Thursday, September 4, 2014

BUDDHA

I'm sure you've all heard of the extremely famous Astro Boy series by Osamu Tezuka. Well believe it or not, he also made an eight volume biography of the life of Buddha

At first I thought it would be boring. I already knew the stories, how he was a Hindu prince and he sat in front of a cobra without being bitten. It was old news. But these books turned out to be a lot more interesting and entertaining than I ever could have imagined. I'm sure that some parts and characters are fictional, but that doesn't make them any less great. I love the evolution of the characters, specifically Buddha. I love how he doesn't just go from being an inexperienced teenager to being the all knowing and enlightened founder of Buddhism overnight. It takes him four entire volumes to become enlightened and three more to become the droopy eared icon we all know today.   

A scene I really like is in Book Three when Buddha/Siddhartha,who has just become a Hindu monk, meets a well trained young monk named Dhepa who has an obsession with undergoing ordeals. (Hindu monks would cause intense pain to their bodies for long sessions because they believed that lives greatest secrets are discovered while suffering. These sessions would be called ordeals). One of the first ordeals that Dhepa underwent with Buddha was walking through a field of thorns. Dhepa is able to walk through the thorns like they are nothing, but Buddha buckles over in pain after each step. This foreshadows Buddha making sure that the religion that bears his name has nothing to do with extreme physical ordeals, and I'm a big fan of foreshadowing.   

The art in Buddha is very beautiful. It looks like a less cartoony version of the style Tezuka uses in Astro Boy. Buddha’s appearance is always changing as he ages from child to young man to middle aged man to old man. Other characters evolve visually too, like his first disciple, Tata or Naradatta, a monk who was condemned to roam the world as a beast. I love the way the animals are drawn, specifically elephants. There are a ton of elephants featured throughout the story, and each one looks different.


The eight book Buddha series is not appropriate for all ages. There is quite a bit of nudity and heavy violence. There are no sex scenes, but I think that if you are a parent you should read it over to determine whether or not you want your children reading it. I was hooked on Buddha from the first chapter on. It is definitely my favorite series I've read all year. I would give Buddha 10 Brahmins out of 10.          

If you are interested, there was a movie adapted from the series. You can watch it free at this link.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Dogs of War

Dogs of War by Sheila Keenan is one of the best graphic novels I've read all month. It has three stories about three different dogs fighting in three different wars. Each chapter is about a different dog. The first chapter is about Boots, a medic dog in World War 1, who would find the location of wounded soldiers in No Mans Land, then run back to tell the medic. The second chapter is about Loki, who was a rescue sled dog in World War 2, who would find lost soldiers or downed pilots in Greenland. The third chapter is about Sheba, who was a scout dog, sniffing out enemy soldiers in Vietnam.


I really like how the book gets me to sympathize with each character in such
a short amount of time. I thought that each dog would be really forgettable because not enough time would be dedicated to them, but I ended up loving each of them a whole lot. To be fair, Sheba was a little forgettable, but that's only because the chapter was more about her master than her.



The art in this book really added to my enjoyment. The drawings are very colorful and each chapter has a certain glow to it. Chapter one is dark violet, chapter two is light blue, and chapter three is dark green. Intentional or not, this little feature gives the book a lot of personality. I have a feeling that I would not have enjoyed it as much without these beautiful drawings.


I'm not sure if Dogs of War is appropriate for all ages. I'll leave that up to you. There are some fairly violent scenes and images in it. If you're reading it in a public place, I would suggest you shield the cover with your hand, because there is a Nazi with a big fat swastika on his arm on the cover. It's just a suggestion. I would give Dogs of War 9 military dogs out of ten.  


P.S. The dogs in the stories did not actually exist, but they were based on real military dogs.


P.P.S. If you want to know more about war dogs, heres a link to a very interesting site about animals in WW1 http://www.theatlantic.com/static/infocus/wwi/wwianimals/

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Lost Cause

I started reading Lost Cause by Jack Jackson a long time ago and refused to review it because a character named Hays, who I thought was meant to be one of the good guys did something really racist. It rubbed me the wrong way. I recently gave it another try and realized that the character was one of many villains in the book. I decided that since it's history and non-fiction, it deserved a chance.

The story follows the terrible, bloody feud between the Taylor and Suttons. The famed Texan gunslinger, John Wesley Hardin, plays a crucial role. He lived 42 years and killed about 40 people.

Just to be clear, I love Westerns, but lots of things in this one are way too complicated and confusing. I can never tell who are supposed to be heroes and who are supposed to be villains. Sometimes the Taylors are the good guys and sometimes their enemies are the good guys. I know that this is the story of real people, but I can never tell why I'm supposed to sympathize with them. A lot of the time the things they do seem completely unredeemable.

To be fair, there are some good parts in the book. I do like the beginning when the Civil War is happening, I also like the time during the presidential election of 1868. They add an extra layer of conflict to the mix. The parts I don't like are the millions scenes where people are caught illegally branding cows, then get hung. These scenes could have been represented in one page instead of constantly throughout the book.

