Thursday, July 10, 2014
Sunday, July 06, 2014
The title character of DRAGON GIRL: THE SECRET VALLEY is an eleven-year-old girl named Alanna. She and her brother are orphans from a lower class background and are doing the best they can to survive in the medieval-type world in which they live. Alanna's brother Hamel works as a blacksmith and in his "free time" the two hunt and scourge the woods for game and edibles. One day while Alanna is out in the woods while Hamel is working, she discovers a baby dragon and a cave full of dragon eggs and discovers that dragons aren't the horrible creatures she has been led to believe. She's excited to share her discovery with her brother, but doesn't reveal her secret when she realizes that he's as frightened of and seems as hateful of dragons as most of the other people in the world. Alanna designs a dragon costume to wear in an attempt to get close to the creature and not get burned up in the process. Soon Alanna finds herself swept up in a journey that takes her to the secret valley of the dragons where she learns more and more about dragons. However, not everyone in the world is as fascinated by dragons and the famed knight Sir Cedric follows Alanna and becomes determined not only to rid the world of dragons, but steal the liquid treasure they seem to protect.
I enjoyed reading DRAGON GIRL: THE SECRET VALLEY. It's an exciting story with some great black and white illustrations. Many similar stories to DRAGON GIRL have a male protagonist and I found it interesting to have a female protagonist instead. There are some dangerous elements in the story, so the book might not be appropriate for children younger than five, but it should be fine for anyone older than that. Overall, a good story for anyone who enjoys graphic novels or dragons or graphic novels with dragons.
Thursday, July 03, 2014
Thursday, June 26, 2014
Saturday, June 21, 2014
Written and illustrated by George O'Connor, ATHENA: GREY-EYED GODDESS is the second volume in a graphic novel series entitled "The Olympians" that tells the story of the ancient Greek gods and their mythology. ATHENA isn't an origins story, although there is a very brief introduction that summarizes the events of the first volume in the series (ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS). Instead, ATHENA is a story narrated by the Fates that tells four distinct tales about Athena: how she came to possess Zeus' aegis, how she defeated the giant Pallas, what she did with Medusa's decapitated head after Perseus used it, and her weaving contest with Arachne. The stories are each different and reveal distinct characteristics of Athena. Although the book doesn't strictly follow some of the more canonical elements with certain Greek myths, the book does an excellent job of combining many of those varying and sometimes conflicting stories into a unified whole. Although tastefully done, ATHENA doesn't shy away from the violence contained in many of these ancient tales. The tales of Athena are wonderfully illustrated and lend themselves well to the visual medium of a graphic novel. The inside of the book contains a genealogical chart which is extremely useful while reading these tales of Greek mythology. At the end of the book, there is a note from the author, some notes about the text, a few charts about various characters in the story (Perseus, Medusa, and the Fates), a bibliography, and some discussion questions. ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS was the origin story of the universe of the Olympian series and I like the way the series is progressing, now focusing on just one Olympian each. Overall, ATHENA: GREY-EYED GODDESS is a great book that anyone with an interest in Greek mythology is sure to appreciate.
Written and illustrated by George O'Connor, ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS is the first in a graphic novel series entitled "The Olympians" that tells the story of the ancient Greek gods and their mythology. ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS isn't just an origin story about Zeus. It's also an origin story about the creation of the universe and the world according to the ancient Greeks: from Kaos came Gaea (Mother Earth), from Gaea came Ouranos, and from Ouranos & Gaea came Kronos, and from Kronos came Zeus. ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS explains what happened to Zeus' ancestors, how Zeus freed his siblings, and the war that raged between Zeus and Olympians and the Titans. Although tastefully done, the story doesn't shy away from the violence surrounding the creature of the universe. The story is wonderfully illustrated and lends itself well to the visual medium of a graphic novel. At the end of the book, there is a note from the author, some notes about the text, a few charts about various characters in the story (Cyclopes, Metis, and Kronos), a bibliography, and some study questions. Overall, ZEUS: KING OF THE GODS is a great book that anyone with an interest in Greek mythology is sure to appreciate.
Thursday, June 19, 2014
Wednesday, June 18, 2014
TESLA’S ATTIC is the first book in the planned “The Accelerati Trilogy” by authors Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman. The book revolves around middle school student Nick Slate and what happens to him when he moves into an old house in Colorado Springs with his dad and younger brother after their mother tragically dies in a house fire in Florida. The house they move to in Colorado Springs was given to them by their Great-aunt Greta and at one time belonged to the famed inventor and scientist Nikola Tesla.
After moving into the house, Nick discovers an attic full of what appears to be old household items. To raise some money and clean out the attic that he wants for his bedroom, he holds a garage sale and sells most of the items. However, some strange events happen at the garage sale which leads Nick on a quest where he discovers that the items he sold weren’t ordinary. Each of the seemingly ordinary objects contains strange and mysterious properties, such as a wet cell battery that brings dead creatures back to life, a Speak and Say that completes sentences and tells the truth, a baseball glove that attracts asteroids, and a camera that only takes pictures of the future. Nick and some of his new friends eventually realize that the objects once belonged to Nikola Tesla. Nick decides it would be better off if they collect the object and keep them safe. But Nick and his friends aren’t the only ones interested in tracking down the objects from Tesla’s Attic. There’s a secret organization called The Accelerati that is determined to find as many of the Attic objects as possible to use for their own nefarious purposes of molding the world and controlling people as they see fit. It’s an adventure Nick believes he was born to begin, but one that’s extremely dangerous.
