Boxers (Boxers & Saints)

by Gene Luen Yang

Paperback, 2013

Status

Available

Call number

Child > Graphic Novel

Publication

First Second (2013), Edition: 1st, 336 pages

Description

In China in 1898 bands of foreign missionaries and soldiers roam the countryside, bullying and robbing Chinese peasants. Little Bao has had enough: harnessing the powers of ancient Chinese gods, he recruits an army of Boxers--commoners trained in kung fu who fight to free China from "foreign devils."

User reviews

LibraryThing member AnnieMod
Chinese history is not the most popular subject in the Western world - most people might have heard of the Boxer rebellion from the end of the 19th century/beginning of the 20th but without too many details. Gene Luen Yang chooses the graphic novel format to tell the story of the rebellion - or it
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is probably better to tell two stories from the rebellion.

In the first volume of the two interlinked stories, the main protagonist is Little Bao, a Chinese boy that loves Chinese opera and as any other boy his age, loves to dream about what he sees. The life in a Chinese village at the end of the 19th century is hard and the nature throwing floods their way does not help much. This is the time when Christianity start taking root into China, replacing the old gods of the Chinese. The conflict is just starting and as it usual, the missionaries are way too busy showing the new way to have any respect for the old ways - they smash the old idols, they mock and ridicule the old ways and that does not sit very well with the Chinese population. Which is why the Boxer rebellion come to be at the end - it is an honest attempt of the poor villagers to try to expel the foreigners and the Chinese that listen to them - because they believe that all bad that is happening is because of them and their actions.

And in our story, Little Bao ends up being the reluctant leader of the kung fu trained men - with the help of old world magic and the old gods - changing into one of them, teaching people how to change into them - they all march on Peking. And in between, the author manages to sneak in some old Chinese legends - about heroes and gods in the old days. Knowing how the rebellion ends, you kinda know how it all will end - but it is as always the journey to it that is interesting. It is violent, bloody and miserable. And it is not only the men - the women also join in (they actually save the men's lives before anyone take them seriously but that is just usual for the time...) and the rebellion grow day after day - both in numbers and in cruelty. Christians are bad, they need to die - no matter that they are also people or women or children. Bao turns from someone that cares about people to someone that is ready to shut his internal voices and listen to the old Gods and order atrocities. And even if the art shows the old gods alive, it is up to the reader to decide how much of it is everyone's mind and hope and how much is real.

In a way, the journey of Bao from oppressed to oppressor is the center of the story. The story taps nicely into the folklore of the Chinese people to bring the old Gods to life - literally in that novel - in an attempt to turn the time back. Which as we all know is a futile endeavor. Bookmarking his journey are the two times he sees Vibiana - once whey both are innocent children and then again when they end up on the opposite sides of the rebellion. The misunderstanding of other is what brings the conflict - from both sides - if the Christian missionaries had respected the old believes, things would not have escalated. It's a novel about accepting the differences in other people, about the clash of religions and about tolerance. And about history and the choice between the past and the present that decides what the future will be.

And at the end of the book, the fate of Bao is never shown - you are left to guess.
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LibraryThing member What_Katie_Read
BOOK #3 of #readathon finished! Another excellent novel by Yang, but very violent!
LibraryThing member 4sarad
Wow, that was depressing! I always like books that entertain as well as educate, and this is definitely one of them. I knew nothing about the Boxer Rebellion and wouldn't have even placed it in China. (Boxer Rebellions? Like Boxing Day, right? Apparently I suck at history...) Yang is just an
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amazing author. Most of the time I think graphic novels are way too short and they feel more like a chapter than a whole book. I'm not sure how Yang does it, but in a short book that is mostly pictures he managed to pack in a whole novel's-worth of history, character development, love, humor, compassion, guilt, suffering, action... it's really something. I hated the ending, but what can you do about that? It's based on true events. I definitely recommend this one, and I agree that it's even better than American Born Chinese. Looking forward to reading Saints now to get the other side of the story!
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LibraryThing member mamzel
This book is paired with Saints and they both tell the story of the Boxer Rebellion in turn of the century China. Europeans and Christians met with resistance as gangs of youth, first formed to defend their villages against bandits and then against the invaders who threatened their way of
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life.

Boxers is told from the point of view of Little Bao, the youngest of three brothers. We see how they are attracted to the kung fu master, Red Lantern, who teaches the young men of the village how to fight. Eventually they leave the village to defend China against the invading foreigners and the creep of Christianity.

