Graphic Novel Adaptation: The Red Pyramid

I listened to The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan a while ago, and enjoyed the book but found it a little long and fairly complex. So I was really interested to see how the book translated to the graphic novel format.

To start, the illustrations (by Orpheus Collar) are gorgeous. GORGEOUS. The colors are rich and detailed, and the characters look pretty much exactly as I expected. The pictures/colors also match the mood of the story: dark when appropriate, hazy and dream-like when appropriate, and, of course, bright and fun when appropriate.

The action scenes in the original novel are fairly complex, so they are well served by the graphic novel format. Events that take pages and pages of description are finished in one or two pages. The same applies with magical transformations or acts. They took a lot of description in the book but only a few panels in the graphic novel.

So that was great.

See? That scene took probably five pages to describe in the original.
See? That scene took probably five pages to describe in the original.

While I enjoyed reading this as a graphic novel, I found that the racial politics of the book were lost in translation, and that was a huge letdown.

There’s no ignoring that Sadie and Carter are brothers and sisters who, on the surface, don’t look alike. (He’s brown-skinned and she can pass for white.) This is a point of real tension in the original novel that is only briefly touched on in the graphic novel. In fact, it only comes up once when their dad introduces them to someone he works with at the museum.

In the book, that difference is a much bigger deal. For example:

  • Carter thinks his grandparents rejected him in favor of Sadie because she looks more like them.
  • Carter’s dad makes a very big deal about how Carter should dress, which causes Sadie to make fun of him for dressing as an old man.

In the graphic novel, those details are lost. There is zero mention of Carter’s relationship with his grandparents and/or how he feels rejected by them. At the end of the book, Carter mentions his dad would think Carter is dressed “like a hoodlum.” However, there’s zero mention of why, nor is there any mention of why that’s a big deal.

The Red Pyramid by Rick RiordanAnother huge part of the story is that Sadie and Carter have lived apart for a long time, and they’re very wary of each other and have to learn to trust each other. They’re jealous of each other’s relationships with the other members of their families, and they both find each other tiresome in very complicated ways–mostly because they don’t know each other very well. Those complexities, too, get lost in the adaptation.

Oh, and a lot of the humor was lost. So, that sucks.

I feel like this review is reading negatively, and that’s not my intent. I really did like the graphic novel. However, I did read the original first, and it’s hard not to notice that so much of what I liked about the novel is missing here.

That said, I think the graphic novel is an awesome introduction to the characters and the series, but I would definitely recommend that anyone who enjoys it also check out the original novel as well. All in all, the graphic novel is a solid adaptation because the general outline of the story and the excitement are there. But, for nuance and humor, the original really is superior.

Source: Library

Recommendation Wednesday: Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library

Because, my dear friends, these twelve children have lived their entire lives without a public library. As a result, they have no idea how extraordinarily useful, helpful, and funful—a word I recently invented—a library can be. This is their chance to discover that a library is more than a collection of dusty old books. It is a place to learn, explore, and grow!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by  Chris Grabenstein is SO FUN. It’s sort of a Charlie and the Chocolate Factory/Westing Game hybrid. Mr. Lemoncello is this super eccentric rich dude who builds the world’s greatest library and then holds a contest for a selection of kids. And the contest is a scavenger hunt/the world’s best board game. I mean.

The book is one huge love letter to reading, authors, libraries, and librarians. Oh, and to smart kids and games, of course.

The kids are so great, but if I had to pick a favorite it would be Sierra. She is THE BEST. She plays the game, but she’s much more interested in exploring the books and reading. I love her.

