Thursday, September 29, 2011

A life in images: 5 graphic novel memoirs

"When I put together a graphic novel, I don't think about literary prose. I think about storytelling."
- Ted Rall

I find graphic novel memoirs endlessly fascinating. They're an open invitation for us to literally view the author's life history as seen through their own eyes. It is an honour that I am ever mindful of. Sometimes the journey is challenging. Sometimes it's awkward and uncomfortable. Sometimes it's hugely inspiring. Sometimes it's devastatingly sad. Sometimes it's incredibly hopeful. Always, always they are a revelation. Earlier this month I read Alyson Blechdel's Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic in relation to another Comic Book Month post. Blechdel's bittersweet yet darkly funny memoir made me wonder what other graphic novels we had that were autobiographical which, of course, led me here. I've read quite a few over the last few days and the ones that I've chosen to list from #1 - #5 are ones I'd never heard of until this month. All of those in listed as further recommendations are either ones I'd read, read about, or had recommended to me by friends and colleagues. And so I give you - A life in images: 5 graphic novel memoirs.

Query: Have you read any of the titles below?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

5 GLBTQ graphic novels you might not know we have (that I've read and enjoyed recently)

List by Tosca

"My sexuality is a part of me that I really like. But it's not the totality of me."
- Portia de Rossi

A message on our work tweetstream the other month made me realise that I take my sexuality for granted. I often tweet funny haha (and sometimes funny weird) romance book covers and titles I've seen or am reading at the time, but it's only just occurred to me recently that all of those books feature male/female characters. In my taken-for-granted-mostly-straightness I hadn't considered that before. I'm guessing that the reason for that is because my sexuality is much like my gender, or my name, or seeing my face in the mirror each morning (messy hair, bad breath and all): it's not something I consciously think about. I don't say to myself each morning, "My name is Tosca, I'm a female and I'm bisexual." It just is. So I set a personal goal to celebrate Comic Book Month by requesting and reading a whole bunch of graphic novels featuring gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (GLBTQ) characters. Some of my books were parts of series (such as Strangers in Paradise by Terry Moore, Love and Rockets by Jaime and Gilbert Hernandez, Alison Bechdel and various manga series like Antique Bakery and Ghost talker's daydream). Some were standalone titles. All of them exceptionally beautiful in their own way.

This isn't one of our tongue-in-cheek top 5 lists, after all, why would you rate someone's sexuality? It's more in the manner of highlighting parts of our collection you might not know about. Possibly I haven't listed titles that you expected or hoped to find here, and I'm more than willing to read any recommendations you leave as a comment. It was exceptionally hard to limit myself to such a small number but, here it is, my list of 5 GLBTQ graphic novels that I read recently and enjoyed. Viva la Comic Book Month!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Top 5 best graphic novels of the decade, 2000-2009 (according to Sean Edgar and Gib Bickel)

List by Sean Edgar and Gib Bickel of PasteMagazine,.com

We've been celebrating Comic Book Month throughout September and I've heard such great things about the events and challenges that have taken place. I held my own mini-celebration and read what amounted to a graphic novel a day in an effort to find authors and styles I could get a feeling for (there'll be a post about that in a couple of days or so). Sounds a bit woo woo but, relatively speaking, I'm still a newbie to graphic novels. Or maybe I mean a born again, I'm not sure. Years ago I read comics my parents would buy me as a kid and then, somewhere up until about five years ago, there's a big blank because I fell out of touch with them. When I moved to Manurewa Library and took over the young adult bookclub, twin brothers Israel and Isaac tried to teach me how to read a manga book. I still haven't quite gotten the knack of it yet but I do keep it up. (I'd like to point out that they didn't introduce me to yaoi. I managed to do that, with somewhat mixed feelings about it, on my own). As a result of their love of graphic novels I'm constantly on the lookout for recommendations. Until I know what I might/might not like I'm more than happy to try any and all suggestions, which is where this list by Edgar/Bickel comes in. So *rubs hands in anticipation* I've requested all of their top 5 and can't wait to read them! Enough about me, let's get on with the top 5 best graphic novels of the decade, 2000-2009, according to Sean Edgar and Gib Bickel of Paste Magazine :)

Honourable mention:
  • Ghost world / Daniel Clowes
  • All-star Superman. [Vol. 1] / Grant Morrison
  • Jimmy Corrigan : the smartest kid on earth / Chris Ware
  • Scott Pilgrim. Vol. 1, Scott Pilgrim's precious little lie / Bryan Lee O'Malley
  • Fables : the deluxe edition. Book one / Bill Willingham, writer ; Lan Medina ... [et al.] - In case you didn't know, Bill Willingham will be in New Zealand for Armageddon Expo 2011. FTW!

