Pretty as a -Graphic Novel- Picture

Graphic novels are one of the best categories ever -especially if you’re limited on the amount of time you have to read!! There was plenty of variety in topics and plenty of variety in the amount of words people chose to read, from almost none (me!) to lots and lots (???), but the overall degree of satisfaction with individual choices was pretty darn high. So if you want a suggestion of a story told primarily through pictures, this list is for you!

Chris: Can’t We Talk about Something More Pleasant? A Memoir by Roz Chast takes us on a journey some of us know all too well—being there for our aging parents in the final years of their lives. I laughed and cried reading it and realizing how similar the human experience is whether one’s parents live in the Bronx or Garfield Heights. Who knew their maddening idiosyncrasies would be so similar in nature and so cherished after their passing? A winner of many awards including 2014 National Book Award Finalist, it’s a great read.

Carol: Race to Incarcerate: A Graphic Retelling by Sabrina Jones and Marc Mauer is an adaptation of a 1999 work by Marc Mauer. This nonfiction graphic novel looks at how the United States came to have the highest incarceration rate in the world with a population of over 2 million prisoners. With various stories of incarcerated individuals serving as examples, this statistic-filled book shows the failure of our prison system. Mauer suggests that by investing in education, drug treatment, job creation, and a fairer system of sentencing, the need for prisons would lessen.

Lauren: The Sculptor by Scott McCloud is a lengthy graphic novel (nearly 500 pages) but it gives its author plenty of time to draw out (ha! pun intended?) the story of a struggling artist, David Smith, taunted by the absence of what, he believes, should by now be a wildly successful career in sculpture. The story takes a fantastic turn when David makes a deal with Death: he will receive the power to sculpt anything around him into a masterwork just using his hands. The trade-off?—he has just 200 days more to live. Initially the agreement seems acceptable to David, but everything changes when he falls in love.

Lauren (again! -She loved them both!): Princess Decomposia and Count Spatula by Andi Watson is a delightful graphic novel geared towards young adults. The story takes us into the underworld and is populated by monsters and ghouls of every sort. Poor Princess Decomposia is left to handle all the official palace duties while he hypochondriac father, the King, remains in bed with a new ache, pain, or general complaint daily. Things start to look up for Princess Decomposia when newly hired palace cook, Count Spatula, enters her life. Count Spatula opens Decomposia up to new ideas about food, friendship, and true love. A charming read!

Beth: How to Be Happy by Eleanor Davis is a beautifully crafted graphic novel representing the extremes that humans take in desperate attempts to find happiness. The cover images and many of the included graphics are so beautiful that I feel they deserve to be framed the my wall, rather than shoved between other books on the shelf. The stories seemed to be deep if you gave them some thought, though none of them really grabbed me. It’s worth a look just for the art.

Julie: I “read” Love: The Tiger by Frederic Brremaud, illustrated by Federico Bertolucci, and I’m air quoting because the book’s only words are brief writing at the beginning and end of the story. It shows us a day in the life of a tiger searching for food and the illustrations are, for the most part, incredibly beautiful and as lush as the jungle they depict. It’s a world in which, according to the book, is experienced “an elemental love. A love that mankind can never experience.” I know I didn’t experience it, but it’s worth checking out simply for the illustrations.

Emma: March: Book One is the first in a projected graphic novel trilogy by John Lewis, U.S. Representative for Georgia’s 5th congressional district. He is the sole surviving member of the “Big Six” of the Civil Rights movement and was one of the original Freedom Riders. The graphic novel has Congressmen Lewis sharing Civil Rights history with a couple of young visitors to his office on the day of President Obama’s first inauguration. He begins with his early years in segregated rural Alabama through the birth of the Nashville Student Movement in the early 60’s. An important period of history told in a unique format.

Steve: White Death, by Robbie Morrison and Charlie Adlard, focuses on Italian WWI soldier Pietro Aquasanta and his time in the war. The story is bleakly told and drawn, and centers around the use of “White Death,” which was the purposeful setting off of avalanches using gun and cannon fire to destroy the enemy. Unfortunately the story itself is hard to follow, in part because the characters seem to look all the same, and partly because it is just plain disjointed.

