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Kings in Disguise: A Novel Paperback

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (April 17, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393328481
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393328486
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.4 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #192,525 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

It's 1932, the height of the Depression, in Marian, Calif. The Bloch family is teetering on the brink of dissolution. Mr. Bloch, widowed and alcoholic, can't or won't find work. Teenage son Albert has lost respect for him and 12-year-old Freddie, mesmerized by Hollywood movies, is too young to comprehend the social forces that are rending the fabric of his life. After the father disappears and Albert is injured trying to steal money for food, Freddie, suddenly alone, heads for his father's last known address in Detroit. He's befriended by Sammy (who calls himself "the King of Spain"), a troubled and sickly vagabond who teaches him how to survive as a hobo, coping with hunger and the danger of riding the freight trains. The two develop a deeply felt attachment as they travel together, braving labor riots and anti-Semitism. Advancing classic themes, Vance's Harvey Award-winning story of a young man forced to become an adult is touching. Burr's black-and-white drawings are crisply rendered and abound in historical details. This collaboration by two newcomers is an outstanding example of mature comic book storytelling.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From School Library Journal

YA-- The story a young man's adventures and coming of age during the Great Depression. Freddie Bloch, alone at 13, rides the rails across the country in search of his father. Along the way, he encounters the best and worst mankind has to offer. Freddie sees an anguished nation divided, the haves against the have-nots. He and his hobo friend, the so-called King of Spain, try to get along in a country in which many citizens have lost their human decency in a struggle for survival. Although the two survive violent attacks by crazed bums, brutal police, and ignorant townspeople, they maintain hope because of the kindnesses shown to them by a few citizens. YAs will be captivated by the unique format of this graphic novel. Vance's story, coupled with Burr's haunting black-and-white illustrations, gives a frightening picture of what happens to ordinary people in a nation gone mad.
- Phillip Clark, R. E. Lee High School, Springfield, VA
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 12, 1997
Format: Hardcover
During the 1930s, Freddie Bloch is forced to leave his home in search for his alcoholic father. During his travels he becomes a hobo, riding trains, living in much the same way we imagine the homeless do in the 1990s. Bloch's companions make the best of their poor circumstances by convincing themselves that they live undercover, and are "kings in disguise." The story resolves in a way that both allows Freddie to grow and realistically accesses the great depression. This is a graphic novel as opposed to a prose novel, but the illustative quality(direct, understated, black and white drawings) add to the novel's power rather than diminishing its overall effect. This is accomplished in great part because Vance's dialogue sounds novelistic rather than like a movie or what one often associates with comic book writing. Kings in Disguise is Tom Joad in picture
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Paige Turner on August 23, 2009
Format: Paperback
Kings in Disguise is a moving graphic novel, the story of Freddie Bloch, a 16-year-old trying to survive among "hobos" during the height of the great depression. There is no standard story with strong plot points; the novel is like "On the Road" by Kerouac. The setting and characters give the story power. It meanders without a traditional three-act structure, but Freddie, in his "adventures," changes. So did I as I read.

Greatness in the graphic novel medium is achieved when the reader is moved, changed, their thinking altered in some way. James Vance achieves this with "Kings in Disguise." I was genuinely disturbed while reading parts of this story. Some elements of danger to young boys in close quarters with desperate vagrants never occurred to me. Anyone who thinks we are in the midst of a depression now, or even a "great recession," needs to read this novel. With our hyper-abundance of food today, the idea that people had to steal to eat still cannot penetrate my consciousness. Artist Dan Burr's drawings are perfect for the subject - drawn in black and white, yet I could almost feel the dirt and grime on the characters.

Alan Moore admires "Kings" and writes this in his introduction: "When we search for names to make us proud of our humanity and of our heritage, the likelihood is that the name we seize upon will be a person born to modest circumstance." Kings of Disguise is a "must-read" for serious graphic novels fans, and for all readers. I agree with Alan Moore: "This is simply one of the most moving and compelling human stories to emerge out of the graphic story medium thus far."
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By LennyM on November 30, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I purchased the first issue of Kings in Disguise in 1998 at the age of 12. I couldn't find the other 5 issues then but the story from the first issue stuck with me. Looking back I would not have fully been able to grasp the story beyond it's superficial implications and it's depth would have been hidden. Never-the-less I remembered this story a few months ago and looked it up on Amazon. Purchased it within seconds without hesitation.

This is a story that, like some movies, grows up with you. It's implicit meaning becomes more obvious the older you get. I won't say more because the intro by Alan Moore says everything I want to, but better. I'll only add that you will not be disappointed.
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2 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Jerry Dean on March 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
Nothing special here. It did have it's moments, but overall it was an average to dull read. I only paid 5 bucks for this book, so at that price it was a good value. Pay any more and your certainly wasting your money.
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