Thursday, June 13, 2013

Graphic By Nature

This is the place for graphic novel reviews, but you won't find any traditional superheroes here. If you're like me, you enjoy your comics funny, strange, and sometimes a little dark. But you also value an interesting story and captivating illustration. Sounds like you? Check out the review below.

Photo credit: Capstone Young Readers

Rudyard Kipling's Just So Comics: Tales of the World's Wildest Beasts is the graphic novel adaptation of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories. The graphic novel has been beautifully illustrated by Pedro Rodriguez as his style is reminiscent of Disney's The Lion KingAn outstanding team of writers at Capstone worked their magic on the original stories by artfully maintaining the feel of Kipling's writing while bringing new life to the text to create a graphic novel that is both unique and fun.

Rodriguez's use of color transports the reader to from Sub-Saharan Africa to the Red Sea to India through a safari of color. The drawings are whimsical but not so cartoonish that both parent and child can't enjoy them as the panels flow easily from one to the next. 

Author Rudyard Kipling illustrated the original Just So Stories in 1902, upon the book's first publishing. His pictures are in black and white with fine lines like pen and ink drawings. They are exquisite in their own right, as if you could take the individual panels, frame them, and hang them in your home as pieces of art.

Just So Comics has adapted four of the original thirteen stories:
  • How the Leopard Got His Spots
  • How the Elephant Got His Trunk
  • How the Rhinoceros Got His Skin
  • How the Camel Got His Hump

Each story is broken up into three parts. It starts with "Research" that includes a picture of the animal as well as facts about where he's from, what he eats, and what types of animals he hangs out with. The next section is entitled "Kipling's Observation" and recounts the way in which the animal has evolved. This section ends with the poem originally associated with the story. The third and final section, "Conclusion," shares facts and a drawing of the new and improved animal.

The stories are imagined versions of each animal's origin. Author-turned-explorer Rudyard Kipling is your guide -- he's the narrator that occasionally butts in, keeps things moving, and provides the reader with useful bits information along the way. Each tale is silly and fun -- a joy to read. There was more than one laugh-out-loud moment while flipping through the pages and I often caught myself smiling. While the graphic novel is aimed at grades 3 - 6 (8 - 11 year olds), there are tidbits thrown in for adults. This would make for good reading together, parent and child, either one story at a time or all in one sitting.


Bookshelf. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Just So Comics. It was colorful and clever. The comic stands on its own despite being an updated version of the renown Rudyard Kipling's Just So Stories. If you have a young reader in your home, this demands a place on your shelf.

*A copy of Rudyard Kipling's Just So Comics: Tales of the World's Wildest Beasts was provided by the publisher, Capstone Young Readers, via

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Book Association

Last week we linked our book selection Solaris with George Clooney movie adaptations that were previously books (for the silly factor). This time let's link up Solaris with other books that classic science fiction tales. 

After a war kills millions and brings some species to extinction, it becomes a status symbol to own animals. If you can't afford that, there's always an android cat that will never barf in your shoes. 

After Griffin creates a tonic that renders him invisible, he begins to slip into madness. Probably from the lack of ladies locker rooms in the late 1800's in which to utilize his newfound attribute. 

What's a sci-fi list without some aliens? In 1999 a group of scientists uncover a message from seemingly intelligent life and travel into deep space to meet the unknown beings.

Since the list can't go on forever, what are some of your favorite classic science fiction tales?

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Tator Tuesdays

Every week we interview our Tators and ask them bookish questions.  This week's question:

What is your all-time favorite book title? 



Chelsea Handler’s Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea -- it always makes me laugh.



From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The title is so funny and somewhat long, and it's probably my favorite.  

Do you have any favorite book titles?

The 82nd annual California Book Awards Recap

I mentioned the California Book Awards event in the Book It post for June. The Book Awards began on June 11, 1931 -- 82 years ago -- in an effort by the Commonwealth Club of California to foster literature within the state. The California Book Awards have recognized some 500 authors -- John Steinbeck being one as he was awarded three gold medals.

"It is the continuing  goal of the book awards jury to find the best California writers for a particular year and to illuminate the wealth and diversity of California literature."

The event was charged with excitement and the room was full of authors and their families. The writers were very gracious in accepting their awards.  After all of the awards were handed out, authors were available to chat and sign books. I was surprised how accessible everyone was -- even Pulitzer Prize winning author, Adam Johnson, answered questions as he autographed. I spoke briefly with Mariah K. Young; surprise and gratitude were written all over her face. It was a lot of fun and I highly recommend that you attend next year. Oh -- and you should expect your TBR list to grow exponentially.

Photo credit: Heyday Books
Photo credit: (USA)

I'm currently in the middle of reading Masha'allah and Other Stories by Mariah K. Young, winner of the silver medal in nonfiction. Before the Book Awards began, I purchased a copy of God's Hotel: A Doctor, A Hospital, and A Pilgrimage to the Heart of Medicine by Dr. Victoria Sweet, winner of the gold medal in nonfiction. Both are books I'm enjoying tremendously.

