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  • Brian Boone 2:30 pm on 2018/04/12 Permalink
    Tags: , , , ranking roald, , , the classics   

    A Definitive Ranking of the Children’s Books of Roald Dahl 

    When it comes to novels written for kids featuring characters who are kids, Roald Dahl ranks among the best of the best, sharing the status of all-time great with the likes of Beverly Clearly, Judy Blume, and J.K. Rowling. The British author (1916–1990) wrote enough classics to keep a fifth grader busy for months, specializing in tales of often absurd adventure peopled with appealing characters dealing with extraordinary circumstances in believable ways. Dahl knew his audience so very well, and gave them what they wanted without ever patronizing them: a mixture of heart, action, drama, scariness, humor, and, of course, the fantastical. Here then is our highly scientific ranking, of Roald Dahl’s many books for children, from least best (but still wonderful) to most wonderful of all. (We didn’t include any of those silly ones he wrote for grownups here.)

    The Magic Finger (1964)
    Sometimes it takes a writer a while to find their voice. That’s certainly the case with Dahl’s The Magic Finger. It’s a well-meaning if didactic morality tale that serves as a sweet taste of the fun that’s to come. It concerns the Greggs, a family of duck hunters, and the girl next door who simply won’t have that. Unfortunately for the family of hunters, the girl has a magic finger, and when she gets fed up after one of their hunting trips, it acts up and turns the Greggs into ducks themselves.

    George’s Marvelous Medicine (1981)
    A sharp kid named George tries to get revenge on his mean grandmother by replacing her medicine with a concoction of his own making, a mixture of toiletries, floor polish, horseradish, gin, pet meds, antifreeze, and brown paint. He gives it to his grandma, and instead of, you know, killing her, it makes her grow into a giant. George’s parents get so excited, they have him feed it to their chickens. Another medicine shrinks the grandmother into nothingness, and…yeah, kids, don’t try this at home.

    Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator (1972)
    Did you know that there’s a sequel to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, one of the best novels ever written (which not surprisingly ranks very high on this list; see below)? It’s not quite as indelible as its predecessor—which relies heavily on the elements of surprises and the wonder of discovery, which are hard to hit twice in one world—but it’s definitely a curiosity and worth a read to get just a little more Willy Wonka in your life. It’s basically Charlie and the Chocolate Factory in space, which is…pretty darn hard to resist, now that we think about it.

    The Giraffe and the Pelly and Me (1985)
    Dahl always knew what kids wanted, from both life and books: candy. Lots and lots of candy. The story of Charlie and his Golden Ticket isn’t the only sweet tale Dahl ever wrote. This story is about a little boy who teams up with a giraffe and a pelican (the pelly) to start a window-cleaning company, which he parlays—along with some bouts of heroism—into a shot at running his own candy store. (And yes, the book itself is actually quite delicious.)

    Danny, the Champion of the World (1975)
    Probably Dahl’s most personal work is this tender and touching story of a boy and his widowed father that mixes in Dahl’s beloved “us vs. them” sensibility. Also, Dahl seems to have changed his tune about hunting, because the plot mostly concerns Danny and his dad hunting pheasants on land explicitly owned by someone who doesn’t allow it. There’s a lot of bird drugging and killing in this book, but also a lot of parental bonding, and it takes a fascinating look into life in a Roma caravan.

    The Twits (1980)
    Reportedly inspired by his deep hatred and mistrust of beards—Dahl would’ve despised Portland—The Twits is about one of those old couples who have been together so long they both hate each other and couldn’t live without each other. They’re gross, disgusting, ugly people filled with ugly thoughts and feelings who spend their time playing cruel pranks on each other and tormenting birds, until one day they’re finally outwitted by Muggle-Wump, a kind monkey and his family. It’s a gritty, almost Seussian fairy tale in which the good guys and bad guys are clearly defined, and all that’s supposed to happen does.

    The Enormous Crocodile (1978)
    While Dahl usually eschewed the traditional children’s book conceit of anthropomorphized animals to tell parables about human nature in favor of peopling his stories with people, he occasionally used animals, with all of their brutality and bluntness, to get his point across. Take The Enormous Crocodile, essentially a book about standing up to bullies and giving them a taste of their own medicine. The titular animal is a right nasty fellow, the kind of guy who eats children and brags about it. But his tormenting ways are about to be over, when the other animals conspire to trap him and then literally throw him into the sun. Yeah, that’s what you get, Enormous Crocodile!

