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Staff Picks: Books

Something New: Tales from a Makeshift Bride

 Summer is the perfect time for light reading, so I have another graphic novel to tell you all about! Lucy Knisley, an artist with a knack for turning her personal experiences into entertaining graphic memoirs, is back with Something New! Literally—that’s the name of the book

 

Knisley has written about the important role of food in her life, and some of her exciting travel adventures, but this time she’s covering her experiences grappling with the beautiful and incredibly stressful task of getting married. This lovely memoir includes many fun components, such as, a section on to buy, or DIY, how she and her husband met, and wedding traditions from around the world. I’d recommend this to book to anyone, whether they’re married, engaged, or single, because honestly, it’s just fun going on this wedding journey with Lucy Knisley.

Looking for more books by Lucy Knisley? Be sure to check out some of her other titles here. 


Maybe Something Beautiful: How Art Transformed A Neighborhood

Mira loves to "doodle, draw, color, and paint" so her room is filled with vibrant pictures that she created herself.  Her neighborhood, on the other hand, is dull and gray.  Until the day a muralist moved in.  Together the two of them set off to paint the town.

Based on a true story, this picture book is about the East Village neighborhood in San Diego.  It tells the story of a community that Rafael and Candace Lopez brings together and the creation of the Urban Art Trail.  Lopez (who is also the illustrator of the book) along with community leaders, teachers, artists, and residents worked together to turn their neighborhood into a walkable piece of art.  This picture book is an inspiring story with wonderful illustrations that young children will love.


Lane Smith’s “There Is a Tribe of Kids”

Lane Smith’s picture book titled: There Is a Tribe of Kids is both curious and educational, plus, it’s a reference book. Patrons have traditionally asked librarians questions such as: what do you call a group of this or that, whether it be animals (animal aggregations), or some other group. Familiar animal aggregations are: a school of fish, a flock of geese, pack of dogs, you get the idea. In Smith’s book, a lone child takes us on a journey from animal group to animal group and eventually to a group of children. Lane Smith’s illustrations are truly amazing and full of antics and delightful detail. Lane Smith has written and illustrated many children’s books, and Lane received a Caldecott Honor Award for Grandpa Green. He was named an Eric Carle Artist for “lifelong innovation in the field of children’s picture books” in 2012!

 


These Girls Pack a Punch!

 Do you need more dinosaurs, time travelers, and girl power in your life? If so, I have two fantastic graphic novels for you.  First up, is Paper Girls, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughn, the writer named by Wired Magazine as " the greatest comic book visionary of the last five years." This suspenseful mystery starts with a slow burn as four paper delivery girls head out to cover their route the morning after Halloween in 1988.  After the girls accidentally set off a strange machine, the story kicks off at break-neck speed, and soon the girls are facing off against dinosaurs, laser-blasting knights, and sub-human creatures that might just be from the future. It’s intense, fast-paced, wicked fun, and the series is only just beginning. 

 

Also, make sure to check out the Lumberjanes series by Grace Ellis and Noelle Stevenson. Lumberjanes follows five “hardcore lady types” spending the summer at a crazy camp surrounded by bizarre supernatural mysteries. The girls fight werewolves, solve riddles, and avoid the ever-watchful eye of their group counselor in this manic, off-beat, fantastic read. This series has been out for a while, but you can catch up on Hoopla digital.

Both of these series are a great mash-up of sci-fi, fantasy, action, and mystery with fabulous artwork. So what are you waiting for? 


Puppets from some of everything!

 To say that Ashley Bryan has been around for many years is an understatement. After all, he is only 92. His work has been recognized by many and he has been the recipient of many awards. The book Ashley Bryan’spuppets: making something from everything is not only full of amazing, clever and unique puppets but also full of great and thoughtful prose.        

Ashley Bryan grew up in NYC during the depression. He and his sister started salvaging for things they could reuse at a young age. He made his first puppet at age eleven. His puppets are made from tangled fishing nets, weathered bones, sea glass, and driftwood….whatever else he can find. He sees possibilities in all things. His characters and poems include Anansi: the trickster and storyteller, Kwesi: conquering strength (who looks like an elephant) and Animata: good character (made of shells and an upside down champagne glass as a crown).