Each winner gave a brief speech, all of which were compelling. But I walked away very curious about three books in particular: Marissa Moss' A Soldier's Secret: The Incredible True Story of Sarah Edmonds, a Civil War Hero; Ken and Melanie Light's Valley of Shadows and Dreams; and Jennifer DuBois' A Partial History of Lost Causes

Photo credit: ABRAMS
Moss' book was inspired by the many women who fought in the Civil War, of which there were around 400. When she heard the story of Sarah Edmonds, she was intrigued. The more she learned, the more she wrote, and Sarah's story came to life. It sounds like the perfect book for young girls looking to connect with history. A Soldier's Secret is a book I would have loved as a young reader.

Photo credit: Heyday Books

Ken and Melanie Light are a husband and wife team -- he's a photographer and she's a journalist. Both talented in their own right, they teamed up to tell the stories of immigrants living and working in the Central Valley of California. It's a topic close to my own heart as I focused my studies on immigration from Latin America while in college. You can get a peek into their work over at Newsweek. Ken and Melanie won an award for their contribution to publishing.

Photo credit: Randomhouse, Inc.

Jennifer DuBois' A Partial History of Lost Causes was chosen as one of O, The Oprah Magazine's top ten books of the year and was named one of the National Book Foundation's 5 Under 35 authors. And this is her debut novel. But it was Jennifer's explanation of what inspired the book that piqued my interest. She said it was Garry Kasparov's failed presidential run coupled with watching her mother care for her Alzheimer's stricken father that served as the basis for the book. If that isn't curiously compelling, I'm not sure what is.

So who's going with me next year?

Note: I live tweeted the event on a whim. If you're interested in checking it out, please click here. Pictures included! You can find a complete list of winners on the California Book Awards page

California Book Awards image credit: Commonwealth Club of California.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Literary Loot

Per usual, my Literary Loot is a mishmash of books from a variety of places. I'm excited about this haul, nonetheless.

My sweet haul!
Source: Heather Varanini

I found Postcards from a Dead Girl at Alexander Book Company when I popped in to pick up a title in preparation for the 82nd annual California Book Awards. It was in the bargain bin with a $3.99 sticker on the front. Score! I also picked up Mariah K. Young's collection of fictional short stories, Masha'allah and Other Stories, to bring with me to the Book Awards. I like short stories because good ones pack a lot of punch into a small amount of pages -- a feat I don't imagine is easy. While at the Commonwealth Club of California for the Book Awards event, I picked up another winner -- God's Hotel by Victoria Sweet. It is the collection of stories and insights from Dr. Sweet's twenty years working at Laguna Honda Hospital in San Francisco. My family has been involved in health care for over fifty years, spanning more than three generations. I'm eager to read God's Hotel and share it with my family.

I was thrilled when my copy of The Year of the Gadfly arrived in the mail. I purchased it as part of the Togather Chat with Jennifer Miller event organized by our very own ShelfTator, Angie. Author Jennifer Miller is trying to attend a record-setting number of book clubs -- she's aiming for 100 book clubs in 30 days! If you would like to be part of The Month of the Gadfly, please join our event by clicking this link.

And now we're down to the book I most look forward to reading this year: Kevin Powers' The Yellow Birds. I found this gem on sale at Target. It's the fictional account of two young soldiers trying to stay alive while fighting in Iraq and the subsequent attempt to adjust to life after they return home. This is the author's debut novel and it's hard not to draw parallels between his story and the one at the center of the novel -- Powers himself is an Iraq war veteran. A PBS interview with the author included a part in which he reads from the book. The passage conveys a sense of struggle between being called a hero and remembering the horrors of war. It reminded me of things I heard my grandfather say about his time fighting in the Pacific Theatre of World War II. You can watch the interview on PBS by clicking here.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

LitStarter: Bringing You the Best in Bookish Projects

Welcome to another installment of Lit Starter! This is a regular look at some of my favorite projects discovered through two popular crowd funding websites: Kickstarter and Indiegogo. The featured projects will be related to literature and comics, but not limited to publishing or writing projects.

This week, we're featuring The Leaning Girl Translated Graphic Novel Project by Steve Smith of Alaxis Press. There is a French graphic novel series entitled The Obscure Cities that began in the late 1980s and continues today. Only five books in the series have been translated into English, but the translations stopped after 2002. As a fan of the series Steve Smith wanted to see all of the graphic novels translated into English and published.

Smith is asking for $30,000 in order to cover the production costs of the first book, The Leaning Girl. Smith has been involved in the publishing industry for over 30 years and has done his homework. The same company that produces the European editions has been hired to produce the English editions for this project. Smith has purchased the rights, paid publishing advances, and received blessings from the creators -- the artist, François Schuiten, and writer, Benoît Peeters.  Smith has already completed the translation himself.

What drew me to the project wasn't just Smith's passion for making The Obscure Cities available to English-speaking audiences, or the promise of beautiful artwork and an intriguing story, but the involvement from the original creators. They're featured in the Kickstarter video and create a more dynamic view of what the project is and what it aims to do. It's clear that the relationship between Smith, Schuiten, and Peeters is a close one and an integral part of why this Kickstarter will be a success.

From left to right, François Schuiten, Steve Smith, and Benoît Peeters, posing for a picture in La Grande-Place de Bruxelles. 
 You can learn more about Alaxis Press and The Obscure Cities by visiting the website.

Photo credit: Steve Smith.