Misako Rocks! [A pseudonym] (Misako Takashima)

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Misako Rocks! [A pseudonym] (Misako Takashima)

Personal

Born April 7, in Japan; immigrated to United States as a teenager; father a police officer, mother a police officer. Education: Earned secondary English teacher's certificate in Japan. Hobbies and other interests: Bike riding, hip hop, dancing to Michael Jackson's music, reading graphic novels.

Addresses

Home—Brooklyn, NY. E-mail—[email protected]

Career

Author and illustrator. Formerly worked as a a puppeteer, face painter, animal balloon maker, and art and manga instructor.

Awards, Honors

Venice Beach, LA Playwright award, 2008; New York Public Library Books for the Teen Age listee, 2008, for Rock and Roll Love.

Writings

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Biker Girl, Hyperion Paperbacks (New York, NY), 2006.

Rock and Roll Love, Hyperion Paperbacks (New York, NY), 2007.

Detective Jermain: Volume One, Henry Holt (New York, NY), 2008.

OTHER

Contributor of illustrations to "Savage Love" (column), in Onion online. Contributor to periodicals, including Elle Girl, DFC, and New York Times. Creator of characters and writer for "Archie" comics.

Sidelights

Misako Rocks! is the pen name of Misako Takashima, the Japanese-born creator of the graphic novels Biker Girl and Rock and Roll Love, as well as of the "Detective Jermain" series. Educated as a teacher but self-taught as an artist, Misako has always loved manga and comic books, and she created her first original comic as a young teen. After coming to the United States as an exchange student, she decided to make the country her new home and lived in the Midwest while developing a career in puppet theatre. She made the switch to children's books after relocating east to New York City. When her first professional work appeared in the 'zine Onion, its popularity allowed Misako to publish booklength works, as well as creating new characters for the popular "Archie" comic-book series. She also was a featured artist in the BBC2 television documentary Secret of Drawing.

Misako's first book, Biker Girl, focuses on a shy teen named Aki who discovers an unusual bicycle while helping her grandfather clean out his garage. The bike had a special history: it had been ridden by Aki's favorite cousin on the night he was killed by a vicious biker gang. Riding the bike, Aki becomes Biker Girl, a street-smart bike racer with a mission: to avenge her cousin's death. Noting that Misako's "art is very cinematic," School Library Journal critic Melissa T. Jenvey called Biker Girl "lighthearted and fun," with a "strong protagonist" and fast-moving plot. In Kirkus Reviews a writer dubbed the book "manga with a heavy dose of cute," and predicted that Misako's graphic-novel debut "should find a ready crowd of action-oriented shojo fans." Within the pages of "a sassy, spirited romp perfect for middle-schoolers" that is salted with romance, Misako "infuses a light, optimistic story with mange-inspired illustrations that smack of elements of Speed Racer with a dash of Chynna Clugston," according to Kliatt critic Jennifer Feigelman.

Admittedly autobiographical, Misako's Rock and Roll Love focuses on the author's first romantic relationship after coming to the United States. The book's heroine, appropriately named Misako, finds herself overwhelmed by American popular culture, but Natalie, the daughter of the family she lives with as an exchange student, helps the Japanese-born teen navigate her new Missouri high school and becomes a close friend in the process.

When Misako meets Zack, the lead singer in a local rock band, the teen is smitten, but should she interpret his flirtation as sincere? Noting that Rock and Roll Love pairs a "clean text and a few fairly chaste kisses," Sarah Krygier predicted in School Library Journal that the graphic novel would be "a good fit for middle school libraries."

Continuing her focus on teen readers, Misako breaks into new territory with Detective Jermain: Volume One, the first book in a planned ongoing series. Inspired by her conversations with teens at a high school Misako visited while living in Madison, Wisconsin, Detective Jermain centers on feisty sixteen-year-old Jermain. Her parents worked as high-profile detectives until her father died years before, and Jermain now decides to follow in their footsteps, even though it creates problems with her widowed mom. When some of the teachers and students at school begin to act oddly, the teen decides to investigate, with the help of friends Andy and Travis, both of whom harbor romantic feelings for the determined young sleuth.

Discussing what several critics have observed is her fresh take on the Japanese manga form, Misako ex-

plained to online interviewer Brigid Alverson of Good Comics for Kids that her books are better described as teen graphic novels. "Usually manga is about a girl who is waiting for some special boy and they are going to make her happy," Misako explained, "or she is living in her imagination—one girl and ten really good looking boys surrounding her. I am living in America, and I have a lot of American girlfriends here, and obviously those American girls are not like Japanese girls at all. They are not shy, they have their own identity, they have power. I wanted more focus on girls here, and I wanted the readers to share the feeling with my characters."

Biographical and Critical Sources

PERIODICALS

Booklist, March 15, 2006, Jennifer Hubert, review of Biker Girl, p. 56.

Kirkus Reviews, June 1, 2006, review of Biker Girl, p. 577.

Kliatt, September, 2006, Jennifer Feigelman, review of Biker Girl, p. 36.

School Library Journal, September, 2006, Melissa T. Jenvey, review of Biker Girl, p. 238; September, 2007, Sarah Krygier, review of Rock and Roll Love, p. 224.

ONLINE

Good Comics for Kids,http://www.goodcomicsforkids.com/ (July 7, 2008), Brigid Alverson, interview with Misako.

Misako Rocks Home Page,http://www.misakorocks.com/ (August 5, 2008).