Reporting from TLA – Graphically Speaking: Graphic Novel Authors Enticing Readers

Hi! IThis is not a unicorn frappucino just returned from the Texas Library Association’s Annual Conference in San Antonio. I presented on two topics (Top Tech Trends and Webinar Best Practices), moderated one panel, and ran away from one Cory Doctorow (hey, I’m nothing if not starstuck).

But for this post, I’m going to talk about a panel that I merely attended!: Graphically Speaking: Graphic Novel Authors Enticing Readers.

This panel included the youth oriented comic and graphic novel creators Nathan Hale, James Sturm, Drew Brockington, Shannon Hale, and David Wiesner.

Here’s the thing – I don’t know these authors well (other than their names). The age range that most of them discussed is one that I haven’t worked with in a long time, and won’t be exposed to through my daughter until she’s in elementary school (which means, sooner than I want to admit). This means that I have some reading to do before I talk about their work, but in the meantime, here are a few choice highlights from the panel (all abridged and mostly in my own words):

When asked about their early experience with comics and graphic novels –
SH: There were no graphic novels and comics for me when I was a kid – what there was was for boys.
DW: Discussed the rise of graphic novel and the move away from the traditional superhero.
NH: Joked about his special delivery comic advice – Sunday comics ;). Garfield Weighs in, etc. (thanks Scholastic Book Fair)
JS: Peanuts; Mo Willems as graphic novels
DB: Tin Tin

SH: Crediting Texas librarians with the rise of graphic novels; Maverick list

When asking about pushback from schools in exposing kids to graphic novels-0
DB: Wtch the kids reading graphic novels
DW: Is there pushback against picture books?
SH: “I can’t get my kid to stop reading comic books” delete the last two words.

I love love love the equation of comics and picture books, and it’s something I’ll be coming back to in future posts.

Happy Monday!



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I haven’t written in a while. Why?

After a rather lengthy hiatus, I am back! What have I been doing?

I have a new job!

After some time as a Reference Librarian at the Art Institute of Fort Worth, and as the Public Services and Technology Trends Specialist at Amigos Library Services, my family made the decision to move back to Austin, TX. As such, I am back at the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, this time as the Library Management Consultant. That means I get to manage the Small Library Management Training Program, and in general have the pleasure of helping to make a difference in the working lives of librarians throughout the state.

I wrote a book!

Last year I spent a good deal of my time writing a book! It will be published in October 2017 through Libraries Unlimited (ABC-CLIO), and is titled Library Programs and Services for New Adults. This evolved out of my time at the Art Institute of Fort Worth working with new and emerging adults (think patrons in their 20s) and from online training I did at Amigos Library Services on this topic.

What’s next?

I hope to get us back to our regularly scheduled programming of thought pieces on graphic novels, comics and manga in the library. I’m also going to try and review both books that I read as well as comics that my 4 year old daughter reads (yes, she already loves comics!).

And of course, I’ve been drinking coffee.




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The limited space of short story manga

coffee4I’m currently reading Mitsukazu Mihara‘s 2001 short story manga Beautiful People, and it got me thinking again how concise comic and manga creators must be, with their language as well as with their images. Every manga works with a limited amount of images to portray a story, and while the reader provides the action between each panel in his or her mind, the artist must figure out where they are leading the reader with comparatively little information.

Works like Beautiful People have an even more difficult time of it because they are compilations of short stories. That means, if a story is fifteen pages long, at approximately six panels a page, the artist much convey a complex story in as little as ninety images.  This is comparable not to prose short stories, but to Twitter story challenges.

I love short stories precisely because of their ability to distill meaning into a very small amount of space. In Beautiful People, for example, the author portrays a background and history of a friendship between two characters in the story “World’s End” mainly through one flashback and two dreams. We see two characters who begrudge the other’s survival of the apocalypse because of their lack of sexual future (the two who survive are a lesbian and a gay man), and who are terrified of being left alone. It’s incredibly sad and somehow touching.

Any other manga short story recommendations out there? I’d love to hear them!



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I’m married to Ron Weasley!

coffee3The Harry Potter Myers-Briggs character chart from Geekologie has been making the rounds again. I am a self-admitted Myers-Briggs geek, and though it’s probably not entirely accurate to group people into sixteen convenient personality types, I love it. It’s like a slightly more scientific form of astrology, complete with personality tests! And though you might not care, I’ll tell you now: I’m an INFJ, the rarest personality type, and am grouped with Lupin. Not too shabby.

