Superheroes and fantastical worlds aren’t the only things that are depicted in graphic novels. They’re also a great way to explore the ‘harder’ issues that real life throws up at us. Sometimes they’re a realistic, straightforward depiction of events and problems; other times they’re more allegorical. Some inspiring, some heart-rending, all of them well worth reading. Here are Nicola’s picks for the best graphic novels set in the real world:
Last year this graphic novel celebrated its twentieth birthday. Depicting an elderly couple’s response to a nuclear attack, it manages to feel as relevant today as it did when it was published, during the tail end of the Cold War. It is utterly heartbreaking, and probably is one of the most affecting graphic novels ever produced. Hilda and Jim seem not to comprehend the situation; they’re perfect stand-ins for ordinary people caught in events out of their control.
There’s no dialogue in The Arrival, but Shaun Tan’s art more than carries the story. A man flees his homeland, leaving his wife and child behind. He struggles to adjust in a new place, eventually finding happiness and a sort of peace. This isn’t a land you’ve ever seen before; buildings twist into strange shapes and oddly shaped creatures live as pets and pests in a forest of a city. This doesn’t detract from the central theme, however. In a strange way, by removing it from a recognisable setting, Tan makes the story more universal.
If your homeland was invaded and occupied, what would you do? Would you fight for your country? Or would you say nothing and try to carry on? This series tells of a group of siblings growing up in a small town during the Nazi Occupation of France. They struggle to answer these questions, as the lines between enemy and friend become ever more complicated. There are three books in this series; Resistance, Defiance and Victory.
Sean is one of those kids who’s fallen through the cracks. He lives with his alcoholic mother and her dead-beat boyfriend, until their murder, which threatens to isolate him more. He finds a home with his mother’s boyfriend’s father “Pop”, and learns to defend himself against bullies. Right at the beginning of this graphic novel, Sean rejects the Hollywood outsider-gains-respect narrative. He doesn’t finish off the book being any more popular than he is. That’s not what this book is about. Instead, Pop helps him learn the hard lessons about being a man, and not letting the darkness inside you destroy your future.
The siege of Sarajevo lasted from 1992 to 1996, making it one of the longest sieges in the history of modern warfare. Thousands were killed in the siege, which part of the Bosnian war. This book is based off faxes a man called Ervin Rustemagic sent his friends, which detail the brutal conditions his family have to endure. Starvation, danger from snipers and mortar fire destroy any chance of a normal life for the citizens of Sarajevo. This is a fascinating book about modern conflict.
The Last Academy, Anne Applegate (320 pages) – Camden Fisher arrives at boarding school haunted by a falling-out with her best friend back home. But the manicured grounds of Lethe Academy are like nothing Cam has ever known. There are gorgeous, preppy boys wielding tennis rackets, and circles of girls with secrets to spare. Only … something is not quite right. One of Cam’s new friends mysteriously disappears, but the teachers don’t seem too concerned. Cam wakes up to strangers in her room, who then melt into the night. She is suddenly plagued by odd memories, and senses there might be something dark and terrible brewing. But what?
First lines: “You couldn’t pick a better night for a pool party: fire-red sunset, a breeze so hot it practically sparked as it floated across the lawn, chips and hot dogs and watermelon lined up and ready to eat. The whole thing was my best friend’s idea.”
Hold Your Breath, Caroline Green (244 pages) – Tara has the power to find missing things and people, but it’s only been a source of trouble for her so far and she’s relieved when her family move house so she can make a fresh start and try to forget about the odd images in her head. Making friends at her new school hasn’t been easy, especially with mean girls like Melodie Stone running the show. Then Melodie disappears. Tara’s not too sorry, but she starts to see strange images of a captive girl who she gradually realises must be Melodie. Tara tries but fails to ignore the pictures in her head and finally goes in search of Melodie, with the help of Melodie’s attractive half-brother. She finds herself trapped with her former enemy, and Tara and Melodie must work together to get free, with the help of Tara’s gift.
