Logicomix

An innovative, dramatic graphic novel about the treacherous pursuit of the foundations of mathematics.
This graphic novel recounts the spiritual odyssey of philosopher Bertrand Russell. In his agonized search for absolute truth, he crosses paths with thinkers like Gottlob Frege, David Hilbert & Kurt Gödel, & finds a passionate student in Ludwig Wittgenstein. But his most ambitious goal—to establish unshakable logical foundations of mathematics—continues to loom before him. Thru love & hate, peace & war, he persists in the mission threatening to claim both his career & happiness, finally driving him to the brink of insanity.

This story is at the same time a historical novel & an accessible explication of some of the biggest ideas of mathematics & modern philosophy. With rich characterizations & atmospheric artwork, it spins the pursuit of such ideas into a satisfying tale. Probing, layered, the book throws light on Russell’s inner struggles while setting them in the context of the timeless questions he tried to answer. At its heart, Logicomix is a story about the conflict between ideal rationality & the flawed fabric of reality.

(Publisher Description)

This title has not (yet) been reviewed by our staff, but it is a title that we highly recommend for the majority of libraries building collections for this age range.


Logicomix
By Apostolos Doxiadis Christos H. Papadimitriou
Art By Alecos Papadatos Annie Di Donna
ISBN: 9781596914520
Bloomsbury, 2009
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)


Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook


Super-smart Julian Calendar thinks starting junior high at a new school will mean he can shed his nerdy image-but then he meets Ben and Greta, two secret scientists like himself! The three form a secret club, complete with a high-tech lair. There, they can work to their hearts content on projects like the Stink-O-Meter, the Kablovsky Copter, and the Nightsneak Goggles. All that tinkering comes in handy when the trio discovers an evil scientist's dastardly plan to rob a museum. Can three inventors, armed with their wacky creations, hope to defeat this criminal mastermind?


Secret Science Alliance and the Copycat Crook
By Eleanor Davis

ISBN: 9781599901428
Bloomsbury, 2009
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)


Our Review

https://noflyingnotights.com/blog/2009/08/12/the-secret-science-alliance-and-the-copycat-crook/


Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?


In her first memoir, New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast brings her signature wit to the topic of aging parents. Spanning the last several years of their lives and told through four-color cartoons, family photos, and documents, and a narrative as rife with laughs as it is with tears, Chast’s memoir is both comfort and comic relief for anyone experiencing the life-altering loss of elderly parents.

While the particulars are Chast-ian in their idiosyncrasies–an anxious father who had relied heavily on his wife for stability as he slipped into dementia and a former assistant principal mother whose overbearing personality had sidelined Roz for decades–the themes are universal: adult children accepting a parental role; aging and unstable parents leaving a family home for an institution; dealing with uncomfortable physical intimacies; and hiring strangers to provide the most personal care.

(Publisher description)


Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
By Roz Chast
ISBN: 9781632861016
Bloomsbury, 2016
NFNT Age Recommendation: Adult (18+)


Our Review

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?


Rapunzel’s Revenge


Rapunzel escapes her tower-prison all on her own, only to discover a world beyond what she’d ever known before. Determined to rescue her real mother and to seek revenge on her kidnapper would-be mother, Rapunzel and her very long braids team up with Jack (of Giant killing fame) and together they preform daring deeds and rescues all over the western landscape, eventually winning the justice they so well deserve.
(Publisher Description)


Rapunzel’s Revenge
By Shannon Hale Dean Hale
Art by Nathan Hale
ISBN: 9781599900704
Bloomsbury, 2008
NFNT Age Recommendation: Middle Grade (7-11)


Our Review

Rapunzel’s Revenge


Related Reviews

Calamity Jack

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

Not every family is perfect. We may have embarrassing parents, annoying relatives, clueless cousins, and the occasional black sheep, but they can also be as normal as you are. Plus, you can’t choose who you are related to—barring an abusive situation, you just need to learn to cope with them and love them in your own way.

New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast relates how she had coped with the last years of her parents’ lives in her graphic memoir Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?. All her life, her parents have caused her stress and frustration, whether it be something insignificant like house cleaning or something life-threatening like their health and well-being. When they reached their nineties, the decline of their physical health meant that Chast had to deal with a lot more frustrations than she was used to, while also coming to terms with their mortality. But through her experiences, the reader comes to understand that even if your relationship with your parents is strained or complicated, you can still find the time to care for them and show how much they mean to you.

