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Friday, April 26, 2013

Ayun Halliday's first graphic novel! _Peanut_!

Halliday, Ayun; Hoppe, Paul (2013)  Peanut  New York:  Schwartz and Wade.

     When Amy and I first moved to Chicago 25 years ago, one of the first theatre experiences we had was a show called "Too Much Light makes the Baby Go Blind".  On a small stage above a funeral home, a troupe of young actors would present 30 plays in 60 minutes.  The plays were cleaver, funny, personal, political, heart-rending, confusing, wonderful, odd, pointless, offensive, and deeply moving.  Each week the audience would roll a die and the ensemble would write that many new plays for the next week. We would see the show every couple of months and it was always new, always fresh, always interesting and thought provoking. One of our favorite actors was Ayun Halliday.
     The show is still running in Chicago ( ) but Ayun has moved to New York.  She is the creator of a wonderful 'zine called The East Village Inky ( ), the author of a very funny book for grown-ups called The Big Rumpus and now she has come out with her first graphic novel, Peanut.  (To be fair, Ayun wrote it, but Paul Hoppe did the excellent illustrations.  Thing is, I don't know him so much.)

     Peanut is a really fun book at first.  Then it is full of cringe moments for a while, then it has a satisfying ending.  Sadie is moving to a new school where no one will know her.  A chance meeting with a girl who has a peanut allergy gives Sadie the idea of ordering a med-alert bracelet and tellling everyone she is extremely allergic to peanuts.  It works and soon she has a group of friends and even a wonderfully nerdy boyfriend.  Sooner or later, though, the truth will come out and you can tell when you are only a third of the way into the book that it is going to be ugly when it does.  By that point, though, you will genuinely like Sadie, and so you will have to ride it out with her.
     Hoppe's drawings are clear and direct and he really does a nice job of conveying emotion through facial expressions and body stances.  Using red as a spot color also works in this book, causing scenes with Sadie in them to jump off the page. 

     This book would be great for middle school or high school.  Teachers could pair it with other novels about truthfulness and trust.  It is not perhaps deeply profound, but it has something to day.  Now, go buy this book (or check it out from your amazing library.)

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