Crossover Graphic Novels January Edition

Another year another wonderful selection of graphic novels that are great for young and old alike. This month brings some awesome graphic novels from some supremely talented artists and authors!

First up is Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll. This book takes the slavic folktale character Baba Yaga and reimagines a world in which she might live, and indeed do well enough to need an assistant. Whoever chose Emily Carroll to do the artwork for this book deserves to be applauded for their forward thinking. The artwork is a wonderful mix of simple and complex. Everything “ordinary” is drawn simply and really gives a sense of the “normalness” of them while Baba Yaga and other such extraordinary things are clearly drawn as different from the normal. The story itself really benefits from this style of art. As for the content of the story, it is more than just another reimagining of a folktale that are so popular at the moment. It truly strives to use the folktale as a frame for the story and not the other way around.
So if you like the weird, the extraordinary and people outthinking the “bad guys” then this book is for you!

The second graphic novel(s) in this month's crossover blog is the wonderful “Chronicle of Claudette” series which include the volumes Giants Beware and Dragons Beware. The first volume follows young Claudette as she goes in search of a local giant to slay and make her mark on the world. The Second follows as she attempts to get the famous sword Breaker that her father lost when trying to slay a dragon. The dragon took the sword along with her father's legs and one arm! The artwork is cute at times, but don’t let that distract you. The story is engrossing and will keep you reading.
So if you like giants and dragons, and awesome young protagonists who do what no one thinks they can, then this graphic novel is for you!

Lastly (and I’ll hope you’ll forgive me for this) I’m not going to point out a new series, but rather highlight that we will be getting volumes 2 and 3 of Lumberjanes!!! So if you’ve read the first volume Beware the Kitten Holy and loved it half as much as I did you should request to be added to the hold list for the new volumes because they are awesome, and if you haven't read the first volume you should go read it as soon as possible! It won lots of awards last year and for good reasons!

Peekaboo, I See You!

What's that peeking out from inside the library? It's a bunch of great new seek-and-find picture books! Check out these titles to see what YOU can find!

Fish on a Dish! by Jack Tickle features Pip and Pickle, two adorable, hungry penguins. Follow them deep into the vibrantly-illustrated ocean as they chase a fish. Peek through holes in the page to the other side and lift the flaps to see where they go...but that fish has a trick or two up its sleeve!

Hold This! written by Carolyn Cory Scoppettone and illustrated by Priscilla Alpaugh tells the story of Mika and her dad going for a walk in the park. Mika finds all kinds of amazing things along the way and even builds a fairy house! Frequent visitors of the Nichols Arboretum will appreciate this cheerful story with soft watercolor illustrations.

The Find it Book written by Margaret Wise Brown and illustrated by Lisa Sheehan is a fun-filled journey through popular fairy tales! Readers will pore over the thoughtful and humorous illustrations to find each character mentioned. This exciting read also invites an introduction to traditional rhymes, songs, and idioms.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #576

One of February 2016 LibraryReads picks, Be Frank with Me * by Julia Claiborne Johnson, is one of the most enjoyable read I have come across for quite awhile.

M.M. (Mimi) Banning, whose first (and only) novel won her the Pulitzer as well as the a National Book Award at age 19, is desperately in need of a new book that would pull her out of financial ruin, having been the victim of Madoff-like investment adviser. Besides a substantial advance, she requires that her publisher send an assistant who "must drive, cook, tidy. Computer whiz. Good with kids. Quiet, discreet, sane, and no English majors or Ivy Leaguers", to manage her household and her 9 year old son, Frank.

That's how Alice Whitley ends up in the fortress-like Bel Air mansion. While Mimi is prickly and reclusive, it is Frank that wins Alice over, despite the disasters mother and son bring upon themselves. A walking encyclopedia of trivia facts and Hollywood lore, Frank dresses with the flare of a 1930s movie star and speaks with the confidence and wisdom beyond his years. Having no friend of his own age, Frank gradually opens up to Alice. When their sexy family friend Xander shows up, things decidedly take on an interesting turn.

"Johnson's magnificently poignant, funny, and wholly original debut goes beyond page-turner status...Her charming, flawed, quietly courageous characters, each wonderfully different, demand a second reading while we impatiently await the author's second work."

Readalikes: Marisa De los Santos' Love Walked In; Brooke Davis' Lost & Found, and Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt, all fabulous fiction firsts.

