Here are three of the Cybils elementary/middle grade graphic novel finalists. It’s always good to read what the other Cybils panelists came up with!
Real Friends by Shannon Hale and LeUyen Pham. First Second, 2017.
Newbery-honor winning (and personal favorite) author Shannon Hale gets real with this fictionalized autobiography as she details her struggles with friendships through elementary school. Even though she managed to be at least on the fringe of The [In] Group at one point, a social feat I’m glad never to have achieved after reading her tales of it, the pangs of friends made and lost resonated deeply with me. Hale also shares stories of sibling abuse, as well as her issues with anxiety – both caused by mental health issues that went unrecognized at the time. Pham’s illustrations are perfect, as always, showing both Hale’s reality and her vivid imagination. My daughter managed to read this at least 10 times in the few weeks we had it out from the library, and my mother and I both very much enjoyed as well.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani. First Second, 2017.
Priyanka is also having a hard time fitting in at school. She feels isolated from her mother, too, who won’t answer Priyanka’s questions about why her mother left India or who her father was. She gets along best with her uncle, but when he has a new baby, that stability it threatened. Her life changes forever when she puts on her mother’s beautiful pashmina shawl. It transports her from her dull life, illustrated in black and white, to a full-color, magical India, where she’s shown around by Kanta, a blue elephant and a peacock named Mayur. My eight-year-old thought it looked too old for her to try, but I found it a moving story of heritage and women’s choices.
Big Bad Fox by Benjamin Renner. First Second, 2017.
A scrawny fox is on a mission to prove to the wolf that he’s up to stealing chickens. The chickens usually beat him up, and the guard dog is lazy enough not to bestir himself when he knows the chickens can take care of themselves. But one day, the fox steals eggs instead, so that he can raise his own chickens. They hatch into adorable, hoodlum chicks, and hijinks ensue. How can the fox eat the little critters who call him Mama and insist that they are foxes, too? This has sketchy, frameless panels filled with watercolor art, and was another one my daughter finished only to turn around and start again from the beginning.
I love that you put your daughter’s reactions here. It’s interesting that she thought Pashmina looked too old for her.
Speaking of personal fave Shannon Hale (for me as well, love her), has your daughter read Rapunzel’s Revenge yet?
Thank you! It is odd she didn’t want to read Pashmina, when she’s been loving lots of graphics targeted at middle school students.
She hasn’t read Rapunzel’s Revenge yet, but my son enjoyed both that and Calamity Jack. Maybe I should bring them home for her!
After your comment, I discovered a copy of Rapunzel’s Revenge buried in a cupboard on my desk at work. Now my daughter has read it, and says she likes it!
Yay! It was one of my daughter’s faves around that age.
My daughter enjoyed reading Pashmina. However, as a native Indian, the story misrepresents starting with the title Pashmina. The bright red shawl unfurled on the cover is as far away from the exquisite and painstakingly made Pashmina as America is from India. Pashmina is accorded a GI (Geographical Indication) which is the equivalent of the appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC), and produced from harvesting the wool to finishing the shawl in Kashmir, a conflict ridden zone, by extremely skilled, hardworking and underpaid craftsmen. Livemint reports that “Pashmina, a very delicate cashmere wool from the pashmina goat found in the higher regions of Kashmir, has become a much exploited word”. Not only that she also get Sualkuchi silks incorrect.
Not only does a story around a shawl that is a Pashmina completely ignore Kashmir, we run into further set of misrepresentations starting with Pri’s aunt saying that the Pashmina might be made of Sualkuchi silk. Sualkuchi is a town in Assam in the northeastern part of India. It is a center for manufacturing different types of Assamese silks that are eventually woven into gorgeous Mekhela-Chadors and Gamosas . The patterns woven into them evoke the history and geography of Assam, which is pretty much the case with most Indian motifs. These silks, too, bear a GI.
However, in the book the Sualkuchi factory is in Nagpur in central India, and the shawl is still called a Pashmina.
In the book we travel from Nagpur to Warangal (known for its carpets) in Telangana in southern India (nearly 2500 kms away from where Pashminas are actually made) where the shawl is embroidered by Rohini Mitra, (a Bengali), who could (in the real India) potentially be a weaver of Taants, Jaamdaanis and Baluchuris in specific areas of Bengal or Bangladesh, but never of a Pashmina! These sarees, too, bear GIs.
The moment we start using proper nouns, not just in India, but my guess is any ancient culture, we need to start being specific, just as the moment Indians hear the last name Mitra, they will know that he or she is Bengali.
I have spent time in Kolkata for intermittently over the past 40 years. Even that is misrepresented. I wish the author had done the research – especially when it all the information is available with a few clicks of the keyboard. You can read more of how the book misrepresents the shawl and the culture at https://lunaspace.org/2019/06/03/pashmina-by-nidhi-chanani-an-in-depth-look-at-a-misnomer/
Thank you for sharing, Aditi.
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