Not too long ago, I received an e-mail from Shawn Brook Williams, the creator of the graphic novel entitled Five Pounds & Screaming. I heard about his book on an advertisment through Kevin Smith’s SModcast Internet Radio and it made an impression on me because I am a fan of slice-of-life stories in comic book format. I had made a mental note to check out the book once. Which is why I was thrilled that Shawn not only wanted to advertise on our website but he also sent us a copy of of the book.
Although this may sound like a clichÃ©, I can’t help but start this review with: this book was made with a lot (and I mean a LOT) of love. At every turn of the page I found myself smiling. The story is simple and linear but finds depth in its honesty.
In just the first few pages, Shawn conveyed the struggle of the main characters, Ben and Eliza, as they tried to get pregnant. I immediately undersood their strong desire to start a family and have children together.Â With very minimum dialogue or explanation the reader was given the impression that they’ve experienced the disappointment of a negative result from the pregnancy test more than just once. The drawn interaction of the couple with each other showed their love and perseverance. Their past or history, whatever life they had previously, didn’t matter at all because at that moment– during in that particular time of their lives– the reader is already on their side.
I celebrated alongside them when the next pregnancy test result was a positive. The true journey starts for our couple. Shawn carefully chooses the small but significant moments for his book. He somehow managed to make a panel of Ben washing the dishes matter to me as the reader. I think it was because the comic felt like a diary that the character had decided to share with me personally. I felt like Ben is saying:
Hey, this is my life. One of the most important, possibly the most important, moment in my life. I want you to get to know me and my family through these small moments.
You gotta be heartless to not care. The artist and writer,Â Shawn, is an artist and a father. It’s a natural combination of the two biggest titles of his life and he created a story that is based on his own real experiences. (Note: though loosely based on the artist’s experiences, this is not an autobiography).Â
One panel that stood out to me was when Eliza, was sleeping peacefully with a copy of one of the Harry Potter books resting on her stomach. Suddenly, as a geek, I had something to relate to which made these characters even more real. This couple were just like me. They like nerdy and normal things that I also like: comic books and Batman. I think those details are important because it’s a subtle way of reaching out to the readers and pulling them into a different reality in the form of comic book pages. Ben and Eliza are one of us but they are also parents who brought a child to the world.
I also loved the chapter when Ben and Eliza are in the pregnancy class together and they are doing breathing exercises. Shawn includes the rough sketch of a finished panel on the same page and it felt like such a loving gesture. A sketch of a moment in time that most people would just take a photograph of. The act of an artist using ink and draw lines with his own hands to capture the tenderness of that moment gave it a different level of intimacy.
The novel is light with– yes, I’ve used this word a lot– a lot of love. It is only a summary of what Ben and Eliza went through with their pregnancy but it was enough to let us know how they felt. There was a lot of joy, a lot of everyday mundanity but there were also doubts and uncertainty. The most important thing is that prevailed through it.
As I am typing this review, in real life, Shawn’s own daughter is already seven years old. Five Pounds & Screaming was a joy to read and I am grateful to Shawn for allowing us a glimpse of one of the most amazing time of his life.
The book is self published and beautifully put together. It is a great addition on your bookshelves. It is a very quick and easy read as there is little dialogue and Shawn chooses to communicate the story more visually. The format revolves around smaller chapters. Plus, if you know a comic book loving couple who is about to have their first baby this is a great book to pass on to them.
Visit the creator’s blog to order a copy of the book: shawnbrookwilliams.wordpress.com
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