    The Vicar of Nibbleswicke (1991)
    Has anything ever had a more British-sounding title than The Vicar of Nibbleswicke? Published in 1991, after Dahl’s death, the book had a noble purpose: to raise awareness and sympathy for people with dyslexia, and proceeds benefitted dyslexia-related charities. That said, the story itself is a sweet one, about a small-town reverend named Robert Lee who has a (fictional) kind of dyslexia that makes him say the most important word in every sentence backward, which leads to amusing comical misunderstandings. There’s a cure, however: walking backward.

    The Minpins (1991)
    This marks Dahl’s final published children’s book, going to print a few months after his death in November 1990. And it’s the book Dahl should have published long earlier, because it’s a straight-up fairy forest adventure we all knew he had in him. A proto-Spiderwick Chronicles, it’s about a little boy named Billy who is forbidden from hanging out in the Forest of Sin, which just so happens to be in the backyard, what with all of the Hornswogglers, Snozzwanglers, Whangdoodles, and other Dahltastically named creatures said to live back there. Billy goes, of course, especially since the actual Devil tricks him into it, promising scores of wild strawberries. What boy can say no to forest adventures and wild strawberries? Or an alliance with the fantastical Minpins?

    The BFG (1982)
    This book is as friendly, gentle, and playful as its title character—“BFG” stands for “big friendly giant.” It’s about how the things we ought to fear at first sight are nothing to fear at all, and how everybody has a bit of humanity in them, as well as a story to tell. Sophie is an orphan who late one night spots a giant, and follows him to his giant cave. She fears she’ll be eaten, but the BFG explains that he’s, like, the only giant who doesn’t eat people. A fast, tender, and unlikely friendship develops, one that fuels a story turn nobody saw coming: Sophie and the BFG get the Queen on board for a huge plan to catch all the bad giants.

    Esio Trot (1990)
    It’s like a romantic comedy meets Three’s Company…for kids! A tenant of a normal-seeming contemporary apartment building, lonely old Mr. Hoppy, is in love with downstairs neighbor Mrs. Silver, but she’s too focused on her pet tortoise, Alfie, for romance. Alfie won’t grow, and Mrs. Silver doesn’t know why…so Mr. Hoppy buys a series of tortoises of increasingly larger size to make Mrs. Silver happy. And, because this is a romance, these bizarre, outsized gestures actually work. Take note, kids: If you love somebody, buy them turtles. (BTW: “Esio Trot” is an anagram of “tortoise.”)

    James and the Giant Peach (1961)
    Where would children’s literature, especially British literature, be without the gift of orphans? So many orphans! It’s a nice literary device that gets a kid away from the confines of home and safety and on to doing things like, well, traveling the world inside a giant peach. After rhinos eat his parents (it happens), James goes to live with his mean aunts, until a Jack and the Beanstalk–type situation emerges, producing a house-sized peach. James foils the aunts’ plans to make a buck off the thing (as adults do) and heads inside it, where he meets a bunch of friendly insects. One of them cuts the peach away, and the whole gang is off and running, inside the peach, on a fantastical adventure.

    Fantastic Mr. Fox (1970)
    A story so cool, stylish, and timeless it was adapted smoothly into a cool, stylish, and timeless Wes Anderson movie. We humans may have an affinity for foxes because while they look like a cross between our beloved dogs and cats, and they’re as clever and crafty as we like to think we are. None is more clever and charismatic than Mr. Fox himself, a family man who provides by stealing from local farmers Boggis, Bunce, and Bean. The farmers devise a plan to starve him out, but Mr. Fox, like you, young reader, is far too clever to just give up.

    Matilda (1988)
    This is perhaps the most definitive Roald Dahl novel in that it’s about a pure-hearted, special child whose gifts go unnoticed by the evil and wretchedly awful adults around her…until she rises up in rebellion. Matilda Wormwood uses her superpowers to take on wicked headmistress Miss Trunchbull (not to mention her horrible family), finding the parental love she so needs and wants from an unlikely source.

    The Witches (1983)
    Part of Dahl’s enormous, enduring appeal to children is that he doesn’t shield them from the world—he doesn’t sugar-coat its evils, but rather uses metaphors to help kids understand all the bad that’s out to get them, which they of course find irresistible. Of course, it helps when his protagonists are tough, brave kids who get things done. This is the kind of story Dahl excels at telling, and The Witches is a perfect example. With some obvious parallels to history and politics, it focuses on one boy’s attempts to take down a truly evil international syndicate of child-hating, child-killing witches. Unlike other kids vs. adults tales in the Dahl canon, however, The Witches has a shocking, unfair ending. Hey, sometimes life is like that, kids.

