________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 7 . . . . November 23, 2007

cover

Manga Touch. (Orca Currents).

Jacqueline Pearce.
Victoria, BC: Orca, 2007.
105 pp., pbk. & hc., $9.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55143-746-0 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55143-748-4.

Grades 5-9 / Ages 10-14.

Review by Pam Klassen-Dueck.

** /4

excerpt:

With light pencil strokes, I sketch the shape of a body and face. I draw over the lines more heavily as I get them the way I want. I draw manga-style eyes—but not too large. I add two sections of hair that sweep off the girl’s face like raven wings.

As I lean over the sketchbook, my own hair falls like a red curtain around my face. I am in my own world. But I can feel the others noticing me and pretending they don’t.

Maybe I’ll fit in better in Japan.

 

Manga Touch is the story of a teenaged girl who struggles to establish her identity. Dana, with her pomegranate hair and her passion for manga, views herself as a misfit. On a school trip to Japan, among all the classmates whom she imagines as her antagonists, she desires to blend into the host culture.

     Dana is a self-absorbed character at the beginning of the story. She is convinced, to the point of becoming grating, that all of her peers are disgusted by her: “I don’t know the girl beside me other than her name, Maya Contina. She’s talking across the aisle to a friend. Ignoring me.” The book’s allegory is of a lone raven being bullied by a murder of crows, which represents Dana’s feelings of isolation. However, the trip to Japan teaches her that her classmates never had, in fact, hated her. She had simply misread their social cues. To complete the metaphor, she discovers that the crows act strangely out of self-protection, in parallel to her acts of self-defense: “All their bluster is really to protect their nest.” As a result, she feels more comfortable in her own skin and states in an instructive fashion, “I’ve learned about myself.” The metaphor of the birds is lovely, but its effect is weakened by the text’s didactic explanation of its meaning and how it relates to Dana’s experiences.

     Regarding the school trip to Japan, Manga Touch attempts to provide a multicultural chord. The narrative embeds information about Japanese culture (e.g., food, hygiene, school practices), and it does a good job of providing contextual clues when it introduces Japanese terms. Interestingly, no mention is made of Dana’s own culture. As a result, the unfortunate assumption is that the school group is a homogenous group of white teenagers who are getting in touch with ‘multiculturalism.’

     This is a Hi/Lo book with an appealing manga-style cover, although the layout is exactly the same as other “Orca Currents” novels. It features traditional chapters with short sentences and relatively simple vocabulary; the publisher lists the reading level at 4.5.

     Manga Touch may appeal to young adult readers (particularly girls) who don’t mind the didactic style.

Recommended with reservations.

Pam Klassen-Dueck, a Middle Years teacher, is a graduate student in the M.Ed. program at Brock University.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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