Thursday, December 14, 2017

Paradise Lost: A Graphic Novel

Written by: John Milton and Pablo Auladell

First line: Sing, heavenly muse...I thence invoke my aid to my adventurous song, that intends to soar above they Aonian Mount...while it pursues things unattemped yet in prose or rhyme.

Why you should read this book: The ultimate Old Testament/New Testament mashup fanfic, the epic Paradise Lost, here presented in graphic format, tells the story of Satan's fall from heaven and his subsequent corruption of Adam and Eve. What is Satan's gripe with god, and why does he want to punish people so much? The answers are all spelled out in this gorgeous, twisted, dark, and inventive volume.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You believe depicting the face of a god is true blasphemy.

No More Dead Dogs

Written by: Gordon Korman

First line: When my dad was a helicopter pilot in Vietnam, he once rescued eight Navy SEALS who were stranded behind enemy lines.

Why you should read this book. Scarred by his father's pathological need to lie about everything, middle school jock Wallace Wallace becomes a compulsive truth teller, to the point that he's now looking at indefinite detention because he refuses to say anything nice about his English teacher's favorite book. Banned from football practice and forced to attend rehearsals of a play based on said book, Wallace finds his alliances shifting as his teammates become frustrated with him and the drama kids start to warm up to his ideas. It's a lot of silliness punctuated by bouts of seriousness, good for a wide age range of young readers.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're one of those English teachers who possesses the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about every book you've ever taught, and you brook no dissension from your ignorant students.

The Butterfly Hunt

Written by: Yoshi

First line: Once there was a boy who was surprised by a butterfly.

Why you should read this book: A big, beautiful yellow lepidopteran becomes one boy's person white whale as he pursues the creature with an increasingly unhealthy obsession, capturing dozens of other butterflies in his determination. By the story's end, the butterfly no longer symbolizes joy and wonder, but rage and captivity, and the boy reassesses his idea of possession. A quiet story with a warm moral.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are a brilliant lepidopterist.

The Short and Incredibly Happy Life of Riley

Written by: Colin Thompson and Amy Lissiat

First line: Everyone wants to live forever.

Why you should read this book: While it looks like a children's book, it's one of those stories that seems to be aimed at adults, comparing the way a rat is deliriously happy, or at least completely accepting, of everything that comes its way, while humans are never satisfied with who they are or what they have. Riley, and all the rats he knows, are beautiful and happy and everyone loves them and they don't want for anything in the world; plus, rats are happy for a comparatively short span while humans have the potential to be dissatisfied for decades. It's fun to read and kids seem to enjoy it, probably because it highlights the ridiculously of human culture.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You are having an existential crisis.

American Gods

Written by: Neil Gaiman

First line: Shadow had done three years in prison.

Why you should read this book: What becomes of the gods of a people when the people move on? Gaiman imagines dozens of deities surviving in the harsh and unbelieving land of modern America, and the lengths they will go to just to continue existing. Ex-convict Shadow, betrayed by those he loved and alone in the world, takes a new position as manservant to the Norse All-Father, Odin, known in America as Wednesday, and learns the secrets of the country rarely shared with ordinary tourists.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're pretty adamant about the one god.


Written by: Alan Moore and Jacen Burrows

First line: Seen all them lights, boys?

Why you should read this book: It was some years ago that I met Jacen Burrows at a comicon and talked with him about collaborating on The Courtyard with Alan Moore; only after I brought Neonomicon home did I realize that The Courtyard was only the beginning of a much longer story, and that this book included it as a first chapter. This is Moore's take on the C'thulhu mythos, brought into the 21st century and festooned with way more specific details than Lovecraft ever provided his audience (we're talking graphic, even for the format). Several FBI agents chase leads that they believe will lead to drugs or sex crimes but, in fact, drag them pretty deep into encounters with arcane knowledge, elder gods, madness, and death.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're squeamish.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Muktar and the Camels

Written by: Janet Graber and Scott Mack

First line: Bare feet slap across the hard earthen floor of the Iftin Orphanage as children gather in the dining hall to gobble down bowls of warm posho.

Why you should read this book: Muktar, a refugee nomad boy from Somalia living in a Kenyan orphanage, dreams only of camels, the lifeblood of his people, but the only camels he sees in the orphanage are the ones that deliver books to the school every few months. When he's asked to help care for the camels one day, he notices that one of them has hurt its hoof, and uses knowledge passed down through the generations, his father's last gift, and his own shirt to help the animal, resulting in his being allowed to leave the orphanage and take a government job tending camels at the age of twelve.

Why you shouldn't read this book: I loved this book but it was a bit advanced for my kindergarteners, who were excited to talk about camels they saw at the zoo but didn't seem to get anything out of the story.

You Are My Wonders

Written by: Maryann Cusimano Love and Satomi Ichikawa

First line: I am your teacher; you are my school child.

Why you should read this book: It has sort of a bedtime feel, except that kids don't get nap time anymore, even in kindergarten. Gentle flowing rhymes talk of an elephant teacher's love for her anthropomorphic animal students and offers a sense of dichotomy between child and adult while cementing the bond between them. Great way to calm down a room of boisterous five-year-olds.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You need a break from the five-year-olds and you can't have one.

One Cool Friend

Written by: Toni Buzzeo and David Small

First line: Elliot was a very proper young man.

Why you should read this book: Feeling camaraderie with the penguins at the aquarium, and somewhat ignored by his polite but bookish father, a young boy selects an aquatic avian friend to take home as a souvenir. He does his research and provides the penguin with everything it needs to be happy, and then there's a funny twist ending involving the dad and a Galapagos tortoise. High interest book that will hold kids' attention.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Strict no pets rule.

A Fine, Fine School

Written by: Sharon Creech and Harry Bliss

First line: Mr. Keense was a principal who loved his school.

Why you should read this book: Proud of his students, teachers, and all the learning going on in his school, over-zealous educator Mr. Keene gradually, and without the consent of those involved, expands the school year to include weekends, holidays, and summer vacation. Young Tillie notes that this learning now takes place at the expense of the town's younger siblings, who now have no one to teach them to skip or swing, and their dogs, who have no one to teach them to tricks, and also the students themselves, who are missing out on the type of self-directed learning that doesn't happen in school. In the end, of course, Mr. Keene sees reason and all is restored.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You have some powerful arguments for year-round school.