#CelebrateLU- April 22, 2016 / National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature: Part 5

29 Apr
Thanks to Ruth Ayers of Discover. Play. Build. for creating this meme!

Thanks to Ruth Ayers of Discover. Play. Build. for creating this meme!

This week I’m celebrating Gene Luen Yang.

Last night, Multnomah County Library invite Gene Yang to speak. And it was an great talk, full of inspiration. I was so excited, I can barely recall what was said. But his presentation “Asian American in Comics” was funny and insightful. He also answered lots of questions and I’m glad there were many kids who got to meet him. Gene Yang was definitely encouraging of following one’s passion no matter how old or young!

Some of the highlights for me were seeing so many familiar and excited faces in the audience, learning he has at least two more volumes of The Shadow Hero in mind, and that I got to meet him and get my picture taken with him. I was really starstruck. I’m not even sure I was coherent around him.


“The National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature raises national awareness of the importance of young people’s literature as it relates to lifelong literacy, education and the development and betterment of the lives of young people.”
-from the website


Last year, one of my reading challenges was to read some of the works by the National Ambassadors for Young People. I’ve talked about Jon Scieszka, Kate DiCamillo, Walter Dean Myers, and Katherine Paterson.

The most recent inductee is Gene Luen Yang, which I couldn’t be more excite about since he’s my favorite graphic novelist! His platform is Reading Without Walls encouraging and challenging readers to read books “with someone on the cover who doesn’t look like you or live like you,” “about a topic that you find intimidating,” and “in a format that you’ve never tried before.” Check his blog for more details.

American Born ChineseAmerican Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
I remember reading this for a friend’s graphic novel book club. I enjoyed the alternating storylines and how they eventually weaved together. The Monkey King folk tale particularly caught my interest. But what made me such a fan of this and Gene Luen Yang in general was I felt I finally found myself in a book. (Admittedly, I’m from the Philippines but close enough!)
View all my reviews

Animal Crackers: A Gene Luen Yang CollectionAnimal Crackers: A Gene Luen Yang Collection by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Two of Gene Luen Yang’s earliest works are finally available for his newest fans like me. It’s great to see how his works have evolved and which themes (culture, identity- and aliens!) still continue to drive his work.
View all my reviews

Boxers & SaintsBoxers & Saints by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My Picks of the Week! Wow! I’m always excited when Gene Luen Yang has a new book out and I was doubly so when I learned of this two-volume set! This didn’t disappoint even though, admittedly, I was worried it was going to be heavy on the history stuff. But he still managed to incorporate his magical realism. Boxers & Saints tells the story of Little Bao and Four-Girl, two young people from opposing sides of China’s Boxer Rebellion. Each volume presents their respective perspective. Original and innovative, Yang has a gift for storytelling!
View all my reviews

The Eternal Smile: Three StoriesThe Eternal Smile: Three Stories by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
The Eternal Smile is a collection of three stories covering different subjects and even genres. And because each story’s illustration style varies as well, I should give credit to Derek Kirk Kim.

“Duncan’s Kingdom” is fantasy in all its forms and meaning. The twist was kind of too afterschool special for me. “Gran’pa Greenbox and the Eternal Smile” is a take on Saturday morning cartoons/animation. Think Scrooge McDuck. This was actually kind of deep even with its intended over the top quality. The best was truly served for last. “Urgent Request” was my favorite in terms of story and illustrations. I like the very modern topic mixed with the almost retro-style drawings.

View all my reviews

Level UpLevel Up by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Gene Luen Yang continues to be someone I look forward to reading. Level Up is his latest book and once again tackles the issue of growing up as Asian American- even though I think everyone can relate to it.

There’s a seriousness in his books mixed with off-beat humor that I like. In this instance, he takes on having to live with what you want to do in life as opposed to your parents’ (or society’s) expectations while incorporating gaming and four “guardian angels.”

After finishing this, I immediately set off to find more of his work.

View all my reviews

Prime BabyPrime Baby by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This was a reread since I couldn’t remember what it was about. But this was so delightful. I loved the humor in this one of an older brother not fond at all of his baby sister. Naturally, he comes to the conclusion she’s an alien. A twisted idea forms in his mind to expose her, to save the world, and to grow some facial hair.
View all my reviews

Secret Coders (Secret Coders, #1)Secret Coders by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
What a fun new graphic novel series about computer programming! Gene Luen Yang has written a smart adventure mystery series featuring a multicultural cast, a haunted house/school, and turtle robots. I love that readers have opportunities to use what they’ve learned especially on that cliffhanger ending!

Can’t wait for the next book! Check out the website for more information:
View all my reviews

The Shadow HeroThe Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
My first book of 2015 is The Shadow Hero by Gene Luen Yang.

