Category Archives: graphic novels

The Wrinkle in Time film: We Came, We Saw, We Cringed. Here’s a Better Option

Read the graphic novel instead!!!

You could tell from the trailer that Ava DuVernay’s A Wrinkle in Time was going to be painful. The colors were way too bright. The special effects —for a $100 million movie — were weirdly cheap looking. Storm Reid was much too pretty, with none of Meg’s awkwardness. And I felt frankly embarrassed for Mindy Kaling every time I had to see her totter across the field in that goofy dress.

Still, I dragged the family to see it because I had hope and because I was influenced by the grudgingly positive review from A.O. Scott  (“Fans of the book … can breathe a sigh of relief, and some may also find that their breath has been taken away.” Really?)

Of course it was much worse than we had feared. Where the tone should have been mysterious and tense, it was cute and sitcom-y. The camera lingered way too long on the kids’ open-mouthed expressions of awe. Reese Witherspoon’s transformation into a giant cabbage was mortifying. There were too many closeups of Oprah where you could practically see the dots of glue used to stick the rhinestones on her face. The actor playing Charles Wallace had zero charisma. The pacing was off (like, how did Meg free her dad so quickly?)  I could go on and on.

So … here is some advice. If you’re a fan of Madeline L’Engle’s novel and want another taste of it, look for the fantastic graphic novel adaptation by Hope Larson, which came out in 2012. Unlike DuVernay’s film, Larson’s take is very close to Madeline L’Engle’s novel in both spirit and  plot. Here’s a look at the opening spread:

I love that she starts with the opening words of the novel: “It was a dark and stormy night.” And the way Larson plays with layers, scale, and moody tones of black, white, and blue support the story beautifully.

Purists will be happy to know that she includes all the memorable scenes that DuVernay didn’t, like the snack of liverwurst sandwiches and hot cocoa, meeting Aunt Beast, and the episode with the little kid whose ball didn’t bounce in time with the others. Larson’s drawings also offer a welcome clarity when it comes to the conceptual discussions of space and time. My kids loved it — I suspect perhaps even more than the actual novel, but let’s not dwell on that. P.S. Larson has a new graphic novel coming out this May titled All Summer Long, about a thirteen-year-old girl facing a summer vacation of guitar playing, boredom, strained friendships and new friendships. Here’s the cover, which I already love:

Graphic Novel Love: Two Series

I’m a big fan of Lynda Barry (Marlys and Maybonne forever!), Jules Feiffer and Art Spiegelman. So a few years back, I introduced S & L to graphic novels. We started with the collection Little Lit: Folklore & Fairy Tale Funnies. Edited by Art Spiegelman and Francoise Mouly, it features contributions from 16 artists, including Spiegelman, Daniel Clowes, and Chris Ware. Each story is a retelling of a classic folk tale, and the kids still get a kick out of the twisted plots. Because a lot of traditional tales have elements of the brutal and grotesque, the edgy illustrations feel just right. Here’s Daniel Clowes’s take on Sleeping Beauty:

Sleeping Beauty - Daniel Clowes

The followup title, Little Lit: Strange Stories for Strange Kids, is even better than the first. The stories all have an unearthly, sort of Twilight Zone quality. S & L cannot get enough of the one called “The Day I Disappeared” by Paul Auster (!). In keeping with Auster’s usual obsessions, it’s about a man who wakes up invisible to others — possibly dead — and spends the day trailing his real, living self. The illustrations, by Jacques de Loustral, have a very Hopper-esque quality.

The only problem I had with the Little Lit books was that they were a bit complicated for my daughter to read on her own. So I was thrilled to discover the Toon Books series, also created by Mouly and Spiegelman, designed for emerging readers.  When S finally started reading on her own, she must have read Stinky by Eleanor Davis (about an adorably disgusting monster who’s scared of kids) at least 15 times.

There are almost 20 titles in the Toon Books series, and I managed to buy or borrow almost all of them.