Things We Love – The Graphic Novel Gift Guide

These are the graphic novels I’ve recommended all year to my friends and family.  Some are oldies but goodies and others I stumbled onto recently.  Each infused my time with a page turning wonder, teary-eyed empathy, or filled it with a joyful fright (I know that seems odd, but I’m assuming you haven’t read Through the Woods yet). Whether you’re filling up a stocking or trying hard to receive the word ‘covet’ in your thank you card – you can’t miss with these gems.

“Comics aren’t visual art, and they’re not prose. They’re a medium that exists in the tension between images and text.”—Glen Weldon, NPR

 

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki

“This One Summer” is a graphic novel by Mariko Tamaki with charcoal-and-ink art by Jillian Tamaki, a team of cousins whose first collaboration, Skim, won a New York Times Illustrated Children’s Book Award. “Summer” tells the complex and ultimately edifying story of Rose, a tween who deals with family tensions and—vicariously, by watching the local teens in the town where her family vacations—explores the mysterious world of near-adulthood.  Heads up gift givers, at times the subject matter does veer off into references to porn, and sex. You know, in case you hadn’t planned on talking to the kiddies about this stuff just yet. You’ve been warned.

 

The Wrenchies

I cannot recommend this book enough.  Farel Dalrymple brings his literary and artistic powers to this sprawling ‘dark’ science fiction graphic novel about regret, obsession, and the uncertainty of growing up.  Let’s talk about the countless hours you will stare at the illustrations in this novel- both gorgeous and grotesque.  The detail is mind-blowing, as is the fact that you’ll find yourself reading a book within a book.  I promise I won’t ruin anything else, I’ll leave you to discover the subtle pop culture and literary references throughout.

 

Through The Woods

 

I can’t remember the last time I read with a flashlight under the covers.  Emily Carroll’s Through the Woods are horror stories for your dreary literary soul.   A terrifying world in the woods lay in wait in this collection of five hauntingly beautiful graphic stories of fairy tales gone wrong (the wolf at the window is enough to keep me inside for good).  Where else are you going to experience a Victorian gothic playground haunted by Mary Shelley & Edward Gorey? Maybe not for the kiddies, unless their bedtime stories consist of Edgar Allan Poe and Gaiman – then this might delight their senses or scare the bejesus out of them. Hey, it’s all good.

 

Skim

Skim is an overweight, Japanese-Canadian, gothic, Wiccan, and high school social outcast.  As the reader becomes familiar with Skim, he/she soon discovers that she is just another misunderstood high school student who is trying to find her niche will still retaining some of her identity. Canadian cousins Mariko and Jillian Tamaki explore complex experiences with grace and honesty in this thoughtful coming-of-age story.

 

The Arrival

 

Someone else said it better…”Tan captures the displacement and awe with which immigrants respond to their new surroundings in this wordless graphic novel. It depicts the journey of one man, threatened by dark shapes that cast shadows on his family’s life, to a new country. The only writing is in an invented alphabet, which creates the sensation immigrants must feel when they encounter a strange new language and way of life. A wide variety of ethnicities is represented in Tan’s hyper-realistic style, and the sense of warmth and caring for others, regardless of race, age, or background, is present on nearly every page. Young readers will be fascinated by the strange new world the artist creates, complete with floating elevators and unusual creatures, but may not realize the depth of meaning or understand what the man’s journey symbolizes. More sophisticated readers, however, will grasp the sense of strangeness and find themselves participating in the man’s experiences. They will linger over the details in the beautiful sepia pictures and will likely pick up the book to pore over it again and again.”—Alana Abbott, James Blackstone Memorial Library, Branford, CT

 

Killing and Dying

The graphic novel by Adrian Tomine comprises a collection of 6 melancholy stories that explore loss, creative ambition, identity, and family dynamics through gorgeous artwork and writing that reads more like modern American literature than a short burst of comics.

