I grew up thinking of cartoons as the tempting but sinful fruit that kept my neighborhood friends inside when I wanted them to be outside playing. As I grew older, various friends tried to point out the merits of cartoons, video games, graphic novels and the like. I persisted in my disregard for such genres, even after professors assigned award-winning graphic novels like Spiegelman’s Maus and Gene LuenYang’s American-Born Chinese to me during undergrad.
Next came Ender’s Game in graphic novel format, which I bought and cherished. By the time I got my hands on the Avatar comics, I was finally ready to admit that there is something enchanting and gleefully fun about reading a graphic novel. And so:
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson.
The audience: People who like to laugh. People who like good stories and heartwarming, budding friendship. People who will get a kick out of the name “Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin” and a bloodthirsty, shapeshifting young woman who teams up with a villainous scientist with a soul of gold named Lord Blackheart.
The content: Goldenloin and Blackheart were great friends during their time at the academy for the Institution of Law Enforcement and Heroics. But after a “training accident” that left him maimed, Blackheart was labeled a villain and cast away from the academy. Ambrosius was knighted, and an arch-rivalry was born. Nimona, a feisty young woman with the ability to shapeshift, appoints herself Blackheart’s sidekick, and together they fight to expose the Institution’s corrupt practices.
My analysis: Nimona reads like a fairy-tale bed-time story for modern readers. Stevenson’s characters are whimsical but deep, her plot fast-paced and fleshed-out. Modern elements pepper the dialogue and drawing style. Classic tropes of good and evil, knights and villainy give Nimona its lighthearted tone, but the institutional corruption driving the plot hints at deeper meaning.
|Yesssssssss, it's a girl-shark.|
A confession: I’m only on chapter 8! I try to limit my reading of this book in order to stretch it out as long as possible. Perhaps I should wait to judge Nimona until I have read the entire thing, but I couldn’t wait to write about how full of delight this book has been for me.
Useful for: Reading together.
We share movies and TV shows with our friends and family, YouTube videos and Vines. We view and share pictures with one another. In middle and high school we were forced to read books that few of us actually enjoyed and then, for a torturous half hour, discuss them. By the time I finished school, I realized how precious that activity would be with books I actually loved and friends I wanted to spend hours with. But how many people have time to read full books? How many people—after working a full shift, getting the kids fed, or slogging through chemistry homework—have the energy to discuss a novel?
Graphic novels like Nimona are the perfect compromise. A chapter is perhaps ten minutes: 30 pages with an average of only 50 words to a page (and 6-7 pictures). The reading level is low and the content is engaging. Read this with a friend, a spouse, a child, or a grandparent. Or simply read it and drop me a message; I promise you won’t be disappointed (at least with the first eight chapters).
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. $10 on Amazon Prime, $13 at Barnes and Noble, $7 as a kindle (but I would highly recommend the physical copy; it is a beautiful book.