Long Story Short: 100 Classic Books in Three Panels

Algonquin. Apr. 2020. 80p. Tr $14.95. ISBN 9781616205034.
Gr 9 Up–Like a snarky SparkNotes, this mischievous, charming collection turns 100 classics into brief comic strips. Brown is an observant reader, and her comedic timing is impeccable. “Writers make the best of friends,” she notes in her summary of E.B. White’s Charlotte’s Web. “And then they DIE.” At times, she pushes readers to reconsider the canon. She transforms the Ingalls family of Little House on the Prairie from American heroes to “pioneers with a sense of entitlement,” and she pokes fun at Henry David Thoreau’s hypocrisy, pointing out that while writing his ode to self-sufficiency, Walden, or a Life in the Woods, he enjoyed “a lot of visitors and trips into town.” Other comics are more homage than send-up—for Toni Morrison’s Beloved, Brown depicts the ghostly outline of a young woman standing by a gravestone: “The legacy of slavery is haunting.” While violence, nudity, and sexual scenes are included, the gentle, graceful cartoons and childlike characters keep the volume from becoming disturbing—even images of Oedipus with his eyes gouged out or dying soldiers on the Western Front are graphic without being distressing. The book’s three indexes offer further opportunity for subversive fun (the subject index features categories such as “therapy, much-needed,” “ew,” “bodies, dead,” and “bodies, undead”).
VERDICT Literature students bored with their required reading will delight at this off-kilter look at the canon.

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