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Ghandi: From Picture Books to Graphic Novels May 13, 2014

Posted by ccbooks in Book Reviews.
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Two recent books bring Mahatma Gandhi to life, one for older readers and one for younger audiences.
graphicGandhi: My Life is my message is a graphic novel by Jason Quinn with art by Sachin Nagar. Narrated by Gandhi himself, it takes a detailed look at his life and work. For readers who have little knowledge of Gandhi and the Indian independence movement, this biography covers his education in England, his work in South Africa as well as the more well known events of his fasts and civil disobedience in India. Gandhi was part of so many actions and protests that a biography sometimes runs the risk of being one long list of bloody confrontations, but Quinn does a good job of being specific about what the issues are and the opposition forces. Occasionally I got the various British officials mixed up and it would have been nice to have a better understanding of British-Indian relations. However, for readers age 12 and up, especially those who prefer history to be told visually, this is a good choice.
Shorter, but perhaps closer to the heart of Gandhi’s message is Grandfather Gandhi written by one of the great man’s grandsons, with author Bethany Hegedus. Arun narrates the story of how he visits his famous grandfather, living in the service village alongside other followers, eating simple food and helping with the chores. Arun doesn’t get much chance to see his grandfather alone and he struggles with lessons and getting along with the other kids in the village. His anger scares him, but his grandfather calms him by explaining that anger can strike like lightning or be transformed into light–and that everyone, even the peaceful Gandhi, struggles to control it. It is a thoughtful text, with enough detail to reward close reading and study by older readers, yet paced in a way that allows it to be read aloud as well. It is sure to spark conversations with young people about ways to deal with anger in our lives and world today.
gandhiEvan Turk’s illustrations are simply stunning. The materials list reads “watercolor, paper collage, cotton fabric, cotton yarn, gouache, pencil, tea and tin foil” and not a single one is wasted or extraneous. Careful placement of shadows for all the figures gives a strong sense of place and the hot sun of India, while Gandhi himself is presented alternately as a giant figure imposing on a child’s sense of the world and just one of the crowds of people in the village. Most impressively, Arun’s anger is represented as scribbles of pencil and snarls of black thread erupting from his head, to contrast with the order and structure of the white thread spun by his grandfather. Turk’s illustrations turn an already special story into an essential one for readers and picture book lovers of all ages.
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