Monday, August 29, 2011

Graphic Novels are like Potato Chips

Graphic Novels, for me, are like potato chips. You can never have just one.

Unless you don’t like the flavor. There are some that are a quick read and some that take a lot of thought. Plotlines and art style differ from series to series, some read from left to right, some from right to left. Some art is very detailed an every page is overwhelming, some have very sparse art and let the reader fill in the details.

I like graphic novels for the same reason I like books. You get pulled into a world filled with interesting people and you get to travel with them as they grow through out the story. And just like with books you get to pick genres and styles of writing/drawing.

I like books with strong characters who to quote author Sarah Rees Brennan “are Flawsome.” (both flawed and awesome.) I like worlds with a ton of history and thought put in even if I’m not reading every little detail about the world, you can tell when the author knows. I like books with adventures and mysteries and fantastical creatures and normal creatures. So I read graphic novels like that too.

You can browse the shelves in the teen area or you can see the whole list by doing a subject search for Graphic Novels in the catalog. And while we have over 2,000 volumes we don’t have everything, which is where Search Ohio (our interlibrary loan program) comes in. Other Ohio libraries are willing to lend books out to you. You just have to ask them.

Miss Amy

How do you teach an old librarian to read a graphic novel? Not easy.

Our teen MPL librarian Amy Winter offered a challenge to me some months ago, to read a Japanese and American style graphic novel. I took up this challenge because to be frank it is my duty to read what tweens find interesting and keep up with the trends.
Mrs. Winter warned me that I might find this a challenge, but gave me some instructions on how to approach reading one of these novels. Her enthusiasm and confidence in me was infectious, so began to read Black Bird by Kanoko Sakurakoji.

I was completely lost and could not comprehend the flow of the story. I called up Mrs. Winter and said this book is awful. How can these kids LIKE a book like this? It is SO hard to comprehend. Apparently, I was reading the Japanese manga book completely wrong. She explained I had to read the book starting from the back of the book and not to what I assumed was the beginning of the story. The Japanese graphic novels are read from right-to-left direction from upper right corner to bottom left. Comics are read like a standard American/Western Europe fashion from left to right - upper left corner to bottom right.

Well, I still struggled with Black Bird; I found the order of the reading format and placement of the graphics very confusing and even distracting to the story. In effect, it placed me, the reader, on the outer rim of the story, instead of being immersed and one with the characters. A disappoint since I love paranormal romance stories about vampires and demons, which this book had in spades. The characters were like strangers to me, I really didn’t care if Misao, (the female protagonist with the gift of sight, a bride of prophecy whose blood will give power to the demon who claims her) will get her man. Apparently the romantic interest and demon Kyo wants her for his bride.

The book ends without a satisfactory ending in regards to Misao and Kyo complicated relationship. This series goes on for nine more volumes in English and 13 volumes in Japanese language. I wasn’t hooked and I will not be dedicating anymore of my reading time to find out what happened to these two characters. I will chock this up to being a Japanese Manga newbie reader and not to the quality of the story. The writer Kanoko Sakurakoji is popular and has won some prestigious awards for his work.

I then read the American version of manga, in the story titled Pixie: Volume 1 by Mathieu Mariolle. I really liked, liked this book. It is like the comic books of my youth with bright vibrant colors, so different from the black and white version of Japanese Manga art. This fantasy story is about a young prince from the country of Daimoon who has been under the control of his tutor and a father who doesn’t care about him. The two prevent him from dreaming when he goes to sleep. He gets his dream, however, of escaping the palace through the kidnapping by a thief named Pixie.
An accident causes Ael to become unconscious and he starts to dream, which transports the pair to a land in another world. They meet warriors and beasts and find out that Ael can make things happen by just dreaming up his desires.

The first volume is an introduction of the plot and characters. A second volume concludes this fantasy story of magic and adventure. This story is not a manga series without an end. I am tempted to read the second story.

I am glad Mrs. Winter drew me out of my comfort zone and introduced me to a new genre of the written word. She is the lady you need to see, though, if you want a great referral or just to share a review of a book. The woman knows her manga and she loves reading them too!

Checking out,

Mrs. V

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Freegal Music is Here! Win a free iPod Shuffle!

Hey Tweens and Teens,
Come check out this awesome service Mentor Public Library is offering. The only library in Lake County to offer these free, legal downloads. Also you will have the opportunity to win a iPod Shuffle.
Download thousands of recordings by your favorite artists, legally and FREE! In another first for Lake County, Mentor Public Library will offer Freegal - a new service giving you access to recordings from Sony Music’s catalog of artists directly through our website. Library cardholders in good standing can download a select number of Sony Music tracks in the MP3 format each month! Save them on your iPod, burn them onto CDs. They're yours! Learn how to get started using Freegal, or go directly to their site by clicking on the Freegal logo to the left.

