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Swallow Me Whole
By Nate Powell
ISBN: 9781603090339
Publisher: Top Shelf Productions
Date of Publication: 2008

Reader’s Annotation:
Two siblings face separate cases of mental disorders.

Plot Summary:
Ruth and Perry are step-siblings, whose ill grandmother has recently moved into their home. As Ruth and Perry grow older, their grandmother’s condition worsens and the siblings begin to struggle with their lives in high school.

Ruth takes comfort in her organized jars filled with insects and creatures stolen from her high school’s science department. This carefully organization helps Ruth maintain some control in her mind, as she consistently sees insects that threaten to overwhelm her. Ruth later discovers that she suffers from schizophrenia as well as obsessive compulsive disorder.

Perry has a wizard that talks to him, claiming that there’s a quest that must be occur. He draws the wizard as a means of controlling the wizard’s commands. Perry just want to make sense of his life without the added bonus of being potentially crazy.

As time passes for each sibling, things grow worse and there looks like there’s no escape from the dangerous of one’s mind.

Critical Evaluation:
Told through black and white drawings, author and artist Nate Powell’s graphic novel is at first a simple family story that merges into a discussion of teen mental disabilities. Powell’s visual style emphasizes Ruth’s struggle as well as Perry’ s encounters with the voice in his mind. The art is so striking that the visions of Ruth’s mind allow us a unique view into her struggle to survive and to be understood. While this visual example could be easily described in graphic detail in a prose format, Powell’s use of shadow is a very effective way of seeing how a mental disability can shape how one sees the world. We see how it affects Ruth’s mind and how Ruth’s perception of the world is contrasted with “normal” sight.

Perry’s struggle, while not nearly as dramatic as Ruth’s problems, still speak about the issues of mental engagement. The voice in Perry’s mind doesn’t control his life as it might for Ruth. It’s still an issue that Powell handles delicately and with respect.

The end result of Powell’s art and story is thoroughly engaging. The ending to the sibling’s story is beautiful and sad and will linger with readers long after they have read the final page.

nate-powell-art

Information about the Author:
From Nate Powell’s Top Shelf Publisher’s page, born in Little Rock, Arkansas, Powell began to work as an art professional at the early age of fourteen, creating pieces for self-publishing. For ten years, Powell worked with adults who had developmental disabilities, which later influenced Swallow Me Whole. Powell is the manager of Harlan Records and continues to performance in various bands. He currently lives in Indiana.

Powell is the author and artist of Any Empire and has worked with different co-collaborators for the historical graphic novel, The Silence of Our Friends and the future graphic novel, March.

Nate Powell Blog

Genre:
Realistic Fiction

Curriculum Ties:
Mental Illness

Reading Level/Interest Age:
Amazon gives a suggested age range of grades ten and up.

Challenging Issues:
There are no current challenges for this book. The American Library Association’s Guide to Library Materials Challenges is a great resource if the book is challenged in the future.

Why did I include this book in the title selections?
I feel in love with this book when I first read it. There are not many books that explore visually the concepts of mental illness, specifically with teen protagonists.

Reference:
Amazon. (n.d.). Swallow Me Whole. Retrieved from http://www.amazon.com/Swallow-Me-Whole-Nate-Powell/dp/1603090339/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1355025611&sr=8-1&keywords=swallow+me+whole

Top Shelf Productions. (n.d.). Nate powell. Retrieved from http://www.topshelfcomix.com/catalog/nate-powell

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