First lines: “The blackness began to dissolve. She tried to move her head but pain jack-hammered inside her skull and nausea gripped her stomach. Closing her eyes, she willed the sensations to pass. Minutes went by. Or was it longer?”
The Beautiful and the Cursed, Page Morgan (352 pages) – After a bizarre accident, Ingrid Waverly is forced to leave London with her mother and younger sister, Gabby, trading a world full of fancy dresses and society events for the unfamiliar city of Paris. In Paris there are no grand balls or glittering parties, and, disturbingly, the house Ingrid’s twin brother, Grayson, found for them isn’t a house at all. It’s an abandoned abbey, its roof lined with stone gargoyles that could almost be mistaken for living, breathing creatures. And Grayson has gone missing. Ingrid is sure her twin isn’t dead—she can feel it deep in her soul—but she knows he’s in grave danger. It will be up to her and Gabby to navigate the twisted path to Grayson, a path that will lead Ingrid on a discovery of dark secrets and otherworldly truths. And she’ll learn that once they are uncovered, they can never again be buried.
First lines: “The boy was late. Brigitte crossed the folds of her sable cape to shut out the creeping frost. It was still and quiet within the walled garden, the hollow sort of quiet that arrives just past midnight.”
Picture Me Gone, Meg Rosoff (256 pages) – Mila has an exceptional talent for reading a room—sensing hidden facts and unspoken emotions from clues that others overlook. So when her father’s best friend, Matthew, goes missing from his upstate New York home, Mila and her beloved father travel from London to find him. She collects information about Matthew from his belongings, from his wife and baby, from the dog he left behind and from the ghosts of his past—slowly piecing together the story everyone else has missed. But just when she’s closest to solving the mystery, a shocking betrayal calls into question her trust in the one person she thought she could read best.
First lines: “The first Mila was a dog. A Bedlington terrier. It helps if you know these things. I’m not at all resentful at being named after a dog.”
Freaks Like Us, Susan Vaught (240 pages) – When Jason Milwaukee’s best friend Sunshine vanishes, Jason knows that something is terribly wrong, but solving her disappearance will require pushing through all the voices in his head and then getting the world to listen to him. His schizophrenia is stopping him from remembering the events leading up to her disappearance, and often he discounts his own memories, and his own impressions. But his deep knowledge that he would never hurt his friend, plus the faith of his parents and a few others in the town bring him to the point of solving the mystery.
First lines: “Some days life makes more sense than other days. The algebra problems in front of me might as well be Moby Dick or A Tale of Two Cities or A Separate Peace. I’ve had to plow through all three of those since I got to high school, and I didn’t like any of them. I’m told I don’t think like other people, and I’m pretty sure that’s true. Not that I could explain it, even if I tried, but I always try, so – here’s this.”
The 2013 NCEA exams are looming. For some that means late nights and long hours of cramming – for any day walker it’s a fast-track recipe for becoming a zombie. No one wants a zombie apocalypse to happen so we’ve slapped this survival kit together. It puts all the useful links on the interweb together in one spot so you don’t have to waste your precious time finding them.
Firstly, do you have the exam timetable? Print it out and put it everywhere! If you know when your exams are you can prioritise your study order.
Here’s the NZQA subject resource page; inside you will find useful resources like past examination papers. If you need access to a printer our librarians will gladly help you. Ask them to visit this page and print the exam papers off for you.
AnyQuestions and ManyAnswers are great resources, run by real kiwi librarians. The AQ service will connect you to a real librarian online between 1 & 6pm Monday to Friday, they’re like an internet tour guide and will help you find quality information to answer your sticky questions. Many Answers is like a FAQ page filled with tips for finding information on hundreds of topics.
Studyit for NCEA students is an online learning environment for NCEA science, maths, and English students. The site has been designed with input from secondary students, and content has been written by subject specialists and checked by student editors, to keep it student focused.
This post on Stuff.co.nz will give you top-secret tips from exam markers across a wide range of subjects.
