Friday, March 14, 2008

Down Garrapata Road by Anne Estevis

A first effort by a Texas teacher, this collection of stories about 4 different families tells about Mexican-American families living in South Texas in the 1940’s and 1950’s. The stories are told from the child’s point of view, when they are leaving childhood and becoming teenagers. The first family’s stories are all told by one daughter, and those stories are the best, especially about the relations between her mother and father – how the mother obeys the father, but makes her feelings felt in spite of his opposition. These young people had a simpler and harder existence then teenagers today, but teens can still relate to their problems of wanting to dress a certain way, and to have freedom in their social life. It’s also a good book for recording a cultural history that otherwise might not be remembered.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Superman True Brit

Superman True Brit

by Kim "Howard" Johnson, with some help by John Cleese
Art by John Byrne and Mark Farmer


In this Elseworld comic, a small variation makes for a big change in the traditional Superman story. Instead of landing in Kansas, Kal-el's rocket lands in Kent, England. The Clark family finds the surprising child and names the boy Colin. As Colin grows to a man they teach him to be careful with his gifts, always remembering the important creed which every Brit lives by: WWTNT (What Would the Neighbors Think?) A small slip of his powers (causing a nearly fatal accident), lands him an enviable job as a tabloid reporter at the Daily Smear. He finds new uses for his power as he attempts to spy out what the latest Celebrity Hotties are up to. The biggest change comes for Colin Clark when he sees two popular musicians trapped in a car. With his parents permission, he quickly dons a disguise and rescues them. Other rescues follow, some not fully appreciated, for example when he helps the British army safely pull a WWII bomb from the ground, but then accidently throws the old bomb into the Eiffel Tower. Eventually, Colin realizes that he must stand up for himself and even face down his tabloid boss.

In this very funny interpretation, Howard presents an interesting scenario that not only makes for a fun story, but leads to a whole series of amusing variations. What if Superman's ship had landed in Germany, France, India, Kenya, Brazil or even Antarctica? The possibilities are endless!

This is a very quick, very fun read. The artwork at times presents the traditional square-jawed image of Superman and at other times presents a hapless geek who creates as many problems as he solves, but always with great enthusiasm!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Girl Overboard

Girl Overboard
by Justina Chen Headley

Daughter of a famous and rich business guru, Syrah has a lot to live up to and as much to live down. A fall down the wrong side of a mountain may have ended her chances of becoming a professional snowboarder, and now the press thinks she is a reckless and spoiled rich girl. Her adult half-siblings, old as in the same age as her mom, couldn’t agree more. Her perfect mother thinks she is too fat, and Syrah isn’t so sure that she is wrong. And just when she most needs someone to talk to, her best friend, Age, gets back together with his hyper jealous ex-girlfriend. Syrah must meet her parents’ demands and still be true to herself while trying to recover both physically and emotionally from her fall. Uncovering a family secret may provide her with the strength and understanding that she needs to cope with the challenges she faces.

In her second novel for teens, Headley has written a multi-layered story about wealth and families set within the Asian American Culture. While Syrah’s life is going forward, the story of her snowboarding accident slowly reveals itself like the layers of an onion coming off one by one. It is as though, at first she can’t even think about what happened. Then slowly, first with a passing word or two, then scene by scene the full story comes to light. Headley handles the family histories in much the same way. Headley describes Syrah’s manga journal vividly, but it would have been fun to see some actual artwork, especially as Syrah’s progression as a character is reflected in her artwork. Also, a short author’s note about the Chinese Cultural Revolution would have been interesting after seeing through the story how this historical tragedy could continue to adversely affect families even generations after it took place. These were small complaints though. Syrah’s lively character and the family dynamics set amidst current social trends and historic tragedy combined to make this an excellent book.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

Memoirs of a Teenage Amnesiac

By Gabrielle Zevin


Nadia slips while carrying her school's brand new camera. She manages to save the camera but not herself. She wakes up to find a handsome guy, James, telling the ambulance driver that he is her boyfriend. Nadia quickly realizes that she has lost some of her memories, and so she must reconcile her current life with the life that she remembers.

Where has her mom gone, and why won't her dad talk to her about it? She has a boyfriend, not James, who is good-looking and talented, but what did she see in him? She has a best friend who makes her a great mix cd, but what are the songs supposed to mean to them? And James, Mr. Mystery himself. She can't stop thinking about him.

In some ways this book is the typical girl-loses-her-memory book: Naomi had been a popular, multi-talented student in her high school, who seemed to have it all. Yet, Naomi finds that she had made several perplexing decisions before the accident, and no one can tell her why she'd made those choices. Despite a few genre stereotypes, Zevin manages to create a fresh story by not allowing Naomi any simple, black or white answers to the many questions she faces.