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Recommendations for Friday, August 09, 2013

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making by Catherynne M. Valente, Ana Juan

Link to this review in the form of a comic strip by geneambaum tagged fantasy

Unshelved strip for 8/9/2013

The Fourth Stall by Chris Rylander

Link to this review by darcy tagged chapter bookmystery

If you need a favor, go see Mac. If you need protection, go see Mac.

Mac, a sixth grader, runs his business from the fourth stall in a bathroom in the forgotten east wing of his elementary school. Business is strong because somebody always needs something, but when a third grader comes to Mac for protection it puts him face to face with Staples, the notorious high school crime boss.

Why I picked it up: It had the most clever cover I've ever seen, in a very Mario Puzo style, featuring a roll of toilet paper. I figured I couldn't go wrong with organized crime and toilets.

Why I finished it: The idea of crime bosses and goodfellas in grade school made me laugh. Mac and Vince have been best friends and business partners since kindergarten, but their bond is tested when Mac accuses Vince of stealing. They run a tight business together and are trying to earn money for Cubs playoff tickets. Their shared business savvy, ongoing Cubs trivia competition, and Vince's grandmother's weird sayings ("A friend is like an eagle with no wings because they'll both get eaten by a giant spaghetti noodle.") kept me turning the pages. 

I'd give it to: Joe, who claims that The Godfather is the best movie ever made. He says no other movie shows the love and bonds between men and family members. I think he'd like the bond between Mac and Vince, and he'd enjoy the different bullies they employ to help fight Staples, especially Kitten, who is not as cuddly as his name sounds. This is Godfather light, without the horse heads.

Cyborg 009 by F.J. DeSanto, Bradley Cramp, and Marcus To

Archaia Entertainment is excited to announce a partnership with Ishimori Production Inc. of Japan to produce Cyborg 009, a modern adaptation of the classic manga series created by the legendary Shotaro Ishinomori, author of other such notable works as Kamen Rider, Goranger, Kikaider and Skullman. This deluxe hardcover graphic novel will feature the classic characters and origin story from the original series re-imagined for a new worldwide audience. The new edition will be written by F.J. DeSanto (The Spirit, Immortals: Gods and Heroes) and Bradley Cramp (Gattaca and the forthcoming film Invertigo), and illustrated by artist Marcus To (Red Robin, The Huntress) and colorist Ian Herring (Jim Henson’s Tale of Sand).

The story follows nine normal humans kidnapped from around the world to become unwilling test subjects by The Black Ghost Organization, a secret society that provides weapons of mass destruction to the highest bidder. The nine victims are put through a series of extreme experiments that transform each one into a unique super-powered weapon. With the help of a compassionate project scientist, these living weapons rebel from their captors and set off on a mission to stop Black Ghost from plunging the world into a perpetual state of war.

Created in 1964, Cyborg 009 was Japan’s first and most-popular super-team, quickly becoming one of the most influential manga series of all time. The original manga has been published in over 250,000,000 copies of weekly comics and comic books worldwide.

A new 3D CGI animated theatrical feature film, 009 RE:CYBORG, produced by Production I.G (Ghost in the Shell, Kill Bill Vol.1), was released in Japan in October 2012. DeSanto is currently attached to produce a live-action feature film version of the property.

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Weeds: In Defense of Nature's Most Unloved Plants by Richard Mabey

Link to this review by sarahhunt tagged nonfiction

What makes a plant a weed, and why do we hate them so much? From weeds in the Bible (they’re part of the curse of being expelled from Eden) to the future of weeds in climate change, Mabey tells how the world of weeds intertwines with the world of humans.

Why I picked it up: I wanted to see how someone could defend something as hated as weeds.

