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Picture It @ Your Library

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Teen Read Week celebrates the best in books for young adults. This year, with the theme "Picture It @ Your Library", teens are encouraged to enjoy illustrated books, or graphic novels, seek out creative books, imagine the world through literature, and read for the fun of it.

Many books today are told through sequential images. They may have words, but sometimes the pictures alone tell the entire story.

One especially creatively told wordless story is The Arrival by Shaun Tan. In this story, a young man leaves his home and family for a new country. Everything there is unfamiliar, puzzling, frightening. The reader follows him on his journey, experiencing the uncertainty of new places along with the man, looking for clues in the landscape, in signs, in facial expressions. This is not an easy task because everything, from the architecture to the animals, seems strange, signs are unintelligible, and no one offers to help. He must take the initiative to seek what he needs. Through motioning and drawing pictures, he manages to communicate enough to find his way and get settled. Once he finds work and a place to live, he sends for his family to join him. This is a touching story enabling the reader to experience the challenges of the immigrant experience and feel empathy for those who brave uncertainties to make a better life for themselves. The art is stunningly and beautifully expressive, reminiscent of Chris Van Allsberg’s work in Jumanji and The Polar Express. Tan was inspired by the stories of many immigrants, including that of his father who emigrated from Malaysia to Western Australia in 1960, and he explains some of the sources of his images, which include Ellis Island photographs.

A novel inspired by dramatic historical events is Resistance by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis. This is the first of a projected trilogy about the French Resistance of World War II. Young Paul and his little sister Marie join the Resistance when their friend Henri and his parents are threatened by the Germans in Vichy France. The story is well told so that young readers unfamiliar with the setting are quickly drawn in. Here, too, as with The Arrival, the reader experiences the fear and anxiety of a cataclysmic time in which the outcome is anything but certain. Author notes help elucidate the difficult choices facing the French in 1941 and explain the risks anyone aiding the Resistance assumed.

A more recent view of war is told in Pride of Baghdad by Brian K. Vaughn and Niko Henrichon. This vivid account is told from the perspective of a pride of lions who find themselves freed from the protective cages of the Baghdad Zoo when the Americans bombed Baghdad in 2004. The prospect of freedom and the responsibility that entails is sobering, terrifying even.

One of the best graphic novels of 2011 is Salem Brownstone by John Harris Dunning and Nikhil Singh. In this tale finely drawn in black and white, Salem receives an inheritance that goes beyond a gothic mansion: he must fight his father’s battle against dark forces.

Artist Peter Sis tells his own story in The Wall: growing up behind the Iron Curtain. When your hairstyle, music and art are regulated, he asks, how do you find your voice?

In another view of a different culture, American Born Chinese, Gene Yang looks at the American Dream for minority groups. He presents three seemingly unrelated stories that expose an unexpected connection to form a tale of self-acceptance and identity.

Teens (adults, too) are invited to investigate the many arresting examples of graphic creativity at the library. Who knows—maybe someone might be inspired to experiment with the graphic form to tell his own story. For more graphic novels, visit or call 988-2541.

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Online collection of animated, talking picture books to encourage reading in children.


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