Being a huge fan of Brian K Vaughn’s comic series Saga, I was thrilled to see his scifi series Paper Girls get an adaptation on Amazon Prime. The first season came out earlier this year and was well received, but unfortunately it will not be getting a second season. Still, both the TV show and the original comic are definitely worth checking out.
Paper Girls follows four 12-yr-old girls as they meet while delivering papers very early on the morning after Halloween in 1988. What starts as a difficult morning on the job with acquaintances morphs into a time-traveling journey of friendship and self-discovery as the girls find themselves thrown into the middle of a time war.
Despite a bit of a slow start, the TV adaptation is quite engaging. The characters are its strength. By the end I was really drawn into the struggles of each of the four girls and even their intimidating antagonist the Prioress. Erin, Tiffany, KJ and Mac all have to reconcile themselves to the fact that their own futures aren’t exactly what they expected. The four young actors are perfectly cast and did such a wonderful job; it really felt like the characters had leapt off the page into real life.
Naturally, there were some changes in adapting the comic to a TV show. Mostly, they had to tone down the crazy a bit. The comic has some really memorable events that would be really hard to translate to screen without a *huge* effect budget, like the giant tardigrade battle in the Cuyahoga River.
Although there are some changes to the plot as well as new characters added in the TV series, they did a really great job keeping the spirit of the work. We still got scifi elements like time travel, Gundam-style mechs, and pterodactyls, as well as coming-of-age and friendship themes. There are some truly emotional moments. They also did a great job keeping the tension of the girls being stuck between the two sides of the time war and not always knowing who to trust.
The TV show added a clearer antagonist and didn’t go as far into depth on the philosophical differences of those trying to control the timeline and the resistance who wants freedom to change things. I wish we would get to see what a second season could have been, especially after the teaser at the end, but they really wrapped up the characters’ arcs well so the season does stand on its own.
They also dropped the idea that all the future tech is Apple branded, with the Apple logo (and apples in general) being a recurring motif. Shame to lose that depth of meaning, but the show streams on Amazon! 🤣
Saga fans will definitely find a lot to love in the comic. In particular, I was tickled to find an “alien” language, just like Blue in Saga (which is actually just Esperanto). In Paper Girls, the time travel rebels of the future speak in a pictographic-looking language. Just like with Blue, the meaning is pretty clear from context, but you can actually translate it if you want. Each symbol of STF speech corresponds to a letter of the English alphabet, so it’s a simple substitution cipher. I worked it out for myself, but of course you can also find translations online.
This is a great time out year to check out Paper Girls because it has a lot of Halloween vibes, being that it starts on the morning after Halloween, which the girls term “Hell Day.” Between that, the young kids, and the 80s setting, it does initially feel a bit like Stranger Things, but that comparison is really only skin deep. (For reference, the Paper Girls comic began publishing in Oct 2015; Stranger Things came out in July 2016.)
One last note: being from Northeast Ohio, I loved the setting! Vaughn is from Rocky River, a suburb of Cleveland, which you can see has clearly been fictionalized as Stony Stream. It was really cool seeing so many familiar locations in the comic (and the TV show did Ohio pretty well too haha).
Overall, I’d give the TV show a 6-7 rating out of 10, and the comic an 8. Once I’d watched the TV show with my husband I was thrilled to find that my library had unlimited copies of the complete collected comic via the Libby app. I’d recommend either/both versions of the story, and then I’d recommend Saga. 😉
It’s that time of year again…summer means free books from Kellogg’s Feeding Reading program. You technically still have 2 days to buy select Kellogg’s products and submit the receipts to redeem up to ten free books. You can find the details here.
Frankly, this year I found the system for submitting receipts and ordering books to be pretty frustrating. Here are some tips that I found from navigating my way through.
Submit only one receipt at a time. Once you have one receipt accepted then you can do the next. There is no way to track receipts in the system, so if you submit two and one is rejected you have no way of knowing which it was.
Read carefully the advice for submitting receipts. I had several of mine rejected almost right away and I found what really helped was circling and/or highlighting the relevant products on the receipt.
If you are taking photos of your receipts, crop them to reduce size. You only get 5MB total for one receipt, and most of mine needed three pics to get the whole thing.
