Two Graphic Novels

Book cover of Skim, with face of teenage Asian girl in comic styleSkim
Mariko Tamaki
Jillian Tamaki, Illustrator

Skim is set in 1993 in Toronto. The main character, a Japanese-Canadian girl nicknamed Skim, attends an all-girls high school, where her best friend is Lisa, a typical 16 year old with a bit of a cruel streak and an interest in Wicca.

Things start getting tense at school when popular girl Katie gets dumped. Then her ex-bf commits suicide, and Katie’s friends  respond by creating the Girls Celebrate Life (GCL) club. Skim thinks despite their newly professed compassion, they are still your average high school mean girls clique.

This is a confusing time for Skim. She’s fallen for Ms. Archer, a free spirited young teacher who is definitely crossing all types of boundaries with their relationship. Plus there’s the rumor that Katie’s ex killed himself because he was gay. She is keeping her same sex explorations to herself, feeling increasingly isolated from her already not-exactly-welcoming school.

This novel felt “true” in many ways. Skim’s parents exist mainly off-stage, which is a pretty realistic portrayal of how I remember my teenage years, at least. There was no way I was talking to a parent about anything that I was stressing over. Additionally, it seemed like I went in cycles with friends – things were great with my bestie, then we drifted apart and I was glued to someone else for awhile.

Overall, good read, great illustrations.

Book cover of Laika, with small dog in blue jumpsuit and rocket launching in backgroundLaika
Nick Abadzis

A plucky, adorable stray dog gets caught up in a ex-political prisoner’s big dreams in this Cold War tale. The Soviet space program has just had a major victory with Sputnik I, but Krushchev wanted an even bigger spectacle to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Bolshevik Revolution. The director of the space program decided to send a living being, a dog, into orbit.

Sweet little Laika becomes that pioneer. I was completely caught up in her journey from stray on the street of Moscow to the cages of the space program to her spot on the satellite.

Unfortunately, I probably should have refreshed my history or at least read the book flap, with compared this tale to that of Old Yeller.

Which raises concerns for me – Laika’s tale apparently drew much criticism even at the time, at least from the West. So this retelling feels a bit like a rehashing of Cold War bickering, where a Western artist is telling what a horrible thing those Communists did. That doesn’t make their actions laudable, but it’s always important to consider the messenger. And it’s not as though the UK has a blemish free record on animal cruelty.

Do you read graphic novels? Have any suggestions? Leave them, or any other thoughts, in the comments 🙂

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3 thoughts on “Two Graphic Novels

  1. I would really like to read more graphic novels. As of now I’ve only read a couple. I recently ordered Maus and Persepolis though 🙂 I’m looking forward to those! I plan on reading them during Dewey’s readathon. They are great for those.

    • Both Maus and Persepolis are really good! I agree, graphic novels are really good for readathons. I just read a cute, lighthearted one, Drama, by Raina Telgemeier, that would make a great addition to your Dewey stack. I picked it up at my library, where I was kinda surprised they had it. Maybe yours does too 🙂

      • I’ll definitely be checking out the graphic novel section of my local library right before the readathon 🙂 Thanks for the suggestion!

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