Monday, March 24, 2014

Show YOUR Shield (@ your library!)

    A few posts ago I wrote about comic artist Al Bigley and how he created the "super hero card" for the Union County Public Library system. The card was such a success it got the attention of Marvel Comics! More specifically, their publicity arm, who has been busy promoting Captain America- The Winter Soldier. Marvel is teaming up with the library system for a special campaign called "Show YOUR Shield." The shield in this case is the library's super hero card. Patrons who have not picked up a super hero card yet, can still do so. On Saturday, March 29, from 2-4 pm, patrons are asked to show their shield (card) at the Main Library in Monroe, NC and they will be entered into a drawing for two tickets to an early showing of Captain America- The Winter Soldier on April 2- two days before the movie premieres nationally!
  But that is not all! Cosplayers and kids with costumes- come dressed as your favorite Marvel Comics character to win great prizes like t-shirts, posters, buttons and more. And one winner will receive a special grand prize!
Here is the official marvel explanation of Cap's shield.
  So, just like an ongoing Avengers comic, the power-enabled super hero card reveals a new plot-twist power in getting people early access to major media events of the Mighty Marvel style! 'Nuff said, true believers?

Cap says, "Show YOUR Shield!"

American Dream says, "Remember to wear your costume! I mean uniform! It's a uniform gosh-darn it!"

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Book Review: Hidden

Among graphic novels about the Holocaust, Maus by Art Spiegelman is probably the standard by which all others are measured. Magneto: Testament is, believe it or not, a fine (but very depressing) work on the Holocaust as well. But neither of these books is a great way to introduce younger readers to the Holocaust and the toll it inflicted on so many. Fortunately, publisher :01 Books has stepped forward not once, but now twice, to bring the horror of war to the level of younger readers. Many people may recall the three-volume series Resistance by Carla Jablonski and Leland Purvis which is great for kids about 10 and up.
 Now, :01 Books has released Hidden by Loic Dauvillier, Marc Lizano and Greg Salsedo.
 Hidden is deceptively simple in its presentation with people having bobble-doll sized heads and bobble-doll sized bodies, inked line-work and flat, often monotone coloring like the older comic strips. A second look allows you to see the amount of detail poured into each frame and the expressions and emotions being played out on each person's face.
 The story centers around a little girl named Dounia, somewhere between six to nine years old, living in

France when the Nazi occupation and the Vichy government begin their persecution of the Jews. It begins with the wearing of a yellow Star of David and is followed by public segregation. Dounia is no longer allowed to talk to her friends or walk with them, she must sit in the back of the classroom, she and her family are confined to small parts of their town. Finally, the police come for the family. Desperate, her mother and father hide her away in the apartment but are arrested themselves. From there, Dounia relies on the kindness of strangers who stand up to the Nazis the only way they can- by helping each other. Dounia has her name changed and is taken in by a new couple who move her out to the countryside where she is safer. the efforts to keep Dounia safe and hidden are amazing, and a note at the end of the book says her story is based on histories collected from survivors and those involved in hiding the Jews. About 84% of the Jewish children in France were never arrested by the Germans or the Vichy government- a testimony to the fortitude of the French people to refuse to give in to evil.
 The most shocking part of the story is when Dounia's mother is found alive. It will shake you.
The story of Dounia is told without rage, or gore, or a lot of violence. It is the war seen through the eyes of a child living everyday in uncertainty.
 The book not only serves to be a great starting point on the Holocaust for younger readers, but can be appreciated by older readers as well as it offers a look at the war rarely seen. Hidden is out April 1. It contains 80 pages in full color and carries a suggested price of $16.99.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Book Review: The Undertaking of Lily Chen

This might be one of the most clever covers of the year.
The Undertaking of Lily Chen by Danica Novgorodoff is one of those books you open up not really knowing what to expect.  China is a country of a billion people. China is a communist nation with its own version of capitalism. China is a nation that seems to be the economic engine for the rest of the world. All of these things- good and bad- help define China to the modern world. But China is an old land with old traditions and beliefs, and this book uses that clash of worlds to move the story forward.
 Deshi is a young man, and it seems he is struggling to become a pilot in the People's Army. His older brother Wei teases him and the brothers begin to fight when Wei falls into the path of a jeep and is killed.  When Deshi breaks the news to his family they are devastated. It seems Wei was the favorite child and the one who was most successful in their parents' eyes. They even tell Deshi they would rather he would have been the one to die instead of Wei. Wanting to provide for their favorite son in death, the parents send Wei on a quest to find the corpse of a female- preferably young, attractive and unmarried- to be married to Wei in death so he is not alone for eternity.
Some of the brilliant colors in the book.
 Lily is a poor farmer's daughter (from the illustrations it looks like the farm grows dirt or flat land- hard to tell) who longs to get out of her stark and simple existence. When Deshi encounters Lily, he kidnaps her with plans to kill her on the way home, ensuring that he delivers a fresh and beautiful corpse bride for his brother. Along the way, the couple encounter palm readers, monks, and survival in the outdoors. They learn about each other and share their hopes and dreams and they fall in love. The are pursued by Song, a man who finds brides for the deceased and doesn't quit a job until it is done and by Lily's father- a massive man with a stone-angry face. Deshi and Lily must now trust each other to find a way out of their predicaments and bring about a happy ending for each other.
I was expecting more supernatural elements to the story- China seems to have a strong reverence for ancestors, and I thought it would be interesting to see their interaction with the real world- would they approve of what the Deshi and Lily did? Would they help Lily's father? Would they encounter any demons or monsters from Chinese lore?
 Alas, the entire story is set in modern, but very rural China where progress is coming, and many of the old ways are going away if they are not to the advantage of those who can use them, i.e., the landlord who will agree to extend the Chen's lease on the land if they will give him Lily as a bride.
 I have to admit, I was not a fan of the art style, but it became less distracting as the story continued to build. I was also captivated by the use of the watercolored tones and use of white space on the pages.
An example of the great use of white space.
 This is an older teen book at best with a lot of adult themes- sex, language, smoking, drinking, murder, black market dealings, etc. but it is an engaging look into Chinese life and culture and the importance that is placed on tradition and the deceased. If you want a story that exposes you to different values and thinking, then The Undertaking of Lily Chen is an excellent resource that will also be an enjoyable reading journey.
 The Undertaking of Lily Chen is published by :01 Books. It is 430 pages of full color art, has a suggested retail price of $29.99 and will be released for sale on March 25.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Superhero Library Cards!

If you missed the event this past Saturday, March 1 at the Union County Public Library in Monroe don't worry. The superhero cards have arrived at the rest of the libraries!

 What makes these library cards "superhero" cards? These cards are loaded with superpowers. A regular card gets you a check out limit of 35 items, allows you to reserve up to three items, and can give you a day's grace to return items. The superhero card raises those limits to 40 checked out items, five reserves and two day's grace! The powers last for a year, the same time a standard card is good for before it gets updated. The cards cost $3, but that money will go to purchase early literacy computers for the library system making your purchase of the card a heroic action!

 Cartooning Club friend and patron saint Al Bigley designed the card incorporating the different media the library utilizes into the picture- print, audio and digital/online. Reflecting the growing presence of females in the graphic novel marketplace, Al also made sure there was a guy and a girl superhero on the card.

 Al also signed a number of the posters of the card, and these are still available at most of the branches free when you pick up your card while they last! And if you pick up your card at the Marshville, Waxhaw or Union West (Indian Trail) libraries this week, your name will go into a drawing to win a signed copy of Al's comic/graphic novel Geminar!