  • Thursday, September 22, 2011

    Top 5 Mills & Boon covers I've seen this week

    List by Tosca

    "The decision to kiss for the first time is the most crucial in any love story. It changes the relationship of two people much more strongly than even the final surrender; because this kiss already has within it that surrender."
    - Emil Ludwig

    Mills & Boon have changed their covers! They're now purple. Boldly purple. And I'm noticing that more and more of them have actual people on the covers. A few years back I saw that they'd started to feature real people (real models, I guess?) on the covers. I remember at the time asking another young library assistant, "Is that supposed to make me think it can happen to real people? Just like in the stories?" Both of us looked rather doubtful. I'm still not sure. Does anyone else know why they swapped out painted posed people for happy smiley people? I'm not complaining, I'm just wondering.

    Tuesday, September 20, 2011

    Top 5 bestselling paperback graphic novels, Sept. 25 - Oct. 02 (according to NY Times)

    List by NY Times

    Onehunga Community Library celebrating Comic Book Month 2011 We've been celebrating Comic Book Month throughout September with superhero storytimes, cos play, art workshops, creating your own comic books, mask making and trivia challenges. The feedback I've heard - from staff and participants - is that it has been all kinds of crazy-good! Don't take my word for it, if you have a few spare minutes, take time to check out Onehunga Library's Cosplay 2011 YouTube clip. Their celebration of all things comic book is fantastic :)

    I'm working an another couple of Comic Book Month posts so keep an eye out for those. Until then, enjoy this quick list that that highlights a few popular paperback graphic novel titles that are on the New York Times Best Sellers list at the moment.

    Monday, September 19, 2011

    5 books I'm reading to Mr 7 tonight to celebrate 'Talk Like a Pirate Day'

    List by Tosca

    "And don’t they wear the bulliest clothes! Oh no! All gold and silver and diamonds," said Joe, with enthusiasm."
    The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

    Shiver me timbers, it's Talk Like a Pirate Day! It was the first thing on my mind this morning and, thanks to a few picture books I've grabbed off the shelves, will probably be the last thing on my mind tonight. My nephew Kalani - or Mr 7 as I call him - loves pirates. Adores them in all their glory, even with (especially with?) their blackened teeth, questionable bathing habits and general grumpiness. So grab up your best stuffed parrot (?) and your sparkliest eyepatch as I give you...5 pirate books that little lads and lasses will enjoy!

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    Top 5 titles for Roald Dahl Day

    List by three librarians, two kids and a library systems analyst

    September 13 is Roald Dahl Day, the birthday of the master storyteller, and a great day for remembering all the fun we've had from his fabulous tales over the years. Each book is like a juicy, magical banquet of the unexpected. With his playful language and wild imagination, his fun-poking sense of humour and his gleefully sinister side, the stories read just as well if you're revisiting them as an adult. For kids, he has a way of showing both the things you want the most in your secret heart, as well as the faces of your truest fears, like being bullied by a particularly vindictive teacher, or being at the mercy of the arbitrary whims of adults.

    Happy Roald Dahl Day! For more Dahlish celebrations, why not hop onto the 'Follow that Peach' website and launch your own paper or virtual peach out into the world, joining over 2,000 peaches already in transit in order to celebrate the 50th anniversary of James and the Giant Peach!

    Top 5 classic musicals on DVD

    List by Annie

    "They teach you there's a boundary line to music. But man, there's no boundary line to art."
    - Charlie Parker

    Thanks to my mum, I have an ingrained love of classic musicals. Thanks to my dad, I also laugh at them.

    These are my favourite musicals I could re-watch again and again. And can sing many of the songs.

    Honourable mentions:
  • Darby O'Gill and the little people [DVD videorecording] / directed by Robert. An old storyteller falls into a well and meets a group of leprechauns. The leprechauns give him three wishes to get his life together - YouTube link: This has a signing Sean Connery!
  • Paint your wagon [DVD videorecording] / directed by Joshua Logan. The story of a goldmining boom town centering on the work-and-play partnership of two miners and the wife they share - YouTube link: Lee Marvin AND Clint Eastwood singing...
  • Seven brides for seven brothers [DVD videorecording] / directed by Stanley Donen. Adam, the eldest of seven brothers, goes to town to get a wife. He convinces Milly to marry him that same day. They return to his backwoods home. Only then does she discover he has six brothers -- all living in his cabin. Milly sets out to reform the uncouth siblings, who are anxious to get wives of their own. Then, after reading about the Roman capture of the Sabine women, Adam develops an inspired solution to his brothers' loneliness . . . kidnap the women they want! - YouTube link: The barn dance is amazing!

