MMGM and #IMWAYR: Other Ever Afters, Squished, Sylvie, and more!

Hey everyone! It's looking like I need to stop promising that I'm going to return to blogging consistently—I think I'll plan instead on being hopelessly flaky and showing up every few weeks with some books to share. I'm doing all right—life is just hectic, and there's never enough time to read!

But I have been on a little bit of a reading kick in the last week, and I've got a few books to share with y'all this week—let's dive in!

Finished recently:

Other Ever Afters

New Queer Fairy Tales

Written and illustrated by Melanie Gillman
Young adult (but appropriate for most ages) · Graphic novel · 2022

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

Once upon a time . . . happily ever after turned out differently than expected. In this new, feminist, queer fairy-tale collection, you’ll find the princesses, mermaids, knights, barmaids, children, and wise old women who have been forced to sit on the sidelines in classic stories taking center stage. A gorgeous all-new collection in graphic novel format from a Stonewall Honor-winning author and artist.

What if the giant who abducted you was actually thoughtful and kind? What if you didn’t want to marry your handsome, popular, but cold-inside suitor? What if your one true love has all the responsibilities that come with running a kingdom?

Award-winning author Melanie Gillman’s phenomenal colored-pencil art creates another "ever after" for the characters who are most worthy of it.

· · · · · ·

As a massive fan of The Magic Fish, I couldn't pass up another graphic novel of fairy tales—and this collection did not disappoint! I raced through the whole thing in a night.

Melanie Gillman has given us 7 warm, atmospheric stories to get lost in, all with truly gorgeous art and a balance between childlike wonder and mature wisdom.

My favorite stories were "The Goose Girl," which tackles class differences and people's true motives when acting altruism, all in the context of potential romance; "New Name," which lends a sense of community and magic to a narrative of a young person selecting a new name for themself; and "Hsthete," a brilliant tale of a woman seeking help with her fiancΓ© from a goddess of mishaps—and perhaps getting more help than she ever imagined.

I saw some comments on Goodreads saying the stories are a bit uneven, and that is true, but I'd say about 5 of the 7 stories range from really good to really, really good—a good track record, in my opinion.

Squished

Written by Megan Wagner Lloyd and illustrated by Michelle Mee Nutter
Recommended by Lisa Maucione
Middle grade · Graphic novel · 2023

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

From the Eisner-nominated duo behind the instant bestseller Allergic comes a fun new graphic novel about finding your own space… especially when you're in a family of nine!

Eleven-year-old Avery Lee loves living in Hickory Valley, Maryland. She loves her neighborhood, school, and the end-of-summer fair she always goes to with her two best friends. But she's tired of feeling squished by her six siblings! They're noisy and chaotic and the younger kids love her a little too much. All Avery wants is her own room -- her own space to be alone and make art. So she's furious when Theo, her grumpy older brother, gets his own room instead, and her wild baby brother, Max, moves into the room she already shares with her clinging sister Pearl! Avery hatches a plan to finally get her own room, all while trying to get Max to sleep at night, navigating changes in her friendships, and working on an art entry for the fair. And when Avery finds out that her family might move across the country, things get even more complicated.

Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter have once again teamed up to tell a funny, heartfelt, and charming story of family, friendship, and growing up.

· · · · · ·

Well, Megan Wagner Lloyd and Michelle Mee Nutter are now a duo I'll be watching closely! I was blown away by their last graphic novel together, Allergic, and they've sold two more to be published in 2025 and 2027, which I'll be anxiously waiting for!

Lloyd is skillful at writing compelling protagonists and respecting the kinds of issues kids regularly experience. And Nutter's art effortlessly switches from achingly gorgeous to delightfully fun and expressive, bringing this narrative to life.

Just like in Allergic, this duo brings their attention to family experiences in Squished—specifically, the combination of overflowing love and slightly-overflowing chaos that comes with being one of seven siblings. I love seeing representation of a Korean-American family and of a big family—Avery's mother's explanation of why she wanted to have so many kids is truly insightful and thought-provoking.

Overall, this book captures the kind of almost effortless, yet immensely meaningful love that a child, even one as squished as Avery, can feel for her family—this warmth makes this book easy to recommend.

