Monday, September 30, 2013

Author Bio - Libba Bray

Libba Bray is our author this week.  She wrote Going Bovine, the book that started it all here at Review Me Twice (want to read it too?  You could win a copy!)

Bray is probably most well known for her Gemma Doyle series (A Great and Terrible Beauty and its sequels.)  She has also written Beauty Queens and Diviners.

When Bray was 18, she was in a car accident which caused her to have thirteen surgeries and an artificial left eye.  Her husband, a literary agent, encouraged her to write books.  When she did, the Gemma Doyle books became best sellers.

Bray is very involved in the online media world with a blog, twitter and, of course, a facebook.  For all other forms of contact (of which she has many) you can check out her webpage, which is incredibly well done (and really hysterical.)  You can tell by the writing that she actually writes the website herself.

She currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband, son, and two cats.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

1 Year Anniversary Contest!

Happy birthday to us!

Yes, readers, we've been around for a whole year, and we want to celebrate with YOU!  Mostly because we already think you're pretty awesome, so you must be just as awesome to party with.

Let me tell you a little story. See, this blog was born because I was going to read Going Bovine by Libba Bray. I told Cassy this, and she expressed her opinion about the book. I read it, and told my fiance Birk that I totally disagreed with what Cassy said about the book. And as we all know, that never happens. He said he thought we should start a blog where we review books together because we so often find different things in the same books. And thus, Review Me Twice was born!  

We were so cute.

Which is why we're giving away a copy of Going Bovine, the book that started it all, this week! (We're also reviewing it this week!)

So, what do you have to do to win this fabulous prize? Send us a photo of yourself with your favorite book. Here are the rules:

This really has no relevance to the contest, but it's Libba Bray in a cow suit 
and I felt that it was something that had to be shared.

- One submission per person.
- Email your photo to reviewmetwice [at] gmail [dot] com or post it (or a link to it) in the comments of this post. These are the ONLY TWO PLACES we will take your photos.
- Be family-friendly (no nudity, drugs, bad words, whatever).  If your favorite book happens to have a bad word in the title, well, we won't hold it against you. It should be something you're okay with the whole internet seeing, because if you win, your photo will be posted here on the blog.
- Be creative!
- No, really, we mean it.  BE CREATIVE!
- Photos must be received by 11:59pm EST on Friday, October 4.
- Cassy and Alex will vote for their favorite, based on creativity, humor, and execution (example: blurry, hard-to-see photos lose points). If we can't agree on a favorite, we'll agree on a tiebreaker person and have that person choose between our two favorites.
- The winner (AND THEIR PHOTO) will be posted Sunday, October 6.
- The winner will have until 11:59pm EST on Saturday, October 12 to email reviewmetwice [at] gmail [dot] com with a valid mailing address within the     contiguous 48 United States for us to mail the prize to. 
- If we don't get a mailing address as described above by the deadline, Cassy gets to keep the book or donate it to the library or return it to the bookstore   or whatever she chooses to do to it.

If you have questions about the contest, post them in the comments to this post, or email us at reviewmetwice [at] gmail [dot] com!

For examples, check out our (unofficial, we aren't entering the contest) submissions below!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

By Its Cover: And Tango Makes Three

Do I even have to tell you how cute this cover is? Penguins in love, with the happiest little fluffy baby penguin in front of them. If that isn't the perfect picture of a family, I don't know what is.

Picture book covers have the benefit of making it really obvious what's inside the book, because they're illustrated by the illustrator of the rest of the book, and they often are a copy of a page within the book. This image was well selected, well drawn by Henry Cole, and is as inoffensive as a "controversial" book can be. (And yet, it has been on the top ten most challenged books list 6 of the 7 years since it was published. Who wouldn't want fuzzy little Tango on their bookshelf?)

Everything about this cover screams cute.  Hugging penguins, a cute, little, fluffy, happy penguin.  I also really like Cole's style.  There's just something about the way he uses colored pencil that makes me feel warm fuzzies inside.  Maybe it's the topic.  Maybe it's because you just can't help but look at penguins and go, "awwwwww".