  • Thursday, September 8, 2011

    1,001 reasons to love kid's books, chocolate, songs, video games and albums

    List by Tosca

    "A good decision is based on knowledge and not on numbers."
    - Plato

    What if you had knowledge *and* numbers in the one book? 1,001 numbers, to be exact, with the accompanying 1,001 pieces of information to go with them? And if you were crazy enough to request and read 5 such books, well, those are some phenomenal numbers right there. My brain is crazy-jam-packed-full of bits of trivia and recommendations after the reading fest of the last four or five days. When I had the idea to do this list I thought it would be a relatively easy-ish thing to do: search the catalogue, request whatever interests me, read and add/not add. Foolish, foolish thought. Choosing which titles to request was hard enough but trying to play favourites with them was worse. I had to discount a whole heap because they weren't quite as interesting to me as I thought they'd be (golf? Really?!) or, really, were too 'highbrow' for my tastes (I think Mr. 7's fingerpaintings are a wonder to behold). I'm not a classy kind of person. Now I have a huge list of kids' books to re-read, chocolates to try, songs and albums to locate and listen to and video games to hunt down. Eek!

    Also, I apologise for my absurdly long and somewhat dizzy version of 'honourable mentions.' And to the librarians who had to round up these enormous books to send them to me, thank you so much! And no, Sue, I'm not creating a bucketlist :) Well, not yet, anyway...

    Wednesday, September 7, 2011

    5 books about glaucoma

    List by Tosca

    "He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed."
    - Albert Einstein

    Four years ago I made an optometrist appointment. It wasn't meant to be anything more than an annual check up to make sure my eyes were in good health and that I didn't need stronger glasses. Imagine my surprise when I was told by my optometrist that they suspected I might have glaucoma. It was unexpected. And I did not react well. In an effort to understand what, until now, had merely been a word I'd read in a book, I interrogated the poor doctor seven ways from Sunday. In some ways that was a waste of time because the only words I heard over and over were 'blindness' and optic nerves' and 'damaged.' We agreed that I'd come back in a week for another appointment and put my eyes through every possible test we could to make sure it wasn't an anomaly.

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Top 5 loveable rogues

    List by Danielle

    "I only got myself/And this big old world/But I sip that cup of life/With my fingers curled"
    ~ lyrics from Thomas O'Malley Cat, from the Aristocats

    This list was inspired while watching tv with the kids over breakfast; (trying to avoid) watching Alvin and the Chipmunks: the squeakuel, to be precise. (I have just requested the soundtrack on the urging of my eager 5 year old, and am full of inner glee that I'm not the one who drops her off to school, which is when it'll get played.) High point of the morning's viewing was noticing that Zachary Levi plays the 'hapless human' in this round of chipmunkish hijinks; also known for his TV role of Chuck, you might know him better as Flynn Rider (or should that be Eugene Fitzherbert) from the recent Rapunzel flick, Tangled.

    When I saw Tangled, I thought that Disney (and Zachary Levi) had really got it right - he was the epitome of 'loveable rogue'. Full of equal amounts of eye-twinkling charisma and the ability to really irritate, flippant even in the face of certain danger, pulling chaos behind him like a kite, and bursting with schemes and plans and a passion for life. He might take a cynical view to humanity in the abstract, but when he finds that one special person to infiltrate his well-guarded heart, he would risk anything to protect them. I think that's where the 'loveable' part comes alive for me - watching someone with a serious survival instinct battle with the ferocious loyalty and compassion lurking deep down.

    Tosca, feel free to step in if I sound too much like I'm writing copy for the back of a Silhouette title!

    Loveable rogues. SIGH.

    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Annie's top 5 nonfiction for interested amateurs

    List by Annie

    "His theory was that non-fiction could be as artful as fiction."
    - Gerald Clarke

    I like reading non-fiction. On almost any subject. Memoirs. Science. History. Forensics. I’m a complete documentary-watching addict.

    Over the years I’ve read quite a lot of non-fiction. And these are my fav non-fiction reads for interested amateurs.

