Spot 12 is a story that takes place mostly in a hospital. The title is taken from the location of the baby’s spot in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit.
When Asa was born her condition was unstable. She was whisked away to the NICU and Jaeckel was unable to hold her or even see her for long. The next time she saw Asa was before Asa’s surgery. It later turns out that Asa was born with a malformed esophagus (TEF) which occurs only in one in 3000-4000 live births, rarer than heart defects. This meant that Asa’s esophagus didn’t continue on to her stomach. Instead part of her esophagus was attached to her trachea.
Much like Maus, this graphic memoir uses small animals (mice, dogs) as the characters. But unlike most graphic memoirs/novels, speech bubbles aren’t used much. Instead a lot of the story takes place in a box above the image, even though it’s told from the author’s perspective. It was a different style and it also made me wonder, maybe it should just have been written as a text-only book instead? There is so much text going on that it seems to defeat the purpose of all those graphic sometimes. Often, I felt that the text and the illustrations were very disconnected, perhaps because the text was all situated in a box above the illustration, like they were very separate.
Spot 12 fills the reader with emotion. Sadness at the pain this young child had to go through. Gratitude for my own healthy children. It’s a tragic and painful story that this family had to go through, and the strongest moments of the book are when Jaeckel writes and draws about those dark and difficult thoughts she has, as a mother with a baby going through all this pain. But as a graphic memoir, this style didn’t really worked for me.
Jenny Jaeckel holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and a Master of Arts in Hispanic Literatures from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. She is a certified interpreter and translator (Spanish) and teaches illustration. She lives in Victoria, Vancouver Island in British Columbia with her husband and daughter.
Jaeckel is the author and illustrator of three graphic memoirs: Spot 12: Five Months in the Neonatal ICU, which won a 2008 Xeric Grant (printed in Canada, to be released in the US in 2016 in both English and Spanish), Siberiak: My Cold War Adventure on the River Ob (published in 2014), and Odd Pieces: Memoir of a Childhood(to be published in 2017). For the Love of Meat: Nine Illustrated Stories is her first collected fiction (2016).
I received this book for review from its publisher as part of a TLC Book Tour