Posts Tagged ‘Graphic Biographies’

Past Migrations

Thursday, 5 November 2009

The next set of books are nearly all about journeys in the past, in one way or another.

41. Richard the Lionheart by David West & Jackie Gaff, illustrated by John Cooper

This is a consecutive art depiction of the life of King Richard the Lionheart, from his childhood as a younger son of Eleanor of Aquitaine (I own a biography of her, and really must read it, once my books arrive) and Henry II. Both men were kings of England, but certainly wouldn’t have recognised that as an adequate description of their rank. Richard, particularly, was not especially interested in England, and preferred to crusade. (More on that below.)

42. Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon

This was part of the same reread I mentioned yesterday. I am torn. I love Gabaldon’s writing and characters, but her skill at expressing characters and what they experience can be more graphic than I felt comfortable with this time through. I’d like to say that’s less of an issue in this volume than some of the rest, but seeing as this is the one with the ’45, that just wouldn’t be true!

43. The Travelling People by Anthea Wormington, Sian Newman & Chris Lilly

As the title suggests, this is about the Travelling people(s) of Great Britain, and to an extent of Ireland. It is a thin glossy book produced for children about the various groups of nomadic communities. There is a focus on Irish Travellers and on Roma/Gypsy Travellers, as the most numerous such groups, but there is also information on several other groups. The title link includes PDF files of many or all of the pages of the book, and it is well worth reading, for adults as well. There are links to other related resources as well.

44. Voyager by Diana Gabaldon

This one isn’t about war so much as its aftermath of suffering, death and separation, and how ultimately love can overcome them. But being Gabaldon, that doesn’t mean everything ends up sugar and roses…

45. Drums of Autumn by Diana Gabaldon

Now though, we’re in the prelude stages to another war, on another continent…

46. The Talisman by Sir Walter Scott

The next audiobook was my second read of Scott (I have a print copy of Ivanhoe, which I could probably stand to reread), and takes us back to King Richard and the Crusades. The former seems a favourite of Scott, and here is definitely portrayed as the absolute flower of chivalry. Richard (and to an extent Sir Kenneth, narrator and protagonist of the tale) far prefers an honourable enemy (as he considers Saladin) to a dishonourable ally (all those who feel it’s time to give up the crusade), but can he really fight on honour alone?

47. Underground to Canada by Barbara Smucker

The last ‘travel book’ tells of two young girls raised in slavery in 19th century America, who upon being ‘sold South’ choose to flee North along the Underground Railway. It isn’t a long book, and gets across the horrors of slavery without being too graphic for even a sheltered adolescent. It’s well written, and includes both adventure and emotion.

Ridiculous Avoidance

Friday, 7 November 2008

Still no camera charger, so I can’t show you the handbag I’m making, or the matching corsage (both from Erika Knight’s Essential Crochet, seeing as my flatmate gave me the book and the yarn – both deep purple! – at the same time. to put on my coat when I go out with it. I’m really quite happy with both, although there is some finishing up to do. I’ve bought lining material for the bag, and a friend has offered to sew it all up, so I basically need to decide what to do about a handle for it, and attach a safety pin to the corsage. I did the large size of the pattern for the latter, with a chunky wook (instead of crochet cotton!) so it will perhaps make more of a statement than I meant it to, but I think the pair of items are going to use the two skeins I was given quite well.

There are no visiting teddies here just at the moment, which gives me a few days to sort out charging the camera…

In the meantime, I have been reading a decent amount, although I’m still a couple of weeks behind the book-per-day aim.

276. Foul Play by Tom Palmer

Football fan and wannabe detective who doesn’t mind skipping school for a good clue to the current mystery, Danny is basically a good kid who squabbles with his older sister but gets on well with his father. He gets a bit too personally involved with the strange events happening at the local football stadium one night, however…

This book is absolutely calculated to appeal to reluctant boy readers, but it’s not bad for all that!