* = starred review

PreK Bits - "5" alive

Ms. Rachel did five stories about "Five" in Preschool Storytime and Banjo Betsy accompanied with music and voice.
TUBBY by Leslie Patricelli included a bunch of "fives" ... 5 fingers ... five toes ... five tugboats ....
We counted toes "Singing All The Way Home" ... a version of "This Little Piggy" found on the CD SINGING ALL THE WAY HOME by Liz Buchanan.
“Five Little Snow People” melted away in this counting rhyme.
FIVE LITTLE MONKEYS JUMPING ON The BED by Eileen Christelow ... and you already know what happened to them!
We sang "One Elephant" using all 5 fingers. You can sing along with Sharon, Lois and Bram on the CD GREAT BIG HITS.

Keep on counting with the following titles:
I FEEL FIVE by Bethany Deeney Marguia
10 TIMES 10 by Herve Tullet
OCEAN COUNTING by Janet Lawler
100 ANIMALS ON PARADE by Sebe Masayuki
ANIMAL 1 2 3 ... is a unique animal counting book by Britta Teckentrup. Can you predict the next number?
High FIVE!

Two delightful novels from an unexpected author.

Tove Jansson might be best known for The Moomins, her series of books and comics about a group of hippo-like characters and their Scandinavian home, but she is also responsible for a number of books for adults, two of which I have recently read and enjoyed immensely.

The Summer Book, written in 1972, is a moving and poignant story about a young girl, Sophia, who spends the summer with her grandmother on an island in the gulf of Finland. As the season progresses, these two develop a relationship that blooms with trust and truth, becoming tighter and clearer as the days pass. Their discussions skirt around the death of Sophia’s mother and the absence of her father, yet the seemingly small topics of their exchanges reveal the true nature of the love between girl and grandmother. Their conversation, humorous and sometimes heartrending, sparkles like the clear summer light that fills the book.
“‘Wait a minute!’ Grandmother said. She was very upset. ‘I’m not through! I know I do everything. I’ve been doing everything for an awfully long time, and I’ve seen and lived as hard as I could, and it’s been unbelievable, I tell you, unbelievable. But now I have the feeling everything’s gliding away from me, and I don’t remember, and I don’t care, and yet now is right when I need it!’”

Jansson’s spare writing hides the fact that this book is startlingly complex. As is a book she wrote ten years later, The True Deceiver. Like The Summer Book, The True Deceiver is about the relationship between two women. In most other ways, it is the polar opposite of The Summer Book. The True Deceiver takes place in the dead of winter in an undisclosed Scandinavian location. Where in The Summer Book, the relationship between the main characters grows closer as the story unfolds, here, it dissolves. The True Deceiver is “a novel about truth, deception, self-deception and the honest uses of fiction,” says Ali Smith in her introduction. Katri, the antagonist, is a wolfish loner who moves in with an aging author of children’s books, Anna. Anna is easily manipulated and Katri sets out to take over Anna’s life and finances. As the story proceeds it becomes less clear as to who is the “true deceiver,” who is playing games with whom. The thriller-like, yet haunting quality of this book will keep you turning the pages. The writing is sharp and Jansson’s well-crafted words reflect the nature and surroundings of this Nordic land, the quiet, hushed feeling of her prose mirroring the snowy terrain, hiding what truly lies beneath.

Each of these two books distill the essence of the seasons, the summer light, the weighty, sleepy feeling of it, an old woman who is always fighting exhaustion and a young child for whom summer provides the ultimate adventure and escape from heavier matters. And the dark, heavy snow, the thorough chill and the hush it creates. Two women isolated from a small village, hiding truths from each other and themselves.

As Ali Smith says in her review of The Summer Book in The Guardian , “her [Jansson’s] writing is all magical deception, her sentences simple and loaded.”

A new collection of essays from Marilynne Robinson: The Givenness Of Things

Marilynne Robinson is known for her award-winning series of Iowa-set novels Gilead, Home and Lila, which are underpinned by questions of religion and faith. In her latest collection of essays, which follows her 2012 collection When I Was a Child I Read Books, Robinson dives fully into intellectual and moral queries.

Titled The Givenness of Things, the themes of this philosophical collection are diverse. Robinson discusses neuroscience and metaphysics, and analyzes the affect of the Reformation on how humans learn. She also makes clear her disillusionment with contemporary society, yet cautions readers and humans in general not to give in to “joyless urgency.” Her deep love and reverence for humanity, and for what we as humans can produce and create, permeates her writing. The essays in this collection total seventeen in number, many of which investigate and reference the work of philosophers of old: Calvin, Locke, and Shakespeare to name a few. Robinson manages to weave political opinion into these pieces too, denouncing “unashamed racism,” “incarceration for profit,” and gun violence, along with “cynicism and vulgarism.” Despite the vast array of subjects touched on in this collection, it flows naturally and well from one essay to the next, and Robinson’s strong voice is clear, composed and slightly witty for all three hundred pages. Booklist gives The Givenness of Things a starred review, commenting “These… profoundly caring essays lead us into the richest dimensions of consciousness and conscience, theology and mystery, responsibility and reverence.”

