Blinded by Science
On this episode of the Comics Alternative’s Young Readers series, Gwen and Krystal discuss two new releases: Tory Woollcott and Alex Graudins’s The Brain: The Ultimate Thinking Machine, the most recent volume in First Second Books’ Science Comicsseries, geared towards upper elementary and middle grade readers, and Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo: How I Lost My Mother, Found My Father, and Dealt with Family Addiction, a YA comics memoir, published by Scholastic’s Graphix imprint.
To introduce Woollcott and Graudins’ The Brain, Gwen and Krystal talk about non-fiction, informational comics for young readers, bringing up other volumes in the Science Comics series, such as M.K. Reed and Joe Flood’s Dinosaurs, as well as Maris Wicks’ Human Body Theater, and Gene Luen Yang and Mike Holmes’ Secret Coders. Gwen explains that all of these texts place scientific or mathematical information within a fictional frame, and she summarizes the basic premise of The Brain, which places two sisters, Fahama and Nour, in a setting that is reminiscent of wacky 1960s and 1970s monster films or TV shows like The Munsters. Krystal praises Woollcott and Graundin’s use of a diverse cast, both in terms of the principal characters and of the individuals who appear in illustrations of the way that the brain impacts human functioning. Both Krystal and Gwen detail some of the memorable spreads in the comic and view the text as an excellent story and reference book for young readers.
Next, the two PhDs move on to a young adult graphic memoir, Jarrett J. Krosoczka’s Hey, Kiddo, which is already earning critical acclaim and award buzz (it is a National Book Award finalist). Krosoczka is well-known as the author of nearly a dozen picture books and of the Lunch Lady graphic novel series, but Hey, Kiddo is his first YA offering. Gwen recommends Krosoczka’s 2012 TED Talk “How a boy became an artist,” as well as his 2014 TED Talk on the Lunch Lady comics. Both provide insight into Krosoczka’s childhood influences and artistic choices. Krystal then gives a detailed description of the way Hey, Kiddo mirrors — and expands upon — many of the artist-focused coming of age narratives that have been popular in recent decades, including Alison Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomedy (2006) and Özge Samanci’s Dare to Disappoint: Growing Up in Turkey (2015). Krystal also applauds Krosoczka’s use of line style and color in commenting on memory, and Gwen testifies to the author’s ability to evoke a convincing depiction of 1970s New England. Both reviewers love this text and highly recommend it for teens and adults.
The Young Readers series will be on hiatus in December, but Gwen and Krystal will be back in January with a look at some of the YA graphic novel highlights of 2018.
Check out the titles discussed in this episode: