How the World Was: A California Childhood

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In 1994, French cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert befriended an American veteran named Alan Cope and began creating his new friend's graphic biography. Alan's War was the surprising and moving result: the story of Cope's experiences as an American GI in France during World War II.

How the World Was is Emmanuel Guibert's moving return to documenting the life of his friend. Cope died several years ago, as Guibert was just beginning work on this book, but Guibert has kept ...

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In 1994, French cartoonist Emmanuel Guibert befriended an American veteran named Alan Cope and began creating his new friend's graphic biography. Alan's War was the surprising and moving result: the story of Cope's experiences as an American GI in France during World War II.

How the World Was is Emmanuel Guibert's moving return to documenting the life of his friend. Cope died several years ago, as Guibert was just beginning work on this book, but Guibert has kept working to commit his friend's story to paper. Cope grew up in California during the great depression, and this remarkable graphic novel details the little moments that make a young man's life...while capturing the scope of America during the great depression.

A lyrical, touching portrait, How the World Was is a gift for a dear friend in the last moments of his life... and also a meditation on the birth of modern America.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 06/16/2014
After the critical success of his most recent book, Alan’s War, Guibert returns with the story of his friend Alan Cope’s childhood in Depression-era California. The book pairs lyrical, surprising, and weird stories with Guibert’s evocative drawings that always complement the elegant prose. This book is a masterpiece: vignettes from Cope’s childhood make the portrait of a rare yet typical soul. The conclusion is heartbreaking and devastating—the illustrations, which are gorgeous yet informal throughout, render Cope’s face awake in the night with exquisite detail. He is not afraid to plumb embarrassing and difficult subjects, such as masturbation, family alienation, and his own selfishness, especially a particularly chilling moment he regretted all his life. Whether Cope is failing to see the ugliness of a neighbor girl or catching black widows at dawn or riding a precarious homemade office through his neighborhood, his life’s journey—so odd yet so ordinary—casts a spell it’s impossible to turn away from, and Guibert’s evocation of it is unforgettable. This is a magical and important work of art. (Aug.)
From the Publisher

"How the World Was is a companion graphic biography to Guibert's Alan's War." - VOYA

"This is a magical and important work of art." -Publisher's Weekly, starred review

Praise for Alan's War:

"This epic graphic memoir spans oceans and generations, with a narrative as engrossing as the artistry that illustrates it." —Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Guibert’s fluid, simple but assured linework captures the personalities of Cope and his friends, elevating the material to a far more affecting level." —Publisher's Weekly, starred review

VOYA, August 2014 (Vol. 37, No. 3) - Ed Goldberg
How The World Was is a companion graphic biography to Guibert’s Alan’s War (Macmillan, 2008). The latter recounts the author’s friend, Alan Cole’s, experience during World War II. This book begins with Cole’s birth in 1925 and progresses until age eleven, when his mother dies after undergoing a hysterectomy. Narrated in first-person, the book is based on recorded conversations with the author during which Cole reminisces about growing up during the Depression. The book starts with Cole’s statements that California changed dramatically after World War II, becoming more congested and consumed by smog. He tries to bring readers back to a simpler time, when he was a youngster. He recounts such stories as catching spiders under his front porch, learning to ride bareback at a family reunion, and the thrill of seeing huge steam locomotives traversing the landscape. There are memories of various relatives, many of whom he saw only once or twice in his life. The black-and-white images range from very simple to very detailed. Interspersed are photos of Cole’s extended family. These enhance what is a relatively mundane story. The narrative jumps back and forth in time. There are separate sections on his maternal and paternal families. Interesting tidbits include Cole seeing the first movie in color in a theater and the introduction of Kleenex tissues into American life. However, these anecdotes do little to make this story of interest to teens. Reviewer: Ed Goldberg; Ages 12 to 15.
Children's Literature - Leona Illig
Alan is a little boy growing up in southern California during the pre-World War II era Depression. There is not a lot of money, but his family seems to get by. His memories are at once humorous and evocative: he recalls the excitement of seeing an airplane in the sky, the terror of hearing a hornet caught in a heating vent, and long walks along the beaches and in the mysterious foothills. Some adult material is included in his memoire, and questions of religion, death, and war are raised. But all of this material is treated exactly as a young boy would, with both wonder and acceptance. In fact, the story of Alan’s boyhood, which is told in his own words, reads like poetry with a depth of imagination, feeling, and creativity that is rare in any literary medium. The illustrations contain the highest quality artwork. Some pictures are based on photographs, while others are line drawings that seem to be infused with the rhythm of jazz. Color, sepia, black on white, and white on black: the author/illustrator uses every possible artistic technique to illuminate the text. Some pages contain traditional cartoon panels, while others display full double spread illustrations. The use of white space on the page is remarkable. This book should be in every library and school. Graphic novels represent many variations in types and levels, and often do not live up to their promise. This one, however, shows what the genre is capable of in the hands of a true storyteller and artist. It is a new masterpiece in the “coming of age” literary tradition, as well as an outstanding addition to the graphic novel genre. Reviewer: Leona Illig; Ages 13 up.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596436640
  • Publisher: First Second
  • Publication date: 8/12/2014
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 617,350
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.10 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

New York Times‑Bestselling author Emmanuel Guibert has written a great many graphic novels for readers young and old, among them the Sardine in Outer Space series, The Professor’s Daughter with Joann Sfar, the critically acclaimed WWII biography Alan's War, and the New York Times‑bestselling The Photographer with Didier Lefevre. His most recent graphic novel is a prequel to Alan's War, How the World Was. Guibert lives in Paris with his wife and daughter.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 7, 2015

    more from this reviewer

    Entirely Engrossing! This is the prequel to "Alan's War&quo

    Entirely Engrossing! This is the prequel to "Alan's War", which I haven't read yet. Written in a first person perspective, it is the story of Alan Cole's life growing up, and his family's, during the Great Depression. A touching story from a man with deep insight into the human condition. Rivetting. Guibert's art is fantastic! Though I haven't read "Alan's War", I have read "The Photographer" and the style is similar to it. Guibert uses his own pencil sketches plus actual photographs along with a unique process whereby he combines photographs into sketches, sometimes leaving some of the photo behind, other times, completely turning it into a sketch. Loved every single thing about this historical memoir.

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