Author/Illustrator: Craig Thompson
Published by Top Shelf Productions
Setting: Wisconsin, United States
Genre: Graphic novel, Memoir/Autobiography
Literary Awards: Harvey Award for Best Artist (2004) | Will Eisner Comic Industry Awards for Best Graphic Album–New (2004) | #1 in Time Magazine’s 2003 Best Comics list | #8 in Time Magazine’s Best Comics of the Decade | 2004 Harvey Award for Best Artist, Best Cartoonist, and Best Graphic Album of Original Work | 2004 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album and Best Writer/Artist | 2004 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist and Graphic Novel or Collection
Blankets is a compulsively readable graphic novel that recounts certain stages of Craig Thompson’s life. Woven into all the illustrations and stories is a very compelling look at the formative experiences of the author. It is an exploration of childhood and growing up, being in love for the first time, and relationships within the family. It also explores the various struggles (emotional and spiritual) and obstacles Craig has to deal with. At its core is the powerful message of family, love, hope and liberation.
What makes this graphic novel endearing and close to my heart is the humanity of its characters and the ability of the book to remind you of your own childhood. I found it fascinating how a book can allow you to enter a mind or an intimate universe merely because of its existence. There’s something tempting about learning how another person’s experience reflect your own. Blankets shows how life can have baffling contradictions and how our past molds us into our future self. The echoes of the past certainly won’t cease. Rather, they become reminders, lessons and poignant memories. Craig’s story embodies almost every experience we had when we were younger- our squabbles with our siblings, our complex relationships with our parents and friends, and even our struggles to find our own path in life. His insights about faith and relationships, while intimately his, are just some of the things I suddenly wanted to think about. It was absolutely fascinating to find Craig’s experiences identifiable. The stories within the book make you realize how vulnerable you are even if you constantly affirm that you can take care of yourself. His depictions of life within the confines of his home and Raina’s family evoked certain emotions in me – sadness, compassion, empathy and perhaps even pity for Craig, but it was also heartwarming and hopeful.
Craig Thompson has successfully demonstrated that his personal accounts and memories could be rendered in graphic novel form, relating a tale of growing up while using amazingly detailed black-and-white illustrations. One would sense his use of visual metaphor all throughout the book. He uses black-and-white illustrations to complement his words. He uses symbols to help us make sense of Craig’s experiences and thoughts, and how this has molded him into who he is. I also noticed the author’s use of snow as a metaphor not only of beginnings or renewal, but also of isolation and endings. The blankets mentioned or seen in the book become a symbol of comfort, affection and togetherness. The quilted blanket Raina gives Craig symbolizes the patterns and contrasts we experience in life. The use of symbols in the author’s amazing and detailed illustrations coupled with the veracity of the story gives power to the book’s message.
Audacious, heartfelt and beautiful, Blankets has won me over. It’s a poignant reminder of our own childhood and how moving forward is essential in life. The humanness of the characters and stories become the attractions without discounting the brilliance of the illustrations. I would like to think that this graphic novel will erase all the doubts that certain people have about the potentials of this genre. I think it’s great that the author used this medium to portray his life. It was an absolutely great read. Highly recommended.
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