Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Book List 2012: Part 6

* = reread
[GN] = Graphic Novel
[CB] = Children's Book

64. [GN]

Lost & Found
by. Shaun Tan

A collection of three graphic novel short stories.

Once again I don't recall what prompted me to read this one. Regardless, it was very good. Surprisingly poignant as well.

The story
The Rabbits
tells of the Aborigines of Australia and the invasion of the Europeans as told from the point of rabbits and is a very powerful story.

The Lost Thing
tells of a boy who finds a strange..."thing" and doesn't know what to do with it. And the piece works as an intriguing metaphor of sorts.

The Red Tree
, however, is my favorite of the three by far. It's kind of a graphic journey through the cloud of someone's depression and finally the light on the other end. It was really quite beautiful.

I also quite liked the Authors Notes section at the end. Some of the things mentioned there were things I hadn't noticed and it gave me a new appreciation for the subtleties at work in the stories.

sometimes you just don't know what you are supposed to do or who you are meant to be


Mermaids on the Golf Course
by. Patricia Highsmith

A collection of Patricia Highsmith's chilling short stories.

Even if you aren't aware of it, you've all probably heard of Patricia Highsmith before. Unless of course you've managed to go through life without ever hearing the titles The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train before.

A lot of the time when you think about Horror you think about the supernatural: ghosts and zombies and monsters and whatnot. Or perhaps you think of rare perversions of humanity like serial killers and the like. What Patricia Highsmith is so good at doing is showing that ordinary people and everyday life can be horrifying too.

For instance the most frightening story in the book for me was a story called The Button
. It's about a man and his wife and their baby son who has down syndrome. The man in the story is obviously not meant to be a good person. He thinks all kinds of horrible things about his wife and their son and about others. But the thing that really chilled me as I was reading it is that he was relatable. He and his wife had this perfect life and then they had a son who changed everything. Suddenly his life took a turn down a road he never wanted to go down and things aren't how he imagined them to be. And even though he can't stop thinking these horrible things about his son, he's really not mad at his son. He's just furious at life and at God and he doesn't know how to deal with his emotions. He feels like he's being punished and his son is being punished for something they never did. And you end up finding yourself relating on some level to this guy who's thinking and doing all these bad things and it's just...scary. Scary to think that you can relate to someone like that on some level. And you wonder what that says about you.

And then there are stories like the title Mermaids on the Golf Course
which is kind of funny and at the same time very sad. Or stories like The Stuff of Madness which at first seems rather fantastical, but then at the end you see it all for what it really was.

These stories won't keep you up all night fearing the creatures in the shadows, but it will make you take a look inside yourself fearing what hides in your personal shadows. So if you're in the mood for something chilling like that you should definitely check it out.

Eleanor had been sewing neatly all day, sewing after dinner, too, and it was getting on for eleven o'clock. She looked away from her machine, sideways towards the hall door, and saw something about two feet high, something grayish black, which after a second or two moved and was lost from view in the hall. Eleanor rubbed her eyes. Her eyes smarted, and it was delicious to rub them. But since she was sure she had not really seen something, she did not get up from her chair to go and investigate. She forgot about it.

She stood up after five minutes or so, after tidying her sewing table, putting away her scissors, and folding the yellow dress whose side seams she had just let out. The dress was ready for Mrs. Burns tomorrow. Always letting out, Eleanor thought, never taking in. People seemed to grow sideways, not upward any more, and she smiled at this fuzzy little thought. She was tired, but she had had a good day. She gave her cat Bessie a saucer of milk—rather creamy milk, because Bessie liked the best of everything—heated some milk for herself and took it in a mug to bed.

The second time she saw it, however, she was not tired, and the sun was shining brightly. This time, she was sitting in the armchair, putting a zipper in a skirt, and as she knotted her thread, she happened to glance at the door that went into what she called the side room, a room off the living room at the front of the house. She saw a squarish figure about two feet high, an ugly little thing that at first suggested an upended sandbag. It took a moment before she recognized a large square head, thick feet in heavy shoes, incredibly short arms with big hands that dangled.

Eleanor was half out of her chair, her slender body rigid.

The thing didn't move. But it was looking at her.

pg. 163

66.* [CB]

The Doodle Flute
by. Daniel Pinkwater

Kevin Spoon meets a kid named Mason Mintz who owns a magical flute. Kevin wants that flute so bad, but Mason refuses to sell it to him. And out of that a great friendship develops.

Daniel Pinkwater books always remind me of my friend Jack. He's always been a big Pinkwater fan and so the first time I read Pinkwater's stuff was at Jack's house.

He really is an odd sort of author. His drawings have a kind of unpolished quality to them. He almost always refers to characters by their full names. Things like that. And yet there's also something about that oddness that makes his work kind of endearing.

This particular story is a pretty charming story. It deals with wanting something that you can't buy, the meaning of friendship, and of how sharing can bring people together.

Mason Mintz and his mother and father planted stuff in their backyard.

They grew pumpkins.

Mason Mintz saw Kevin Spoon.

Ho, Kevin,
he said.

What do you mean, 'Ho,'?
Kevin Spoon said. You're supposed to say 'Hi.'

Mason Mintz asked.

Because that's what you say.
Kevin Spoon said. Nobody says, 'Ho.'

I say it,
Mason Mintz said.


I like the way it sounds,
Mason Mintz said.

You're not normal,
Kevin Spoon said.

Maybe not,
Mason Mintz said.

