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I’ve had this happen a couple of times now.... I read a book with my boy and we both enjoy it. Then I meet the author, rave to him (always a him) about how we loved it… bring my son over to Meet the Author!, and he has no memory of the book. Sigh. This one I went back and re-read with him after the incident, and he begged for the sequel.

Mail Order NinjaMail Order Ninja by Joshua Elder. Illustrated by Erich Owen.

Timmy McAllister has a tough life. He’s bullied on the way to school, rich mean girl Felicity Huntington makes the life of anyone who isn’t willing to be her toady miserable there, and at home, his bratty little sister is determined to make their parents declare her their favorite. What’s a boy to do? He orders famous ninja Yoshida Jiro from the Jacques Co. catalog. (Timmy is familiar with Jiro from reading the manga series about him.) With Jiro backing him up, bullies are no longer a problem, and Timmy is cool enough to defeat Felicity in the race for school president, making the school safe for nerds everywhere! In volume two, though, Felicity orders a whole evil ninja clan from the same catalog and takes over the town. Jiro is defeated, the adults all brainwashed, and it’s up to Timmy (and the bratty sister and his best friend) to save the day. The whole thing is filled with references to things like classic sci-fi that will make adults smile without being inappropriate. It’s illustrated with expressive and perky manga-style drawings. These hilarious, high-action books are perfect for elementary school-aged boys, but it’s safe to say they’d find fans with a much broader audience. Sadly, they are out of print, so check your local library or order your second-hand copy now.

Habibi

Oct. 2nd, 2012 07:47 pm
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I should perhaps have mentioned it yesterday, but the Cybils nominations are open. That means that if you are a fan of a children’s or teen book (or book app) that’s come out since last October 15, you can go nominate it now. Or at least check to see if it’s already been nominated. Go take a look!

Craig Thompson (Blankets) coming out with another epic graphic novel was big news, and I waited until the demand at the library died down a little before checking it out.
Habibi
Habibi by Craig Thompson
Habibi tells the story of two lost souls in an Arab world. Dodola was sold to be married as a child by her poverty-stricken father, but is put on the slave market when her husband is murdered. She escapes, taking with her a young African slave baby. She names him Cham and hopes that together, they can make a better life. They start living in a ship abandoned in the desert, Dodola sneaking off to passing caravans to earn food, while Cham is in charge of finding water. Change is always around the corner, and even this early period is interrupted with Cham’s coming puberty and awareness of Dodola, and his horror at finding that she sells herself for their food. Then Dodola is kidnapped and taken to the sultan’s harem while Cham must make his own way. Always, in situations worse and better, Dodola and Cham are trying to find a way back to each other. Although the story at first seems to be set in a distant century, later it seems that it’s just a pocket of the modern world resistant to change. Dodola’s husband had been a scribe, and taught her reading and some of the stories he copied. Pieces of mostly Islamic mythology and folk tale are woven through the book, some told by Dodola to Cham, either in person or in his memory, and some just between sections. These stories, the central symbol of a blessing matrix, and the flowing shapes of Arabic letters play central roles in the book. There’s a lot of violence here, especially sexual violence, and the hopelessness of poverty and harsh reality. This is balanced by the beauty of the flowing lines of Thompson’s drawings, the strength of found family, and the power of love (cue the 80s music) between Cham and Dodola. Obviously for adults or very mature teens; read this when you’re ready to be put through the wringer and come out feeling like a better person.
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Battle of Blood and InkBattle of Blood and Ink by Jared Axelrod and Steve Walker.
The author’s note for this book says that the two guys were talking together about the craziest story they could come up with, and what they came up with was a floating city. The Floating City is a steampunky place, with distinct neighborhoods for different classes of people. Ashe, however, journalist and publisher of the insanely popular newspaper The Lurker’s Guide to the Floating City, goes wherever she wants. As the story opens, she has her friend and co-conspirator Tolban fly their little glider up close enough to catch the radio waves coming from a ship in distress. Not until the captain promises that he and his crew will go into slavery to the City are they allowed asylum. Once published, this secret is the one that finally determines the Provost of the City to stop the Lurker’s Guide. But Ashe is not without friends – she is not-so-secretly admired by Cardor, son of one of the richest citizens of the city. And for Ashe, being a target is only a reason to find more dark secrets to reveal and more ways to irritate those in power. The art is spare and angular black-and-white ink, which give it a modern feel despite the setting. The dark secrets were a little too dark to make this altogether light reading, and certainly make it most appropriate for adults or older teens, but this is a fun graphic adventure in a pseudo-Victorian, high-tech world.

