The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR5 Review #32: The Illuminated Adventures of Flora & Ulysses

As I return to my victory lap worth of extra book reviews, I’m going to work in a few reviews of selections from the Children Literature Network’s suggestions of potential Newberry Award Honorees. (You can read the full review and see my ballot at my other website: The Scruffy Rube)

Flora and Ulysses

By Contrast, this is a book, with a plot and everything! [Okay, Ben, let’s ease up on the snark a little bitTale of Desperaux author Kate DiCamillo captures the imaginative adventure of a child with a lot of summer downtime on their hands while infusing it with a dollop of good old fashioned magic/superhero origin story.

By making the superhero a squirrel and leaving our human protagonist as his enfeebled sidekick, DiCamillo makes sure that we appreciate the magic around us rather than fret over our own safety and security. Ulysses is in trouble as often as Flora is, and as he learns to exercise his powers he seems increasingly human.

It’s a little startling to see a biological mother (rather than a step mother) cast as a heavy (or as the book claims an “arch-nemesis”), but it makes sense, particuarly when the central conflict (in her eyes) is to make her daughter more normal, to add a degree of normalcy of every-day life into her weird world. She wants safety, security and familiarity. I can understand that, even if I (and most other readers) will side with our heroes.

KG Campbell’s drawings are good, and they serve a point in the story (unlike many overwrought pseudo-graphic-novels), but the trope seems so overused at this point that you almost wonder if DiCamillo could have made it work on her own, and how it would be just as a novel itself.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #88-95: The Walking Dead, Vols. 9-16 by Robert Kirkman


And thus concludes my journeys into the mind of Robert Kirkman, volumes 9-16. It has been a foul year. SPOILERS AHOY:

Vol. 9 — Here We Remain

I’m glad I took time off from reading this series. That last volume was brutal.

Vol. 9 of The Walking Dead handles the events of Vol. 8 the only way it could (and still keep readers from wanting to kill themselves from sadness). The first half is relatively quiet, with Carl and Rick moving slowly down the road, ambling to nowhere basically, and dealing with their grief over the loss of Lori and baby Judy, as well as their other friends. On top of being physically ill, Rick seems to be losing his mind, hallucinating and just generally feeling horrible about himself. Carl has a really neat — and sad — moment where he realizes he’s not a kid anymore, and he could survive without his dad if he had to. Thinking about kids living in this world Kirkman has created is just the worst.

[Full review here.]

Vol. 10 — What We Become

Aaaaand I’m already starting to get fatigue again with this series. I mean, these guys just can’t catch a break, and the minute you think Kirkman can’t pull anything worse or more disgusting or more horrifying out of his sleeve, he does.

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ElCicco #CBR5 review #50: Primates: The Fearless Science of Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks


Primates is a kid-friendly graphic novel about three powerhouses of anthropology who also happen to be women. Ottaviani has written several acclaimed graphic novels  related to science (including Feynman). Wicks’ illustrations are bold and crisp. Together, the two manage to weave together the three women’s stories in a solid, detailed and clear narrative of the scientists’ groundbreaking work among primates.

Each of these three women is fascinating in her own right and demonstrated a singleness of purpose and lifelong commitment to her studies. And each got her start thanks to eminent anthropologist and pioneer of primate studies Richard Leakey. Jane Goodall of England was a bookish child enthralled by the stories of Tarzan and Dr. Doolittle. Although she couldn’t afford to attend college, a fortuitous encounter with Dr. Leakey gave her the opportunity to become his secretary and eventually go out into the field to observe chimpanzees. Her patience and perseverance led to the discovery that chimps use tools and eat meat — shocking news in 1960. Goodall became one of the foremost researchers and lecturers in her field. The American Dian Fossey was an occupational therapist by training and deeply interested in gorillas. Thanks to her encounter with Dr. Leakey on a trip to Africa, Fossey was invited to pursue this interest. Her patience and passion for the gorillas allowed her to uncover the intricacies of their social and communication systems. Her work led her to push for conservation and also made her an outspoken critic and enemy of poachers, who murdered her in 1982. Canadian Birute Galdakis was actually formally trained as an anthropologist when she met Dr. Leakey and discussed with him her interest in the study of orangutans. These primates were so reclusive that almost nothing was known of them until her pioneering work, which caused her physical hardship and took a toll on her marriage

I think any kid (not just girls) would find the work of these scientists interesting. They lived in huts, studied poop and animal calls, and learned to get animals to trust them. They were patient and were able to pursue dreams that had seemed closed off to them. The story doesn’t shy away from the harsher aspects of their stories, referencing the murder of Fossey in addition to Galdakis’ divorce. It also shows Leakey as a very human man. While he was generous and took chances on women who had passion but little to no training, his reputation as a bit of a rake is also alluded to. Apparently, he had affairs with some of his female students, but not Jane, Dian or Birute. (It looks like Jane and Dian might have rebuffed his advances.)

All in all, a good story that could get kids interested in science, research, conservation and history. Also a nice follow up to my last review.

pyrajane’s review #21: The Walking Dead, Compendium 1 (The Walking Dead #1-48) by Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn, Tony Moore

Walking Dead CompendiumI hate horror.

