Home After Dark, by David Small (2018)

Graphic Novel – Historical fiction
15 – Adult
Home After Dark, by David SmallAfter his mother leaves them, Russell and his father move to a small town in 1950s California, hoping to find a new life of sunshine and prosperity. Doesn’t quite work out that way, as anyone who has hoped to “leave it all behind and start fresh” always discovers. Dysfunction follows. They settle in Marshtown, somewhere outside of San Francisco, and his father gets a job teaching English to illiterate prisoners. Food is delivered by a Chinese neighbour, and his father descends into an alcoholic haze. Waiting for middle school to begin, Russell spends his time exploring the new neighbourhood on his bike. Read More »


Forward, by Lisa Maas (2018)

Forward, by Lisa MaasThis raw and touching story of grief, loss and apprehension finds the perfect home in the graphic novel format. Rayanne and Ali, forty-something lesbians living in Victoria, are both alone and determined to keep it that way. Rayanne is still hurting from a bad relationship that ended, not of her choice, several years ago. She has crushes and fantasies, sure, but she ignores them, creating a brittle shell around her heart, despite the well-meaning but exhausting efforts of those around her to find her a mate. (What IS it about happy couples?) Ali is still deeply grieving the loss of her wife Liv to cancer, not quite a year ago, and is confused and slightly ashamed to find herself attracted to a young dog-walker. Read More »

The Big Bad Fox, by Benjamin Renner (2015, 2017)

Animal Fiction
The Big Bad Fox by Benjamin RennerInitially thinking this was a picture book and attracted by the cover, I obtained a digital galley from the publisher. Much to my delight, it turned out to be a graphic novel, numbering about 200 pages. Our protagonist is a hapless fox who is seen as no threat at all by either hens or a lazy guard dog. Frustrated and hungry the fox joins forces with a wolf, agreeing to steal eggs and raise the chicks to a tasty size. But the chicks imprint on the fox and he becomes quite attached while they in turn come to believe they are foxes. Given how evil those hens are, this isn’t a bad thing. The plot is enjoyable as the fox struggles to resolve the situation, and schemes his way to a solution. Read More »

Julio’s Day, by Gilbert Hernandez (2013)

Genre: Graphic Novel
Interest Level: Adult
Julio's DayRemember The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared? Reimagine it in graphic novel form, and you have Julio’s Day. The book opens in 1900 on the day Julio is born to American parents of Mexican descent, and ends 100 years later on his death. In between we watch Julio grow up and discover the people who make a difference in his life, both good and bad. We learn family secrets and suspect a few ourselves. Along the way, historical events of the 20th century are woven into the storyline. Many of these events touch Julio’s life barely at all, others are more impactful. The Depression required a few lines, and his images of the 60s were just plain fun. Read More »

Meanwhile, by Jason Shiga (2010)

Genre: Graphic Novel
Interest Level: 9-14
MeanwhileGraphic Novel, meet Choose Your Own Adventure. This science fiction novel starts out with our protagonist, young Jimmy, facing that delightful choice — chocolate or vanilla? Chocolate, natch! That leads Jimmy to a mad scientist, who shows him his lab and makes Jimmy choose between a time machine, a doomsday device, and mind-reading device. And off we go. Each decision point requires Jimmy (and thus the reader) to make a choice, and there are dozens of decisions to be made, leading to nearly 4,000 possible endings. This is quite ingeniously designed. As it’s a graphic novel rather than a text, the author has cleverly avoided simply asking the Choose Your Path question Read More »

Stargazing Dog, by Takashi Murakami (2011)

Genre: Contemporary, Graphic Novel format
Interest level: Adult
Stargazing DogThis heartbreaking story opens with a punch – an abandoned car is found, with two bodies inside. One is a man who has been dead for about 18 months. The other is of a dog, dead only about three months. We then shift to the story of the dog, an adorably drawn little fellow named Happie. Happie is adopted as a puppy by Miko, the little girl who plays with him, by Mom, who always feeds him, and by Daddy, who always takes Happie for his walk. We witness Miko growing up and the parents growing apart, until the inevitable divorce. Happie helplessly watches his Daddy’s pain: “I think that was a lie, that ‘It’s not that I hate you’ crap. Then what the hell is this ‘Request for the division of property’?” Read More »

The Invention of Hugo Cabret, by Brian Selznick (2007)

Genre: Historical Fiction
Interest level: 6-Adult
This Caldecott Award winning title defies classification. It’s more than 500 pages long, with some 150 illustrations spread over nearly 300 pages that advance the story like a graphic novel, but designed more like a very long picture book. Selznick calls it a novel in words and pictures, but occasionally it also feels like a film, reinforced by the opening instructions to imagine ourselves in a theatre, with the curtains pulling apart … It’s the story of Hugo, a 12-year-old orphan who lives in a hidden room in a train station. He learns the art of clock maintenance from his uncle, the Timekeeper, a drunk who regularly disappeared and one day never returned, leaving Hugo to fend for himself. Read More »