Fiction · Julia P · Juvenile · Picture book · Poetry

Where Is the Green Sheep? *by Mem Fox | Here’s a Little Poem *collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters

Where Is the Green Sheep

Where Is the Green Sheep?
by Mem Fox; illustrated by Judy Horacek
(Penguin, 2004, 32 pages)

Here's a Little Poem

Here’s a Little Poem: A Very First Book of Poetry
collected by Jane Yolen and Andrew Fusek Peters; illustrated by Polly Dunbar
(Candlewick, 2007, 112 pages)

I’m officially a fan of Mem Fox – and it started after reading her book about reading to children, Reading Magic, a few weeks ago. Where Is the Green Sheep? is a fun book to read aloud for a number of reasons. The rhythm and rhyme of the story are great. Plus the repetitive nature of asking where the green sheep is will make for an enjoyable activity when reading with a toddler who can “guess” the next line.

The book touches on opposites, colors, and lends itself to a fun overall reading experience. As we explore different kinds of sheep doing different things, we are constantly on the lookout for a green sheep, who doesn’t appear to be anywhere. The illustrations are wonderful because there is so much detail provided it offers a lot of opportunities to explore the images with your child and ask them questions about what they see. This book is officially added to my collection 🙂

Here’s a Little Poem is a collection of poetry from a number of different authors including Margaret Wise Brown, Langston Hughes and Jack Prelutsky. The poems touch on a number of themes and are paired with bright illustrations. They’re perfect for reading out loud and a great way to introduce your child to poetry.

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Andrew S · Fiction · Graphic Novel · Mystery

Batman: The Black Mirror | by Scott Snyder

Batman the Black Mirror

Batman: The Black Mirror
by Scott Snyder; illustrated by Jock and Francesco Francavilla
(DC Comics, 2011, 304 pages)

This collection of Batman comics (Detective Comics #871-881) reads a lot like a hard-boiled detective story. Bruce Wayne is retired, and Dick Grayson – who was formerly Robin and then Nightwing – has now taken on the identity of Batman. Together, he and Commissioner Gordon must discover who is acquiring and auctioning off chemical weapons used by Gotham City’s notorious villains. The mystery becomes personal when Gordon’s estranged son shows up in Gotham just as a wave of violence reaches its peak.

The artwork in this volume is excellent, and the mystery holds together pretty well. I really enjoyed the way that some of the artwork called back to the look of the older Batman comics. The action sequences were drawn well and were easier to follow than some of the graphic novels I’ve read. Dick Grayson is a more compassionate and less cynical batman than Bruce Wayne. The story is still dark, but Grayson’s Batman resists giving into the darkness. I would definitely like to read more of Scott Snyder’s Batman comics.

Fiction · In the Library · Julia P

God Help the Child | by Toni Morrison

God Help the Child

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison
(Knopf, 2015, 178 pages)

When I heard there was a new Toni Morrison book coming out I knew that I’d be reading it. Her writing is lyrical and profound. As a reader you can’t help but admire her way with words. After I started reading I quickly realized that the book was going to fall far short of my expectations. Her gift with words was still there, her writing was still powerful at times, but the story just felt incomplete. It felt like both the characters and the plot could have done with some more fleshing out.

Bride was born to parents who were so light they easily could have passed for white. That was what made it so shocking that she was born so incredibly dark. Her mother could hardly stand to touch her and her father decided not to stick around. Despite never feeling accepted by her mother, Bride grew up to be a successful young woman, launching her own cosmetics line. In the midst of launching her line Bride’s boyfriend leaves her, she has a rough interaction with a woman from her past, and she finds herself experiencing strange and inexplicable bodily changes.

As the story progresses Bride decides to try and find her ex, who left with no real explanation. Her journey to find him parallels what amounts to a journey to find herself.

There were so many flaws in the story that it was hard trying to summarize things. There are characters that seem to be important but that we know very little about. Despite being set in the present-ish day, aspects of the story don’t line up. God Help the Child just felt unfinished to me, which was disappointing.

If you’re a Morrison fan I think you’ll feel similarly to me, but you never know. If you’re new to Morrison, I’d recommend picking up titles from her backlist. God Help the Child doesn’t do its author justice.

Essays · Julia P · Non-Fiction · Women

Bad Feminist | by Roxane Gay

Bad Feminist

Bad Feminist: Essays by Roxane Gay
(Harper Perennial, 2014, 320 pages)

Bad Feminist had been on my to-read list since it came out. It has been well-reviewed and publicized and that’s because Gay has a knack for writing intelligently in a way that a broad audience can relate to. I actually started following her on Twitter (@rgay) before reading any of her work because she’s known for her social media presence and ability to wittily critique current social, racial, and cultural issues. This voice is clearly just a condensed, bite-size version of what you find in her collection of essays.

The essays in this collection talk about a number of things including feminism, race, and the way society has morphed into its current iteration. Gay uses various aspects of pop culture to get her points across, referencing shows like “Girls,” movies like “Django Unchained,” and books like the Sweet Valley High series. Her conversational tone makes it easy to digest what she’s saying, which helps add to this book’s a broad appeal. Gay also makes a point of speaking honestly about her own experiences and how they have influenced the way she sees the world.