277. Akiva by Rabbi Meir Marcus Lehmann

I said a bit about this book last week, in comparing it to And Rachel Was His Wife. I think the main thing I’d add is that the latter is character driven, while this has imparting information and a point of view as its objective. It’s very good for all that.

278. Artist Trading Cards by Leonie Pujol

Maybe when I finish the Masters I could take up ATCs…

279. Graphic Biographies: Martin Luther King Jr by Gary Jeffrey & Chris Forsey

Any other day [than Wednesday - the rest of this post has taken me awhile] I’d ignore the current Politics (with a big ‘P’ – I don’t think one ever can fully ignore small ‘p’ politics), and focus on the ones discussed in this and the following few books, but I think every (American, but not only) politician who mentions dreams in a speech knows their listeners will think of Martin Luther King Jr (and the ‘American Dream’ too), and I am pretty sure Barack Obama wouldn’t mind that today.

280. Graphic Biographies: Harriet Tubman by Rob Shone & Anita Ganeri

It’s rather longer since Harriet Tubman escaped slavery, and helped others both in the journey and the life after slavery. America has had a long struggle towards full equality of all its communities, as has every country out there. I’d be interested to know of some that have really got there, even if only in law. While the explicit (and legal) inequalities Tubman (and King, and Mandela) fought against are now much diminished and more subtle, in many ways that makes them harder to fix.

281. Graphic Biographies: Nelson Mandela by Rob Shone & Neil Reed

So, after all the politics, the series of books is a good one! The graphic story is well told and drawn, and each book has a couple of standard non-fiction style pages before and after it, to give context. I haven’t read the ones on entertainers, many of whose stories, like Mandela’s, have not come to an end yet.

282. Who Was Mary Seacole? by Paul Harrison

Seacole was a visionary front line nurse. More front-line than Florence Nightingale, and well known in her day.

Still wading through all the books to be discussed in this post by Friday, and today’s Sheldon tickled me. (Although it’s now got me thinking that I have no good excuse for not having finished the Braille Primer yet…)

283. Natural Disasters: Forest Fires by Laura Purdie Salas
284. Blazing Bush and Forest Fires by Louise and Richard Spilsbury

Yes, these two are on the same topic. Both are good, and I can’t decide which one to recommend over the other. The first tends to briefly tell the story of a particular memorable fire in history, and from there give facts, whereas the second gives information and then shows example pictures and tales, so it really depends which approach suits your purpose, taste or child.

285. You Wouldn’t Want To Be A Victorian Miner! by John Malam

Quite true, you wouldn’t, especially as a child! This is a most informative, well done series. It’s also reminded me of a film I saw (on television) as a child, but that I can’t find on IMDB. It was about a small mining village in England (or possibly Wales) where the mine was to be modernised, or closed, or something, and the pit ponies were to be killed rather than bringing them back above ground, I think. The local children get very upset about this, and after their protests get them nowhere they go through one of the old unused mine shafts (?) and kidnap the ponies. Being a children’s film it all ends happily, of course, with the ponies allowed a field to retire into. I can’t remember the title or other details, so if anyone has any ideas, I’d appreciate it.

286. I Wonder Why Volcanoes Blow Their Tops and other questions about natural disasters by Rosie Greenwood

The focus here (which surprised me) is not volcanoes, but natural disasters, but all are interestingly described, with bright clear pictures.

287. Waiting for Anya by Michael Morpurgo

My plan is to gradually read my way through Morpurgo’s canon, because he presents big historical (and other) issues in affecting and enthralling stories that children and adults like. This one is set in a French village on the Spanish border during WWII. The adult men went to fight and many are now prisoners of war, including Jo’s father, so the women, children and older or disabled men are getting on with looking after each other and the sheep without them. Apart from this absence the war has stayed away from the village for three years, until a unit of German soldiers is billeted upon them to guard the border, and Jo discovers there are more impacts than he realised.

