Author: Gene Ambaum

Bonus Book Review: Kids Are Weird (and Other Observations of Parenthood) by Jeffrey Brown

Kids Are Weird (and Other Observations of Parenthood) by Jeffrey Brown. Chronicle Books, 2014. 9781452118703. 101pp.  Guest review by Murphy’s Mom. Oscar (who is based on Jeffrey’s real-life son) is a three-year-old who has much more insight and a much bigger vocabulary than most the toddlers. Oscar claims his pet snake is “sad because he doesn’t get to have any love.”  The simple but expressive artwork Brown uses when drawing his family members is as wonderful as Oscar’s candid musings are hilarious and thought-provoking.  My favorite comic in the book shows Oscar’s sitting in class, bored out of his mind. He sighs, “Instead of getting closer to my destiny, I keep getting farther away.” Chin up, Oscar, we’re all there with you, bud! Books like this resonate with me for two reasons: I listen to kids in the library after storytimes — they’re total weirdos —  and I was a weird kid myself. I learned to read chapter books and how to […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Die!Die!Die! by Robert Kirkman (creator/writer), Scott M. Gimple (creator/co-pilot), Chris Burnham (creator/artist)

Die!Die!Die! by Robert Kirkman (creator/writer), Scott M. Gimple (creator/co-pilot), Chris Burnham (creator/artist). Image, 2019. 9781534312142. Includes Die!Die!Die! #1 – #8. Publisher’s Rating: M / Mature. Basically, this is a John Woo action movie in comic form: triplet brothers are trained by their father as assassins for hire; one now works for the US government, one wants the other two dead, the third comes out of retirement to help rescue his captured brother. From the cover it will be no surprise someone gets their nose cut off, and that bullets fly throughout. The whole thing opens with a slick SUV vs motorcycle chase right out of a Bond movie. It also includes plenty of betrayals, double-crosses, and probably the most extreme disguise ever — I cant wait to see it in a movie. My favorite part was the foul-mouthed, take-no-shit Senator who leaves men in her wake (and naked in her office). A close second were the DIE!DIE!DIE! pages the creators […]

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Reviews: Talking to Strangers (audio) by Malcolm Gladwell and Stay by Lewis Trondheim, art by Hubert Chevillard.

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell. Unabridged, read by Gladwell. 8 hours 42 minutes. Hachette Audio. 9781549150333. It was this conversation between Gladwell and It’s Been A Minute (podcast) host Sam Sanders that got me to try this book, even though audiobooks aren’t really my thing. http://www.npr.org/2019/09/16/761277894/best-selling-author-malcolm-gladwell-on-talking-to-strangers-a-live-conversation I finished listening to it in record time because it sounds like a podcast, with high production quality, interview snippets, and even music to supplement Gladwell’s reading (which itself is great). I hope more nonfiction audiobooks follow this example. (If you know of any others, please list them in the comments.) To sum up the book, we’re not good at understanding one another, and the world would be better if we all stopped making hurried judgements about each other. Sandra Bland’s death bookends a variety of other case studies that might seem unrelated, but which Gladwell connects and explores. I particularly liked his discussion of the conviction of Amanda Knox because she didn’t […]

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Book Review: ASTRONUTS: Mission One: The Plant Planet! by John Scieszka and Steven Weinberg

ASTRONUTS: Mission One: The Plant Planet! by John Scieszka and Steven Weinberg. Chronicle, 2019. 9781452171197. 220pp. The AstroNuts are four experimental animal astronauts with superpowers: AlphaWolf, SmartHawk, LaserShark, and StinkBug. They blast off from their top-secret headquarters in Mount Rushmore, in a rocket that was disguised as Jefferson’s nose. Their mission: investigate a new Goldilocks planet, because on Earth we’ve crossed the BIG RED LINE and there’s more than 400 ppm of C02 in the atmosphere. They crash. They gather data. They entirely fail to see the intelligent, alien Giant Venus Flytrap right in front of them. Are they doomed? Not really. Is this a wacky, science-centric comedy for kids with an aside about how humans caused climate change? Yep. Weinberg’s illustrations were constructed from public domain images from the Rijksmuseum and elsewhere. More info is available at www.astronuts.space

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Graphic Novel Review: Nadya by Debasmita Dasgupta

Nadya by Debasmita Dasgupta. Scholastic India, 2019. 9789352759286. 64pp. Life seems like a fairytale for Nadya until, one day, her father leaves. Nadya feels alienated from her mother and runs away into the woods. The cover has a lot of shelf appeal, as do the interior pages. Dasgupta uses a combination of traditional media, digital color, and hand-painted textures to achieve a look that’s attractive and friendly. I found the colors of Nadya’s home and the exterior scenery particularly striking, and I keep returning to the book to look at the trees. Divorce is still taboo in India, where the divorce rate is less than one percent. Dasgupta hopes her debut graphic novel will help start conversations about it. This is a simple story told with few words that belongs in children’s collections and schools everywhere.

