Originally released in 1975 and now back in print, this is a collection of black and white drawings and cartoons of cats. They’re alternately realistic, silly, and surreal.
Why I picked it up: I saw it at the Workman booth at PLA and was almost bowled over by a wave of nostalgia. I can't overemphasize how much this book influenced my cartooning sensibilities. It also set up the huge cat craze of the seventies (it predates Garfield by several years).
Why I finished it: It's still fresh and funny, and in retrospect Kliban's sense of whimsy (and drawings of humans) hugely informed Gary Larson's The Far Side and dozens of other comic strips.
I'd give it to: Gene, who is rapidly heading towards male catladyism. There is a lot he can learn here about art. Kliban's depictions of cats have a huge range, from a few spare lines to intricate portraits.
Sixteen-year-old Cinder is a lowly cyborg mechanic living in futuristic New Beijing. When Prince Kai brings his android in to Cinder’s booth at the market, he becomes her unlikely suitor. Aside from being a cyborg, Cinder has two other secrets: she is the only one immune to the deadly plague ravaging the commonwealth, and she is a Lunar refugee (her race has special powers, can control others, and is bent on taking over the Earth).
As the visiting Lunar queen, Levana, presses the Prince to meet her demands, Cinder finds herself entwined in intrigue, romance, and the plot to kill the new Emperor.
Why I picked it up: It’s a dystopian Cinderella story, by a local author. After reading the first page, where Cinder switches her old, small foot for a new one she bought, I was hooked.
Why I finished it: Meyer has a clever take on the traditional tale. Cinder, as a cyborg, is property. She was brought by her stepfather from Europe, and has no memory of her life before becoming a cyborg. While her stepmother and older stepsister fit the traditional role, her younger sister, Peony, is very close to Cinder. It’s wonderfully unclear what drives Prince Kai’s intense interest in her. How will he deal with her being both a cyborg and a Lunar?
Nick is feeling left out from numerous whispered conversations in the halls of his high school. Other kids furtively pass small packages to one another, and clam up when he asks them about it. Then a friend gives him a computer game. He installs the program, a game called Erebos. It’s a fantasy RPG full of fighting and magical items, but it feels extremely realistic. And there are rules he must follow: don’t talk about the game and don’t play with anyone else around.
Soon he is avoiding his homework and family to spend every spare moment playing the game. As his avatar advances in the game, Nick is asked to complete small tasks in the real world to gain levels and magical items in the game. Then the game asks him to do something illegal.
Why I picked it up: I heard this book was all the rage in Germany and that rights sold for twenty-five countries.
Why I finished it: When the game branches out into real life, Nick must balance his intense desire to play the game with the immoral actions he is tasked to complete in the real world. His intense desire to “acquire” things that aren’t real reminded me of playing Dungeons and Dragons in elementary school, and how I loved to collect gear like a bag of holding. (Now I’d love to have one to collect review copies at library conferences, since, like the Tardis, they’re bigger on the inside.)
I'd give it to: Brent, who enjoyed Conor Kostick’s Epic, a book where a fantasy computer game is used to resolve conflicts. Xavier, who lost his school computer privileges for gaming in class, and will identify with Nick when his access to Erebos is restricted, crushing any chance for joy in his life.
Ismae is rescued from a brutal marriage and taken to the convent of St. Mortain. She is said to have been sired by St. Mortain, the Lord of Death, and she has amazing resistance to poisons. There she trains and becomes an assassin.
Usually, her work involves infiltrating a stronghold, making sure the victim has Mortain’s mark on their body, and then killing them with poison, a garrote, or a misericord (a weapon that can sever the soul from the body). Her new mission involves protecting the Duchess of Brittany from the wolves who want to wed her and dominate her small country. She is aided in this by the Duchess’ bastard brother, Duval. Soon, Ismae is wondering whether she can trust her convent’s orders, Duval, or anyone at court as she attempts to faithfully carry out Mortain’s will.
