Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Castle Waiting

Castle Waiting by Linda Medley, published by Fantagraphics

If you have even a passing interest in all-ages graphic novels, you’ve heard of Castle Waiting. It has won Harveys and Eisners and was just named to the American Library Association’s 2007 Top Ten Great Graphic Novels for Teens. I’m slightly ashamed that we are just getting around to reading this book now, and I intend to do penance before St. Wilgeforte to make up for it.

Castle Waiting has its roots in classic fairy tales (Sleeping Beauty shapes the beginning of the story) but the completely original cast of characters drives this book into new and very creative territory. You get bearded nuns, a horse knight, poltersprites, a green baby, an Opinicus, and plenty of other odd and amusing characters, but it’s the depth and complexity of the main characters that is so appealing. There are no Disney princesses here! My favorite character is Sister Peace, a bearded nun who can be silly as well as strong, inept as well as insightful, and, like most of us, is groping and stumbling her way toward doing the right thing.

The clean lined art is completely focused on the characters, featuring great facial expressions and body language. The story can get complicated – there’s a story within a story within a story – so it might be difficult for younger readers to follow. There is some minor language (“crap” and “hell”) that might keep it out of an elementary school, but that would be a shame, because this is a great book that shows what an all-ages graphic novel can and should be.

The girls balked at the sight of the hefty book at first – it certainly doesn’t look like a comic book! – but that only lasted about two pages. The very second Sarah finished the last page of the book, she flipped back to the beginning and started all over again. Now, she’s a strong reader for her age (8 years old), and often has her nose buried in a book, but I’ve never seen her do that before. Shelby (age 11) flopped out on her bed and read it cover to cover in a couple of hours straight.

Shelby says: Castle Waiting is very awesome because the characters are interesting. There are funny characters and characters that are like people but they have animal heads. The drawings are very detailed and it’s only black, no gray at all, but Linda Medley uses lines to give it a lot of depth and detail. I like Pindar because he’s a cute, tiny baby and he’s got funny hair when it doesn’t get cut. If kids think that this book is way too long to read, they should know that it’s not hard to read and I read it in one day. I think the ages should be nine to adult. Like our topic says, “This is an all-ages book!” Kids eight and under might not understand it because there are stories within the story.

Sarah says: I like Castle Waiting because of the characters. It’s different from other books because it’s a VERY large graphic novel. It has many characters. I can probably only name half of them because there are so many. My favorite ones are Leeds, who is a demon, because he always talks to and has a crush on Sister Peace. He can turn into anything he can think of, but the only thing he can’t do is get lost. Sir Chess is a man who looks like a horse and I like him because he’s a really tough guy and he always makes jokes and he’s nice, too. Did you know that “caudal appendage” means a tail? You’ll learn a lot in this book! I like Finny, the worm-looking dude that protects the baby. He talks funny, like when he says, “Skeereeree monnsserrrz!” I had to read his words out loud in order to understand them and that was fun. I think that both kids and grownups would like this book, but kids that don’t know that they shouldn’t say certain words that are in the book shouldn’t read it by themselves. The words aren’t really that bad, but just to be safe, adults should be supervising them.

The collected hardcover edition of Castle Waiting from Fantagraphics is a beautifully produced book. You can purchase color plates to put in it and a gorgeous cover to put on it at Linda Medley’s site, where you can also preview an entire chapter. The best news of all is that Castle Waiting Volume 2 is being released in single issues every six weeks. We have the first four issues and we’ve penciled in the release date for #4 on the family calendar.


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