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Sat, July 20

A picture's worth a thousand words in graphic novels

Comic or graphic novel? While some bound collections of comic books are marketed as graphic novels, the graphic novel is generally a longer, more complex story or a related set of short stories, and can be fiction or nonfiction. This fast-growing genre includes titles for children, teens and adults. The artwork provides atmosphere, settings and a good bit of character development, while dialogue and brief descriptive text moves the story forward. A Google search ( for 'graphic novels reviews' yielded a useful variety of links to explore if you are new to this medium. We didn't all find these equally appealing, and invite you to form your own opinion.

"Vögelein: Clockwork Faerie," by Jane Irwin with Jeff Berndt. 2003.

Vögelein is a beautifully crafted mechanical fairy created by a master clockmaker in 1671. Like any clock of that period, she needs to be wound every 36 hours. Through the years she has always had a guardian who kept her safe and wound. Her guardian of 50 years, Jakob, has just died, and Vögelein is desperate to find another she can trust. In her quest, Vögelein discovers her humanity and independence. The detailed, expressive artwork brings the characters to life. For those new to graphic novels, this gem is a great place to start. - Anna Smith

"American-Born Chinese," by Gene Luen Yang. 2006.

Jin Wang, the son of Chinese immigrants, just wants to fit in at his American school. He loves cute blond Amelia, and perms his hair to look like one of the popular boys in his class.

By intertwining Jin's story with that of the legendary Monkey King and a racist caricature named Chin-Kee, Gene Luen Yang creates a coming-of-age story that is funny, sad, and ultimately very moving.

Crisp artwork and sophisticated storytelling make Yang's debut graphic novel stand out from the pack. - Amadee Ricketts

"Persepolis," by Marjane Satrapi. 2003.

This graphic memoir begins in 1980, shortly after Iran's Islamic Revolution. Initially excited about the revolution, 10-year-old Marjane doesn't understand why suddenly she has to wear a veil and stay away from her male classmates.

With stark black and white art and taut, unsentimental language, the story grabs readers on the first page and never lets go. If you don't think you are interested in the graphic novel format, this excellent work of nonfiction may be the book to change your mind. - Amadee Ricketts

"Superman: For Tomorrow, Vol. 1," by Brian Azzarello, Jim Lee, Scott Williams. 2005.

Superman is all muscle with the big S on his chest. Sometimes he's the ultimate action figure, like in the old-time comics. But other times in this modern story, his angst has his head and his cape hanging low while he confesses his sins to a dying priest. A million people on earth disappeared without a trace - including his wife. Somehow it's his fault. With clenched fists, he remembers the cataclysm. It's hard to find the thread of the story, let alone his guilt. - Claudette Simpson

The Library Ladies are on the staff of Prescott Public Library.


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