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A fantastical adventure through the worlds we live in and the worlds we create.
From two masters of the graphic novel -- Gene Luen Yang (American Born Chinese) and Derek Kirk Kim (Same Difference and Other Stories) come three magical tales –
The story of a prince who defeats his greatest enemy only to discover that maybe his world is not what it had seemed.
The story of a frog who finds that just being a frog might be the way to go.
The story of a women who receives an e-mail from Prince Henry of Nigeria asking for a loan to help save his family – and gives it to him.
With vivid artwork and moving writing, Derek Kirk Kim and Gene Luen Yang test the boundaries between fantasy and reality, exploring the ways that the world of the imagination can affect real life.
The Eternal Smile is the winner of the 2010 Eisner Award for Best Short Story.
Starred Review in 3/1 Booklist
This dream-team matchup of Yang (American Born Chinese, 2006) and Kim (Same Difference and Other Stories,2004) brings together three strikingly different graphic short stories. Which is accurate to a point, because in reality (or fantasy, depending on how you want to look at it) there are six stories, as each tale wends its way into a world-shifting denouement that reveals a mirror narrative. In the first, a comic fantasy adventure, a plucky young knight vanquishes monsters to win the princess’s love. In the second, a wacky cartoon spoof on Uncle Scrooge, a tycoon frog’s latest wealth-grabbing scheme leads him to create an entire religion around a mysterious smile in the sky. In the last, a lonely peon trapped in a humdrum working world falls prey to e-mail fraud. Revealing what each of the stories is really about would kill the fun, but suffice it to say that what unites them all is escapism, and not as a negative connotation. You can escape into creativity, flee the limiting confines foisted on you by others, or dream of a sunnier world to inhabit. Visually, each story is a world unto itself, drastically different from the others but defined by a well-polished sensibility that works wonders in concert with the multiple-layered themes being explored. Absolutely not to be missed by anyone who welcomes the leaps available solely to graphic storytelling.
— Ian Chipman
Starred Review in 4/1 Kirkus Reviews
A rousing and thought-provoking exploration of fantasy versus reality from the much-lauded comics veterans Yang and Kim. Three tales evince very different realities and viewpoints, though all are tied together by this common thread. Duncan, the hero of the first, is desperately seeking the approval of the Princess, though something in his kingdom doesn’t seem quite right. In the next, an anthropomorphized, avaricious amphibian named Gran’pa Greenbax seeks to be the richest frog in the land, only to discover that his domain isn’t quite what he thought it was. In the last, a painfully shy office worker distorts her own perception—and judgment—to create a reality more pleasing. Readers looking for another American Born Chinese (by Yang, 2006) may be pleasantly surprised: While a very different format both visually and thematically, this book offers similarly plotted ingenious twists. Begging for multiple readings, this exceptionally clever examination of fantasy and perception is one to be pored over and ruminated upon. (Graphic fiction. YA)
Review in 5/15 Library Journal
Duncan is trying to win throne of his kingdom and earn the love of his princess. Froggie zillionaire Gran'pa Greenbax just wants to pile up enough gold to dive in without bumping bottom. Janet, stuck in cubicle hell with a patronizing boss, is engaged in an Internet romance with (she imagines) a Nigerian prince. These three modern-day fables all feature lead characters who live in escapist fantasies but then are jerked rudely awake. Tragedy, angst, and anomie? Surprisingly, no. When the truth strikes, Yang's protégés actually seize the opportunity to go after what they really want. Kim's attractive color art varies for each story: classic storybook for Duncan; Disney-ducks-style kiddie comics for Gran'pa (but his cute froggette nieces sport manga eyes); a darker pastels alt-comics approach for Janet. Winning characters and unorthodox, compelling plot twists make this trio of tales highly recommended for teen and adult collections. Excellent also for educators as case studies to teach comics and short story writing. With a few mild sexual references.—M.C.
Starred Review in 6/1 Horn Book
In three graphic novellas, Yang and Kim explore the power of dreams and, more to the point, the power of waking up. The lowly monk Duncan, in “Duncan’s Kingdom,” is determined to win the hand of the princess by beheading the dreadful frog king and storming his pagoda fortress—wait, what? Why is the king hiding a bottle of...Snappy Cola? In the title story, Gran’pa Greenbax (another frog) uses the appearance of a giant smile in the sky to reinvent himself as a flock-fleecing preacher. But then the smile turns into an opening, and Gran’pa is plucked through the “sky” by a human hand and revealed to be a frog installed with a microchip, living in the Truman Show–like world of a children’s television show. Oppressed Janet Oh, in “Urgent Request,” finds respite from her dead-end job by answering the e-mail of a Nigerian prince who has $350,000,000 that “must be immediately transferred to the United States for safekeeping.” Janet loses all her money—but takes back her life. Kim gives each tale a different mood: Classics Illustrated noir for “Duncan’s Kingdom”; “Song of the South” for “Eternal Kingdom”; and “Urgent Request” drawn in small screen-shaped panels that televise the banal reality and Technicolor dreams of Janet’s existence. It’s an optimistic volume, with big questions growing out of superbly inventive storytelling. r.s.
Recommended Review in 6/09 Bulletin of the Center for the Children's Book
Deploying three very different artistic styles, Yang and Kim present three graphic tales that explore the ethical border between fantasy and reality. In the first story, medievalist heroic fantasy meets teenage ninja turtles when a young man must kill the Frong King in order to marry the princess he loves, but a mysterious cola bottle lures him on to further deeds of heroism – and revelations about his identity. Deep browns and blacks predominate in the fight scenes and dream sequences, alternating with sunnier scenes that celebrate the young hero’s provisional victories. The second story follows the fate of a con artist frog who ties to capitalize on a mysterious smile that appears in the sky. Stylistic nods to mid-century Disney and Warner Bros. comics combine with a high-tech storyline that is at once humorous, satirical, and sad. Finally, a bored and underappreciated office worker indulges herself by pretending to believe that a Nigerian prince really does need her help transferring his fortune into an American bank account. Her fantasy is complemented by her depiction as pudgy, doll-like figure moving through panels of grayed purple against a pale yellow background; her fantasy scenes then come to life in dreamy, pastel-hued watercolors. In each story, the punchline tips the fantasy back to a surprising reality that is ultimately affirmative for the characters in different ways. In the first instance, the boy abandons his fantasy for an unpleasan