It seems that graphic novels and comics are all the rage right now. I’ll be up front with you. I don’t think I get them as an art form. My mind is so responsive to words and I think I lack the necessary visual vocabulary to properly appreciate them.
Back in the day, when graphic novels were the big new thing, in the 1990s, I read all the graphic required reading: Maus, Persepolis, Blankets. I tried to be cutting edge, but I just wasn’t. With comics’ and graphic novels’ recent renaissance (see Panels), I’m giving it another go with Skim and This One Summer by the fab Canadian duo Mariko Tamaki and Jillian Tamaki. And more to the point, I read these two books because I was invited by Kirt and Tania to talk about them on WriteReads, a podcast that will change the face CanLit FOREVER.
Both Skim and This One Summer are thoroughly Canadian coming of age stories. Skim is set in Toronto in the late 1990s and makes reference to all the necessary cultural referents – Swiss Chalet, Scarberia, Lime Rickey’s, you get the idea. This One Summer is set in ‘cottage country’ – ie/ the vast swath of land north of the city that Torontonians swarm to, despite the traffic, every weekend all summer long. With This One Summer, it really is the visual aspect of the graphic novel that brings cottage country to life. They captured it perfectly.
Of the two books, I preferred Skim. It dealt more with teenage angst, and I’m a sucker for that. Tania and Kirt, on the other hand, liked This One Summer better. If you want the details, you will just have to listen to the WriteReads podcast. It’s not up yet, but you can bet that I’ll let you know when it is.
Who would like these books? For people who are looking for a soft introduction to graphic novels, I think Skim and This One Summer would be perfect. And by that I mean that they are very literary, with the addition of a visual aspect. This One Summer would be the perfect book to have laying around the cottage. It’s a quick read, but would appeal to a wide range of ages and interests. And it feels oh so cottagey. In either case, I think the Tamaki cousins are two Canadians we should have our eyes on.