67.* [CB]

Author's Day
by. Daniel Pinkwater

Bramwell Wink-Porter is a children's book author who has been invited to an elementary school to talk to the kids. However, when he shows up he finds that they have him confused with the author of a different book.

This book is really quite funny. I was laughing at a number of parts in it. It is just so silly and isn't afraid to go for a ridiculous joke. Plus I love how the characters this poor author meets just all seem to have this bizarre sense of logic that just leaves him befuddled.

Here is your sandwich, said a teacher, handing a paper bag to Bramwell Wink-Porter. It is bologna and shredded carrots with extra mayonnaise, the favorite lunch of the Fuzzy Bunny in your wonderful book.

I did not write that book, you know,
said Bramwell Wink-Porter.

I am Mrs. Wheatbeet,
said the teacher. I have written a book, too. It is called Bunnies in Love. I have it here. It is nine hundred pages long. I wonder if you would read it while you eat your lunch.

It is a very long book,
Bramwell Wink-Porter said.

If you like, you can give me your address,
Mrs. Wheatbeet said. I will bring you the book, and I will wait in my car while you read it.

Perhaps that would be better,
Bramwell Wink-Porter said.

68. [CB]

Orange, Pear, Apple, Bear
by. Emily Gravett

In only five words—four of which are in the title—Kate Greenaway Medalist Emily Gravett presents a delightful picture book that is simple and studding (The Guardian), and daring, original, and a joy (Sunday Times, London).
-inside flap

It's a kids' book that teaches about the importance of proper punctuation usage! Do I really need to say anything else? It's a silly book with great artwork that is all about how changing punctuation can drastically change the meaning of words! I mean...that's just awesome.

69. [CB]

Blue Chicken
by. Deborah Freedman

All this chicken wants to do is help. But when she spills a pot of blue paint, the other animals sure don't find her helpful. And things only get worse—and more blue—the harder she tries. Poor chicken! Can anything undo the blue?
-inside flap

Yeah, this one just wasn't for me. It's kind of bizarrely surreal. And yet some of the pictures in this book are simply outstanding. I just loved how they showed splashes. Yeah, so the story is a little lacking, and while the art isn't always my sort of thing it is very well done. I mean, when an art style isn't up your alley and you still find yourself being impressed with it from time to time you've gotta admit that it is well done.

70. [CB]

Little Mouse's Big Book of Fears
by. Emily Gravett

A little mouse uses journals and doodles to try and overcome her many, many fears.

As you've probably noticed already, I've been reading a lot of Emily Gravett. After I read Blue Chameleon, I liked it so much that I went and requested a ton of her other books.

But I'm not so sure about this one. Although I did like a lot of things about it. I like the art work. I really like all the latin phobias for everything. And I like the idea of using a journal or artwork to try and come to terms with the things you're afraid of.

I didn't really care for some of the "multi-media" aspects of the book as they seemed a little much and thus distracting. And I guess I didn't really like that the book is aiming at having kids write their own fears in the book, as every single page has a thing that says "Use the space below to record your fears". But they really don't give a lot of room. Not to mention that that would mean writing in the book! Aggh! I don't like that idea. I'd rather if it just incited parents to go get some paper and crayons and work together at writing down their own fears together. I think that'd be a fun activity for parents and kids as it'd show kids that everyone is afraid of something and that acknowledging your fears is the first step to overcoming them.

(Fear of monsters)

I worry about what's under the bed.

(Fear of going to bed)

71. [CB]

by. Emily Gravett

A frog finds a book of spells, but unfortunately it's all torn up. It's up to you to put the spell back together and see if you can turn him into a prince.

Frog enjoys dressing up, playing make believe, and eating flies. He is good at hopping really high and cut 'n' stick. He is not very good at fixing things, or spelling.
-back of book

Okay this one is kinda fun. You know those things where you flip pages/turn thing and it gives a different head and middle and bottom to some creature? So you can have a head of a bird and the middle of a bear and the feet of a newt? Well this is kind of like that. You pick a top part of the spell and you pick a bottom part of the spell and then that turns the frog into a combination of those things. There's a Frog, Rabbit, Snake, Bird, Newt, and Prince.Plus the spells rhyme with the creation. It's really silly, but it's also surprisingly fun to mess around with.

to become a
Handsome Prince

the cauldron
these words cast

String Thing
Forked Tongue


Stir three times and out spells...


72. [CB]

The Rabbit Problem
by. Emily Gravett

This book is based on a problem that was solved in the 13th Century by the Mathematician Fibonacci, but it is NOT (I repeat NOT) a book about math. It is a book about rabbits...Lots of rabbits!
-back of book

I'd have to say that this is my least favorite of the Emily Gravett books. It takes place in kind of a calendar format where the open pages is one month, and then you turn the page and that's the next month and so on. And then like just calendar, on each month there's an illustration on the top and down on the bottom there's the days and things that've happened on those days. Plus most months feature some kind of "multi-media" things that I really didn't care for. You know, like this month has a card, and this month has a photo album, and this month has a cookbook, etc. Just not my kind of thing. Though I will say that like usual the art is really good. If you ever come across it feel free to scan through it just to look at the drawings. I really like Gravett's art style.

73. [CB]

by. Emily Gravett

What do wolves really like to eat? It isn't little girls in red hoods. Rabbits shouldn't believe what they read in fairy tales, but this book has the facts.
-inside flap

I would say this one is my second least favorite, but it's still alright. I did get a kick out of the ending. Definitely didn't think they'd go there. I believe that this was Emily Gravett's first book. And as first books go it's pretty good.

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