Saturday, July 14, 2012

Lola: A Ghost Story

Bibliographic Information: Torres, J. & Or, E.  (2009).  Lola: A ghost story.  Portland: Oni Press.
ISBN: 978-1-934964-33-0

Plot Summary: At first glance, Jesse (the main character) seems like just another sullen teen who is angry to be dragged along on another family trip to the Philippines. The reader soon learns that Jesse is going to the Philippines to attend his grandmother's, or lola, funeral.

As the story continues to develop it becomes apparent that Jesse may not be like other teens, that Jesse may share some of the same gifts as his recently deceased lola. As the reader continues to see the world through Jesse's eyes it becomes apparent that the world is not quite what it seems.

This comic contained simple, sepia colored graphics and is read in the western style of front to back and left to right. 

Critical Evaluation: This comic is heavily laced with references to Filipino superstitions, references to Catholicism, and folklore. The main character, Jesse, refuses to admit that things like ghosts and "dwendes" (mythical dwarves) may actually exist. As the story moves forward it becomes obvious that Jesse is not simply just a western kid afraid of Filipino superstitions as the reader begins to see the world through Jesse's eyes. The presence folklore stories, Catholic customs, and superstitions also work as a way to pass on culture to younger generations. In this way the stories and religion that Jesse is told or part of deeply connect him to those who have already passed on, like his lola (grandmother). In a way these shared stories become a symbol of family, culture, and identity. At first Jesse wants to be separate from the culture, stating that every time he returns to the Philippines that the experience is just a little bit worse. His rejections are a way for him to reject parts of himself he does not like and wants to guard himself against. It is not until his kuya (cousin) urges him to use his knowledge that Jesse even considers that who he is and what he knows may actually be valuable to the culture and family he often keeps at a distance.

By the end of the story, Jesse can be seen accepting the Filipino stories and superstitions, as a metaphor of him finally accepting the parts of himself that he cannot completely explain.

Reader’s Annotation:
Jesse finds that the ghosts within are sometimes only a reflection of the ghosts that surround us every day.
Information About the Author: J. Torres has received several recognitions for his work; including: the Shuster Award, being YSLA listed, and an Einser Award nomination (Torres, 2012). Some of Torres' most notable works are: Batman: Legends of the Dark Knight, Love as a Foreign Language, Teen Titans Go, and Allison Dare (Torres, 2012). Torres' current work includes: Jinx and Power Lunch (Torres, 2012).
Elbert Or is from Manila, Philippines (Torres & Or, 2009). Or often works as both an illustrator and writer and has had many of his works recognized (Torres & Or, 2009). Some of Or's most notable works include: National Book Award winning Siglo Anthologoies, Cast, and Bakemono High (Torres & Or, 2009). Or also teaches Comics Production while working for Oni Press
Torres & Or, 2009) 

Mystery, Horror, and Suspense, Fantasy

Subgenre: Paranormal Powers, The Occult or Supernatural, Urban Fantasy

Curriculum Ties: Could be used for a section on folklore, superstitions, and loss.

Booktalking Ideas:

1). How do the superstitions and folktales play a role in Jesse's life?
2). What does the little zebra car mean to JonJon's parents? 

Reading Level/Interest Age: AR Reading Level: 2.4/YA (Follett's Titlewave, 2012). Gr. 7 & up (Lipinski, 2010)

Challenge Issues: None. If issues did arise, I would pull from my defense file as detailed below. I would use the following items to defend this graphic novel if it was challenged:

1) Refer to Library Bill of Rights, see items: I, II, and III (
2) Refer to San Diego Public Library collection policy - (  Original site: The American Library Association (ALA) Freedom to Read/View Statement (
3) Refer to California School Library Association (CSLA), Model School Library Standards - September 2010 ( PDF: (
4) Refer t0 American Association for School, Librarians Standards for the 21st Century Learner (
5) Contact Office of Intellectual Freedom for any further support, 800-545-2433, ext. 4223 or
6) Refer to legitimate book reviews, such as: School Library Journal, Booklist, Kirkus Reviews, Horn Book and others; found on either Academic Search Premier, Follett's TITLEWAVE, or

Why did you include this graphic novel in the titles you selected?:
This grapjic novel may be more suitable for the younger spectrum of the YA crowd, but offers a story rich in culture, superstitions, and folklore.The storyline and eventual lessons that the main character, Jesse, learns may inspire inner reflection in teens regarding the things that they do and do not understand about their own lives and beliefs.

Reference Page:

Follett's Titlewave.  (2012).  Lola: A ghost story.  Retrieved July 13, 2012 from Follett's Titlewave iPhone App.

Lipinski, A.  (2010, May 1).  [Review of Lola: A ghost story by J. Torres & E. Or].  School Library Journal.  Retrieved July 14, 2012 from

Torres, J.  (2012).  Retrieved July 14, 2012 from
Torres, J. & Or, E.  (2009).  Lola: A ghost story.  Portland: Oni Press.
ISBN: 978-1-934964-33-0

Cover art:

Or, E.  (2009).  Lola: A ghost story cover.  Retrieved July 15, 2012 from

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