Wednesday, August 6, 2014

{ARC Review} To This Day: Shane Koyczan


Rating: 9/10
Series: None
Genre: Picture Book, Non-Fiction, Poetry,
Publisher: Annick Press
Publication Date: September 2, 2014
Recommended For Fans of: Thirteen Reasons Why (Jay Asher), Falling Into Place (Amy Zhang)
Page Count: 74
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley

Goodreads Synopsis: An authentic rallying cry for anyone who has been affected by bullying.

In February 2013, Shane Koyczan's passionate anti-bullying poem "To This Day" electrified the world. An animated video of the lyric narrative went viral, racking up over 12 million hits to date and inspiring an international movement against bullying in schools. Shane later performed the piece to sustained applause on the stage of the 2013 annual TED Conference.

Now this extraordinary work has been adapted into an equally moving and visually arresting book. Thirty international artists, as diverse as they are talented, have been inspired to create exceptional art to accompany "To This Day." Each page is a vibrant collage of images, colors and words that will resonate powerfully with anyone who has experienced bullying themselves, whether as a victim, observer, or participant.

Born of Shane's own experiences of being bullied as a child, "To This Day" expresses the profound and lasting effect of bullying on an individual, while affirming the strength and inner resources that allow people to move beyond the experience. A heartfelt preface and afterword, along with resources for kids affected by bullying, make this book an invaluable centerpiece of the anti-bullying movement.



Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC from Annick Press via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.



Backstory: The first time I heard of this poem was a few months ago when scrolling through one of my friend's Google+ feeds. I had no idea what the video was going to be about, and I was wondering why everyone in the comments was saying, "Wow! This is so deep." I ended up loving the poem and its message, but pretty much forgot about it until I saw it on Netgalley a few days ago. I also want to say that I have never reviewed a picture book before, and haven't read one in a long time, so we'll just see how this goes.

Physical Book Premise 10/10: If you didn't know, Shane Koyczan rallied 30 artist from around the world, and assigned a verse of the poem to each one to illustrate both sides of a page. I think this was an astounding idea, and it feels like To This Day couldn't have been translated into a book any other way. Each and every one of those 30 artist brings their own unique floor to the table, and creates vivid depictions of each verse, and I think it is so cool how each one interpreted their verse.

Title 10/10: As a reader, I will either love or hate a title. In my opinion, To This Day couldn't possibly have had a better title. The phrase means so much to the characters, the story, and the reader. It  stresses the theme of "Everything effects everything." To me, it means that what may have seemed like a minor thing said can effect a person to this day, even if it happened/was said decades ago.

Cover 6/10: How on earth can I talk about a picture book without talking about the cover? I don't know what I expected, but I know that this isn't the cover I was expecting. I'm not saying it isn't a good cover, the idea behind it (the bullies' shadows and the boy standing up for himself) is great. I expected something more.... something more powerful and striking to adorn my shelves with. Over 30 artists worked on this book, and there were a few that I think could have made something closer to what I expected. 

The Introduction 7/10: Shane introduces himself, and then explains how he started writing and what it did for him throughout his childhood. He shares a few statistics and facts about bulling, as well ad what inspired him to write To This Day. The page before his poem starts, Shane explains that everyone is an artist, all they have to do is find their medium to express themselves. This rang so true for me and I think it will resonate with others trying to discover who they are and find their voices.

Plot 8/10: The poem tells three people's stories about bullying, mostly focusing on the overweight narrator who is perpetually teased after causing a full-scale social worker investigation simply because he used two words interchangeably, and then telling us about a girl with a clearly visible birth mark on her face, and a suicidal boy who's dealing with idiots a society that just doesn't understand what he's going through. After introducing the three of them, the rest of the poem proceeds to describe the pain, rejection, and the feeling of being an anomaly that so many young kids have to go through. 

Quotes & Pictures 10/10: AKA the category where I attempt to describe pictures and fail.

"She looks like a wrong answer that someone tried to erase but couldn't quite get the job done." 

When teachers talk about figurative or descriptive language, THIS is what I would like them to show us. I know you guys have to wait until September to see it, but the particular picture on this page is so simple, but powerful. It looks slightly cartoonish, but at the same time, feels like a perfect representation.

"To this day he is a stick of TNT lit from both ends,
could describe to you in detail the way the sky bends in the moments before it's about to fall"

I don't necessarily like the picture on these two pages, but it is powerful and striking, the way it should be for the phrase that resonated the most with me after I read it. There are three funnel tornadoes, and a destructive, fire-breathing creature. It embodies the destructive nature of this verse, and seems almost like a scene you would find in an X-Men movie.

"He remains a conversation piece between people who can't understand
sometimes becoming drug free has less to do with addiction and more to do with sanity."

The verse isn't one of my favorites, because I feel that I have not experienced enough to understand it, but the translation is a wake-up call. There is a larger-than-life orange prescription bottle, filled to the brim with blue and white pills, and on the lid, there is a little boy who hardly looks old enough to take pills, yet alone experience the reasons why he has to take them. Surrounding this bottle, are three grey wolves, trying to make him come down, and more rushing towards him from the next page. The best comparison I can make is Katniss and Peeta on the top of the cornucopia, trying to fend off the mutts.

"This is just debris leftover when we finally decide to smash all the things we used to be
and if you can't see anything beautiful about yourself
get a better mirror"

One of my favorite (I can say this practically about the entire book) pictures in this book is of people in little boats, surrounded by debris, on course to an island with a sleeping giant whose face is full of sorrow. In the left hand corner, there is a figure of a person, similar to a shadow, looking at herself in a mirror as the poem depicts. The entire image is full of rich, vibrant colors, and shading.

"We are graduating members from the class of
WE MADE IT
Not the faded echoes of voices crying out names will never hurt me
of course they did"

My (actual) favorite picture isn't until almost the very end with this verse. A lot of dark colors that give an almost watercolor effect show a scene of a little town framed against mountains. What I love is that this place could be almost any other little town, just like bulling can happen any and everywhere.

The Ending 6/10: This just gives a little more background information on the poem itself (a more professional version of my back stories), and how it has impacted people, with snipets from some of the illustrators about their experiences with bullying. 


Conclusion: The decision to translate this poem to a picture book was risky, but those risks were well-worth it when you see the startling, beautiful, powerful, and painful images adorning these pages. Although I would have liked it if more of Shane's story was told, as well as how to deal with bullying, this picture book is a new favorite of mine and I cannot wait for it to grace my bookshelves. 




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