Myrick (Bright Elegy) shares slices of his own childhood in this graphic memoir: his birth at the moment of his grandmother's death; a magical Fourth of July, lighting firecrackers in a tree in the yard; a boyhood ritual of skinny-dipping in a pond in the woods; his first failed attempt at romance. He paints childhood as both simple and complex, mixing the joy of folding the perfect paper airplane with the family tragedy of watching his older brother sentenced to 10 years in prison. The words outline the stories in minimal dialogue and lyrical captions, making each section a visual poem. At the end, Myrick sets out on a cross-country motorcycle journey, leaving behind Missouri and all the places steeped in memories of childhood for California, marking his final journey to adulthood. The block colors and rough outlines of the art evoke unsentimental nostalgia for Myrick's youth. The subject matter is reminiscent of such cartoon memoirs as Chester Brown's I Never Liked You and John Porcellino's Perfect Example, but its episodic nature doesn't really hold together as a narrative, and the end result is more evocative than riveting.
Review in 8/1/06 issue of Kirkus
One artist's mild childhood, told in episodic flashes.
It's been a while since we've seen a tale of growing up that trades neither in overwhelming nostalgia nor sheer, unmitigated dysfunction, so the publication of this illustrated memoir by Myrick (Bright Elegy, not reviewed) is especially welcome. The artist's upbringing in a small Missouri town not far from St. Louis is chronicled in self-contained episodes identified by year, beginning in 1961 and ending in 1985. Each chapter is an evocative vignette that could almost stand on its own, and several have a Bradbury-esque glow, while darkness falls over some sections. In "My Father's Hands," which begins with the family dressing for court, Myrick's oldest brother, "head bowed, hippie beard pressed against his chest," gets a ten-year sentence for bank robbery. The most imaginative of these episodes compares his pregnant mother's swollen belly to the distended shape of "one dying grandmother bulging with the death growing in her stomach," then envisions the birth of the artist and his twin: "We enter the world, my brother and I . . . with the circle of life wobbling unsteadily. Attached to a grandmother we will never meet." Most of these stories began as poems, and their elliptical lilt remains, accentuated by Myrick's artwork (color by Hilary Sycamore), replete with haunted eyes and giant, toothy smiles. By the end, when his youthful self shakes off the past ("I feel the presence of my local gods waning") and he heads for California, readers may feel wistful for a childhood they never experienced.
Short, gleeful and precise.
Starred Review in 9/15/06 Booklist
Gr. 9-12. In this graphic novel, Myrick contributes a heartfelt glimpse of his youth, presenting vignettes that reflect life growing up in a small town. From marveling at the creation of a perfect paper airplane and swimming nude in a nearby lake with his friends to muffing an opportunity with a pretty girl and seeing death close up, the author shares memories of his boyhood and teen years. Even if Myrick's specific memories aren't ours, they touch and connect us as readers, encouraging us to remember our own youth. There are no terrible secrets or great revelations here. It's the tenderness and intimacy of the spare words and pictures that set the book apart. Myrick's art, from the rich colors to the panel layouts, works on a gut level. It seems so simple, yet it speaks independently of the words, providing a subtext and an emotional nuance that create a sense of the wistful hope of childhood. A fine example of the graphic novel.
Review in 9/1/06 VOYA
This memoir offers glimpses into the author's childhood and the onset of adulthood. Life in Missouri appears idyllic in some situations but sad in others. Each chapter paints a picture of Myrick's life, from birth with a twin brother and the death of a grandmother he never met in chapter one to the final chapter of his departure from Missouri to California to be with a girl from college. His childhood friendships with neighbors and his twin are portrayed in both good and bad situations. The good includes an old swimming hole where the boys would go during hot, muggy days or building a paper airplane with his brother, and the bad is being buried in fallen leaves only to emerge and discover his friends urinating on him. Adulthood is shown through Myrick's work at a hospital, his attraction to a volunteer there, and a dead body bleeding on him.
The graphic novel format is an attractive medium to use for this selective memoir story. The colored art is rudimentary in its portrayal of faces, but otherwise, the simplistic style works best for the story. The real downfall is the appeal factor. The book will appeal to adults, but few teens will be searching for a slice of idyllic Missouri life in their graphic novels. —Kristen Fletcher-Spear