Like I Need a Reason to Crave Asian Style Pastry

Sherlock Sam and the Missing Heirloom in Katong by A.J. Low. Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2016. 9781449477899.

sherlocksamElementary-aged, Singaporean amateur sleuth Sherlock Sam (real name: Samuel Tan Cher Lock) teams up with his sister, his cousin, and his snarky robot Watson to solve the mystery of his Auntie’s missing heirloom cookbook. Sherlock Sam is earnest, he learned all about problem-solving from Logicomix, he’s annoyed that adults keep pinching his chubby cheeks, and he’s motivated by food. This book made me hungry: it’s packed full of Singaporean delicacies (Sherlock Sam’s love of his Auntie’s ayam buah keluak is the main reason he wants to solve the case quickly).

This is an illustrated chapter book (though Andrews McMeel’s AMP! Kids imprint is known for graphic novels) with delightful black and white spot illustrations by Andrew Tan.

Strong is Beautiful

Strong Is the New Pretty: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves by Kate T. Parker. Workman, 2017. 9780761189138. 256pp.

strong-is-the-new-prettyGene: It’s the ultimate coffee table book. Photos of girls, a lot of them doing sports – it’s a celebration of how strong and tough girls are. It’s not quite against the idea of dolling yourself up, but it makes it clear you don’t have to to be strong and pretty.
Sarah: So a wider variety of pretty than you’d see in a lot of books.
G: Right. The photographer, Kate Parker, said she was shooting pictures of her daughters and their friends and the ones that resonated were the photos where they are 100% themselves. They’re celebrations of who the girls are. (Reading) “I wanted my girls to know that being themselves is beautiful, and that being beautiful is about being strong.” There’s a quote from each girl next to her picture, with her age and her first name. Continue reading “Strong is Beautiful”

My Mystery Mission: Marple Edition

The Murder at the Vicarage: A Miss Marple Mystery by Agatha Christie. Harper, 1930. 9780062073600.

murdervicarageI’ve decided that my personal reading challenge for 2017 is to sample the classics of the mystery and detective genre. I started early, with the first Sherlock Holmes novel in November. This was my first inkling of how difficult this will be, since I immediately wanted to read the rest of the stories! My next author was Agatha Christie. Now I want to read through all of her mysteries, too. I had only known that Christie’s books had well-crafted puzzles, I had no idea how funny she was!

In The Murder at the Vicarage, local blowhard Colonel Protheroe is murdered in the vicar’s study. No one in the village of St. Mary Mead is terribly sorry that he’s gone, and there is no shortage of suspects. The story is narrated by the vicar, Leonard Clement, who makes hilariously dry internal observations about the odd characters who cross his path as he tries to solve the crime. In a tiny village where everyone knows everyone’s business, a murder is almost gleefully appreciated. Everyone fancies themselves a detective and begins looking for clues. The most observant and knowledgeable about human nature (as well as being an avid mystery reader) is Miss Marple, one of the many spinsters who dominate local life. I loved the various winks to the reader about the conventions of mystery novels — this was written in 1930, as the genre was just beginning its golden age!

Turn On Your Witchlight

Witchlight by Jessi Zabarsky. Czap, 2016.

witchlightContains material originally published in Witchlight #1 – #4 plus new material.

Sanja is visiting the market with her father and brothers when she accidentally confronts a witch, Lelek, who is dealing with an unhappy customer. Sanja awakens to find herself tied up in Lelek’s camp, though she doesn’t seem too concerned. Lelek wants Sanja to teach her to fight with a sword. Sanja agrees provided Lelek stops cheating people in different towns. They’re soon on the road together with Lelek challenging other witches to fights wherever they go for a share of the spectator’s fees.

The beginning of the story (the kidnapping) is a bit odd and abrupt, but the budding friendship (and perhaps more) between the two young women makes it very enjoyable, as does Zabarsky’s cheerful black and white (and somewhere in between) art.

I’ve picked up a few Czap books at small comics shows over the last few years (Seattle’s Short Run, and maybe SPX), and I was happy to be able to pledge to their Kickstarter.

Too Much Future

Normal by Warren Ellis. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2016. 9780374534974.

normalHidden in an experimental forest in rural Oregon is a facility funded by various government agencies and NGOs, a facility where professionals help mentally ill futurists. They observe trends in technology, finance, and warfare in order to predict what comes next, and are driven mad by what they predict. Foresight strategist Adam Dearden arrives after a breakdown and is ready for time away from the constant inbound information that controlled his life. Then a patient goes missing from his locked and very closely watched room, leaving behind a huge mound of writhing insects on his bed. The facility goes into lockdown and everyone begins to panic. Adam decides that the safest thing to do is to solve the mystery before anyone from the outside world comes and investigates his background too closely.

Ellis provides his usual gonzo, fever-dream take on current and near-future technology, much of it based on the work of futurist friends. He writes a fast-paced mystery that will leave you unsettled by the doomsday scenarios that brought patients to the facility.

Stone Cold Foxes

How To Find A Fox by Nilah Magruder. Feiwel and Friends, 2016. 9781250086563.

how-to-find-a-foxA determined-looking little girl tries to follow directions on how to find a fox so that she can take photos of it. Unnoticed, the fox has already found her, and follows her throughout. The best bit: when she takes a picture of a family of raccoons, the fox photobombs it after applying a bit of makeup.

After things don’t go according to plan, she wants to give up and go home. But she sticks with it. There are great “photos” of her and the fox at the end.

Pandora by Victoria Turnbull. Clarion Books, 2017. 9780544947337.

pandoraThat circle of blue-grey things around the fox on the cover? It’s garbage — I see a shoe, a joystick, a fast food container, and even a grenade in there — but at the spine it morphs into the strange vegetation that covers the back of the book.

Pandora lives alone, in a house on stilts in a garbage dump that stretches as far as the eye can see. She has an amazing home full of things she salvages and repairs, but no friends. Then one day a bird falls from the sky. She nurses it back to health.

Is this a post apocalyptic picture book? I think so, despite the lack of lonely robots, war boys, and deadly gameshows. And at the end (warning: minor spoiler) it offers hope as Pandora’s world transforms with friendship and an accompanying burst of color that wipes away the grey.

Beware Cat Ladies

The Collected Cat Rackham by Steve Wolfhard. Koyama Press, 2016. 9781927668382.

catrackhamSarah: OK, I picked this book for you because of the shiny bits on the cover.
Gene: Ooooh! Cat Rackham!
S: All the rain falling on a dejected Cat Rackham is shiny.
G: It’s a beautiful use of spot gloss on the cover.
S: Falling on a completely sad lump of a cat wearing a green t-shirt.
G: I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed this, but rain is something that a lot of cartoonists draw to show off their skills. Like in old Will Eisner graphic novels — it’s beautiful. Glorious parts of Sin City feature rain, too.
S: So Steve Wolfhard is an animator and for a while he drew comics and they became really popular. He eventually ended up back in animation and he’s one the artists with Adventure Time. You can definitely see some of his style reflected in Adventure Time now.
Continue reading “Beware Cat Ladies”