Dori : In Persepolis by MarJane Satrapi, Satrapi illustrates the story of her childhood in Iran after the fall of the Shah in 1979. Her family, hailing from the educated elite, had been protesting the Shah and his violent and undemocratic methods of dealing with adversaries. After the country is turned into an Islamic state, her family is hopeful, but soon the Iraq War begins and it becomes clear that the new regime is deeply dangerous . Satrapi, 10 at the time, can no longer listen to Western music, dress how she likes or go to school with boys, and her extended family faces peril, including her beloved Uncle Anoosh. No wallflower, she often gets in trouble for speaking her mind and her parents, concerned for her safety, find a way to send her to Vienna to boarding school, telling her that they will soon follow. Beautifully illustrated in simple planes of black and white, Satrapi is able to capture individuals and their feelings with simplicity. Her text, too, is sparse, but captures the complexities of life in Iran under the Islamic regime.

Megan: Ms. Marvel Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson introduces a new superhero for the modern age. Kamala Khan is just an average teen from New Jersey when she suddenly finds herself possessing the superpowers that allow her to morph into her hero, Carol Danvers. Now she finds herself stuck between her two conflicting worlds. On the one hand, she longs for freedom from her strict, traditional Muslim parents on the other, she discovers she is not quite comfortable being Carol Danvers. As she explores the extent of her powers she learns how to be comfortable in her own skin. This new addition to the Marvel family is getting plenty of buzz due to the fact that Kamala is their first Muslim hero to headline her own comic, but Kamala is so much more than her religion and her skin tone. She is a charming and normal teenager just trying to figure things out. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for the new Ms. Marvel!

Stacey: I am Pusheen the Cat, by Claire Belton relies heavily on super cute images to reveal the charm of large fluffy cats -surprise! Pusheen and her little sister Stormy have plenty of adventures, apart and together. If you’re looking for something not too taxing on the brain but plenty of aww! -this one’s for you!

Now we’re back to lots of words on the page with Women’s Fiction! If you want to read along with us, please find a book that focuses on a female protagonist and her relationships with those around her. The main theme of the story should be of a woman overcoming a crisis and emerging triumphant. You go girl! (I know, I know but -I had to!)


Graphically Speaking

If you are a reader of graphic novels you don’t need me to tell you how wonderful they can be. There is something refreshing (and maybe just a bit nostalgic?) about reading a story told in both words and pictures. But don’t dismiss graphic novels as fluff or kids stuff just because they are illustrated. I have found many graphic novels that are entertaining, powerful, and moving. I personally love a series, but I have also found a number of enjoyable standalones. My introduction to graphic novels was Bill Willingham’s Fables series, and it not only remains a favorite, but it is also a series I love to recommend. Here are some more of my favorites:


1. Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley is a charming memoir that is sure to delight all you foodies out there.


2. Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh is a hilarious and heartbreaking glimpse into the world of depression. The book is a compilation of new material as well as material previously published on the author’s blog.


3. Little Fish by Ramsey Beyer is a coming of age story about a girl moving away from her small town and finding herself in a big city. This is the perfect gift for the high school graduate in your life.

little fish

4. The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam by Ann Marie Fleming is a biography of her great-grandfather, China’s greatest magician. This is a fascinating look at Chinese culture and the early world of vaudeville. Definitely worth picking up.

long tack sam

5. The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt by Caroline Preston is a novel told in pictures and tells the story of a young girl coming of age in the 1920s. Her dream is to be a writer, but life seems to have other plans for her, until she is swept off her feet by a handsome young man. Loaded with vintage postcards, magazine ads, letters, and fashion spread, this book pairs perfectly with The Paris Wife by Paula McLain

frankie pratt


6. 5 Very Good Reasons to Punch a Dolphin in the Mouth, How to Tell if Your Cat is Plotting to Kill You, My Dog: The Paradox, and Why Grizzly Bears Should Wear Underpants by Michael Inman are all ridiculous, irreverent, and absolutely hilarious. Inman is the creator of The, the internet home of his comics. His humor isn’t for everyone, but if it IS your style, these books will leave you in tears!

dolphins cat plotting my dog grizzly bears

7. Chi’s Sweet Home by Kanata Konami will make a cat lover out of even the staunchest nay-sayer (I should know, I was one of them!). These tiny, darling books chronicle the author’s adventures in adopting a street kitten.