With her own wit and style, Chast has created a memorable memoir of familial struggles and love. She takes moments of her parents’ questionable behavior and adds comedic flair to them using exaggerated facial expressions and inner monologue; whether it be her father’s obsession with old bank books or her mother’s distrust of doctors. Her artistic style of simple cartoon drawings works well with these darkly humorous moments. The comic scenes she includes are used to convey her personal emotions as she speaks about her struggles with her parents. The narrative text is written in longhand and includes family photos, adding another personal touch. The writing and artwork work very well together, creating a funny yet heartwarming tale about family relations and preparations for death.

Chast’s personal reflection will appeal to those who enjoy memoirs of ordinary but relatable family life. Even those who are not familiar with the graphic novel format may want to give this book a try. With its deeply personal format and witty humor, Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant? is a great addition for any library’s adult graphic novel collection.

Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?
by Roz Chast
ISBN: 9781632861016
Bloomsbury, 2016

Apocalypse Bow Wow

apocalypseProimos is known for his snarky, quirky stories, from the wacky Johnny Mutton to picture books like Swim Swim and Todd’s TV. This story is no exception, except that it’s possibly stranger than any of his previous works.

Weird things are happening outdoors, but pet dogs Brownie and Apollo are more concerned with who gets to lie on the couch, who’s a mutt, and when they’ll get fed. But then the water bowl goes dry and it seems it’s been an awfully long time since they were fed. Finally, the two realize they must go and find the people. But how to get out? Will licking the doorknob do the trick? Spoiler Alert: Licking the doorknob does not do the trick, but they get out anyway! Now they’re outside and free and they will find the people and there will be food and…uh-oh, things are not right at all. Fortunately, there are lots of other dogs around for them to team up with. Unfortunately, not all of them are friendly. Will they ever find out what happened to the people? Will they survive eating 2,374 Twonkies cakes? Who will be top dog in the climactic battle of the grocery store?

Each page features a single black and white illustration, some divided into smaller panels, but most are a single panel. Instead of chapters, the book is divided into “scenes” and each one is introduced by a plain gray panel with the scene number on it. This definitely gives the book a movie-like feel, with each scene being more of a short vignette than a continuation of the overall plot. The art style is very scribbly, with all of the dogs having distinctive long noses and short legs, but varied body sizes. There is not a lot of detail in the backgrounds, just enough to let you know when the dogs are inside, outside, or at the grocery store. It can be difficult to keep track of which dog is speaking, especially when they have similar exaggerated facial features. The cartoon illustrations are funny, but I found myself wanting more detail in the illustrations as a whole, and a better idea of what was going on in the story.

I felt like this was really supposed to be funny, but ultimately it just wasn’t. It was very quirky and there were lots of jokes, like the flea giving military advice from Sun Tzu’s The Art of War, or Brownie’s completely clueless behavior in licking doorknobs to make doors open. The scenery was very desolate and the black and white art seemed to make the art even more depressing overall. I felt like I was missing something that would make this spoof of apocalyptic fiction actually humorous and not so existential. Middle grade kids who like really snarky, off the wall humor and are familiar with the tropes of apocalyptic movies and books will probably appreciate this, but it’s not something I would expect to find an immediate audience for in my library.

Apocalypse Bow Wow
by James Proimos III
Art by James Proimos Jr.
ISBN: 9781619634428
Bloomsbury, 2015
Publisher Age Rating: 8-12

Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaptation

I’ve put off writing this review in hopes that I might eventually develop strong feelings about the book. After several weeks, I must accept that this isn’t going to happen. Seymour Chwast is a very well respected designer and illustrator and Dante’s Divine Comedy is a classic of western literature, but the former’s graphic novel adaptation of the latter has elicited nothing more than a noncommittal shrug. I imagine Chwast could provide an illustration of the hellish punishment suffered by the apathetic, but I’m not driven to go looking for it.

In the original poem, Renaissance-era Italian poet Dante Alighieri describes his travels through hell, purgatory, and heaven, guided first by the poet Virgil and then by Dante’s lost love Beatrice. It’s a hearty mix of theology, social commentary, history, and politics. I read the first book, The Inferno, in a classics class many years ago. I quite enjoyed the sensationally grisly descriptions of sinners’ punishments (carefully tailored to their earthly transgressions) and learned a lot from the various historical figures who showed up in Dante’s narrative (often being punished for some mortal sin, adding a bit of snarky enjoyment).