The style of these graphic novels is simple enough to enjoy the story while still managing to convey the horrors of battle and the characters' emotions. I believe Saints should be read first but it's not imperative.
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LibraryThing member kivarson
Yang weaves history and mythology together to share the story of how the people of China rose up against Western Imperialists in the late 19th century.
LibraryThing member DeweyEver
Boxers is a graphic novel about Little Bao, a young man on the Boxer side of the Boxer Rebellion in China (1899-1900). He finds a way to harness the power of the ancient Chinese gods and leads an army of Boxers to fight all "foreign devils" in China.

As with the companion book, Saints, the art is
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simple but expressive. The fantastic color and animated looks of the Chinese gods contrasts well with Bao's otherwise drab life as a commoner.
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LibraryThing member WickedWoWestwood
It took me until the very end of this comic to understand the title. It took my husband two seconds. World history was never my strong suit. In fact, I really dislike history and historical fiction. Congratulations Gene Yang!! You have educated me about the Boxer rebellion in a wonderfully told
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graphic novel!
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LibraryThing member eenerd
Great art and story telling
LibraryThing member nnschiller
I would love this if it were just a graphic novel about the boxer revolt.

I additionally love it because it does a great job of showing that there aren't "good guys" or "bad guys" in war without being overly didactic about it.

Gene Yang hits it out of the park with this one. He creates empathy and
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then shows what war demands of us.
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LibraryThing member A_Reader_of_Fictions
Back in grad school, I had my first experience with Gene Luen Yang's work when we read his most famous graphic novel thus far, American Born Chinese. Though disparate in subject matter, Boxers does have something in common with his prior work, the magical realism that Yang brings to bear even on
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historical or contemporary subjects. In Boxers, Gene Luen Yang manages to pack quite a punch with his spare prose and straight forward drawings.

Though I learned about the Boxer Rebellion in college, I'll admit that my memories thereof are limited at best. Based on extensive research (okay, I checked Wikipedia), Yang actually fits in the main historical points without being at all tedious or lecturing. Basically, Yang has perfected the ability to teach without seeming like he's teaching, which is ideal for the intended audience. He conveys the difficult times that led to the rebellion, the drought and the negative impact foreigners were having in China, through the lens of the life of one young boy who grows up to head the rebellion.

Little Bao did not start out as a remarkable boy. He lived in the shadow of his older brothers and had his head in the clouds, fancifully imagining himself the character in an opera. With Little Bao's optimism, to some degree never shed throughout his journey, Yang captures the wholehearted believe the Boxers had that they would be victorious. In no way did they imagine that their gods would let them lose or that foreigners could truly take over China.

Remember how I mentioned the fantasy angle? Well, in Boxers, the beliefs in local gods, the beliefs being challenged by the conversion to Christianity coming with the influx of foreigners, are manifested physically. Yang literally pits the old gods versus the imperialist forces. Through a mystical process, Little Bao and his friends are able to transform themselves into gods of China, and fight with a strength much bigger than their own bodies and kung fu training give them. It's a bit strange, but I think Yang makes it work, and this technique adds a lot of color and vibrancy to the otherwise fairly spare Boxers, highlighting the colorful culture that is being suppressed.

However, Boxers does not preach. Yang, unsurprisingly given the dual nature of this release - Boxers being paired with Saints from the other side of the conflict, presents a balanced view. He makes it quite clear that horrible acts are perpetrated by both sides. If anything, Yang shows how horrible war is. Little Bao, once so innocent and fanciful, does brutal things, as so all of the Boxers. Bao must choose between love and war, and each time he chooses war and China. Boxers is surprisingly dark, intense and bloody, but done in a style that I do not think will overwhelm most readers.

Gene Luen Yang's Boxers confronts subject matter not covered enough in western culture with an even, honest hand. He adds in fantasy to the history, making for a more metaphorical and more visually exciting read. The focus on visual over narrative storytelling will make this a great read for both more reluctant readers and those at a higher reading level.
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LibraryThing member Rosa.Mill
This mystical tale of the Boxer Rebellion was amazing. I loved the history and the art style of this volume. I knew right away who the companion story Saints was going to be about. The way the boxers became the gods was amazing. Boa's internal struggle is incredible. I'm so excited/it's so late at
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night I'm not sure I can write coherently but basically all the positive things you've heard about the book are true.
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LibraryThing member sylliu
Two companion books that tell the story of the Boxer Rebellion in China (1899-1900), an anti-imperialism and anti-Christian missionary movement, from opposite sides of the movement.

In Boxer, a foreign priest and his soldiers smash up Little Bao's peasant village. Little Bao learns the ancient
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magic of calling up the ancestor gods and leads a rebellion that eventually reaches Beijing. The story is violent, bloody, and does not have a happy ending.