8. Locke & Key by Joe Hill follows the Locke family as they move into their family’s ancestral home, a Victorian mansion called Lovecraft. Bad things happen. The story is dark, disturbing and utterly addictive. Joe is certainly giving his father, Stephen King, a run for the title of King of the Macabre!

locke & key

9. Y: the Last Man and Saga by Brian Vaughan are two offerings from a Cleveland native. Y: the Last Man follows Yorick, the lone survivor of a plague that kills all the men. Saga is his newest offering and it is just plain bizarre, in an awesome way! Interplanetary wars and star-crossed lovers!

y last man saga

10. The Walking Dead by Robert Kirkman…do I really need to explain this one? Actually, I gave up in the show after the first season, but the books are fantastic. They are so much more horrifying than the tv series and after the first book, they books and television show are two entirely different things. I think it’s safe to read and watch simultaneously.

walking dead 1

And just so that I am not ending on that horrific zombie note, here’s a nice bonus:

Eric Shanower’s Oz series is a must-read! This graphic adaptation of L. Frank Baum’s classic Wizard of Oz series is one of my favorite discoveries. The story is fresh and illustrations are amazing. Every time I look at them I want to take them apart and frame the pages. I encourage you to venture to the Children’s Department and rediscover Dorothy and her band of misfits as they have adventures in the land of Oz.

oz 1oz 2oz 3oz 4oz 5

Happy Reading!


Lucky 13: Top Ten (plus three) Reads of 2013

This year I made an effort to expand my reading horizons and in the process I discovered some amazing books! I read or listened to 200 books in 2013 and picking 13 favorites was nearly impossible, but after much fretting, I am finally satisfied with my 2013 “Best Of” list.

1. Favorite Nonfiction:

power of habit

The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg. I found this book fascinating. The case studies and anecdotes are compelling (and in some cases a little creepy). I found the suggestions and techniques for changing habits to be useful in my own ongoing quest to make healthier choices.

2. Favorite Picture Book:


The Day the Crayons Quit by Drew Daywalt. My nephews, ages 7, 8, and 9, think that they are getting too old for picture books, but I say you’re never too old for a charming and hilarious story! The letters from Yellow and Orange are my favorite!

3. Favorite Audio:

husband's secret

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty. Don’t let the gorgeous cover fool you, this is not fluff. This story has it all: family drama, hidden secrets, suspense, and even a touch of romance and humor. It was this book, more than anything else, that motivated me to walk the dogs in the recent blizzard-y weather.

4. Favorite YA:

reality boy

Reality Boy by A.S. King. Considering that the majority of my reading is YA, picking just one book for this list was a little painful. I must admit that I have become slightly obsessed with A.S. King’s books. Her books are full of heart-breakingly dysfunctional characters and the their struggles to have better lives. Her stories are powerful and empowering, and not just for teens.

5. Favorite Middle Grade:

hero's guide

The Hero’s Guide to Storming the Castle by Christopher Healy. This is the hilarious sequel to The Hero’s Guide to Saving Your Kingdom. The League of Princes is off on another (mis)adventure and once again their leading ladies are there to save the day. Fans of fairy tales, fractured or otherwise, won’t want to miss this series.

6. Favorite Debut:


In the Shadow of the Blackbird by Cat Winters. I had to sneak another YA book on the list, but I think it will appeal to a wide range of readers. Fans of historical fiction will appreciate the old photographs and vivid descriptions of life during the great Influenza Pandemic of 1918. Readers looking for fright will find a devilishly delightful ghost story!

7. Favorite Historical Fiction:


The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton. This book covers the life of one woman, Dorothy, from her youth in pre-WWII England, through the war and into the present day. As she lay dying her daughter makes a startling discovery about her mother’s past. Full of twists and turns, I was guessing right up until the surprising end!

8. Favorite Graphic Novel:


Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley. Not sure about the whole graphic novel thing? Ease into them with the delicious memoir! Give this to your favorite foodie (but be sure to read it before you wrap it)!

9. Favorite Science Fiction:

ready player one

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. 80’s pop culture collides with future dystopian America. Virtual reality is the new reality and gamers are battling out for chance to win billions. This book was so much fun and the audio was narrated by Wil Weaton!

10. Favorite Book Recommended by Fellow Librarians at RRPL:

when she woke

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan. This is a modern retelling of The Scarlet Letter with a futuristic science fiction twist. Fascinating!

