Friday, March 4, 2011

City of Spies by Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan, illustrated by Pascal Dizin

I've been seeing lots of good press for this graphic novel, so I was pleased when I got a chance to look at it. I really enjoyed it, but I'm not sure how well it would circulate in my library.

Evelyn Weiss is a lonely, neglected girl, sent to live with her bohemian aunt in New York while her father marries yet another wife. She consoles herself and passes the time by drawing comics about Zirconium Man and his sidekick Snapper, adventures she puts herself and her father into. When she makes friends with Tony, the building supervisor's son, they find themselves in the middle of a real adventure!

There's plenty of development in all the characters, as well as exciting action, codes, and history. Tony has misconceptions and prejudices against "rich girls" like Evelyn and her selfish, spoiled Aunt Lia. Lia gets a dose of reality and finally starts growing up when she has to take responsibility for Evelyn and think about someone else. Evelyn learns to think more about the consequences of her actions and get involved in the real world, instead of hiding in her daydreams.

The spy plot is good, not cliched or exaggerated. The fear and worry of subversive agents is perfectly captured, as well as the prejudices and concerns of the time.

Several reviewers have commented on the Herge-like quality of the art and it certainly has a Tintinish air. The text is readable, but there's plenty of action and plot crammed into every page.

But....I'm still not sure how many kids will want to read this. Will they know enough history to fit the story into its context? Will Evelyn's Zirconium Man daydreams put them off? I haven't yet met any younger kids (or older ones for that matter) who like the old, classic comic styles. On the other hand, we don't have many plain adventure comics, so maybe this would fill a niche....What do you think? Do you have readers who liked this one?

Verdict: I liked it, but I'm not sure how well it would circulate

ISBN: 978-1596432628; Published April 2010 by First Second; Borrowed from the library.

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