Chopsticks

Jun. 27th, 2012 02:35 pm
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ChopsticksChopsticks by Jessica Anthony and Rodrigo Corral.
This is a story told mostly in pictures which is curiously shelved as a regular novel rather than a graphic novel. That’s maybe because it’s told in photographs rather than drawings, though drawings and paintings that the characters make also show up. There are also programs, instant message conversations, homemade mix albums, and Youtube links (which I didn’t have time to look at), with just a touch of actual spoken dialogue. (If you buy it as an iPad app instead of a print book, the links are live and let you click right through.) In that way, it’s slick and modern and cutting edge of fiction, kind of. The story, though, is a twist on the age-old story of lovers whose families don’t approve. Glory is a 16 year old piano prodigy, famous for improvising mixes of classical pieces and modern rock on the stage. She is known, puzzlingly, as the “Brecht of the Piano” and has her first world tour lined up. But somehow, despite her father’s strict practice schedule, she finds time to fall in love with the boy next door, a new immigrant from Argentina called Francisco at home and Frank for Anglos. He’s an aspiring artist, but failing at school, mostly because he doesn’t care enough about America to put in the effort. With Glory, though, he is all sweetness and consideration. Glory’s father, however, sees nothing but a bum and tries to sever contact between Glory and Frank. The separation leads to madness – the less contact Glory is allowed, the less she can think about anything else. This directly impacts her on the stage, as she starts playing nothing but variations on “Chopsticks”. The tour is cancelled; she is sent to the Golden Hands Rest Home for Young Prodigies. The book begins with the ending: Glory has gone missing from the home, and no one knows where she is. It looked to me like she found a way to rejoin Frank, now 18 and able to return to Argentina. However, the back cover implies ambiguity and a potentially untrustworthy narrator. I’m not sure if that’s the authors being hopeful or me not having the patience to figure out puzzles, reading as I do in my chronically sleep-deprived state. I’d be happy to hear thoughts from anyone else who’s read this; otherwise, it’s an interesting scrapbook-style book that lets the reader put the story together.
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Did you miss me last week? I was dealing with toddler tummy flu, mericfully mild on the external symptoms, but high on the clinginess scale.

Books of MagicThe Books of Magic by Neil Gaiman. Illustrated by John Bolton, Scott Hampton, Charles Vess and Paul Johnson. This is an old Neil Gaiman, originally a 1993 miniseries, just brought back into print as a single graphic novel. Hooray for back in print Neil Gaiman! Twelve-year-old Timothy Hunter has magic potential, and a team of four mysterious (but probably familiar to DC fans) men in trenchcoats are watching him skateboard and deciding if they should offer him the chance to have a tour of the magic world. The men include John Contantine, Dr. Occult, and Mr. E. After Timothy’s yo-yo is turned into an owl, Timothy agrees to the demonstration/tour, following which he is to be offered a chance to start proper magical training or not. Each of the four mysterious men takes him to a different realm – past, present, Fairy and future. In each realm, he meets with famous people, some universally famous, like Merlin in the past and Baba Yaga and the Fairy Queen in Fairy, but also lots and lots of magic-using DC characters. I don’t read very many of the ongoing series type graphic novels, so most of these characters were familiar to me only from my work selecting graphic novels for my library, but while knowing them might have added to the story, I didn’t feel that I was missing anything not knowing them. (I’ve read only one short Zatanna comic book, but have seen lots of her on covers, and was quite tickled here to see that Timothy reacts with horror to the sight of her in her costume, when she changes out of her everyday clothes. Like most female superhero costumes, it’s ridiculously revealing and impractical.) In every realm, Timothy is in danger, both from the dangers inherent in traveling someplace one doesn’t really belong while wanting to get back to where one does belong, but also because Evil knows that Timothy is out there, and would like to either recruit or eliminate him. Timothy will witness things along the way that you probably wouldn’t want your twelve-year-old seeing – more along the lines of death than sexuality, probably fine for older teens and less sensitive younger ones, but still put in our adult rather than teen collection. This is a basic magical journey story, something that in the hands of a lesser person might be stereotypical. However, it’s Gaiman. It works beautifully, despite having a very limited amount of space to tell the story. All of the artists are top-notch as well, a different one for each of the original four comic books. It’s beautiful to look at just as art even while it’s art with a job to do: telling the story, maintaining continuity and the ability to recognize the characters from one volume to the next, at the same time as showcasing the artists’ distinctive styles. Any Gaiman fan will of course want to read this, as will those who enjoy a good fantasy yarn.

