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

15 - 18
018) 77 Love Sonnets by Garrison Keillor, finished April 21
017) Fidelity by Grace Paley, finished April 20
016) The Jam Jar Lifeboat & Other Novelties Exposed by Kay Ryan, finished April 15
015) Work & Days by Tess Taylor, finished April 1

11 - 14
014) The Little World of Liz Climo by Liz Climo, finished March 29
013) Forgive me, I Meant to Do It by Gail Carson Levine, finished March 26
012) Fences by August Wilson, finished c. March 14
011) The Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid by Bill Bryson, finished March 19

010) Folk of the Fringe by Orson Scott Card, finished March 9

5 – 9
009) The Naked Soul of Iceberg Slim by Robert Beck, finished February 29
008) Half Moon Investigations by Eoin Colfer, finished Feb 20
007) Bless this Mouse by Lois Lowry, finished February 16
006) Dendo by Brittany Long Olsen, finished February 14
005) Dream House on Golan Drive by David G. Pace, finished February 5

1 – 4
004) Mormon Shorts, Vol I by Scott Hales, finished January 23
003) Shirt in Heaven by Jean Valentine, finished January 18
002) Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell, finished January 14
001) Spy School by Stuart Gibbs, finished January 9


* most recent post in this series *


final booky posts of
2015 = 2014 = 2013 = 2012 = 2011 = 2010 = 2009 = 2008 = 2007

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