Tag Archives: graphic novels

Queen of the Sea, by Dylan Meconis

Queen of the SeaLittle Margaret has never known another home besides the island, and she has never known another mother than the nuns in the convent. A great ship visits them every spring and fall with provisions from the mainland of Albion; otherwise, they work to provide for themselves between times of prayer. Such is the peaceful rhythm of their days.

One day, a ship arrives at the island off schedule. William, a boy about her own age, becomes her friend and playmate. Margaret realizes that William is unhappy and wants to go back to Albion, but he can’t, because his father is in trouble. It is William who lets Margaret know about the political upheaval on the mainland, and it seems that his family is on the wrong side of power at the time. Years later, William has been taken back to Albion, and another ship has come with an imperious young woman, Eleanor, who is in the keeping of the Reverend Mother, who has authority over all of the obedient sisters of the Elysian order on the island. When she overhears a conversation with the Reverend Mother, Margaret learns who her parents are and what grave danger she is in.

Dylan Meconis explores themes of freedom, knowledge, and power in this luminous graphic novel based on the exile of Elizabeth I under the reign of her sister, Mary. Margaret is happy on the island until William is taken to prison in Albion, and she is content to live out her future in the convent until she finds out her true identity, and then she is conflicted over whether or not it is her duty to use her power for good.

This is a large volume with ivory-colored pages recalling medieval parchments. Most of the illustrations are done in rich colors and realistic style, but the style changes with the content. When someone is telling Margaret a story, the illustrations look like a child’s drawings, and when a character is reading from a document, the font becomes Gothic calligraphy and resembles a manuscript. Margaret loves needlework, and the illustrations of her embroidery may be photographs. This graphic novel contains more text than most, and the reader will learn a great deal about the ordinary work of the late middle ages, as well as the inner workings of a religious order. The story is beautiful and compelling, but taken as a complete package, Queen of the Sea offers an experience beyond simple prose.

Graphic novels are not usually my first choice of format, but as a lover of art and history, I can highly recommend Queen of the Sea.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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The Faithful Spy, by John Hendrix

Faithful SpyIn every age, during times of greatest crisis, there are unlikely heroes quietly sacrificing themselves for the greater good. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was one such man, a theologian and pastor who died trying to assassinate Hitler before he could slaughter more innocent people.

There are many excellent biographies of Bonhoeffer, and he was a prolific writer himself, but John Hendrix has created an entirely new type of work by producing a graphic novel biography for teens. In just green, red, black, and white, the pages convey danger and tension, with emotive drawings and hand lettering that tell the story of Dietrich’s childhood and young adulthood, his travels to Rome and the United States, and his evolution of thought and faith that brought him to his resolution to join a plot against Der Führer. At the same time, Hendrix spins a brief but enlightening backstory of Germany’s history from World War I to the rise of Hitler: how the German people were demoralized and struggling, and the ease with which a dictator can gain power when the people are looking for a savior.

Hendrix succeeds at my top criterion for Bonhoeffer biographies: he is open and honest about Dietrich’s active participation in a political plot without denying, twisting, or trivializing his faith. There are no easy answers here. Bonhoeffer was a pastor of the underground, “confessing” church, a man whose Christianity was the center of his life, but also a man who was determined to kill another man. How he reconciled those two realities is the subject of endless speculation and rivers of ink, but some writers deal more honestly than others.

My only problem with The Faithful Spy is that the printing is sometimes less clear than it should be. Particularly for some passages of very fine print, the coloring makes it nearly illegible. Perhaps teenagers’ eyes will handle this more easily than mine.

In a time that cries out for heroes, Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of the best. He was brave, intellectual, kind, willing to learn, and yes, faithful. Teens and adults will also enjoy Eric Metaxas’ more comprehensive biography, reviewed here. As noted, there are many books and collections of writings by Bonhoeffer himself. His most famous is probably The Cost of Discipleship, but for an introduction to his thought, the two slender volumes Life Together and Letters from Prison are quite accessible.

John Hendrix is also the author and illustrator of the dazzling picture book biography, Miracle Man, reviewed here.

Highly recommended.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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Relish: My Life in the Kitchen, by Lucy Knisley

ImageFoodies don’t just happen, they are raised. Lucy Knisley relates her young experiences with growing, preparing, and enjoying food in this fresh graphic novel for adults. Lucy’s mom is a chef, and when Lucy was little, she spent time as the kitchen mascot in many fine restaurants. As a gourmet, her dad taught her to appreciate the delicate nuances of the best dishes. They still get together to try out new restaurants.

When Lucy’s parents divorced, her mother moved the two of them out to the country and started raising her own vegetables and even kept chickens. Lucy hated the country! She was a city girl, but it wasn’t long before she was adept at helping her mother at farmer’s markets and in the garden. Furthermore, she became an expert at the one dish her mother wouldn’t make: chocolate chip cookies.

Traveling the world, growing into her own cooking and eating adventures, Lucy has acquired a vast knowledge of the gastronomic universe. Surprisingly, she is not opposed to fast food! Just not every day. If it’s possible for a graphic novel to be feminine, this one is just so. The colors, the drawing, all point to a young woman’s touch. No superheroes or women in spandex—although she does relate the time that her friend, Drew, discovered pornography in Mexico at the age of thirteen, so there are some surprising background drawings there.

Ms. Knisley tucks pages of recipes and food preparation instructions between the chapters, complete with diagrammed details of how to roll sushi or choose cheese. Whether you are interested in cooking or in memoirs of young chefs and artists, Relish will satisfy your cravings. If you’ve never read a graphic novel before, this is a great place to start. Charming.

Disclaimer: I read a library copy of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and do not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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