Last weekend Gareth and I watched Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film Castle in the Sky and suddenly Sara Varon’s Robot Dreams had even more meaning for me. Gareth owns all of Miyazaki’s films, but given our limited movie-watching time I’ve been slow to work my way through the canon. Color me clueless, then, that one of my favorite graphic novels of the year includes several clever nods to this movie — the most obvious being that Varon’s robot borrows Castle in the Sky from the library and watches it; the most important being that her robot bears a striking similarity to those of Miyazaki’s creation (though he’s considerably smaller).
By now most of you have probably seen or at least heard about Robot Dreams, the wordless graphic novel about two friends, a dog and a robot, who are seperated when a terrible thing comes between them — rust. (You can read an excerpt on the First Second website if you haven’t yet experienced this book for yourself.) Crisp color, beautiful brushwork, wonderful details, and quirky characters — these are the Varon trademarks and the reason she’s currently charming the socks off readers aged 8 to 80.
Most of the book world began discovering Sara’s visual charms with the publication last year of her picture book Chicken and Cat. A lucky few of us, though, are the proud owners of her earlier graphic novel Sweaterweather, which is now sadly out of print. I urge you to go in search of a copy at your favorite source for out of print books, as it’s a doozy of a graphic novel, and a fitting choice, timing-wise, for those of us heading into sweater weather right about now.
Sara has kindly given you the chance to preview the book by posting three of its short comic stories on her website. Learn about the dangers of smoking (for snowmen) from the book’s winter comic. Catch a character reading Bitch magazine in alphabet sandwiches. And be sure to introduce all the turtle-loving knitters in your life to the turtle comic. There are also a few pages available on an old comicon.com interview with Sara.
If you’re charmed by Varon’s work and looking for something with a similar simplicity and sweetness (but considerably more text), I’d recommend trying Good-bye, Chunky Rice by Craig Thompson. After you’ve fallen in love with Craig’s work (be sure to read Blankets) you can join me in my eager anticipation of his long-awaited graphic novel Habibi. Every now and then Craig posts a few pages from the book (which he now says is likely to be released in 2009) on his blog.