Skim and This One Summer by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

skimthis-one-summerIt 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.


  1. “Visual vocabulary” is the PERFECT way to put why I don’t get graphic novels either. Words are the same no matter what but there are styles of drawing that leave me cold and unengaged which is why I’ve never sought them out. At least I know now which ones to start with if I ever move into new territory.

    Congratulations on the podcast- when will it be available?

    • I think graphic novels may be a hard sell for die hard book people like you and me. The reason I like reading is because I like words. It’s that simple. So to me graphic novels don’t really feel like reading. It takes different mental muscles.
      As for the podcast, i think it will be out in early November. It’s still being edited right now. But don’t worry I’ll be telling everyone when it’s available. Being on a podcast is a bit of a dream of mine.

  2. I totally agree that reading graphic novels totally takes a different kind of literacy. That’s why I’ve never really connected with the more “complex” graphic novels (eg. Marvel universe ones). I did, however, love This One Summer and enjoyed Skim, and you’re right that they’re amazing introductions to the world of graphic novels! Have you read The Watchmen? I don’t remember too much about it, but I remember enjoying it when I had to read it for a class in university.

  3. I’ve only read one graphic novel (Encyclopedia of Early Earth, which I loved), but I’d like to try reading more. I might pick up one of these from the library for the readathon this weekend.

  4. Pingback: WriteReads Podcast, starring moi! | 52 books or bust

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s