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1964)
    Like Matilda, this one features a child in peril whose patience, perseverance, and steadfast commitment to being his true self serves allows him to get justice and rewards in the end. But Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is just a little bit better than Matilda because it’s such a feast for the brain. It’s one set piece after another when Charlie finally ditches his gray London life for the technicolor world of pure imagination of Willy Wonka’s mysterious, bizarre, and vaguely menacing chocolate factory. Both film adaptations do a good job visualizing the factory, but nothing can do it as well as the eye of a child’s mind.

    The post A Definitive Ranking of the Children’s Books of Roald Dahl appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 2:30 pm on 2018/03/30 Permalink
    Tags: drawn from life, ,   

    10 Essential Nonfiction Graphic Novels 

    The graphic novel has emerged as a major storytelling medium over the last few decades thanks to visionary artists and writers like Alan Moore and Craig Thompson. But it’s such a sensitive, intimate form that by its visual nature allows for so much visceral detail that it’s become a tool for authors and artists to tell their stories—either their life stories, family stories, or world events that shaped them. Here are 10 of the most profound and fascinating nonfiction graphic novels.

    The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography, by Tetsu Saiwai
    The man we all know as the Dalai Lama, because he’s been the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists around the world for more than 75 years, was once just a toddler named Llamo Thondup. Then he took on the name Tenzin Gyatso and became the fourteenth Dalai Lama. While he’s been a world and religious leader for longer than most of us have been alive, his life remains shrouded in mystery, in part because he lives in exile in India because of the Chinese takeover of Tibet. The 14th Dalai Lama’s amazing and fascinating life story, which runs concurrently with some of the biggest events in 20th and 21st century Asian history, has never been told better than in Tetsu Saiwai’s graphic tale, The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography. Saiwai presents the story in the traditional Japanese manga style, befitting this almost unbelievable true life tale of cultural heroism.

    Tetris: The Games People Play, by Box Brown
    As great as many of them turn out to be, most video games don’t have that interesting of an origin story—somebody at a software company gets an idea, 100 people develop it, millions are entertained. The story of the classic puzzle game Tetris is far more interesting…and harrowing. Created by a Russian computer scientist named Alexey Pajiitnov during the Soviet era, the story of Tetris is one of corporate manipulation and government interference behind the Iron Curtain. Author and artist Box Brown also fits his style to the material, drawing in a boxy, blocky style, suggesting the endless shapes of Tetris itself.

    Maus: A Survivor’s Tale, by Art Spiegelman
    Maus is the Citizen Kane or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band of graphic novels—it pioneered the form, and rarely have others that came after have come close to doing what Art Spiegelman did. In 1992, it became the first ever graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. It’s the autobiographical tale of Spiegelman coming to grips with his father’s haunting and devastating memories of enduring the Holocaust as a European Jew. Spiegelman depicts those scenes as a literal cat-and-mouse game: Cats are cast as Nazis, and mice as Jewish people. That sounds flippant, but it’s anything but—Maus sensitively humanizes the Jewish war experience. Readers will be chilled and forever changed by what deceptively looks like Sylvester and Tweety Bird.

    Fun Home, by Alison Bechdel
    Alison Bechdel is a veteran cartoonist probably best known for the “Bechdel Test.” A viral idea taken from a 1985 strip, a movie successfully passes the test, and is deemed less sexist than the usual Hollywood fare, if two women are shown having a conversation about something besides a man. Bechdel is also the author of, to date, the only graphic novel ever turned into a Tony-winning Broadway musical. Her 2007 memoir Fun Home grapples with lots of Big Issues, including family, sexuality, and death. Bechdel grew up in a rural Pennsylvania funeral home her father operated. Throughout the book, Bechdel replays multiple incidents from her childhood as she tries to make sense as to why her father stayed a closeted homosexual for so long, as well as why he made a tragic decision that changed her world.

    Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea, by Guy Delisle
    Great journalists observe first and then report, making sense of their subject along the way. In that regard Guy Delisle is a journalist and a cartoonist, providing de facto reports about what daily life is like in the far-flung locals where he travels with his wife, a physician with Doctors Without Borders. In addition to works about Myanmar (Burma Chronicles) and China (Shenzen: A Travelogue from China) is Delisle’s most revelatory work: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. He’s the right man for the job: Delisle wasn’t allowed to use a camera or smuggle out photos, but he could draw his experiences there and bring back to the West to demonstrate what life is really like for regular people in the closed-off nation.

