Saturday, September 23, 2017

Ban This Book - Alan Gratz

Title: Ban This Book
Author: Alan Gratz
Publisher: Starscape, 2017 (Hardcover)
Length: 243 pages
Genre: Children's Realistic Fiction
Started: September 21, 2017
Finished: September 21, 2017

From the inside cover:

It's a battle of the books - and Amy Anne is determined to win!

It all started the say Amy Anne Ollinger tried to check out her favourite book in the whole world, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, from the school library. That's when Mrs. Jones, the librarian, told her the bad news: her favourite book was banned! All because a classmate's mom thought the book wasn't appropriate for kids to read.

Amy Anne decides to fight back by starting a secret banned-books library out of her locker. As word spreads, Amy Anne's locker stash quickly grows into a school-wide sensation. Soon, she and her friends find themselves on the front line of an unexpected battle over book banning, censorship, and who has the right to decide what kids can read.

I so needed this book as a kid. Like Amy Anne, I was the little bookworm who was quiet and didn't stand up for themselves. I definitely would've appreciated Any Anne's transformation to become a kid who speaks her mind and stands up for what she believes in.

Amy Anne is nine, and with two younger sisters at home (one of whom she shares a room with) she doesn't get a lot of quiet time to herself. So she stays in the library after school reading book after book. When she tries to check out her favourite yet again, the librarian tells her it's been removed due to a parent challenging the book's content, along with several others deemed inappropriate. Even after her parents buy her a copy of her own, Amy Anne decides that good books deserve to be read, and that only someone's parents can tell a kid what they can and cannot read. When she discovers that some of her friends own copies of the other banned books, the B.B.L.L. (Banned Books Locker Library) begins. After pooling their money to purchase more books, and even receiving donated copies from authors, the B.B.L.L. begins to grow even further. When the principal uncovers their little operation, leading to the librarian being fired, Amy Anne and her friends decide to step up their game and really show the trustees how ridiculous book banning can be.

As an English teacher and general book-lover, this book and the story it tells is so incredibly important. The story takes place in North Carolina in the US, where I know they do have more issues with banned books and censorship. I'm fortunate that I work in a school board in Canada that hasn't really had an issue with book banning and censorship in general, although a board near mine did temporarily ban Philip Pullmans's His Dark Materials a few years back which I was absolutely incensed over. I'm of the opinion that if a kid is old enough to read something let them have at it, but to be a parent and have a conversation about the content your kid is reading, same as with movies or tv shows or any media they consume. Are there some books I wouldn't let my kid read at this stage? Of course, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't let her read them ever, and that's my prerogative as her parent.

The list of banned books in this novel are real: they've all been banned at some point in time in the US over the past several decades, and the reasons are mind-numbingly stupid. Amy Anne and her friends make that point crystal clear when they intentionally look for things that would get a book banned: any behaviour considered negative like disobeying parents, violence, sexual content of any kind, having LGBT or transgender characters, and many others. I look at that list and see many books that were actually required class reading in elementary school for me: Bridge to Terebithia, Island of the Blue Dolphins, From the Mixed-up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, and Anne Frank: Diary of a Young Girl. Not only did these books not corrupt me as a child, they made me a better human being. I see books on that list that not only would I not mind if my child read them, I've already bought those exact copies in preparation for when she's a more proficient reader (she's not quite six yet, I figure give her another year to eighteen months and she'll be voraciously devouring everything on the shelves). So needless to say, the unrestricted right to read is one I will always defend.

I love Amy Anne's character development in this novel. She goes from a meek little mouse (as Trey's drawing depicts) with very closed-minded ideas about good books and the people that read them, to a kid who will speak her mind about what she feels is right, who realizes that different people like different things, and that even the parent that instigated the book banning is actually a good person who's just a bit misguided. I also like that Amy Anne is a person of colour (as are her family), we need more diversity in our kid's lit, not to mention on our book covers too.

The only thing I have issue with in this book is that there is no way a group of average nine year olds could've orchestrated the series of events as lined out in this book without parental influence of some kind (unless they were highly gifted, which the kids in question are not). Could kids of eleven or twelve do it? Sure, but not nine, no way. But aside from that suspension of disbelief, the book is awesome.

All book lovers should read this, not to mention teachers, parents, hell let's make it everyone.

Thoughts on the cover:
Very basic. It gets the message across, but this is a book that would benefit from a good cover redesign.

Friday, September 22, 2017

The Ancient Magus' Bride - Kore Yamazaki

Title: The Ancient Magus' Bride
Author: Kore Yamazaki
Publisher: Seven Seas, 2015 (Paperback)
Length: 180 pages
Genre: Young Adult; Graphic Novel, Fantasy
Started: September 19, 2017
Finished: September 19, 2017

From the back cover:

Enter the Magician's Apprentice

Her name is Chise Hatori, a penniless orphan troubled by visions. Sold as a slave to an inhuman mage, she is about to begin a strange new life, filled with magic, fairies, and other beings of a fantastical nature.

