"Up until this point, I was not exactly the kind of person who would go to a FREAK SHOW. I guess you could say I was kind of...awkward. My mother said I was a wallflower. At my school they call it being a geek."
Title: Emiko Superstar
Author: Mariko Tamaki and Steve Rolston (artist)
Publisher: DC Comics
Plot Summary: What Emiko Matsuko-McGregor anticipates to be a dull summer baby sitting for the Cuthberts changes when she meets Poppy in a shopping mall. Poppy sings and dances and flings flyers advertising THE FREAK SHOW. Emiko's first FREAK SHOW, held in a warehouse and lorded over by the Curator, opens her eyes to the world of performance art, "a world where you could make yourself into anything" (p. 44). Emiko also meets Henry, a rather geeky photographer and keeps a memento of Poppy's performance. As Emiko's first attempt at performing poetry fails even before gaining the stage, she digs into Susan Cuthbert's life and performs pieces from her journal, dressed in Emiko's grandmother's clothing. Emiko soon comes to realize that her newfound stardom, while extremely enjoyable, is all borrowed and decides to change her own life and walk her own path, giving her family hints of THE FREAK SHOW side of her.
Critical Evaluation: As a graphic novel format, Emiko Superstar combines the theme of performance visual art with the actual medium the readers interact with. Like those watching THE FREAK SHOW, readers are inundated in sparse yet vivid visual details and Emiko's voice, which is familiar and easily recognizable. While the text and dialog themselves would not have been sufficient to move the story without the visual backdrop, Emiko Superstar needed a different writing style to work as a graphic novel. The circular plot, which shows a scene from the end of the novel at the beginning, allows readers to understand the drastic change between baby sitting Emiko and FREAK SHOW Emiko and her numerous stumbles along the way are reminiscent of teenage life and the failed attempts at trying new activities. The manner in which the romance between Henry and Emiko is downplayed is well-done, as the entire graphic novel does not revolve around their love and is secondary to Emiko trying to discover who she is as an individual. Like most graphic novels, the language in Emiko Superstar is directly from Emiko's head and as a teenaged point of view character, keeps the language casual and yet poetic in its brevity.
Reader's Annotation: Emiko Matsuko-McGregor never expected that the most boring summer of her life would land her in a grungy warehouse at THE FREAK SHOW with an eclectic mix of eccentric performance artists. Emiko also never expected she would end up on stage in Grandma's old dress and reading from her babysitting mother's diary, learning about a side of herself she never knew existed.
Information About the Authors: Mariko Tamaki is a Toronto writer, playwright, and performer. She has published graphic novels and creative non-fiction, written columns, and performed on stage. Learn more about Mariko at her website.
Steve Rolston is a Canadian artist who got his start in Flash-based webcomics before illustrating for professional comics. He has also worked on storyboards for a Marvel video game and published a non-comic book. Learn more about Steve at his website.
Genre: Graphic Novel; Fiction; Suburbia; Coming of Age; Performance Art
Curriculum Ties N/A
- Emiko Superstar is a story of a plain girl who incorporates the lives of others to change herself from a baby-sitting suburban girl to a cutting edge visual performer. As she revels in the change and acceptance that comes to becoming one of the Freak Show, she slowly comes to realize that to truly be herself, she cannot rely on others and instead has to find her own personal style.
Reading Level: Freshman/Sophomore+
- Emiko Superstar addresses the time-old question of "Who am I?" and shows a teen's attempt at answering that question through plagiarizing from the lives of others. This lesson could be applicable to using material items or other people to define oneself.
- As a graphic novel, Emiko Superstar is easily accessible and a quick read for busy high schoolers.
Why This Book?: Young Adult Librarian recommendation
Tamaki, M. and Rolston, S. (2008). Emiko superstar. Canada: DC Comics.