Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Paul Goes Fishing - Michel Rabagliati

i really do love paul. i read "paul moves out" a couple of years ago and was really blown away by the honesty of it. although rabagliati's "paul" books can be read as standalones, "paul goes fishing" is actually a continuation of "paul moves out". paul and lucie are settled into their new apartment and settling into life as "real grown-ups". these are lovely quiet books, that ring so true to life i have to keep reminding myself that paul is not michel. rabagliati has a way of celebrating and immortalizing the real day-to-day lives of his characters. of course, he does find ways to tie in, through paul's musings, comments on society and provide a larger picture of the world that paul and his friends and family inhabit, but it is done in a very natural way. very much as though you or i were walking down the street and something like the building of a new large drug store caused us to think about the old building that had been torn down and what this new structure would do to the downtown. if you want a book to read while on your summer vacation that will make you smile in small ways, then may i suggest "paul goes fishing"?

Chiggers - Hope Larson

this was an incredibly nostalgic read for me. it brought back memories of summer camp, and the social networks that develop in that strange insulated environment. i loved summer camp, and went every year until i was too old to be a camper any longer. i was never a very strong swimmer so i wasn't able to get the requisite life guarding credentials required by most camps to be a counselor. but i suppose that is besides the point. larson's story about a young girl's summer at camp rings absolutely true. abby is back at the same summer camp she returns to every year. but things seem to have changed, and her friends from previous years all seem to have matured a little faster than she has. she is left feeling like a third wheel much of the time, and pining for the way their relationships had been in previous summers. when one of her bunk mates is sent home following an infestation of chiggers (which sounds wholly unpleasant i might add), a new girl named shasta is assigned in her place. shasta is a little weird and somewhat fae in nature and she is immediately disliked by most of the girls who think she is just trying to be cool. however, abby seems to connect with shasta and to her old friends' dismay she starts spending time with the new girl. a wonderful story about summer relationships and girls growing up, a book to be enjoyed by anyone who has ever spent any time at summer camp.

Three Shadows - Cyril Pedrosa

"three shadows" is pedrosa's response to the death of his friend's child at a young age. really, the book is an allegory on death, and how we deal with the loss of a loved one. one evening, from his bedroom window, young joachim sees three shadowy figures sitting on horseback. these unmoving figures appear to be watching his home. frightened he calls for his parents. their reaction to the figures is one of fear and anger. as joachim's parents attempt to keep him safe, strange events are occurring with frightening regularity that leads us to believe that the shadowy figures are not of this world. it would seem that there is nothing that can be done. but, louis, joachim's father, is desperate to save his child and will go to incredible lengths to do so. this is a powerful story, both frightening and sad about how one family is able to deal with the unshakable presence of death. a truly excellent mature graphic novel.

Monday, July 14, 2008

King of the Lost and Found - John Lekich

raymond dunne is a swooner. and a bleeder. and a sneezer. high school junior, raymond doesn't seem to have a lot going for him. he wakes up several times a week, flat out on the hall floor of his school surrounded by people's feet. he is a member of his school's "accelerated leadership" program, and he is the self-proclaimed "king of the lost and found". in short, raymond dunne is a nerd. things start to change for him when two popular grade 12 students take an interest in him. janice, perfectionist extraordinaire, is following raymond for an extra credit psychology project. she figures his many afflictions make him a fascinating subject. jack, former basketball star turned loner, is interested in raymond's lost and found booth, or rather what's behind it. together, raymond and jack team up to bring a little bit of happiness to their fellow students at "the grave". this is the nickname given to their seemingly joyless school, run with an iron fist by principal dr. goodrich, who has outlawed all junk food and who patrols the halls handing out good citizenship points or demerits as she sees fit. this has turned hargrave high into a particularly joyless place. but now jack has a plan to rectify that, and he's planning to take raymond along for the ride. a good fun read. made me think of those brat pack movies from the 80s, like "the breakfast club" or "pretty in pink". it just had that sort of feel, and quirky innocence to it, despite the fact that it was only published last year.

Ender's Game - Orson Scott Card

so card was awarded this fairly prestigious award this year, the yalsa lifetime achievement award for young adult literature. of course, due to card's (depending on what side of the fence you're on) contentious politics, there was a huge flap over him being granted this honour. the big question is, how much should our reading be influenced by the personal views of the author? i'm aware of card's political views (some of which i like and some of which i hate), but only because people made a big deal about him. otherwise i would have continued happily along, totally oblivious to what he thought about gay marriage rights, and would have judged his literature solely upon what was contained therein. the more i think about it, the more i think that that should be the way it is. i don't know what meg cabot's politics are, and yet i read her books. i couldn't tell you whether or not meg rosoff supports gay marriage, and i certainly couldn't tell you who charles de lint voted for in the last canadian election. and yet, i will happily continue reading their books without knowing any of that stuff, or even trying to find out. and perhaps that is the way it should be.

anyway, do this little debate i decided to read "ender's game". i'm not generally a sci-fi fan. i'm not that into alien races, space travel, and wars to save humanity. however, i did kind of enjoy "ender's game". "ender's game" takes place on a future earth, which is suffering from overpopulation. space travel has been developed. and the government seems somewhat dictatorial. in the past humans have experienced two wars with an alien race known as "the buggers", due to their resemblance of large bugs. a third war is eminent, and thus all of mankind is united in preparing to fight this threat. children are selected at a young age (6 years) and sent to battle school where they are constantly immersed in battle games, kind of like high stakes lazer tag or video games. to the children it all seems like a game, but really it is preparation for something much more serious. because young children are so easily molded and learn so quickly, they are the optimal choice for new soldiers. of course this brings up all sorts of questions about child soldiers, the greater good and all that.

because i am a nerd, i couldn't help seeing similarities between "ender's game" and "naruto". the characters in "naruto" are all selected from a young age to become ninja and dedicate their lives to protecting their countries by killing enemies. and this is a cartoon. i enjoyed "ender's game", it really is a good book. it didn't influence my politics. at all. it's the beginning of a science fiction saga, and i can't imagine such a thing changing the way i live and think in the real world. and that's what it comes down to, orson scott card, a man, with his own personal thoughts, writing a work of science fiction for people to read and enjoy. i would like to say though, that after becoming more familiar with "ender's game", that i now disagree with card being given the yalsa lifetime achievement award, because i'm pretty sure his books were written with an adult audience in mind, not teenagers. but that's a whole other debate, and i'm not sure i can be bothered.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Little Brother - Cory Doctorow

the. best. book. of. the. year. hands down, no kidding. i could literally not stop reading this until i finished it. cory doctorow, co-editor of "boing boing" writes the "little brother" to orwell's "1984". marcus, aka w1n5t0n, is a teenaged hacker whose group of friends are involved in an online/real world game called "harajuku fun madness". one day, while skipping school to find the latest "harajuku fun madness" clue, they find themselves caught up in a terrorist attack and taken in by the department of homeland security. when marcus is finally released from jail a week later he can't believe how much his world has changed. in the wake of the largest terrorist attack since 9/11, san francisco finds itself a mini police state. everything is controlled by a paranoid government, and san francisco is fast becoming very scary. marcus, a natural rule breaker, finds that these restrictions to his inalienable rights and freedoms are a little too much to bear, gets to work hacking, and gathers a group of young people (don't trust anyone over 25) who set out to bring down the system. set in the united states of the near future, doctorow makes use of real and existing technology in "little brother" and succeeds in even geeting a n008 like myself thinking about security and technology issues. there is an awesome bibliography in the back. i would recommend this book to anyone, teens and grown-ups, who are feeling up to a revolutionary and exciting read this summer.