Anya’s Ghost by Vera Brosgol

“Okay…so how exactly do you solve a murder?”

Friends, it’s Halloween! And do you know what I love?  Ghost stories!  Ghost stories and graphic novels and books that Neil Gaiman call masterpieces!  And LOOK!  That is exactly what I have for you today.

Anya is a teenager in a private school in the U.S.  She immigrated from Russia with her mother and little brother when she was five, and she still struggles with feeling like an outsider.  It’s not easy, trying to fit in, make friends, and please her family at the same time….but it’s way less easy to do all of this when you’re being haunted by a murderous ghost.

 When Anya stumbles onto a skeleton (and the ghost attached to it), she is at first excited about the opportunities a ghostly friend affords: cheating on tests!  A lookout for when she wants to smoke without getting caught!  A friend!  She doesn’t even want to help solve her ghost’s murder, because that would free her.  But when her spirit friend turns out to be far more malicious than she appeared, Anya has to figure out how to get rid of her-and fast.

Violet and gray illustrations maintain the slightly creepy tone of the story, and dialogue just this side of sparse gives readers space to consider the heavier issues of assimilation, family, and high school trauma.  There are plenty of humorous moments to offset the vengeful ghost and gym class drills, like a panel illustrating Anya’s Google keyword search: “how to get rid of ghosts”.  Come on, that’s hilarious!

I finished this book in an hour and it has a great Halloween feel and a solid, well-executed story, complemented with beautiful art.  You’ll love it!

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: http://verabee.com (Did you know she worked on the movie Paranorman?!)

Brosgol, Vera.  Anya’s Ghost. First Second: New York, 2011. 244 pp. Ages 15 and up.

If you liked this book because of the ghost and creepiness, you might want to try Ghostopolislook! Ghost wranglers!  If you liked the immigration and cultural aspects, I have to give you the Best Graphic Novel ever: Persepolis.  It’s long, but it’s awesome and you will completely love it.

Yummy by G. Neri

“I tried to figure out who the real Yummy was.  The one who stole my lunch money? Or the one who smiled when I shared my candy with him?  I wondered if I grew up like him, would I have turned out the same?”

Yummy is based on a true story, which makes it even more tragic.  Yummy, an eleven year old boy in a rough Chicago neighborhood,starts running with a gang.  While trying to impress older gang members and develop a reputation, he accidentally shoots and kills a fourteen-year-old girl.  This graphic novel, told from the perspective of an acquaintance of Yummy’s, examines the “why?” of the events.  Stark black and white illustrations give the novel a gritty feel.  I thought it was incredible! It won the Coretta Scott King Honor Award-richly deserved.

Author’s website:

http://www.gregneri.com/

Illustrator’s website:

http://www.randyduburke.com/

Neri, G. Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty. New York: Lee and Low Books, 2010. 94 pp.

Happy Reading!

Skim by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

All the spells for bringing someone back to you need hair from the person who has left.  How are you supposed to get hair if the person won’t talk to you is gone?  Witchcraft=total crap.

You are never really alone in the city at night.  There are always

taxi drivers

coffee shop people

the 7-Eleven guy

people in their homes

watching talk shows.

It just feels lonely.

It is my pleasure to introduce you to Skim.  Her full name is Kimberly Keiko Cameron, and she goes to a private girl’s school.  In this pensive gem of a graphic novel, Skim describes, diary-style, what happens in her school when the ex-boyfriend of her classmate commits suicide.  Grief counselors visit the school, the popular girls form the Girls Celebrate Life club and Skim observes it all.

You know, that’s the plot, but I feel like just describing it doesn’t do this book justice.  Honestly, the suicide actually is more of the backdrop: the real focus is Skim’s personal musings.  She reads her tarot cards, tries to cast Wiccan spells, negotiates relationships, and struggles with falling in love with an older woman.

All of this understated teenage angst is exquisitely complemented by Jillian Tamaki’s incredibly graceful black and white drawings.  The language is simple, almost verging on sparse, but in combination with the graphics, this is a phenomenal work.  It is perfectly evocative of the quiet trials of being a teenager, the feeling Skim describes as feeling “like I have wings but my bones are bricks”.

Please, please read this book.  When you’re done, pass it on to someone else.  I’m putting it on my Best Ever list right away.

Happy Reading!

Author’s website: www.marikotamaki.com

Illustrator’s website: www.jilliantamaki.com

Tamaki, Mariko and Jillian. Skim. Toronto: Groundwood Books, 2008. 142 pp.  Ages 14 and up.

If you like this book, try Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic by Alison Bechdel, or Indoor Voice, by Jillian Tamaki.

Ok, I can’t resist: one more picture!