Mindy Newell: Isabel’s Review
Last night the whole family went out to dinner to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. And as regular readers of this column know, this is a birthday to truly celebrate. Less than a month after suffering a stroke with seizure complications, less than a month from bringing him home to die, my father is up and about. Not only has he recovered 99% of the use of his left arm and leg, he’s able to dress himself and perform most of the ADL’s (that’s Activities of Daily Living for you non-medical types) without assistance. Yes, he’s walking with the aid of a walker, but let me tell you, folks, I wouldn’t place odds against him in a race against The Flash. He’s zooming down the hallways of the rehab center like a bat out of hell.
And the best sign of all? He’s grumpy again, turning around to harummph at my mother to “keep up, Laura” as he did a loop around the floor and complaining that he wants to go home. How miraculous is this? Well, last night at the restaurant – for those of you who live in the Cherry Hill, NJ area and are looking for a great dining experience, it was Caffe Aldo Lamberti, a very fine Italian restaurant at the intersection of Route 73 and Haddonfield Road – we bumped into one of my father’s doctors from Cooper University Medical Center, who didn’t even recognize him. “The last time I saw him,” the doctor said, “he was literally at death’s door.”
And while we were out celebrating and toasting and laughing and stuffing our faces – so wildly boisterous, in fact, that our waiter came over to tell us that there was a complaint from one of the tables, to which I said “Screw them!” and my brother said, “My father is 90 years old, he was a death’s door, and if it wasn’t for him they’d be speaking German right now!” – yeah, we were all pretty drunk; even my father had a couple of sips of Glenn’s Kamikaze and my mother’s Pinot Noir – Isabel told me about two wonderful graphic novels she had just finished, Smile and Drama, both by award-winning graphic novelist Raina Telgemeir.
Smile is an autobiographical novel in which Ms. Telgemeir tells the story of the accident which led to the loss of her front teeth when she was 12 years old and its resulting agony of surgeries, implants, and false teeth. Parallel with all of this was Ms. Telgemeir’s experience with her corresponding puberty, with all the roller-coaster joys and terrors of that time in all our lives – crushes, maturing bodies, middle-school cruelties, and changing expectations in herself and from her family.
The New York Times Book Review said about Smile “It hits home partly because there is nothing else out there like it.” Kirkus Reviews said “An utterly charming graphic memoir of tooth trauma, first crushes and fickle friends, sweetly reminiscent of Judy Blume’s work. . . . Irresistible, funny and touching – a must read for all teenage girls.” And Publisher’s Weekly said “A charming addition to the body of young adult literature that focuses on the trials and tribulations of the slightly nerdy.
Drama is the story of a girl named Callie, who is a total theater geek. But she prefers the smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the crowd from backstage, so Callie is the set designer for her school’s production of Moon over Mississippi. And Callie is determined to bring Broadway-worthy sets to her middle school, even if the budget doesn’t exactly match that of Annie. And even if Callie doesn’t know a thing about carpentry. And even if tickets aren’t exactly selling like hot cakes.
And even if Callie’s crew isn’t what you could call a Band Of Brothers. Plus there’s all this “drama” going on between the actors, and those two realllly cute brothers who join the production.
Ada Calhoun of the New York Times said Drama has “an inspirational message for girls, and it’s communicated more subtly here than in Smile. What makes Callie happiest is not catching the eye of that week’s crush, but winning the coveted position of stage manager and finding her place in the world.”
Raina Telgemeir is also the author of four Babysitters Club graphic novels that made the American Library Association (ALA) Top 10 Graphic Novels for Youth 2007 list, as well as being selected by the Young Adult Library Services Association (YALSA) as a Great Graphic Novel for Youth that same year. Ms. Telgemeir also co-authored X-Men: Misfits, a graphic novel that was on the New York Times Graphic Books Bestseller list. She has been published by Random House, DC, and Nickelodeon Magazine, and her comics have been nominated for the Ignatz, Cybil, and Eisner awards.
Accolades that are all very prestigious. Accolades that are all very deserving.
But Isabel said it best:
“There are sooooooooo good.”
TUESDAY MORNING: Emily S. Whitten
TUESDAY AFTERNOON: Michael Davis