Why I finished it: The poetic names of Great Britain’s weeds (tree-of-heaven, shepherd's purse, pellitory-of-the-wall, fuller's teasel) become part of Mabey's fascinating stories: how particular plants find new homes after escaping from gardens, hitching a ride on boats and car tires, and being packed in with wool or soil from other lands; how others survive in fields by ripening at harvest-time and getting re-planted by being hard to sieve out from among crop seeds; and the odd and interesting people who have written about weeds through the centuries.

I'd give it to: Miles, for the chapter "Triffids" on near-apocalyptic invasions by plants with no competition and no animals to keep them under control. In the mid-nineteenth century, the capeweed was introduced to Australia. Twenty years later, these yellow daisies covered every open spot outdoors. Then, in 1889, a native butterfly began to eat them, increasing its population until the skies darkened and trains were unable to move because so many slippery butterfly corpses were on the rails.

When Stravinsky Met Nijinsky: Two Artists, Their Ballet, and One Extraordinary Riot by Lauren Stringer

Link to this review by snow tagged artnonfictionpoetry

Composer Igor Stravinsky and ballet dancer Vaslav Nijinsky decided to work on a new creation, a ballet called The Rite of Spring. Their ballet featured music drawn from Russian folk songs and movements from Russian folk dances.

But when the Ballets Russes premiered The Rite of Spring on May 29, 1913, the audience was sharply divided, to say the least, culminating in a riot that required police intervention.

Why I picked it up: I've always been fascinated by this collaboration between Stravinsky and Nijinsky and the controversy it caused. I was interested to see how Stringer would convey that in a picture book.

Why I finished it: Stringer's upbeat poetry uses wordplay beautifully, creating such lyrical lines as "...kettledrums that lightly pom-di-di-pommed with the ringling and tingling of cymbals and bells." When Stravinsky and Nijinsky meet each other, she changes the descriptions so that Stravinsky's stanza features dance-related words and Nijinsky's uses musical terms, making it clear that they have become collaborators. 

Stringer also uses repetition to great effect. Both Stravinsky and Nijinsky "...dreamed of making something different and new," as she says on their individual pages. Later, audience’s reactions are shown using the same phrases for both positive and negative opinions, a choice that works surprisingly well.

And Stringer's art is fun: full of bright colors, contorted figures, and expressive faces. She includes not only the main characters, but also the other people they worked with, peppering her drawings with patterns based on Henri Matisse’s and Leon Bakst’s work (both artists who worked on the Ballets Russes).

I'd give it to: Bryson, as a going away present when he leaves for his first year of college, where he'll be studying painting. Paris at the turn of the 20th century was a hotbed of artistic growth and innovation. The artistic world would be very different if it weren't for that pivotal time in history and, even though Bryson has never been a dancer, he'll want to know more about the people who helped shape modern art, music, and dance.

March: Book One by Congressman John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

"Superbly told history." — Publishers Weekly (starred review)

"Dazzling... a grand work." — Booklist (starred review)

"Lewis's remarkable life has been skillfully translated into graphics... Segregation’s insult to personhood comes across here with a visual, visceral punch. This version of Lewis’s life story belongs in libraries to teach readers about the heroes of America." — Library Journal (starred review)

Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

Now, to share his remarkable story with new generations, Lewis presents March, a graphic novel trilogy, in collaboration with co-writer Andrew Aydin and New York Times best-selling artist Nate Powell (winner of the Eisner Award and LA Times Book Prize finalist for Swallow Me Whole).

March is a vivid first-hand account of John Lewis’ lifelong struggle for civil and human rights, meditating in the modern age on the distance traveled since the days of Jim Crow and segregation. Rooted in Lewis’ personal story, it also reflects on the highs and lows of the broader civil rights movement.

Book One spans John Lewis’ youth in rural Alabama, his life-changing meeting with Martin Luther King, Jr., the birth of the Nashville Student Movement, and their battle to tear down segregation through nonviolent lunch counter sit-ins, building to a stunning climax on the steps of City Hall.