Cross-posted to http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org and http://sapphireone.livejournal.com .
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Giants Beware!Giants Beware! by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre. Graphic novels aren’t my favorites for reading aloud, but I was so excited about this one that I read it aloud to my son. (I read about it on Charlotte’s Library as well as PW.) Even the toddler, normally impatient with my reading to Brother instead of her, was captivated by the bright, vivacious drawings. Active Claudette is incensed when she learns that the hero of her small town did not kill the baby-feet eating giant that plagued it in years past. Even though the giant has been banished to the mountains and the city is safely enclosed within walls, she decides that it’s up to her to slay the giant. She’s the kind of kid who makes up her mind first and thinks through the problems second, if at all. Her first task is convincing her best friend, Marie, a would-be princess, and her little brother Gaston, a chef who dreams of being a sword smith, to come along. This she does by telling them that their ambitions will of course be fulfilled if they come along. They must all then get around Claudette and Gaston’s father, Augustine, the local sword-smith, crippled from a fight with a dragon years ago, and his assistant, the massive, wise and black Zubair, whose words about the foolishness of monster fighting go right over Claudette’s head. Their journey leads them through the Forest of Death, over (or perhaps also through) the Mad River, and up into the mountains. Meanwhile, the Baron of the village, Claudette’s father, leads a party of reluctant villagers in pursuit of the children, while Augustine and Zubair take up a more enthusiastic chase, though slowed by Augustine’s wheelchair. Each one of the children finds that their particular skills will be needed to get them out of one scrape or another along the way. By the end, the quest is accomplished, even if the goal has changed along the way. Claudette has also learned important lessons about the usefulness both of force and telling the truth. These are clear without being preachy or getting in the way of the fabulous adventure. Giants Beware! is a great counter-example to the truism that boys will only read about boys – yes, Gaston is a boy, but Claudette is clearly the reckless adventure-seeker here, and her drive kept my boy enthralled. This is going to the top of my list of good all-ages graphic novels to give both to people who love them already and to people (I keep finding them) who aren’t yet convinced that real literature can come in graphic form.
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Laundry DayLaundry Day by Maurie J. Manning.
Laundry Day falls somewhere between a graphic novel and a picture book, with a comic book-style layout of cells in a picture book size and target age. Our hero is a little shoeshine boy in a big city, probably around the 1910s. He’s looking fruitlessly for customers when a bright red cloth drops down on him from the tall buildings above. One level up, he sees a Chinese laundress, so he climbs up to ask if it’s hers. It isn’t, but she offers him a moon cake and sends him to a neighbor whom she thinks might be the owner. The little boy’s journey goes on, as he climbs up balconies and across laundry lines, meeting and helping neighbors in small ways. In one case, he takes a penny to an Italian organ grinder from a Ukrainian mother with a crying baby, to see if some music will calm the baby. They are Chinese, Italian, Polish, Jamaican, Ukrainian, and Jewish, as revealed by their hanging laundry and tiny bits of their native languages sprinkled in (pronunciations and definitions given in a glossary at the end). Not until he reaches the roof of the building does he meet the owner. Once he is down on the ground again, the neighborhood is filled with friends instead of strangers and his shoeshine business is booming. One of my youth librarians points out that this is a rare book for preschool/early elementary that takes place during the “Olden Days” in a city rather than on the frontier. This is joyous celebration of the New World and of community.

Cross-posted to http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org and http://sapphireone.livejournal.com .

Unterzakhn

Apr. 30th, 2012 11:24 am
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And now for another look at old New York, this time those parts inhabited by Jews.

