1939 where the young boy, Llhamo Dondrub, born of a peasant family, is discovered to be the reincarnation of the former Dalai Lama, through his removal to Lhasa, where he grows up and is educated by the monks, to his eventful departure from Tibet for India in 1959.

The story is book-ended by the Dalai Lama in the present day. It starts with his recounting of the past to an audience made up of foreigners, and ends with his expression of the spiritual tenets he abides by because of who he is. It is really those spiritual values of the Dalai Lama that are an inspiration to the world; what this manga biography does, in part, is show how these values came to be formed and also tested. A good example of this is the Dalai Lama’s struggle to stay peaceful amidst the growing persecution of his people by the Chinese. Even as his loyal Tibetan advisers urge him to get ‘support from foreign governments’, he is recalcitrant, for he is utterly convinced that getting such support from the likes of the American CIA, for example, will inevitably lead to armed conflict. He chooses the way of peace, consistently and with determination, in spite of the odds and temptations to do otherwise.

Although the manga style and format of this book are fairly conventional, they are both used to good effect to tell the compelling story of a remarkable contemporary figure. While there were no particularly visually arresting moments in the book, I think the book is intended to be educational than artistically entertaining. In other words, for your average young adult reader, it will have conveyed the Dalai’s Lama’s story in a manner they can easily consume and engage with. One quibble: I hope that page numbers will be included in future editions should Penguin continue to publish more of these manga biographies. Such biographies are a welcome addition to the growing market of manga fare available in English for young adult readers.

Sally Ito
May 2011

Postcard from Japan: Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

This past week, my teenage son and I had the chance to visit the Osamu Tezuka Manga Museum located in Takarazuka city.  Osamu Tezuka is often referred to as the ‘father of manga’ and is highly revered by manga artists in Japan.  His most famous works include Astro Boy, Black Jack and Jungle Emperor Leo.

The museum was opened in 1994 and contains items from Tezuka’s life like his numerous sketchbooks and writings, as well as an animation studio in the basement, and a screening room for films.  There is also a library, shop and cafe on the upper floor.  On our visit, the exhibition hall was filled with panels from Tezuka’s manga series Buddha, which is about to debut as a full-length animated film this May.

My son and I enjoyed touring the museum.  In the animation studio, we drew our own little two panel animations where we could see our drawings in action on backdrops of our own design.  I think my son’s favorite part of the museum was the library where there were multilingual editions of Tezuka’s most famous manga.

While he read, I watched an interactive media program about Tezuka’s life.  Born in 1928, the oldest of three sons, he took to drawing at an early age.  As a youngster, he was often bullied and took much solace in his imagination.  In particular, he was inspired by the world of nature, especially insect life.  In fact, Tezuka took his pen-name from an insect called the osamushi.  He continued with his obsession of drawing cartoons, even during the war years, when such activity was considered frivolous and unpatriotic.  While young, Tezuka had a serious swelling in his arm which was cured by a doctor; Tezuka then wanted to become a doctor himself and pursued medical studies in university.  However, he continued with his drawing of manga, and eventually, on the advice of his mother, pursued his one true passion as his sole profession even though, at the time, such a career was considered precariously unstable.  And the rest, they say, is history!

700 manga later, with Tezuka immortalized by the Japanese as the god of manga, it is unfortunate that so few of Tezuka’s work are available in English.   Hopefully that will change in the years to come.

Graphic Novel: Indian By Choice

Tuesday, November 9th, 2010

This month’s PaperTigers issue is all about India.  I recently stumbled on a great graphic novel resource for young people about what it is like being an Indian American visiting India for the first time.  The book is called Indian by Choice by Amit Dasgupta, Art by Neelabh (Wisdom Tree, 2009.)   Mandy is a second generation Indian American, born and raised in Chicago.   Because of unforeseen family events (his mother has been in an accident), Mandy must go to India alone for the wedding of his cousin Gurinder in Delhi.  His trip is for four weeks and he is unsure and tentative about the whole thing.   Beginning with the flight, he is amongst other Indians and Indian Americans, one of whom sitting beside him questions Mandy aggressively about his name: “Mandy?  Arrey dost, Mandeep kaho na, ya Maninder.  What is this Mandy nonsense?”  Of course, Mandy knows his name is short for ‘Mandeep’ but as far as he is concerned he is “Mandy” all the way.

Although Mandy does not have a very good attitude towards visiting his parents’ homeland, luckily his relatives are a warm, loving and hospitable bunch.   And it is this aspect of the book that I found most rewarding to read about.  I remember my own first time adult visit to Japan in high school.   The hospitality shown to me by my extended family there made me both proud of and more curious about my Japanese heritage.

The Indian diaspora is huge.  In Canada, we refer to Indians from the subcontinent as either Indo-Canadian or South Asian.  Indo Canadians have a long history in Canada and also come from all parts of India as well as neighboring Pakistan.   Mandy’s story, I’m sure, will certainly not be unfamiliar to many!  Although I have read books written by authors of Indian descent about their cultural identities, this is the first time I’ve seen a book published on the topic from an Indian press which makes Indian by Choice rather unique.   The story is also told in an amalgam of graphics, e-mail texts and photographs which makes for a different style of presentation — a style I’m not entirely sold on, but found nontheless intriguing to look at and read.   At the back of the book is an informative essay containing some interesting facts about India and the Indian diaspora by author Amit Dasgupta who is himself, an Indian diplomat.