    Muhammad Ali, by Sybille Titeux and Amazing Ameziane 
    Okay, this one does kind of feel like a comic book, if only because it’s about a guy who was the closest thing this planet ever got to Superman. Sybille Titeux and Amazing Ameziane use striking panel art to tell the complete life story—the good parts and the bad parts—of “The Greatest,” boxer and Civil Rights activist Muhammad Ali. Sometimes graphic novels are a great way to get reluctant readers (kids especially) to pick up a book, and this one might do the trick, providing plenty of context to show not only how Ali was great but why he was so great.

    Smile, by Raina Telegemeier
    Nonfictional graphic novels are a great way to learn about the world around us, but they’re also a source for relatable, “small” tales of an individual’s experience. Smile is that kind of story, and it’s also the story of how its cartoonist became a cartoonist. Raina Telegemeier suffered terrible mouth injury as a child, and it required extensive surgeries. Smile details that harrowing journey, as well as the verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of her classmates, all of which led her on an inward journey into the world of…sequential storytelling. (It also includes a very visceral, you-are-there retelling of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.)

    The Beats: A Graphic History, by Harvey Pekar
    With his long-running American Splendor series, irascible crank and cartoonist Harvey Pekar was a major proponent of biographical cartooning. He’s one of many who worked on this animated textbook about an equally important American artistic movement: the Beats. A group that included people as artistically disruptive and often strange as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg need to have their stories told through an unconventional means. A thoroughly honest self-made outsider like Pekar is the one to tell them.

    Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi 
    This graphic novel is both a history book as well as a memoir, which makes it more impactful as essential examples of both genres. Author Marjane Satrapi was born to a middle-class family in Tehran, Iran, in the ‘60s, and this two-volume recollection shows what life was like before, during, and after that country’s Islamic Revolution. It’s a tale of broad change, but also small change, and how big movements can affect one’s very perception of themselves.

    The Elements of Style (Illustrated), by William Strunk, E.B. White, and Maria Kalman
    As important as it is, and as many times as we’ve all consulted it, let’s be honest: The Elements of Style is a real slog. It’s a grammar and punctuation textbook, which is just going to be dry, no matter how it’s approached. Or…not? The arcane and arbitrary rules of the English come alive when illustrator Maria Kalman applies her warm, classic, and even funny artwork to the words of original authors William Strunk and E.B. White. The result is what any great book, fiction or nonfiction, all-words or graphic-based should do: Make the reader understand.

    What’s your favorite nonfiction graphic noel?

    The post 10 Essential Nonfiction Graphic Novels appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 3:00 pm on 2018/03/23 Permalink
    Tags: , , daniel devoe, David Almond, Gertrude Chandler Warner, , , , robinson crusoe, skellig, the boxcar children, , with a laugh track   

    5 Classic Books Hollywood Should Adapt Into Corny Sitcoms 

    Not every TV show was dreamed up by some people on their laptops in Hollywood. Many of today’s most popular shows have literary origins. Game of Thrones is based on George R. R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, for example, and Westworld is a thorough and thoughtful expansion of a kind of pulpy early ‘70s adventure novel by Michael Crichton.

    But those are high-budget, prestige cable dramas with relatively small audiences. What really brings in the viewers are broad, laugh-track-sweetened sitcoms, like The Big Bang Theory and Mom. Those aren’t based on books, but that doesn’t mean an ’80s-style sitcom couldn’t have a high fallutin’ inspiration. (There’s a show on right now called Superior Donuts that’s based on a play by Pulitzer Prize-winner Tracy Letts, after all.) There are plenty of novels out there that would make fantastic, cheesy, classic-style sitcoms. After all, they’re already episodic in nature and explore the kinds of problems that sitcom characters easily solved in 22 minutes, week after week after week. Here are some books we’d love to see taped before a live studio audience.

    The Boxcar Children, by Gertrude Chandler Warner
    There hasn’t been a good orphan show in a long time, not at least since the heady days of the early ‘90s with Webster, Diff’rent Strokes, and Punky Brewster. Plots often revolved around somebody trying to separate the adoptive parents from their kid for some reason, and the plucky orphan or orphans strive to keep everybody together. That’s pretty much the plot of The Boxcar Children, Gertrude Chandler Warner’s heartwarming tale—clearly from another time—about a group of abandoned kids who become a tight-knit family unit when they take refuge in an abandoned boxcar. Yep, it’s a children’s book about homeless children (one of whom is a baby) living in a dangerous situation. Each episode of The Boxcar Children could be about the Boxcar Children (which is what they call themselves) trying to thwart some bumbling fool from Child Services.