Sylvie

Written and illustrated by Sylvie Kantorovitz
Middle grade · Graphic novel · 2021

· · · The publisher says: · · ·

In a wise and witty graphic memoir, a young artist finds her path apart from the expectations of those around her.

Sylvie lives in a school in France. Her father is the principal, and her home is an apartment at the end of a hallway of classrooms. As a young child, Sylvie and her brother explore this most unusual kingdom, full of small mysteries and quirky surprises. But in middle and high school, life grows more complicated. Sylvie becomes aware of her parents’ conflicts, the complexities of shifting friendships, and what it means to be the only Jewish family in town. She also begins to sense that her perceived “success” relies on the pursuit of math and science—even though she loves art. In a funny and perceptive graphic memoir, author-illustrator Sylvie Kantorovitz traces her first steps as an artist and teacher. The text captures her poignant questioning and her blossoming confidence, while the droll illustrations depict her making art as both a means of solace and self-expression. An affecting portrait of a unique childhood, Sylvie connects the ordinary moments of growing up to a life rich in hope and purpose.

· · · · · ·

I feel like I read this book too fast, and with too much time in between sessions, to truly absorb its brilliance—so perhaps I'll hang onto my copy and come back to it at some point to absorb more.

What I did notice even in my slightly rushed read-through is that Sylvie tells a story of childhood with aching specificity—Kantorovitz knows the details that mattered to her when she was growing up, however small, and draws our attention to them.

There's a lot of insight packed in here about growing up and navigating pathological parents, budding romances, and the confusion about whether or not to pursue art in a world where STEM disciplines seem to be the only real path to a paying career.

But even beyond all the wisdom, there is a sense of childlike wonder that pervades this whole story—in part due to Kantorovitz's delightfully whimsical art style, which changes color scheme with each chapter (as a lover of color-coding in graphic novels, I approve).

Cybils!

So...I wish I hadn't vanished out of existence right as the Cybils winners were announced! I had such a wonderful experience judging for the three nonfiction categories this year, and I wanted to highlight three spectacular books from the winners/finalists list. They are:
  • Revolution in Our Time: The Black Panther Party’s Promise to the People by Kekla Magoon
    • HS Finalist
    • I learned so much about the Black Panther Party's history from this book—and unlearned so much absurd rhetoric that painted them as violent extremists, ignoring their emphasis on self-defense, the incredible network of grassroots social services they built, and more.

Bookish thoughts:

I went on a trip to Austin, Texas recently, and I had a chance to visit BookPeople, which is an independent bookstore and THE MOST INCREDIBLE PLACE I'VE EVER BEEN!!!!! I spent 2 hours and untold amounts of money in that store (buying books like Other Ever Afters above). Some things I loved about it:
  1. There is basically a shelf on every single bookcase with staff picks, each with their own little placard explaining what the staff member thought of the book. So you're getting all kinds of curated picks in literally every single section!
  2. The sections themselves are so logically laid out, and so numerous—there is an MG graphic novels section, a YA graphic novels section, and an adult comics section. I was in heaven.
  3. There are a bajillion cool endcaps and mini-sections—there is an endcap dedicated solely to Sandra Boynton books.
  4. There are so many cool programs I didn't participate in but that sound epically cool—they have a bunch of book clubs, they have shelves called "Blind Date with a Book" where you can buy a mystery book with a description written on the wrapping, and they even have a program where local teens sign up to recommend books and work closely with the bookstore.
  5. It's so huge, and the atmosphere is so warm and welcoming—and I went around 7 PM (they close at 9 PM), so I got to wander around with not too many people present and just get totally lost among the books!
  6. Even their website has really cool recommendations, if you're not able to go in-person!
  7. Oh, and did I mention I found placards recommending Goodbye Stranger AND The Magic Fish?! So they have good taste. πŸ˜„
I'm not saying to schedule a trip to Austin just to visit BookPeople—but I'm also not not saying it, y'all. I wish I lived in Austin so I could visit more often...

That's all for now! Thanks for visiting! ✨✨

Comments

  1. Don't pressure yourself if you can't blog every week. Some people blog once or twice a month. Other Ever After sounds good.

    And glad you enjoyed Austin. My late husband used to love Austin and take me there when we were in Texas visiting family. Though we never went to the bookstore you went to.