11. Favorite Mystery:

broken harbor

Broken Harbor by Tana French. This is the fourth book in the Dublin Murder Squad series. I love everything about French’s police procedural novels. The setting is vivid, the characters are well-developed and perfectly flawed, and the mysteries are suspenseful without being gruesome.

12. Favorite Funny Book:

last word

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz. This is the last book in the Spellman Files series and I suggest you start at the beginning. The series stars a highly dysfunctional family of private investigators. Hilarity ensues.

13. Favorite Fiction:


Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. This is my current favorite book. It is a charming coming-of-age story with lots of family drama, humor, and a sweet romance. This book is like a cozy blanket on a chilly day: you want to dive in and not come out. I realize that sounds cheesy, but I found this book to be so comforting. I have lots of love for Rainbow Rowell.

….and a last minute addition for luck! I promise, no more.


Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson. This is superhero science fiction. With a twist. Imagine living in a world with only super villains. In Steelheart, ordinary humans develop superhuman talents and use them to enslave and terrorize ordinary people. All but a small handful of people submit. The resistors call themselves The Reckoners and their only goal is to rid the world of Epics. This series opener is amazing!

Happy Reading!


Picture These Stories! in our Graphic Novels Discussion

The pictures in these books told us lots of stories -without using many words at all! So doesn’t it seem obvious that I wouldn’t use many words to introduce this discussion?

Maureen: The Curious Case of Benjamin Button: a graphic novel by Nunzio DeFilippis is an adaptation of the short story of the same name by F. Scott Fitzgerald, published in 1922. Benjamin Button is born in 1860 to Mr. and Mrs. Roger Button in Baltimore, a well-to-do couple with many societal connections. When first-time father Roger Button goes to visit his newborn son in the hospital nursery ward, he is shocked to discover the entire staff in quite an uproar as his son actually looks like an old man complete with long white hair, beard and mustache. The story follows Benjamin as he leaves the hospital and he and his father develop their unique relationship through the years as Benjamin miraculously ages backward, from old man to infant. A very curious story, indeed!

Megan: Locke & Key is the latest project by bestselling author Joe Hill and illustrator Gabriel Rodriguez. The series follows the Locke children, teens Tyler and Kinsey and their younger brother Bode, as they return to the childhood home of their father, a mansion called Lovecraft House. They quickly discover that their new home is more than just a dusty old house. They uncover hidden keys that open doors that have the power to transform anyone who dares to pass through. As they explore the magic and mystery of Lovecraft House they are unaware that there is a demon in their midst. This demon will stop at nothing to gain control of the most powerful key in the house. Hill, son of Stephen King, has made a name for himself among horror fans and his latest project, is a welcome addition to his bibliography. The story is fascinating, sinister, and at times frightening. The gorgeous color illustrations perfectly capture the tone and serve as more than just a background. The artwork enhances and complements the story and is full of delightful surprises.

Carol: Matthea Harvey’s Of Lamb is a graphic novel/book of free verse poems, filled with lovely paintings by Amy Jean Porter. This retelling of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” is gorgeous to look at and magical to read and becomes even more extraordinary when you read about its evolution in the author’s notes at the end of the book. Begun as an experiment in erasure poetry, poems created by omitting words or phrases from an established piece of text, Harvey’s inspiration was a randomly selected biography of 18th century British essayist Charles Lamb. In Harvey’s adult version of this oh-so-familiar nursery rhyme, Mary and Lamb are in love–but can these two kids figure out a way to make it work? Read this delightful book to find out.

Emma: The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam written by great-granddaughter Ann Marie Fleming is the life story of Long Tack Sam, a popular Chinese vaudeville performer. Sam was an amazing man who worked with Jack Benny, George Burns, Laurel & Hardy, and many others. He was an acrobat, magician, comic, producer, restaurant owner, theater owner, and world traveler. Unfortunately when vaudeville ended, the interest in Sam ended. He was forgotten. Long Tack Sam refused to participate in or allow his daughters to participate in movies that belittled Chinese. I look forward to watching the documentary on Sam’s successful but somewhat sad life also produced by his great-granddaughter.

Ann: Cat vs. Human by Yasmine Surovec is a charming collection of comics about being owned by a feline. “If Humans acted like cats” and “Hungry kitten” are especially amusing. Ms. Surovec started the comics as doodles she posted on Facebook. When they became extremely popular, the author started her own blog, which then resulted in this book. Witty and funny, you’ll laugh out loud at these vignettes about our furry friends.