TESLA’S ATTIC is a very enjoyable read. For children and young adults who might not be familiar with Tesla and his genius, TESLA’S ATTIC can work as a catalyst to learning more about him. The book is fairly easy to read, does a really good job of portraying realistic characters, and is full of exciting and unexpected turns (there are a couple towards the end that I did not expect at all).
The story is told from an omniscient point of view, which is a bit unusual in the current crop of young adult fiction. Personally, I usually enjoy omniscient point of view stories better than those told from the perspective of one character as it gives the story a deeper and richer texture.
Overall, TESLA’S ATTIC is a thoroughly enjoyable, thrilling, and fast-paced story that leaves the reader in eager anticipation of the next volume in the trilogy.
Wednesday, June 11, 2014
Ever see THE DUKES OF HAZZARD? Well, Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane (James Best) will be in Greenville, IL this Friday and Saturday. He will be giving a special one-man show at the Globe Theatre Friday night and will be at Greenville Graffiti on Saturday as an honored guest and judge. If you are available Friday evening, I highly recommend you come out for the one-man show. It's not all that well known outside the entertainment community, but Best ran one of the most respected acting workshops in Hollywood for several decades. In addition to his cast mates on THE DUKES OF HAZZARD he was a mentor to Burt Reynolds, Clint Eastwood, Gary Busey, Teri Garr, Lindsay Wagner, Farrah Fawcett, and even Quentin Tarantino. If you have an interest in the movie business, this is one show you don't want to miss out on. Hollywood doesn't come this close to your neighborhood very often
Monday, June 09, 2014
LOUCH switches back and forth between chapters about Louch's life growing up, his experiences in WWII, and his life after the war with chapters about life and fishing along Shoal Creek. In these non-sequential chapters that usually revolve around fishing, the author discusses his experiences and memories fishing with his grandfather and family and the lessons he learned through these adventures.
LOUCH is told in a straight-forward manner that any reader can understand. The chapters about WWII are probably the most interesting for students of history, but the chapters about the life lessons learned and fishing are just as interesting, but in a different way.
Although, LOUCH is an interesting, informative, engaging, and entertaining book, it does have a couple of minor flaws. There are instances where the book unnecessarily repeats itself: an idea or sentence is expressed and is then repeated later on in a chapter and sometimes shows up again. I was focused on reading the book and learning about Louch's life, but there were times I noticed the repetition because it distracted me from reading.
The other flaw with LOUCH is the way in which the story is told. For the most part, the book is a story about Louch's life told in a sequential order that are broken up by chapters about fishing, life along Shoal Creek, or just some memories about the author's grandfather. Although I enjoyed these chapters, I wish they had been written into the story a different way, particularly the chapters that break up Louch's war narrative. Instead of augmenting the narrative of Louch's life, some of these chapters tend to distract the reader from the tale being weaved.
Despite the flaws, I enjoyed reading LOUCH. I grew up and was raised in a different small town about 14 miles away from Louch's hometown. I am familiar with Shoal Creek and as a boy spent time swimming in its waters and climbing along its banks. There is a chapter in LOUCH entitled "The Flowing Dao of Shoal Creek" and the title of the chapter aptly describes life for anyone who grew up near Shoal Creek. There is a tao (or dao) of living that one discovers when raised near Shoal Creek; it is a way of looking at life and knowledge of living that is not easily described. This tao is evident in LOUCH and stirred old memories from my youth. Also, in reading about the author's relationship with his grandfather and how he came to write LOUCH, I was reminded of my own relationships with my grandpa and great uncles and the history I uncovered with one of my great uncles for an Illinois History Fair project in the 8th grade. It's been quite some time since I reflected upon those stories, but LOUCH reminded me of them and I am thankful for that.
Overall, LOUCH is the story of a seemingly simple man from a small town in southern Illinois. It has a few flaws, but is an interesting, informative, and engaging story nonetheless. It will appeal most to those who have an interest in WWII history, fishing, or southern Illinois, but it has something to offer anyone with a spirit open to the tao of Shoal Creek.
Sunday, June 08, 2014
SMURF SOUP is the 13th volume of Smurf comics written by Peyo and issued by Papercutz.
SMURF SOUP includes three Smurf stories: "Smurf Soup", "Gargamel and the Crocodile", and "The Clockwork Smurf."
The title story is "Smurf Soup." Gargamel inadvertently leads a hungry ogre to the Smurf village. Papa Smurf convinces the ogre, named Bigmouth, that he has come to eat Smurf soup. So, Papa Smurf goes about preparing a special batch of Smurf just for Bigmouth.
Gargamel purchases a crocodile egg from a traveling salesman which quickly hatches in "Gargamel and the Crocodile." Gargamel plans to skin the animal and use it in a Smurf-catching potion when it gets bigger. However, the creature grows faster than expected and causes more trouble than anyone would have imagined.
In "The Clockwork Smurf" Handy Smurf builds a mechanical Smurf to help with chores. It also makes perfect sarsaparilla. Gargamel catches the Clockwork Smurf along with two other Smurfs and plans to use them as part of his plan to get revenge on all of the Smurfs.
SMURF SOUP is an enjoyable read. The stories are a bit longer than the typical Smurf stories, which I really enjoyed. This book is a must have for a Smurf fan's collection. Also recommended for younger children who enjoy comic books.