    Like me, the selection is eccentric and eclectic. Feel more than welcome to shout me down. Or discuss in an enthusiastic manner. Mind you, my top 5 might be different next month.
    ~ Annie

    Friday, September 2, 2011

    Top 5 things I hope Mr. 7 gets out of Keri Smith's book

    List by Tosca and all about the book How to be an explorer of the world : portable life museum by Keri Smith

    "WARNING: To whoever has just picked up this book. If you find that you are unable to use your imagination, you should put this book back immediately. It is not for you. In this book you will be repeatedly asked to... suspend your disbelief, complete tasks that make you feel a bit strange, look at the world in ways that make you think differently, conduct experiments on a regular basis, and see inanimate objects as alive."
    - Back of book How to be an explorer of the world : portable life museum by Keri Smith

    The other day I found what I think is the best kids nonfiction book to end all best kids nonfiction books. (At least until the next one comes along that I love times infinity). What book? How to be an explorer of the world : portable life museum by Keri Smith. Why? Because it is awesomeness personified. This is the kind of book I have been looking for/praying for/waiting for. I'm going to use it as a way to get Mr. 7 off the sofa, out of the house and into the big, scary outside world. Sometimes I believe he isn't curious enough. Other times he's too adventurous by half. In this age of instant gratification where an answer to everything is an app's distance away (or a Google search's distance away) I worry that he will lose the sense of curiosity and wonder that he used to have when he was five. I feel sometimes that he has become slightly jaded and cynical and I want him back the way he used to be, back to that time when every little thing was new and exciting and surprising. I want him to live a life outside of the interwebs and Sky TV, and to know that sometimes the best way of getting answers is to live the journey of finding them for yourself. Sounds somewhat existential, fluffy and frou frou? I did vaguely think so...and then three things happened: 1) I read the blurb for this book and 2) I took it home and discussed it with Mr. 7 and 3) he wanted to try some of the activities straight away. He even asked me for a few things to help out, namely a digicam, an extension on his half-hour daily computer time and permission to start a blog to put up his 'doings' (as he called them). The digicam is not a problem. He's 7 so I figure a cheap little cam is an easy enough thing to purchase and, should he develop an interest in photography, it's a great starting point and then, when he's a little older, we'll buy him something better. Extending his daily allotment of computer time...I'm not so sure about that. His theory is that he still needs computer time for 'play' and that it shouldn't be confused with 'experimenting.' My response to that is perhaps he should learn to use what time he does get a little more wisely, and I think now is as good a time as any for him to learn that sometimes 'experimenting' IS 'play.' Currently, it's a stalemate, and we'll have to talk about that a little more. The third request - permission to start a blog - that's not so easy. A lot of places have age restrictions and, really, that's fair enough. I'm currently considering a couple of alternatives: 1) that we use my personal blog to post his findings (which I don't like the idea of and neither does he) or 2) somehow I incorporate them in to our Top 5 blog as a kind of a guest post (something along the lines of 5 things he thought of/discovered/enjoyed about particular activities he chooses). I had initially envisioned a scrapbook full of his findings. He sees it as having a place online, as well. Maybe we're both right. Maybe we're both wrong. Maybe the best option will be somewhere in between the two. Either way I am OH SO HAPPY that he's excited about trying this book on for size. Rain permitting we're going to start this weekend. And fit in a side trip to the Auckland Art Gallery (which re-opens this weekend). So, what do I want him to get out of this book?

    Top 5 wild, weird Western crossovers

    List by Danielle

    "The first thing you find out when yer dog learns to talk is that dogs don't got nothing much to say."
    ~ The first line of 'The knife of never letting go', by Patrick Ness

    Wikipedia goes into loving detail about some of the newfangled flavours of Western out there, from the Weird West or Science Fiction Western (which seems to have a more historical setting, albeit one that plays fabulously fast and loose with real history, see 'Cowboys vs Aliens' or Cherie Priest's award-winning steampunk westerns) to the Space Western, in my heart always associated with by Joss Whedon's wonderful (and forever shiny!) 'Firefly' and 'Serenity'. Okay, the boundaries of these sub-genres are as fluid and fiddly as most genre distinctions seem to be, but the lists of films, TV, graphic novels and books cited show that there's some exciting storytelling to be exploring, out on the frontiers.

    Thursday, September 1, 2011

    Top 5 most requested titles for August 2011

    List by Natalie and Tosca

    Happy September, everyone! After the serious tone of my last post I'm going to opt for something a little less hard on my brain and keep it light (but not fluffy) and offer up the top 5 most requested books for the month of August. I'm seven shades of happy to see that teen/kids books are sitting comfortably in 4 of the 5 spots on today's list. 3 books also have film tie-ins. Ooh, and before I forget, our new books lists are up and ready for you to go crazy reading and requesting! Enjoy :)