    Skellig, by David Almond
    There have been so many high-concept sitcoms about normal people trying to keep some extraordinary creature hidden from the neighbors or the authorities—an alien on ALF, an alien on American Dad, a robot on Small Wonder, a genie on I Dream of Jeannie, and so on. Just sub in “wise and mystical human/owl/angel creature” for alien, robot, or genie and you’ve got Skellig!, the hilarious tale of a little boy who keeps his garage friend a secret.

    The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
    The beloved French children’s book about a sweet and sensitive little boy who lives on a lonely planet all by himself is very reminiscent of How I Met Your Mother. For example, they share a similar framing device—the main character (Ted, the Little Prince) tells of his adventures to a downed pilot, and his children, respectively. Those adventures also often involve relationships gone wrong, such as Ted’s many ill-fated romances, and the Little Prince’s thing with the self-absorbed rose in a jar, and the self-absorbed geographer. All a TV producer would have to do is make the stories funny instead of overwhelmingly melancholic.

    High Fidelity, by Nick Hornby
    Think Cheers, but instead of barflies in a bar, it involves a different public place catering to a different compulsion: obsessive record collectors trying to buy records. Except that gloomy store owner Rob, aggressive employee Barry, and milquetoast Dick hilariously criticize the bad taste of anybody who comes in to buy a record. Sure, there are some colorful regulars, but most of the action revolves around Rob, Barry, and Dick ruminating on women, just like in Hornby’s novel. Also, it takes place someplace “cool,” like Portland or Austin, so bands are always dropping by to play a song or two.

    Robinson Crusoe, by Daniel Defoe
    The famous Gilligan’s Island theme song namechecks Robinson Crusoe, one of the first major novels in the English language—so let’s go back to where it all started and just have a Robinson Crusoe sitcom. He’s a boorish, arrogant jerk, like many sitcom characters, and he’s just desperate to get off that island, by any means necessary. But he’s kind of dumb and his schemes never work, much to the chagrin of his over-it manservant, Friday. It’s Gilligan’s Island meets Jeeves and Wooster!

    What novel would you love to see as a sitcom?

    The post 5 Classic Books Hollywood Should Adapt Into Corny Sitcoms appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 9:47 pm on 2018/03/06 Permalink
    Tags: drawn from the facts, , , , smile   

    10 Essential Non-Fiction Graphic Novels 

    Graphic novels may look like a simple volume of comic books or comic strips bound together, but they’re closer to works of “sequential art,” singular stories told in the form of illustrations and words. The graphic novel has emerged as a major storytelling medium over the last few decades thanks to visionary artists and writers like Alan Moore and Craig Thompson. It’s such a sensitive, intimate form that, by its visual nature, allows for so much visceral detail, it has become a useful tool for authors and artists to tell their own true stories—either their life stories, family stories, or world events that shaped them. Here are 10 of the most profound and fascinating non-fiction graphic novels. 

    The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography
    The man we all know as the Dalai Lama, because he’s been the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists around the world for more than 75 years, was once just a toddler named Llamo Thondup. Then he took on the name Tenzin Gyatso and became the fourteenth Dalai Lama. While he’s been a world and religious leader for longer than most of us have been alive, his life remains shrouded in mystery, in part because he lives in exile in India because of the Chinese takeover of Tibet. The 14th Dalai Lama’s amazing and fascinating life story, which runs concurrently with some of the biggest events in 20th and 21st century Asian history, has never been told better than in Tetsu Saiwai’s graphic tale, The 14th Dalai Lama: A Manga Biography. Saiwai presents the story in the traditional Japanese manga style, befitting this almost unbelievable true life tale of cultural heroism.

    Tetris: The Games People Play
    As great as many of them turn out to be, most video games don’t have that interesting of an origin story—somebody at a software company gets an idea, 100 people develop it, millions get entertained. The story of the classic puzzle game Tetris is far more interesting…and harrowing. Created by a Russian computer scientist named Alexey Pajiitnov during the Soviet era, the story of Tetris is one of corporate manipulation, government interference, and a peak behind the Iron Curtain. Author and artist Box Brown also fits his style to the material, drawing in a boxy, blocky style, suggesting the endless shapes of Tetris itself. 

