Monday, December 1, 2008

Favourite Reads from 2008 - A Librarian's Picks Part One. . .

Today, we start our librarian's picks in our nation's capital and get some favourite reads from Alexandra Yarrow, a librarian at the Rideau Branch of the Ottawa Public Library. Some great graphic novel picks in particular - for all ages!

Adult Titles:

A hilarious tale of a librarian who just can't seem to get it together. His love life is falling apart, and now he's accepted a job in Northern Ireland. He arrives to find out he's in charge of a bookmobile - and not just any bookmobile. This one is empty. A great book for lovers of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series.

Fables by Bill Willingham
I became a little obsessed with this series in 2008, and read right up to the latest one, Volume 10: The Good Prince. The story follows various fairy tale and nursery rhyme characters, and the premise is that they are alive and, in fact, live in an enchanted portion of New York City. The various volumes follow their epic battles to save "Fabletown" from various dark forces in the fable world. The best parts are the poignant, realistic portrayals of characters such as the Big Bad Wolf or Prince Charming, who has fallen far from his suave, womanizing days to a broke has-been who is forced to auction off his royal title.

Interred with Their Bones by Jennifer Lee Carrell
An excellent Shakespearean mystery, with a compelling main character and lots of plot twists to keep you on the edge of your seat! For anyone with an English literature degree, or a love of theatre.

Three Bags Full by Leonie Swann
One of the year's strangest mysteries, this one is narrated by a herd of sheep, whose shepherd is found dead. The sheep, who quite love their shepherd, decide it's up to them to solve the crime. Extremely well-crafted and utterly charming.

Laika by Nick Abadzis
A moving tale about the Soviet space dog. The graphic format of this book, and the back-door look at Soviet politics and history, makes it a great companion to the curriculum for teens, but it also can stand alone as a truly moving (I cried) tale of a sweet dog and her various (loving and abusive) owners.

Beginner's Greek by James Collins
A great gift for the disillusionned 20-something, this book works for both male and female readers. Party fairy-tale, part social commentary, Beginner's Greek follows Peter Russell as he falls in love with a woman on a plane, loses her, and then finds her again ... when she becomes engaged to his best friend.

White Rapids by Pascal Blanchet
A very simply written graphic novel from the always-exceptional Drawn and Quarterly, White Rapids tells the story of the rise and fall of the Northern Quebec town of the same name. Built by the Shawinigan Water & Power Company as a living community for workers at a nearby dam, White Rapids captivates its residents and reflects back their hopes and dreams over the years. The town was shut down in the 1970s; Blanchet's book acts as a very fitting memorial to a certain time, and a certain place, in our history.


I don't have enough time or space to praise various excellent graphic novels for teens that have come out in the past little while; Minx (publisher of The Plain Janes) has some other excellent titles such as Re-Gifters by Mike Carey, not to mention the luminous Skim by Mariko Tamaki.... My current favourite remains The Plain Janes, though, which is about a girl named Jane who, relocated from the city to the burbs after a traumatic incident, hooks up with a few other Janes to form the title group. The Plain Janes are bent on a variety of non-conformist acts of vandalism and mischief, mostly revolving around what the local police quickly dub "art attacks." Will they get caught?


Bookweird by Paul Glennon
One of the best children's novels I read this year, by local Ottawa author Glennon (his previous adult novel, The Dodecahedron, was shortlisted for a Governor General's Award). 11-year old Norman has a nasty habit of unwittingly ripping off and chewing corners of his books: this gets him into a load of trouble when he destroys an entire page, falls asleep, and wakes up inside the story.
Llama Llama Red Pajama by Anna Dewdney
My favourite picture book of the year, for utter ridiculousness and fabulous use of rhyme. Bonus points for a lovely story and the touching reassurance of Mama Llama that bedtime is nothing to be afraid of. Another great read-aloud rhyming book that I thrilled to use this year in storytime is Three Little Ghosties by Pippa Goodhart.

No Girls Allowed: Tales of Daring Women Dressed as Men for Love, Freedom and Adventure by Susan Hughes
Great compilation of graphic tales of women who masqueraded as men (sometimes for their whole lives) to join wars, become doctors, and otherwise do things women were not allowed to do. Includes the story of Mu-Lan. Check out the excellent learning materials package, available from the Kids Can Press website.

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