Greetings! After a two-week hiatus, our Reading Pile feature is back, collecting quick first impressions of books we have been reading lately. Feel free to join in with your own recent reading in the comments section.
Mike Pawuk: I’ve been reading some older comic book collections, most notably the New Mutants comics from Marvel Comics published in the last 5 years. I used to read the comics back in the day in the 1980s before they became known as “X-Force.” I read mainly the first collection, New Mutants: Back in School, written by Nunzio DeFilippis and Christina Weir with art by Keron Grant and Mark Robinson. The books serve as a reunion of sorts for some of the original New Mutants characters. Moonstar and Karma are featured primarily in the book but the X-Men titles have changed a lot since they were originally the only junior squad in Professor Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters. Now, they are school teachers and recruiters finding new generations of mutants and inviting them to study and also to control their ability in a place with similar students. It’s a welcome to see them, but it’s disappointing to only see some of the New Mutant characters in the title. I know that there are more stories on my back pile to read that feature more of the heroes I grew up with, like Cannonball, Sunspot, Warlock, Wolfsbane, and more, but overall it was great to see that what I’ve been missing has been in good hands with the usually excellent Weir and DeFilippis as writers. My only complaint was the artist’s rendition of Professor X, which just looked like a bald man 20 years younger than he should have and wearing the goofiest grin I’ve ever seen in most of the panels.
Kate Dacey: Now that Sand Chronicles has reached the end of its run, I’m re-reading all ten volumes. It’s a lovely coming-of-age story about a teenage girl coping with her mother’s death, falling in love for the first time, and trying to build a new relationship with her estranged father. On paper, the plot looks very sudsy, but the story never feels overly dramatic; if anything, what I like best about Sand Chronicles is just how understated it can be, given the seriousness of the issues it addresses. The artwork, too, has a lovely, restrained quality that underscores just how lonely and confused the heroine, Ann, feels. Perhaps the most remarkable thing about Sand Chronicles, however, is that it isn’t the least bit mawkish; it can be very sad, but it can also be warm, funny, and romantic, too. It’s chicken soup for angstful teen soul!
Eva Volin: This week I read a couple of books best suited for older teens. First is Level Up, by Gene Luen Yang and Thien Pham. The story isn’t complicated, but it’s hard to sum up as it involves video games, talking statues, a dead father, medical school, and four adorable angels. As always, Gene Yang’s storytelling is wonderful. He turns the story of a young man coming to terms with the death of his father into a moving coming of age story about how living up to your parents expectations may not be so bad after all. But as much as I enjoyed the writing, I really, really loved the art. Thien Pham’s drawings are deceptively simple and the watercolor washes (I think it’s watercolor—I can never tell anymore what is done on a computer and what’s done for realz) glow.
The other book I read is Long John Silver 1: Lady Vivian Hastings, by Xavier Dorison and Mathiew Lauffray. Not exactly a sequel to Treasure Island, Long John Silver has been hired by a lady on the verge of bankruptcy to help her find the mysterious city of Guiana-Capac before her treasure-obsessed husband does. The story is dark and brutal, just like the original novel is. Also like the original novel it’s full of intrigue and adventure, crosses and double crosses, and I can’t wait to see what comes next in volume two. Cinebook has this rated for ages 12+, and while it’s true there is nothing spicier in here than what you’d find in an average superhero comic, the tone is very dark and there are references to abortion, so some libraries may want to put this in the adult collection.
Brigid Alverson: I was dismayed last week to hear that Boom! Studios is losing the license for their Pixar books, because I have really liked the ones I have read—even though I usually haven’t seen the movies they are based on. Finding Nemo: Losing Dory is the second of their Finding Nemo stories that I have read, and I liked them both a lot. Nemo and his spunky friends, Nemo’s nervous father Marlin, the dim-witted, forgetful Dory, and the tough-as-nails Gill, and Bruce, the friendly shark, are all present and accounted for, and the art is lively and colorful. The story is your basic search-and-rescue tale that takes Nemo and his companions through a series of perils in order to rescue Dory, who has been taken in (rather bizarrely) by a group of sailfins who are recruiting talent for an American Idol-style competition. Of course, the “talent” is actually going to be tossed to the ferocious sea monster who lives nearby, and this being Pixar, the sea monster ends up not being so ferocious after all. It’s a fairly original twist on a well-worn story, though, and very well executed. I believe these books will stay in print for a while, and they are well worth checking out.
Discovery Channel’s Top Ten Deadliest Sharks oversells its premise a bit on the cover—despite the sharp teeth and plumes of red in the water, the book is at pains to inform readers that people are not part of sharks’ natural diet and that sharks rarely attack humans without provocation. In fact, we are more dangerous to sharks than they are to us! However, the book does deliver the goods in the second half, with some accounts of actual shark attacks. There’s some gore but it’s not terribly explicit or scary, and I did learn a lot about sharks from reading this book.