My Begging Chart by Keiler Roberts from Drawn and Quarterly captures everyday life so readily that it is a visual diary. Already a prize-winner with the Ignatz and Slate, Roberts continues to show the mundane side of life in a way that gives the reader a feeling of having a good chat with a friend. Her comics collect the good, the not so good, and the silly, which makes up the world around each of us.
Roberts’s work in My Begging Chart is a collection of cartoons and strips assembled in something like a collage. Rather than each individual comic being one page, Roberts gives the stories the room they need to be told. Some comics take up a whole page themselves, such as the cartoon of trading a shopping cart for a quarter in the parking lot of Aldi’s rather than having to make an unnecessary trip. Most comics are four panels on a page, but that is hardly a rule as some can be six panels or just two panels with two on the page. A few comics even go on for multiple pages, giving the story enough pacing to let the reader feel the impact. Even though the stories have clear beginnings and endings to themselves, there are not any artificial delineations like title boxes, giving a flow of events that is genuine to life.
The art in My Begging Chart displays the real-life motif well. Roberts’s line-work follows realistic visual structure, almost as if the lines had been traced from photographs. Rather than just recreating scenes, however, the lines give highlights to the characters and props that are significant, leaving out details with blank walls or floors.
Much of My Begging Chart shows Roberts’s experience with MS. Not every comic uses it as a topic, but the struggles with pain and energy are a frequent theme. Just as in real life, it flares up among the comics to become an issue, such as Roberts’s daughter asking to play dolls while Roberts says she’s too tired. Instead, they play the “acting game” where her daughter has to act out emotions, such as disappointment at not playing dolls. Roberts also comments on mental health with suggestions from a therapist to avoid from dwelling. “I like to picture my thoughts as cicadas that are clinging to me. I gently unhook their little claws and let them go.” Then she confesses, “It doesn’t help at all, but I like visualizations.”
So many of the gags in My Begging Chart come from Roberts’s daughter that she should practically have a co-author listing, even creating the titular chart to record the successfulness of begging. She points out from reading the label on a cleaner that it should be kept out of children’s hands like hers and changes Halloween costume and Christmas wish list ideas as soon as the last minute arrives. Often the jokes come from strangers such as the old woman commenting “He must’ve liked flowers” at a Manet exhibit or Roberts’s misadventures debating about, refusing, and finally caving in to vacuum the ceiling fan. Overall, as in the real world, the strongest connection to be seen throughout the book is family, whether dealing with imaginary friends or finally cuddling with the dog on the couch.