Skim is a stunning debut graphic novel created from the
collaboration of two cousins -- Toronto writer Mariko Tamaki and
illustrator Jillian Tamaki, originally from Calgary and now based in New
Skim takes us into the world of Kimberly Keiko Cameron.
It's 1993, and she's in grade 10 at a private girls school in Toronto.
Skim is the nickname she's been given by the popular girls in her class.
It's a constant reminder to her that she's not slim. Through Skim's
diary entries and the small moments of her daily life, the book depicts
the teenager's response to depression, crushes, a student's suicide, gay
sexuality and the experience of being an outsider.
Since it was published in 2008, Skim has made a big impact,
garnering glowing reviews and winning several prestigious awards,
including the 2008 Ignatz Award for Outstanding Graphic Novel and the
2009 Doug Wright Award for Best Book. It was also among the 10 books
named to the New York Times list of Best Illustrated Children's Books
2008. In fact, the novel gained notoriety when it was nominated for a
2008 Governor General's Literary Award. This was the first time a
graphic novel had been shortlisted for a GG, so was a cause for
celebration in graphic fiction quarters. But the nomination only went to
Mariko Tamaki, in the Children's (Text) category. Within weeks, a group
of well-known graphic writers, including Seth and Chester Brown,
published a letter condemning the exclusion of Jillian Tamaki as
co-author. They said, "The text of a graphic novel cannot be separated
from its illustrations because the words and the pictures together are
In Skim, words are essential to some parts of the story,
while other scenes are told only through the evocative drawings. The
layering of text and image often gives a key to how Skim thinks -- in her
diary entries, some words are crossed out or replaced, echoing the
shifting ideas and emotions of adolescence. In the tradition of the best
graphic novels, the Tamakis have blended their words and drawings in
ways that are both complementary and seamless.
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Mariko is a Toronto-based writer and performer. She grew up in
Toronto and went to a private school, much like Skim's school. Her
published work includes the novella Cover Me, and two collections of creative non-fiction, True Lies and the Book of Bad Advice and Fake ID. Skim is her first graphic novel, followed by Emiko Superstar,
illustrated by Steve Rolston. Mariko says she has an avid interest in
"freaks, weirdos and other fabulous forms of human behaviour."
Jillian grew up in Calgary and currently lives in Brooklyn, NY, where
she says she "shares an irritating railroad apartment with Sam Weber." Skim is Jillian's first graphic novel. Her first book, Gilded Lilies,
a collection of her illustrations and comics, was nominated for a 2007
Doug Wright Award in the Best Book category. Jillian works as an
editorial illustrator; her clients include the New York Times, The New
Yorker, the Washington Post, Walrus, Maclean's and the CBC.
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"This graphic novel is a winner....Mariko Tamaki's prose captures an
authentic adolescent voice that's dramatic, self-obsessed, funny,
earnest, and sometimes glib...
Skim is an unforgettable character in the tradition of Holden Caulfield --
a clear social commentator on adult and adolescent behaviour whose
ironic observations on social hypocrisy ring sharp and true." -- Quill
"Jillian Tamaki's illustrations perfectly match the rough edges and continuous movement of Skim's
teenage characters and reveal humour in the agonizing minutiae of high
school life....Mariko Tamaki's text blends teen-speak with eloquence and
wry one-liners." -- Toronto Star
"A quietly moving graphic novel....Recommend this to fans of Daniel Clowes' Ghost World, who have been waiting for another graphic novel of teen angst and suburban ennui." -- Kirkus Reviews
"It's the artwork that sets it apart from the coming-of-age pack.
Jillian Tamaki has a swooping, gorgeous pen line -- expressive, vibrant
and precise all at once....It complements Mariko Tamaki's fine ear for
dialogue and the incidentals and events of adolescent life." --
"...a convincing chronicle of a teenage outsider who has enough sense to want to stay outside.... Skim
offers a startlingly clear and painful view into adolescence for those
of us who possess it only as a distant memory. ...But what will
teenagers think? Maybe that they've found a bracingly honest story by a
writer who seems to remember exactly what it was like to be 16 and in
love for the first time." -- New York Times
"The black and white art is spare when Skim's life is under control;
it's lush and packed with dense shading as she expands her horizons.
Mariko Tamaki supplies brittle, Juno MacGuff-style repartee, but she
also allows Skim to acknowledge the changes she is experiencing, even if
she doesn't quite understand them." -- Slate
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