Monday, August 24, 2009

Problem Pointer

Mystery at Manzanar is a well-written, well-illustrated young adult novel – but there’s a problem.

I picked up the book because it appeared to be a graphic novel. But actually it’s somewhere between a book and graphic novel, switching between prose and illustrated sections with word balloons. I had no problem with the format.

The book is labeled Historical Fiction; the subtitle explains: A WWII Internment Camp Story. Another reason why I picked it up. I wanted to see how the writer, Eric Fein, presented this dark history in America’s past. After Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in 1941, innocent Japanese immigrants and citizens were rounded up, relocated to camps like Manzabar in the California desert, penned in with barbed wire fences and watchtowers. The kind of paranoia that followed 9/11.

The hero, 15-year-old Tommy Yamamoto, is a fan of Sherlock Holmes mysteries. A crime in committed during his confinement at the Manzanar Relocation camp. Tommy uses his detective skills to reveal who is real perpetrator.

No problem with this. The story works, especially for younger readers unfamiliar with how hysteria can grip the so-called Land of the Free.

Is there a snag with Kurt Hartman’s kinda cartoony illustrations? Nope. Like I said the switching between text and illustrations works OK.

The trouble I would say is a slip-up in editing, one illustrated section that should have been modified before publication.

Word balloons have tails or pointers that indicate which character is uttering a particular bit of dialogue. Usually the word balloon points at the character’s head; after all, that’s where the mouth is located. But I have a problem when the pointer is aimed at a character’s armpit.

Or when the word balloon points at (ahem) another area of a speaker’s anatomy.

Do editors still edit?


X. Dell said...

Nonsense. A lot of people talk out of their ass.

Doug said...

After the U.S. got involved in WWII, having talking armpits or... other areas... was no longer cause for dismissal from the armed services, but the only duty that was allowed was guarding the internment camps.

See? It's wonderfully historically accurate on that count.