Rosemary: Pedro and Me by Judd Winick was written to honor Pedro Zamora, the author’s dear friend, who died of AIDS in 1994. Winick and Zamora probably would have never met, except that they were chosen to be on MTV’s The Real World 3, San Francisco. The author wasn’t sure how to react when he was told that his roommate on the show had AIDS. Once Winick got to know Zamora and understand the facts about AIDS, he became one of Zamora’s greatest supporters. Zamora gave informative lectures about AIDS whenever he had the opportunity. After his death, Winick carried on with the lectures for a year and a half, until he realized he hadn’t properly mourned his friend’s death. He then used his artistic talents to create this graphic novel about their friendship and Zamora’s courage.

Steve: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: the Black Dossier, by Alan Moore and Kevin O’Neill, is about Mina Harker and Allan Quatermain and their adventures in 1958 Europe while recovering the Black Dossier, which holds the history of the defunct League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. The problem with this graphic novel is that most of it is not in the graphic or pictorial format. The dossier is included in the volume as a story with-in the story, and is pages of reading. The end is quite bizarre, and the included 3-D glasses add to the strangeness. I have enjoyed Alan Moore’s other works, but this one falls into the too gimmicky category. (And be warned, there are some adult scenes throughout.)

Julie: Jeremy Love’s graphic novel, Bayou, is set in a town populated by monstrous creatures, both human and otherworldly. It’s 1933 in Charon, Mississippi and sharecroppers Lee and her father are struggling to get by and build a better life. When Lee’s father is arrested for the disappearance of a white girl, she sets out to track the girl down and save her father. As the reviewer from Wired said, “As hypnotic as it is unsettling.”

Dori: Alison Bechdel made a splash with her first graphic novel Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic about her childhood, her father’s death and the impact of his closeted sexuality on herself and her family. Now she opens up about her other parent in Are You My Mother? A Comic Drama. In this volume, Bechdel reexamines her relationship with her mother, an artistic woman who was emotionally distant. Delving into her own relationships, dreams and therapy sessions, the author references Virginia Wolf and uses psychologist Donald Winnicott’s theories of mothering as a structure for the book. As much a trip through Bechdel’s psyche as a family memoir, Are You My Mother? is a fascinating journey.

Stacey: He Done Her Wrong: the Great American Novel (with no words) by Milt Gross is truly a wordless novel. In the 300 pages of this book, Mr. Gross never uses one word to directly tell the story. Compared to silent movies of the same era, such as The Perils of Pauline, readers will follow the adventures of Hero, Heroine and Villain to a satisfying conclusion. A little bit of a history lesson, great visual humor, and the inspiring true life story of the author, make this book worth a closer look.

Next time? We’re going off-world! We’ll be headed into the future and/or into space to explore Science Fiction stories! If you want to read-along, you can start searching for a book that utilizes some element of our current understanding of science and world around us but in new, exciting ways. From stories that that focus on technology to books that investigate the inner worlds of the mind or society, you’ll always find a wide variety of settings, characters, and topics. Well, I guess we’ll see you -in the future!

— Stacey

Picture Me This (with a Graphic Novel or two?)

Have you been wondering if it’s possible to discuss a story told mostly through images, with an occasional assistance from text? Well wonder no more… You can! And we did! How do I know this for a fact? Graphic novels, stories told primarily through artwork, were the latest and greatest genre under our department’s microscope –and this is what we found:

Megan: Fables, by Bill Willingham is an exciting mash-up of beloved fairy tales characters living in a modern setting. Driven from their homelands by an enemy known only as The Adversary, the survivors established a safe haven in a heavily glamoured luxury hotel in modern-day New York City. After centuries of peace, Fabletown has found itself in the midst of political upheaval and dramatic change. Gorgeous color illustrations, clever reimaginings of familiar characters, and a suspenseful storyline will have readers eager for more.

Dori: Berlin, City of Stones: Book One by Jason Lutes is the first of a trilogy about the Weimer Republic, the period in Germany between the two World Wars when there was political democracy and a flourishing artistic culture but a looming shadow ahead. This book takes place over eight months from 1928 to 1928 and the unfolding events are told through the lives of a large cast of characters. There’s the romantic entanglements of Kurt Severing, a journalist and Marthe Muller, an art student. There’s another story line featuring a working-class family who find themselves at odds over their political allegiances. Another follows a young Jewish newsboy who is the target of anti-Semitism. Lutes is able to capture a sense of the ominous future, from the begging war veterans, to the rising Nazi party, to the Communist rallies. His stark black and white drawings and distinct panels capture the events and the reactions of his characters, some with no text at all. I’m looking forward to Berlin, City of Ashes: Book Two.

