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WHAT'S NEXT: El Deafo by Cece Bell

deafo I have learned to trust book recommendations from authors I love.

Patrick Rothfuss led me to Catherynne Valente and to Peter S. Beagle.

Now it's time to trust Rick Riordan.

The pen behind Percy Jackson recommends the graphic novel El Deafo, by Cece Bell:

Cece Bell tells the story of a young girl (rabbit?) growing up with a severe hearing impairment. She does a great job tackling the subject with humor and pathos, letting us see the world through the narrator's eyes (and hear through her super Phonic Ear). Along the way, we meet pushy friends, clueless peers, helpful teachers, not-so-helpful siblings, and a whole cast of other characters that any kid can relate to.

VIDEO: Raina Telgemeier's Graphic Novel, SISTERS

Raina Telgemeier is the author and illustrator of several excellent graphic novels that you absolutely have to read. SMILE was her first and it's her story of a terrible fall that caused her to lose her front teeth, but also about what it's like to go through school when you're also dealing with heavy dental surgery.

DRAMA was her second, all about a high school drama class and the somewhat awkward search for relationships there.

SISTERS is her most recent and it's about...well, just watch the video below and she'll tell you all about it.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iqy49S48tEQ&w=560&h=315]

YA & MLK: Civil Rights and Acceptance

YA & MLK: Civil Rights and Acceptance Written by Grant Goodman, 1/19/2015

Today’s holiday is a moment that is marked by hatred and tragedy, triumph and persistence. The fact that human beings had to fight for their right to be considered equal to other humans is something that never ceases to sicken me. The fact that it still continues to this day is downright depressing.

There is hope, though. The idea of fighting for civil rights finds can be found all over the YA canon. The more we read about this topic, even in fiction, the less likely we are to continue the cycle in real life.

I’ll start with the Harry Potter series. In Harry’s world, there is a hierarchy of blood purity that some still follow. To these wizard, pure humans are, of course, the lowest form, but they still reserve their hatred for wizards who are born to fully-muggle parents. The slur word for them, “mudblood,” is one that cuts deep. While there is no de-facto protest movement in the Harry Potter novels, there is still the matter of these wizards standing up for themselves.

Since Mockingjay Part I is still in theaters, let’s go ahead and examine the Hunger Games trilogy. The citizens of Panem, those who reside in the poorer districts, are all enslaved. They are fenced in, cut off, under curfew, and subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by those in charge. Regardless of skin color, the residents of the lower districts are marginalized, demonized, and broken by the existing social structure of their world.

There are the people of Ishval in Hiromu Arakawa’s manga, Fullmetal Alchemist, whose homeland is taken over by a mighty military. The Smokies in Scott Westerfeld’s Uglies are yet another persecuted group. Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series has its skaa. And while few people have read it, I have always loved Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Eye of the Heron for its amazing story of a space colony caught up in its own civil rights movement.

The worlds of YA mirror our own in many ways. There are tales of oppression, messages about “the other” and the ways in which they are ostracized, stories of interplanetary love. They all come to the same conclusion: hatred for your fellow man (or alien or cyborg or ghost or robot) is one of the universe’s darkest traits. We will always explore these conflicts, because our own sad history is rife with them. One of the best ways to deal with it—to learn to move forward—is to familiarize yourself with the struggles of others so you can empathize with them. That way, when it’s time to figure out what is right, you’ll know where you need to stand.

Seal of Approval - THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin

Seal of Approval – THE RISE OF AURORA WEST by Paul Pope, JT Petty, and David Rubin Aurora-West-Paul-Pope-Main

Written by Grant Goodman, 1/7/2015

A few weeks ago I was awestruck by Paul Pope’s BATTLING BOY graphic novel. I was searching for the sequel, which I thought I had found when I came across THE RISE OF AURORA WEST. But something was different about it. Unlike the original comic, this one was the size of a manga. And the art was all black and white. And it turned out to be a prequel.

That said, AURORA is another great graphic novel work seeking out. It builds upon the world that Pope set up in BATTLING BOY and gives far more time for us to learn about the daughter of hero Haggard West.

Needless to say, Aurora is shaping up to be a character with depth. We learn about her family history, an invisible friend, and her insanely busy education and physical training schedule.

The honest criticism: this is not as good as BATTLING BOY. The art seems slap-dash at times and the story has a weird moment in which Aurora turns to one of her classmates out of nowhere and says something along the lines of, “Hey, can I trust you and tell you everything?” Then she brings him along on all of her investigations.

That said, it’s still a fun read. Plus, I really wanted to know way more about the worlds and the people Pope will be working with as he expands his main story and this provided some very cool insights (and plot twists!)