Art, community, and fear are all discussed in The Plain Janes by Cecil Castellucci and Jim Rugg, a poignant story about a girl named Jane who is forced to move from a hip city to the suburbs. She is surprised not only by the artistic (and same-name) friends she finds in her new school, but also by herself. When she confronts the fears she has clung to since surviving a tragic event that happened back in the city, Jane's eyes are opened to the world and to her community. She and the other Janes declare themselves P.L.A.I.N. - People Loving Art In Neighborhoods - and setting up interesting, thoughtful displays of art around town, trying to call people's attention to things that really matter or are often overlooked. Not everyone "gets" their art, and some call them "art attacks." The girls take this in stride and continue with their unique art projects.
The story continues in the second volume, Janes in Love. If you're "not into romance," don't worry! Far from sappy or cliche, Janes in Love is just as thoughtful and fun as the first story.
Throughout both volumes, Castellucci's text and Rugg's art will keep readers turning pages. With their creative takes on activism and awareness coupled with consistently great art depicting a variety of realistic-looking characters, The Plain Janes and Janes in Love are great picks for reluctant readers and aspiring artists alike.
See art from The Plain Janes and Janes in Love as well as never-before-seen images from Janes Go Summer, which Cecil & Jim had started working on before the Minx line of comics was cancelled, in the July 2009 issue of readergirlz. (I posted some of the images here, but in order to see them all, you'll have to go to readergirlz!) I hope you'll join the readergirlz book group at http://www.readergirlz.com and join in the discussions at http://readergirlz.blogspot.com all month long!
Interview: Cecil Castellucci
Interview: Jim Rugg
Booklist: Portrait of the Artist as a Young Person