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Original Essays | Today, 10:00am

Lois Leveen: IMG Forsooth Me Not: Shakespeare, Juliet, Her Nurse, and a Novel



There's this writer, William Shakespeare. Perhaps you've heard of him. He wrote this play, Romeo and Juliet. Maybe you've heard of it as well. It's... Continue »
  1. $18.19 Sale Hardcover add to wish list

    Juliet's Nurse

    Lois Leveen 9781476757445

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Customer Comments

Andrew Shuping has commented on (2) products.

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol
Anya's Ghost

Andrew Shuping, January 1, 2012

I first started hearing about this graphic novel a couple of months ago and it immediately caught my attention. How often does Neil Gaiman lend his praise to a work? And then I started seeing the sample pages that First Second released and I was captivated by the illustrations. So needless to say I was really looking forward to reading this book (I kept trying to find someone that would let me read it an ARC because I was so excited about it.) And the book doesn't disappoint at all. It's the perfect story for young and old alike that deals with so many of the same issues that we all face--anxiety about who we are, body image, who are friends are, and growing up just a little bit.

Anya is a young teenage girl in high school who is embarrassed by where she and her family came from...Russia. She's trying hard to fit in by losing her accent, wearing the "right" clothes, going on diets, and trying to hang out with the "right" people...in other words not the nerdy Russian boy in her class. But...try as she might she doesn't fit in with the crowd that she really wants to...the popular ones. And then one day, she falls down an abandoned well in the park and meets a skeleton...and the ghost of the young girl from 1918 named Emily. Emily has been forgotten about and can't wander far from her skeleton and was just waiting for someone to come back and visit her. She keeps Anya company as she waits to be rescued, which she soon is, and one of Emily's bones hitches a ride...and Emily's ghost follows. Although there's trepidation at first Emily soon becomes Anya's confidant and helping her get the right answers on exams, making suggestions about what to wear, and help Anya get the attention of her crush. But things soon take a darker turn when it's revealed Emily isn't who she said she was and Anya must protect her family from Emily's darker nature.

This is a powerful debut full length graphic novel for Vera (she's done a couple of short stories before) and it's a wonderfully told story. It's a tightly woven tale with mystery, intrigue, and some growing up as well for all of the characters, not just Anya. It moves along at a nice pace and we get a strong sense of who the characters are and what motivates them. It's one of the best stories I've read in a while and unlike some other writers going from short features to full length, Vera doesn't suffer from having gaps in the tale or missing elements. And the illustrations are reminiscent of some old black and white horror films with juuuust the right amount of depth to them without being overly cartoony.

It's a fantastic read and I can't say enough good things about it. I highly recommend it to all and I look forward to seeing what Vera does next.
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The Silence of Our Friends by Mark Long
The Silence of Our Friends

Andrew Shuping, January 1, 2012

Every so often a book will come along that will challenge you, that will make you think, and that will hopefully leave you a bit better after you’ve read it. And this is just one such book. And yes some people are probably thinking that’s high praise for a graphic novel, but the story will give you chills within the first three pages and suck you in and not let you go until the very end of the story.

It’s 1968 in Houston, Texas and the fight for civil rights is heating up. Young Mark Long’s father, Jack Long, is the local TV station's race reporter and he’s embedded into the third ward, one of the poorest parts of the town. Jack is attempting to cover the events occurring in town, such as the expulsion of the the SNCC (student nonviolent coordinating committee) from Texas State University, and do justice to the people that he’s covering. He’s saved at one event by Larry Thompson, a local black leader, and the two become friends and their lives intertwine. One white family from a notoriously racist neighborhood in the burbs and one black family from the poorest ward in Houston, come together and find common ground in a conflict that threatens to tear the city apart. But before the end it may all come crashing down with the arrest of the TSU five. Which will be the loudest before the end, the words of hate or the silence of friends? This semi-autobiographical tale is based upon true events of Mark Long’s father.

One of the problem that I normally see with autobiographical stories, like this one, is that they often try to give the reader to much information about the story and invariably the reader gets lost or there are moment that leave us wondering why we’re supposed to care about the story. But this book...this book doesn’t have that issue. The authors have focused the story upon specific events of the race issues affecting the town in a given time period and give you enough information that you understand where the characters are coming from, but it never lets you wander away from what the focus of the story is. And more importantly you don’t ever feel like you’re missing out on something.

My favorite part of the storytelling though is how we get to see the story from two different perspectives--a white family from a racist neighborhood and a black family from one of poorest areas of Houston. Living in many ways on opposite sides of the world and yet we get to see the overlap and the differences between the two families clearly. And while that may sound like a cheesey way or stereotypical way of telling the story, Mark Long and Jim Demonakos tell the story in such a deft manner that you don’t really see it being told that way. You see the characters as real people. You get to understand a bit of what they went through, the troubles that each family faced for the actions they took and didn’t take, and that you want to know them in real life--just so that you could learn more from them. One last thought about the story--the title of the book comes from a quote by Martin Luther King Jr. "In the end, We will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.” And this book does justice to those words.

Nate Powell’s artwork is absolutely gorgeous. It’s done in his typical grace/style of capturing the human form oh so perfectly and it seems like this time he’s gone even further in his use of shading to give us the beauty of all different types of skin tones, each character’s is unqiue. His artwork is perfectly suited for this story capturing the range and intensity of emotions--the sorrow, the joy, and the fear that sends chills down your spine. That intensity, that feeling of life that he captures in their faces really makes them come alive. And the last pages of the books are some of the most powerful of the book. It seems like a rather basic layout of people walking in the street, with a closeup so that you can see the people’s skin tones--both black and white, and you can see their faces. But then he starts pulling back and all you can see are forms of people all different sizes, both genders, and all muted gray. No race and no color to divide them, just one people.

You can’t help but feel moved by this story and you can’t walk away unchanged. The combination of story and art works perfectly in capturing this event and this time period. I’m predicting this book will be one of the best graphic novels of the year, perhaps even one of the best books of the year.

A review copy of this book was provided by Gina at FirstSecond
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