Our mates at Christchurch City Libraries compiled this page with every imaginable study link needed.
Then there’s us – we have 12 libraries ready and waiting to accomodate your study needs with computer facilities, books, study space, and of course real-life librarians. There’s also the magic 13th branch that’s open 24/7 – WCL online will guide you to a variety of eResources and let you search the shelves and order texts from home.
We really don’t recommend it but it’s a given that 21st century study involves a certain amount of online procrastination too – we’ll be delivering respite and tips on our social media platforms throughout and beyond exam season. Facebook & Twitter
Last week we made a happy new discovery… librarian wardrobe! It’s a super sweet site where librarians worldwide can contribute their own ootd photos (some of the contributions following Halloween are somewhat disturbing but I urge you to scroll down and keep looking through, it’s awesome! And I do like dem galactic kitty tights.)
We thought a Wellington City Libraries version of librarian wardrobe would be rad, so check out the get ups of your Wellington city librarians.
A huge thanks to all of my illustrious models – looking fab!
So a while back, a cohort of staff got together after the library closed one Sunday afternoon to film a book dominoes video. It was the 21st of July and one hour in, a 6.5 magnitude earthquake hit the area. We promptly abandoned the idea. A month or so later we had worked up the courage to try again. Except the Friday before our second attempt? You guessed it; a 6.6 magnitude earthquake came rolling on through. Believing we were causing the earthquakes, we gave up on our book domino hopes and dreams. Who knew librarians were such a superstitious lot?
Finally, with the competition heating up (and with four other branches having submitted entries) we gave it one last shot. Five hours and many, many pizzas later we are pleased to bring you the Central Team’s winning entry in the Wellington City Libraries Book Domino Challenge 2013:
You can check out Island Bay’s entry here, Johnsonville’s here, Karori’s here and Tawa’s here.
Brightly Woven, Alexandra Bracken (354 pages) – The day the rains came was like any other, blistering air coating the canyon in a heavy stillness. Just as the rains come after ten long, dry years, a young wizard, Wayland North, appears, to whisk Sydelle Mirabil away from her desert village. North needs an assistant, and Sydelle is eager to see the country – and to join him on his quest to stop the war that surely will destroy her home. But North has secrets – about himself, about why he chose Sydelle, about his real reasons for the journey. What does he want from her? And why does North’s sworn enemy seem fascinated by Sydelle himself?
First lines: “The day the rains came was like any other, with blistering air coating the canyon in a heavy stillness. By late afternoon, the only thing more suffocating than the air was the dust kicked up by our feet. We were as quiet as the dead, moving from rock to crevice, always watching the path for movement.”
The Oathbreaker’s Shadow, Amy McCulloch (416 pages) – Fifteen-year-old Raim lives in a world where you tie a knot for every promise that you make. Break that promise and you are scarred for life, and cast out into the desert. Raim has worn a simple knot around his wrist for as long as he can remember. No one knows where it came from, and which promise of his it symbolises, but he barely thinks about it at all—not since becoming the most promising young fighter ever to train for the elite Yun guard. But on the most important day of his life, when he binds his life to his best friend (and future king) Khareh, the string bursts into flames and sears a dark mark into his skin. Scarred now as an oath-breaker, Raim has two options: run, or be killed.
First lines: “Raim sat in the crook of an old, cracked tree, one leg dangling in the breeze, his head leaning back against the trunk. Long, needle-like leaves shaded him from the oppressive heat and hid him from the view of his grandfather, in case he was looking to assign Raim yet another chore. He just wanted a moment to himself.”