I knew all of this before, of course. But with this resurgence of the Harry Potter chart, my husband gave me great news: as an ENFP, he shares his classification with my dear Ron Weasley! I’ve had a literary crush on Ron Weasley for, wow, almost fifteen years now. So this made my day in a ridiculous, ridiculous way.

Yes, I’m a dork, and I don’t care. I’m married to Ron Weasley!

I’ll be quiet now.




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Black Widow and the lack of little girl power

coffee2My nearly three year old daughter loves superheros. So much that she has already assigned everyone in our family and group of close friends superheros to be for Halloween, and insists that she will be Supergirl. So much that she sees the Batman logo in everything from actual Batman merchandise to toast that has bites taken out of it. So much that she would scream when she had to leave her superhero cape at school.

So when I see the lack of superhero merchandise featuring female superheros, it makes me angry. And when I see the lack of superhero merchandise and toys for toddler girls, it makes me furious.

There are, as always, some exceptions. One of her favorite books is DC’s My First Book of Girl Power, featuring an introduction to superheroines such as Supergirl, Wonder Woman, and Batgirl. They also have a Wonder Woman specific board book that I’m sure we’ll buy for her soon. And Melissa and Doug does have a superhero costume designed for girls, though the intentional separation between boys and girls costumes and toys is a whole other problem. Superhero toys available for girls are purely pink, or not available to them at all, unless they go to the boys section of the store.

So when I saw Marvel’s announcement that there would be more Black Widow merchandise tied in with Captain America: Civil War, I was relieved. That is, until I saw that the increase in merchandise mentioned was simply “a big focus on adult female apparel.” What about little girls? Is it still going to be pink and princesses or nothing?

Can’t we just have toys and clothes featuring both male and female superheros marketed to all kids, regardless of gender? Please?



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Over Coffee

coffee1As is suggested by its name, I would love for this site to truly have the feel of sharing thoughts about books and comics over coffee. Coffee and books are my favorite non-living things in the world, and the pairing seems entirely natural to me.

I have struggled with the images for this site, partly because of copyright concerns over some images and partly because we have all seen posts about books being illustrated with their cover art. And, c’mon, we can all see a book’s cover by going to Amazon or the bookstore or the library. It’s not hard, and it’s not original.

And so, you’re soon going to see some changes to this site, most importantly in its images. With every new post, I am going to post a picture of coffee, probably the coffee I’m drinking the day I’m writing the post. Monotonous? Maybe. Or awesome. I guess we’ll see.



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Are omnibus reissues a problem for manga?

Last week, I came across an article from 2014 in School Library Journal titled “Manga Makes a Comeback.” The article describes the downturn of the North American manga industry that started in 2007 (ironically around the time that I started reading manga in earnest), and then lists a few reasons that this industry is having an uptick in sales.

I suppose that it cannot be questioned that the manga industry has seen an uptick in sales, but the fact that the first two reasons for this increase are listed as “Older series stay strong” and “Omnibus editions” seems slightly concerning to me. For one, they seem as a possible overlap in reasoning: older series are probably staying strong because readers can afford to purchase the combined omnibus editions of these same series.

This causes me to wonder: are we just going to continue treading on the same series over and over? How many reprints of Skip Beat can the industry bear? At a certain point, I would think that this would hurt any new titles trying to break into the North American market.

Yes, there are new titles. This same article mentions that. But if reissues and omnibus titles increase in popularity, I worry that this will simply lead to a smaller and smaller space on the shelf for new titles.

The one bright spot that I see for new titles is the emerging digital reading options – but that’s for another post.



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The Multiple Selves of Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home

If you watched the Tony Awards last night, or have even perused arts blogs or news articles, you know that the musical Fun Home won Best Musical last night. And if you know your graphic novels, you’ll know that Fun Home is based on the graphic novel of the same name by Alison Bechdel.

I really can’t tell you how much I love Fun Home the graphic novel. I’ve mentioned this before, but I think the intimacy of the graphic novel format works extremely well for memoirs. The visual, paneled format allows the author/artist to explore multiple versions of herself, a feat which Bechdel does seamlessly in this title. You see multiple versions of Bechdel as she works through her own sexuality and her memories of her complicated relationship with her father.