There were a lot of allusions to tons of books (most of which were super easy to get, but it is a middle grade novel, so that makes sense). I started making a list, but then stopped because it got too long. So, the books/authors mentioned either outright or via allusion are:

  • The Giver
  • The Hunger Games
  • Oh, the Places You Will GoEscape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library by Chris Grabenstein
  • Little House on the Prairie
  • When You Reach Me
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish
  • Frederick Douglass
  • The Westing Game
  • Ella Enchanted
  • The Great Gilly Hopkins
  • The Red Pyramid
  • Maniac Magee
  • A Wrinkle in Time
  • Great Expectations
  • Goodnight Moon
  • From the Mixed Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler
  • Bridge to Terabithia
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day
  • The Three Musketeers
  • A Series of Unfortunate Events
  • Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • The Wind in the Willows
  • Tuck Everlasting
  • The Rats of NIMH
  • Al Capone Does My Shirts

And that is an incomplete list! Basically, a book or author is referenced on every single page. EVERY PAGE. ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤

The book is not without its flaws (the characters are kind of flat, the ending a bit predictable), but I really enjoyed the emphasis on teamwork and, of course, how much awesomeness there is to find at the library. Love the library. LOVE the library, and therefore love this book.

Book Review: The Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers

Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. KirbyI didn’t much care for Matthew J. Kirby‘s middle grade novel, Spell Robbers. There’s a stunning lack of diversity, and I didn’t find the characters that interesting. However, Kirby does add a wrinkle to his narrative by having main character Ben engage in a process I don’t see a lot of in these types of stories: skepticism.

Ben is never 100% convinced that he can trust the grown-ups around him. He considers why and how they may be lying, and he doesn’t willingly accept what they say as truth. It’s really quite fascinating.

A brief plot synopsis: Ben is an actuator who can manipulate reality. (This practice is connected to quantum physics in the story, which is actually a clever way to introduce advanced science to kids.) One day, the teacher he’s working with is kidnapped, and he and his friend Peter are whisked off to this training camp for actuators so they can be turned into, well, superheroes, basically.

So, Ben’s teacher is kidnapped by the bad guys. Then, Ben and Peter are saved by the good guys. BUT. Ben doesn’t think that just because the good guys (The Quantum League) call themselves good guys and that the so-called good guys saved him and Peter from the bad guys means the good guys are actually good. He stipulates that The Quantum League may not be as bad as the kidnappers, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re good by default.

I love that.

Part of what makes Ben question The Quantum League is (a) their motives and (b) their methods. As is usual in a good v. evil story, the League wants to keep the bad guys from having the teacher and the technology because the bad guys want to do bad stuff with it. But the League is never clear about what they want to do with the technology themselves. Not to mention, part of bringing Ben and Peter into the league means the boys severing ties with their families against their will–something Ben is totally not down with.

Which, come to think of it, is also interesting. Normally, a boy like Peter–one who feels alienated by his family or doesn’t have one, even–would be the typical hero in this type of story. Unlike Ben, Peter does welcome the new life and enters it with no resistance whatsoever. Ben, however, loves his mother and doesn’t want this new life. Though he struggles with where he fits with his classmates, he knows he is loved by his mom and is pretty secure in his identity as such.

So Ben remains skeptical. The grown-ups in the story treat him like a pawn, and he’s aware of that, which makes him wary. He never fully buys what they’re selling, even if he has no real choice but to go along with what they ask of him.

While the story as a whole didn’t work for me, I did appreciate that one element. And that Ben’s mom is in grad school. That was pretty cool, too.

Adventures through Awkwardness: 2/12

Source: Library

Connections: The One and Only Ivan

Trying out the new review format! Let me know what you think.

Somehow I knew that in order to live, I had to let my old life die. But my sister could not let go of our home. It held her like a vine, stretching across the miles, comforting, strangling.

We were still in our crate when she looked at me without seeing, and I knew that the vine had finally snapped.

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine ApplegateWhen I read the above quote from The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate, it reminded me of a talk Nikki Giovanni gave at the local university. In her talk, Giovanni said that the only way man would successfully travel to (and possibly live on?–I don’t know; it was two years ago) Mars would be to understand how Africans brought over during the slave trade managed to survive the journey from Africa to the Americas without losing their minds. (Her argument was that the Africans pretty literally arrived in a new world with no connection to the old and absolutely no way to conceive of how to get back to where they came from. The first map on this page shows the many, many different routes Africans were possibly taken during captivity. The journey itself created a complete disconnect with their home.) How did they do that, she wondered, without losing their minds?