I hate horror movies.  I can’t stand the trailers for new ones.  Horror music?  Knock it the fuck off.

I hate scary TV shows.  Don’t want anything to do with them.

I can’t stand haunted houses and the few times I let myself be talked into going into one, I’d either bail after a few steps in and walk back out the front door or I’d grab the shirt of the person in front of me, close my eyes, press my face into their back and let them lead me.   Fuck haunted houses.

Zombies?  No.  One of the worst horror creations because they eat you alive and it could be someone you know.  The smell… I can’t even.  It might be a brand new zombie or one that’s been wandering around for who knows how long.  Fuck everything about that.

Walking Dead Season 4

I love The Walking Dead.

My husband had read the comics and when he heard AMC was creating the show, he was wicked excited.  Me?  Nope.  More than nope.  More like “Why?  Why would anyone DO that?”

He’d be watching in the other room while I was on the computer trying really hard not to listen to any sounds.

But then it got interesting.  The characters seemed cool and every single scene wasn’t a zombie biting off someone’s face.  I started wandering into the room, standing in the doorway, watching for a few minutes.  By episode four, I was very curious, but still not convinced.  Then season two started, Sophia disappeared, and I was in.

I didn’t want to read the comic because I liked being surprised and getting to know the characters through the show.  I knew the show had gone in a very different direction with the characters and the story, but I didn’t care.  I liked these people and didn’t want to know what could happen next.  My husband would point out from time to time if the book had a plot line that was more violent than what they did on the show and also that they changed the characters a lot and he liked what they did.

I got so into the show that I would watch in real time, complete with commercials because I didn’t want to wait for the DVR.  When season two ended, I was tempted to read the comic, but still didn’t want to.  Then season three ended and I waited a few months and here we are.

People might hate me for this, but I do not care: I like the show more than the comic.

Read more of my thoughts over on my blog.  

Spoilers.  Spoilers from the show.  Spoilers from the comic.

I’m not even going to try to make this anything but a huge pile of spoilers.

Robert’s #CBR5 Review #05: Runaways Vol. 1: Pride & Joy by Brian K. Vaughn and Adrian Alphona

Runaways Vol. 1: Pride & JoyImagine having a perfectly normal life as a teenager. Your parents provide for your every need and desire because of their immense wealth, but they also lay out strong boundaries for what you can and can’t do. You’re not spoiled because of the discipline but you are unable to appreciate what you have because of the level of control.

In Runaways, a comic series created by writer Brian K. Vaughn and penciler Adrian Alphona, six could-be perfectly content teenagers living the American dream see everything they thought they knew destroyed in one night. It turns out their benevolent, kind, charitable parents are all high-powered supervillains in a team called The Pride. The parents meet once a year to renegotiate their pact and prepare for their children’s ascension into the ranks at 18. When the six teens, ranging from 12 to 17, witness the end of the yearly ritual, they vow to take their parents down and make them pay for their crimes.

That’s before the teens even realize they all have superpowers. From super intelligence to telepathy, magical weapon casting to instinctive mastery of high tech weapons, the Runaways quickly realize the challenge they face. They’re brand new to their powers. Their parents have spent a lifetime honing the skills their children just discovered. The only advantage they teens have is receiving the strongest traits of a pair of supervillains, allowing their powers to blossom very quickly. Continue reading

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #45: Relish by Lucy Knisley

15786110Since I transferred to reading mostly library books (boo for being a responsible adult with a not very disposable income), there haven’t been many books I’ve felt the need to buy after I’ve checked them out from the library. I’ve read 55 books so far this year, and the last one I can remember is from last year, and that was Where’d You Go, Bernadette. Oh, wait. And Attachments. Sigh. I will buy that book and I will take it down from my shelves periodically, smell the pages, and then pet it like a baby kitten. And I don’t even care that ‘baby kitten’ is redundant so shut your face. ANYWAY my point is that I need to own my very own copy of this book because it’s pretty and it makes me happy and it has recipes inside, so it’s like, HELLO, you are a good book and also there is food inside of you. Can we please get married now?

I’m not exactly sure how internet famous Lucy Knisley is, but I’ve been following her online comics for at least five years now, probably more, and her comics always have this great mix of whimsy and personal history. I always find myself nodding along in recognition when I’m reading them, like, yes, yes HOW DID YOU KNOW. Plus, she draws good cat. Not that there’s any cat in this book (to its detriment), but there is lots of food, it being a food memoir and all. In Relish, she chronicles her most vivid food-related memories with loving attention, painting lovely pictures of how food has been inextricably linked to important moments in her life. Plus, she’s funny.

