These are some of those book things you've been hearing about


030) Sunny Side Up by Jennifer L. Holm and Matthew Holm, finished May 30

My latest Eisner Excuse, this charming and moving book from the brother/sister team that does Babymouse and Squish features a human, ten-year-old protagonist, but instead of the silly, madcap funfests I associate with them, this is about a little girl coming to grips with her brother's addiction while visiting her grandfather in Florida. It's subtle and patient and darn good.

one sitting


029) Best American Comics 2015 edited by Jonathan Lethem, finished May 30

Although he acquitted himself fine, don't you think Lethem is a weird choice for this gig? I mean, come one.

Anyway, I did enjoy a greater-than-average percentage of the work this year. Books I need to seek out and finish:
Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer
The Wrenchies by Farel Dalrymple
Woman Rebel bt Peter Bagge
Little Tommy Lost by Cole Closser
Mimi and the Wolves by Alabaster Pizzo
INFOMANIACS by Matthew Thurber
I may start with Closser....that one was genuinely terrific.

If they ever pick someone as obviously as wrong as Lethem again, say, me, I'll tend to select whole pieces rather than excerpts. As usual, reading a complete piece was always better than reading a piece of a piece. Which only makes sense.
six months


028) G Is for Gumshoe by Sue Grafton, finished May 21

The experience surrounding a reading of a book can really influence the experience of reading a book.

I had to read the climax and conclusion of this novel in tiny interrupted pieces and so the ending, which, as I postmortem it, seems perfect, came off sudden and weird. Shame. I like these books. (See below.)
i dont even know like a week i guess


027) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 2: Squirrel You Know It's True by Ryan North & Erica Henderson, finished May 20

This volume was even better at getting me to laugh aloud. So: win.
maybe three days


026) "F" Is for Fugitive by Sue Grafton, finished May 12

One of the reasons behind the first exception to this year's no-new-books-started rule was to let me keep working my way through these Kinsey Millhone books. And here's my first fo the year.

I haven't put a lot of thought into why I like these books enough to want to read them all (not a normal feeling for me, to be sure), but here's a couple observations from this sixth entry.

1. Kinsey's very normal. And while she's more able to talk to people than me, she just keeps plugging along until things make sense. And they don't until they do. That's pretty real. And it makes her more fun to spend time together with than my nonbuddy Sherlock Holmes.

2. This one surprised me near they end by getting emotional about father-daughter relationships. I didn't see it coming and so my defenses were down.

Which might be a way of saying that these are some of the meatiest potato chips I've ever eaten.

(But I also recognize that I don't eat a lot of potato chips, so what do I know?)

Previously in 2016


PULP Literature – Spring 2016


What I love about Pulp Literature is its melding of the literary with the genres. This issue took a long time to meld, however---the literary wasn't genre enough and the genre stuff wasn't literary enough. That said, three stories struck me as rather wonderful.

Soul Making by Sarina Bosco
I love fairy tale retellings. Another Beauty and the Beast I frequently use in my classes, and this one too flips the script (as people say) in interesting ways. Beauty seeks out the beast, beauty chooses the beast, beauty prefers the beast as a beast, and as he begins to change (which is gradual here), their implicit deal is cast in shadow. It's a lovely rendition.

Two Twenty-two by Stephen Case
What if moments were incarnate? What would they want? What would it mean to know one?

Black Blizzard by Emily Linstrom
This time, a retelling of Sleeping Beauty. Told by a girl as the origin story of her family during the Dust Bowl, this one too Flips! the Script! by changing what the story's basic assumptions are. Who, for instance, says that Beauty is the greatest possible outcome for Prince Charming? Are we sure, for instance, that comfort and luxury are life's highest calling?


Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo


(my bar had slightly different packaging)

11 G. of PROTEIN
Net Wt. 1.5OZ. (43G)
EST. 19617
*made with 100% grass fed bison

eaten February 26, 2015

Upon opening the wrapper, I found myself impressed with the juiciness of this bar. Upon first bite, I was startled by how dry it was---the word that came to mind was "powdery", but only metaphorically.

Of course, bison is a very lean meat, and I've never had it served this way before so, this being the first bar, I can't say if this is necessarily the nature of a bison bar.

What I can say is that the last few bites were much juicier than the top. Not sure what the explanation is.

This was meat, folks. I ate meat here. It didn't seem like anything else. And I even got a few big chunks of sinew to emphasize this. And although I love all things cran and do not believe in Enough Cran, I did appreciate how the cran here was a usually subtle undernote. When I hit an actual berry, sure, cran!, but most of the time it was deep in the distance. Same with the bacon---it took the back seat. This just tasted like straight meat for the most part.

