Saturday, 25 July 2015

Different Like Coco: A Different Kind of Picture Book

A Review By: Amelia
I’ve never really cared about Coco Chanel because I have little interest in fashion and, honestly, she always came off as an icon that was more harm than good to idolize. Why I decided to read a short, children’s story biography on her given this, I’ll never know. But I did and I’m glad I did!

Gabrielle "Coco" Chanel was always different, and she vowed to prove that being different was an advantage! Coco shows just how far a person can come with spunk, determination, and flair.

The author and illustrator and Different Like Coco is Elizabeth Matthews who made her chic picture-book debut with this lively look at a legendary woman. Says the author-illustrator: “When I look in my closet, it’ s easy to appreciate what Coco Chanel accomplished for herself, for women, for fashion, and, of course, for little black dresses everywhere.” She’s a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design has a passion for fashion.

The art style in Different Like Coco is a simple style that’s more sketchy than complete. They’re like doodles in a notebook and coloured in with subtle watercolours. My one qualm with the art is that the postures of the people that eventually start wearing Chanel’s designs. They’re slouchy and not elegant at all, it kind of detracts from the overall effect the story is trying to convey. 

The book follows Coco Chanel’s life and career in a shorten version that’s accessible for children and even though Chanel’s career might not be something that everyone strives for, cares about, or even thinks has meaning (I mean, I didn’t before because it’s high fashion and I could care less), I think this book has a lot to teach. It shows that unique is good, determination is great, and finding what you want to do in life is best.

I think the book’s biggest charm is that it’s about a woman who, not only made a career for herself in the early 1900s, but also shaped women’s lives for decades to come after her. She changed women’s fashion and, in so doing, changed women’s perceived roles in life. This book shows children (both male and female) that they don’t have to take what’s handed to them in life and that’s that! Be a free spirit, demand equality, and do what you love without hesitation!

My final thoughts on Different Like Coco are that it’s an interesting little picture book that shouldn’t be passed over just because it’s about a fashion designer. It’s a unique book about a unique subject and it’s worth a read.

Saturday, 11 July 2015

Hyperbole And A Half: I Didn’t Love It Half As Much As I Thought I Would, But Saying I Hate It Is Definitely Hyperbole!

A Review By: Amelia
In the last few years blogs becoming books has been a huge market. Some of them become great works onto themselves and others fall way short and just reprint and charge money for something I can see for free on the internet! Hyperbole and a Half is a weird mix of the two.

Hyperbole and a Half is a combination web comic and blog written by Allie Brosh, whose notable achievements, in her own words, are living with two dogs and being very, very depressed. She describes herself as a recluse that does selfish stuff and has no formal training in art, which is why her comics are rudimentary and similar to Rage Comics. The blog is a retelling of her life from childhood to her challenges with depression and what it’s like for her to be an adult. Her blog turned into a book in 2013.

In Hyperbole and a Half Brosh combines observational and absurdist humor with crude graphics (that are intentionally crude) to relate events from her life in rural Montana, living with ADHD, depression, her dogs–pretty much everything in her life can be found in her blog turned book. Her blog is the source of several popular memes, including a humorously "improved" medical pain chart and how to excite yourself to the mundane with “Clean all the things”.

The pain chart
Her famous meme
One of the biggest parts of her blog turned book is that she suffers from
depression and her depiction of it has been praised by critics and psychologists as an insightful description of the disease. Some experts have lauded Hyperbole and a Half as one of the best contemporary portraits of the condition.

She also tells stories about her dogs and boyfriend and her childhood. They all got a few giggles from me but I found myself really put off by her childhood stories at times. She showed herself as a very selfish/bratty child and reading her stories made me cringe. I’ll never know if this is actually how she was as a child or if it’s just how she remembers herself and is hyperbolizing (a possibility considering the title of the blog turned book) but some of her temper tantrums really made me cringe!

So, all in all, how do I feel about Hyperbole and a Half ? Well, at first I was on the fence, I mean, here’s a crude cartoon that I can read for free as a blog. But then I actually got the book in my hands and it’s so colourful and appealing to flip through. Brosh also added new stories and illustrations and it is a collection of her best work without the hassle of having to skim through her whole blog to find it!

My final thoughts on Hyperbole and a Half are that it is an entertaining look into a weird woman’s life and also an amazing contemporary portrayal of depression. The art is rough and some of the stories made me cringe at the thought of any child being selfish enough to do half the things she talks about, but I suppose that’s where the charm comes from. Brosh offers a new outlook on things that so many people claim to have figured out. It’s really quite an astounding piece of internet blog gone book.