Three on a Theme: Animal Comics

Animals often figure prominently in comic strips and graphic novels, but the ways in which they are represented and the roles they play in telling a story vary greatly across genres and the works of different authors. Often, animals in the comics genre exist mainly for comedic relief, representing cartoon caricatures or anthropomorphisms that tell us more about human beings than they do about the animal they are representing. Here are three graphic novels where animals are represented in a different way – as narrators, protagonists, or silent companions.

The Rabbi’s Cat by Jonathan Sfar
This is a gorgeous tail about humanity, religion, and… cathood… that takes place in 1930s Algeria and is imbued with a healthy dose of magical realism. The protagonist is a cat belonging to the daughter of a rabbi, who accidentally acquires the power of speech after eating a parrot. Now able to communicate with humans, the cat asks the rabbi for an education and to begin practicing Judaism, sparking a theological debate about whether or not a cat can be Jewish. This novel is beautifully illustrated, with bright colors, warm landscapes, and lively, dynamic characters (both human and non-human alike). The story deftly explores themes of what it means to have a religion, what it means to have a friend, and what it means to coexist in relationship with others. Continue reading “Three on a Theme: Animal Comics”

Silly Stories to Share

I don’t know about you, but despite the glorious weather, everyone I know is in need of a bit of cheering up.  I turn once more to the picture books, the silly and the sublime.

Waiting For Winter by Sebastien Meschenmoser
I know we’re all waiting for summer at this point, but don’t let that stop you from picking up this lovely, hilarious book. Some of the most expressive drawings I’ve ever seen, combined with an original story and a smart, subtle commentary on the state of our world. Really, though, just get it for the pictures. No one, but no one, has ever captured such an exquisitely sleepy squirrel or such a fabulously unkempt hedgehog. They’re just _so_tired. I can relate.

Hippo! No, Rhino! by Jeff Newman
Read this one aloud. Giving voice to the grumpy, grumpy hippo RHINO is immensely satisfying. The simple illustrations nevertheless convey our hapless hippo’s RHINO’s distress excellently and with feeling. There are days when I long to correct opinions forcibly with the strength of my vehemence alone. I could take lessons from the much maligned and very funny RHINO.

Monkey With a Tool Belt by Chris Monroe
“This is Chico Bon Bon.” Of course it is. If I were a monkey with a tool belt (and a banana hammer), my name would have to be Chico Bon Bon, too. And I would have lots of absurd adventures involving excessive tinkering and unnecessarily complicated escape plans and loud noises like “Arooga Boom Clang Clang Clang!” Oh, wait. That last one’s from the next book, Monkey with a Tool Belt and the Noisy Problem . Trust me, you’ll want to read that one, too.

Happy by Mies van Hout
This new book, written for the very young, makes up in extraordinary, luminous chalk drawings what it lacks in plot. Brightly colored fish portray a range of emotion from the simple joy of delight, to the spikey intensity of fury. Beautiful and satisfying.

Mad at Mommy by Komako Sakai
Again with the expressive illustrations! Komako Sakai won awards for one of her other books, The Snow Day, but Mad at Mommy talks to me in the place where my inner child having a tantrum lives. Her engaging, delightful book provides a space to thoroughly enjoy being dramatically upset without collapsing in a heap yourself.

~Jenny, Central Library

Rascally Rabbits

 If you live in Seattle you have probably seen or heard about the unusual design of the newly built Ballard library, its literally green architecture crowned with a softly sloping grass-covered roof.  On sunny days, this roof is a golden meadow replete with bees and even butterflies. When I’m feeling whimsical, I embellish the scene with rabbits–two or three of them. In my mind, they bound joyfully through the tall grass, nibbling the foliage and sunning themselves high above the cares of the terrestrial world. 

It is probably just as well that the library confines its rabbits to the pages of books and to TV screens. Real rabbits are as tricksy as they are cute, just as Peter Rabbit, Bugs Bunny, and other famous literary lagomorphs suggest. A real rabbit on the Ballard library roof would probably nibble phone lines as well as grass stems, sending little showers of dirt over the eaves to pepper the heads of confused passers by. As amusing as this might be, it would wreak havoc upon the architecture.

Here is a selection of movies available from The Seattle Public Library that star famously Continue reading “Rascally Rabbits”