Many years ago, John Lewis and other student activists drew inspiration from the 1958 comic book Martin Luther King and the Montgomery Story. Now, his own comics bring those days to life for a new audience, testifying to a movement whose echoes will be heard for generations.

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Invincible Microbe: Tuberculosis and the Never-Ending Search for a Cure by Jim Murphy, Alison Blank

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged historyscience

Tuberculosis (TB) is a naturally occurring microbe that wreaked havoc on the world until the discovery of antibiotics. People infected with TB drown in fluid that slowly fills their lungs, a horrible, drawn-out death. Cases around the world, the search for a non-medicinal cure, and the creation of sanitariums are discussed in detail. Determined researchers, government action, and even zoning rules about the size and number of windows in tenements have chipped away at the invincibility of this tiny organism, but drug-resistant TB is now making a comeback.

Why I picked it up: I heard about it during a series on the resurgence of TB in former Eastern-Bloc countries on NPR, but I also love books by Jim Murphy (Truce, The Giant).

Why I finished it: I really got caught up in the desperation to find a cure. Doctors and scientists tried everything, including the incredibly bloody thoracoplasty which involves removing seven of the nine ribs on one side of the body to collapse the lung, which allows it to "rest." (30 - 40% of those who underwent the operation died.)  Robert Koch, the man that identified the TB microbe, intentionally gave himself TB to speed a possible cure through the verification process. (It failed.)

I'd give it to: My neighbor Beck, because she and her kids have guinea pigs, which were used in identifying the TB microbe and testing streptomycin, the first antibiotic. In 1949, to test whether or not a patient was free of TB, that person’s blood was injected into a guinea pig. If it didn’t die within a month, the patient was TB free.

Boxers & Saints Boxed Set by Gene Luen Yang

Link to this review by flemtastic tagged coming of agegraphic novelhistorical fiction

During China’s weak Qing government in 1899-1901, workers who had lost their jobs were angry at the at the foreigners who used trade to bully their way into every aspect of Chinese life, including religion and government. Rural Chinese, feeling that their culture was being destroyed, their gods disrespected, and their government weakened, declared war on all foreigners in China. Foreign diplomats and religious officials holed up in a fortified quarter of Beijing for fifty-five days until they were rescued by an army of 20,000 soldiers from eight nations that crushed the nascent rebellion.

In these two related graphic novels, Gene Luen Yang allows the reader to make up their own mind about the clash of cultures that inevitably happens when foreign nations and cultures collide.

Saints
Four-Girl is the only survivor of four girls born to her mother in rural China. Because “four” is a homonym for the word for death in Chinese, her family cursed her as a devil child and she was not given a regular name. Determined to live as a devil because of her family's persecution, she visits a Christian who she has heard Chinese people refer to as a devil, too. He teaches her the gospel, she receives a visitation from Joan of Arc that helps cement her faith, and she is named Vibiana at her baptism. Trying to find her calling, she works at an orphanage until rebels shows up outside the gates, demanding the "secondary devils" (converted Christian Chinese) renounce their faith or perish.

Boxers
Little Bao is a young man in rural China. (In fact, he lives near Four-Girl's house and their paths cross at a village ceremony.) Bao is taken with the opera, which often tells stories of great warriors from China's past. Obsessed with the spirits, he daydreams of them daily as he completes his daily tasks. His father is beaten by foreigners while standing up against them, igniting a desire for revenge in Bao. A man named Red Lantern comes to train villagers, including Bao, in Kung Fu. When he tries to join Red Lantern on a rescue mission, he is instead sent to apprentice to Big Belly, a man who lives on a mountain top. With Big Belly he learns the ritual for summoning ancient spirits to inhabit him before he goes into battle. With the help of these ancient spirits, he and a group of men successfully defend a village and begin a movement to cleanse the Chinese countryside of foreign devils.

Eventually, Bao and Vibiana cross paths again, this time during the battle that became known as the Boxer Rebellion.