Jojo: his storyteller says:

               In every finger of my glove I tap tall tales of peace and love

               The fingers of my well-gloved hands store stories told in foreign lands. 

I wish I could share every amazing and unique picture. But that would get me into trouble so I will suggest that you read this or one of his other fantastic books and you’ll see what I mean.


Not All Comic Book Characters Wear Capes

Graphic novels have a reputation for being all about superheroes and explosions, but they can be a really great format to tell more nuanced stories as well. I’d like to shine a spotlight on two evocative, character-focused, slice-of-life stories that really shine in a graphic novel format.

The first is a manga called Solanin by Inio Asano. The story follows Meiko, a recent college grad, and her friends a group of 20-somethings living in the background of a Japanese city. Over the course of the summer they grapple with all of the challenges of new adulthood: starting careers, finding their purpose in life, and how to break it to their parents that they’ve moved in with their boyfriend. Though the characters are Japanese, the themes are universal. Solanin is a novel with fantastic art work, and a story that will stay with me for a long time.

The second graphic novel is called Token by Alisa Kwitney, with illustrations by Joelle Jones. Token is a story about fifteen year old Shira Spektor, living in Miami, Florida in 1987. She lives with her father in an apartment building on South Beach, and spends most of her time with her best friend, a spunky 80-year-old woman who shoots straight from the hip. When her father starts dating his secretary, and the girls at school turn decidedly nasty, Shira turns to shoplifting. Just when she feels that there’s no one she can talk to, she meets a tall handsome stranger. She is falling in love for the first time just as everything else in her life seems to be falling apart. Token is fun, flirty, and timeless.

Both books have a lazy summer vibe perfect for the upcoming warmer months.


Vargic's Miscellany of Curious Maps: Mapping the Modern World

I've read a lot of books in my life, but I have never seen a book quite like this. Martin Vargic is an artist who is interested in how maps can convey information. He draws original maps not just of the physical world as it is, but of abstract concepts such as the Map of the Internet, and the Map of Literature. Each map includes an astonishing amount of detail and information, but at the same time is a work of art. 

In addition to the abstract maps, he also includes world maps that highlight diverse aspects of the world, such as obesity, the probability of being struck by lightening, and metal bands per capita (Finland has the most). 

This is a book that, if you let it, will take up hours of your time just looking at the details. Truly a strange and unique work of art. 


An Early Favorite for 2016

It’s not even mid-year but it is likely The Last Painting of Sara de Vos will be one of my top ten fiction books of the year.

Three continents, three centuries, three lives are linked by a rare 17th century painting. Add in art forgery, death, deception, and love from the Dutch countryside in the 1600s to an art collector in New York City in the 1950s to an art scholar in Sydney, Australia in 2000 for an enthralling novel.

Although there are no illustrations, I can see in my mind the painting in question, “At the End of the Wood,” from the vivid description.

I’m recommending this book to all my reading friends. Look for it on my “Best of 2016” list in the late fall.

 


IN WHOSE NAME?

The Iranian photographer Abbas has been taking emblematic and emotionally charged photographs since the 1970’s. Often focusing on world religions and politics, Abbas’s latest collection, IN WHOSE NAME?, points the lens at the Islamic world after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States. The 173 black-and-white photographs made by Abbas in 16 countries over a seven-year period represent a unique perspective on the Islamic world that attempts to overcome the implicit bias of western politics and attitudes and to present the subjects and situations as they were found and without judgment. The photographs are striking and thought provoking on a number of levels and the included honest and raw journal entries from the photographer only add to the dramatic effect.


The Kinfolk Home

Kinfolk is a popular magazine and website for those who possess a minimalist approach to architecture, interior design and life style consumption, or at the very least, for those who aspire to integrate a bit of thoughtfully designed simplicity and elegance into their living and working spaces. Author Nathan Williams has collected several images and a small amount of background text on over 30 individuals and families from Japan, Europe and The United States. For those browsing only for the images, there’s lots of Scandinavian designed furniture, white walls, natural light, wood floors, large fig plants, and austere use of color—all of it inside of highly manicured and curated homes and apartments. As someone who leans toward such an approach to design, I found this book endlessly helpful in offering up ideas and examples of spaces sparsely adorned yet beautiful in their arrangement.