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Monday, April 14, 2014

Graphic Novel biography of Andre the Giant! (but I don't think it will work for any level but maybe high school -- maybe)

Brown, Box  (2014) Andre the Giant:  Life and Legend  New York: First Second.

     I know Andre the Giant through his part in The Princess Bride.  So do my daughters.  So do  about twenty year's worth of students.  So when I got an advance copy of a graphic novel, I was pretty geeked.  So was my daughter.  Whenever I would put the book down, she would try to steal it.  As I read it, though, I started to get a sinking feeling that I was not reading about the character I love from Princess Bride but instead a very lonely, unhappy, and troubled man.
The fact is that Andre the giant drank a lot.  He smoke, he swore, and at times he was belligerent.  He visited prostitutes.  For most of his life, he was a professional wrestler and involved in all that life entails. The biography does a nice job of putting all this in the context of a man who lived a life of exclusion, unable to ever be comfortable in a word of people smaller than him.  Alcohol mediated his shyness.  Violence and belligerence may have reflected his insecurities about his health. 
There are good moments in here too.  When Andre was a kid of 12 growing up in France, he was kicked off the bus because he was too large for it.  A family acquaintance gave him a ride to school in the back of his pickup -- when Andre introduces himself, the driver reciprocates and gives his name as Samuel Beckett and explain he is a playwright and says that "...some of my work is kinda famous."  When he grows bigger still, Andre overturns a car belonging to some obnoxious guys he confronts in a bar.  When he is much older, all Andre wants out of life is a farm where he can enjoy some peace and quiet.  All of these moments remind me to the Andre the Giant I know from Princess Bride.  Parts of this book are truly beautiful
But in the end, there is enough violence, drinking, and sexuality here that this ia a book likely to be challenged by parents at any grade level and in the context of school, library, class library, and in-class use.  It's too bad -- because this is a subject kids would really be interested in.
Oh, and I thought I would remind you.  If you like reading these bloggy things you can click on the blue google follower gadget thing up there and then I think it automatically emails you when I post something.  Although really I have no idea.

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