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  2. YEAH, CYBILS readers and judges. I haven't written my blog about the amazing nominees for MG fiction yet. It's hard to let go when those great titles are living in our heads!

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  3. Nice to hear your thoughts about the Cybils nominees and your trip to Austin. I agree with Natalie, blog when you feel like it. I'm also trying to give myself lee way to when the time allows. Happy MMGM

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  4. I'm definitely going to have to read Squished—I'm sure my kids would relate as we have eight kids. They're definitely squished, but they keep begging me to have another, so I guess they like it. :)

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  5. Sorry, didn't mean to leave that comment anonymously! ;)

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  6. Allergic is in my library bag to be read. I have The Magic Fish on my shelf. When will I actually get to these books? I wish Sylvie Kantorovitz's book was available at my local library. I appreciated your comments on the Cybils' nominations. I had already added these to my list, but I've done what I can to put them nearer the top. As I read your remarks about BookPeople, I couldn't help but think about the many wonderful days I've spent at Powell's Books in Portland Oregon. A half hour drive from where I live will get me to The Book Shop, one of Canada's largest used book stores. (over 5,000 square feet of floor space)

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  7. Glad you liked Squished! Sylvie sounds very interesting. I was just trying to organize my stacks of books this weekend and came across a copy of it so I really should read it.

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  8. I have SQUISHED and SYLVIE on my future read list but hadn't heard of OTHER EVER AFTERS. I will be adding that one also as your critique convinced me to do so. I always enjoy your reviews no matter how often you are able to post. Congrats on your Cybils work and for sharing your thoughts on the finalist list titles. Hurry back to MMGM when time allows..

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  9. You certainly tackled a lot of books today. I wish I loved Graphic as much as readers do. I have a new one I will review. Cartoons were never my thing. But your reviews really emphasize wonderful storytelling and I forget they are graphic novels. Squished and Sylvie sound like a great stories that kids will identify with! Appreciated your comments about the Cybils too. Loved your sharing the Austin Book Store.

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  10. I knew if I came by, you would add more to the stack, Max, & you have. 'Other Ever Afters' sounds wonderful, as do the others. We had a former neighbor years ago with six kids. My kids loved going there to play, always something going on! I wonder if they would connect? I have read Sylvie and enjoyed it very much. And, I've read Choosing Brave & shared it recently, am working my way through the Cybil's winners, slowly, but will get there! Thanks for all, nice to read another post. Oh, & thanks for the part about BookPeople. I will check it out!

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  11. Blog when you can, it's always great to read your posts! That bookshop sounds amazing!!! A bit far for me (living in Ireland) but if I ever go to Austin, I will seek it out! I laughed at Squished - I'm one of ten kids so none of us got a room to ourselves! It was great when I only shared a room with one rather than two siblings! Thanks for your reading update too!

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  12. Nice to hear from you again. I am so glad you had fun judging the CYBILS; it's a great experience. That Austin bookstore sounds incredible! We have an indie shop in town that is similar (Chaucer's in Santa Barbara).

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  13. Squished and Sylvie sound very interesting. Thanks for sharing them. Carol Baldwin

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  14. Fun post. I'm thinking of doing CYBILS again this year but we'll see how I feel then.

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  15. Blog when you want. You have no obligation. It should be fun for you. I read Sylvie sometime back and enjoyed it. You cover a lot in this post. Thanks for all the info.

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  16. You might be flaky, but I am perpetually late!! ha ha Glad I finally had a chance to read your post because all of these books sound wonderful. I just love how descriptive your reviews are. Another thing I am WAY behind on is reading graphic novels. The publishers all switched to digital review copies, and last year, I still had a VERY old black-and-white Kindle. I got a lovely iPad Mini for Christmas, which I'm loving, but now I;m trying to figure out HOW to get the digital review copies onto my iPad - tech stuff is not my thing. BookPeople sounds like an amazing bookstore! They have an entire end cap for Sandra Boynton? My kind of book people! We visited a really cool bookstore last weekend in Chestertown, MD - Book Plate. It was small but had SO many books packed in and organized in such fun ways. The entire front of the store was nonfiction, arranged by geographic region and topic - very cool place to get lost in and browse.

    Glad to hear you are doing well - no worries about consistency - pop in whenever you have the time!

    Sue
    Book By Book

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