Really, there is nothing controversial in this book.  Yeah, ok, they're homosexual penguins.  But they're so cute!  This book is definitely going to populate my future child's bookshelves.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Review Me Twice: And Tango Makes Three (Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell)

This is just the cutest picture book ever. It has animals! It has a love story! It has a baby! It has a happy ending! It has social relevance! What more do you want?

The story itself is heart-warming and beautiful and happy, and I appreciate that Richardson and Parnell heard this story and apparently thought, "We need to make this into a kids' book." And Henry Cole did a great job illustrating... it's nothing ground-breaking or particularly different, but look at that fuzzy little bugger on the cover! That's the cute little fluffy Tango!

I suggest, that if you've had a bad day, you go pick up a copy of this book and read it and you'll smile because yay! Happy penguin family! (Of course, if you think homosexuality is a sin or amoral or whatever your hangup is, it might just make your day worse, so you should probably try something like Goodnight Moon or One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish.)

Really, this is the most docile book in the entire world and we all know that the ONLY reason that it has ended up on the banned books list all these years is because it talks about gay penguins.  Which is sad.

It's an adorable book.  Because, WELL, PENGUINS!  Who doesn't love an adorable penguin.  And the book is very age appropriate.  The description of penguin mating is "when the right girl and the right boy find each other, they become a couple."  Seriously.  It's that cute.  And it's a sweet story.

I really liked the illustrations.  They weren't mind blowingly awesome, but they worked perfectly with the book.  Really, I don't understand how you could do anything but love this story.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Librarians and Banned/Challenged Books

The ALA (American Library Association) does not ban books. In fact, it kind of does the opposite. It keeps track of bans and challenges from around the country and makes that information available to anyone, and it does what it can to support librarians who choose to keep challenged books on their shelves. It even sponsors Banned Books Week, a celebration of reading (not banning) banned/challenged books.

What's the difference between banned and challenged? Basically, banning is when a challenge is successful. When someone complains about a book and wants it banned, that's a challenge; when the school or library that has been complained to removes the book, that's a ban. Sometimes they go even further; there have been instances of book bans in schools that not only remove a certain book from a reading list and/or the library, but won't allow students to carry or read that book on school grounds. But we aren't really talking about governmental bans, because I'm discussing the ALA, which deals only with the USA, where we do not ban books at the governmental level. (That's sort of a big part of why we have the First Amendment.)

So who does challenge books? Parents of school-age children, mostly. A parent will notice a particular book in their child's possession, and that parent will take offense to it. Maybe someone told them terrible things about it; maybe they read a few pages out of context and found something offensive; or maybe it's a book that disagrees with their religious or political beliefs. They complain to the school or library that made the book available to their child, and demand that it be removed from the shelves or the reading list.

The thing is, parents who make challenges like this are trying to apply their opinions of what is right for their child to all the children in their child's school or community. That's one of those things we use the First Amendment to stop. You shouldn't take away everyone's access to something just because one person finds it offensive or inappropriate.

It gets trickier with reading lists for classes, because that's like telling a kid "you have to read this book." If a parent is opposed to a book on a reading list, that parent's child is usually offered an alternative book to read, or a transfer to another class that doesn't require that book. That way, the child can still learn the basic skills being addressed by reading the book (usually critical reading, vocabulary, history, literary devices, etc.) and the school isn't contradicting the parents' wishes or taking the selected book away from other students whose parents are completely fine with it.

But lots of schools - I mean, a ridiculous number - will remove a book from the school's library because one parent is offended by it. A lot of these challenges happen with middle schools, and it has a lot to do with parents who have difficulty accepting that their children are growing up and learning to think critically, form their own opinions, and explore topics that most parents don't want to think about their kids exploring (sex, violence, drugs, etc.)

