Escape From Spe­cial”

Miss Lasko-Gross
  • Review
By – March 23, 2012

Melis­sa, the hero­ine of Lasko-Gross’ semi-auto­bi­o­graph­i­cal graph­ic nov­el, is a will­ful and per­cep­tive child who con­tin­u­al­ly ques­tions the world around her. She rebels against what she sees as arbi­trary deci­sions imposed upon her by adults, includ­ing her hip­pie par­ents. Melis­sa often feels dis­con­nect­ed from her peers at school; to com­fort her­self she makes comics and immers­es her­self in her rich imag­i­na­tion. The spe­cial” in the title refers to the spe­cial edu­ca­tion class­es she takes in school, and despite try­ing her hard­est to escape from under that label, she remains any­thing but ordinary. 

Told in a series of brief anec­dotes, many of them only one or two pages in length, the com­ing-of-age sto­ry of Melis­sa trav­els in rough chrono­log­i­cal order from her ear­li­est mem­o­ry as a tod­dler of see­ing her moth­er sick to the trau­mas of her teen years. The sto­ry is per­fect­ly suit­ed for the graph­ic nov­el for­mat, and Lasko-Gross fills her pan­els with bold­ly drawn expres­sive char­ac­ters and lots of action. While her fam­i­ly is Jew­ish, Melis­sa wants noth­ing to do with Judaism. She feels that her par­ents are hyp­o­crit­i­cal when they send her to Jew school,” and she forces her­self to vom­it to get out of going to tem­ple. In anoth­er anec­dote, Melis­sa is vis­it­ing more obser­vant friends for Shab­bat din­ner, and when she makes fun of the prayers and gets rep­ri­mand­ed she grum­bles that she is glad that her fam­i­ly is not Ortho­dox and has a sense of humor.” 

Wendy Was­man is the librar­i­an & archivist at the Cleve­land Muse­um of Nat­ur­al His­to­ry in Cleve­land, Ohio.

Discussion Questions