I’m getting a lot of reading in these days – NOT teaching, along with prepping for a courses next Fall and Spring make for a well balanced reading load right now.
This post is a) really late but still counts as MONDAY, and b) shorter than usual. I hope you forgive both issues.
Squish#5: GAME ON! by Jennifer Holm and Matt Holm
I’m not going to lie. I love the Squish series. I’m not crazy about Baby Mouse – I just never connected with her problems or the stories or the supporting characters. I know loads of readers who adore both Baby Mouse and Squish, so I know it is possible, but it is simply not for me.
Squish is an amoeba, he loves Twinkies, comic books – especially Super Amoeba, and has trouble in school with the cool kids. He’s an Everyman character, as long as everyman is a single celled organism. He’s got two best friends, Peggy who is all about smiles and rainbows and happiness, and Pod who is more serious.
In this book Squish’s gets hooked on a video game called Mitosis! He overdoes it, gets bad grades, doesn’t sleep enough, becomes obsessed (which is bad). The funny thing about Squish #5 is although the message is preachy (keep all things fun in balance with responsibilities) it doesn’t read as simply or didactic. Instead it shows the trouble caused by obsessive game play OVER all everything else, like reading comics or interacting with friends and family.
The illustrations are bright and bely a complexity that might get past the novice reader of comics and graphic novels. The Holms use a slime green color to illustrate Squish’s real life, and a simple gray scaled color palette to illustrate when we are reading comics or playing Mitosis! along with Squish. This clear color distinction is not the only way the authors help organize the story for readers. In addition, the panels used for Squish’s real life are dark and bold but irregular, showing a fluidity to his reality. This fluidity translates into other parts of the illustrations, like his hat which changes to mirror Squish’s mood and focus. The panels have lots of quick transitions that utilize overlapping panels that not only help guide the readers attention, but also communicate the mood of the story. On the other hand, the Super Amoeba comics are presenting in grays with rectangular and regularly spaced panels with light lines and regular gutters and are, really, much less visually interesting.
GAME ON! might be my new favorite on the series.
And now for something completely different.
Yummy: The Last Days of a Southside Shorty by G. Neri and Randy Duburke
This award winning graphic novel is a fabulous biography that tells the story of Robert Sandifer, AKA Yummy, who was at the heart of Chicago’s notorious gang violence epidemic in the 1990s. The book is told from the point of view of a fictionalized character Roger, who’s older brother is in the same gang as Yummy.
Robert (Yummy) Sandifer was 11 when he accidentally shot a young girl. He was aiming for a suspected rival gang member but shot Shavon Dean instead.
It is a hard book to read. From the brilliant use of subtle shading in the cover, to the black and white illustrations, to the stark everyday struggle and horror of Yummy’s life. All of it is just hard to read, but harder still to see.
This is a rare book that should be used to underscore the systemic ills of our day. The problems that lead to a vacuum of humanity in which gangs fill the void. Yummy tells the tale of one young man by putting him and his action into context with the world around him.