UnterzakhnUnterzakhn by Leela Corman.

“Unterzakhn” is Yiddish for “underthings”, which seems to refer both to our main characters, on the bottom end of the social ladder, tied together with views of laundry lines drying underthings between chapters. This story takes follows two girls growing up in the tenements of New York, from 1909 to 1923. Fanya and Esther are six when we meet them, according to the back cover. Fanya is sent to find Bronia, the Lady-Doctor, because Mrs. Gold is bleeding out in the street. Unfortunately, Bronia is too late, and she refuses to tell Fanya just what has happened, despite her persistent questions. However, Bronia comes back to their mother to ask for permission to teach the girls to read. Permission is granted only for Fanya, as the mother doesn’t really think learning necessary for girls, and wants help still with their little sister Feigl. Even so, Esther finds herself drawn to the nearby burlesque and whorehouse. She’s interested in the dancing, and starts learning despite teasing from some of the other dancing about her Jewish looks. As the girls grow older, Fanya starts helping Bronia more with her work of helping women with childbirth, while also providing illegal abortions (mostly early on, via herbal teas) and family planning training, just as controversial. In this world where death in childbirth is frequent and those who survive end up with more children than they can feed, Bronia’s advocacy for total celibacy seems reasonable. (Although I wondered why Bronia didn’t seem to have any remedies for postpartum hemorrhage, as my own midwives remedies included ones that seemed time-tested as well as modern.) Meanwhile, Esther starts working on both sides of the House. After their father dies, a flashback shows us his journey to America from Russia, forced out by a regime willing to kill any Jews who won’t leave on their own. After his death, Fanya and Esther’s lives diverge further, as Esther gains fame and wealthy patrons, while Fanya’s work starts gaining her enemies. Spoiler alert - by the end of the book, only one member of the original family of five is still alive.

This is a much darker view of life in New York City than we see in Gone to Amerikay. There’s a lot of blood and unglamorous nudity, though not as much actual sex shown as one might expect for a book starring a prostitute. In spite of this, Corman’s characters are so full of life and joy, her strong black-and-white drawings so vibrant, that the book comes across as a celebration of the strong people of the tenements, determined to live their life to the fullest, no matter how shoddy the hand they are dealt. This is one that fans of grittier historical fiction with strong women will enjoy.
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Two graphic novels about the immigrant experience in New York City have just come into my hands (um, by me purchasing them for the library.) This is the first of them.

Gone to AmerikayGone to Amerikay by Derek McCullough. Art by Colleen Doran. This graphic novel interweaves the story of three periods of Irish people coming to America. In 1870, Ciara O’Dwyer comes with her young daughter Maire, expecting her husband Fintan to follow soon. She moves in with family in the slums of New York and starts working as a laundress to support herself. Months pass, and even though a letter arrives saying that Fintan is on his way, he never turns up. Only Tim O’Shea, an altar boy with her husband when they were small, comes. Tim tells Ciara that Fintan changed his mind, joined the military, and might turn up in a few years. Meanwhile, he gets involved with the Irish gangs in New York and starts drawing Ciara into his Life of Crime. Meanwhile, in 1960, Johnny McCormack, a young would-be actor, emigrates to New York and finds work performing traditional and original Irish music instead. He falls in love with another Irish boy, a less recent immigrant, who introduces him to the right people but also breaks his heart. Finally, in 2010, businessman Lewis Healy, made rich by the Celtic Tiger, comes with his assistant who is giving him a tour of the origins of “Ciara’s Song.” This was the least interesting story for me – nothing really happens to Lewis himself – but it holds key information to both of the other stories. There is a wee bit of ghost story mixed into this – really just one creepy spread - but lots and lots of Irish song lyrics and an old story or two. I never really got a feel for the modern character, but both Ciara and Johnny have for me a deep inner integrity – that lifted them out of their sordid circumstances and gave the story, despite its many distressing elements, an overall upbeat feeling. I never lost confidence that both Ciara and Johnny would live out their American dreams, despite the many setbacks. Colleen Doran, famous for her work on Sandman, does not disappoint with the beautiful work that captures the people and places of all the different times. There is some violence and implied sex that might make this unsuitable for young children, but overall, this is an uplifting tale of the Irish immigrants in America.

