Nobody Particular: One Woman’s Fight to Save the Bays, by Molly Bang

Nobody Particular: One Woman’s Fight to Save the Bays. By Molly Bang.  Henry Holt & Co., 2001.  48 pages. $18

Content:  Nobody Particular, a graphic non-fiction book, tells the story of Diane Wilson, who considered herself “nobody in particular.”  Wilson was the only solo woman shrimper in the Gulf of Texas.  One day she read an article in the newspaper about the extraordinary amount of pollution in her community and she decided to do something about it.  With five chemical plants in the county, she had a lot of work ahead of her.  Some people thought she was crazy, some thought she should mind her own business, and she made many people angry, but Diane thought that corporations should not be able to pollute the bays and bayous of her home, AND that they should be held accountable for the damage they caused.  Wilson’s story is told via black and white comic cel panels that include drawings, collaged newspapers, and text.  In addition to a detailed telling of Diane’s work to save the bay from pollution, the book includes a side story that tells about the ecosystem of the bays that Wilson is fighting to save.  This side story is presented in full color paintings that serve as the background to the comic cell panels that are in the center of the page.

Review: I had high hopes for this book about an environmental activist making a difference, basically someone fighting for what is right.  And that story, the story of Diane Wilson, is powerful.  The side story of the ecosystem is also an interesting story that provides readers with a richer understanding of the issues involved.  But, this book just has too much going on with it.  One’s eyes don’t know where to look first.  Should I read the center comic panel?  Should I read the side story written on top of the paintings?  In some places the text is practically illegible as it is black text set atop a black and white graphics.  From the cover, the book looks like a picture book, but once it is open, the reader will know it is not.  The story is hard to follow and the graphic novel style, while unique and creative, misses the boat a bit (no pun intended :-).  Those interested in the environment and/or Wilson’s incredible story may very well slog through this book, but I don’t believe graphic novel fans would make it to the second page.  Molly Bang is an extraordinarily talented writer and illustrator; this just wasn’t her best work.  On the back end paper, there is an “Update on the Story,” with additional information about what happened immediately following the events of the story.

Genre(s): Graphic Novel, Non-Fiction

Reading/Interest Level: 11-16

Available in: Hardcover, Paperback

ISBN: 9780805053968

Subjects: environmental activism, environmental protection, water pollution, pollution, Environmental Protection Agency, ecosystems, shrimping

Similar Books: Heroes of the Environment: True Stories of People Who Are Helping to Protect Our Planet; Rachel Carson: A Short Biography for Kids; Diane Wilson herself has written two books for adults, but older, motivated tweens should be able to read them, one came out just this year; they are An Unreasonable Woman: A True Story of Shrimpers, Politicos, Polluters, And the Fight for Seadrift, Texas (2006) and Diary of an Eco-Outlaw: An Unreasonable Woman Breaks the Law for Mother Earth (2011)