Review: Boxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang

boxers saints

Boxers by Gene Luen Yang

Saints by Gene Luen Yang

These two incredible graphic novels tell the story of the Boxer Rebellion in China in 1898.  Boxers is told from the point of view of Little Bao, a young villager who has seen the foreign missionaries and soldiers take the ancient Chinese gods and beliefs and smash them apart.  Trained in kung fu by a wandering man and also introduced to a ritual to bring the ancient gods to life, Little Bao becomes the leader of a band of commoners who become instrumental in the rebellion.  Saints looks at the other side of the rebellion and is the story of Four-Girl, a daughter not even given a real name by her family.  She finds a place for herself in Christianity, at first only attending the teachings because of the cookies but eventually finding a new name and new identity as Vibiana.  Her faith makes her a target and both Vibiana and Little Bao have to find the extent of their beliefs and what they are willing to sacrifice for them.  There are no easy answers here, no right and wrong, there are only choices in the middle of violence.

Yang has created two books that must be read together to get a full picture of the history.  Both books are one-sided, showing only the point of view of the rebels or the Christians.  At the same time, they are both balanced against one another, showing the violence on both sides, the hubris, and the faith.  They also both capture a young individual caught up in history and questioning their own choices.

As always, Yang has written a compelling book.  His art is strong and his story arcs are well developed.  I found Boxers to be the more interesting of the two with the Chinese gods and the question of being in control of that amount of violence.  Saints to me is a necessary foil to Boxers but lacks its depth.  That said, Boxers is one of the more compelling graphic novels I have read for tweens, so Saints had a lot to live up to. 

Highly recommended, this graphic novel duo has a place in every library collection.  Its violence and questions about faith, duty and responsibility make it a good choice for teens and tweens.  Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from digital galleys received from NetGalley and First Second.

2013 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards–Finalists

The finalists have been announced for the 2013 Canadian Children’s Book Centre Awards.  The awards are made up of seven major children’s book awards.  Nominated book are the best work by Canadian authors and illustrators.  Here are the finalists for the English-language awards:

TD Canadian Children’s Literature Award

Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War One Year in Coal Harbor The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen

Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War by Deborah Ellis

One Year in Coal Harbor by Polly Horvath

The Reluctant Journal of Henry K. Larsen by Susin Nielsen

The Stamp Collector Virginia Wolf

The Stamp Collector by Jennifer Lanthier, illustrated by François Thisdale

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

 

Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award

 Mr. Zinger's Hat The Stamp Collector

Mr. King’s Things by Geneviève Côté

Mr. Zinger’s Hat by Cary Fagan, illustrated by Dušan Petričić

The Stamp Collector by Jennifer Lanthier, illustrated by François Thisdale

Uncle Wally's Old Brown Shoe Virginia Wolf

Uncle Wally’s Old Brown Shoe by Wallace Edwards

Virginia Wolf by Kyo Maclear, illustrated by Isabelle Arsenault

 

Norma Fleck Award for Canadian Children’s Non-Fiction

Going Up!: Elisha Otis's Trip to the Top 12696982 Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War

Going Up! Elisha Otis’s Trip to the Top by Monica Kulling, illustrated by David Parkins

Kate & Pippin: An Unlikely Love Story by Martin Springett, photographs by Isobel Springett

Kids of Kabul: Living Bravely Through a Never-Ending War by Deborah Ellis

Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death: The Story of Steven Truscott Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport

Real Justice: Fourteen and Sentenced to Death – The Story of Steven Truscott by Bill Swan

Rescuing the Children: The Story of the Kindertransport by Deborah Hodge

 

Geoffrey Bilson Award for Historical Fiction for Young People

A Call to Battle: War of 1812 (I Am Canada) The Lynching of Louie Sam Making Bombs for Hitler

A Call to Battle by Gillian Chan

The Lynching of Louie Sam by Elizbeth Stewart

Making Bombs for Hitler by Marsha Forchuk Skrypuch

Violins of Autumn Yesterday's Dead

Violins of Autumn by Ann McAuley

Yesterday’s Dead by Pat Bourke

 

John Spray Mystery Award

Becoming Holmes: The Boy Sherlock Holmes, His Final Case (The Boy Sherlock Holmes, #6) Breakaway Devil's Pass (Seven, #6)

Becoming Holmes by Shane Peacock

Breakaway by Michael Betcherman

Devil’s Pass by Sigmund Brouwer

The Lynching of Louie Sam Neil Flambe and the Toyko Treasure (Neil Flambe #4)

The Lynching of Louie Sam by Elizbeth Stewart

Neil Flambé and the Tokyo Treasure by Kevin Sylvester

 

Monica Hughes Award for Science Fiction and Fantasy

The Girl With Borrowed Wings Island of Doom (The Hunchback Assignments, #4) Rebel Heart (Dust Lands, #2)

The Girl with Borrowed Wings by Rinsai Rossetti

Island of Doom: The Hunchback Assignments IV by Arthur Slade

Rebel Heart by Moira Young

Seraphina (Seraphina, #1) Shadows Cast By Stars

Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Shadows Cast by Stars by Catherine Knutsson