Emma: Drawing from Memory by Allen Say is part memoir, part graphic novel, and part history. The reader follows the young life of writer/illustrator Allen Say. It’s his story of life in Yokohama, Japan, as a small boy to his middle school years in Tokyo apprenticed to cartoonist Noro Shinpei, his “sensei” (teacher) and “spiritual father”. At 15, Allen is given the opportunity to immigrate to the United States with his father and his father’s new family, and this is where the novel abruptly stops. The graphic novel is a beautiful mixture of watercolor paintings, original cartoons, photographs, and maps.

Carol: Two Generals by Scott Chantler is a graphic novel based on real life WWII experiences of the author’s grandfather Lew Chantler and his best friend Jack, two recruits of the Canadian Highland Light Infantry who cross the Atlantic in 1943. Readers get to know Chant and Jack as their regiment is trained in England. Their downtime is spent enjoying the pleasures that overseas life offers, but little do they know, they will end up taking part of the famous attack on the beaches of Normandy. In the book’s second half, the men head to France, where many will face death as they play a pivotal role in the war. In words and pictures, we see the horrors of war and the bravery and honor of the men who fought and those who died for their country. The artwork is fantastic as the colors of the scenes change from khakis, to reds, indicating dark moods or scenes of battle. The author wrote this moving story using his grandfather’s journal and letters.

Julie: Don’t be scared that Vera Brosgol’s first book is in the teen section and a graphic novel – oh, and the title is Anja’s Ghost. It’s a well-written, well-illustrated twist on the coming of age novel, still with the angst any teenager feels about fitting in, especially as a Russian immigrant in a suburban high school. But it’s Anya’s encounter with a ghost that changes her path, for the good and the bad.

Janet: Mister Wonderful by Daniel Clowes tackles the issue of later-in-life dating. The story line features Marshall and Natalie who have both been in long term relationships. Their blind date was arranged by mutual friends. Their first date is fraught with ups and downs that seem to spell disaster. Will there be a second date? You’ll have to read this lackluster book to find out.

Ann: Doggone Town by Stefan Petrucha & Sarah Kinney scripting and Sho Murase providing artwork is #13 in the series, Nancy Drew, Girl Detective. The series brings the world’s most famous girl detective, Nancy Drew, into the graphic novel format. In this story a lost dog leads Nancy and her boyfriend Ned to the small town of Nevershare, but why are all its citizens gone except for Ms. Byra Tussle, the dog Togo’s owner? If she is his owner, why does she get his name wrong? Then again, why does Togo seem afraid of Byra? With Nancy Drew on the case you can bet the mysteries get solved!

Rosemary: Underwire by Jennifer Hayden is a collection of 22 illustrated stories. They explore subjects near and dear to Hayden’s heart. She is in her late 40s and expresses what many women go through during those years. There are personal health issues right alongside the wish that her children didn’t have to grow up so quickly. She hopes she is still attractive to her husband, and the sequence where they go out for an anniversary dinner is touching. A few words of caution: Hayden’s drawings and language are of the in-your-face style.

Chris: Lost & Found by Shaun Tan tells three tales–all dealing with loss. The first, The Red Tree, tells the story of an unhappy girl whose life is filled with gloom until she happens upon a bright spot, symbolized by a red tree. The Lost Thing, tells of a man who finds a lost object/human that speaks to him and compels him to find a special place for it. And the third, The Rabbits, tells a tale of people experiencing change; they ultimately lose their old ways and find new ones. Afterwards, author/illustrator Tan talks about the symbolism in his tales in a unique and captivating way.

Steve: American Vampire, Vol. 1 , by Scott Snyder and Stephen King, illustrated by Rafael Albuquereque, tells two intertwined stories. It is ultimately a tale of vampires, but it pits the traditional European vampires, think pale, afraid of the sun, with a new breed, the American vampire, who are actually stronger in daylight. Skinner Sweet is a bank robber in the American West in the 1880’s who is involved in a shoot-out, and blood from a European vampire drips into his blood before he dies, creating this new breed. Shoot ahead to 1920’s Los Angeles and he is tracking down aspiring actress Pearl, who is also a newly infected American vampire. Blood, guts and gore ensue in this fabulously written and drawn story.