Cross-posted to http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org and http://sapphireone.livejournal.com .
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I was so excited to get a review copy that I had to post a review here, even if I was sent the review copy in order to purchase it for the library, which I can’t do, because it’s clearly a teen or tween book, and I only get to buy the adult gns.

JinxJinx: Little Jinx Grows Up Written by J. Torres. Pencils by Rick Burchett. Inks by Terry Austin.
Li’l Jinx, a young tomboy, featured in her own comic from Archie comics starting in the 1940s. This new book stars a Jinx starting high school in the modern era. The notes say that the story is trying to be “real, not ideal”. It felt like a teenaged version of Ramona or Clementine, with four episodic yet chronological chapters recounting Jinx’s misadventures put together. Jinx deals with her friends and acknowledged “frenemies”. She gets her cell phone confiscated for texting in school, tries out for the boy’s football team with unfortunate results, and tries to figure out what it means when kissing her best friend Greg doesn’t result in an instant romance. It felt- well, maybe real with sugar added. It doesn’t stint on teen awkwardness and embarrassment, but there isn’t anything about, say, serious bullying or death. This is the kind of high school you’d want to experience yourself, and is perfect for those who are happy to read light-hearted school anecdotes. It might not be quite as realistic as the authors seem to be hoping, but I certainly enjoyed my time hanging out with Jinx and her friends.

Cross-posted to http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org and http://sapphireone.livejournal.com .
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Leave It to ChanceLeave It to Chance. Volume 1: Shaman’s Rain. by James Robinson and Paul Smith with Jeromy Cox. “Why aren’t there more Nancy Drew-style books anymore?” the creators of this book asked themselves, and set out to create one. Well, kind of. These people are comics types, so this is a graphic novel. And they seem to like fantasy, too (fine by me.) Chance is the 14-year-old daughter of a famous modern-day magician whose job is protecting the town of Devil’s Echo. She thinks she should be learning to take over the family business, but her father, shattered by the loss of his wife several years back, has decided that only boys should do magic. Refreshingly, Chance’s preferred clothes are pretty gender-neutral, so that even though her gender is central to her motivation, there isn’t a lot of girliness that would turn boys off of reading it. That’s great, because Chance’s adventures are top-notch. She frees a small dragon from being sent to a possibly hostile dimension. Naturally, he escapes, and chasing him down leads her straight into trouble, as well as a cute and powerful sidekick. Chance finds a dead body, perhaps related to the vicious mayoral campaign underway; overhears a gathering of very disgruntled sewer goblins; and decides to try to locate the kidnapped daughter of a local shaman. She teams up with a Hispanic female police officer and a reporter, and ends up solving bunches of interrelated mysteries while always managing to stay just out of danger herself. The art style is clear and vigorous and shows plainly that Devil’s Echo is diverse in the normal human sense in addition to its magical denizens. This is just right for elementary-aged kids looking for straight-up excitement. While there are definitely shady characters, there isn’t any graphic violence and our heroine always manages to squeak out of even the tightest situation without harm. My love brought this home from the library for us, and as it’s out of print, that may be the easiest way to get it in general. There are two more volumes that I haven’t seen, but may yet track down.

Smile

Aug. 22nd, 2011 02:26 pm
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book coverSmile by Raina Telgemeier. Smile is the true story of a girl navigating middle and high school with the dreaded braces. Already somewhat insecure, Raina is horrified when two of her front teeth get knocked out. The solution is oral surgery, braces, and even headgear at night. How can she even have a chance at looking cool? Along the way, she deals with band, an earthquake, starts to get interested in boys, and navigates the decidedly treacherous waters of friendship. Though it’s solidly set in San Francisco in the early 1990s, anyone who’s experienced middle or high school will find common ground with Raina. Here, the graphic novel format really helped the setting stay in the background while the characters stood out. This is a disarmingly honest story of a journey from insecurity to self-discovery, with braces. It is well deserving of its recent Eisner award.

Originally posted at http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org .