It’s quite understandable that Chwast does away with Dante’s poetic descriptions of the sights and spectacles of the afterlife; in a graphic novel we expect that job to be done by the art. Unfortunately, Chwast’s black and white line art comes up short. It’s carefully planned and well executed but rather static and lacking in emotional resonance. It conveys neither the visceral horror of hell nor the radiant glory of heaven. Additionally, Chwast’s preference for large tableaux rather than sequential panels undermines any sense of graphical narrative. Many of his pages would work well as posters or as illustrations to the poem, but they fail to form a cohesive whole as a graphic novel. The waters are muddied further by Chwast’s choice to depict most characters in 1920s fashions. Dante wears a trenchcoat and fedora while Virgil sports a bowler and pencil-thin mustache. One can draw parallels between the roaring twenties and the Italian Renaissance, but I wasn’t ever sure why Chwast was doing so.

With its descriptive duties stripped away, the text serves mostly to deliver a dry play-by-play of plot points and character names. It adds clarity, but not a lot of flavor or interest. The blank, declarative language carefully labels each moment, but does nothing to string the moments together or create narrative structure. With neither the art nor the text providing propulsion, things bog down after a while.

Of course, one of my problems is out of Chwast’s control; I lack the historical knowledge necessary to understand all of Dante’s references. When I read The Inferno I had copious annotations to help me along. I might recommend this book to any Dante scholar with enough background knowledge to render such annotations unnecessary. Their passion for the original might warm their feelings toward this adaptation. However, that’s a fairly small group and I’m not sure how many of them use my library.

Dante’s Divine Comedy: A Graphic Adaptation
by Seymour Chwast
ISBN: 9781608190843
Bloomsbury USA, 2010

Psychiatric Tales

psychPsychology has always been a passion of mine, something that I am constantly learning more and more about. There are hundreds of mental illnesses, and countless books, including memoirs, self-help literature, diagnostic manuals, etc. on the subject. High profile celebrities like Carrie Fisher write about how they suffered and still suffer from illness like bipolar, depression, anorexia, etc. to foster understanding about these diseases. I was diagnosed with depression when I was thirteen years old, and was diagnosed with anxiety when I was 22 years old.

But despite how much literature there is out there, there is still a stigma attached to those with mental illness and those that help treat it. I have been told by many people, including strangers, that my anxiety would go away if “I just thought happy thoughts.” Oh, if only. Mental illnesses are diseases, but still many maintain the antiquated belief that if one has enough backbone and strength of will, one can defeat these illnesses without medication, doctors, or any help other than the strength of one’s own mind—not too helpful when the disease is neurological.

Psychiatric Tales by Darryl Cunningham seeks to erode the negative associations with mental illness and psychiatric care and treatment. With his simplistic artwork in high contrast black and white, Cunningham elucidates what he has witnessed as a psychiatric nurse and as someone who has suffered from depression.

The book contains eleven stories about mental illness, from “Dementia Ward” to “People With Mental Illness Enrich Our Lives.” Cunningham’s drawings are simple and don’t contain much detail. This suits the subject matter very well, because they lend a bit of personality and feeling to each panel. There is no fancy computer manipulation— he simply got out the sharpie and drew, straight from his mind’s eyes to the paper. I found that when Cunningham moved away from his own unique artwork and towards photo manipulation, as he does in “People With Mental Illness Enrich Our Lives,” that I didn’t quite care for the story as much.

Cunningham does go into subject matter that is incredibly hard to deal with gracefully, often choosing the most misunderstood of the mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and anti-social personality disorder, and the most misunderstood consequences of mental illness, like cutting and suicide, and treats them with love and with care. It could be so easy for him to simply avoid these subjects altogether, or look at them clinically and without personal feeling, but instead he does something very brave. He puts his own feelings on the page, and explains why people cut (not because they seek attention, but because of a need for emotional release), how suicide effects not only family and friends (he describes how a patient committed suicide and how helpless he felt at not being able to do anything about it), and how these are actual diseases that need to be treated with understanding, not fear and aggression.

While this book may not satisfy someone searching for a more in-depth look into mental illnesses, this is a perfect book to hand to someone who is taking a Psychology 101 class, has had a friend or family member recently diagnosed with a mental illness, or who is confused or curious about what mental illnesses really are.