The top three reasons for challenging books, according to the ALA, are:
"Sexually explicit" material
"Offensive language"
Materials that are "unsuited to any age group"
Do you really think a lot of adults are going to challenge books intended for adults based on naughty words and nudity? In that context, what does "unsuited to any age group" even mean? Nothing, really. That's the category for "this book isn't okay for a child of X age to read!" It's extremely rare to find a challenge intended to keep a certain book away from adults.

(The only solid example of book-banning attempts meant to keep a certain book away from adults that comes to mind is The Anarchist Cookbook, which has step-by-step instructions for all manner of explosives and other nefarious devices. If you've never seen it in your local library, keep in mind: there's a big difference between librarians choosing not to purchase a book and librarians banning a book from their shelves. And based on what I know about the book, it is not only controversial and dangerous, but extremely poorly written, which means it has little literary value. It was also published in 1971, so a lot of the information is outdated. These are always good reasons to not purchase a book for collection development.)

And librarians - as a general rule - aren't okay with banning books. They welcome the right to challenge books, because it's another form taken by the First Amendment (we have the right to stock the book, and you have the right to complain about it). But removing books from a public or academic library* is not nearly as easy as getting one removed from a school library*. That's because public/academic libraries serve a MUCH larger group than a 30-student class, and everyone else in that group has a right to have access to whatever books you find offensive.

*Academic libraries are college/university libraries; school libraries are K-12.

After all, as Jo Godwin said:

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Favorite Animal Books

What's your favorite book about animals, featuring animals, or generally dealing with animals in some way? Here are ours:

I got The Pigeon Finds a Hot Dog! by Mo Willems in college, after being read Knuffle Bunny in one of my favorite classes (children's literature, of course). My roommate Audrey does an exceptional read of this book, with just the right voices for the titular pigeon and that little duckling on the right side of the cover. Most people love Don't Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus! but I prefer this one.

If you've never read a book by Mo Willems, I urge you to pick one at random and read it immediately. Your life will be improved.

I LOVE Life of Pi.  Pi gets stuck on a lifeboat with a Tiger, a orangutan, a zebra and a Hyena.  Inevitably it ends up being just Pi and the Bengal Tiger on a lifeboat for almost 300 days.

The book, while it has a lot of animals in it, isn't actually about animals.  It's about Pi and choosing his religion and deciding what is true and what isn't.  The animals are supposed to be representative of the religions that Pi has been trying to decide between.

I've mentioned a few times on this blog that I just love books that explore religion and Life of Pi is a book that really puts the idea forth: why do I have to choose one religion?  One of my favorite quotes comes from Life of Pi.  Everyone is telling him he has to choose a religion and Pi asks them why.  He tells them that he "just wants to love God."

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

It Takes Two to Have a Tango

This week, we're reading And Tango Makes Three, which is a true story about Roy and Silo, two male penguins who adopted a third penguin, Tango.

Roy and Silo actually attempted to hatch a rock first.  Then, when there was a different penguin couple who couldn't hatch their egg, the keepers gave the egg to Roy & Silo, bringing about Tango

Aren't they such a cute, happy family?

Now, of course, there's a lot of controversy surrounding the Trio.  The gay community uses them as a symbol for homosexuality happening in nature, therefore making it a natural thing in humans too.

However, Roy and Silo drifted apart, and Silo mated with a female penguin named Scrappy in 2005.  This has made them a target for a lot of hard core conservative Christians, saying that it's not natural, which is why the two drifted apart.

At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter.  Tango is actually in a relationship with another female penguin and they all live happily at the New York City Central Park Zoo.  Roy and Silo are about 25 years old (pretty old, considering the life expectancy is around 30.)

Roy and Silo were not the first same sex couple (that goes to Wendell & Cass of the NY Aquarium), and they won't be the last.  Same sex couples are actually fairly common in penguins.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Author Bio: Peter Parnell & Justin Richardson

This week, we're reviewing one of the ALA's top ten most challenged books of the year... one that has been on that list 7 of the 8 years since it was published: And Tango Makes Three, by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.