Art Smart on the Sly

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Since you never know what crowd you’ll be falling into –we’ve compiled a non-threatening mix of books to get your Art Smart on. Some cover the hype of a few well-known art stars, and others take you into current art movements. There are a few biographies and “text” book like works on our list, but that’s because it makes it easier to appreciate the new when you know what influences the artist drew from. We’re not promising to turn you into art aficionados, but we can help you load your bookshelf down with a couple of gems.  The oldies but goodies you should already own.

  1. History of Art by HW Janson – The seminal art history textbook. The one to which all others pale in comparison. I used this when I took my first Art History class, and it totally changed the way I looked at art and gave me a basis with which to view art that I still call upon today.
  2. 501 Great Artists:   A Comprehensive Guide to the Giants of the Art World by Susie Hodge – Another basic text for art lovers, easy to read and very educational.  It’s a very good “primer” on who makes up the bedrock of the art world.
  3. Lust for Life by Irving Stone – Irving Stone is a wonderful writer and this account of Van Gogh’s life is quite amazing.  This book gives you an idea of what a tortured soul he was, and how hard he tried to find his place in life.
  4. The Agony and the Ecstasy by Irving Stone – This time Stone writes about Michelangelo’s life. He was so clearly a genius since youth. It takes you through his time painting for sponsors, and then his grand patrons, the Medici’s. His relationship with the Pope was a complex one as well, and Stone brings this all to the book. A must-read.
  5. Going Postal by Martha Cooper – Because stickers from the US Postal Service, UPS, DHL and FEDEX are so readily available, it became the perfect canvas for the graffiti culture. Graffiti photography Martha Cooper showcases a collection of more than 200 photographs of some of her favorite handmade postal stickers from around the world.
  6. Jean -Michel Basquiat: 1960-1988 by Leonhard Emmerling  – This is an amazing bio of Basquiat, who in less than a decade became an international art star. His genius trapped in a burgeoning art movement set on ‘crazed’ did nothing to help slow down the excesses he became eventually became a victim of.
  7. Provenance:   How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art by Laney Salisbury & Aly Sujo – This is the story of John Drewe, an alleged physicist and avid art collector, who began passing off copies of famous art pieces as genuine, and then forging their provenance.  A real page-turner about a con artist and how he got away with it for so long.
  8. Hiding in the Light:  On Images and Things (Comedia) by Dick Hebdige – A wonderful back to the basics book about the meaning of Post-Modernism.
  9. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol:  A to B and Back Again by Andy Warhol – Andy writes about himself, no holds barred. A great book from the Master’s own mind.
  10. Seven Days in the Art World by Sarah Thornton – This is an incredible book about the in’s and out’s of the art world.  We get a great ride ‘behind the scenes’, a detailed look at how a painting is brought to auction, and the intricate hierarchy that exists between the collector and buyer. I didn’t think it would be interesting, but I was into it from the first page.
  11. Subway Art by Martha Cooper – Yet another must-have book from photographer Martha Cooper. This book covers the epitome of classic NYC graffiti, a veritable Bible for this subculture.
  12. Steve Powers: A Love Letter for You by Steve Powers – Graffiti Artist, Steve Powers started painting his “ESPO” alias across the walls and rooftops of Philadelphia in 1984, just as the city’s Anti-Graffiti Network was launched. Twenty-five years later, in the summer of 2009, he returned to Philly, armed with 1,200 cans of spray paint, 800 gallons of bucket paint and 20 of the finest spray painters in America, to inscribe an epic love letter on the rooftops facing the Market-Frankford line, as a public art project. Powers consulted the community in West Philly and collaborated with The Mural Arts Program and the Pew Center, and with their help, transformed this 20-block stretch of buildings into visual and architectural Valentine poems.
  13. Training Days: The Subway Artists Then and Now by HenryChalfant and Sacha Jenkins – Throw some old school B&W photos of break dancers at Coney Island (is that the Cyclone I see in the background), a table of contents designed to look like an NYC Subway stop, interviews with graffiti legends like Lady Pink, andSkeme, and I’m all ready to meet the mailman at my door on the regular until my Amazon package shows up.Seriously though, Training Days: The Subway Artists Then and Now promises authentic first–person accounts from the graffiti artists whose creative genius fueled the movement from its beginning in late 1970s and early 1980s New York.