What a beautiful book Blankets by Craig Thompson turned out to be! I’ve read his first graphic novel, Good-Bye Chunky Rice and liked it so I was expecting I would like Blankets too but I didn’t expect so much complexity in the story. I should have known better.

The cover of Blankets calls it an illustrated novel but the main character’s name is Craig and he looks a little like the author so it was hard to think of this as a novel instead of autobiography.

The story: Craig lives in a small Wisconsin town with his parents and younger brother. Craig’s family is poor and he gets picked on a lot at school. His only escape is his love of drawing and church. Craig’s parents are devout Christians and Craig wraps himself up in Christianity in an attempt to keep the ugliness of the world away. But as Craig gets older he begins to have doubts. The people who pick on him at school also attend church and call themselves Christians, how can that be? Even the kids at church camp don’t behave very Christianly.

Then he meets Raina at camp. She is the first girl he has ever liked and who liked him back. They become friends. After camp they write each other letters (Raina lives in Michigan). Finally both sets of parents agree to allow Craig to visit Raina for two weeks. There is much more but I don’t want to give anything away.

Blankets is both title and theme. There are many blankets in the book both real and metaphorical and all of them serve different purposes. We think of a blanket as comfort but sometimes a blanket is a way to hide from or cover up the things we don’t want to face. Then there is the blanket of snow that pretty much covers the entire story and it too, serves a purpose.

Not only did I love the complex story but the art is fantastic too. The whole book is composed of black and white drawings that carry and support the story. They are marvelously expressive and interact with the text so well I often forgot I was reading both words and pictures.

Whether you are already a reader of graphic novels or are thinking about trying one, I highly recommend giving Blankets a go. I got my copy from Emily who chose it for me after she drew my name in a giveaway a year or so ago. And let me just say, if you ever have the opportunity for Emily to choose a book for you, let her. She’s very good at it!