Bottomless Belly Button Paperback – Jun 5 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Shaw's stunningly conceived and executed comic opus captures one moment of change in a family. Maggie and David Loony have called their three adult children to their childhood home to announce that, after 40 years of marriage, they're getting a divorce. Dennis, the eldest, desperately searches for an answer to why. He believes that if he just finds the right old letters, he'll understand what's happening to his parents, only to find that his answers say a lot more about his own marriage and infant son. Claire, the middle child, has been through her own divorce and is now struggling to raise a teen daughter by herself. The youngest, Peter, who has always felt like a changeling in his family and is drawn with a frog's head, is going through a delayed coming-of-age. Shaw's style deftly combines cartoon drawings with slavish attention to detail. The result feels reminiscent of a photo album, one person's quest to remember everything from the floor plans of the vacation home to the texture of the sand on the lake beach. Masterfully using the comics medium to juggle all the different characters, weaving their stories together seamlessly, Shaw allows the Loonys' emotions to play out naturally without forced resolutions, leaving a wistful hopefulness that feels just as conflicted and confusing as every family is. (June)
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Top Customer Reviews
The story is about a family gathering at the grandparent's house along the beach. While having the kids there (Dennis, Claire and Peter) along with the grandkids they announce that after decades of marriage they are getting a divorce. The book sprouts into mostly three ways following each of the kids lives and how they take the news. While partially flashbacks and current family chatter you see how everyone has their own way of dealing and caring.
For being such a long book and was surprisingly not that long of a read. Dash's strength is in his writing and although he did a great job with this book I couldn't help but feel that he could be doing better making films. This would make a great indie film.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
It is true that the book doesn't conclude with a resolution that neatly unties the knot. Instead, it does something much better, which is to finish mysteriously, emotionally, realistically, and poignantly. All this should suggest that if you like stock stories, then caveat emptor. If you like more literary fare, then you'll be right at home.
Shaw makes a somewhat amusing plea to the reader to rest between the three parts of the book. I suppose if I'd foisted a 700 page book on potential readers I'd be a little worried too. But let's be realistic for a moment: It's a graphic novel! It still a very quick read.
Two minor criticisms: I was fine with the basic illustrations--the graphic part of the book doesn't reach nor attempt to reach the heights of some others in the genre. But I didn't like how Shaw adds words to describe non-dialogue physical features; for example, such as writing for sound effects, "shrug" on a shoulder or "grip" on a hand gripping something or writing "Purples" and "Pinks" so we know what color the sky is. An even more awkward example is when Dennis is cooling down after a hot run, and he places his head in front of a fan. On his forehead it says, "Cool air against the sweat on your forehead." Very clumsy. The other criticism: He names the family the Loonies. Really cute. Mercifully, this is mentioned only two or three times.
Recommended if you like: Adrian Tomine; David B.; Jason; Chris Ware; Charles Burns; Daniel Clowes; Rutu Modan; Allison Bechdel; Craig Thompson; or Yoshihiro Tatsumi.
Dash Shaw's witty style of writing and illustrating help make the characters feel uniquely genuine, and each page is filled with parts of real life the reader can relate to no matter their walk of life. Even if you're not that into graphic novels (I know I wasn't) this book is still a great read. You can tell in the two years Shaw spent drawing this novel, he poured part of himself into it.
Sometimes, the story seems so real that, although the reader is in a trance while 'living' in this beach house, the plot seems to get a bit dull--many pages are devoted to everyday tasks that seem inferred to happen anyway. However, I could never imagine a reader putting down this book as a result of that; simply because you never want to leave the family. Another thing to consider is that the point of this book isn't to be gimmicky and dramatize emotional events, it's just to showcase the Loony's story. What I think I liked best about it is that I didn't feel like I was reading a comic book like a lot of other graphic novels are. It felt like a fiction book made out of pictures to me.
When this book ends it is nearly impossible to keep from tearing up in the last few pages. I started to feel what the characters felt, which never really leaves you--this is a book you will want to read more than once.
"Bottomless Belly Button" should get far more praise and acknowledgement and is incredibly looked over. Picking up this book because it caught my eye in the Graphic Novels section of the library has to be one of the best decisions I've made in a while.
The author does a wonderful job of mixing the written text with the visual panels and the flow of the book is excellent. There are even a few coded messages that, if you're into that sort of thing, are great fun to figure out.
The last few pages are some of the best I've ever seen in how they tell the story through the medium of comics. I don't want to give anything away but I think that it could never have worked as well in any other form. Buy this book even if you aren't a big comics geek.