Before Ivan tells the story of his childhood, the little elephant Ruby who is also part of the circus, asks Ivan to tell her a story about when he was little. His response is “I don’t remember things.” After he tells Ruby some stories from when he was little, he’s unable to sleep and says, “For perhaps the first time ever, I’ve been remembering.”

Also, early in the story, Ivan and Stella (another elephant) have this exchange:

“You know I can’t remember much,” I say.

“There’s a difference,” Stella says gently, “between ‘can’t remember’ and ‘won’t remember.'”

“That’s true,” I admit. Not remembering can be difficult, but I’ve had a lot of time to work on it.

Remember means to have or keep an image or idea in your mind, to keep information, to not forget, to bring to mind or  think of again (source).

To have or keep an image or to bring to mind or think of again are deliberate actions. Ivan doesn’t remember things. That’s very different than saying he forgets things.

(Forget: to be unable to think of, to fail to remember, to stop thinking or caring about.)

Ivan chooses not to think of his past as a means of survival. He chooses to let his old life die because memories can be “comforting,” but they can also be “strangling.” (Strangle: to kill by squeezing the throat, to stop from growing or developing)

But he doesn’t forget. He doesn’t fail to remember. The memories are always there. He also doesn’t stop caring about his past or his home. The story shows how much he loved and cared for his family in the jungle. He just knows that remembering things from before captivity, that recalling them is worse.

How could the African captives hold onto a place they might never see again if to do so would most certainly mean death or a loss of sanity as it does for Ivan’s sister?

Laurie Halse Anderson did an interview with EW to talk about her latest book, The Impossible Knife of Memory (which I have not yet read and which deals with PTSD), and this quote reminded me of both Ivan’s experience in the story and Giovanni’s question:

I had a great childhood, so when things fell apart for my family, it actually became incredibly painful to remember those great days. I can remember actively praying not to remember them. Because when I would think of how lovely it had been, it made the pain of that present moment almost unbearable.

Again, remembering becomes a deliberate act as does not remembering. To remember happier times for Anderson means the present situation would have been that much more unbearable–exactly what happens to Ivan. Applegate imagines Ivan must have deliberately not remembered to endure what he expected to be a lifetime of captivity.

Is that, perhaps, the same technique the African captives used?

As for the story, I thought it was just lovely.

Source: Library

Adventures through Awkwardness: 1/12

Goals for 2014

I just wrote over 700 words of boring boringess about how I find my blog and reading boring and need to jazz both up. It was getting tl;dr for me, and I was writing it, so I deleted all of that wordy wordiness and offer up the following in summation:

1. I don’t have to, nor will I, blog every single book I read. I’ll blog a book if I have something to say about it.

2.  I’m going to vary my review format and try some different ways of relating my experience reading a book instead of just saying what I did and didn’t like about it.

3. I’m going to participate in a handful of challenges* so I can, you know, challenge myself and diversify my reading to get out of my reading slump.

4. I’m going to change my blog theme so it’s more fun to look at.

5. I’m also going to look into self-hosting again, so I can add more visual features to my blog that aren’t available when I host on WordPress.

6. I’m going to spend even less time trying to get into a book. Is ten pages enough? Twenty-five? Something like that. If a book ain’t getting me, I need to move on. I feel like I spent more time almost finishing books than finishing them last year.

7. I’m going to make every effort to actually read and finish the books chosen for my book club(s), which may be counterintuitive to number six, but I do want to actively participate in the club(s).

8. I’m not making it a practice to request/accept review copies. I rarely, if ever, like the book, and I always feel bad about it. Not to mention, reading becomes a chore if I feel like I have to read a book, and I already have too much to do. (I don’t request that many ARCs nor do I get asked to review a lot of books, but even the, like, three I did this year were too much pressure for me.) (There may be exceptions if I’m really excited about book, obvs.)

