Cannabis: The Illegalization of Weed in America, by Box Brown, (Apr. 2019, First Second), $24.99, ISBN: 9781250154088
Award-winning graphic novelist Box Brown is back with the real story of how cannabis – weed, marijuana, reefer – went from being a plant used for spiritual purposes to being labeled a gateway drug that caused “reefer madness”. How did it happen, you say? Racism. Politics. Propaganda. Scare tactics. The usual song and dance. Box Brown has done his research and, combined with his minimalist artwork, presents a tale that will have you seeing the politics of marijuana (the origin of that name is in here, too, and it’s a doozy) in an entirely new light.
The War on Drugs started long before Nancy Reagan went on Diff’rent Strokes and told kids to “just say no”, and the fallout has targeted minorities – primarily young black men – and left thousands imprisoned for minor infractions. Studies have purposely included falsified data and allowed Harry J. Anslinger, the first commissioner of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics, to perpetuate his war against narcotics by weaponizing moral outrage and using propaganda to get the plant a schedule 1 classification, putting it on par with heroin.
Ignatz Award winner Box Brown has a gift for nonfiction. While he’s primarily done biographical graphic novels thus far, including Andre the Giant, Andy Kaufman, and the rise of the video game Tetris, Cannabis is a thoroughly researched, fully realized, history of marijuana, from its earliest recorded uses through the present day. It’s a good add for your young adult/new adult collections and could be a good selection for a book group, especially with its increasing legality and medicinal usage.
Peter and Ernesto: The Lost Sloths, by Graham Annable, (Apr. 2018, First Second), $17.99, ISBN: 9781626725720
It’s the return of my favorite sloth buddies! Peter and Ernesto are back, and they’ve got a new adventure when a hurricane blows their beloved tree away! Peter, Ernesto, and the rest of their sloth friends must set out to find a new tree. A great tree. A tree just like the one they had, preferably. As they journey through the jungle, there are new dangers to brave: angry ants, slithering snakes, running pigs, and a very hungry jaguar! Ernesto is up to the challenge, but poor Peter… well, Peter’s going to need his best friend next to him as they lead their friends to a new tree. And maybe, a new friend or two along the way.
I love this new series! The two friends are like the Bert and Ernie of sloth civilization, with idealistic, upbeat Ernesto and cautious, nervous Peter acting as counterbalances to each other. The new animals the group meets as they venture through the jungle are hilarious, and the twist near the end will have your readers cheering. It’s emotional to see the sloths survey the damage to their tree, and it adds a depth to Peter’s and Ernesto’s characters as they take on the responsibility of shepherding their group to a new home. It’s just as emotional to see them find a new tree and the final resolution will just make you feel good. Peter and Ernesto is feel-good reading, and who doesn’t need more of that?
I can’t wait to see where life takes them next. Add this to your graphic novels collections and talk them up! Make a Best Friends display and make sure to include Frog & Toad, Elephant and Piggie, Narwhal & Jelly, and Duck and Porcupine.