    Maus: A Survivor’s Tale
    Maus is the Citizen Kane or Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band of graphic novels—a pioneer of the form; rarely have others that came after come close to doing what Art Spiegelman did. In 1992, it became the first ever graphic novel to win a Pulitzer Prize. It’s the autobiographical tale of Spiegelman coming to grips with his father’s haunting and devastating memories of enduring the Holocaust as a European Jew. Spiegelman depicts those scenes as a literal cat-and-mouse game: Cats are cast as Nazis, and mice as Jewish people. That sounds flippant, but it’s anything but—Maus sensitively humanizes the Jewish war experience. Readers will be chilled and forever changed by what deceptively looks like Sylvester and Tweety Bird.

    Fun Home
    Alison Bechdel is a veteran cartoonist probably best known for the “Bechdel Test.” A viral idea taken from a 1985 strip, a movie only successfully passes the test, and is deemed less sexist than the usual Hollywood fare, if two women are shown having a conversation about something besides a man. Bechdel is also the author of, to date, the only graphic novel ever turned into a Tony-winning Broadway musical. Her 2007 memoir Fun Home grapples with lots of Big Issues, including family, sexuality, and death. Bechdel grew up in a rural Pennsylvania funeral home her father operated. Throughout the book, Bechdel replays multiple incidents from her childhood as she tries to make sense as to why her father stayed a closeted homosexual for so long, as well as why he made a tragic decision.

    Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea
    Great journalists observe first and then report, making sense of their subject along the way. In that regard Guy Delisle is a journalist and a cartoonist, providing de facto reports about what daily life is like in the far-flung locals where he travels with his wife, a physician with Doctors Without Borders. In addition to works about Myanmar (Burma Chronicles) and China (Shenzen: A Travelogue from China) is Delisle’s most revelatory work: Pyongyang: A Journey in North Korea. He’s the right man for the job: Delisle wasn’t allowed to use a camera or smuggle out photos, but he could draw his experiences there and bring back to the West to demonstrate what life is really like for regular people in the closed-off nation.

    Muhammad Ali
    Okay, this one does kind of feel like a comic book, if only because it’s about a guy who was the closest thing this planet ever got to Superman. Sybille Titeux and Amazing Ameziane use striking panel art to tell the complete life story—the good parts and the bad parts—of “The Greatest,” boxer and Civil Rights activist Muhammad Ali. Sometimes graphic novels are a great way to get reluctant readers (kids especially) to pick up a book, and this one might do the trick, providing plenty of context to show not only how Ali was great but why he was so great.

    Smile
    Non-fictional graphic novels are a great way to learn about the world around us, but they’re also a source for relatable, “small” tales of an individual’s experience. Smile is that kind of story, and it’s also the story of how its cartoonist became a cartoonist. Raina Telegemeier suffered terrible mouth injury as a child, and it required extensive surgeries. Smile details that harrowing journey, as well as the verbal abuse she suffered at the hands of her classmates, all of which led her on an inward journey into the world of…sequential storytelling. (It also includes a very visceral, you-are-there retelling of the 1989 San Francisco earthquake.)

    The Beats: A Graphic History
    With his long-running American Splendor series, irascible crank and cartoonist Harvey Pekar was a major proponent of biographical cartooning. He’s one of many who worked on this animated textbook about an equally important American artistic movement: the Beats. A group that included people as artistically disruptive and often strange as Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg need to have their stories told through an unconventional means. A thoroughly honest self-made outsider like Pekar is the one to tell them. 

    Persepolis
    This graphic novel is both a history book as well as a memoir, which makes it more impactful as essential examples of both genres. Author Marjane Satrapi was born to a middle-class family in Tehran, Iran, in the ‘60s, and this two-volume recollection shows what life was like before, during, and after that country’s Islamic Revolution. It’s a tale of broad change, but also small change, and how big movements can affect one’s very perception of themselves.

    The Elements of Style (Illustrated)
    As important as it is, and as many times as we’ve all consulted it, let’s be honest: The Elements of Style is a real slog. It’s a grammar and punctuation textbook, which is just going to be dry, no matter how it’s approached. Or…not? The arcane and arbitrary rules of the English come alive when illustrator Maria Kalman applies her warm, classic, and even funny artwork to the words of original authors William Strunk and E.B. White. The result is what any great book, fiction or non-fiction, all-words or graphic-based should do: Make the reader understand.

    What non-fiction comics are on your must list?