In Saints, Vibiana is an unwanted and unappreciated girl in a neighboring village who converts to Christianity and finds some purpose in helping the foreign priest and his flock. She joins the fight against the Boxers. The story is violent, bloody, and does not have a happy ending.

Because of the violence, this is probably more suited to older audiences, though my ten year old read it and appreciated it.
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LibraryThing member Sullywriter
An extraordinary work of graphic historical fiction. Yang brilliantly draws readers into the complex issues of a major historical episode in a sweeping story that is completely engrossing and accessible. Boxers is the first of a two-volume work. The second volume, Saints, tells a parallel story set
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against the same events.
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LibraryThing member rdwhitenack
A quick read that highlights the Chinese Nationalists perspective of the Boxer rebellion. The main characters turn into gods (which is a little confusing) that fight the "foreign Devils". Plenty of morals at play in this one, I.e. Don't forsake your history for small uncertain triumphs. Draws for
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kids: quick read, Kung fu, violent, easy to understand.
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LibraryThing member joeydag
Yang tells a tale about becoming a Boxer in 1890's China. Simple yet moving graphic style. "Saints" is the companion novel which is somewhat symmetric to this novel where a young woman becomes a Chinese Christian victim of the Boxer movement. Yang uses mythic figures in dialog with a main character
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to illustrate inner dialog. In Saints, there is Joan of Arc. In "American Born Chinese" there is the Monkey King. In Boxers there are the operatic gods and the Chin Emperor. He is so easy to read.
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LibraryThing member fyrefly98
Summary: Boxers and Saints are two complimentary books that each tell the tale of a young person on one side of the Boxer Rebellion in China.

In Boxers, in 1898, the Chinese countryside is terrorized by foreign devils and their soldiers who are raiding villages, destroying shrines, and killing
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peasants. After this has happened in Little Bao's village, he begins to train with a kung-fu master, Red Lantern, and so do several of the other young men. They learn the secrets of summoning the power of the ancient Chinese gods when they fight, and form the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, dedicated to wiping out the foreign devils to protect the Chinese people from their depredations and influence.

Review: This is really embarrassing, but before reading these books, the only thing I knew about the Boxer Rebellion was that it was when Spike had killed his first Slayer on Buffy. (In hindsight, my "World History" classes back in high school were really much more European history.) But even though Yang's version has a number of mythic/supernatural/fantasy elements to it, I think it gives a quite clear picture of what the conflict was about, and how it played out, in a way that's more complex and nuanced than you might ordinarily expect from a YA graphic novel. As you're reading each book, you first come to the conclusion that its protagonists are clearly in the right, and that they're being unfairly persecuted… but the lengths that each side is willing to go to in order to do what they think is right makes you less and less sure. Ultimately, we're left feeling like neither side is entirely in the right or in the wrong, but both wind up being changed by their violence, and both ultimately wind up a high cost - no happy endings here. It does wind up feeling very balanced, with no taking of sides - not something I'm used to encountering in my history/war stories.

The two stories are relatively independent but intertwined - Little Bao and Vibiana (from Saints) encounter one another briefly in childhood, and then again as adults in the thick of the rebellion - but they really need to be read together in order to get the whole perspective and the whole story. I don't know if there's an official recommended order, but I read Boxers (which is substantially longer) first and Saints second, which worked out well - I think knowing who Little Bao is and what he's doing with the Boxers is more important for understanding Vibiana's story than the reverse. I also liked Boxers's story a bit better, although this likely because it was a longer book, so it was more developed, and there was more action, and essentially more plot to Bao's story than to Vibiana's. I also thought the supernatural elements were better integrated in Boxers than in Saints - it made more sense to me that Bao would be summoning ancient Chinese gods than that Vibiana would be seeing Joan of Arc. But taken together, these books are present an interesting, engaging read that brings up a lot of interesting ethical questions about the nature and cost of war. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: They're pretty violent, so maybe not for younger kids, but I think these books are a really worthwhile read for anyone who wants to learn more about the Boxer Rebellion, or who is interested in a balanced perspective on what war and peace really costs a country and an individual.
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LibraryThing member fyrefly98
Summary: Boxers and Saints are two complimentary books that each tell the tale of a young person on one side of the Boxer Rebellion in China.

In Boxers, in 1898, the Chinese countryside is terrorized by foreign devils and their soldiers who are raiding villages, destroying shrines, and killing
Show More
peasants. After this has happened in Little Bao's village, he begins to train with a kung-fu master, Red Lantern, and so do several of the other young men. They learn the secrets of summoning the power of the ancient Chinese gods when they fight, and form the Society of the Righteous and Harmonious Fist, dedicated to wiping out the foreign devils to protect the Chinese people from their depredations and influence.

Review: This is really embarrassing, but before reading these books, the only thing I knew about the Boxer Rebellion was that it was when Spike had killed his first Slayer on Buffy. (In hindsight, my "World History" classes back in high school were really much more European history.) But even though Yang's version has a number of mythic/supernatural/fantasy elements to it, I think it gives a quite clear picture of what the conflict was about, and how it played out, in a way that's more complex and nuanced than you might ordinarily expect from a YA graphic novel. As you're reading each book, you first come to the conclusion that its protagonists are clearly in the right, and that they're being unfairly persecuted… but the lengths that each side is willing to go to in order to do what they think is right makes you less and less sure. Ultimately, we're left feeling like neither side is entirely in the right or in the wrong, but both wind up being changed by their violence, and both ultimately wind up a high cost - no happy endings here. It does wind up feeling very balanced, with no taking of sides - not something I'm used to encountering in my history/war stories.

The two stories are relatively independent but intertwined - Little Bao and Vibiana (from Saints) encounter one another briefly in childhood, and then again as adults in the thick of the rebellion - but they really need to be read together in order to get the whole perspective and the whole story. I don't know if there's an official recommended order, but I read Boxers (which is substantially longer) first and Saints second, which worked out well - I think knowing who Little Bao is and what he's doing with the Boxers is more important for understanding Vibiana's story than the reverse. I also liked Boxers's story a bit better, although this likely because it was a longer book, so it was more developed, and there was more action, and essentially more plot to Bao's story than to Vibiana's. I also thought the supernatural elements were better integrated in Boxers than in Saints - it made more sense to me that Bao would be summoning ancient Chinese gods than that Vibiana would be seeing Joan of Arc. But taken together, these books are present an interesting, engaging read that brings up a lot of interesting ethical questions about the nature and cost of war. 4 out of 5 stars.

Recommendation: They're pretty violent, so maybe not for younger kids, but I think these books are a really worthwhile read for anyone who wants to learn more about the Boxer Rebellion, or who is interested in a balanced perspective on what war and peace really costs a country and an individual.
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LibraryThing member klburnside
Boxers is a graphic novel that tells about the Boxer Rebellion in China. I learned a bit about history, but I don't think the book will really stick with me.
LibraryThing member -Eva-
Little Bao decides to join forces with the Boxers and takes on a mythological persona to fight the foreign missionaries and soldiers who oppress Chinese peasants. This is a short but remarkably thorough account of the Boxer Rebellion. The art is very simplistic, but the topic is quite serious and
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it's nice that the art is easy to read. I very much enjoyed how the author used mythology to explain the mentality of the fighters and that he didn't shy away from showing the horrific side of war (and how it changes people), no matter who is "right" and who is "wrong," if either indeed exists in a conflict of this sort. Looking forward to continuing with the companion book, Saints.
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LibraryThing member Rosa.Mill
This mystical tale of the Boxer Rebellion was amazing. I loved the history and the art style of this volume. I knew right away who the companion story Saints was going to be about. The way the boxers became the gods was amazing. Boa's internal struggle is incredible. I'm so excited/it's so late at
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night I'm not sure I can write coherently but basically all the positive things you've heard about the book are true.
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LibraryThing member zzshupinga
Even though Boxers & Saints has been published as two separate books, they really do need to be read together to get the complete story. Which is why I’m reviewing both books together.

The year is 1898. The place is China. Once closed off to the rest of the world, foreign missionaries and
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soldiers have taken to roaming the countryside to bully, rob, and convert the Chinese people. There are those that wish to stand up to them, but how? The foreigners have guns and power on their side. And then...Little Bao stands up. He has learned to harness the power of the ancient Chinese gods, and he recruits an army of Boxers - common people trained in Kung Fu, who use the power of the ancient gods to free China from those “foreign devils.” And lo and behold it works! They begin winning violent battles against the foreign soldiers. But there is a cost to their victory. Death. Death of those “foreign devils” and death of Chinese citizens who have converted to Christianity.
On the other side of the coin of the Boxers...are the Saints. Chinese Christians who want to make a better life for themselves, but are torn between their nation and their faith. One such Saint is an unwanted fourth daughter, Four-Girl, who is never even given a real name by her family. Instead she finds both a name, Vibiana, and a family with a local Christian missionary. She begins having visions of Joan of Arc, who attempts to guide her down the path of righteousness. But the Boxer Rebellion is coming...and Vibiana will soon have to decide whether she will be Chinese or Christian.

Much like in American Born Chinese, Gene Yang weaves two different powerful stories together to create one amazing story. In this collection, each story represents a different side of the coin. On one side you have Little Bao and the past traditions of China and it’s culture. On the other side you have Vibiana and the Chinese Christians, representing a possible future for the country, one that scares many. When the story begins this coin is doing a delicate balancing act, with neither side overwhelming the other. But soon...things begin to tip and sway one way and the other. First the Christian missionaries begin to rob and bully the Chinese around them. And then the coin swivels and the Boxers appear, ready to take back their own land. By the end of the book...well you’ll have to read it to see what happens.

What I like about this collection is that the books work well together to form a history of a time period that many in the Western part of the world are probably not familiar with and it’s written for all ages to understand. Even more so, Gene writes the story so that we understand the horrors committed by both sides of the conflict. Gene takes care to show that while both sides had valid arguments, their methods and ways of getting what they wanted were becoming increasingly violent and splintered as strong people in each group began adding their own meanings to what they saw. While this is likely to make some folks uncomfortable, it is necessary to understand the whole of the conflict. Gene does an excellent job of ensuring that we, as readers, are able to question both sides of the conflict.

Gene brings his typical, wonderful, art style to this collection. His bright, rich colors, strong lines, and shading create characters that leap off the page, especially in the Boxers book. This is in particular noticeable when we see the ancient Chinese gods wearing theatrical costumes as they do battle. It helps make this time period in history come to life a little bit more. What is even more remarkable though about the artwork for these two books is when you contrast Boxers with Saints. Boxers is all about the bright colors. Saints...is more muted. Brown and dust inhabit the pages, except when we see the specters of Joan of Arc who is brightly colored. It presents a very different view of the characters of these two volumes...one that you'll have to read to see.

My one regret about these two books, is that I would have loved to have an afterward, one that gave a bit more information about the influences of creation of the books. But that is neither here nor there. Overall this is an excellent two volume set and I would highly recommend it for all libraries and all ages. I give both books 5 out of 5 stars.

ARC provided by Gina at FirstSecond
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LibraryThing member livingtech
Wow, was this ever depressing.

It seems to me this is trying to do too many things. It’s telling a depressing anecdote from history, which is interesting, and sure, has merit. It’s giving a bit of the mythology of the time, or maybe hints of mythology from before that time (but not probably
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enough that the story is useful for that). It’s also telling a story, but it’s one too gruesome and depressing for my tastes. Basically, I don’t think any of the elements (or all of them together) add up to a thing I wanted to read. I have the second book here, so I’m reserving some judgement (see my review of it for my final conclusion), but by itself, this is probably my least favorite Gene Yang work to date.
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LibraryThing member SamMusher
Everybody says these books are incredible, and everybody is right. I read Saints first, which might have been "wrong" -- Boxers is a more complete story. I want to re-read Saints to see all the places where the stories link up. But I'm sure I'd want to do that with Boxers if I'd read it first, too.
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Required reading for anyone thinking about colonialism, Chinese or British history, or war in general. With historical scaffolding, it would work for 7th grade all the way through high school. (That is my one criticism, in fact -- I wish there were a historical note briefly explaining a bird's-eye view of the events. If you're reading it as part of a class in which you've studied the Boxer Rebellion, wonderful. Otherwise I imagine it would be confusing.)
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LibraryThing member RalphLagana
Yang makes what could have been a very dry and difficult to understand event in Chinese history accessible to high schooler students and up. However, because he mixes in mythological characters with is main characters, it is not a substitute for texts on the Boxer revolution.

Was the story
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entertaining and one I wanted to finish? Absolutely.
Will I move on to his companion graphic novel Saints? You bet.
Can I recommend this book to middle school students? Hmmm, not sure. There's a lot of sword stabbing and some inappropriate language in the book. I understand their use and see the merit of including them, but it puts the book in an awkward position where it's really based on personal sensibilities as to whether a middle school student should read this. So, with parental notification, I don't see an issue with this book being brought into a middle school classroom.
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LibraryThing member Salsabrarian
I can't say I know anything about the Boxer Rebellion but this graphic novel lays out the historic basics in a commanding and dramatic presentation. Looking forward to reading the companion, Saints.

Original language

English

Original publication date

2013-09-10

Physical description

336 p.; 6.11 inches

ISBN

1596433590 / 9781596433595

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