In addition to my recent experience with Raina Telgemeier, I also read Bryan Lee O'Malley's Seconds, Sailor Twain by Mark Seigel, The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman and Eddie Campbell, and Tomboy by Liz Prince.
I can admit I have not read O'Malley's Scott Pilgrim books (and it is possible I never will) though, I have seen the movie, which I know does not really count because the book is ALWAYS better. Seconds is a stand alone story about Katie who is a chef and restaurant owner. Even without having read Scott Pilgrim I know this is a departure. Katie is dissatisfied with a number of aspects of her life, including her relationship with her ex and the speed at which her new restaurant is being readied to open. Through some plot turns Katie discovers she has a house spirit in her apartment who offers her a way to make changes to her past. One night when a server at the restaurant is badly burned, Katie makes the first of a series of changes.
It should come as no surprise that the changes do not work out quite as Katie hoped. We're not talking "The Monkey's Paw" type changes, but they throw Katie into turmoil. This is definitely not a graphic novel for kids, but certainly teens and adults. I enjoyed it enough to think seriously about picking up the Scott Pilgrim books. (One of my favorite sources for used graphic novels is Second Story Books in Washington, DC - I have only visited the store in Dupont Circle, but they have others. They also have an excellent selection of art books.)
Since I am on a bit of a tear with graphic novels these days, I jumped into The Truth is a Cave in the Black Mountains by Neil Gaiman with illustrations by Eddie Campbell. This is not strictly a graphic novel, it is more of a mixed media experience with some elements of the story told in a traditional narrative form with illustrations while other segments use panels and speech bubbles. With only two main characters, the story features flashback to tell us more about Calum McInnes and the man (or dwarf) he leads to the cave to find treasure. Like many Gaiman tales this one is not for children. This is a folktale or fairy tale perhaps from the Isle of Skye, but as the subtitle says it is, "A Tale of Travel and Darkness with Pictures of All Kinds."
Next up is Sailor Twain by Mark Siegel. I did not love this one. I liked it well enough, but there were a few irritating elements. I liked the art quite a bit. On its face, it is the story of a mermaid and a married steamboat captain who helps her when she is injured. But the mermaid is not exactly Ariel and Captain Twain is not as loyal as one might hope. There is a side story about Lafayette who owns the ship and has lost his brother to the mermaid's song and is desperately trying to avoid his own downfall. Weave in a female novelist who has been published as a man and you have an interesting story grappling with some feminine archetypes. All that said, I liked it, I did not love it.
Finally, just yesterday, I finished Tomboy, by Liz Prince. This one I loved. I think it should be in every middle school library everywhere and high schools too! I can't usually love a graphic novel that is not in color, but Prince's artwork is so spot on in capturing the nuances of her younger self that I did not even miss the color. This is a great story about Prince growing up as a tomboy, having to find her own way with friends and boyfriends who are not sure how to relate to someone who so clearly rejects society's gender norms. I think this is an important story for kids of all ages to read (though it is probably most appropriate for middle schoolers and up). The questions Prince raises about the expectations we have for the behavior, dress, look, everything about boys and girls are mind blowing. The graphic novel format is becoming an important tool for starting conversations about topics related to identity and acceptance. READ IT!
Next up: Understanding Comics by Scott McCloud...it may be a bit late for this, but I am sure I will learn something from this highly regarded guide to comics.