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Swallow Me Whole Hardcover – December 4, 2008

13 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Indy comic artist Powell, an Eisner-nominee, works full time with adults with developmental disabilities, which may have been an inspiration for Swallow Me Whole, a stand-alone graphic novel about two teenage stepsiblings with psychological problems. Ruth suffers from obsessive compulsive disorder and thinks she can hear insects speak, making it difficult for her to walk across grassy lawns but landing her a sweet internship in the natural history museum. Perry sometimes sees a tiny wizard who speaks to him about his destiny, which would be cute if this were a fantasy comic; instead, it's sadly tragic since Perry recognizes the wizard as nothing more than a troublesome hallucination. It should be obvious from the start that things will not end well. Dark inks and elongated whispering word balloons carry us into Ruth's world of voices and missing time, while experimental paneling masterfully conveys the characters' inner worlds and altered states. Powell's ultimate message remains unclear: is this a cautionary tale reminding ill teens to take their medication(s)? Or should we take a hopeful message away from Ruth's tragic story, knowing that one need not give in completely to one's delusions? (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From School Library Journal

Grade 10 Up—Powell has created a complex tale of two adolescent step-siblings struggling through the usual angst and discovery that occur during the teenage years. However, for Ruth and Perry, mental illness makes this time even more difficult. Ruth, who is at the center of the story, suffers from obsessive-compulsive disorder and patterns of schizophrenia. Infatuated with insects, she keeps collections of them in jars in her room and is constantly arranging and rearranging them. She hallucinates that masses of insects surround her and fears stepping on any living thing. For Ruth, the simplest tasks present huge challenges. Perry fights his own demon as he tries to rid himself of a small wizard who persistently appears and makes him draw. The author's treatment of mental illness is realistic and sensitive. Readers are brought into the experiences of the characters and empathize with them. The relationships Ruth and Perry have with each other and with other family members are honest and lovingly portrayed. Every word in this graphic novel is carefully chosen, dialogue is realistic, and background "noise" masterfully done. Powell's detailed pen-and-ink drawings are well executed with lettering and images so brilliantly intertwined that they are one and the same. While the complexity and subject matter of Swallow Me Whole will not appeal to everyone, those teens who pick it up will discover a poignant story.—Lara McAllister, Halifax Public Libraries, Nova Scotia
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Top Shelf Productions; First Edition first Printing edition (December 4, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1603090339
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603090339
  • Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 0.5 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #112,853 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Nate Powell is a New York Times best-selling graphic novelist born in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1978. He began self-publishing at age 14, and graduated from School of Visual Arts in 2000.

His work includes March, the graphic novel autobiography of Congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis; Rick Riordan's The Lost Hero, You Don't Say, Any Empire, Swallow Me Whole, The Silence Of Our Friends, and The Year Of The Beasts. Powell's work has received a Robert F. Kennedy Book Award, an Eisner Award, two Ignatz Awards, a Coretta Scott King Author Honor Award, four YALSA Great Graphic Novels For Teens selections, a Best American Comics selection, and has been nominated for a total of 8 Eisner Awards, a Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and 3 Harvey Awards.

Powell has discussed his work at the United Nations alongside some of the world's foremost writers of young adult fiction, as well as on MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show and CNN, with work spotlighted prominently on The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. His books have been placed on school curriculum in 40 states, and his animated illustrations in Southern Poverty Law Center's Selma: The Bridge To The Ballot documentary will reach one million students in over 50,000 schools across the nation.

From 1999 to 2009, Powell provided full-time support for adults with developmental disabilities alongside his cartooning efforts. He managed underground record label Harlan Records for 16 years, and performed in punk bands Soophie Nun Squad and Universe. He lives in Bloomington, Indiana.

In addition to the March saga, Powell is currently writing and drawing his next book, Cover (slated for release in 2018), and drawing the series Two Dead with writer Van Jensen for Dark Horse.

www.seemybrotherdance.org

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Pipsqueak on December 26, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Until this book, I hadn't read anything in comics (I only read alternative comics) that deals with such a dark and unusual subject as mental illness, let alone one illustrated in such fluid and dreamy images. Nate Powell has a very inventive and cinematic way of arranging his panels. The narration at times is short on text, which made me pause and think. Then I was taken aback by the instensity of the story once I realized what just happened. This book is pure literature and art - a well-deserved Eisner winner.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By wiredweird HALL OF FAMETOP 1000 REVIEWER on December 22, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Powell does it again: a low-key but sensitive narration, characters to care about, and strong, expressive drawing. As in other of his stories, Powell addresses the hormone-lashed insanity of teen years. This time he adds a complex family situation, though not as complex as some you might have seen, and another element: incipient schizophrenia. We don't see enough of Ruth's story to know how it ends. Schizophrenia can be a tragic, debilitating disease or, with modern treatment, just another medical condition to manage. Even if we don't see how Ruth's life plays out, we care. Powell really makes it easy to care about this bright, principled young woman.