With parents who were both foodies, and a mother who is a chef, she probably (definitely) had more exposure to classier types of food than most people, but she’s by no means a food snob, as is made clear by the chapter about her love of junk food (much to her parent’s disapproval). Even the more bittersweet parts of Knisley’s story (like her parent’s divorce) are tempered by the joy she obviously takes in both her art, and in her love of food. It’s a delicious book, in like every connotation of that word. If you like graphic memoirs or food, definitely check this out.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #38: A Game of Thrones: The Graphic Novel, Vol.1 by George R.R. Martin, adapted by Daniel Abraham & Tommy Patterson

14749457The first volume of the A Song of Ice and Fire graphic novel adaptations covers the first half of A Game of Thrones, the first book in the series. As Martin himself states in the intro, this is an adaptation of the book only, and has no relation to the HBO series (which is the shit). Actually, it sounds like certain things (like the design of the Iron Throne and the appearance of the characters) were deliberately differentiated from the series for legal reasons. All in all, I think I prefer the show’s version of Martin’s story to the graphic novel, but it was pretty good all the same.

Vol. 1 takes us from the first meeting of the Others, through Bran’s fall, the murder of Jon Arryn, the appointing of Ned as Hand of the King, Jon’s induction into the Night’s Watch, Dany’s marriage to Khal Drogo, and Catelyn’s flight to King’s Landing. The story was adapted by fantasy author Daniel Abraham (a former student of Martin’s who also writes urban fantasy and science fiction under pseudonyms), and he does a great job. It’s always hard to judge these sorts of things when you know the story so well (your brain just kind of fills in the missing pieces of the story that maybe wouldn’t make much sense to non-book readers), but it felt like there was nothing missing, despite that Abraham obviously had to cut a lot of material in order to cram hundreds of pages into a 200 page graphic novel. Another indication that this is a quality adaptation is that it never feels crammed.

Probably the only thing I had trouble with is the artwork. Martin chose Tommy Patterson out of hundreds of candidates, and while I don’t think anyone would dispute that he’s very talented, the way he portrays most of the characters irks me. Everyone is pointy and harsh, and they all have tiny eyes. To me, this makes everyone, even the ‘good guys’ look evil. But it was his women I had the biggest issue with. They all look the same, first of all, and same in this instance means skinny with slender faces, long hair and Barbie-type bodies. The men are at least somewhat differentiated and realistic looking (excepting Khal Drogo, who is monstrously large), but the women look like they all stepped out of some thirteen year old’s fantasy. I think a lot of this is just my vision of this world not matching up with the artist’s, but it was an issue for me, regardless of the cause.

Recommended for fans of the book or show. Wouldn’t necessarily recommend it for someone who’s never been exposed to the story before.

narfna’s #CBR5 Reviews #17-24: The Walking Dead, Vols. 1-8 by Robert Kirkman

Tv-Comics-Walking-Dead-Show-The-Walking-Dead-The following is a compilation of my reviews for The Walking Dead, volumes 1-8. Full reviews can be read by clicking at the bottom of each excerpt.

(In case you don’t want to read all of my reviews, here is a catchall one for you: Robert Kirkman’s zombies are disgusting and everything is bleak as fuck. The End.)

Vol. 1 — “Days Gone Bye”

So . . . it’s interesting sometimes to re-read things. Mostly when I do this I love whatever it is just as much as before; sometimes I love it more, but in a different way, depending on how old I am, the different experiences I’ve had since my last read, etc. But this is one of the rare cases where, due to a bunch of different factors mostly involving the TV show adaptation of The Walking Dead, my re-read of its source material has been colored in a mostly negative light. I definitely remember liking this for the most part (I can never full-on love something this disgusting and depressing), but this time through I found myself annoyed with a bunch of things that I didn’t even notice the first time through.

‘Days Gone Bye’ is the first volume in the seemingly never-ending The Walking Dead comic series. It follows cop Rick Grimes as he wakes up from a coma to find the world has gone to shit while he was sleeping. His hometown is virtually abandoned and destroyed, and the whole place is covered in zombies (most often referred to as ‘those things’). Throughout the course of the story, Rick meets random survivors on his way to Atlanta to find his wife and son, but when he gets there, he finds the entire city is chock full of zombies and barely escapes with his life. Luckily, the dude who saved him leads him back to a camp of survivors that just so happens to include his wife and son, along with his ex-partner, Shane. So now he’s found his family. From there, Rick has to learn to cope with a different kind of journey — just surviving in the awful world. At the beginning, he’s hopeful and always mentioning to people ‘when things get back to normal,’ but by the end, he’s taking a more pragmatic approach. What if things never get back to normal?

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Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review #8: Runaways Vol 8 by Joss Whedon

All hail Whedon! Or at least, that’s how I feel about it. His take on Runaways keeps true to the previous material but obviously uses his unique voice and talent for storytelling. This volume involves a road trip for our heroes, through time, and relationships will never be the same. They are faced with hard truths and tough decisions and the characters will have to live with the consequences.

And of course, because its Joss, prepare to have your heart strings briskly tugged and your funny bone thoroughly tickled.

Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review #7: Runaways Vol 2 and 3 by Brian K Vaughan

For the purposes of length, I’ve combined these two volumes because I feel guilty reading graphic novels. But hey, reading is reading!

These two volumes cover installments 2-7 of the series. The Runaways series sees our “heroes” trying to fend for themselves, right some wrongs, and navigate the grown-up world. Love the interaction with other classic characters, great humor, tender moments, and lots of conflicting emotions. Another great coming of age in a world where you really don’t fit it.