30 March 2008

Dearth of Words

Pride of Baghdad
Brian K. Vaughan and Niko Henrichon

Again I find that I have trouble of thinking of what to say about this book. Not the same kind of trouble as American Born Chinese, of course. That was a trouble of being entirely satisfied, to the point where I couldn't find a criticism to make. With Pride of Baghdad it's more that there's a lot to say and I have trouble deciding what would be most interesting and deserving of discussion.

I suppose that yet again the best place to start would be with what we talked about in class. We did talk about a lot; there are a few decent jumping-off points. Education is always a good one, but as I'm not a teacher and don't intend to be one, I think I'd like to talk about this from the perspective of a librarian. I do work at a library, and I plan to be a professional librarian, so it's not such a bad place to start.

The subject of librarians first came up in class as a hypothetical situation. What if a librarian wishes to expand her library's graphic novel collection and comes across a catalogue listing for Pride of Baghdad? It's well-reviewed and reasonably topical--or, if this is in a couple of decades, not topical but historical. And hey, it's about a family of lions. Is this for children? If it's ordered for children, then what's the librarian going to do when it comes and she takes a quick flip through?

Well, first, I'd hope that a responsible librarian wouldn't immediately categorize a graphic novel as children's fare. That's irresponsible, and...well...stupid. It's a terrible idea to think that just because two things use the same medium, they have similar content. The Lord of the Rings is not Lord of the Flies, Memento is not The Court Jester, and Pride of Baghdad is certainly not a Superman comic.

Secondly, talking animals. That shouldn't automatically fall into the category of children's books either. It's a little harder to convince people of, given the overwhelming avalanche of animal books for children, but the animal allegory is still a fine tradition. Animal Farm, for example, came up in class, and the Nun's Priest's Tale in The Canterbury Tales is all about animals. And then there are the modern not-necessarily-for-children animal comics, like the ones that got talked about in my boyfriend's blog, This is NOT a tie-in. Or, hell. Fritz the Cat.

Still, descriptions can be vague. If one wanted to be brief, one could describe Pride of Baghdad as simply a book about "a family of lions in wartime Iraq," and, as my favorite Buffy quote puts it, a vague disclaimer is nobody's friend. Although I'd hope it wouldn't be listed in any sort of catalogue of children's books.

Anyway, speaking from my own perspective as a librarian, I'd certainly have this in any library I may someday get to run. It's a great story. But if someone tried to order it for the children's section I would scold them for narrow-mindedness. I'd let a kid check it out, but I'd probably want some sort of parental permission, or at least a written recommendation from a teacher.

It's a great book. But it's not for kids.

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