The art is very detailed and in depth. I really like how the animals  are drawn. They look extremely realistic. One strange thing I noticed was that all the characters have such expressive faces except for the most important characters. People like John Choate, a middle aged rancher who joins up with the Taylors for a few pages, have faces filled with emotion, whereas Wes Harden has one expression, which is blank.


Lost Cause is definitely not appropriate for all ages. There are some very bloody scenes and a lot of people die fairly terribly. One guy who tries to steal Wes's horse is shot in the chest and left to bleed out. It deals with dark subjects like family feuds and racism. It also uses a very strong word that begins with n.  If books had ratings, it would be rated R. I would give Lost Cause 3 Mexican standoffs out of 5.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth


The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg is one of the most in depth books I've ever read. It creates entire cultures with their own religions and holy stories. Don't worry, it's not really an encyclopedia. It's the story of an indigenous storyteller traveling the early earth to find something very special that he had lost. On the way, he tells stories about his people and learns new ones about other cultures. There is a recurring figure in both his stories and other's named God Birdman, the world wide celebrated god of everything. He has two children named Kid and Kiddo who are his messengers. The people who live in the places he visits are very much based on real life peoples like Vikings or Mongols. 

The art in The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is unbelievably beautiful. It looks like it was
made with wood cuts or a paint brush. I really love the way that Birdman is drawn. He looks just like he came off of a totem pole.  I also like the way Kid and Kiddo are drawn. It was a very interesting choice having them look like humans but with beaks tied on to their noses. In all, I think that almost every drawing could be put in a gallery and bring in more viewers than that Jackson Pollock junk. I could give the book the top rating for the drawings alone.

To tell the truth, I enjoy the stories about the gods more than I like the base storyline about the storyteller. It's really interesting how an entire mythos was created for this book alone, not to mention how great the stories are. My favorite is a story in which the earth is created. I'm not going to spoil any of it for you except to say that it grows out of a competition between Kid and Kiddo. Trust me when I say it's a real keeper

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth is fairly appropriate for all ages. There is some non-sexual nudity, but it's cave men hunting deer without loincloths and stuff like that. I enjoyed The Encyclopedia of Early Earth immensely. I suggest that you buy it the second you finish reading this review. I would give The Encyclopedia of Early Earth 10 Eskimo kisses out of 10. 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Darth Vader and Son


Today I will be reviewing a book that I'm sure you've all heard of. It's Darth Vader and Son by Jeffrey Brown. I read this book before it was cool. It's basically a compilation of really good one panel comic strips. Each one is usually Darth Vader reprimanding a 4 year old Luke Skywalker for doing something that little kids do like drawing on the wall or something. Sometimes it's just Luke asking Darth Vader a question he can't answer (like where do babies come from). I personally love the way that Darth Vader is turned into a responsible father and Luke is turned into a little 4 year old child.

There aren't any scenes in this book. But a panel I like takes place in the scene on Endor where a bunch of storm troopers are outside of the metal station thing and Luke talks to them through the window, except this time Luke is telling them that his dad tells him not to talk to strangers. I love this panel because it made me laugh so hard the first time I read it. I think it's the funniest panel in the entire book.

The drawing style in this book is the same as all of Jeffery Brown's other work. Very pencily. I loved this style in his other books and I love it now. I'm pretty sure that it was drawn with colored pencil. But I have a signed copy with a hand drawn picture and he used a marker to draw it so he could have used a marker to draw the book.

Darth Vader and Son Is completely appropriate for all ages. I'm sure that anyone with a good sense of humor can enjoy it. If you haven't seen the Star Wars movies there will be some references you won't understand, but I'm sure that won't be an issue. I also forgot to mention that there is a sequel to Darth Vader and Son called Vader's Little Princess, which is the same as Darth Vader and Son, but with a teenage Princess Leia. I think that Darth Vader and Son is the best adaptation of Star Wars to date and I would give it 91/2 toddler Luke Skywalkers out of 10.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Mercury


Today I will be telling you about a great book, Mercury, by Hope Larson. The plot of Mercury is extremely complicated. It's about a 15-year-old girl named Tara whose house burned down so she goes to live with her aunt, uncle and cousin. She meets a boy she likes and joins a cross-country running team. Something that kept me interested in the story is how every now and then, the setting will change to the house that burned down, but in 1859. When this happens, the main focus is on an ancestor of Tara's named Josephine who is also 15 at the time. Toward the middle of the book, Tara finds out that there is gold on her family's land that was left by Josephine.

This book had a lot of really good gripping scenes. One of them is a scene where Tara finds the gold. She and her friends are digging for the treasure when they find a small tunnel filled with snakes. She goes down into the tunnel using her phone as a flashlight to find a skeleton with a bag of gold in its ribcage. I really like this scene because it turns the plain, small town story into an epic treasure hunting story.

The drawing style in this book is very soft. It uses very thick wavy lines and I'm pretty sure that it was drawn with a paintbrush or a marker or something like that. The way the eyes are drawn is very pretty. They're big and shiny. I also like how Tara looks like a short-haired version of Josephine. It makes their bloodline connection seem even stronger.

I think that Mercury is appropriate for all ages, but I also think that less mature audiences might not enjoy it because the storyline is a little complicated. If you can take a complex story, you will love Mercury. I would give mercury 8 bags of gold out of 10.