Monday, November 19, 2007

Good as Lily

As Good As Lily, by Derek Kirk Kim and Jesse Hamm opens; Grace Kwon is celebrating her 18th birthday at the park with friends. Reflecting on what she has accomplished thus far in her life and enjoying the day complete with presents and teasing, Grace decides to treat her friends to an ice cream cone from a park vendor. After waiting her turn, the elderly woman tells Grace she is out of ice cream; "But hey, what's a birthday party without a piñata?" The teens enjoy themselves trying to break the piñata, only to have Grace suffer the ultimate indignity of having it land ignominiously on her head, resulting in a brief blackout.

At this point, all of the characters are in place for a nice coming of age story featuring a bright young girl who has been accepted to Stanford University, has a part in the school play, a crush on her drama teacher, and is working feverishly with her friends to save the spring play from school budget cuts with various fund raisers. Additionally, Grace is oblivious to a boy with a crush on her, has an encounter with a school bully, and learns to swim. What makes this novel different is the intriguing story line twist the evening following Grace's party, and piñata incident.

Grace realizes she has forgotten a special birthday gift at the park and goes back hoping to find it. While in the park she encounters a scared lost toddler, and with the help of the elderly ice cream vendor, helps save a thirty-year-old woman (she's 29!). As the unlikely group traverses their way through the park, the bickering is escalates and at her wits end, Grace yells for quiet. The startled compliance begs Grace take a closer look at her companions, "Wait, you look awfully familiar .... What .... what's your name?" Each one answers the same, Grace Kwon. Now, Grace must not only explain "herselves" to her friends, but she must learn find a way to return herself home.

This graphic novel has clean black and white illustrations, with distinguishing shades of gray highlighting mood and atmosphere. Panel sizes vary within the pages of story, character close-ups are wonderfully depicted, and there is a nice multicultural character presentatio throughout. Pay close attention to the lessons learned by Grace at each age; the title of the book becomes clear when 18 year-old Grace talks to her parents. A very entertaining read.

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