I’m glad I finally got around to reading this book. I’ll definitely be reading the novel she published recently, An Untamed State, and I plan to continue checking out what she has to say about things going on in the world through her Twitter feed. You can read Sadie’s review of this title as well. I certainly think this is a book worth checking out.

Graphic Novel · Julia P · Memoir · Non-Fiction · Quick Read!

Displacement | by Lucy Knisley

Displacement

Displacement: A Travelogue by Lucy Knisley
(Fantagraphics, 2015, 161 pages)

Displacement is Knisley’s most recent graphic novel. In this book she recounts her experiences taking a cruise with her elderly (90+) grandparents. They had booked the cruise through a senior group they were a part of and it was decided that it would be best to have a family member go along to make sure things went smoothly. Knisley volunteered herself, not anticipating just how all-consuming her role as caretaker would be.

Knisley doesn’t sugarcoat anything. This was in no way a vacation for her. She portrays all the stress and frustration that you can imagine would arise when you are responsible for looking after two elderly and infirm individuals. It made me think of Roz Chast’s Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasantbut it covered a shorter period of time and didn’t really get as in-depth. Still, it offers an honest portrayal of what aging really looks like, and that can be a hard thing to face.

If you enjoyed Chast’s graphic novel and have an appreciation for graphic memoirs this might be something you’ll appreciate.

Andrew S · Non-Fiction · Religion

Apostles Today | by Benjamin G. McNair Scott

Apostles Today

Apostles Today: Making Sense of Contemporary Charismatic Apostolates: A Historical and Theological Appraisal by Benjamin G. McNair Scott
(Pickwick Publications, 2014, 272 pages)

The major story in twentieth and early twenty-first century Christianity is the global expansion of the Pentecostal and charismatic movement. Part of that expansion is the proliferation of charismatic apostolates. The same rationale that calls for a pouring forth of the charismata evidenced in the New Testament (speaking in tongues, prophecy, etc.), also seeks to restore the New Testament’s office of apostle to the contemporary church. Contemporary apostles are extremely controversial, particularly within evangelical circles. McNair Scott, working out of the Anglican tradition, surveys these contemporary apostolates. He explores historical precedents for apostles in the church, as well as the exegetical arguments that support such a view. Finally, he offers a theological critique of contemporary apostles with a view towards the ecumenical potential and challenges that such figures present.

McNair Scott approaches movements like the New Apostolic Reformation from an appreciative but critical distance. As an Anglican with charismatic leanings, he appreciates both the renewal generated by the charismatic movement and the inherited ecclesial and theological structures of traditional denominations. Ultimately, he recommends a severely chastened appropriation of apostolic roles and language that could promote ecumenism between established denominations and new charismatic groups. The book is a revision of McNair Scott’s PhD dissertation, so its audience is fairly specialized. However, the subject matter is highly relevant to the church today. For those interested in the charismatic movement and its influence on contemporary Christianity, this is an important book.

Andrew S · History · Non-Fiction · Sports

Tales from the Deadball Era | by Mark S. Halfon

Tales from the Deadball Era

Tales from the Deadball Era: Ty Cobb, Home Run Baker, Shoeless Joe Jackson, and the Wildest Times in Baseball History by Mark S. Halfon
(Potomac Books, 2014, 248 pages)

Modern baseball has been scandalized by steroid use, labor disputes, and inflated salaries. It’s enough to get anyone nostalgic for the good old days when ballplayers played hard, clean, and for the love of the game. Well, if this era ever really existed, it wasn’t during the Deadball Era. The Deadball Era, which stretched from about 1900 through 1919, was an era known for its gritty play, high batting averages, and trick pitches. According to Halfon though, it was also marked by rampant cheating and violence (on the part of players and fans). The 1919 Black Sox scandal is the most notorious of baseball scandals, but Halfon insists that “throwing” games was part of the culture of baseball in the Deadball Era. It would seem that corruption has always been an integral part of the game.

Lawrence Ritter’s The Glory of Their Times is still the best book on Deadball Era baseball. However, Halfon contributes some fascinating new insights. One of Halfon’s goals is to dispel the myth that baseball faced a crisis after the Black Sox scandal and was only saved by the popularity of Babe Ruth and the new “lively” ball. While the game certainly changed dramatically in 1920, with home run totals skyrocketing, Halfon convincingly argues that there was never any dip in baseball’s popularity after the scandal – it would seem that fans had accepted such scandals as part of the game. As evidence of this, Halfon brings to light the fact that in addition to throwing the 1919 World Series, there is plenty of evidence to show that the White Sox also took a dive in the 1920 pennant race. He takes the high attendance and huge national following for the 1920 World Series as an indication that corruption never seriously challenged the popularity of baseball.

For all the differences between Deadball Era and contemporary baseball, a little historical investigation of this bygone era reveals all sort of issues that feel familiar. These insights and stories should hold the interest of any baseball fan.