California Dreamin’, by Pénélope Bagieu, (March 2017, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781626725461
Recommended for ages 12+
Mama Cass is a music legend. A member of The Mamas and the Papas folk group in the late 1960s, I grew up hearing the group bemoan Monday mornings and dream about California when the winters got too cold. There’s been a lot of ink spilled, writing about the dysfunctional group and its members, but Pénélope Bagieu pays homage to Cass by looking at her earliest years, before and leading up to the formation of the group, in her graphic novel, California Dream: Cass Elliot Before The Mamas and the Papas.
Beginning with her birth, California Dreamin’ tells Cass’ story through the eyes of the people in her life; her family, her friends, her band members. We learn something about each of them as they reveal their stories about life with Cass, and we get a glimpse into some of the singer’s defining moments: her work with Denny Doherty and the band, The Mugwumps; the group coming forming while performing in the Virgin Islands; Mama Cass joining The Mamas and the Papas despite John Phillips’ insistence that she was just providing “guest vocals”, and that the band was himself, Michelle Phillips, and Denny Doherty.
The art is expressive and touching; Bagieu makes her characters cartoony but real; touching and intense. Making Cass’ story a graphic novel will hopefully appeal to a younger audience who may not know the singer or her group, but will appreciate her ability to make things happen for herself and never take no for an answer.
Pénélope Bagieu’s first US graphic novel was 2015’s Exquisite Corpse..
Oblivion, by Sasha Dawn, Egmont USA (2014). $19.99, ISBN: 9781606844762
Recommended for ages 16+
Calliope Knowles is a 16 year-old graphomaniac. For her, writing isn’t just a hobby – it’s something she’s compelled to do. When the mania hits, she needs her notebook and a red felt-tipped pen; she writes, in a trance, and the words, while almost poetic in structure, are unsettling. Possibly because they may be subconscious clues – Callie’s father is missing, along with a 12 year-old girl named Hannah. Callie was found in an abandoned apartment writing, “I KILLED HIM” all over the walls. Her mother is in a mental institution, after stabbing her abusive father only weeks before the disappearance.
Her father, a reverend at the Church of Holy Promise, was popular with his congregation, but was not a good man. Now, Callie, living with a foster family, is haunted by faulty memories that her subconscious is fighting to access. At the same time, she has a foster sister that she adores, but finds herself attracted to the same guy as she; she has a team of police and a therapist working with her to unravel the threads of her memory, and her mother seems to have a lot of secrets.
I thought this was a great book. I love a good mystery and I like an unreliable narrator/main character, because it keeps me guessing. Sasha Dawn has created an amazing series of layers for this story, with a main plot and several subplots running throughout, and always manages to keep all the balls in play. When revelations hit, time and time again, I was bowled over. This is a great summer read for teens who appreciate a good mystery and a story about identity. There are references to abuse, sex, and drug use, so I’m going to recommend an age of 16 for this one. If parents feel their child is mature enough to handle this subject matter at an earlier age, I’ll suggest age 14, but I really wouldn’t go younger. The book hits shelves on May 27, so put this one on your summer reading list.