cover image How the World Was: A California Childhood

How the World Was: A California Childhood

Emmanuel Guibert. Roaring Brook/First Second, $19.99 (160p) ISBN 978-1-59643-664-0

After the critical success of his most recent book, Alan’s War, Guibert returns with the story of his friend Alan Cope’s childhood in Depression-era California. The book pairs lyrical, surprising, and weird stories with Guibert’s evocative drawings that always complement the elegant prose. This book is a masterpiece: vignettes from Cope’s childhood make the portrait of a rare yet typical soul. The conclusion is heartbreaking and devastating—the illustrations, which are gorgeous yet informal throughout, render Cope’s face awake in the night with exquisite detail. He is not afraid to plumb embarrassing and difficult subjects, such as masturbation, family alienation, and his own selfishness, especially a particularly chilling moment he regretted all his life. Whether Cope is failing to see the ugliness of a neighbor girl or catching black widows at dawn or riding a precarious homemade office through his neighborhood, his life’s journey—so odd yet so ordinary—casts a spell it’s impossible to turn away from, and Guibert’s evocation of it is unforgettable. This is a magical and important work of art. (Aug.)