The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger – A Book Review

Not quite a picture book and not quite a graphic novel, The Night Bookmobile, like its plot, is gloriously subversive in terms of both genre and plot.

In this short tale we have Alexandra, a woman who strolls Chicago streets during the early, early morning. She happens across a night  bookmobile in the shape of a Winnebago.  She is invited in, and, upon studying the collection, realizes she’s read every single copy within the vehicle.  What she learns next surprises her and influences her for the rest of her life, a life she spends searching not only for the night bookmobile, but for its elusive home Library.

And just when the reader begins to feel comfortable, the story takes quite a turn and moves in a totally unexpected direction.  I will not even hint at a spoiler, but I did not suspect the last third of the story whatsoever.

So, as you can see, I very much enjoyed the actual story.  At times it reads like prose, at other times it reads similar to a comic strip.  Niffenegger is not only a talented writer, but she’s a gifted artist as well.  The book’s art, like it’s plot, is unorthodox yet quite appealing.  Though the lines are simple, the picture are detailed with pleasant colors and fine perspective.  I particularly enjoy Niffenegger’s faces.  She’s excellent at subtle expressions.

The best of writing and the best of art should always discomfort us, surprise us, and stimulate our thoughts.  The Night Bookmobile is admirable in that it does all three both concisely and poignantly.

Raven Girl by Audrey Niffenegger – A Book Review

I’m a teacher, and The Time Traveler’s Wife experienced something of a resurgence in my classroom this year.  Many seniors discovered it for the first time and, like me, now claim it among their favorite books.  Their enthusiasm renewed my interest in Niffenegger, and so I sought any work I could find at my local library.

Hence, Raven Girl.

Written and illustrated by the talented Niffenegger, she claims this seventy-seven page book is a modern day fairy tale written in conjunction with a ballet.

It is the story of a postman who falls in love with a raven after bringing it home and caring for it.  They have a child, a human girl with the heart and soul of a raven.  She wants to be true to herself, and when an ingenious doctor comes into her life, her greatest wish may just be possible.

Like all fairy tales, and literature, Raven Girl is open to interpretation.  This story could be analyzed as a work encouraging tolerance, self-discovery, and even medical advancements.  There is a villain, of sorts, but like all good villains his intentions are seemingly honorable.  It’s even conceivable that he’s no villain at all, merely misguided.

Niffenegger’s artwork is unique and particular to to her style.  Her illustrations fit the tone.  They are both unsettling and warm.

I absolutely recommend Raven Girl.  It can be read in a single sitting, and it’s thought-provoking plot line is full of potential analysis.