Download a free song using Freegal in February and you'll be entered in a raffle to win an iPod Shuffle courtesy of the Friends of Mentor Public Library! Click on any of the Freegal logos or icons, then enter your Mentor Public Library card number. You can download up to three songs each week. The winner will be picked at random on Tuesday, March 1.

Checking out,
Mrs. V

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Oliver’s first snow

Back last June, my family became involved with the Pilot Dog program, which is based in Columbus. My son signed on as a puppy raiser for a school community project. The dog at 12 to 14 months old will be turned over to Pilot Dogs to receive more formal training to become a guide dog for the blind. So we received beautiful, adorable, mischievous Oliver, a yellow Labrador retriever. He was 7 weeks old then and now he is 7 months old…a bigger dog with a puppy-like brain. It is fun to watch him learn and explore his world, which could range from a pile of leaves in the backyard to the dark recesses of the toilet bowl.
Oliver does not have any boundaries. He enthusiastically bounds forward to meet each new experience. One of which, was his first snow. He woke up in the morning with his usual routine of going potty, eating his breakfast and finding ways to get attention. We let him out the back door, he runs outside…crunch…crunch…crunch and a slip across the deck floor. He suddenly stops, looks at his paws in confusion, takes a couple steps backwards, stops, sticks his nose straight in a small drift and snorts in surprise. He can’t figure it out and looks back at me for my reaction. My smile tells him this is fun and THEN he leaps in the air and pounces in the snow. Similar to a fox or coyote trying to pounce on a mouse through the snow for their dinner and then runs in circles like a snowplow gone wild.
Oliver loves snow. He loves the bracing, cold wet sensation on his nose. He loves the sounds he creates as he leaves a trail of paw prints, next to prints left by wildlife that live by the neighboring woodland. He loves how his breathy pants leave little misty clouds in his wake as he explores the fresh scents of squirrels, chipmunks and rabbits. He loves to attack low hanging tree branches and bushes, spraying snow powder upon h is head and back. He loves to try to catch the loosely packed snowballs I throw at him.
I love watching Oliver having fun in the snow. I love his doggy smile. I love that he is a great dog. I love that someday Oliver will help a blind person have the confidence to explore their own world. I love Oliver. I’ll miss him.
Checking out,
Mrs. V

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Christmas tree the highway gave up

I grew up on a farm, and times were usually lean and we lived off the land. My brother and I were not raised with many luxuries so Christmas was especially a time to look forward to. We might get a new toy or a few clothes that we wanted. We knew not to expect a bounty, but we never felt shortchanged. I guess it was the way we were raised that Christmas was not all about the presents. It was about love and enjoying family time with each other.

But, one particular Christmas when I was about 8 years old, my brother and I were told that Christmas would entail very little presents and we would not be able to afford a real Christmas tree, which was a family tradition. Instead, we would put up the ratty, ugly, used white tinsel tree (which ironically has become trendy these days). We made our usual decorations out of lights, popcorn, cranberries, candy canes and handmade ornaments. I am not sure why this particular Christmas was leaner than others, but I remember feeling a little scared and uncertain

There is a special ambiance in the home during Christmas, a special spirit that infuses the family and your friends. I have always loved it. But that Christmas, there was heaviness in our house. A sadness pervaded the positive outlook and no-quit attitude my parents usually exemplified and I wonder if they were angry that no matter how hard they worked and saved, it just wasn’t enough to get ahead. A parent just wants to make things perfect for their child, and they must have felt powerless in not being able to make that Christmas special.

Two weeks before Christmas, we experienced a blizzard during the night. Beautiful, pristine white snow blanketed the farm. A constant fall of night snow beckoned my father to impulsively wake us up. My mother helped us put on our winter coats and boots to go out into the front yard. I believe it was either midnight or 1 a.m.

Following the rays cast by the front porch light, my father ran through the glistening snow and pelted my mother with snowballs. Soon we were all in a giant snowball fight between the women and the men. Our sheepdog Spot was the referee, trying to insert his body between the warring clans. My mother and father were chasing each other in circles beneath the old, front yard apple tree, laughing like children. Later when we were worn out, we set to work creating snow sculptures of bears, rabbits, a snow family and a tiger laid out along the front yard. What a beautiful, magical night. Afterwards, I am sure when I went back to bed on the couch, my dreams were of our snow sculptures coming alive, dancing joyously beneath the still falling snow. We never did that again as family, but it was enough. A memory I will cherish forever.