Shadows, Robin McKinley (368 pages) – Maggie knows something’s off about Val, her mom’s new husband. Val is from Oldworld, where they still use magic, and he won’t have any tech in his office-shed behind the house. But—more importantly—what are the huge, horrible, jagged, jumpy shadows following him around? Magic is illegal in Newworld, which is all about science. The magic-carrying gene was disabled two generations ago, back when Maggie’s great-grandmother was a notable magician. But that was a long time ago. Then Maggie meets Casimir, the most beautiful boy she has ever seen. He’s from Oldworld too—and he’s heard of Maggie’s stepfather, and has a guess about Val’s shadows. Maggie doesn’t want to know … until earth-shattering events force her to depend on Val and his shadows. And perhaps on her own heritage. In this dangerously unstable world, neither science nor magic has the necessary answers, but a truce between them is impossible. And although the two are supposed to be incompatible, Maggie’s discovering the world will need both to survive.
First lines: “The story starts like something out of a fairy tale: I hated my stepfather. It’s usually stepmothers in fairy tales. Well, equal time for stepfathers.”
The Apprentices, Maile Meloy (432 pages) – Two years have passed since Janie Scott last saw Benjamin Burrows, the mysterious apothecary’s defiant son who stole her heart. On the other side of the world, Benjamin and his father are treating the sick and wounded in the war-torn jungles of Vietnam. But Benjamin has also been experimenting with a magical new formula that allows him to communicate with Janie across the globe. When Benjamin discovers that she’s in trouble, he calls on their friend Pip for help. The three friends are thrown into a desperate chase around the world to find one another, while unraveling the mystery of what threatens them all.
First lines: “The space between the stone library of Grayson Academy and the red brick science building created a ferocious wind tunnel, in any decent wind. Janie Scott ducked her head and leaned forward into the blast, on her way to dinner with her roommate’s parents in the town of Grayson, across the street from the school. It was November of 1954, and a cold autumn in New Hampshire.”
Fairytales for Wilde Girls, Allyse Near (432 pages) – There’s a dead girl in a birdcage in the woods. That’s not unusual. Isola Wilde sees a lot of things other people don’t. But when the girl appears at Isola’s window, her every word a threat, Isola needs help. Her real-life friends – Grape, James and new boy Edgar – make her forget for a while. And her brother-princes – the mermaids, faeries and magical creatures seemingly lifted from the pages of the French fairytales Isola idolises – will protect her with all the fierce love they possess. It may not be enough. Isola needs to uncover the truth behind the dead girl’s demise and appease her enraged spirit, before the ghost steals Isola’s last breath.
First lines: “Once upon a time, Isola Wilde was watching late-night television with her eldest brother, Alejandro, when Channel 12 broadcast a live suicide. The teenage boy in his leather jacket had hair the colour of desert dust and freckles like actual spots of desert dust. The news camera zoomed, and he blurred then sharpened, a drunken vision.”
Battle Magic, Tamora Pierce (440 pages) – Mages Briar, Rosethorn, and Evvy are visiting the mystical mountain kingdom of Gyongxe when they are suddenly called away. The emperor of Yanjing has invited them to see his glorious gardens. During their brief stay, though, the mages see far more than splendid flowers. They see the emperor’s massive army, his intense cruelty, and teh devasting magic that keeps his power in place. It’s not till they leave that they discover he’s about to launch a major invasion of Gyongxe. The mountain land is home to many temples… including the First Temple of the Living Circle, which Rosethorn has vowed to defend. With time running out, the mages race to warn their Gyongxin friends of the emperor’s plans.
First lines: “Two boy-men sat on the river’s eastern bank, where an open-fronted tent gave them shelter from the chilly spring wind. It whistled down the canyon, making the banners around them snap.”
Some Quiet Place, Kelsey Sutton (331 pages) – Elizabeth Caldwell doesn’t feel emotions … she sees them. Longing, Shame, and Courage materialize around her classmates. Fury and Resentment appear in her dysfunctional home. They’ve all given up on Elizabeth because she doesn’t succumb to their touch. All, that is, save one—Fear. He’s intrigued by her, as desperate to understand the accident that changed Elizabeth’s life as she is herself. Elizabeth and Fear both sense that the key to her past is hidden in the dream paintings she hides in the family barn. But a shadowy menace has begun to stalk her, and try as she might, Elizabeth can barely avoid the brutality of her life long enough to uncover the truth about herself. When it matters most, will she be able to rely on Fear to save her?
