Tuesday, September 25, 2012

   Willingham, Bill. Fables: Legends in Exile. New York: DC Comics, 2002. Print.

Annotation:  Snow White’s sister, Rose Red, is missing.  Her blood paints the walls of her apartment, but she is nowhere to be found.  Living in Fabletown, a secret community of fairytale legends living in New York City, Snow White and Sheriff “big bad wolf” Bigby, search for a killer.   

Justification for Rejection:  Fables:  Legends in Exile, Volume 1, is a graphic wonderland.  Set in New York City, “Fables” are living among humans; but living quite a different life than that lived in the traditional fairytales.  For those Fables who can blend among humans, theirs is a life lived in Fabletown, a secret community of fairytale creatures living in a luxury apartment in New York City.  For those creatures that cannot blend into society (like a pig from the Three Little Pigs), a refuge called “The Farm” in upstate New York, is home.  The Fables have been forced out of their Homeland by an evil Adversary.  For now, the Fables have found safety in a world he is not interested in; “a dreary mundane place”, in New York City. 

A spin on the traditional folklore characters created by the Brothers Grimm, Charles Perrault or Hans Christian Andersen, the creatures in Fables, are, let’s say, a bit different.  Snow White, once married to Prince Charming, is now divorced.  In fact, Prince Charming has divorced Snow White, Cinderella AND Briar Rose.  This guys gets around.  Oh, what all the little girls would think if they heard this about Prince Charming.  Sheriff Bigby is really the Big Bad Wolf, originally famous for blowing the Three Pigs' house down.  So many spins, and so little time to explain them all!  In this story, lead characters, Snow White and Sheriff Bigby, are in search of a killer, the killer of Snow White’s sister, Rose Red.  The investigation leads to a surprise ending through a fairytale maze of characters and circumstances. 

Artistically speaking, the story flows well from panel to panel, and the graphics are amazingly well-executed by some truly great artists.  There are interludes of artwork that are uniquely different as far as the medium and style, and contain no text.  This adds a lot of interest, and keeps the pages turning.  There is a center interlude where the story of the Fables and their Homeland is told, as well.  This is a unique and interesting diversion from the story and helps to put the tale together.  The text is easy to follow, but not simplistic.  The panels are often encased and include fairytale-type artwork, almost like an illuminated manuscript, and this adds to the modern look of the graphics.  This look would be appealing to teens with its modern, and ornate fairytale combinations. 

Although the graphic novel, Fables: Legends in Exile, is a fun, exciting story and is a must-read for teens and adults who love graphic novels and comics, there are a number of reasons why I would not nominate it for an award.  Importantly, Fables does not have the message that a graphic novel such as Maus, by author Art Spiegelman, does, which I believe is award worthy.  Fables is a graphic fairytale, which would appeal to the young adult reader in many respects, however, we know this doesn't always make a book award material.  This novel contains adult themes, visual violence, sexual encounters, sexual language, and in-text graphic language.  Graphic language and adult themes may make the content of the novel unacceptable to a younger audience teen audience, or rather, their parents or teachers!  The story is good, however, it is not outstanding, nor outstandingly moving, and I think an award winning story should stick.  I would say, however, the graphics in this story are amazing in their execution, in format and artistically speaking. 

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Myers, Walter Dean. Monster. New York:  HarperCollins Publishing, 1999. Print. 

Annotation:  Scared and alone, 16-year-old Steve Harmon cries silently at night in his jail cell.  Accused of being an accomplice to a murder and going through a trial, Steve decides to write a movie about his experiences.  He will call his movie, Monster, the name he was called by the prosecutor...but is he?  What will the jury believe?

Justification for Nomination:  Monster, written by lauded author, Walter Dean Myers, is the story of 16-year-old Steve Harmon, an African-American teen from Harlem, who has been accused of felony murder and is on trial for such.  Steve has been accused of being the “lookout guy” for a drugstore robbery gone array with the murder of the drugstore owner.  Steve faces life in prison or a possible death penalty, along with three other individuals; James King, Richard “Bobo” Evans, and Osvaldo Cruz, who all have different stories to share.  In the first sentence of the prologue, the emotional connection between Steve Harmon and the reader begins to take place.  

"The best time to cry is at night, when the lights are out and someone is being beaten up and screaming for help.  That way even if you sniffle a little they won’t hear you.” – Steve Harmon

Teens everywhere can relate to the range of emotions experienced by Steve, who is facing the battle of his life.  Yet in confronting these overwhelming circumstances, Steve still has hopes and dreams that extend beyond his situation.  An aspiring filmmaker, Steve decides to document his story as a movie. 
With the challenging script style writing undertaken by Myers, Monster is an excellent, compelling literary piece.  Walter Dean Myers is somehow able to snare the reader with this unorthodox format, and this is no easy task.  The screenplay format is initially somewhat distracting; with the descriptions of camera shots, fade-ins, fade-outs and such, but as the story moves forward, the distraction becomes less so as the reader adjusts to the format transitions.  Breaking away from the scenes, we are able to connect more deeply with Steve as he shares personal narratives describing his life, his family and his experiences. 
Monster fulfills a number of criteria that quantifies literary excellence.  For example, Monster breaks from the traditional format using a creative and unusual way of telling a story via script.  It also speaks to the teen experience in many ways, like addressing the pressures teens face from peers, parents, and society.  And, not only is Steve Harmon experiencing these intense emotions and experiences that resonant with teens, the story has a lesson or speaks to the issue that there are consequences for our actions, and often times there is suffering created by our decisions.  The story does not end with a victorious quest, but it does end with hope for the future, and a sense of something being learned.  Importantly, Monster addresses the foundation of young adult literature, which we know is the teens’ quest to discover who they are and where they fit into the world...the ‘who am I’ factor; the search for individuality and identity through perhaps difficult circumstances.  Steve Harmon states this in the last paragraph of the story:
            That is why I take the films of myself.  I want to know who I am.  I want to know the road to panic that I took.  I want to look at myself a thousand times to look for one true image.

"One True Image" of oneself and the search for it...this is what young adult literature should speak to!  Monster, is a truly unique experience to read, and possesses the literary criteria necessary to make it a book of excellence. 
Genre Category:  Young adult/Realistic Fiction/Multicultural