The next morning, while my mom went to let Spot out to do his business I heard her gasp and screamed out my father’s name.

“Look outside! There is a tree in the front yard,” she said.

We all rushed to the front yard to see Spot sniffing the greenest, most lush Christmas tree I ever saw. The bright sun revealed that it had rolled down the hill from the highway we lived next to and settled near our snow sculptures. It was still compactly tied up, ready for the Christmas retail season. My father rushed out and carried it into our living room and immediately we were hit with that wonderful scent of fresh pine.

My parents had determined that the tree had come loose from one of the trucks transporting trees to the Christmas tree sale lots. A lost tree finding its way to our front yard never happened before or since. I believe it was a gift from someone up high and I believe my parents thought so too. For their positive outlook came back and I believe that tree to them represented they weren’t alone in their struggle to raise a family and maintain a home.

That Christmas was about finding joy in the simple things of life, be it a midnight festival of snowballs and sculpture or a surprise gift of a lost Christmas tree. Cherish these holiday memories, kids, because there will be a day when those memories will be all you have of your parents and grandparents. Make memories of your own…a simple, lifelong gift for a loved one.

Checking out,

Mrs. V

Sunday, November 28, 2010


Looking for gifts for my two teenage children and I thought Christmas CDs would be a great gift for my daughter to play at her college. As soon as Thanksgiving Day officially ends I am playing Christmas music. There is also a radio station 95.5 FM FISH of the same mindset. They continually play holiday music 24/7 and beyond Christmas. Even Sirius stations are totally devoted to playing several genres of holiday music.
I know I am not the only one out there that loves continuous Christmas music, but my daughter tells me getting a Christmas CD for a teenager is not great gift idea. Here is a list of upcoming popular music she made me to prove what teenagers are listening to and would like as a present either as a download or a CD rather than a holiday songs.
List by my daughter:

1. Taylor Swift’s album “Speak Now”
2. Rihanna’s album “Loud”
3. Kanye West’s album “My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy”
4. Katy Perry’s album “Teenage Dream”
5. Nicki Minaj album “Pink Friday”
6. Mumford and Sons “Sigh No More”
7. Kings of Leon “Come Around Sundown”
8. Bruno Mars “Doo-Wops & Hooligans
9. Kesha’s album “Cannibal”
10. Ne-Yo’s album “Libra Scale”

Now I noticed that our “Glee: the Christmas Album” has 22 holds for 3 copies. With the popularity of Glee, I am going to assume that there are teenagers that would like to have this album. So I checked this out and played it for my daughter. She loved it! Surprising since many of the songs are old-fashioned, before-my-time music. The kids modernized the songs a little, but still retain the original score, bringing back girlhood memories. The album is mostly perky and fun, however there are two songs that will tug at your heart and bring a tear to your eye: Rudolphs’ Misfit Toys “The Most Wonderful Day of the Year” and “O Holy Night.”
It was fun to spend time with her and listen to an album, sharing some of my favorite Christmas music. So I guess this is one Christmas album teenagers would like. Check out Glee’s nonfiction book: Filled with glee: the unauthorized Glee companion
What is great about libraries is you can check these albums out and see if you really like them before you or Mom and Dad purchase them. Review our catalog and request one of these popular CDs and place a hold.
Checking Out,
Mrs. V

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The tragedy of loss and learning to move on

Growing apart is probably one of the hardest parts to growing up. But having your best friend die when you’re both only 13 is one of those great tragedies most of us luckily don’t have to face. In Dear Anjali, by Melissa Glenn Haber, Meredith cannot believe that her best friend Anjali could possibly be dead, so she decides to write her letters every day. Through these letters we get glimpses of depression, anger, and confusion. The letters are written on a typewriter, and also by hand, so there are different fonts in the book to give it a realistic journal-like feel. As Meredith struggles through the months after her friend’s death, she starts talking to and hanging out with the boy she’s had a crush on for years. Through this new friendship it is revealed that Anjali was keeping secrets from Meredith. The secrets aren’t nearly as dramatic as I hoped as a reader, but they were realistic and nonetheless shattering for Meredith. Yet, through these realizations, Meredith is finally able to move on with her life. Dear Anjali was a touching read, and was helped along by its unique format—who doesn’t like a book written entirely in letters. For all you scholars out there, when a book is written in this way, it’s called an epistle style novel. If you want a dramatic story about friendship and moving on, I would give Dear Anjali a try.