Tiny Newts!

Rise of Herk: Nnewts #2 by Doug Tennapel

This is the second book in a great graphic novel series which is basically about amphibians and reptiles and lizards in space. The main character is a young Nnewt named Herk who, until the first book, has never grown legs. But as it turns out, he was always meant to be a hero.

I really, really enjoyed this book and like this series a lot. There’s a lot of great stuff in there – fun, bright, illustrations, fast paced, good language for early readers and no doubt a popular choice with young readers.

Last movie I watched:

Part of Sleeping Beauty. Not my favourite.

Last TV show I watched:

Supernatural. So bad and yet, so good.

Child, first person narrator and still they die? Bold move, bold move

Lincoln and His Boys by Rosemary Wells

It is not often that a children’s book is narrated in first person by a child who dies. Actually, it’s not often that children die in children’s books at all really. But that’s exactly what happened in Lincoln and His Boys. Well done to the author for sticking to a touchy historical subject I suppose. Lincoln had four sons, and only one lived to adulthood.

I googled that.

Lincoln and his boys is basically a hyper patriotic look at Abraham Lincoln through the eyes of his two young sons first Willie, as Lincoln campaigns for the presidency and then Tad after his brother dies, during the Civil War.

I have no idea how exactly I came to possess this book, but I did, so I read it.

I’m not exactly an expert on the American Civil War or its major players. In fact, most of my knowledge probably comes from reading historical fiction – does that count as knowledge? – so I’m hesitant to be overly critical of this book.

What I will say is simplistic. It was an easy story of two boys that contained none of the complexities, personality and consequences of this massive and devastating conflict Because of that, I’d say its kind of a weird book. On the one hand, it isn’t a great introduction to the Civil War because it’s too pure and innocent, but it’s kind of a weird story just to read because you like it. I mean, there’s probably a few kids out there who just like relative historical accuracy  reading for themselves, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone else.

One thing I really did enjoy was the younger son, who has a cleft palate and his struggle to be understood and taken seriously when he had such a hard time speaking. As usual, having people who are different be highly visible is always a good thing.

I will say that once you’ve picked it up, it does make you curious. History isn’t only great men doing great things, its the everyday business of life and death and love and play and sorrow and the struggle to do what is right, even when that’s not a clear thing and that’s pretty compelling.

Also, he pictures were nice.

Last movie I watched:

Inside Out. Take her to the moon for me. SOB.

Last TV episode I watched:

Game of Thrones. My hand hurts just thinking about it.


Silence, talking and love

Deafening by Frances Itani

Full disclaimers: this is an adult book so it’s a little out of the norm for me, but in the name of being well rounded or something, I read it on the recommendation of my mother and it was beautiful.

Grania lost her hearing when she was very young after scarlet fever. Her childhood is happy, if silent, mostly because of the way her live is woven together with her family, particularly Mamo her grandmother and Tress her sister. With her family around her she navigates the hearing world by lip reading, some voice and a homemade version of sign language. But when she is nine years old, she’s sent away to a special school in Belleville, where deaf children learn not just to communicate but also the skills they will need to find good jobs.

Years later Grania meets, falls in love with and marries Jim, a hearing man. Despite the difficulties they face because of Grania’s disability, nothing is as terrible as Jim leaving to fight in the First World War. Oceans apart, both face the terrible cost of war.

To me, this story is about love, grief and the way we talk to the people we love. The love and grief are quite closely linked. Grania is witness to her sister, her mother and her grandmothers’ tragic marriage. Tress’s husband’s terrible maiming in the war pulls them further apart even then his death would have done. Her mother’s marriage to her father has simply turned stale as time as passed them, leaving both feeling lonely and isolated even when they are together. Mamo’s husband died the crossing from Ireland and was buried at sea, Mamo and her eldest daughter forced to continue on with the rest of her children. As each relationship comes upon something that cannot be overcome, Grania and Jim maintain their feelings for each other, despite the trauma Jim has endured, their closeness despite the distance and both overcome their struggles and find their way home.

Through all of this, there is great loss both to the war and the Spanish flu and the characters all flail n the face of the crippling agony of grief, each one seeking relief from their pain, through drinking or withdrawing or turning off or smashing broken plates but still there is some grief that is too big to live through, Mamo says often.

And underpinning all of this is the language of love and pain. Because Grania’s unique situation, her view of communication is totally different then other peoples. She sees talking as more like breathing, more like shapes and in her silent world lips alone make meaning. Her voice is a thing both part of her and not, so when she uses it she always has something worth hearing. Letters, the life line between Canada and the war, are both sacred and corruptible because they are all that Grania has to send to Jim but every time feels like a hope only, never a certainty – the boat could sink, it could get lost, Jim could die before they reached him, it’s all a risk to her. The most beautiful and profound way Jim and Grania communicate is through their own hand signals, through their breathing and be revealing their most intimate thoughts to each other. The writing is incredible beautiful and in a world where we can exchange words constantly but rarely ever communicate the story is very poignant.

It also won a whole bunch of Canadian literary awards, which it completely deserves, at least in my mind. A beautiful story about a terrible time.

Last movie I watched:

Contracted. I thought it was stupid. I mean, it’s a horror movie and it was pretty horrible. But the story was stupid, senseless and from a feminist angle completely awful.

Last TV episode I watched:

Downton Abby. Sybil, oh Sybil.