Top Shelf Production, 2003, reprinted Drawn and Quarterly, 2015,
20th anniversary reprinting 2023
Blankets is the story of a young man coming of age and finding the confidence to express his creative voice. Craig Thompson's poignant graphic memoir plays out against the backdrop of a Midwestern winterscape: finely-hewn linework draws together a portrait of small town life, a rigorously fundamentalist Christian childhood, and a lonely, emotionally mixed-up adolescence.
Under an engulfing blanket of snow, Craig and Raina fall in love at winter church camp, revealing to one another their struggles with faith and their dreams of escape. Over time though, their personal demons resurface and their relationship falls apart. It's a universal story, and Thompson's vibrant brushstrokes and unique page designs make the familiar heartbreaking all over again.
- The Guardian (18 January 2018): “Blankets has been garlanded with praise since its publication in 2003, winning an Eisner award and regularly featuring in lists of the best graphic novels of all time. But Thompson’s autobiographical tale of family life and young love in the American midwest has never before received an official UK release. First-time readers expecting an instant showstopper may wind up disappointed: the book unspools gradually over 600 black-and-white pages as young Craig negotiates life, sharing blankets unwillingly with his younger brother and reverently with his girlfriend Raina. It’s a childhood cloaked in snow, in which money is ever tight and Christ ever present, and school is a hostile place. The dialogue can be clunky, but Thompson has a great eye for the moment, and the pages fly by as Craig meets Raina at church camp, falls in love and questions his faith.
- Booklist Blankets, a graphic novel memoir, is “ambitious, more accomplished, and more accessible” than Thompson’s debut novel. Thompson recalls growing up in a religious family in rural Wisconsin, particularly his affectionate tussles with his younger brother, with whom he shared a bed and the titular blankets. A few years later, he experiences the painful intensity of first love with Raina, a girl from Michigan he meets at a regional church camp. When the pair are separated, his loss of faith in his love for Raina presages his later loss of religious faith. The blanket motif reappears throughout the work, forthrightly as the handmade quilt Raina gives him, and more subtly as the blank sheets of paper he confronts as a budding artist. Eschewing the usual alt-comics cynicism, Thompson’s evocation of high-school romance manages to be both romanticized and clear-eyed. His visual mastery shows in fluid line work, assured compositions, and powerful use of solid black areas and negative space. Weighing in at nearly 600 pages, this is a genuine graphic novel, with a universal appeal that suits it for any collection.”
- Publishers Weekly No age rating: “Revisiting the themes of deep friendship and separation Thompson surveyed in Goodbye Chunky Rice, his acclaimed and touching debut, this sensitive memoir recreates the confusion, emotional pain and isolation of the author's rigidly fundamentalist Christian upbringing, along with the trepidation of growing into maturity. Skinny, naïve and spiritually vulnerable, Thompson and his younger brother manage to survive their parents' overbearing discipline (the brothers are sometimes forced to sleep in "the cubby-hole," a forbidding and claustrophobic storage chamber) through flights of childhood fancy and a mutual love of drawing. But escapist reveries can't protect them from the cruel schoolmates who make their lives miserable. Thompson's grimly pious parents and religious community dismiss his budding talent for drawing; they view his creative efforts as sinful and relentlessly hector the boys about scripture. By high school, Thompson's a lost, socially battered and confused soul—until he meets Raina and her clique of amiable misfits at a religious camp. Beautiful, open, flexibly spiritual and even popular (something incomprehensible to young Thompson), Raina introduces him to her own less-than-perfect family; to a new teen community and to a broader sense of himself and his future. The two eventually fall in love and the experience ushers Thompson into the beginnings of an adult, independent life. Thompson manages to explore adolescent social yearnings, the power of young love and the complexities of sexual attraction with a rare combination of sincerity, pictorial lyricism and taste. His exceptional b&w drawings balance representational precision with a bold and wonderfully expressive line for pages of ingenious, inventively composed and poignant imagery.
- Shelf Awareness No age rating: “Blankets, tenderly written and drawn with a naked vulnerability, captures the essence of being young, when everything feels urgent, and every heartache and hope consumes like fire. Though some of the language may feel dated, the universal story of love and loss is still likely to charm. Whether revisiting a favorite classic or discovering the narrative for the very first time, readers will fall in love with Blankets.
- 2004 Harvey Award for Best Artist
- 2004 Harvey Award for Best Cartoonist
- 2004 Harvey Award for Best Graphic Album of Original Work
- 2004 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album
- 2004 Eisner Award for Best Writer/Artist
- 2004 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Artist
- 2004 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel or Collection
- 2005 Prix de la critique
- #1, Top 10 Everything 2003, Time Magazine
- 100 Favorite Comics and Graphic Novels, Reader Poll 2017 , NPR
- 22 Greatest Love Stories of All Time, 2004 Oprah.com
Response to challenges
Comic Book Legal Defense Fund statement of support: (From a case study of two challenged graphic novels, Blankets and Fun Home): Graphic novels combine visual art with literary and cinematic techniques of storytelling. They constitute some of the most creative work in publishing today. Blankets and Fun Home are break out examples of how the graphic novel form is reinventing the memoir genre.
Neither one of the challenged books is legally obscene. To be obscene material must, taken as a whole, appeal to the prurient interest as well as lack serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value. The wide critical acclaim the books have received testify to their artistic value, whereas anybody who has read them is aware that they explore a range of important issues of which sexuality is only one.
Craig Thompson’s Blankets chronicles a young man’s coming of age in a rural, evangelical society. The book addresses topics of faith, abstinence, love, responsibility, and commitment from the point of view of a faithful young man who must make critical choices about those topics at the entry to adulthood. The book is beautifully illustrated with careful ink drawings. Blankets was named among the best books of 2003 by Library Journal, YALSA, Booklist, & Time. It has also won numerous national and international awards.
Book Resume created by New Jersey Association of School Libraries and PDSAL
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