Gene Luen Yang is probably my favorite graphic novelist out there. I won a signed copy of The Shadow Hero last year and made it a point to finally read it.

And, it did not disappoint. A part of me is wary about superhero comics and another part tends to avoid stories with any historical context so I was kind of hesitant to read a re-imagining of the first Asian American superhero. But Yang is such a masterful storyteller. I was hooked right from the start and I wanted more by the end!

This origin story finds a nineteen-year-old grocer’s son donning some questionable costumes after his mom wants to turn him into a superhero. What starts of as (not so) fun and (physically painful) games turns into a revenge story against a crime empire in the depths of Chinatown.

I loved the humor which was the biggest surprise- that with all the action, I would be laughing so much!

If the first book I read in 2015 is any indicator of how good my reading year ahead will be, then I say, “Game On!”
View all my reviews

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The PromiseAvatar: The Last Airbender – The Promise by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I definitely felt like I was going into this in media res. It took me awhile to get into it- who the characters were, where their alliances lay, and even the flow of the story. I’m interested in what happens next so I will definitely read on but it’s not as gripping as I thought it would be.
View all my reviews

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The SearchAvatar: The Last Airbender – The Search by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
This is the series I wanted to get into. The first trilogy I read wasn’t as addicting as I hoped. But, now, knowing the characters, I actually cared about the story. With a mysterious mother’s past playing a huge role and brother and sister relationships taking center stage, I was hooked. Lots of action to keep readers turning the pages.
View all my reviews

Avatar: The Last Airbender - The RiftAvatar: The Last Airbender – The Rift by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
I’m officially hooked on this series! Building on the existing relationships and past storylines, we follow Aang and his friends as they battle outside forces and within their group. Lots of surprises and great messages about preserving past traditions and present day concerns as well as environmental impact without it being too preachy. I’m glad I wait until I have the books all at once because I just end up devouring the whole series. I even want to check out the animated series.
View all my reviews

Avatar: The Last Airbender - Smoke and ShadowAvatar: The Last Airbender – Smoke and Shadow by Gene Luen Yang
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Another riveting installment in the Avatar: The Last Airbender. What’s great after having read the series this far is that you get invested in their stories and their histories. I love how messed up everyone’s family seems to be.

The only downside was that it’s become rather formulaic. I feel like there needs to be a major shake up coming soon.
View all my reviews

Gene Luen Yang also contributed to some recent comic anthologies.

In Nursery Rhyme Comics, he offers an intergalactic take on “Pat a Cake.” In Comics Squad: Recess, kids will enjoy reading shorter adventures of their favorite characters and meeting new ones. My favorite was definitely Gene Luen Yang’s “Super Secret Ninja Club!”

I also decided to read his lesser known contributions to anthologies.

In Open Mic, he shares how he got involved with Avatar: The Last Airbender. In Strange Tales II, he does a goofy send-up to Marvel Comics’ superheroes. In Secret Identities: The Asian American Superhero Anthology, Gene Luen Yang contributes a story in the Sidekicks chapter about race and justice. A companion to Secret Identities, Shattered features The Green Turtle as a series of comic strips. Read more of this hero in The Shadow Hero. Up All Night features The Monkey King. Read more of this character in American Born Chinese.


7 responses to “#CelebrateLU- April 22, 2016 / National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature: Part 5

  1. Crystal

    April 29, 2016 at 3:06 pm

    I’m a big fan of Yang’s work. He is one of the main author’s that convinced me to read graphic novels. His have been some of my favorite GNs of all that I have read. So cool you got to meet him and hear him speak. 🙂

  2. Ruth Ayres

    April 30, 2016 at 6:33 am

    It is so much fun to be #starstruck! I’m glad you shared the picture and celebrated today!
    Happy weekend,

  3. sallydonnelly11

    April 30, 2016 at 9:11 am

    I think of authors as rock stars, too!! I learned of Yang when he was named Ambassador. Thanks to your blog post, I learned SO much more!! Thanks for sharing. So glad you got to hear him in person!!

  4. Linda Baie

    April 30, 2016 at 10:08 am

    I had no idea that he had so many books out. I’ve read American Born Chinese several times with students in a group, an awesome book. Will still need to read Boxers & Saints, & know I will enjoy it. How wonderful you got to meet him, Earl! Wow!

  5. aruddteacher100

    May 1, 2016 at 4:20 pm

    Thank you for sharing all of these great book titles. I will have to them out at the library!

  6. Ramona

    May 2, 2016 at 11:04 am

    So fun that you were able to meet him and grab a picture. I heard him at Western’s Literature Conference this winter, but didn’t get to meet him or get him to authograph my books since the line was sooo long. I totally enjoyed his presentation, even though I’m not a big GN fan. I like his platform for Reading Without Walls.


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