Parnell is a playwright perhaps best known for Cider House Rules, but has authored many other works, including an episode of West Wing. Richardson was not a writer before he and Parnell wrote And Tango Makes Three. They also wrote a picture book based on the true story of Christian, the hugging lion (it's titled Christian, the Hugging Lion).

The two are a couple, and in a wonderful example of life imitating art, they have their own baby (but they named her Gemma, not Tango).

Sunday, September 22, 2013

And the Winner Is...

What's the one thing we all want to know?  Why, the top ten books that were banned this year, of course!  So, to kick off Banned Books week, here's the list.

Captain Underpants (series) by Dav Pilkey.
Reasons: Offensive language, unsuited for age group

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie.
Reasons: Offensive language, racism, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
Reasons: Drugs/alcohol/smoking, sexually explicit, suicide, unsuited for age group

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

And Tango Makes Three by Peter Parnell and Justin Richardson.
Reasons: Homosexuality, unsuited for age group

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini.
Reasons: Homosexuality, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit

Looking for Alaska by John Green.
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit, unsuited for age group

Scary Stories (series) by Alvin Schwartz
Reasons: Unsuited for age group, violence

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls
Reasons: Offensive language, sexually explicit

Beloved by Toni Morrison
Reasons: Sexually explicit, religious viewpoint, violence

How many have you read on this list?  What your favorite banned book?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

By It's Cover - I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today by Dr. Seuss

Like Alex, I thought that "Lick" meant that he was physically going to lick the tigers with his tongue.  I was kind of disappointed when he didn't, and the cover doesn't really reflect what he's planning to d.  I mean, ok, he's holding his fist up, but I only realize that NOW that I know what he was talking about in terms of the word "lick."

It does have tigers though, and they're looking pretty mean.  However, none of the other stories are reflected in the cover (in fact, you can barely see the "and other stories" on the cover of the book."

The Cat in the Hat also looks oddly excited to go beat up 30 tigers.  

The cover doesn't even do anything to grab my attention.  I mean, if I were to be looking through a stack on Dr. Seuss book, this wouldn't necessarily catch my attention because it just seems a weird replica of all his other book.  The whole cover is just kind of a disappointment.

This is typical Seuss... the drawing style, the image taken directly from a page of the book to use as the cover, the font. If you were browsing the shelves looking for Seuss, this makes it easy to find, but if you were looking for something unique, you'd probably skip right past it.

I do find it interesting that, although his books are decades old, publishers never - to my knowledge - revamped them with new covers. I think it's because they're playing the "classic" angle, and also because it's a rare instance of an author doing his own illustrations. It's iconic, so they can't very well change it. But that doesn't make it any more interesting.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review Me Twice: I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! by Dr. Seuss

This week, we've been talking all about Dr. Seuss.  We decided to review one of his lesser known books, I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! And Other Stories.

It's a fun book, especially if you're thinking in terms of kids, because The Cat in the Hat (he's not named that, but he looks identical TO the Cat in the Hat) spend the whole book thinking up excuses NOT to lick 30 tigers.  One gets dismissed because he has curly hair, another few due to dirty fingernails.  I mean, it's just completely nonsensical.

The rhyme scheme is a little different than his other books (usually it's aabb or abab.  This one is abba).  Honestly, I think that it doesn't flow as well as his other books.  It doesn't have that "beat" that you find in books like The Lorax.

Later on the rhyme scheme changes, for my favorite story in the book.  It's this little girl who thought a Glunk up (he was a Glunk that got Thunk.) and she has to try and unthink him because he's doing all of these terrible things.  One of them is calling long distance, which just made me chuckle because that's not really a thing anymore.

I also like that Dr. Seuss makes up words and it's completely fine.  Like Glunk, for instance.  The man made it up because it rhymed with thunk and you know what?  I'M TOTALLY OK WITH THAT.  It works and I buy it and his made up words are just so natural, you almost think that they should be real.

The book wasn't my favorite Dr. Seuss, but it does certainly make you realize why the man became so ridiculously famous.