9. I’m going to reread more books this year. I reread a couple of favorites this past year, and I can’t believe I fell out of the rereading habit. REREADING IS GREAT. More of that, please.

10. I really want to read more middle grade and chapter books.

(Also, it’s not Tuesday, and I wasn’t sure what shape this post was going to take, but there are ten items and this was the Top Ten Tuesday topic this week, so appropriate link/credit is appropriate.)

*2014 Reading Challenges

Last year I took a break from challenges because I failed spectacularly at them in 2012. However, I want to challenge myself to read different types of books, and not only will participating in reading challenges push me to do so, they’ll also help connect me to other books I may not have heard of or considered. So! These are they and I’m definitely planning some overlap between challenges.

Adventures Through Awkwardness

Because I want to read more middle grade, duh.

Books read:

January: Contemporary — The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
February: Fantasy — The Quantum League #1: Spell Robbers by Matthew J. Kirby
March: Mythology — The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
April: Historical — P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
May: Reader’s Choice — Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
June: Male Main Character — Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante
July: Classic — Maniac Magee by Jerry Spinelli
August: Graphic Novel — A Wrinkle in Time: The Graphic Novel adapted by Hope Larson (by Madeliene L’Engle)
September: Magic — The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan
October: Dystopian — The City of Ember by Jeanne Duprau
November: Female Main Character —  Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T. R. Simon.
December: 2014 Debut — All Four Stars by Tara Dairman
Other middle grade books read:
  • Cleopatra in Space #1: Target by Mike Maihack
  • The Scandalous Sisterhood of Prickwillow Place
  • Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library by Chris Grabenstein
  • A Summer to Die by Lois Lowry
  • The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
  • The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate
  • The Throne of Fire by Rick Riordan

2014 Chunkster Challenge

Because I am going to read Roots by Alex Haley this year, dammit.

Date finished: Nope. (Though I did read some other books that qualify for this challenge, I didn’t read the one I said I was going to, so…I’m marking this one as a no.)

harlem_renaissance

No joke, I had seriously decided in November or so to look through my Norton Anthology of African American Literature (nerd alert!) and find some authors/books from this era to read. So, clearly, this challenge and I were MFEO. I’m doing the New Negro (1-5 books) level.

Books read: None.

Diversity of the Shelf

OMG, I loved the POC Reading Challenge so much and then it went away, and I was sad. Since this new challenge was inspired by that old challenge, I can be happy again. It’s the little things, I swear. This is one of those challenges that isn’t so much about pushing myself as finding out about books I may not have heard of and discovering other bloggers. Did I mention I’m happy this challenge is back? SO HAPPY. I’m doing the 5th Shelf (25+ books) level.

Books read:

  1. Boxers by Gene Luen Yang
  2. Counting by 7s by Holly Goldberg Sloan
  3. The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd
  4. The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda
  5. P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia
  6. Zora and Me by Victoria Bond & T. R. Simon.
  7. Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan
  8. Dangerous by Shannon Hale
  9. If I Ever Get Out of Here by Eric Gansworth
  10. Pointe by Brandy Colbert
  11. Saving Baby Doe by Danette Vigilante
  12. The Great Greene Heist by Varian Johnson
  13. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
  14. Cleopatra in Space #1: Target by Mike Maihack
  15. The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
  16. Americana by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
  17. I Love I Hate I Miss My Sister by Amélie Sarn
  18. The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel by Rick Riordan
  19. Charm & Strange by Stephanie Kuehn
  20. The Girl Friends #2: Do the Right Thing by Nicole Grey
  21. The Girl Friends #3: Deal Me Out by Nicole Grey
  22. Tina’s Mouth by Keshni Kashyap
  23. Afterworlds by Scott Westerfeld
  24. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  25. The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan
  26. Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
  27. Playing Keira by Jennifer Castle (short story)
  28. The Throne of Fire by Rick RIordan