First lines: “Fear is coming. As the day ends and I milk the cows, I wait for another meeting with my old friend. He comes swiftly, speeding over the plains as only one of his kind can do. Every second that he draws nearer, the cows become more agitated, eyes rolling, hooves stomping the floor. I know his only purpose for making the journey to Wisconsin is to taunt me again.”
The Burning Sky, Sherry Thomas (464 pages) – Iolanthe Seabourne is the greatest elemental mage of her generation—or so she’s being told. The one prophesied for years to be the savior of The Realm. It is her duty and destiny to face and defeat the Bane, the greatest mage tyrant the world has ever known. A suicide task for anyone let alone a sixteen-year-old girl with no training, facing a prophecy that foretells a fiery clash to the death. Prince Titus of Elberon has sworn to protect Iolanthe at all costs but he’s also a powerful mage committed to obliterating the Bane to avenge the death of his family—even if he must sacrifice both Iolanthe and himself to achieve his goal. But Titus makes the terrifying mistake of falling in love with the girl who should have been only a means to an end. Now, with the servants of the Bane closing in, he must choose between his mission and her life
First lines: “Fire was easy. In fact, there was nothing easier. They said that when an elemental mage called forth flame, she stole a little from every fire in the world. That would make Iolanthe Seabourne quite the thief, gathering millions of sparks into one great combustion. That flame she sculpted into a perfect sphere ten feet across, suspended above the rushing currents of the River Woe.”
Chasing the Valley, Skye Melki-Wegner (416 pages) – Escape is impossible. Escape is their only hope. Danika is used to struggling for survival. But when the tyrannous king launches an attack to punish her city – echoing the alchemy bombs that killed Danika’s family – she risks her life in a daring escape over the city’s walls. Danika joins a crew of desperate refugees who seek Magnetic Valley, a legendary safe haven. But when she accidentally destroys a palace biplane, suddenly Danika Glynn becomes the most wanted fugitive in Taladia. Pursued by the king’s vicious hunters and betrayed by false allies, Danika also grapples with her burgeoning magical abilities. And when she meets the mysterious Lukas, she must balance her feelings against her crew’s safety.
First lines: “It’s a quiet night when the bombs fall. Just before they start, I’m scrubbing dishes in some grungy bar. The Alehouse, it’s called. Stupid way to mark the night your life changes, isn’t it?”
Who here has a handbag fetish? Please picture me waving my arm feverishly because I do!! And we have ordered a brand new book which celebrates the glory of the all-important arm candy:
Bag : The Ultimate Fashion Accessory
“Featuring handbags from well-known fashion designers as well as up-and-coming new talent, this book showcases the most exciting and innovative handbag designers from across the globe, including Chanel, Philip Lim, Dolce & Gabbana, and Marc Jacobs. Bag is beautifully illustrated with specially commissioned photographs, alongside original sketches and moodboards, to reflect the rich and diverse range of bag design. Certain bag styles have achieved iconic status and are copied the world over, each with its own instantly recognizable name. Seeking to understand the creative processes behind these covetable handbags, the book also includes an informed and considered commentary on the style and technique of each designer and brand featured.” – amazon.com
I’ve noticed a trend online lately of photographing the contents of your handbag. This is by no means a new thing, but it seems to be especially hawt right now! I also saw that, apparently, the average value of an average British woman’s handbag and its contents is £1,300. Excluding their phone. !!!!!!!!!!! I have no idea where these peeps are buying their handbags from (or their contents, for that matter) but mine is nowhere near that. In case you’re curious…
1: super glam Guess handbag which I was given as a gift! Score.
2: glasses and glasses case (librarian essentials)
3: some soap I bought yesterday and forgot to take out of my bag
5: mint chocolate (more essentials. Now history.)
6: a library book (standard)
7: tea leaves (yes, I am that tragic / fussy / obsessed.)
8: hand sanitiser
9: Furla make up bag
10: teeny tiny deoderant
11: solid perfume (best invention ever!)
