Tuesday, February 10, 2015

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki (2014)

The Caldecotts were announced last week.  I always like to read the award winners; I like good picture books, and I like seeing where the genre is headed.  This One Summer is the first one I've read so far; it's one of six honor books, plus the winner Dan Santat (that's next).  I glanced at the Newberys and they all looked boring, and one was a novel in verse, which I generally loath, so I'm skipping those.  One of the Printz awards came highly recommended, so I'm going to read that for sure.

So after finishing it in a few sittings, I can honestly say what a strange and unusual choice This One Summer is for a Caldecott.  We aren't talking the sweetsie cuties territory of  Officer Buckle and Gloria or My Friend Rabbit here,  that's for sure.  As a graphic novel, I suppose it's technically eligible for the Caldecott, but it's not a traditional picture book (I'm not sure if other graphic novels have won a Caldecott or if this is the first). I'd argue this book isn't really for kids; which probably makes me an old fuddy duddy.  In discussing this with a colleague, she said it was marketed as a YA graphic novel, and I can see that, but I also think it reads like an adult's view of YA-dom.  I'm not sure how you can separate the text from the pictures either.  The art work is certainly engaging and draws you in, although I thought it was like "reading a movie", if that makes sense.  I don't feel qualified to judge art, and I certainly don't feel qualified to judge graphic novels, because it is a genre I'm ambivalent about at best.  So did I like it?  Yes.  It's disturbing in parts, and the main character's mother pissed me off in another part, which means I was invested in the story. The artwork, sure it's great.  Like all art, I know what I like, and I liked this.  But Caldecott material? I'm still not so sure if this was a Caldecott or a statement about the validity of graphic novels as literature and art (that old argument).  

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I upped my stars on this one, because I finished it, something unique in my personal graphic novel reading.  I'm usually ambivalent about the genre (format?).  I'm not head over heels doing cartwheels in love with this book, but I think it will stick with me for a while.  It's a strange choice for a Caldecott, which I will argue elsewhere.  I'm going to stick to its merits.  It's illustrated in an interesting way, almost like "reading a movie" if that makes sense.  I was invested in the characters; the mother of the main character Rose pissed me off towards the end, so I was coming to view them as real people rather than illustrations in a comic book (excuse me, graphic novel).  Coming of age, blah blah blah.  It's actually not a quick read, which I sometimes think graphic novels are; it's pretty deep, sometimes disturbing, and contains Truth, particularly about relationships and young adulthood.  Some it's very cute and funny though; a nice mix.  Heavy, but not too heavy.  Did I like it?  Yes!

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