Stacey: Moomin: The Complete Tove Jansson Comic Strip, Volume One by Tove Jansson is a collection of her daily comics published by the Associated Press beginning in 1953. Her daily comics were meant for adult readers, not the children reading the Moomin books, and so were allowed to have a darker, bleaker feel in general. Ms. Jansson’s comics are full of whimsical characters showing a wide range of emotion, a feat only such a talented artist could have achieved.

The next time we meet up for thoughtful discussion, we’ll be delving into the world of Gentle Reads! A book that fits this category will have a pretty mellow feeling; there are no extreme feelings or bold action. A gentle read will focus on a small community of people, with an emphasis on the everyday ups and downs of lives quietly led. I can’t wait to see what books we’ll all wind-up choosing! (I wonder what *I’ll* be choosing?)

— Stacey

Once Upon a Time: Grown-up Fairy Tales on TV and in Graphic Novels

They say everything old is new again, eventually. That is certainly the case for the nearly 200-year-old tales penned by the Brothers Grimm (did you know they were librarians?) in 1812. This fall these ageless tales are going to be updated for a modern TV audience.

First up is ABC’s Once Upon a Time.

Once Upon a Time, starring Ginnifer Goodwin and Jennifer Morrison (you will recognize her from House and How I Met Your Mother) premiers Sunday, October 23 at 8pm. The show is about Emma Swan (Morrison), a young woman who is drawn to Storybrooke, a tiny town in Maine, by the son she gave up as a baby. Ten-year-old Henry believes that Emma is the daughter of Snow White and Prince Charming and that Storybrooke is under a spell cast by the Evil Queen. He claims that the curse has trapped fairy tale characters in the modern world with no recollection of their true identities. Despite her skepticism, Emma is about to witness the beginning of an epic battle between good and evil.

Sounds good to me! The  DVR is all set for this one.

And if that wasn’t enough, the following week you can catch NBC’s Grimm.

Grimm, starring David Guintoli and Russell Hornsby, premiers Friday, October 28 at 9pm. Grimm is about Nick Burkhardt, a homicide detective in Portland, Oregon, who learns that he is a descendent of an elite group of hunters known as “Grimms.” As the last of his kind, it is his destiny and duty to protect humankind from the sinister characters of fairy tales who infiltrate the real world.

I think I may have to give this one a try too.

I find the timing of these two shows to be perfect, as I have recently discovered the Fable series by Bill Willingham. This series originated as a comic book in 2002 and was complied into book form beginning in 2003. The author has reinvented characters from fairy tales and folklore and brought them together in modern-day New York City. They call themselves Fables and have made their home in a luxury hotel, known as Fabletown. Those fables who can not pass for human live on The Farm in upstate New York. Fabletown began centuries ago, when an enemy known only as The Adversary began conquering their homelands. After centuries of peace Fabletown has found itself in the midst of political upheaval and dramatic change. There are currently 16 volumes in the Fables series and a number of spin-offs, including series starring Jack Horner, Cinderella, and Peter Piper, his wife Bo Peep and his brother Max. Willingham recently announced plans to start a new series, Fairest, which will follow the lives of many female fables. So many fun fables, so little time…

If you are looking for a quick, clever read I highly recommend checking out Fables by Bill Willingham.


Who Doesn’t Like a Book With Pictures?

My favorite phrase when it comes to talking about a graphic novel is, “A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words.” But what else can so perfectly describe these stories told primarily through illustration and only enhanced by with a few, strategic words? But these aren’t like the comic books you read as a little kid, these books have some serious topics mixed in with the fantasy and the humorous stories. Maybe you’ll want to try one of the books we read? Or maybe you’ll want to come in and choose one of your own…

Carol: The Alcoholic, a graphic novel written by Jonathan Ames and illustrated by Dean Haspiel. This book is about a guy, called Jonathan A, who wakes up in the arms of a stranger and isn’t sure how he has arrived there. As he retraces his steps, we learn that he has been on a drinking bender after a girl has broken his heart. Set against the backdrop of New York City around the time of 9/11, Jonathan actually reveals that he’s been drinking since high school and spirals out of control every time this on-again off-again relationship goes ‘off,’ this becomes more of life story about how his addiction to alcohol is causing him to lose everyone he loves. At the end of the novel, there is no resolution. Jonathan continues to struggle with his addictions. This was a sad story, but also an important one that might shed some light into the workings of the alcoholic mind. With language and sex, this one may not be for every reader. I enjoyed Ames’ depiction of New York City and thought that his treatment of the events of 9/11 was both excellent and heartbreaking. Despite the grimness of the story, there is some humor, including a restaurant scene in which Monica Lewinsky makes an appearance.