Why I picked it up: I was fascinated with the idea of a convent of female assassins serving the Lord of Death. The girls are trained in courtly behavior, dancing, seduction and hundreds of ways of ending a human life.
Why I finished it: Duval, who I thought at first was there to serve as the hot love interest, actually grew into much more. His political motivations, questionable loyalty, and reputation as an oath breaker led me to expect anything other than the man of honor he is revealed to be. Ismae’s work as a poisoner was intriguing. She made candles that, when lit, could bring down a rhino, used others that cause unimaginable intestinal pain before death, as well as more traditional poisons for knife edges.
I'd give it to: Shona, who would like the faux-Europe feel to the book, because it makes the politics of the Duchess’ pending marriage realistic and important. My friend Sheila, because Ismae is a bit of a misandrist who eagerly looks forward to killing men, especially one foul lord who wants to wed the Duchess.
The second collection of Kate Beaton's delightful and expressive comic strips originally published online, complete with Beaton's illuminating commentary.
Why I picked it up: Not only was I looking forward to seeing her new comics in a gorgeous hardbound book, it hit several bestseller lists right after it was released.
Why I finished it: Kate might be more famous for her comics about history, authors, and literature, but she does a great poop joke (I taped the cowboy one over my desk) and nobody can draw a happier sled dog.
I'd give it to: Terina, for the series of strips inspired by the covers of Nancy Drew books!
This beautiful alphabet book by Designer/Illustrator Thurlby (mostly) recalls picture books and product packaging from the 1950s and 1960s. In each picture, the shape of the letter is part of the central object. (For example, in “M is for mountain” the mountain is m-shaped.)
Why I picked it up: The Illustration for A on the cover reminded me of the Quisp box.
Why I finished it: The images (you can see them all here) are painted on old, used, and somewhat damaged or crinkled boards and paper, giving the art an aged feel. My favorites are “K is for karate,” where the kids’ legs form the “k” and “Q is for quicksand” where a q-shaped character who reminds me of the Kool-Aid Man is sinking into a tear in the graph paper.
I'd give it to: My friend Suzy. I’m still trying to convince her that posting work online, for free, is a good idea, despite the fact that it’s worked out so well for Bill and me. Thurlby posted the images on his blog and word spread online leading to this book and more design work for him.
Tim was bored, languishing in Raleigh, NC. His boyfriend told him to get the hell out of the house. He followed the advice of one of his Japanese students at the Berlitz Language Center: “You should come in Japan!” He taught English in Tokyo for two years, learned some Japanese, fought off the advances of a few clueless female students, partied, explored his musical side, and recharged his batteries.
Why I picked it up: I thought it was going to be a weird novel about furries because of the sword-wielding bear on the cover.
Why I finished it: It made me laugh. In the prologue, Tim is high and watching the Today show when he realizes Ann Coulter’s neck looks like the shaft of an erect penis. In Rappongi, after eating some mushrooms and going to a club, he heads to a quiet room next to the dance floor. People are looking at him, pointing at him through the glass wall and giggling. He turns around and finds that the room is filled with pictures of vaginas.
I'd give it to: Fred, because Tim’s crazy, alcoholic roommate would remind him of folks he lived with while teaching in Korea.
The number Zero always wants to be known, not ignored. The counting numbers (One to Nine) ignore him because in addition and subtraction it’s like he’s never there. He’s useless in division and nobody wants to be with him during multiplication, either, because they’ll be extinct. Sometimes he pretends to be a superhero.
Why I picked it up: It has all these crazy looking numbers on the cover. My favorites are Seven and Six. Seven has some hair sticking up on the top of his head, and Six has a ponytail and she’s wearing a skirt and lipstick.
Why I finished it: After the other numbers run away from Zero during multiplication, he’s worried. He rolls himself down a hill. And there’s a mysterious number watching him from behind the hill. (It turns out to be a Roman numeral.)
I'd give it to: Lily because she’s funny, and would like it when Six is asking Zero what he is. “Aren’t you a fruit loop?” “Are you a donut?” “Or aren’t you the letter ‘o’?”