What a mild disappointment. I thought that this would be some untapped gold mine of Seussian greatness, but it wasn't, really. Just more Seuss. And if someone was really, really into Seuss, that would be a great thing. I'm not, so it was just a little more of something I enjoy to a degree. So that's good, I guess. (Do I sound underwhelmed? I was underwhelmed.)

I do have to admit that, knowing that this was Seuss, I thought the title literally referred to licking tigers. Like, with one's tongue. I know it sounds weird, but look at absolutely any other Seuss book and you'll understand why I thought that was the case. But really, it's the antiquated slang version of "lick," as in fight them successfully, beat them up, pound them to a pulp, pulverize, contriturate (yes, I went to the thesaurus for that one). But to be fair, the book is from 1969.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

On Didacticism

Didacticism is the idea of putting clear and obvious morals, lessons, and other instructional qualities in literature and art in order to impart goodness in your audience.

Aesop's Fables are an easy example of didactic stories. For example, the lion learned that the mouse could be helpful and important despite being small and weak. The lesson is really the whole reason for the existence of a fable.

Here's a fun fact about kids: They're smarter and more insightful than most people give them credit for. When you try to shove a lesson down their throats, most of them will resist because that isn't "edutainment" or whatever they call it now... it's just annoying.

Some authors understand this, and accept it.

Neil Gaiman says on his website that he doesn't worry about presenting a too-scary setting or story to kids.

Louis Sachar is celebrated for not talking down to his young audience.

Jeff Kinney (of Diary of a Wimpy Kid fame) is another author recognized for treating his audience of children like thinking people.

And more to my point (and this week's theme), Dr. Seuss agreed with the lot of them. He said that "kids can see a moral coming from a mile off," but that didn't stop him from including lessons (he claimed "there's an inherent moral in any story") although he was self-proclaimed as being "subversive as hell."

And somehow, I feel that Seuss's lessons were better than the ones you usually get in kids' books. Most didactic children's books, TV shows, and movies teach kids to do what their parents say, eat healthy, clean their room, etc. Seuss based many of his books on political ideas he held:

The Butter Battle Book is about the arms race.
The Lorax is about environmentalism (and to be fair, the movie is far and away more didactic than the book).
How the Grinch Stole Christmas criticizes the consumerism surrounding what is supposed to be a religious holiday.
Horton Hears a Who! is about anti-isolationism and promoting better relationships between the countries of the world.

You've probably read Horton Hears a Who! and/or seen Seussical! The Musical so you probably think that the phrase "A person's a person, no matter how small" is pretty inspiring. Hooray for the little guy! Well, that's how Seuss meant it, anyway. He sued to stop anti-abortion groups from using the phrase back in the 1980s. Now that he's dead, they've started it up again, which Seuss's widow fights when she can.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Favorite Dr. Seuss Book

It's favorites day!
Hip hip hooray!
These are our favorite
Dr. Seuss books.
Tell us about yours
After you take a look!

I loved The Foot Book when I was a kid. I also loved One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. I liked the rhythm, the repetition, the idea of taking lots of different approaches to the same topic. There are feet of different sizes, shapes, colors, from different animals, in different styles of shoes or socks or other clothing items... It's like reading a list, but more fun. And I really like lists.

I like that it isn't narrative; it's just an exploration of a theme. It's like playing a sandbox video game as opposed to a platform game. It's a great way to present information to a kid. Have you ever handed a kid a book before they can read very well? They tend to flip the book open to any page at all, instead of strictly starting at the beginning. With a book like this, they can do that and actually read a page independently of the rest of the book without being discouraged by having no clue what's going on at that point of the story. It's just a page about animal feet, or types of shoes. No stress.

I didn't really read a lot of Dr. Seuss as a kid.  I mean, I'm sure my mom read them to me, none of them really stick out in my mind.  So I'm choosing my favorite based on my adult tastes.

Fox in Socks is just a fun book.  It's a crazy tongue twister book, which makes it fun as a grown up too because my tongue gets just as tied as a kid's does.

The book even comes with a warning: 

How many books (children's books especially) that tell you the book is dangerous?