    The post 10 Essential Non-Fiction Graphic Novels appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
  • Brian Boone 6:00 pm on 2018/02/21 Permalink
    Tags: , dave barry, , great ideas, , , ,   

    Let’s Rename Major League Baseball Teams After Cities’ Notable Authors 

    Naming a sports team after literature—that’s pretty awesome. (The Baltimore Ravens of the NFL are technically;  they’re named after an intimidating bird, but the team is specifically named after “The Raven,” the classic, super-spooky poem by Baltimore resident Edgar Allen Poe.) With baseball season coming up, we took it upon ourselves to give every Major League Baseball team a new nickname, based on one of its most famous or prominent literary icons.

    Atlanta: Margaret Mitchell
    Mitchell wrote just one book, but it was a big one: Gone With the Wind, the seminal Civil War novel and a contender for “Great American Novel.” Also a perennial contender in the National League East: the Atlanta Scarletts, named for one of the most complex characters in American lit. 

    Miami: Dave Barry
    As a longtime columnist with the Miami Herald turned novelist of books set in Miami, Barry has a love/hate relationship with his city, and is very responsible for Miami’s image as a tropical crazy town—he is “not making this up,” after all. Let’s go Miami Daves! (We think he’d find that hilarious.)

    Philadelphia: Isaac Asimov
    Fun fact about Asimov—he’s predominantly known as a science-fiction writer, but he was so prolific that he’s the only person in history to have a book in every major grouping of the Dewey Decimal System. But still, the brainy sci-fi stuff like I Robot, still influences how we approach technology today, so that’s why we’re going with the Philadelphia Robots.

    New York: J.D. Salinger
    Of all the many New York based authors, we had to go with one who wrote a book with a baseball word in its title. The author of The Catcher in the Rye, the definitive angry young man novel retreated into privacy in the ‘50s, never the case with the mighty former Mets, renamed after a refrain in Catcher as the New York Phonies.

    Washington, D.C.: Tom Clancy
    The late bestselling author of the “dad novel”—taut but deliriously exciting military and spy thrillers—unsurprisingly stayed close to the nation’s capital. The Washington Jack Ryans are ready to play some patriot games. 

    Tampa Bay: Jack Kerouac
    Kerouac was of course a bit of a traveling malcontent who spent a lot of his time On the Road, but he spent his later years in and died in south Florida, specifically in the sweltering Tampa metropolitan area. As it’s a paradise and On the Road’s main character is named Sal Paradise, the Rays are now named the Tampa Bay Paradise.

    Boston: Louisa May Alcott
    An icon of 19th century literature, Alcott helped make American letters a force to be reckoned with. Her most famous works are Little Women and Little Men, either of which would make a fine new name for the Red Sox. Let’s go with the Boston Little Women.

    Baltimore: Edgar Allan Poe
    The Baltimore Ravens of the NFL are already named after their native son’s most famous poem, but we can do better—the Baltimore Pits, or the Baltimore Pendulums.

    New York: Edith Wharton
    Nobody stuck it to Gilded Age aristocrats quite like Wharton did in The Age of Innocence, so the most gilded, aristocratic team in baseball, the Yankees, should be named the New York Archers after that novel’s main character, Newland Archer.

    Toronto: Margaret Atwood
    The great Atwood studied, taught, and lived in Hogtown for years. Seeing as how she’s one of, if not the greatest Canadian novelist of all time, as well as the hottest author in literature right now because of the hit TV adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale, it seems right to renamed the Blue Jays the Toronto Margarets.

    Cincinnati: Alice and Phoebe Cary
    The southern Ohio-born sisters were both major American poets in the late 19th century, and the Cincinnati Carys sounds a lot cooler than the Reds.

    Pittsburgh: Michael Chabon
    Who else but Chabon has rehabilitated Pittsburgh’s image from smog-choked industrial metropolis to enchanting college town? Many of his novels are set here, such as Wonder Boys. That would be a silly name for a team, but the Pittsburgh Chabons sounds kind of cool.

    Chicago: Ernest Hemingway
    A manly man so manly he didn’t even use extra words when telling his tales of manly things like war, fishing, and death, he’s the literary pride of Chicagoland. Adding to his list of four rules to be a man: have a son, plant a tree, fight a bull, read a book, get a baseball team named after you: the Chicago Bell-Tollers

    St. Louis: Jonathan Franzen
    Our nation’s greatest chronicler of the modern American family—and its thoroughly dysfunctional nature—grew up in St. Louis, a fine place to raise to a family and home of the venerable St. Louis, or, as they’re now called, the St. Louis Corrections.

    Milwaukee: Jack Finney
    If one of your city’s most favorite authors is sci-fi author Jack Finney, how can you not name your team the Milwaukee Body Snatchers?