Did I like it? Yes. Would I buy it again? Mm. I don't remember how much it cost... It would really depend on how much it cost. But did I like it? You bet.



(my bar didn't have that Amazon thing on it but did have a best-by date)

eaten  [date]


Nutrition Facts
Serving Size: 1 bar (28g)
calories: 70
Calories from fat 25
*Percent Daily Values are based 
on a 2,000 calorie dieet

Total Fat 1.5g  2%
Saturated Fat  4%
Trans Fat 0g  0%

Cholestoral 15 mg  6%
Sodium 260mg 11%
Total Carb 7g  2%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Sugars 6g  

Protein 7g

Vitamin A  0%
Vitamin C 0%
Calcium 2%
Iron  4%

INGREDIENTS: Buffalo, dried cranberries (cranberries, sugar) sea salt, encapsulated lactic acid, celery juice, black pepper, spices, garlic, onion powder, red pepper.

[missing punctuation all sic]

eaten May 20, 2016

Hopefully the long delay between these purchased-the-same-day bars doesn't result in an unfair comparison. And I certainly hope it doesn't explain the unpleasant gray tint.

On first bite, I'm amazed by the overwhelming umami. Past the halfway point this one two begins to seem dry. The cranberries have very little noticeable affect on the eating experience. The pepper and garlic and onion are much more present.

For meat, this is a surprisingly light eat. At one ounce, it's just not enough. I'm not in love. I wouldn't buy it again, but if you gave me one I would enjoy it.

It's been waaay too long for a clear comparison, the original point, but I think it's safe to say I'm still looking for my favorite bison-based energy bar.


In the Classroom with Mr Thteed


Years ago, some students kept a list of funny things I said and gave them to me at the end of the year. In this era in which there must be hours of me floating around on Snapchat, the simple phenomena of someone making a list of things I said---which it one of the kindest gifts anyone could give an egoist such as myself, remains unrepeated.


These were given me by a kind soul from last semester (I can't explain all of them):

Lit Burns & Miscellaneous Quotes

"It's all fun and games until you're in an urn."

"YOPTRO---you only play the record once"

Thteed: "What's the legal definition of a genocide? How many people have to die?"
Student 1: "A lot."

"All good things come to an end. The universe... And this class."

"There are worms that live in bedsheets, and when you're lying flat they crawl out of your anus and lay their eggs and then crawl back in. And they fall off the bed and onto the floor, and they get into you by crawling into the soles of your feet and up the inside of your legs until they reach your digestive system and the circle of life begins again. And that's my sequel to The Lion King that Disney did not accept."

"When you get to the top of Mount Everest, there is so little oxygen that you're literally dying. You have to get to the top and get back down before you finish dying, or you're dead."

Student 1: "Hope is following your heart when your brain tells you no."
Student 2: "Like if you have a heart attack and your brain says 'stop dying' but you're like 'nope.'"
Thteed: "Your brain says 'wait for me let me catch up' and then you have a stroke at the same time."

"Mustard gas smells a little like... mustard. You know how mustard kind of burns your nose? It's like that but it kills you."

"We don't know what Vonnegut believes because we can't be inside his head, and even if we could we would find mostly worms because he's dead."

Student 1: "This essay would be a good back cover for the book."
Thteed: "Because it doesn't give anything away."

"Othello is a really good example of 'people should just talk to each other.'"

Student 3: "Maybe Troy is his own Trojan horse, destroying himself."
Thteed: "Well if he'd used a Trojan he wouldn't have this problem."


The Eisner Excuse


Most of the books in this post will be filed under a new exception I just created called the EISNER EXCUSE. Basically, I read an article about Eisner nominees and put a whole bunch of the kid and young-adult nominees on hold at the library. I have no regrets. A few of those books were too short to included here, but there's been some excellent reads among them.

Meanwhile, I'm still posting way fewer books than normal, largely because Don Quixote is very very very very long.

No excuse, incidentally, for this first book. It's legit according to the rules of 2016.

025) Soldier Dog by Sam Angus, finished May 6

Boo hoo. Sad boy, sad dad, great dogs. This one starts out like it intends to be the worst of dead dog books. My oldest son has owned this book for years and took that long to start it then finish it. This is a World War I novel and it doesn't quite find its legs until it finds the trenches. From that moment on, however, it's pretty darn great.