Korgi

Jun. 25th, 2011 04:01 pm
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Summer reading rush at the library plus real-life craziness has gotten me way, way behind... but here's a start at catching up. I'm hoping all of you are enjoying your summers!

book coverKorgi by Christian Slade This is a sparkling graphic novel, wordless except for the introduction, nicely all ages. Hidden in the forest live the small magical people called the Mollies, with their helpful foxlike Korgis. One day, a little girl named Ivy gets lost, and she and her Korgi must outwit the monsters who are trying to trap them in order to get back home. The pen and ink illustrations are beautiful and expressive. The cover made me wonder about it being too girly of a book, but not to worry – there’s enough adventure here to capture the not-girly reader, too, as well as the occasional touch of humor. This has been added to our personal library and we’re now giving it as kid birthday presents. There are two more books in the series now available.
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book coverThe Finder Library. Volume 1. by Carla Speed McNeil I’ve had friends from quite different circles recommend this to me before, but I just couldn’t quite get into it. This time I tried the new super-big version, and found that between the introduction and having more of the story together, I was able to understand the world well enough to be sucked in. This is science fiction with a strong grounding in human nature as well as feeling rooted in real traditions, and the nature of the graphic novel lets these things go by without much explanation, though the extensive endnotes go into both these and the many references to literature and film in the stories. McNeil calls it aboriginal science fiction.

We first meet Jaeger waking up in a bowl held by a giant Ganesha statue in the wilderness. He’s clearly vagrant, and as he journeys to the domed city of Anvard, also well-known to many people both as friend and annoyance. Ethnically, he is part Asican, a seeming Native American/Mongolian hybrid culture that is definitely on the fringes of mainstream city culture. Over the course of the story we learn that he is both a Finder and a Sin Eater, but while it gradually becomes more or less clear what these mean, it’s never explicitly explained. Only a pattern that is the symbol of the Finder and which Jaeger wears as a tattoo appears regularly throughout the story. This collection has one longish story arc and a couple of shorter ones. The longest explores Jaeger’s relationship with his friend and lover, Emma, and her three daughters. Emma is constantly afraid that the abusive ex-husband, Brigham, Jaeger’s former commander, whom she ran away from will get out of prison and track her down. Jaeger, though, maintains his relationship with Brigham, who is indeed out of prison. Other stories explore each of the three children, Jaeger’s past, and Jaeger’s involvement in the quest for a new king of a bipedal lion-like clan. And I’m only scratching the surface.

There are lots of shorter Finder books, as well as another big book out soon. Also, current adventures are posted free on the Light Speed Press website. This is a series, characters, a world to immerse yourself in.

Originally posted at http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org .
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book coverKoko Be Good by Jen Wang Jon is a new grad student and musician who desperately misses his long-distance girlfriend. While trying to be social at the bar with his new classmates, he meets the explosive and rebellious Koko. She has no regular income and seems to float from one friend’s house to another, trying to find as much adventure as possible. Somehow, these two opposites strike up a friendship. Koko is inspired by Jon, who plans to join his girlfriend in working with disadvantaged children in Peru, to try to be good. What is good, though, and is it good for her to try to be good if being good is antithetical to her nature? Meanwhile, her initial poking fun at Jon’s efforts makes him reconsider: is this really what he wants to do? Would he be more true to himself rejoining his old band or taking his experimental music further? Wang’s shaded artwork transitions seamlessly from calm and beautiful to crazy and comical along with Koko’s mercurial moods. This is a tale full of the adventure and searching of young adulthood.
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book coverPolly and the Pirates by Ted Naifeh Our story opens with the young Polly Pringle at boarding school. She is regarded by her peers as sweet but much too willing to abide by the rules. That very night, her bed is hoisted out of her bedroom onto a pirate ship. She refuses to believe the awful truth at first: she is the only daughter of the famous Pirate Queen, taken as her crew’s last chance to find the Pirate Queen’s Hoard. The Pirate Prince, a handsome and untrustworthy-looking young man, is also after the treasure, and the Navy is after the lot of them. Polly rises to the occasion in a glorious way, proving in a manner quite unsettling to herself that she has inherited large amounts of her mother’s talent at nefarious business. Naifeh’s whimsical art, where the ships look like buildings, suits the story perfectly and is quite different from the moody shaded work he produced for Holly Black’s The Good Neighbors. This is rated for 7 and up, and I think it could go even younger if the child in question can sit still for an exciting story. The book says “Volume 1”, but I regret to say that my visit to Ted Naifeh’s web site failed to turn up any signs of a sequel in the works. Still, there’s a lot to be said for a one-shot story, and this one is highly entertaining.