The art in this black and white comic spans a range of styles. Powell uses the whole range of light and dark to convey the sense of each moment. His linework handles each scene well, too, from schoolroom tedium to surreal renderings of the world Ruth sees. As with other of Powell's graphic novels, linear storytelling appears as only a minor component. Instead, this has a less literal sense, flowing easily between the many moods of a teenager and even into the moods arising from her illness. If you want a more literary experience than most graphic novels offer, this has my highest recommendation.

-- wiredweird
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By GraphicNovelReporter.com on June 21, 2010
Format: Hardcover
This is not an easy book to read. It is a very good book, and worthwhile reading, but it is not a pleasant book.

Nate Powell brings us into the world of Ruth and Perry, a teenaged brother and sister who live in a fairly normal family somewhere in the South. Their parents are loving, if a bit exasperated and distant at times; their house is small and not particularly nice; and as the story opens, their seriously ill grandmother is arriving to spend her dying days (which turn into years) lying on their couch.

On the surface, this family looks normal, but that's what makes the hallucinations so striking. Both Ruth and Perry see things that aren't there, and the things they see control their lives. Perry's vision is simple: A wizard who sits on the end of his pencil and commands him to draw. Ruth's is more complicated: She sees insects, a multiplicity of creatures who pile in through gratings and windows or simply buzz around her as she walks. She fills jars with specimens of different bugs and arranges and rearranges them as a way of exerting control over the world.

One of the things that makes this book so compelling is the way the hallucinations mix in with ordinary life. Ruth and Perry help with the dishes, go to class, sit with their ailing grandmother, but all the time they are accompanied by these odd manifestations. Sometimes they slip in public, talking back to the hallucinations within earshot of outsiders, but the bond between Ruth and Perry is built from the understanding that only they have, the shared family secret of things that aren't there. As the book goes on, their grandmother reveals that she, too, has had visions. Memaw may be old and sick, but she is sharp enough to see what is going on.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By D. Scott VINE VOICE on April 7, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Interesting graphic novel about struggles with OCD and mental illness. This is why graphic novels are such a great medium for adult subjects. A bit on the short side, but it will make you think and question your own reality. Top Shelf is always a good bet - they put out some of the best graphic novels in the business.
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Format: Hardcover
Ruth sees things, hears things, that aren't there. Her brother has a talking wizard that tells him what to draw. They both have a sick, dying grandmother sleeping on their coach. Ruth is obsessed with insects and has them in jars in her room. She also has OCD and is constantly rearranging the jars to find just the right combination. Ruth and her brother are just trying to survive high school, and life. They find love, the find friends and they find each other all while trying to find ways to cope.

This was an odd little graphic novel. Made me think a bit of Gene Yuen Lang novels. Nate Powell dives very deep into the characters, portraying how they tick, making you see past their mental flaws. It was interesting being enveloped in Ruth's world. It was a bit frightening too at times. The illustrations were great and at times terrifying. Some of the images just creeped me out in the worst way. If you are in the mood to get inside someone else's head, make sure you grab this one. It's odd, it's sweet and it's inspirational.

First Line:
"Mom? We're here with the kids."

Favorite Line:
"That frog is my keeper."
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Swallow Me Whole is from Nate Powell, who has also illustrated John Lewis’ March. This comic is about a pair of teenagers who endure hard times within their families. They are also seeing things that make their daily lives even harder.

There is a one big problem with the artwork. The speech balloons are already rather small and often become even smaller. The result is that the dialog is often hard to read. I often had to rely on the Kindle e-book’s zooming tool.

On the other hand, though the artwork is somewhat cartoonish, it is heavily shaded and cross-hatched, and It becomes quite emotive. What can I say about the story itself? It’s the kind of story that demands attentiveness yet heartily rewards it. The plot is simple but it effectively and sensitively shows a major part of these teenagers’ lives. The things that they see and how they interweave with their days is conveyed quite well, bolstered by the appropriately surreal imagery. Consider this another recommendation as a thoughtful work of graphic fiction.
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