Like Alex's favorite pick, you could open it up anywhere and it would be fun to say all the tongue twisters and see all the pictures.  Easy, peasy, fun.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Authors Who Don't Take Themselves Too Seriously

This week, we're talking about Dr. Seuss, who writes a lot of children's books (obviously.)  While some of his books do have beat you over the head messages in them (The Lorax, whaaaaaat?), a lot of his books are just silly and fun and made to make a kid laugh (Check out our favorite Dr. Seuss book tomorrow and you'll see a few.)

Here are a few other authors who remember that not all of life is SERIOUS BUSINESS

Lemony Snickett

If you've ever read any of the Series of Unfortunate Events books, you realize that Snickett is all about the sarcasm.  He's constantly defining things in his books, but in such a way that it makes it obvious that he believes reader already KNOWS what the words mean.  People also die in the most ridiculous fashions in his books.  As if all that wasn't enough, he wrote a book called Lemony Snickett: The Unauthorized Autobiography.

Louis Sachar

If you've ever read a single book by him, you realize immediately that he's all about the fun and funny for kids.  He wrote Sideways Stories from Wayside School, which we've reviewed, which is all about a school that was built 30 stories tall by accident.  Kids get potato tattoos, rats come to class and there is no 19th story.  There is no Mrs. Zarves.

Dav Pilkey

Captain Underpants is a book about kids who managed to hypnotize their principle and make him run around in his underwear and a towel.  The whole book is silly and ridiculous, and even Pilkey has said that he wrote the book to be for kids with ADHD.  He even uses the pen names George Beard and Harold Hutchins, the two characters in his book who are writing about their adventures.

Douglas Adams

You only have to be one chapter into The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy to realize that Adams is all about a chuckle.  We learn that it's always good to have a towel, the guide has "Don't Panic" written on the cover, and we all know that 42 is the answer to life, the universe and everything.

What silly authors do you like best?  What about authors who take themselves a bit too seriously?

Monday, September 16, 2013

Author Bio: Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel

Yes, boys and girls, the week has come
For us to review a Dr. Seuss tome.
But first we must peek into his life
And discuss his childhood, his work, and his wife.
So come and see, come and behold,
The story of Dr. Seuss's life shall be told.

Born Theodore Geisel in March of 1904,
He wrote as Dr. Seuss, Theophrastus, LeSieg, and more.
In college, he was caught drinking too much gin,
So he had to adopt a name-of-the-pen.

Dartmouth Jack-O-Lantern logo.svg
He was told to give up all extracurriculars, including writing
for the school's humor paper, so he started writing as Seuss.

His first cartoon was in Saturday Evening Post;
Writing cartoons turned out to be what he loved most.
His first children's book was published in 1937,
It was originally rejected how many times? Some say 27.

And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street.png
Seuss's first book, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street

Then came the beginning of World War II,
And Geisel/Seuss wrote political cartoons.
He was critical of isolationism (and also of Hitler)
But also depicted Japanese Americans as morally littler.

After the war, he moved to the Golden State
And kids' book after kids' book did he create.
In 1967 he remarried after his wife's suicide;
He never had children with either bride.

He famously said, "You have 'em, I'll entertain 'em."

When he died of throat cancer in 1991,
Many books had he written, and awards had he won.
A memorial sculpture garden of many of his creations
Stands in Springfield, Mass. (to many fans' elation).

Many of his stories and many of his rhymes
Taught lessons and morals (you'll hear more about that in time).
Over his lifetime, Seuss published over 60 books,
But did you know you're all mispronouncing his name, you schnooks?

(Four additional lines on pronunciation,
From Seuss himself, regarding your dictation:

You're wrong as the deuce
And you shouldn't rejoice
If you're calling him Seuss.
He pronounces it Soice!     )

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Happy Belated Birthday!

Alex had a birthday on September 2nd (which just shows you how terrible a co-blogger I am. I went to visit her instead of posting on here.  I'm a horrible person, I know.)

So I just want everyone to wish her a happy belated birthday!