In the catalog they used to have separate categories for different age ranges, so I didn’t have to look through all the YA books to find the board books for my toddler. Alas, they are all listed on one page now. There are age ranges listed once you click on a book, but I found it saved some clicking to just open Goodreads or Amazon in another tab and search whatever book I thought looked interesting to see if it was something my kids would like.
However, I was still able to get ten free books for me, my kids, and my nieces so it seems a bit petty to complain. We eat Eggo waffles and Cheez-Its on a daily basis around here so I didn’t even have to buy anything I wasn’t already buying. And they have a great selection of popular books for all ages and interests. I’ve been participating in this program for years and I hope they’ll keep doing it for years to come.
This week we celebrate Banned Books Week, sponsored by the American Library Association and others to celebrate our freedom to read and bring awareness to challenges of materials in schools, libraries, and bookstores. This past year has seen a huge number of challenges in local school districts; the ALA recorded 729 challenges last year, compared to 156 challenges in 2020 and 377 in 2019 (pre-pandemic).
You may notice some trends in the top ten challenged materials this year: sex and LGBTQ+ content. Nine out of ten books fall into one of these categories. There has been a huge push by conservatives, fueled by social media use, to paint these books as pornographic or grooming or indoctrinating children. You can see this in the language they use in their complaints below: “woke” “indoctrinating” “critical race theory” “Marxist” In school board and library board meetings across the country, people have stood up to read explicit passages (out of context) from books found in school libraries to try to shock the community into having them removed from libraries and class syllabi.
Of course, not every book is appropriate for every child at every point in their development. But I reject the premise that any inclusion of sex, racism, gender dysphoria, etc. is automatically harmful. The context is important as well, and the whole point reading literature in school is to teach children to think critically. For my children, I would rather have them reading and struggling with tough concepts in an age-appropriate way, with the guidance of their teachers and myself, rather than shelter them. Books help expand one’s worldview; it’s not always a pretty picture but sometimes we find something that really resonates with us and helps us grow. Here’s a thoughtful Twitter thread from author Shannon Hale that speaks to this:
Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe has been the subject of much controversy since its release in 2019. It was recently the subject of a lawsuit in Virginia in which two Republicans requested a restraining order against Barnes & Noble to prevent them from selling Gender Queer and A Court of Mist and Fury to minors, claiming they are obscene. A judge recently dismissed the case, ruling that the plaintiffs had failed to establish that either book was obscene and further that “Virginia Code § 18.2-384 is unconstitutional on its face.” However, Virginia Beach City schools did remove all copies of Gender Queer from their libraries. Gender Queer is a 2020 winner of the ALA’s Alex Award and has a 4.35 star rating on Goodreads.
The #2 title, Lawn Boy by Jonathan Evison, was the subject of some local controversy here in Northeast Ohio. After some parents in Hudson, Ohio complained about a prompt in a book used for a college-level course (which involved the mayor threatening the school board with charges of child pornography), one parent went further to complain about Lawn Boy being available in the library, citing inappropriate sexual content. It was eventually returned to shelves after a review. Lawn Boy is a 2019 winner of the ALA’s Alex Award and has a 3.83 rating on Goodreads.
Jumping down a few to #5 is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas, which is the only book on this list that I have read. And I do not hesitate to say that it is a book all teenagers in America should be reading. It has been nominated for/won more awards than I have room to list and has a 4.5 star rating on Goodreads. It is gripping, compelling, and entertaining while being an educational experience; it deals with justice and morality without being preachy; it is both timely and a classic. Starr is a wonderful protagonist that I would love for all teens to meet.
Fight book banning on a local level
If you’ve made it this far in this post, you have seen how censorship is taking place on a local level, in school districts and city libraries. While I have voted in local elections all my adulthood, this past year has really hammered home to me how critical these elections are. Pay attention to the positions of the candidates for school board in particular. Since my children are not in public schools, I never concerned myself about these elections too much. But now I understand that I want to live in and foster a community that sees diverse literature for young adults as a tool for growth and self-discovery. Vote for library levies and utilize library resources; librarians are the ones on the front lines of the fight for freedom in reading. Practice thoughtful reading in your own home. When I find problematic things in children’s books (typically sexism in older books) for my four-year-old I try to mention them and give my thoughts. As he gets older, I’ll ask more for his thoughts as well.
What are your favorite banned books? How do you celebrate your freedom to read? What are you reading right now?