Wednesday, February 5, 2014

The Book Review Club - Boxers and Saints

Boxers and Saints
Gene Luen Yang
Graphic Novel

I got hooked on graphic novels when my second daughter was diagnosed with a convergence defect. This basically means that her eyes do not move from object to object at the same time. One is a little behind the other, which makes focusing an interesting challenge...and reading, a nightmare. While she went through eye therapy, I attacked the reading challenge. I tried a Kindle so she could increase letter size. I tried easy readers. But it was graphic novels that did the trick. The minimum amount of text, yet sophisticated story line with artful, detailed illustration helped her become the reader she is today. And has made a graphic novel junkie out of both of us.

Yang's most recent masterpiece, Boxers and Saints, looks at opposing faces of war, specifically the Boxer Rebellion in China during the late 1800s, depicting both sides in characters we grow to love and empathize with, and then leave us wondering how two such deep, passionate individuals can hate each other so profoundly. The story also gives explanation as to why the Boxer Rebellion occurred, what happens when cultures clash, why both sides had their reasons for going to war. It never ceases to amaze me how a book format with so few words can do so much.

Overall, I find the prose in graphic novels less inspiring than the illustrations. It's rawer, less refined, and I may seriously be missing the boat. It may be necessary for the text to be less artful so as not to overwhelm the text.  Is this the nature of heavy dialogue - which graphic novels tend to be - that and transitional text, i.e. meanwhile, back at the ranch... Still, if you've got a recommendation for a graphic novel where the text is as breathtaking as the illustrations, please pass it on. Maybe one of these days I'll understand words well enough to collaborate with them effectively in any format. Here's hoping!

For more great challenges, scroll over to Barrie Summy's site. Happy reading!


Sarah Laurence said...

How interesting that graphic novels ended up being the best therapy! You should share that finding with the community. We found graphic novels of Shakespeare really helpful for our kids before taking them to see plays on stage. YA author Rainbow Rowell just signed a 2 book graphic novel contract. She's doing just the writing so that would improve the prose quality. It must be rare to find an author/illustrator who excels at both.

Ellen Booraem said...

I love graphic novels, although I don't seem to seek them out. I often think they'd be fun to write, kind of like a screenplay. This one sounds wonderful--I'll keep my eyes peeled for it.

Linda McLaughlin said...

I haven't read many graphic novels, but Yang's American Born Chinese is one I have read and enjoyed. I'll have to get Boxers and Saints.

How interesting that graphic novels were so helpful to your daughter learning to read. That's great.

Have you read Persepolis? So interesting.

Barrie said...

My oldest son and his girlfriend are really into graphic novels. How very interesting that they helped with your daughter's eye difficulties. I've been thinking I should intro child #4 to graphic novels. She's not the most enthusiastic of readers. I took one of your previous suggestions--to listen to books in the car--and that has helped. Today we started The Outsiders. Thanks for reviewing, Stacy!