Caroline the Future Librarian

Caroline Davis | LIBR 265-10 | SJSU | Wrenn-Estes

Flight (Volume 1) by Kazu Kibuishi

Title: Flight (Volume One)
Author: Kazu Kibuishi
Publisher: Villard
Date: April 2007
ISBN-13: 978-0345496362

Plot Summary: Flight (Volume One) is the first in a series of six graphic novel anthologies of short stories compiled by Kazu Kibuishi, featuring talented young artists and writers.  Although it was not a requirement for inclusion, many of the stories feature the theme of flying, such as “Air and Water” by Enrico Casarosa, which was inspired by the writings of aviator Antoine de Saint-Exupéry.  Some contain more fanciful elements, like “Hugo Earhart” by Jake Parker, which is about a young boy accompanied by a miniature green flying pig and a flying purple whale.  Many of the artists appear to do their work using computer programs, but some have other techniques, such as in the story “Paper and String” by Jen Wang, which creates images using mixed media, including decorative paper and even photographs.  It is truly a diverse collection, and the stories range from the comedic to the tragic.

Critical Evaluation: Aside from being an impressive collection in its own right, the first volume of the Flight series would serve as a great introduction to the graphic novel genre.  Rather than sticking to a narrow vision or visual style (for instance, only featuring art that resembles the anime style), Flight truly incorporates a wide variety of young talent within the graphic arts community – ranging from the cartoonish to the traditionally artistic.  It was incredible how much story could be packed into each short contribution – the visual element really expanded on the included text and made the stories deeper and understood in different ways.  In this instance, a picture really is worth a thousand words.  With the wide range of artistic vision, it would have been nice to have a bit more of a coherent theme, to thread through the stories and make the entire volume more cohesive. In any case, Flight is a phenomenal book and deserves a spot on the shelf.

Reader’s Annotation: This graphic novel is a collection of short stories from several talented young artists and writers.

Author Information: Kazu Kibuishi is the founder and editor of the Flight Anthologies, a critically acclaimed comics series, as well as the creator of Daisy Kutter: The Last Train, a winner of the YALSA Best Books for Young Adults Award.

Born in Tokyo, Japan, Kazu moved to the U.S. with his mother and brother when he was a child. He graduated from Film Studies at the University of California Santa Barbara, and then moved to Los Angeles to pursue a career in the entertainment industry. He currently works as a full-time comic book artist.  Kazu lives with his wife in Alhambra, California.  (Source)

Genre: Graphic Novel, Alternate Formats, Short Stories

Curriculum Ties: Art, Graphic Art

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Do you think the graphic novel illustrations translate well into short stories?
2) What was your favorite story from the collection?  Why?
3) Did you find that the visuals or text was more important for understanding the stories?

Interest Age: 12 and older.

Challenge Issues: None.

Challenge Defense Ideas: This book has no apparent challenge issues, but if a challenge comes up:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I was looking for more graphic novels to add to my collection, and Flight caught my attention because Library Journal said of the volume: “Regardless of where it’s shelved, this book belongs in every library.”


Official Flight website.


May 15, 2010 Posted by | Graphic Novels | , | Leave a comment

American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang

Title: American Born Chinese
Author: Gene Luen Yang
Publisher: Square Fish
Date: December 2008
ISBN-13: 978-0312384487

Plot Summary: In American Born Chinese, three seemingly separate stories come together in a surprising way.  The first story is of the Monkey King, an ancient Chinese deity who becomes as powerful as he can, but must humble himself and serve as a disciple to a holy man.  The second is of a handsome blonde teen named Danny, who is visited every year by his cousin Chin-Kee, an offensive and racist caricature of a Chinese person, who embarrasses Danny by his behavior, including making sexist comments about women and loudly performing the song “She Bangs” on a table in the library.  The last story is of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American student at a predominantly white school, who just wants to be treated like everyone else.  He befriends a student from Taiwan, and tries to attract the attention of his crush, a girl in his class named Amelia.  In the end, it is revealed how the three stories are interconnected.

Critical Evaluation: Anyone who thinks that graphic novels can’t be a serious form of storytelling has never read American Born Chinese.  Even with the highly stylized and cartoon-like drawings, the story it tells of coming of age and reconciling your ethnic identity with the dominant culture is extremely well told and thought provoking (no wonder it won the Michael L. Printz Award in 2007, which recognizes literary excellence in young adult literature).  Jin’s experience of high school, including figuring out how to act around the opposite sex, and just trying to fit in at school, will relate to teens – and those who remember what those days were like.  The technique of telling three apparently unrelated stories, then revealing an astonishing connection at the climax of the plot was very effective and forces the reader to give the story more thought, thinking back over the three storylines and seeing how they fit together in retrospect.

Reader’s Annotation: This graphic novel tells three stories – of Jin Wang, a Chinese-American high school student; the Monkey King, an ancient Chinese deity; and of blonde Danny and his cousin Chin-Kee, who is a caricature of a racist stereotype of a Chinese person – that are connected in a surprising way.

Author Information: Gene Yang began drawing comic books in the fifth grade.  In 1997, he received the Xeric Grant, a prestigious comics industry grant, for Gordon Yamamoto and the King of the Geeks, his first comics work as an adult.  He has since written and drawn a number of titles, including Duncan’s Kingdom (with art by Derek Kirk Kim) and The Rosary Comic Book.

He lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with his lovely wife, Theresa, and son, Kolbe, and teaches computer science at a Roman Catholic high school. (Biographical Information from the jacket of American Born Chinese)

Genre: Multicultural Fiction

Curriculum Ties: Multiculturalism, Sociology

Booktalking Ideas:
1) Discuss how the three plotlines are connected.
2) Gene Yang says that he took the Buddhist legend of the Monkey King and adapted it with his own Christian faith to use in the story.  Do you he should have done this?
3) Most Americans are descended from immigrants – do you feel connected to the culture of your origin?

Interest Age: 14 and older

Challenge Issues: None.

Challenge Defense Ideas:

• Become familiar with the book and its content.

• Refer to the collection development policy of the library, if none, see here to develop one right away.

• Refer to reviews available for viewing on

• Try to get reviews of the book from teens who have read it.

Selection: I was hoping to add more multicultural literature to my collection, and also wanted to include some graphic novels.  This fit the bill on both counts, and additionally was a fantastic read!  Highly recommended.


Gene Luen Yang talks about American Born Chinese.

May 13, 2010 Posted by | Graphic Novels | | Leave a comment