In a steam powered world filled with anthropomorphic animals (and a few of us “doughfaces”), Napoleon conquered Britain. A British gentleman, Leigh-Otter, recently returned from Paris, is found dead of an apparent suicide. Detective Inspector LeBrock deduces Leigh-Otter was murdered, and that he was a secret agent. The DI and his adjunct, Detective Ratzi, head to the continent to investigate. A secret society, an elite squad of assassins, and anti-British sentiment stand in the way of the pair uncovering the conspiracy behind Leigh-Otter’s murder.
Why I picked it up: At the beginning of this graphic novel, Talbot thanks both Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Quentin Tarantino, among others.
Why I finished it: I loved the Classics Illustrated Deluxe version of The Wind in the Willows, and this is the perfect grim, violent counterpoint to it. After surviving a vicious fight in an alley, LeBrock beats a toad to death while trying to get information from him. “Damn. He’s croaked.”
Tracy's dad Freddie is smooth, polite, charming. In his line of work it came in handy - he was a pimp. Don't worry, he didn't press her into service or anything. He might even have been a pretty good dad if he hadn't spent most of her life in jail for drug dealing. Handed from foster home to foster home, Tracy grew up with a skewed view of relationships. This is an autobiography focusing on her attempt to discover what love really is.
Why I picked it up: I'm a simple man with simple tastes. "My dad was a pimp" is, apparently, one of them.
Why I finished it: Vignettes that mark Tracy's life as very different from my own. Like visiting her smooth talking pimp father in jail in the company of her conservative Lutheran foster mother. That particular culture clash might make a good read in anybody's hands. But Tracy, now a successful TV writer, makes it pop with both humor and meaning.
I'd give it to: My therapist, because reading this book felt like the funniest therapy session ever.
Per lives with his Grandma and works at a marine supply store. He has a few good friends and co-workers, but his life is pretty simple. As he constantly reminds people who ask him, he is not mentally retarded because that requires an IQ of 75 or lower, and he scored a 76! His extended family doesn’t want anything to do with him. When his Grandma dies, the vultures come to take what they want from her house but none wants take care of him. That is fine with Per, who continues living and working and, most importantly, playing the same lottery numbers he and Grandma used to. When he hits the jackpot, his family is suddenly very concerned about Per’s welfare. Per’s friends, a farting sailor named Keith, a pierced, young cashier named Cherry, and his boss try to help him fend off his greedy family.
Why I picked it up: A colleague put a copy in my hand.
Why I finished it: I read in horror and dread to see if Per’s family will hornswoggle him out of his fortune. Per’s voice is consistent and endearing. Because he’s slow, his family speaks freely in front of him, which helps the narration. The fact that Wood’s family won the Washington State lottery in real life made the details about Per’s experience more realistic.
I'd give it to: Anyone looking for a sweet but not mawkish (think Nicholas Sparks) book; Bea, who enjoyed The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time because of its narrator; and Mike, who liked the pleasantly befuddled Chance in Being There.
After driving all night, 16-year-old Jace arrived bloodied and bruised at his older brother’s apartment. Christian reluctantly takes him in. Jace tried to protect his mother from his father, who beat him and then kicked him out of the house. Christian has spent the last five years avoiding the entire situation, but he does feel guilty for leaving his mother and little brother behind. Their father’s anger and physical abuse affects his sons: Christian has repressed his emotions and Jace recently abused his girlfriend. Both boys struggle with their new relationship. They feel optimistic that things will turn well because their mother has promised to leaves their father at Thanksgiving.
Why I picked it up: It’s a mandatory read for the American Library Association committee I am on.
Why I finished it: The emotional effects of living with an abuser are stunning. Christian and Jace are good people and they want to work out their issues, but there is a real chance they will fail. I was rooting for Jace and Christian as they tried to build a relationship. The book builds toward a climax that is more realistic than sensational.
I'd give it to: Colette, who thought Precious was a great movie, my newly married friends K. and D. who are now experts on the family baggage we all bring to relationships, and Old Testament readers who know the truth of the verse that says “the iniquities of the father will be visited on the children to the third or fourth generation.” (Numbers 14:18)
This STUNNING fictional biography of the life of poet Pablo Neruda focuses on his childhood. The opening poem by Munoz Ryan instantly sets the tone for the book and the beautiful writing within.
Gorgeous and thought provoking illustrations by Peter Sis accompany the text. Click here to see a sample.
Why I picked it up: How could I resist the literary 'marriage' of Pam Munoz Ryan and Peter Sis?
Why I finished it: This is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read. I finished it slowly. I found myself rereading sentences and passages to revel in the language and the flow of the text. Learning more about Neruda’s difficult childhood and the inspiration for his poetry and his politics was fascinating. My previous knowledge of him came only from the movie Il Postino.
I'd give it to: Cindy and Liz, two language arts teachers who love words and the way they work together. I can see their eyes shining as they think about how they’ll introduce their students to this book and then Neruda’s poetry.
Illustration (C) 2010 by Peter Sis from The Dreamer by Pam Munoz Ryan, published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. All rights reserved.
Poem © 2010 by Pam Munoz Ryan from The Dreamer published by Scholastic Press, an imprint of Scholastic Inc. All rights reserved.
A collection of Trondheim’s one page autobiographical comics from 2007.
Why I picked it up: Know how much I love Trondheim’s work? I buy his books in French, a language I can hardly read, when they haven’t been translated.
Why I finished it: 1) This book is in English. 2) I love the way Trondheim creates panels by using background colors and not borders. 3) He’s gadget obsessed, travels quite a bit, and loves his family and his cat.