Thursday 31 March 2016


I want to like graphic novels, I really do. I try them from time to time, but never seem to have much luck. They're ok I guess, but the story always seems a bit disappointing somehow. Why not write prose and write a really good story? What is the advantage of the format? Does it go beyond enticing reluctant readers? El Deafo didn't really hit the mark for me last year (see my review), but I did quite like French Milk a few years ago (see my review) although that's a much more obvious topic for me.

I've seen the covers of Raina Telgemeier's hugely popular graphic novels about the place recently, enough to get me curious about her work. Clearly I'm quite behind the times, Raina has  dominated the New York Times Graphic Novel list for the past few years, and her books tend to stay up there for over a 100 weeks. My library had a copy of Drama sitting on the shelf so I borrowed it recently, and read it in the past day. Graphic novels certainly are quick reads! And that's a good thing, a nice quick read for those times when you need to read something between other meatier reads.

Drama tells the story of Callie and her friends and fellow students at Eucalyptus (!) Middle School. Callie is a 7th grade student, and a keen participant in the drama group at the school- she loves theatre, she loves her role as set designer, and wants to work in theatre as a set designer when she grows up. The school is doing a play called Moon Over Mississippi and as with everything the production has some drama of it's own along the way too. All set amongst a background of first crushes, some dating problems and confusing times in friendships.  Naturally I liked the Les Mis references.

Drama is certainly inclusive, the kids depicted are from all sorts of backgrounds. Sometimes we learn this from their names, other times from the colour of their skin. Although I guess if graphic novels use colourists, then the colourist decides skin colour, not the author? I really do wonder how the colourist/author interaction works. I only learned that colourists existed a few months ago when I read El Deafo (see my review). So who decided that Callie had purple hair? That seems kind of important.

I found a rather fascinating description of Raina's work process on her blog- check it out, it's fascinating. Oh, and here she explains the interactions with her colourists, also fascinating, and an explanation as to why colourists even exist- as Raina says that it would take her an extra 6-9 months to do the colouring herself! Wow, it's clearly a process I have no idea about- I find it incredible that it could take so long. You can hear a great interview with Raina Telgemeier here.

I have Smile in the house, I'll try and read it soon.


Tamara said...

I'm interested in these also, but standing in a bookshop looking at them, I feel like I don't get them and wonder what joy I'll have if i purchase one? I guess I should try the library too.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

I had a student asking about this book last week. I read the author's first (I think) graphic novel, but I haven't gotten to this one yet.

I'm with you; I'm not one who adores graphic novels. Too often the text seems trite, and is included only to make clear what is not clear from the graphics. I must say that I loved the graphic novel taken from the Proust book, but that's probably just because of the relief I felt at having the long novel condensed.