One of the things I liked the most about this novel is how it reimagines the obligation to kill the dog. I'm going to give a bit away here, but Angus kills dogs early and often in order to avoid killing them at the end. The dog I thought the book was about dies early. Then the dog I thought the book was about died. Then the third dog (MAJOR SPOILER) ends up being the first dog. Which sounds like a cheap play, but Angus makes it work. She's really found a clever way to a happy ending---even in a Great War / dog book. Rather astonishing when you think about it.

So yeah, it drags and most of the human characters are impossible to remember, but it's also pretty awesome.
six or seven months


024) Baba Yaga's Assistant by Marika McCoola and Emily Carroll, finished May 1

Another winner from the Eisner nominations! This is a coming-of-age story that refuses to take either obvious path. It helps that its milieu is similarly cake-and-eat-it-too---it's both modern times and fairy-tale times, and negotiates that duality calmly, without need of amazement or comment. It just is. Similarly, our plucky heroine gets to walk to paths to adulthood simultaneously without having to choose---or rather, she gets both by virtue of having to choose. But even saying that much is too spoilery for a tiny little here-on-Thmusings review.
two noncontiguous days


023) The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl Vol. 1: Squirrel Power by Ryan North and Erica Henderson, finished April 30

Okay, um. I can't remember if this was nominated for an Eisner or not.... Probably. Or maybe getting Eisner books reminded me I'd been wanting to read this. Hard to say.

Anyway, it was hard to finish because, like Roller Girl (below), it kept disappearing as the boys snuck away with it to try and read it before someone else snuck off with it. So it was a big hit.

And I liked it too. It was very much the sort of smart-fun I would like to share with my kids. Go Marvel! This is a win.
possibly two weeks


022) Little Robot by Ben Hatke, finished April 26

This book is crap. It's a string of cheap tricks executed poorly. I cannot believe this got an Eisner nomination. Cliches in the correct order plus cute drawings do not a story make.
a matter of minutes


This next book does not qualify for the Eisner excuse. I actually checked it out because I'm planning on sharing an excerpt with my classes and wanted to see if more of it would be applicable to our discussion. Ended up reading the whole thing.

021) What We See When We Read by Peter Mendelsun, finished April 26

I'm returning this to the library and I am buying my own copy. In part because I want to figure out how to incorporate some of these ideas into my teaching and in part because I couldn't highlight the words I didn't know, so I need a copy where I can do that. I haven't felt so obliged to read with a dictionary in years. Years.

Mendelsun discusses what is actually happening inside our skulls while we read. He's thought about this question more than I have which means he's arrived at more conclusions than I have---some of which I knew instinctively, some of which I had sorta figured out, some of which were previously unthought of. That's a fun thing to do.

Like his colleague Chip Kidd, Mendelsun has turned book design into a prophetic calling---or more like, a seerlike role, an ability to understand literature and to explain it in new ways, incorporating visual elements into the text and bandying them against each other.

Pretty terrific stuff.
under a week


020) Roller Girl by Victoria Jamieson, finished April 23

This might be the best book about being twelve I've ever read. It was hard to get away from my boys (ages 12,8,6) to read for myself. But I did and it was . . . it was so good. I honestly don't know if a comic book has ever made me cry. Literal tears. On my cheek.

It's the tale of young Astric, twelve with all that entails.

Flat-out one of the best books you'll read this year, whether your category of choice is adolescent-themed, sports-themed, family-themed, friendship-themed---even Hugh Jackman-themed.

You can check out the autobiographical comics she made to get her comics feet under herself (recommended) or the making-of she made for interested kids (also recommended---it's a very generous gift to young readers, and teaches as much about hard work as the novel itself).

Anyway, I don't want to talk a lot about the story. All I want to say is that I grew close to these characters and I'm a grown man, dammit! If you've done anything right in your life, reward yourself with Roller Girl.
three days


019) The Only Child by Guojing, finished maybe April 21

This is a lovely book. I would describe it as wordless in the tradition of Chris Van Allsburg or David Wiesner, but not a picture book---a true comic---and longer than their books tend to run.

It's about a small Chinese child who leaves home to visit Grandma on his lonesome and travels to a fantasy world.

The story is quaint and fun and sweet enough, but what makes it a remarkable reading experience is the prose introduction where Guojing describes growing up an onlychild in a nation of onlychilds and how intensely lonesome it was. That personal experience colors the reading of the 100+ wordless pages that follow. I don't know what it would be like to read the book without reading that intro first. If you try it, let me know.
one evening

Previously in 2016