Author: Joe Kelly
Illustrator: Jm Ken Niimura
Age Range: the only sites that would give me something here quoted 9-12 (from Target.com) and 13-18 (Barnes & Noble.com). I was unable to find a non-retail website that would quote an age range for this title. This is discussed below.
Interest Range: 10-18, depending on maturity level and life events (my take on it)
Genre: Magical Realism, Coming of Age, Sci-fi/Fantasy
Format: Graphic Novel
Plot: Barbara kills giants. It is her sole purpose in life. She also happens to be in the 5th grade, be a very talented Dungeon Master (for D&D games), and have very few friends. Until Sophia arrives, that is, and the two start a rather rocky friendship. Barbara is quite the outsider in her school, constantly talking back to teachers and bullies alike, and getting in trouble for both. Finally, Barbara is angry. Things are not ok at home. Her older sister has been placed in charge of taking care of the house due to their mother’s current state and their father running out on them. Because of her constant problems in school, Barbara begins regular sessions with the school therapist. It is in these sessions that we realize that Barbara’s giants are her way of dealing with the troubles at home. Through a unique artistic style, the story of Barbara is brought to life- her imagination and reality melded into one.
Review: This was a hard one. I loved it, and want to share the book with everyone, but it is INTENSE. Despite the fact that the main character is in the 5th grade, I don’t know that I would ever hand this book to someone in the tween age group unless I knew them well and knew that they could really handle it. I picked it up because it had been on some state-wide reading lists of notable books a few years ago here in Vermont. The list it was a part of had titles that were geared toward both tweens and teens, and reading about the main character made me assume that it would be appropriate for the 9-12 age group. This book involves a very angry and scared young lady, who is a severe social outsider and dealing (not very well) with some very serious happenings at home. I don’t like the idea of sheltering kids from serious topics, and given the right circumstance I would encourage a younger reader to look at this book without any hesitation, but depending on their age it would have to be someone in a similar situation who would understand where Barbara is coming from. Seeing how she deals with her fear and anger could really help someone out, because in the end she makes it through just fine. I also don’t know if this book would appeal to many teens once they knew Barbara’s age. If they stuck with the story, I think they would really appreciate her narrative. But knowing that youth don’t normally like to read about individuals younger than themselves makes me question what age range this really does fit into.
*Side note: I found it interesting how different retailers placed this book in different reading age ranges. It made me realize that at least between Barnes & Noble and Target, B&N seems to have more of a grasp of content. Target probably looked at the age of the main character (like I initially did) and just assumed it would be best for tweens. Another reason not to trust retailer websites for information of this variety.
Themes: Growing up, Facing fears, Illness, Making new friends, Changes at home
YALSA’s 2010 Top Ten great graphic novels for teens
Barbara Thorson: A very smart 5th grader dealing with things that are way beyond her maturity level. She copes the best she can by exercising her imagination to the extreme- to the point where she sincerely believes that giants roam the earth and that she exists to stop them from destroying everything.
Kelly, J.; Niimura, J. K. (2010). I Kill Giants. Berkeley, California: Image Comics, Inc.
“We’re a lot stronger than we think we are.”