Stan Sakai is a consummate comics creator, and this collection represents stories spanning his entire career. While these mostly comedic and light advStan Sakai is a consummate comics creator, and this collection represents stories spanning his entire career. While these mostly comedic and light adventure short stories demonstrate Sakai's fantastic art and storytelling skills, as well as perfect comic timing, they lack the more dramatic and introspective moments found in his major work, Usagi Yojimbo, his decades-long tale of a samurai rabbit. However, while this might be a lighter work, it is still a very entertaining read, and will appeal to fans of Usagi Yojimbo as well as fans of just fun comics. The only really frustrating part is reading about Sakai's plans for a huge Nilson Groundthumper epic tale (in which Usagi would have played a supporting role). The Nilson Grounthumper stories we have are fun, but it's a shame--due to Sakai's decision to set the character aside in favor of Usagi--we will never see what sounds like it could have been a really interesting epic....more
Thanks to the little Senegal parrot living in our house, I've become a big parrot fan. So this story, about Zeno, an African Grey parrot who loses hisThanks to the little Senegal parrot living in our house, I've become a big parrot fan. So this story, about Zeno, an African Grey parrot who loses his owner--not that he'd ever admit to being owned--and Alya, a young girl suffering from leukemia, caught my attention. I didn't expect it to be a happy story, and indeed, I found myself in tears over and over again. But I still loved it.
More than anything else, this is a story of frustration, and Jane Kelley communicates that very well. Zeno, like all African Grey parrots, is highly intelligent, but he isn't a human. His concerns are those of a bird, and while he has a highly developed English vocabulary, he finds himself alternately unable to communicate what he really wants to the humans, or finds humans unable to understand that he is really trying to speak to them, raither than just imitate sounds.
Alya, on the other hand, is frustrated with her declining condition. She can no longer do the things she took for granted, and she feels like she is losing her friends and family as a result. They're still there, but they treat her differently. Kelley effectively shows how both Zeno and Alya perceive this loss of control, and how it upsets their lives.
This isn't a typical kid-animal bonding story, and it lacks a lot of the heartwarming moments you'd expect from that sentimental genre. It's tough and hard-edged, and there are a lot of harrowing sequences. I found myself particularly upset at one character, a woman who takes Zeno home, but is more interested in how he fits into the decor of her house than his well-being as a living, thinking creature. I know that there are far too many people like that out there, who don't understand the responsibilities of bringing an animal into their home. There's too great a perception that because animals don't speak a language that we recognize, they are somehow inferior to humans. As if the ability to smoke and kill each other over religion is an indication of superiority.
Ultimately, this is a tough book for me to pigeonhole (pun intended). It's so well written, and so tugs at the heartstrings, that I recommend it for its sheer quality. But it's also very upsetting through most of it, so definitely not a light distraction. I loved it, but I don't think I need to revisit it again for a while....more
A talking badger, a talking bear, a vicious feral cat, and a boy scout who solves mysteries find themselves thrown together in a mysterious forest. PuA talking badger, a talking bear, a vicious feral cat, and a boy scout who solves mysteries find themselves thrown together in a mysterious forest. Pursued by cloaked figures carrying blue swords that can rewrite reality itself, they desperately seek both sanctuary, and answers about the surprising truth of their situation.
Bill Willingham, best known for his comics work, gives us his first, and latest, prose novel. First, because he originally wrote it years ago and published it himself, and latest, because it has been revised for this edition. His only other published novel ties into his Fables comics series. This, however, is a completely original story. It's been compared to Wind in the Willows because of the talking animal characters, but the postmodern themes help make it wholly original.
Willingham writes with a straightforward style reminiscent of oral storytelling. He doesn't draw attention to elaborate turns of phrase, but still possesses a clear, distinct voice. He also writes with a great deal of humor, as is evident from the first line: "Max the Wolf was a wolf in exactly the same way that foothills are made up of real feet and a tiger shark is part tiger, which is to say, not at all."
Overall, the tone feels heavily influenced by classic children's adventure literature. But Willingham gives us more than a simple homage. He adds on a layer of postmodernism that gives his style a unique twist of relevance. Ultimately, it's a deeper story than it seems on the surface (but to say more would be to give the game completely away).
While the characters' backgrounds are necessarily kept vague (as that's part of the mystery), Willingham crafts personalities for them that make the reader truly care about them. When the action comes--and it comes swiftly and furiously--we worry about the characters. When bad things happen, we feel sad. And when good things happen, we feel elated. And he has possibly created the most realistic cat, in terms of attitude, I've ever seen in literature.
I don't want to see Willingham abandon comics. However, I do hope that this represents the start of a long career in prose, independent of his comics work. Clearly, he's more than adept in both....more
Kathryn Lasky continues her tale of wolves in the world of the Guardians of Ga'hoole. While I've only read the first Ga'hoole book, this series feelsKathryn Lasky continues her tale of wolves in the world of the Guardians of Ga'hoole. While I've only read the first Ga'hoole book, this series feels less like a big fantasy epic. Instead, it focuses on the deformed gnaw wolf, Faolan, as he learns to fit into wolf society despite having been raised by a grizzly bear. Towards the end, we get hints of things opening out into a larger storyline, but for the most part, this is a smaller, more personal story.
Lasky does a fantastic job showing the complex social rules and behavior of the different members of the wolf pack. Animal hierarchies are rich and complex, and we really get a feel for that here. Here characters are just as thoroughly developed as her setting and its cultures, and that combination is what makes this a winning series....more
**spoiler alert** This new series, set in the world of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, can be read completely independently. (At least, this first book app**spoiler alert** This new series, set in the world of the Guardians of Ga'Hoole, can be read completely independently. (At least, this first book apparently can, because I've only read the first Ga'Hoole book, and didn't feel at all lost or spoiled.) It tells the tale of a young wolf with a splayed paw, cast out from the pack due to his deformity. He ends up being raised by a bear, and this mix of species helps illustrate the differences in animal behavior.
As with the Ga'Hoole book I've read, Lasky combines a compelling plot, an intricate fantasy mythology, and real animal behavior and psychology to create an exciting, fascinating read with three-dimensional characters. I'm glad to be in on (almost) the ground floor for this one, instead of having to catch up through fifteen already-published books. Reading this is a bit of an emotional roller coaster, because I'm such a sucker for animal stories. Can't wait to read the next one!...more