Friday, April 28, 2017

Just So Happens

Struggling to overcome my jet lag from a much anticipated trip (17 years) to Japan and the demands of dirty clothes, science fairs, and baseball practice kept me from writing last week.  In addition, they almost kept me from reading. Every time I sat down to read, I would fall into a disorienting nap, dreaming I was still in Kyoto or Kamiyahagi.   

Rewind to April 7. After the novelty of the in-flight entertainment had worn off, a couple of movies had been watched, and dinner had been served, I turned to my Kindle for some late-night reading. I thought it would be fun to read a book set 5,000 miles from my location…5,000 miles (or so) from my location. Finding one available for the Kindle the day before my trip proved much harder. 

Luckily, I discovered and downloaded Just So Happens by Fumio Obata.

In this graphic novel, the main character Yumiko sets the scene, “I am Japanese and still go back to Japan now and then. But here, London, is my home.” After hearing of her father’s death, she returns for the funeral. On the plane, she remembers her last trip to visit her father in the sweltering heat of summer. In the midst of fireworks and fans, she stumbles into a nighttime Noh performance. Later at the funeral, as she questions the meaning of the ritual, she remembers the masked dancer she saw on that earlier visit.

With realistic drawings that capture the essence of both London and Japan, Obata tells a story that is sparing in words but rich in emotion. Anyone who has traveled or moved far away from home can relate. 

Friday, April 14, 2017

Cotton and Cyanoacrylate

This week’s challenge was to read a fantasy novel. Enter Anna-Marie McLemore. Reminiscent of those written by Alice Hoffman and Laura Esquivel, her novel The Weight of Feathers is a magical romance between the children of two feuding families. 

The Corbeau and Paloma families have been rivals for as long as Lace can remember. Lace Paloma is a performer in her family’s traveling mermaid show. Cluck Corbeau makes the wings for the high climbing dance performances of his family.

One night an accident at the chemical plant causes a searing rain. Lace is saved from severe damage only because Cluck carries her to safety.Her beauty damaged, Lace becomes an outcast.  She finds refuge in Cluck’s family only by leading everyone to believe she is a local instead of a Paloma. 

As her relationship with Cluck deepens, she discovers the extent of his scars and the truth behind the generation-old family feud.

McLemore blends the magical realism of feathered humans and bloody curses with the all too real problem of abusive families and deep-seated prejudices. Readers will be swept up in the spectacle and brought back down to hard realities.  

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Nameless City

In preparation for landing here, I’ve prepared a couple of posts in advance. Needing to catch up on my reading challenge (It's April already?), I went for challenge #6 – read an all-ages comic.

Using this handy list, I found The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks (color by Jordie Bellaire). Volume one follows the adventures of Kai, a young Dao fighter-in-training. In the first pages of the book, Kai meets his father, a higher up in the army, for the first time. Having been raised by his mother outside the city, Kai is eager to reunite with his father who decides to show him around the city. After one taste of city life, Kai is in love. Eager to find more meat on a stick, he returns the next day on his own and meets city dweller (and orphan) Rat. Impressed by Rat’s running skills, Kai returns morning after morning, bearing baskets of food in exchange, to learn her tricks. In the meantime, a plot is unfolding to assassinate the current leaders. With Rat and Kai’s help, the plot is …well, you’ll just have to read the book.

Hicks’ drawings contrast the austerity of the palace training, the grit of the city, and the tranquility of the monk’s enclave. Younger readers will appreciate the action scenes and marvel at Rat’s leaps across the city’s rooftops. Older readers will appreciate the allusions to the fragile balance between war and peace and the arbitrary nature of language when it comes to ownership and power.