Monday, November 13, 2017

Louis Undercover by Fanny Britt and Isabelle Arsenault

In this sensitive, sad story told in a mostly gray-scale graphic novel format, a boy juggles the emotions of his first big crush and his family's turmoil after his parents split up.

The only spots of color (yellow, blue, pink) in the book highlight hope: the girl he's in love with, happy memories, bravery, sobriety. They're few and far between - a physical depiction of the small, bleak lives of Truffle and Louis, their mom, and their distant dad. But there is, nonetheless, that hope for the future.

I loved this - it's a fantastic book about the tolls of alcoholism. It's not a happy story, but it's a truthful story about rebuilding a life and moving forward. I think it's an important book, an appropriate way for older kids and teens to either see themselves reflected or to better understand others.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

We Are All Shipwrecks by Kelly Grey Carlisle

While reading, I had to continually remind myself this book is a memoir - it reads like fiction, a novel of growing up in a strange environment.

Even as a child, Kelly knew the stories that swirled around her may or may not be true: Her mother died when Kelly was an infant. Her faux-aristocratic grandfather is a showman. She was forbidden to talk about some parts of their lives (the boat they live on, the porn store they own). The book is full of what you'd politely call "characters," like the other marina regulars and Kelly's extended family members.

We get the story simultaneously from two different Kellys: the child living it and not understanding it all, and the adult looking back through the lens of experience. She's hungry for love. She's hungry for information. She's dying to get out of there and build a different life.

I enjoyed the book (I even dreamed about it one night). I thought it was a great look at a strange childhood - an unusual perspective on life and family.


Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Mountain by Paul Yoon

Six short stories make up this small collection, a pocket-sized bit of literature: A homeless woman goes to work in a camera factory. A nurse steals morphine from her patients. A woman discovers a plane crash and the pilot's body. A hotel maid wanders away for a day's adventure.

I read until the end, but I can't say I necessarily enjoyed this one. The stories are all very dark, mostly sad, and without much resolution. I don't usually mind that much, but I really wanted there to be something here that shone a light of hope, in the end.

It's beautifully written, and the characters are heartbreakingly real. Just very, very sad.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Trickster: Native American tales by Matt Dembicki

What an interesting project! It's a pairing of Native American storytellers with cartoonists to present a host of trickster stories in graphic form

Rabbits, raccoons, mink, wolves and more - the trickster takes many forms. Sometimes the goal is pure entertainment, and often it's also a morality story. I've always loved these stories that explain nature (how an alligator got its skin, why a buzzard stinks) or give insight into how people perceive animals and the world around them.

I loved the diversity of the stories presented here, and I love that each tale looks different, too; some are more realistic, others more stylized and "cartoonish" in form. Overall, this is a fantastic introduction to the trickster genre in general and the Native American stories specifically.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

You Don't Have to Say You Love Me by Sherman Alexie

In a heart-wrenching memoir, Sherman Alexie explores his complicated relationship with his mother and his grief after her death. The book's narrative is expressed through a combination of essays, poetry, honor songs, and more.

There's a tradeoff, depending on your reading format: the physical book has pictures, and you get the visual formatting in the poetry. In the audiobook you miss out on those - but you get ALL the emotion as the author reads this work himself.

And I do mean ALL the emotion - there's a river of tears from Alexie in the audiobook, and I can only imagine how many they edited out. It's sometimes overwhelming, in the true, honest way he expresses the story of his life and of his family. It's so, so good, but it took me a while to get through this audiobook - it's not the kind of thing you want to listen to every day.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Indian Shoes by Cynthia Leitich

In a series of short stories, we explore life with Ray Halfmoon and his grandfather: Ray makes a trade, the pair take care of the neighborhood pets while everyone is away for Christmas, and Ray deals with a really, really bad haircut.

I picked up this 2002 book because it was on a list of books with positive depiction of native characters. But it's not just strictly about the fact they're Seminole-Cherokee - the stories are really about everyday life and a kid's experiences.

Each chapter is a short story, but through them all you get a look at life for one boy, who lives with his grandfather. They have a great relationship, and it's fun to see the world through their eyes.

After reading it, I discussed the book with a nine-year-old friend and she agreed it sounded like a fun book to read. I'll recommend it.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O'Neill

Turning all the fairy princess conventions on their head, a girl is saved from imprisonment, a boy is saved from danger, a town is saved from destruction, and a kingdom is saved from evil.

A brave princess (with truly awesome hair) starts the action by saving a maiden trapped in a tower. Learning independence and self-sufficiency, the pair go about doing other brave and wonderful things. And fall in love.

There's a lot packed into the 53 pages of this graphic novel, and it's done well. I laughed, I was surprised, and I was very impressed by O'Neill's bold ambition in the story.