Emil Ferris's graphic novel "My Favorite Thing is Monsters" made a splash when came out in 2017, and it's still Richard Johnston's favorite title to recommend.
"I'm always amazed when people don't know it because I love it so much," says Johnston, who runs Brookings Book Company in Brookings, S.D. The second in the two-part series is now also available.
It's the story of 10-year-old Karen Reyes, set in a racially charged 1960s' Chicago. Karen is bright and artistic, but she sees herself as a social outcast and a monster among her school peers. She fills her notebooks with drawings of monsters from magazines and horror movies. Her older brother, a womanizing artist, encourages her love of art.
Early in the novel, Karen's neighbor dies under suspicious circumstances, and Karen sets out to solve the murder. The journey leads her on a path of self-discovery where she suspects her neighbors and even her mother and brother of committing the crime.
Johnston says Ferris' art style is “a stunning mix of realism and cartoon, all presented on lined notebook paper to replicate the appearance of Karen's school notebooks. The story and images flow freely across the page, [exploring] what it means to be a monster both good and bad, and what monsters live in our art in our actual world.”