Emma: Genesis by R. Crumb is an illustrated retelling of the first book in the Bible. The major events in Genesis are included, from creation until the death of Joseph. The book is based on the King James Version of the Bible and Robert Alter’s The Five Books of Moses. It’s an amazing work four years in the making. However in my opinion the images are sometimes shocking. The genealogies are overwhelming and the characters begin to look alike.

Janet: Stitches by David Small is a graphic memoir of his childhood from age six to sixteen. An award-winning children’s illustrator and author, Mr. Small has depicted his painful childhood with many haunting illustrations and fewer words. His saving grace was his talent as an illustrator. Stitches is a heart wrenching book that is not to be missed.

Rosemary: Happy Happy Clover by Sayuri Tatsuyama is a graphic novel for children, which features Clover the bunny and all her furry friends in the Crescent Forest. Young readers will enjoy Clover’s many adventures. Through darling illustrations and a fast-paced story line, Tatsuyama explores many childhood topics. There are problems with friends, issues with stubbornness, and big secrets to be kept, but Clover is up to any challenge.

Ann: The Rabbi’s Cat by Joann Sfar is a graphic novel by the well-known French comic artist, who won a prestigious award for this book. The cat, whose name is not mentioned, belongs to the rabbi and his daughter who live in Algeria in the 1930’s. One day the cat swallows a parrot and suddenly he’s able to speak. He decides he wants to be educated in Jewish law and to have a Bar Mitzvah. This cute (but adult-themed) story about a smart aleck cat and the rabbi and his family acquaints us with Jewish culture as well as the other cultures of the time in Algeria (Arab and French). It also tells the tale of the rabbi, his worries about keeping his position, the marriage of his daughter, and a trip they all take to Paris (the cat goes too, of course). The illustrations are rather squiggly with lots of small lines of dialogue. At the end of the book is a picture of the artist and his own cat; the cat in the story looks very much like the author’s cat.

Julie: The Plain Janes with text by Cecil Castellucci and illustrated by Jim Rugg. Jane is enjoying a coffee when a bomb at a sidewalk café changes everything. Her mother insists the family move out of the city to be “safe” and Jane has to deal with the aftershocks from the attack in the foreign and unfriendly world of suburban high school.

Dori: Asterios Polyp by David Mazzucchelli is the story of a pompous professor of architecture in New York. After his marriage to art professor Hana fails, Asterios takes a bus out of town and becomes an auto mechanic, moving in with a working class family whose matriarch is a New Age aficionado. Themes of religion, philosophy and aesthetics round out the storyline, while the art amazingly reflects the text through color, line and placement.

Megan: The Big Book of Barry Ween, Boy Genius by Judd Winick. Barry Ween is a 10 year old genius. In fact, with a 350 IQ, he is the smartest living human. With the help of his faithful friend and trusty sidekick, Jeremy, Barry uses his superhuman intellect to cause all sorts of trouble. The Big Book of Barry Ween is a compilation of all of Barry’s adventures. These adventures include time travel, talking gorillas, aliens, the CIA, art thieves, and turning Jeremy into a dinosaur. The black and white illustrations are action-packed and full of detail. The dialogue is dripping with sarcasm, wit, and foul mouthed humor. Fans of Calvin & Hobbes will appreciate the Barry Ween collection.

Stacey: Percy Gloom by Cathy Malkasian features an odd little man who’s dreaming of a job that will allow him to write cautionary statements for everything and anything in the world. Critics love this graphic novel for both its images and its story line. If you’re ready to embrace a new genre to expand your horizons, you could find this title intriguing too.

Next stop in our genre exploration tour: women’s fiction! These books focus on a woman and her relationships. They can have elements of mystery, suspense, humor, or romance, but are really about a woman succeeding against the odds.