Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mini reviews: December 2012 part II

This classic boarding school tale follows Juniper, a scholarship student who starts attending the prestigious Ellsmere academy and quickly runs a afoul of the popular clique.  Jun and her roommate Cassie are likable, quirky, and fun to read about, but overall I felt like I'd read the story before.  From the popular blonde girl who picks on the new kid because she's evil to the overly cheerful best friend, the characters were all well-worn types.  When the story does stray from the normal prep school tale and bring in a fantasy element at the end it comes completely out of left field.  Still, those looking for a quick read about boarding school life will enjoy this tale.  The War at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks: buy it or check it out today!

 This French import will delight readers with its absurdity while making them think about their own place in the universe.  The title characters are two hapless aliens bent on taking over a planet: a feat they have not failed at due to lack of trying.  Each planet they attempt to invade satirizes another aspect of human nature as well as providing plenty of opportunity for the kind of slapstick violence to be found in a Looney Tunes cartoon.  Interspersed with the story of Kaput and Zosky are one page, wordless comics about a human cosmonaut that embodies our less attractive qualities to hilarious effect.  Fans of sci-fi and humour young and old are sure to enjoy this colorful collection. Kaput and Zosky by Lewis Trondheim: buy it or check it out today!

This collection of the popular webcomic XKCD is fun to read even if you've been through the site's archive.  Munroe adds extra jokes and annotations and even if he didn't the comic is so well done that I was thankful for an excuse to re-read some.  If you haven't read the comic yet you can access it online to get a taste of it.  I can't think of any better way to describe it than Munroe already has: a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language.  Munroe used to work for NASA so when he says it's a comic about math he's serious.  Some of his comics are followed by spikes in google searches on the subject matter from his followers trying to figure out what the heck he's talking about.  But the extra research is always worth it.  Teaching people new things, sparking creativity and curiosity, driving people to research--Randall Munroe is a librarian's dream.  The comic is definitely aimed at an adult audience.  XKCD volume 0 by Randall Munroe: buy it or check it out today!

 As much as I liked the first poem in this collection, it was the second that made me decide to buy a copy for myself.  "The Straightener" describes how he was organized even as a child and would keep a lantern, a spyglass, and a tomahawk on his table and always in that order because "You could never tell when you would need them, / but that was the order you would need them in." Like all great humour there's moments of profundity and stanzas to turn over in your mind and ponder, but the humour provides a gentle reminder to the reader not to take the poem or yourself too seriously, providing a graceful exit from any labyrinths of thought the poems create. Horoscopes for the Dead by Billy Collins: buy it or check it out today!

 This comic is just as entertaining and informative as the first, but this time it's all about the role of ironclad ships in the Civil War.  What I love most about these comics is how deliciously irreverent they are--especially considering that they tell stories that are typically discussed with jingoistic rhetoric. Portraying Gustavus Fox as an anthropomorphic fox and Stephen Mallory as 'sharkface' was darn entertaining in addition to helping me to keep everyone straight.  Hale has a knack for finding historical figures that played a minor role but have engrossing stories that hardly seem believable and this time it's William Cushing. Just trust me and read the comic-you'll love him too!  (3rd grade and up) Big Bad Ironclad by Nathan Hale: buy it or check it out today!