288. Scarlett by Cathy Cassidy

So, Scarlett is a very troubled twelve-year old who has just been kicked out of her fifth school since her parents split up three years previously. People do seem to recognise that counselling might help, or have helped, but since they only ever threaten her with it (rather than offering it to her) that isn’t going to happen. After cycling through living with her mother, her grandmother, her uncle and her mother again, this city girl’s latest ‘last chance’ is to be sent to her father, his new wife and stepdaughter in a cottage in rural Ireland, and she doesn’t want to go.

289. My Special Brother by Rena Schiff

Far better than I thought it would be (I have to admit to letting the garish cover put me off over the years), this is the slightly fictionalised story of a 1960s Orthodox Jewish family in New York who buck the expectation that disabled babies will be left at the hospital to go straight into care, and bring their youngest son (who has Downs) home to be a beloved member of the family. Thankfully most of these explicit expectations have now been overcome, and there is ever more provision and support for children and adults with disabilities to receive extensive education and live as productive respected members of the community [although there is a lot more for us all to do] but this family worked their way through the prejudices and ignorance, and then allowed their story to be told to explain things to the rest of us. I’m making it sound very worthy – really it’s a good story too.

290. Just Between Friends by Sara Wiederblank

A definite relationships novel, this has four friends in their mid twenties dealing with how their expectations have either not been met, or have been met but still don’t entirely satisfy. One of those frustrating (but often frustratingly real) tales where the reader wants to just make the characters sit down and talk to their spouses or other loved ones!

291. Ug: Boy Genius of the Stone Age by Raymond Briggs

Fungus the Bogeyman remains my favourite Briggs protagonist, but this is amusing. I don’t think I’d recommend it to anyone who didn’t know a bit about the Stone Age already, as most of the story revolves around the anachronisms within our understanding of it.

Enough!

Wednesday, 28 May 2008

I’m bored of packing and transporting stuff now, but there is still some to do, so I amn’t getting to do enough crocheting for my pleasure. It’s coming together, however, and hopefully won’t take too much longer. I need to get back to the Braille course as well. Somehow, though, I do seem to be getting some reading done:

134. Great Cities of the World: London by Gill Stacey

Although this book is written from an American perspective, for American and international readers, that did not grate, nor was it even so noticeable more than a couple of times. Otherwise this has good pictures among clear text.

135. The Essential Johannes Vermeer by Christopher Sweet

I saw Vermeer‘s Guitar Player on Friday at Kenwood House, and I think I should go back and examine it again in peace.

I have reviewed other artist biographies in this series before, but I especially like this one, despite some of the interpretations, perhaps because it includes all the paintings reliably suggested to be by Vermeer, and discusses each one as part of a flow of his oeuvre.

136. Graphic Biographies: Rosa Parks: The Life of a Civil Rights Heroine by Rob Shone, illustrated by Nick Spender

This is very clear and interesting, both in the graphic storyline and in the text introduction and appendix. I’ll look for more of the series. It is slightly hagiographic, but it is very good.

137. The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver

I really like this story of M. (soon to become Taylor) Greer, who has spent her adolescence and younger adulthood preparing to leave her small town, saving money and most importantly refraining from getting pregnant. Within a couple of days of getting out she has been given a baby and in this book slowly makes them a new family circle. One thing I’m never sure of in this book is how old Taylor really is. She’s probably in her mid-twenties, but she never quite says.

The book seems very simple but there’s a lot in there, and I’m glad I reread it. I read this first a couple of years ago, and simply enjoyed and thought about it on its own merits, which are manifold. Then a few months later I found Pigs in Heaven, which is a sequel that takes apart the mechanism by which Taylor gets to keep Turtle (the baby), and which is also very good, but which for me gives this book a fairy tale gloss, as I know the happy ending can’t last and was over simplistic. I’ll probably reread that next, so will talk more about the pairing then.


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