12: make up blotting tissues
13: small array of lip balms and lipsticks (my other obsession.)
14: Ferragamo wallet (loaded up with soooo many loyalty cards, you would not believe.)
15: emergency hair tie
Usually my phone would also feature, if I wasn’t using it at that moment to take a photo! But even including that, it’s still faaaar away from being £1,300. Ouch.
If you’re keen to find out what happens in Allegiant and you don’t want to wait too long in a reserve queue, we recommend the book on CD, which has just arrived and is right now today getting labelled and library-ready thanks to the fabulous library technical services team.
We have two copies of the audiobook, which is available for four weeks and free on a young adult card! It’s narrated by Emma Galvin (the narrator for the Divergent and Insurgent audiobooks), and Aaron Stanford, who features in the TV series Nikita.
We’ve got heaps of YA titles on audiobook, some of them hot off the press: here’s the complete list.
Allegiant print copy update: we’ll have these very very shortly and we’ll get them out to you as soon as possible (once again thanks to tech services).
Tomorrow it will be three weeks until the opening of Catching Fire. We can’t wait! On the subject of turning a popular book into a (hopefully popular) movie, here are some in production in Hollywood:
Vampire Academy, book (and series) by Richelle Mead. The film is set to star Zoey Deutch (Beautiful Creatures) and Sarah Hyland (from Modern Family) in March next year. Movie info is here. The trailer’s here.
The Giver, book by Lois Lowry. The Giver was first published in 1993, a long time before dystopian novels were the it thing. The series has been growing slowly: Son was published last year. The film stars Alexander Skarsgard (True Blood), Taylor Swift (yes that Taylor Swift) and Katie Holmes. Slightly more information is here.
If I Stay, book by Gayle Forman. What a wrench the movie will be, if the book’s anything to go by! It stars Chloe Grace Moretz. IMDb info here.
High school can be hell; the old axiom is explored during this often gruesome exploration of the pressures of being a teenager. All these stories are drawn by a different artist, and connected by a single conceit: the dead students of a particular high school tell the stories of how they died. The humour’s black as pitch, so it manages to avoid being too depressing. Although if you’re squeamish, you might want to avoid it, as it gets very graphic in some places.
The original vampire story, condensed and beautifully illustrated. The original novel is an epistolary book, told in a series of documents. It’s a read that rewards the persistent, but this version simplifies the story while keeping the essence of thriller that’s at the heart of the story. I can’t stress enough how gorgeous the art in this book is; the individual pictures appear beside the text, but never overwhelm it. I love this adaptation; of all the graphic novel versions of classics, this one is my favourite.
A young man is called back to his ancestral pile after the death of his father, only to find that his father wasn’t the man his son thought he was. A nearby circus filled with eccentric characters help him negotiate a strange magical world. The stylised black and white illustrations lend this graphic novel an eerie feel. I’ve never seen a graphic novel quite like it. Absolutely worth a read if you’re looking for horror fantasy that’s utterly unique.
A unique take on the “magical girl” trope, this graphic novel has a bit more darkness than many of the others. Courtney is an anti-social teenager who has moved with her parents into her rich uncle’s house. Unfortunately the Crumrins don’t have the best reputation in the wealthy neighbourhood, and Courtney’s attitude doesn’t make it any easier to fit in. There is some foundation to the dark rumours, however: Uncle Aloysius is a magician, and Courtney borrows some of his magic books. However Courtney misuses them, and gets herself into a world of trouble.
Something strange has happened. It is never explained what, but the narrator, Ben believes it to be “the woolvs”. Ben explains, in slightly mangled English, that these “woolvs” have chased off everyone and now “nuthing is rite.” Clearly, something has gone terribly wrong, but Ben isn’t the most reliable of narrators…this book is an eerie read, the text adding to the rough depictions of Ben’s world. While the rest of these graphic novels deal with explicit supernatural threats, the nature of this one is never really clear. It’s both fascinating and chilling.