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review 2017-11-17 16:58
Fathers and sons in America: A Matt Phelan Masterpost
Bluffton - Matt Phelan
The Storm in the Barn - Matt Phelan

I had said in last week's post that today I'd be writing a Matt Phelan 'masterpost'. Typically this means that I cover 3+ books by a single author (or multiple authors writing together in a series). However, today I'm just going to talk about 2 books because honestly that's all I could get my hands on and so that's all I managed to read. :-) I picked up Bluffton: My Summers with Buster Keaton and The Storm in the Barn with fairly high expectations based on the work I had seen by Phelan in the Comics Squad compilation I read and reviewed not too long ago. On the one hand, I was not at all disappointed. The illustration style is most definitely up my street. He is excellent at drawing evocative expressions on people's faces. I think where I was let down was on the overall reading experience. Let me take each of the books separately so that I can (hopefully) explain what I mean.


I read Bluffton first because it featured a circus and I am all about that circus lifestyle. Firstly, when I grabbed this book I somehow missed the subtitle and therefore was shocked to discover that one of the main characters in this book is that famous star of vaudeville, Buster Keaton. Secondly, I went into this book expecting a rollicking good time and instead got a somewhat borderline depressing narrative of what the childhood of Buster would have entailed since he was a performer from infancy. It's about the expectations that a parent has for their child and how those might be vastly different from the aspirations that the child holds for themselves. It's also about the nature of friendship and jealousy (especially when one of the friends is an itinerant performer). It's a coming of age tale that paints a rather grim picture of child stardom and how the experiences of our youth shape us into the adults that we will one day become.


Then there was The Storm in the Barn which I can only categorize as a Debbie Downer type of book. I'm not sure that this falls under any one genre. It's most certainly historical fiction as it depicts a little boy, his family, and his community as they struggle during the time of the Dust Bowl in Kansas circa 1937. However, it also contains fantasy elements of which I can't really go into without spoiling the plot... It's certainly rooted in reality because Phelan does not shy away from the harsh conditions that these characters face (don't even get me started on the rabbits). He covers bullying from both peers and parents. The protagonist is forced to watch a beloved sister struggle with a possibly fatal illness. The entire plot is fraught with tension and a dark cloud seems to hover over every page. What I'm trying to say is that if you're looking for a light read to send your tots to sleep at night then you should probably keep looking. BUT if you wanted to teach your kids about an era of history that's not usually dwelt upon in the classroom then this might indeed be the right selection for you.


I'd rate both books about the same. In terms of imagery and writing, they're both 10/10. The issue is that I held expectations about these books (as readers do from time to time) and I finished both of these feeling somewhat let down. I understand that not all books are going to be rosy, sweet, and fun. I know that not every book has a happy ending. And yet when these two books delivered hardship, sadness, and loss I was ill prepared and disgruntled. I can't honestly flaw these books and say that from a reviewer's standpoint they were faulty...but I still find it difficult to give them full marks just the same. Does this make sense? I guess my point is that a book can tick off all the boxes and still fall short based on the assumptions of the reader and/or their relative mood when they picked up the book. ¯_(ツ)_/¯


Now let's take a look at Buster from Bluffton followed by a page from The Storm in the Barn:


Source: YouTube



Source: books4school


What's Up Next: Ghost Waltz: A Family Memoir by Ingeborg Day


What I'm Currently Reading: Kid Authors: True Tales of Childhood from Famous Writers by David Stabler

Source: readingfortheheckofit.blogspot.com
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review 2016-11-09 01:41
S'Noir White
Snow White: A Graphic Novel - Matt Phelan,Matt Phelan

Yep.  I'm standing by my bad pun.


This is a beautifully illustrated film noir take on the Snow White story and I liked it.  It was sparse with text and plentiful with panel after panel of gritty, dazzling art that spoke for itself.  


I'm not generally a fan of fairy tales, especially the ones that Disney has pretty much taken over, such as Cinderella, Beauty and the Beast and of course Snow White.  So, I don't often find myself picking up books that are interpretations or even inspired by these too often told tales. 


However it found it's way into my request list, I actually enjoyed the experience of reading this book, even though it really didn't bring anything new to the story, which stayed very true to the outline of Snow White, but the illustrations and the window into this Depression era world of street kids, follies, and abandoned buildings was very enticing and helped it to become more than just another Snow White.

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review 2016-10-25 14:08
Snow White
Snow White: A Graphic Novel - Matt Phelan,Matt Phelan

This was a quick read, so I read though it again as I felt after reading it the first time, I didn’t fully understand the whole story. I’m not a big graphic novel reader but I loved the cover of this one and after reading the synopsis, I thought this would be one that I would really enjoy. I have to say, I didn’t like it as much as I thought I would. I had a hard time following the story as there weren’t that many words to help me along and the pictures were hard to follow.   I felt as if I was trying too hard to grasp this novel, a spinoff of a story that I have loved for years.


The author broke the story up into chapters which gave the novel a storyline and moved the story along. I especially loved looking at the characters and I thought the facial expressions on them were phenomenal. Even the background characters with their sinister and forlorn stares carried the novel’s message loud and clear. Only the apple, the item which always turns this story around, bares color inside this novel. The year is 1928 and it’s NYC, where is the prince that will save this lovely princess from the fate that awaits her?   This novel is a different twist on a classic, a classic that always ended with a prince and a kiss.

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review 2016-10-15 12:38
Snow White: A Graphic Novel - Matt Phelan,Matt Phelan
I received a copy of this graphic novel through Book Riot.

I think "Snow White" as a story is horribly creepy, so I am usually pretty hesitant about retellings. But this book is everything graphic novels should be.

First of all, the artwork is simply beautiful. I loved the minimal color usage in the beginning. It really helped focus the attention on the picture and what was going on.The artwork was phenomenal and gave the story a good pace.

I also enjoyed the minimal dialogue. The pictures speak so much without actual words. This is a perfect example of how it should be done. Recently, I read a graphic novel that had so much narration and dialogue, it felt less like a graphic novel and more like an actual novel with pictures. But this graphic novel really utilizes the artwork to further the story and allude to what happened.

The story itself was a creative retelling. I liked the concept of Snow White during the 1920s. And the "dwarf" characters were adorable. I love retellings that take a creepy story and make it less creepy and this one did just that. It points out the weirdness of the whole "awakening kiss" thing, but it's a hard plot point to get around so no judgement for still including it (it's kind of what makes Snow White what it is).

Great book. Highly recommend to those who enjoy fairy tale retellings. I definitely want to check out more by Phelan.


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