Originally posted at http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org .

Vimanarama

Mar. 9th, 2011 01:35 pm
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book coverVimanarama by Grant Morrison and Philip Bond This is a short and wacky adventure story loaned to my love from our friend David Carter. Ali is an older teen of Pakistani descent in the town of Bradford, England, whose father runs corner stores. Ali is about to meet his fiancee for the first time, and is feeling quite existential about the whole thing – it might mean that both God and his father hate him if she turns out to be ugly. And then things start to get crazy – his toddler-age nephew wanders through a hole in the floor to ancient ruins buried under the city and manages to release an ancient and otherworldly evil. Ali meets Sofia, his intended, looking for the nephew, who turns out to be both beautiful and intelligent. It’s up to them to find the toddler, the corresponding ancient Indian god-like superhero team, and save the world. I could almost hear the Bollywood background music. There’s a brief, not too explicitly drawn suicide attempt, which I think is why it’s rated for mature readers. This is fast, furious, fun and trippy.
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book coverReturn of the Dapper Men by Jim McCann and Janet Lee Once upon a time there was a world where time stopped, and all that was left were children and machines. The machines lived above ground and the children below, with only one robot girl and one human boy daring to risk friendship across that divide. Then one day, a whole host of dapper men – very dapper men, in white pin-striped suits with green umbrellas – falls from the sky. Only one of them talks, and he only talks to Ayden and Zoe. At this point, I was expecting something along the lines of the Grey Gentlemen from Michael Ende’s Momo - quite decidedly evil. But this turns out not to be the case at all, and it is only like Momo, and The Little Prince in that inside of a story for children is a message probably best captured by adults on how to appreciate life. The story is beautifully told, but the artwork really shines. It’s done in an Art Nouveau style, but with the figures in watercolor and ink cut out and pasted on pre-treated boards. I bought this for the adult collection at the library, but I think now it would do just as well in the children’s section, though it probably has too much of the air of the innocence of childhood to appeal to teens. I could be wrong, though. That art might pull just about anyone in. Go look at it, and see if you don’t think so.
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book coverLibrary Wars by Kiiro Yumi. In the Japan of a not-too-distant future, libraries are at war. The central government-run Media Betterment Committee has been fighting for control of library collections, which are protected from their censorship by the Library Defense Force. As a young teen, Iku Kasahara had a longed-for book taken out of her hands at a bookstore by the Media Betterment Committee, then returned to her by an LDF agent. Now she’s joined the LDF as the first female agent. Does her supervising officer’s gruff exterior conceal a soft heart, or is he really just a jerk? Will she make it in the Defense Force? Who was her mysterious hero, and can Iku ever find him? This is written as a shojo, or girl’s manga, so romantic concerns take up most of the space for the first book and a half, with the censorship plot slowly gaining importance. Book 4 is due out in March 2011. The art is on the realistic side for manga. This is a fun and frothy read, with underpinnings of serious issues.

Crossposted to http://sapphireone.livejournal.com and http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org .
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book coverBatwoman: Elegy by Greg Rucka and J.H. WilliamsI confess that I often have trouble really buying the superhero genre, but this is one title that really worked for me. Kate Kane stars as Batwoman, forced out of the army by DADT and her refusal to break the Cadet Honor Code by lying about it. Still with a drive to serve, she’s trying to fill in the gaps in Gotham’s protection. There are, of course, dark forces at work – including a cult whose Grand Madame is targeting Batwoman directly. This Grand Madame, when Batwoman meets her, is calling herself Alice and speaking only in lines from Lewis Carroll, despite murderous intent and a past more closely intwined with Kate than she realizes. They are strong characters with an interesting story line, but what really made this for me was the art. This is not your standard-issue lines of little boxes, but gorgeous big panels that could stand on their own. The word "gobsmacked" comes to mind. Batwoman isn’t one of D.C.’s major characters, and I’d have to agree with my friend David at Yet Another Comics Blog in saying that the little titles are where it’s at these days.

Crossposted to http://sapphireone.livejournal.com and http://library-mama.dreamwidth.org .

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