This One Summer: A Review

This One Summer by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko TamakiRose has been coming to Awago Beach with her family every summer since forever. Rose’s summer cottage friend–and seasonal younger sister, of sorts–Windy, is always there waiting for a new vacation filled with fun and adventures.

But nothing is quite the same as it was even last summer. Caught uncomfortably between the familiarity of childhood and the wholly unknown world of growing up, Rose isn’t sure anymore where she fits in at Awago, with Windy, or even with her parents.

In a summer filled with things left unsaid–with change lurking everywhere–Rose and Windy realize that even as life threatens to shift in a new direction things like friendship can remain rock solid in This One Summer (2014) by Jillian Tamaki and Mariko Tamaki.

This One Summer received a whopping six starred reviews over the course of 2014. It is also the first graphic novel to ever win Canada’s Governor General Award for Illustration in an English Language Children’s Book (for illustrator Jillian Tamaki). (As Mahnaz Dar explains on SLJ this award has usually gone to picture books.) This One Summer also received a Printz and Caldecott honor in 2015 (this might have happened before but I can’t think of any instances).

It’s hard sometimes to remember that illustrations are a key part of the reading experience when looking at something that isn’t a picture book. Graphic novels, of course, are uniquely suited to demonstrate a perfect blend of illustrative and textual storytelling. Given the ways in which readers interpret visual and written “texts”, it’s sometimes hard to notice how well the two integrate. It is also, sometimes, too easy to ignore what is being done exceptionally well.

This One Summer is a deceptive book due in part to the seamless integration of graphical and verbal storytelling. In doing everything so very well here–so effortlessly–the Tamakis often erase their own work. Instead of seeing the intricate line work in each full page spread, we first see a beautiful picture. Instead of paying attention to how changing panels and page design move the reader through the story as easily as through a storyboard for a film, we initially only notice how quickly this book can be read.

Throughout the novel the Tamakis capitalize on the graphic novel format to push This One Summer in new directions and stretch just how a story can be told. The motion and physicality, particularly whenever Windy is on the page, becomes palpable with each new frame. The varied design as the story shifts between full page illustrations, two page spreads and smaller panels also serve to move the plot smoothly along.

With intricate illustrations and a nuanced, meditative plot, This One Summer is a subtle story about growing up and facing change that will resonate with readers of any age long after they read the final page.

Possible Pairings: Love and Other Perishable Items by Laura Buzo, Clarity by Kim Harrington, Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta, The Summer of Firsts and Lasts by Terra McVoy, Unbreak My Heart by Melissa C. Walker

The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Review

The Invention of Hugo Cabret by Brian SelznickA boy walks through the train station like a ghost tending to the station’s numerous clocks. Orphaned and alone, he travels through the hidden passages of the station making sure the clocks run on time to avoid the notice of the Station Inspector.

He does not like tending the clocks by himself or living alone in the station. He especially hates stealing what he needs. But if he is to finish his work, he has no choice. He has to remain invisible

All he has left of his father is an automaton–a mechanical man–that they were trying to rebuild. Once it is complete, the automaton can be wound up and it will write a note. The boy is certain that the note will answer all of his questions and tell him what to do now that he is alone.

The note is going to save his life.

But rebuilding the automaton is not going to be easy. To complete him, he will need special clockwork pieces from the old man who sell toys in the station. When the old man catches the boy stealing, it seems like he will never finish the automaton or learn its secret message.

The year is 1931. The place: Paris. In a train station in the middle of the city lives a boy named Hugo Cabret. His head is full of secrets and his story is about the begin in The Invention of Hugo Cabret: A Novel in Words and Pictures (2007) by Brian Selznick.

Find it on Bookshop.

The Invention of Hugo Cabret is a lot of things. It’s a bit of a book, a bit of a picture book, maybe even part graphic novel. It was the 2008 winner of the Caldecott Medal for the most distinguished American picture book for children. It is 544 pages long. It is a surprisingly fast read.

The most important thing to remember about this book is that it will not be completely different from every other book you’ve ever read.

Selznick seamlessly blends pictures and words to create a story that is simultaneously literary and cinematic. Set in the era of early cinema, Selznick’s illustrations capture the essence of film stills in book form. The book design is original and often stunning. That is not to say that there is anything superficial about The Invention of Hugo Cabret, Selznick brings depth to both the written and visual elements of this story.

At the same time, The Invention of Hugo Cabret is an informative and entertaining story. Hugo’s journey itself is fascinating, to have that story combined with the story of Georges Melies–one of the real pioneers of modern cinema–sets this book apart as something really special. A must read for book lovers and scholars of film and cinema alike.

If you want to see Brian Selznick talk about the book and its inspiration you can watch the video found on the book’s Amazon product page.

Possible Pairings: Lucky Strikes by Louis Bayard, A Little Princess by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Dark Unwinding by Sharon Cameron, The Wolf Princess by Cathryn Constable, The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman and Dave McKean, You Don’t Know Me by David Klass, The View From Saturday by E. L. Konigsburg, Sender Unknown by Sallie Lowenstein, Clockwork by Phillip Pullman, Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli