Paul Has a Summer Job, by Michel Rabagliati. Published 2003 by Drawn & Quarterly. Click on the cover to buy from your local BookSense-affiliated independent bookseller.
Paul Has a Summer Job isn't a new graphic novel but it's a sweet one, and one that I thought would be a good choice for Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial beginning of summer. I first read Paul Has a Summer Job several years ago, after finding it remaindered in a used bookstore and picking it up on a whim. What a little treat.
It's the story of Paul, a young man from Quebec who quits high school and goes to work in a factory. Finding the daily grind uninspiring, he gets a job in a summer camp run by a "freewheeling Catholic priest" (as the inside-cover blurb puts it), staffed by like-minded young people and host to a variety of troubled kids. He bonds with the other staffers, then the campers, and he has all sorts of summer-camp adventures- kayaking, camping, exploring, playing in the rain. Learning to climb a rock wall, he grows up as he learns to not only conquer his own fears but to experience the satisfaction of helping other people conquer their own fears. He has one of those bittersweet summer romances you can only have at camp. He learns a lot about himself and about life.
The artwork is characterized by deceptively simple-looking black and white line drawings but the characters and action are well-rendered and Rabagliati's panels are varied and draw the action along skillfully. The story itself is sweet without being saccharine and its life lessons are meaningful and true. Pick up Paul Has a Summer Job for a taste of those summers you had- or didn't- as a young person before adulthood and responsibilities settled in, when you could run off for a couple of months and have fun in the woods. It's a really nice book.