graphic memoir

Book Review: Flying Couch: A Graphic Memoir by Amy Kurzweil

I need to read more graphic novels. I always, always forget how fun the format is, how relaxing it is take in the art as I page through the story- even when the story isn’t necessarily an easy one. Currently, our teen graphic novels are squished in with the manga, which makes them kind of difficult to find amidst all the brightly colored series books, and the adult graphic novels are tucked away in a far corner of the library that I’m never by, so I don’t always remember to go looking for them. I’m really hoping that they have a more prominent place when our new library building opens up late next year (I get so excited driving past the building site on Main Street and seeing the progress they’re making. It’s slow- they started tearing down the old abandoned grocery store that formerly sat in that site late this past spring, and it’s now just an empty lot with heaps of broken concrete, and the start of a small basement, but it’s definitely progress!) All that to say, I had a bit of a hard time locating Flying Couch: A Graphic Memoir by Amy Kurzweil (Black Balloon Publishing, 2016) during my last trip, but I’m glad I finally found it squished in there on the bottom shelf.

Growing up the granddaughter of a Holocaust survivor isn’t easy for Amy. Her mother, a psychologist, overanalyzes everything; her grandmother has never really shared what she went through, but Amy, a budding artist, wants to learn her family’s stories. What happened to Bubbe? What does it all mean for their family, for Amy, for their future? Sliding around in time and incorporating the stories of all three women- grandmother, mother, daughter- Amy writes and illustrates the story of her grandmother’s survival in Poland, all that she lost, and all that she carries with her to this day. By doing so, Amy explores the trauma all three generations have suffered because of it.

Graphic memoir is such an interesting format for such a heavy topic. It’s still an intense subject, and Bubbe’s experiences fleeing, hiding, and losing almost her entire family absolutely reach in and rip out the reader’s soul. But the format tempers it slightly in a way that plain print doesn’t- it doesn’t lessen the emotional impact at all, but the illustrations wrap a fuzzy blanket of comfort around your shoulders as you digest the tragedy. Ms. Kurzweil represents her grandmother’s pain well, but her drawings, frame by frame, help soothe the ache and make the long-term effects of the tragedy easier to understand.

While this is definitely an emotional subject, Flying Couch is still a fast read (just take the time to appreciate all Ms. Kurzweil’s fabulous artwork!). I flew through it Sunday morning and it’s given me an even deeper understanding of the toll of generational trauma, and the importance of sharing our stories.

Visit Amy Kurzweil’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

graphic novel

Book Review: The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw by Mark Crilley

I stumbled upon The Drawing Lesson: A Graphic Novel That Teaches You How to Draw by Mark Crilley (Watson-Guptill, 2016) a few weeks ago while looking for books on how to draw. My daughter is fully remote at school and everyone does art remotely, and at the beginning of the year, she expressed anxiety over having to do art by herself. So, not having done art since I was a kid, I decided to jump in there with her and bought myself a sketch book and some colored pencils. It’s been…interesting. I enjoy the process, though I definitely need more practice, but I’ve been looking for some help, and I definitely found it in this sweet little graphic novel.

David is a young kid who wants nothing more than to draw better than his school nemesis when he stumbles upon illustrator Becky drawing in the park. He pesters her enough to give him a drawing lesson, and with that, she becomes his somewhat reluctant mentor, giving advice on perspective, shading, background, and more. As David’s art skills develop, so does Becky’s affection for him, and by the end of the book, they’ve both grown and benefitted from these art lessons.

What a sweet, sweet little book. I read it all in one setting but absorbed a lot of the advice Mark Crilley gave in the pages. David is an eager, somewhat pestery little character, and Becky’s mild (most of the time!) irritation is well-deserved, but they work together well and David is receptive to Becky’s criticism, providing an excellent example for younger (and heck, even older) readers. Aspiring artists would do well to follow this book for some awesome do-it-at-home art lessons. I wish I had time to do exactly that, but even just reading it, I feel as though I’ve learned a lot. (Some of the instruction echoes what I’ve heard from my daughter’s art teacher, which is neat!) We’ll see if my art improves this week! If you’re learning to draw, or would like to draw better, you shouldn’t miss this one.

Apparently Mark Crilley has a YouTube channel as well; I definitely need to find time to check out his drawing lessons there!

Visit Mark Crilley’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.