Saturday, September 14, 2013

By Its Cover: Coraline

I mentioned that the novel was illustrated by Dave McKean, and that I really like McKean's take on Gaiman's work. But - and I'm in direct contrast with Cassy's review yesterday with this - I prefer P. Craig Russell's version this time around.

Part of the reason I think I didn't much care for the novel version is that I'm bad at remembering visual details when they're... not visual. I have a good visual imagination, I think, but only when I'm in charge of what I'm imagining. When someone else tells me "so the Other Mother looks like this" and I keep reading, I forget important visual details almost immediately. Russell's illustrations remove that issue for me. McKean's were suggestions; Russell's are the story. (Which is what each illustrator's job was; I'm not saying McKean did a bad job... he did what he was supposed to do.)

As Alex mentioned, we're in direct contrast with this story (which, let's face it, is why you read the blog.)  I don't really like Russell's cover.  Mainly because I'm not a fan of his Coraline, but it just doesn't scream scary to me.  McKean's cover I think really gets the other worldly-ness of the story.  It's this world that's a copy of ours... but not quite.  I just think that the Coraline novel is a much better portrayal of that idea.

(She looks like a person... but not quite like a person.  Also, the hands on the book cover?  WAY creepier than the bats on the GN cover.)

Friday, September 13, 2013

Review Me Twice... Twice: Coraline

On the left, you have the novel (as illustrated - intermittently - by Dave McKean), and on the right is the graphic novel (as illustrated - thoroughly - by P. Craig Russell).

I was introduced to Neil Gaiman's work by one of the most incredible teachers Cassy and I have ever had (shoutout to Dr. Miskec! Holla!) in a young adult literature class where she shared Mirrormask with us. The next year, I had her children's literature class, and we read Coraline. In the intervening time, I had read everything I could get my hands on with Gaiman's name on it, and Coraline fell short, in my opinion. It's good, and as far as novels for young children, it's amazing in that it doesn't talk down to kids and it's an imaginative, fun, genuine story. But I still didn't love it like I loved everything else.

I just picked up P. Craig Russell's interpretation about a week ago, and I like the story more (even though it really is the same exact story, in the same exact wording as much as possible) and I like the drawings more. That's unusual in one sense because I love Dave McKean's work, especially in conjunction with Gaiman's writing, but Russell's take just works better.

Some stories are told best in a visual medium. Perhaps this is one of those stories for me. (That said, I haven't seen the movie and don't care to, despite my love of stop-motion animation. I just remember being incredibly underwhelmed by all the media surrounding its release, and I haven't heard a single person tell me something enticing about it. I'll probably see it eventually, but in the meantime, Russell's graphic novel version works great for me.)

We are all aware that I'm not really the graphic novel lover on this blog.  And I think the BIGGEST problem with the GN this week is that I was already so familiar with the Coraline story.

How Russell portrayed Coraline is not how I have envisioned her at ALL over the years.  I thought that she was too old and too blond.  And that threw me out of the GN for its entirety.  I just couldn't get over how WEIRD Coraline looked.  Also, as happens with a graphic novel, the dialogue was, well, just that,  dialogue.  There's not a lot of descriptors going on because you're supposed to DRAW that stuff.  So when I read the GN of Coraline in comparison with the book, I realized that I just love the book so much more.

Maybe that's because Gaiman is an amazing writer.  I mean, of the few books I've read by him, I actually like Coraline the best (to be fair, I've only read about three books by him, so that opinion could change).  I think it's a great book and so very his style and manages to be a decently creepy kids book with this awesomely independent kid.  I just don't think it translated well into graphic novel.  I feel like something was lost.

That's not to say that EVERYTHING about the graphic novel was terrible.  I really liked Russell's portrayal of The Other Mother.  She was creepy, and seeing her in a multitude of frames, really just drove home that extreme creepiness.  And I liked that we got to see the house.  It was, actually, exactly how I pictured it in my head.

Coraline is a GREAT book, but if you want to read the story, pick up the book.  It's actually probably shorter than the graphic novel.