I first came across this as a recommendation from an internet friend, and I must admit, I was really intrigued by the skull-headed guy (whom I later found out was Elias, the mage of the title). I've since read most of the available manga volumes and am waiting with bated breath for the anime tv series set to premiere in October. This type of story and universe seems extremely weird at first glance (I'll even admit I didn't think I'd like it), but decided to give it a shot based on my friend's tastes and am I ever glad I did.

This story does a fantastic job of world-building: there is a smaller cast of main characters (both human and non) but a cavalcade of creatures that make the world that Chise and Elias inhabit vibrant. All the characters in my opinion are very endearing (there aren't any I can honestly say I dislike) and their relationships to each other are quite heartfelt. I appreciate how even though Elias literally buys Chise from a slave auction, that they do have a sweet, almost familial relationship and they do genuinely care for each other.

If you're big into fantasy, give this a shot.

Thoughts on the cover:
Nicely posed and detailed, and as always I appreciate the colour since manga has very few colour pages on the inside.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Jim Henson's The Storyteller: Giants - Conor Nolan, Jared Cullum, Brandon Dayton, Feifei Ruan

Title: Jim Henson's The Storyteller: Giants
Authors: Conor Nolan, Jared Cullum, Brandon Dayton, Feifei Ruan
Publisher: Archaia (Boom Entertainment), 2017 (Hardcover)
Length: 128 pages
Genre: Young Adult/Adult; Fantasy, Graphic Novel
Started: September 20, 2017
Finished: September 20, 2017

From the back cover:

It's not the stories you tell, but how they are told.

The critically acclaimed Jim Henson's The Storyteller: Giants celebrates four mythic tales of when giants roamed the Earth, inspired by folklore from around the world and told in the spirit of Jim Henson's beloved television series.

Featuring an array of styles and stories by some of today's most original talent, including Conor Nolan (Neverboy), Brandon Dayton (Green Monk), and introducing Jared Cullum and Feifei Ruan, this stunning hardcover edition also includes an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at the process and care taken in adapting each of these timeless tales.

After reading the original release and finally getting my hands on the Dragons volume from last year, I was excited to read the Giants volume since this is honestly one of my favourite graphic novel installments; partly since they release new collections so intermittently but also because there's such variety in the stories presented.

The Giants volume features four stories centered around giants, but more often than not the real focus is on those whom the giants terrorize and how they reclaim their livelihood. I didn't like this volume quite as much as the Dragons collection, but I give this installment credit for the adorable art style of the third story, "Pru and the Formorian Giants." Also, the art of the final story, "The Fisherman and the Giant" is so incredibly gorgeous I think it's worth picking up just for that, I mean, look at it:

It's a story adapted from One Thousand and One Nights, so the artist used a Middle Eastern inspired art style; it's enchanting to look at.

Again, if you like folktales and stories in general you'll want to pick up these volumes.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the consistency from cover to cover in this series: the dragons volume was done in green tones, this one in blues and the witches volume in dark reds (which I still need to track down).

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Star Trek: Boldly Go - Mike Johnson and Tony Shasteen

Title: Star Trek: Boldly Go (Volume 1)
Author: Mike Johnson and Tony Shasteen
Publisher: IDW Publishing, 2017 (Paperback)
Length: 152 pages
Genre: Adult/Young Adult; Science Fiction, Graphic Novel
Started: September 9, 2017
Finished: September 10, 2017

From the back cover:

After the destruction of their ship in Star Trek Beyond, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise have been reassigned to new ships with unseasoned crews, and unfamiliar roles. The galaxy enjoys a fragile peace, but the discoveries of new worlds, new species, new ships, all lead to a new danger unlike anything the federation has encountered before. And resistance may be futile...

While waiting for the new Star Trek series to appear on my streaming service, I thought this might be an appropriate way to pass the time.

This version takes place shortly after the events of the third film, and follows the crew as they're split up in different environments but eventually reconnect in order to rescue a ship of people from being assimilated by the Borg. There's also one issue of the six included in this volume devoted to a vignette about Jaylah.

I enjoyed how the story forces the crew to come together again, I really do enjoy them all as a group. The story was decent, enough that you could read this solely on its own or continue to the subsequent volumes. The art style of the first five issues is consistent (not the same as the cover art though), but then changes in issue six (I preferred the former rather than the latter), so that's something to be aware of.

Definitely worth a look if you're a fan of the new Star Trek universe and enjoyed the movies.

Thoughts on the cover:
I like the art style here, and several more of the artist's pieces are included throughout the book.