Regular cartoon-memoirist Lucy Knisley released the next installment in her ongoing series of graphic novels, Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos, back in February. This volume deals with her pregnancy and the delivery of her son, known to the Internet as Pal. In the tone set by Relish, Knisley provides us with a family story, bursting with love, and this time, she’s doubled down on research behind the story, all capped by her not-quite-formal art style.
Knisley’s drawing, for those unfamiliar, lives where cartoons meet realism. Clean lines and simple, but bright colors define the world for her. She keeps her options open. She can zip into fantasy, literally blasting off from Child-Free Fun Times Planet to Preggo Planet to Parent Planet. Or, she can jump into education mode and lay out a cross section of her pregnant body. Best of all, Knisley’s art brings the personal humor, like when she dreams up a rope tied all around her house so she can pull herself instead of walk. This artistic style eases readers into a journey set with scientific facts and converts well to stark black-and-white when the story turns dark.
The flexibility that distinguishes the art sets the prose apart from the pack as well. Knisley’s writing could fill a book about pregnancy without the pictures. Her voice and her humor remain in deadpan narration and quippy in dialogue, exposing the many frustrations that expectant moms feel from well-wishing strangers to friends to old wives’ tales. Knisley manages to incorporate history and science into a scary memoir. She includes sections devoted solely to facts about pregnancy. For someone who has never really studied the subject outside of school, it’s enlightening. Surprisingly, Knisley even manages to express her husband’s fears about becoming a parent. These fears hit home when she includes the details surrounding a seizure after labor.
Special warning to readers, it gets scary – grown up, bawl with tears, put down the book scary, not like the demonic clowns that haunt video games. Knisley’s love for children comes through so strongly in the amount she prepares and dreams about motherhood. Every brilliantly colored panel reflects the love she has for Pal, and the amount she’s hoped for him to enter her life. In the seizure sequences, the colors drain with her consciousness and fade to heart stopping black and white as her family fears for her life. As she recovers, they rush back in as she learns to love the baby she’s hoped for, for so long.
The history and science of pregnancy and women’s care provide some of the most important and captivating elements of the book. The organization of the book with its clearly defined “research” sections in their tongue-in-cheek headings like, “More Research,” set the fact-based sections apart from her life story. Knisley clearly wants to elevate their importance, but it can also have the opposite effect, offering the temptation to skip. These elements should not be part of the entree, not the side dishes. But maybe that’s a different book.
Overall, Lucy Knisley delivers another excellent graphic novel. Knisley’s humor continues to color everyday life’s troubles a brighter shade. Her journey goes from longing to excitement for motherhood and crescendos through a near-death experience. She’s done her homework and she presents it in easily digestible pieces, both for newcomers to series of memoir and long time fans. An informative read and an awesome example of unconventional memoir in graphic form.
Four stars out of five.
Page count: 242
Favorite quote: “I hope this book can be a testament to how much he was loved before he even arrived, and that it can help him better know his parents.”