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Graphic Novel Review: Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir & Sarah Anderson

Cheshire Crossing by Andy Weir & Sarah Anderson. Ten Speed Press, 2019. 9780399582073. 117pp. Weir (The Martian) and Anderson (Sarah’s Scribbles) make a fun graphic novel about Dorothy (Oz), Alice (Wonderland), and Wendy (Neverland) based on a webcomic Weir created way back when. The three girls, now teens, meet in what they think is yet another mental institution. But Dr. Rutherford and their nanny/tutor Miss Pool know they aren’t crazy — they want to conduct experiments on the girls’ powers. But before that can all start, Alice puts on Dorothy’s slippers, transporting her and Wendy to Oz, setting off a series of events that brings about a super villain team-up between the Wicked Witch and Captain Hook. Throughout Alice is totally irritated, Wendy is the ultimate tomboy, and it’s worth reading just to see Peter Pan try to deal with puberty.

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Graphic Novel Review: Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman

Stage Dreams by Melanie Gillman. Lerner / Graphic Universe, 2019. 9781541572843. 104pp. Gillman’s follow-up to As The Crow Flies is a beautifully drawn (with colored pencils again!) historical western featuring queer characters, set in New Mexico Territory in 1861. (Confederate troops under General Sibly had just taken the southern half of the territory and renamed it. Gillman explains the history in annotations at the end of the book.) Grace is fleeing her family in Georgia and Civil War conscription, heading by stagecoach for California where she hopes to work in the theater. En route the demonic Ghost Hawk robs the coach and kidnaps Grace, hoping for a ransom. Back at Ghost Hawk’s camp, she removes Grace’s bonnet, and it’s obvious from Grace’s growing beard and instant irritation at being unmasked the she was assigned male at birth. But Ghost Hawk treats her like the lady she is, and as they swap stories she even tells Grace about her dream of […]

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Graphic Novel Review: Superman by Brian Michael Bendis

The Man of Steel by Brian Michael Bendis, with a host of famous and amazing artists. DC Comics, 2018. 9781401283483. Collects The Man of Steel 1 – 6. Superman: Action Comics Volume 1: Invisible Mafia by Brian Michael Bendis, illustrated by Ryan Sook, Patrick Gleason, Yanick Paquette, and Wade von Grawbadger. DC Comics, 2019. 9781401288723. Collects Action comics 1001 – 1006. Superman Volume 1: The Unity Saga: Phantom Earth by Brian Michael Bendis, pencilled by Ivan Reis, Inked by Joe Prado and Oclair Albert. DC Comics, 2019. 9781401288198. Collects Superman 1 – 6. Bendis has been writing for Marvel for years, and recently started writing for DC instead. I’m not alone in being very (almost said “super”) excited to see him make this move. I haven’t looked forward to reading a Superman comic since Grant Morrison’s All-Star Superman. Start with The Man of Steel. Clark is now married to Lois. They have a super-powered kid. Lois has quit the Daily […]

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Custom Library Tarot winner!

Congratulations to Theresa from NJ (center) and her colleagues who won the custom Library Tarot cards. Thanks again to Macmillan Library Marketing for sponsoring the contest, and to Willow Payne for doing an amazing job on the art.

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Graphic Novel Review: Smell My Foot! by Cece Bell.

Smell My Foot! (Chick and Brain) by Cece Bell. Candlewick, 2019. 9780763679361. 70pp. Brain isn’t very smart. Chick likes to tell Brain and Spot the dog what they should have said, especially about what to say to be polite. Spot takes Chick home for lunch, which has two meanings. Chick doesn’t realize she’s on the menu, but Brain does. (Minor spoiler: Brain saves Chick.) Warning: features lots of foot sniffing, though that’s probably obvious from the cover. A funny, short graphic novel perfect for early readers, from the writer/illustrator of El Deafo.

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