Maker Comics Live Sustainably Review

By | Wednesday, July 27, 2022 Leave a Comment
Maker Comics: Live Sustainably!
I believe Maker Comics: Live Sustainably! is the third book in the Maker Comics series that I've read. I find the entire concept an interesting premise in that each volume tackles a single subject in more-or-less the same way (hence, all the books fall under a single series) but each volume is made by different creators who are at least reasonably adept (if not outright expert) in the topic at hand. Yet despite the varying creators and wildly different subjects, the books so far have all seemed to be thematically cohesive enough that, if you've read one or two of them, you can be reasonably confident what you'll get out the next subject you want to learn about.

In this particular volume, Isaac is forced to do some community service work at the local community garden that he vandalized recently. He's monitored by Aurora, who not only directs him to various tasks (starting with cleaning up the sign he spray painted over!) but sharing with him why the efforts underway at the garden are being done and how they're better for sustainability than a variety of alternatives. And though Isaac is initially reluctant to pay attention -- his community service is supposed to be punishment after all -- Aurora and some of the regulars at the garden are able to speak to him in a way that speaks to his own ideologies and interests; by the end of the week, Isaac not only sees the benefits of sustainable living but finds himself at the garden continuing to volunteer past his prescribed punishment.

One of the things I found interesting in this particular volume was the mix of general education/exposition and practical how-tos. The earlier part of the book is a little more heavily weighted towards background education: what is the wind cycle, how the types of plants you grow together can benefit one another, how climate change is impacting the environment, etc. The more crafty aspects of the book -- how to make a tote bag from an old shirt, how to make a cutlery pack, etc. -- are focused more towards the end. It makes sense, given the topic, that you need to provide more background explaining why you might want to make your own notebook before showing you how, but it does feel a little less like a Maker Comic initially because of that. The first part is less about being a maker and just about education. Useful and well-crafted, certainly, but it takes a ways into the book before it feels maker-y.

That said, Angela Boyle and Les McClaine do a good job keeping the story light and entertaining. I think there's a danger when discussing sustainability and/or environmentalism that an author can either get too doom-and-gloomy or simply too preachy. Boyle and McClaine strike a good balance between relaying the importance of the material and keeping the narrative engaging. What's more, I like the book's overall tone in understanding that not every project is going to be practical for every person's situation. There's something of a tacit acknowledgement that the biggest issues are at the industrial level, and the personal efforts laid out here (like repairing your clothes instead of replacing them) aren't going to save the planet. There's not that guilt-trip-approach of, say, a Native American crying at your litter (if you're old enough to get that reference); the book has more of a celebratory feel. "You can be a better human." I think this not only makes more sense in general, but is a better way to encourage the young people this series is aimed at to make them feel good about being more thoughtful about being raised in an inherently consumerist/disposable society.

Overall, I continue to be impressed with the Maker Comics series. Well, frankly, I've been impressed by pretty much everything I've read from First Second over the years. If you have any interest in sustainablity or want to encourage a young reader to be more conscientious in that regard, Maker Comics: Live Sustainably! is a great book. As I said earlier, the Maker Comics series in general has been really solid and you know what you're getting with any of the individual titles, seemingly regardless of who's worked on it. This volume was released back in April so you should have no trouble getting it from your favorite bookstore. It retails for $14.99 US.
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