    Cleveland: Dav Pilkey
    While the baseball team from Cleveland has announced it will downplay its offensive mascot, maybe it’s time to get rid of the name completely. Name them after the best-known work by Cleveland-born children’s author Dav Pilkey. That would be the Captain Underpants series, so Cleveland Underpants it is. (Or, you know, Captains is fine, too.)

    Minneapolis: F. Scott Fitzgerald
    The tragic author of perfectly worded Jazz Age classics like The Great Gatsby and Tender is the Night brought such an observant eye thanks in part to a middle-class sensibility, no doubt honed over his years in the Twin Cities. The great Jay Gatsby (nay Gatz) was from there, too, and so that’s why we’ve got the Minnesota Gatsbys. 

    Detroit: Joyce Carol Oates
    Oates lived and taught in Motown for many years, and her 1969 National Book Award-winning them is set there, so she gets to have the Tigers renamed the Detroit Mulvaneys after he widely read We Were the Mulvaneys.

    Kansas City: Robert A. Heinlein
    Born and raised in Kansas City, the “Dean of Science Fiction” writers helped establish the genre as a viable art form with its own tropes and rules in works like Stranger in a Strange Land and Starship Troopers. Hey, the Kansas City Starship Troopers sounds amazing!

    Chicago: Edgar Rice Burroughs
    How is there not already a team called the Chicago Tarzans?

    Arizona: Diana Gabaldon
    Phoenix’s Gabaldon elevated the romance novel and historical fiction genres with her extremely compelling Outlander series. While the desert sun of Phoenix doesn’t remind anyone of the Scottish Highlands, calling a baseball team the Arizona Outlanders would.

    Los Angeles: Raymond Chandler
    When you think “hardboiled detective noir” you think of Raymond Chandler, master crafter of L.A.-based stuff like The Big Sleep and The Long Goodbye. The hero of many of those books is the great detective Philip Marlowe, who gives his name to the Los Angeles Marlowes.

    San Francisco: Jack London
    Launching off from San Francisco, the unofficial capital of West Coast wilderness adventure, Jack London wrote gritty, realistic tales of the wilderness and the ocean, like The Call of the Wild and the namesake for the newly renamed San Francisco Sea-Wolves. 

    San Diego: Dr. Seuss
    He was born somewhere else, that much is true, but he lived in La Jolla, der-flibbity-floo. He’s the first author we know, he helped teach us to read, so the San Diego Cat-Hats is something we need.

    Colorado: Bill Finger
    Comics and graphic novels wouldn’t be what they are today without Finger, the Mile High City native who, with Bob Kane of D.C. Comics, helped create Batman and the Batman mythos. Rights issues might be a thing, but the Colorado Dark Knights would be the best-named team in all of sports.

    Oakland: Amy Tan
    How many modern classics has Tan even written anyway? There’s The Joy Luck Club, The Bonesetter’s Daughter, The Valley of AmazementNobody writes about mothers and daughters with more skill, and she’s probably the best writer Oakland ever gave us, so it makes sense to name the team after her most famous book in full, the Oakland Joy Luck Club.

    Anaheim: Dean Koontz
    After Disneyland and The O.C. the most famous product of Orange County is Koontz, SoCal transplant and author of countless page-turning suspense-filled thrillers of the last 40-odd years. The team gets its name from one of his books: the Los Angeles Sole Survivors of Anaheim.

    Seattle: Tom Robbins
    King of the quirky, dusty comic novel, Robbins’ home town Mariners shall henceforth be called the Seattle Thumbs, after the pronounced characteristic of the protagonist of his 1976 classic Even Cowgirls Get the Blues.

    Texas: Patricia Highsmith
    The author of the wicked and intense Tom Ripley thrillers (including The Talented Mr. Ripley) along with other mid-century mysteries like Strangers on a Train was born in Fort Worth, right next to Dallas in the “Metroplex.” The Dallas Ripleys has a nice ring to it.

    Houston: Donald Barthelme
    Barthelme spent most of his life and career in the Houston area, where he taught and worked as a journalist. If you’ve ever taken a short fiction creative writing course, you were probably assigned a clever, humorous Barthelme story or two. But he also wrote all kinds of stuff, even children’s literature, such as his 1972 National Book Award winning The Slightly Irregular Fire Engine. Out with the Astros, and in with the Houston Slightly Irregular Fire Engines.

    What do you think of our new team names?

    The post Let’s Rename Major League Baseball Teams After Cities’ Notable Authors appeared first on Barnes & Noble Reads.

     
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