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The Walking Dead: Volume 1: Days Gone Bye by Robert Kirkman and Tony Moore (2010)

WalkingDeadA colleague of mine lured me into watching the AMC adaptation of this adult graphic novel about eight months ago. I just finished watching season 4 via Netflix and began tuning in to the live broadcast of the new season. What began as a frightening foray into the horror genre (something I usually avoid) has continues to induce fear but also delightful. Impatient now for more, I am turning to the graphic novel to keep me satiated between Sunday evening viewings.

The TV show expands upon the graphic novel in many ways. Daryl Dixon, one of my favorites, does not exist in the graphic novel. Shane’s story line was expanded and improved upon but was, perhaps, too drawn out in the TV show but it certainly provided additional conflict. There are a lot of characters I’m looking forward to meeting all over again as I continue reading.

It  will be tough to read on considering Daryl’s absence but I’m looking forward to where the story takes me and I’m grateful for the black and white illustrations. The show’s makeup artists are exceptional but it’s a bit much at times. I hope that doesn’t mean I would be an easy zombie target…

Library Copy | 9781582406725 | Image Comics, Inc. | Adult Graphic Novel

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Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson (2014)

lullaby

All night, every living thing competes
for a chance to be heard.
The crickets
and frogs call out.
Sometimes, there’s the soft
who-whoo of an owl lost
amid the pines.
Even the dogs won’t rest until
they’ve howled
at the moon.

But the crickets always win, long after
the frogs stop croaking
and the owl had found its way home.
Long after the dogs have lain down
losing the battle against sleep,
the crickets keep going
as though they know their song
is our lullaby.

BGDTo date, I consider this the most distinguished children’s book of the year. Woodson’s biography captures with lyricism and poignancy the delicate early years of her life as well as the environs of three different American locations – Columbus, OH, Greenville, SC, and New York City, NY – during the civil rights movement of the 60s and 70s.

It’s pacing is perfect, every word is essential, each character is vibrant and the perspective never wavers. I was entranced and delighted and moved throughout. Highly recommended.

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West of the Moon by Margi Preus (2014)

West of the MoonA dense tome for middle grade children that deals with abandonment, abuse, greed, illness, illiteracy and poverty. Weaving fairy tale and folklore into a historical setting – similarly to Grace Lin but in a less structured fashion and with heavier themes – Preus tells the story of Astri and her younger sister, two girls effectively orphaned by the death of their mother and father who left them for America. Now in the care of their uncle, Astri and her sister are marginalized.

Then Astri is sold to a goat farmer named Mr. Svaalberd, she is worked to the bone, physically abused and almost sexually assaulted. Then Astri discovers Svaalberd has been keeping another girl, rumored to be a changeling, with a talent for weaving.

Eventually, Astri finds the courage to escape with the weaving girl, rescue her sister and leave for America. Along the way, she discovers family secrets, betrayals and the courage to cheat death and forge a new future herself and her sister. A well told tale.

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Julia’s House for Lost Creatures by Ben Hatke (10/2014)

Cover ImageCharmingly illustrated and begging to be read aloud. A great choice for your public library story time: a compassionate hostess, monster noises, problem solving, promotion of shared responsibility, and inclusion and acceptance of differences wrapped in a beautifully illustrated and imaginative tale (the house upon a turtle’s back and the fantastical whimsy reminded me of Hayao Miyazaki’s movies).

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The Stepsister’s Tale by Tracy Barrett (2014)

It was the hardest winter Jane could remember. Mamma said that there had been a worse one when she was a girl. But in those days there had been servants to ride deep into the forest and fetch dry wood to stack in huge piles for cheerful fires, and there were woolen blankets and hot things to drink whenever anyone wanted them. Now it took all day to find a few logs that weren’t half-rotten, that could dry out in a day or two and provide some weak and smoky heat in the fireplace (p 99).

StepsistersTaleThis delightful fairy tale retelling is quiet and small but enjoyable. Jane is the elder stepsister to the young beauty known as Cinderella. Isabella, is a spoiled child who knows little of the hard world until his father marries Jane’s mother. Jane and her sister, Maude, however, have learned to survive on little comfort, less warmth and whatever little food they manage to produce. Time are hard, and the Prince brings no relief. Instead, the girls find themselves caught between fear of the supposed fairies that dwell in the woods, the rough men of the wood and a corrupt Prince.

Though there is little in the way of action, this novel held my attention. I do, however, dislike the cover. It greatly misrepresents the story. I assume the publisher was trying to glamorize the girls to appeal to some empty-headed pre-teens. It’s just a totally blah and bleck cover.

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The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster (1961)

“Think of all the trouble it saves,” the man explained, and his face looked as if he’d be grinning an evil grin — if he could grin at all. “If you only do the easy and useless jobs, you’ll never have to worry about the important ones that are so difficult. You just won’t have the time. For there’s always something to do to keep you from what you really should be doing, and if it weren’t for that dreadful magic staff, you’d never know how much time you were wasting” (p 213).

The Phantom TollboothThis was a KidLit book club pick. It’s a title I thought I had never read until I came to Alec, the boy who grows down, not up. Then something triggered in my brain and I recalled my third grade teacher reading this to her class. I’m glad I found my way to it again. The timing was fortuitous as I become increasingly frustrated professionally. The absurdities Milo encounters bathed my reality into a humorous light and I felt immediately better.

Perhaps it’s knowing that my struggles are universal… ubiquitous… timeless. But after reading this, my worries seem so silly, like the demon of insincerity or the Terrible Trivium. A refreshing experience.

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Prince of Shadows: A Novel of Romeo and Juliet by Rachel Caine (2014)

Prince of ShadowCaine expands the world of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, selecting Romeo’s cousin Benvolio as the narrator who assumes the title character’s role. As the Prince of Shadows, dubbed so by his close friend Mercutio, Benvolio spends his nights avenging slights by stealing and publicly, but anonymously, humiliating the offender. Romeo rounds out the threesome but he has a limited role in the novel.

Instead, Benvolio provides the backdrop to the well-known story, delving into Montague family politics. Rosaline, too, has a larger role. The real surprise came in the mystical turn the book took about half way through. It turns out Mercutio’s dying curse (A plague on both your houses) had meat to it. We all know Romeo and Juliet ended tragically, but will Benvolio and Rosaline succumb to the same fate?

And enjoyable read more for the language and descriptions than the plot. Mercutio is a scene stealer as well.

Library copy | 9780451414410 | Ages 14+ | New American Library