Waiting for the Winds of Winter?

Although temperatures and snow have indicated the return of Winter, fans of George R.R. Martin are still waiting for Winter to come. Earlier this month Martin, writing on his blog, indicated that the next volume of A Song of Ice and Fire -- The Winds of Winter -- would not be released before the sixth season of Game of Thrones airs on HBO. Many fans were disappointed, but Martin received an outpouring of kind words and support.

In the meantime, thanks to a recently published collection of short stories, those who are jonesing for a jaunt through Westeros can pick up A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms by Martin. Join unlikely heroes Dunk and Egg -- a hedge knight and his squire -- as they battle royalty, fight for water rights (way more fun than you’d think), and witness the rise of a usurper.

Martin’s signature writing style is apparent throughout the book and complemented perfectly by Gary Gianni's illustrations.The amount of pure fun (and relatively less death) in the book make it a must read for anyone who has dreamed of enrolling in the lists at a lord’s tournament or just simply relaxing in the shade of a mighty elm.

Magazine Shelf: Anorak

Anorak: The Happy Mag for Kids is one beautiful magazine, with its lush illustrations and thick pages! It began in 2006 and is published in London four times a year, and is aimed at children age 6 and up. Each issue has a theme – such as magic, cats and dogs, history, writing, adventure, to name a few. Topics in the issues include books, travel, film, stories and comics to read, games and more.

The magazine also has a cute website with a blog and other fun! Would also be great for adults who are into pretty magazines.

Sometimes Love is Cooking for Someone Else

I've put up lists of the library's yaoi manga before. Now, most scholars and readers will tell you that most yaoi manga, despite depicting boys love, is aimed at a female audience(check out this book if you're interested in learning more). These series are highly dramatized, romanticized, and on the whole very misleading about relationships between men. Thus I bring to you What Did You Eat Yesterday?

This manga series focuses on Shiro and Kenji, a gay couple that lives in Tokyo. Kenji works as a hair stylist, and Shiro works at a law firm. But no matter how busy their days are, they always share dinner together. The series focuses a lot on the relationship between the two main characters and how they deal with being gay in the conservative city of Tokyo, and how they discuss their difficulties over dinner, which Shiro usually cooks (there are quite a few pages in this series devoted to cooking). This is a more down-to-earth relationship, very believable, with none of the drama or overly romanticized scenes of standard yaoi series. The best part about this series is that it isn't entirely marketed to a female audience! So if you want to see a manga that more accurately depicts a gay relationship as well as a sweet story, check it out!

Then, whether or not you like the series, you can try Antique Bakery. This is a more standard yaoi series, short with only 4 volumes, but it still has an emphasis on food! And the series has even been made into an anime and a Korean drama if you're interested.

Check Out "The Lady in the Van" by the Delightful Alan Bennett

Maggie Smith's latest starring role is decidedly opposite the imperious Dowager Countess she portrays on Downton Abbey. In The Lady in the Van, Smith stars as Mary Shepherd, an elderly and eccentric woman who lives in her van, which she kept parked in playwright Alan Bennett's driveway for 15 years. Bennett, an author and playwright, developed something of a friendship with her, discovering that, like all of us, she had a past and a family, and wasn't entirely what she seemed. Smith was interviewed on NPR's Morning Edition this week about her role in the film, and her take on Bennett's relationship with Shepherd.

Bennett, whose play The History Boys was also made into a movie, wrote the story of his interactions with his driveway occupant, Miss Shepherd, which is collected in The Lady in the Van : and other stories. He also adapted the story into a West End play and a BBC 4 radio performance. Both, like the movie, starred Maggie Smith in the title role, because once you've cast the perfect person, why try again?

For anyone new to the wonderful wit of Alan Bennett, my favorite book of his is The Uncommon Reader, in which Queen Elizabeth II enters a bookmobile parked outside of Buckingham Palace out of curiosity, borrows a book to allay the awkwardness of the exchange, and becomes a voracious reader, changing her conception of her people and her role, and the future of the monarchy forever. It's a delight.

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