Why I picked it up: Yang’s story-driven graphic novels (American Born Chinese, Level Up) really appeal to people like me who are not huge graphic novel readers.

Why I finished it: I knew almost nothing about the Boxer Rebellion. When I learned that there was a real rebel group called The Society of Righteous and Harmonious Fists (they became known as the Boxers due to their martial arts training), I was hooked. They claimed they had the ability to channel spirits from China’s great warriors and were invulnerable to bullets.

I'd give it to: My friend Jim, a seminary graduate, who has problems with organized religion at times. He would appreciate that Yang covers the Christian missionaries at the center of this controversial historical event realistically; some were good men and some were there to enrich themselves at the expense of the Chinese.

The Score: (Richard Stark's Parker) by Darwyn Cooke

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelmystery

Parker is hired to run a large crew to rob Copper Canyon, North Dakota: all the banks, jewelry stores, and the mine itself. To pull it off they’ll have to neutralize the police, the phone company, and the fire department.

Why I picked it up: Darwyn Cooke’s graphic novel adaptations of the Parker novels are flawless. And their duotone art really recalls both the sixties and noir detective novels. (This one is orange and black on a very cream-colored paper.)

Why I finished it: It went right into tough-guy mode. Parker realized he was being followed after leaving an elevator. He took the knife-wielding man out with a punch to the throat. After going through his stuff to try to figure out who the guy was, Parker leaves with his wallet and cigarettes. His instinct: “the job was sour.” But he didn’t listen to his gut.

I'd give it to: My friend Edgar, a big fan of Emma Peel’s look in The Avengers. He’d like Jean, a tough, fashionable 60‘s girl who makes Parker carry her bags and calls him “Ugly,” but eventually gets a little nicer.

Simon's Cat in Kitten Chaos by Simon Tofield

Link to this review by geneambaum tagged graphic novelhumor

This is the third collection of short, wordless, black and white comics based on the Simon’s Cat cartoons on YouTube. Simon brings home a stray kitten, which is an adjustment for his older cat.

Why I picked it up: According to the press release, the cartoons have had over 200 million hits online, but I’d never heard of it. (They’re excellent.)

Why I finished it: The kitten gets into and attacks everything: trash, laundry, slippers, and (most annoyingly) the older cat’s space as it makes itself at home. Reminded me of when we brought home Maple (our adult cat) and Tokyo (who was then a kitten but is now gigantic), though luckily neither ever made as much of a mess as these two do.

I'd give it to: My Poopy Claws collaborator Sophie Goldstein, for the cat box moments, including the very first comic in the collection where the kitten has somehow spilled the litter box all over Simon’s cat.

Trafalgar by Angélica Gorodischer, Amalia Gladhart

Link to this review by wally tagged fantasyliteraryscience fiction

Picture 1970s Argentina. It’s a gritty, realistic place without a shred of fantasy, except in the life of one man, a businessman named Trafalgar. He tells his circle of friends about his travels to other worlds on his “clunker,” visiting one alien society after another and bedding many women.

Why I picked it up: Ursula Le Guin, one of my all-time favorite authors, has written generously about Gorodischer, and even translated her novel, Kalpa Imperial. I’ve always enjoyed science fiction, but the European-American perspective of most of it has pushed me away from the genre. This Argentinian novel promised a focus on people and not technology or social trends.

Why I finished it: Trafalgar is a consummate storyteller, drawing out his listeners’ by talking slowly through his tales, building up anticipation and expectation while drinking copious amounts of coffee. And there’s a lot of quiet, subtle humor here, as well as some very memorable characters.

I'd give it to: Jared, who would enjoy the way these often convoluted tales use the familiar tropes of science fiction in new and unfamiliar ways, such as the idea of time travel not existing at all -- the universe just loops around itself and puts Trafalgar back in Spain in 1492. (It's hard to explain, so I'll let Trafalgar do the talking.)

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