Tag Archives: review

Review: “Robot Dreams” by Sara Varon

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Review by Rachel Heston Davis

ROBOT DREAMS joins such graphic novels as MAUS and OWLY in telling a very human story through the eyes of animals. Like OWLY, the plotline unfolds in simple illustrations without dialogue: Dog takes his friend Robot to the beach, where Robot rusts and gets stuck lying on the sand. With no way to get Robot moving again, Dog abandons him, and both spend the next year missing each other.

At first glance, ROBOT DREAMS’ straightforward action and clean-cut cartoon style appear simplistic. Don’t be fooled; beneath the simplicity lies a poignant message about the fragile nature of friendship in our increasingly isolated society. Both Dog and Robot spend the book lonely, mirroring the two categories of social disconnect most of us fall under; the lonely extrovert or the lonely introvert.

Dog is the lonely extrovert who navigates a series of other friendships but finds them shallow and unsatisfying. Some friendships end because of incompatibility in lifestyle, such as the ducks who travel south in winter. Some end with the natural passage of time, like the snowman who melts come spring. And some acquaintances, like Dog and Snowman’s mutual friend Penguin, lose interest in Dog once the mutual friend leaves the picture.

Robot, meanwhile, lies on the beach and imagines escaping to find new pals. As a lonely introvert, he dreams of finding friends but has no real-life contact with others. On the rare occasion when someone does cross his path, the experience ends in disappointment. When rabbits come ashore in a leaky boat, Robot expects help; in a striking moment of cruelty, the rabbits chop off his leg to patch their boat and then leave. When a mother bird makes her nest in the crook of Robot’s arm, he grows attached to her little family. But they fly away, leaving him with a literal empty nest.

The book offers hopeful resolution for both characters, but it’s no fairy tale ending. ROBOT DREAMS serves as a cautionary tale for readers: cherish your close friends, because close friends are hard to come by.

This graphic novel is a winner for all ages. While the message will interest adults, young children will be drawn to the adorable cartoon style, easy plotline, and animal characters.

Happy Birthday, Laurel Maury!

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Celebrate the birthday of Laurel Maury, book/comics reviewer for NPR, by reading one of her graphic novel reviews:

“Bradbury Classic In Vivid, ‘Necessary’ Graphic Form” (NEW! July 30th, 2009)

“Best Superhero Graphic Novels of 2008″

“Best Graphic Novels of 2008″

Lulu Review: AIR Vol. 1

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AIR Vol. 1

Writer: G. Willow Wilson

Artist: M.K. Perker

Vertigo Comics, $9.99

AIR is a remarkable work by writer G. Willow Wilson and artist M.K. Perker that elevates not only the medium but Vertigo Comics in particular. The book’s protagonist is Blythe, a stewardess with an inconvenient fear of flying. But what might first be seen as Blythe’s crucial flaw will later lay the groundwork for the blossoming of her greatest talent.

Accompanying Blythe on-and-off on her journey is the enigmatic Zayn, a man of many names and disguises. Through proceedings that run from satire to the just plain surreal, the attraction and romance between our heroine and Zayn remains believable and touching, an oasis.

It admittedly took me two readings of the first issue of AIR to really get into the story; which is why I really recommend the affordably-priced trade. Comics like this just seem (at least to me) to work better as a whole, rather than serialized.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Lulus

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Lulu Review: No Girls Allowed

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No Girls Allowed

Writer: Susan Hughes

Artist: Willow Dawson

Publisher: Kids Can Press

Price: $8.95

No Girls Allowed is a delightful graphic novel for adults and children alike that recounts fascinating and true tales of females throughout history who dressed up as men in the name of freedom, adventure, and ambition.

The roster of “cross-dressing” lasses include:

  • Hatshepsut, Egyptian princess who became a pharaoh.
  • Mu Lan, who assumed a male identity to defend her homeland in war.
  • Esther Brandeau, Jewish survivor of a shipwreck who assumed the role of a Catholic young man to both escape religious persecution and gender restrictions.
  • James Barry, accomplished doctor who might not have ever had the opportunity to practice her/his craft if she/he remained a woman.

Susan Hughes presents the tales in a clear, concise, and thoroughly entertaining manner, and Willow Dawson’s illustrations convey a depth of emotion & meaning within a streamlined, “cartoony” style. Very educational, but never dry.

Rating: 4/5 Lulus

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