Psychiatric Tales
by Darryl Cunningham
ISBN: 9781608192786
Bloomsbury, 2010

Calamity Jack


   
Jack has always prided himself on his schemes. From childhood capers – nabbing classmates’ sandwiches and stealing ice cream – he graduated to using his talents to swindle people who actually deserve it. His hardworking momma should be proud. But somehow, even though his scams were supposed to be helping the two of them get by, they always upset Jack’s momma – and that was before he went after the cruel giant Blunderboar in a scheme that ended with a huge beanstalk wrecking the neighborhood and Jack being run out of the city of Shyport.

Since then, Jack’s been busy – meeting a girl named Rapunzel and using his trademark trickery to help her defeat a tyrannical witch. Now he’s come home to make good, bringing Rapunzel along – only to find Shyport a police state run by Blunderboar’s giants and terrorized by enormous ant people! Blunderboar has even imprisoned Jack’s momma! Jack seeks out Prudence, a pixie who was his old partner in crime, to help him figure out what to do next.

Behind the giants-and-ant-people weirdness lurks still-more-sinister weirdness, according to Frederick Sparksmith, a young newspaperman that Jack and Rapunzel rescue in Shyport. Frederick has some ideas about what’s really going on and some impressive inventions that might help Jack and his friends save the city. This would all make Freddie a pretty good guy to have around, except that he seems to have his eye on Rapunzel! She must know that Jack is crazy about her – but as more of his criminal past surfaces, Jack wonders whether Rapunzel might not prefer a straight arrow like Freddie. Just one more thing to worry about while Jack is trying to pull off his best-ever scheme and finally make his momma proud.

Like the previous book, Rapunzel’s Revenge, Calamity Jack packs in humor, fun characters, and beautiful full-color illustrations. The setting is different, moving from Wild West desert to a vaguely Victorian city where “Old World” pixies and wights live alongside humans and giants. Freddie’s inventions lend a bit of a steampunk feel to the story, while the appearance of a Jabberwock and a Bandersnatch expand the setting beyond those of classic fairytales and folktales.

The violence – though frequent – is cartoonish rather than brutal. The bone-grinding giants – especially the rather eloquently threatening Blunderboar – make this story a little darker than the previous book, but won’t be enough to put most young readers off this clever and action-packed adventure.

Calamity Jack
Story by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale
ISBN: 9781599900766
Bloomsbury Publishing, 2010

Rapunzel’s Revenge


   
Rapunzel has grown up living with just her mother. Well, her mother and a surprising number of guards. Because, as you might have guessed, Rapunzel isn’t really Mother Gothel’s daughter. What the fairy tale never told you is that the old witch has a lot more going on than keeping one girl a prisoner. When Rapunzel finally manages to sneak a peek over her garden’s suspiciously high wall, she sees a land ruthlessly exploited by Mother Gothel, who has used magic to make herself a tyrant.

When Mother Gothel locks her up in a towering tree, Rapunzel, refreshingly, rescues herself. And she’s not going to stop there: wielding her two long braids as whips and lariats, she sets out to find her real mother and save the world.

Rapunzel soon discovers that the world she plans to save – a rollicking Wild West setting full of canyons, mines, saloons, and bandits – is a tough place for a sheltered sixteen-year-old to navigate alone. Enter Jack, a young thief with a beanstalk in his past and a goose under his arm. He seems to know his way around, but he’s also a pretty slippery character – can Rapunzel trust him? And can she really take down Mother Gothel? One way to find out – and if that way involves funny, larger-than-life adventures that blend fairy tales with American tall tales (hint: it does), then so be it.

The full-color art is clear and expressive, the former being especially important given all the over-the-top action sequences. It’s also fun to look at, from the desert landscapes to the characters’ classic outfits. The story skillfully combines a series of episodic adventures a la Pecos Bill or Davy Crockett with one overarching storyline. Rapunzel and Jack make a good team: he does the scheming, and she takes care of anything that needs to be lassoed or whipped. (This turns out to be a lot of things; I guess if all you have is a hammer . . .) Rapunzel may do most of the rescuing, but Jack is by no means a pushover, and they each pack an impressive arsenal of quips and banter.

There’s some violence, but it’s strictly cartoon fare, no blood or scary stuff. No worries about sexual content, either: aside from one quick kiss, there’s nil. The humor and storyline are accessible and lighthearted, making Rapunzel’s Revenge a great read for kids and young teens as well as older readers, who may recognize more of the tropes it plays with.

For the further adventures of Rapunzel and Jack, see the sequel, Calamity Jack.

Rapunzel’s Revenge
By Shannon and Dean Hale, illustrated by Nathan Hale
ISBN: 9781599900704
Bloomsbury USA Children’s Books, 2008