What I never thought of, however, was how difficult it would be to adapt these multiple selves to almost any other format. How do you take something so personal and layered and give it to multiple actors? The fact that the musical version of Fun Home seems to accomplish this is astounding, and makes me want to fly to New York immediately to see it. I remember reading an article in the New York Times about this adaption, in which the three actresses who portray Bechdel are described as studying Bechdel (to the point of sleeping in her childhood home) and portraying her in an eerily accurate way.

Last night, the performance of “Ring of Keys” from the musical gave just a taste of this presentation of multiple selves. Take a look, and seriously, read the graphic novel and listen to the musical!




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Updated: Recommended Young Adult Titles

I truly want this site to be a place where I can explore my love of Young Adult books alongside my love of manga and comics. And so, as a companion to my Recommended Manga & Comics page, I have now updated my Recommended YA page.

This a great place to start if you want to explore the world of YA a bit more in depth, or if you want a basic introduction of some quality titles.

Series (In the order that I love them)

The Raven Cycle
 – Maggie Stiefvater

The Raven Boys

The Dream Thieves

Blue Lily, Lily Blue

– Gabrielle Zevin

All These Things I’ve Done

Because It Is My Blood

In The Age of Love and Chocolate

Anna and the French Kiss
– Stephanie Perkins

Anna and the Frencch Kiss

Lola and the Boy Next Door

Isla and the Happily Ever After

– Carrie Jones





Wicked Lovely
– Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely

Ink Exchange

Fragile Eternity

Radiant Shadows

Darkest Mercy

Modern Faerie Tales




Darkest Powers
– Kelley Armstrong

The Summoning

The Awakening

The Reckoning

Graceling Realm
– Kristin Cashore




The Gemma Doyle Trilogy
– Libba Bray

A Great and Terrible Beauty

Rebel Angels

The Sweet and Far Thing

– Scott Westerfeld





Stand-alone novels (In alphabetical order)

The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian – Sherman Alexie

Brightly Woven – Alexandra Bracken

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown – Holly Black

Does My Head Look Big in This? – Randa Abdel-Fattah

Eleanor & Park – Rainbow Rowell

Freak Show – James St. James

How I Live Now – Meg Rosoff

Just Listen – Sarah Dessen

Little Brother – Cory Doctorow

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac – Gabrielle Zevin

Nick & Norah’s Infinite Play List – Rachel Cohn, David Levithan

Paper Valentine – Brenna Yoovanoff

The Perks of Being a Wallflower – Stephen Chbosk

Saint Anything – Sarah Dessen

The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

The Space Between – Brenna Yovanoff

Vintage: A Ghost Story – Steve Berman

Short Stories (In alphabetical order)

The Curiosities: A Collection of Short Stories – Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, Brenna Yovanoff

My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories – Stephanie Perkins




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Off*Beat: An Unfinished Series, Finished

Since I’ve been talking so much about series endings recently, I started thinking about Jen Lee Quick’s Off*Beat, becoming nostalgic for the days when I thought I would never see the three-volume series end.

First published by Tokyopop back in 2005 as a part of a line of original English-language manga (OEL), it was pulled from its lineup before the third volume was published. The third volume, which was still licensed by the struggling manga distributor, was further held up when Tokyopop stopped distributing manga in North America altogether. And so I, like so many fans of the series, assumed that volume three would never be released.

This of course was horrible. In Off*Beat, Jen Lee Quick delivered a fascinating and original take on the manga-style. Including both realistic and fantasy elements in her artwork, Quick’s art sucks the reader in. Most of all, it accurately depicts the complexity and eagerness of teenage emotions. We see the main two characters, Tory and Colin, developing a subtle relationship while the reader is wondering about the mysterious Gaia Project that Colin is involved in. Is it magic? Science? The pacing in the first two volumes was so leisurely that I had no idea where the series was going.

But then, in July 2013, the online magazine Sparkler Monthly began publishing volume three, chapter by chapter, month by month. And while it was exciting, and the ending was well-done (if not a bit rushed), I miss not knowing the ending. I feel spoiled and ridiculous for even thinking it, but a part of me loved not knowing the ending to this mystery.

But still, thank you Sparkler Monthly, for letting us all see the ending to Jen Lee Quick’s teenage masterpiece. Even though I miss not knowing the ending, I will forever be grateful for the conclusion.




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