Looking for something to read this spring? In a reading slump? Let some of the pros help you out with some of their favourite books of the season.
by Sara Baume
"A man and a dog — a who-rescues-who tale told in a beautiful language over four seasons. An absolute must read."
by Meredith Russo
by Cathleen Schine
by David Litchfield
"Toast is not just for breakfast anymore. Try it at lunch, dinner and snacktime too. Have it with savoury or sweet toppings. Move over cake pops and cupcakes, toast is the new, NEW THING! Pistachio Dukkah and Avocado on Rye anyone?"
"Mira is a little girl who lives in the heart of a gray city where she loves to draw in colour. She gives her colourful pictures to her neighbours until one day she meets a painter. The painter invites her to help him create a large picture on a city wall. Soon, everyone in the community joins in to create art on the walls and transform gray into beauty and joy. A truly inspiring picture book about how public art can transform the spirit."
"Another perfectly pitched novel from poet Kwame Alexander, winner of the Newbery Medal. Soccer is the game, divorce, bullying and first love are the themes, all written in verse. Booked packs the same powerful emotional punch as his previous novel, The Crossover!"
Giants, witches and supermutants, a roadmap to get you on the right path, more F in Exams, baking with less sugar, and lots of other great reads in this month's highlights from Raincoast Books!
ISBN 9781250050847 | $29.99 cl
Mixing the eccentricity of the circus world and the heart of a love story, The Thunder of Giants is a warm and engaging debut about two exceptional women—both almost 8-feet tall.
Andorra Kelsey—7'11 and just over 320 pounds—is on her way to Hollywood to become a star. Hoping to escape both poverty and the ghost of her dead husband, she accepts an offer from the wily Rutherford Simone to star in a movie about the life of Anna Swan, the Nova Scotia giantess who toured the world in the 19th century.
Available April 14
A Penny Brannigan Mystery
Elizabeth J. Duncan
ISBN 9781250055217 | $29.99 cl
The latest book in the award-winning Penny Brannigan series delivers another cunning mystery played out in a charming small Welsh tow.n
When the body of well-liked and respectable Glenda Roberts is discovered at the bottom of a former slate mine, now a busy tourist attraction, pandemonium erupts in the North Wales town of Llanelen. Penny Brannigan finds herself drawn into the investigation when jars of her house-brand hand cream are found among counterfeit inventory Glenda and her sister were selling.
Available April 14
Robert Charles Wilson
ISBN 9780765332622 | $29.99 hardcover
From the author of the Hugo-winning Spin, a compelling science fiction novel about the next ways that social media will be changing everything.
In our rapidly-changing world of social media, ordinary people are more and more able to sort themselves into social groups based on finer and finer criteria. In the near future of Robert Charles Wilson's The Affinities, this process is supercharged by new analytic technologies—genetic, brain-mapping, behavioral. To join one of the twenty-two Affinities is to change one's life.
"An intriguing and seriously innovative attempt to grapple with some of the issues raised by the 21st century’s obsession with social media."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"Wilson’s trademark well-developed characters and understated but compelling prose are very much in evidence in this quietly believable tale of the near future."—Publishers Weekly
Available April 21
ISBN 9781250028792 | $29.99 cl
From The New York Times bestselling author Paula Brackston comes an enchanting tale of love and magic that weaves a modern day heroine together with the ancient Celtic past.
A year after her husband's sudden death, ceramic artist Tilda Fordwells finally moves into the secluded Welsh cottage that was to be their new home. She hopes that the tranquil surroundings will help ease her grief, and lessen her disturbing visions of Mat's death. Instead, the lake in the valley below her cottage seems to spark something dormant in her—a sensitivity, and a power of some sort. Animals are drawn to her, electricity shorts out when she's near, and strangest of all, she sees a new vision; a boatful of ancient people approaching her across the water.
Available April 21
ISBN 9781770461987 | $22.95 pb
The New York Times and New Yorker illustrator Jillian Tamaki is best known for co-creating the award-winning young adult graphic novels Skim and This One Summer—moody and atmospheric bestsellers. SuperMutant Magic Academy, which she has been serializing online for the past four years, paints a teenaged world filled with just as much ennui and uncertainty, but also with a sharp dose of humor and irreverence. Tamaki deftly plays superhero and high-school Hollywood tropes against what adolescence is really like: The SuperMutant Magic Academy is a prep school for mutants and witches, but their paranormal abilities take a backseat to everyday teen concerns.
"The humor is sometimes slapstick, but more often it offers ultra-dry observations on modern disengagement. Tamaki is playful and loose with her art, unafraid to be experimental as she draws us into a world where true feelings are the greatest danger."—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
Available April 28
The Get-It-Together Guide for Figuring Out What to Do with Your Life
ISBN 9781452128450 | $27.95 pb
This welcome antidote to the fusty, no-longer-relevant career guide answers an old question—So, what are you going to do with your life?"—in a ground-breaking way. From the team behind the inspirational TV series and campus and online resource, it is presented in a motivational format that gets young people excited to think deeply about how they want to enter and thrive in the workforce by detailing how to take Roadtrip Nation's interest-based approach and apply it to one's life.
Available April 7
All New Awesomely Wrong Test Answers
ISBN 9781452144030 | $13.95 pb
Will some students ever learn from their mistakes? We hope not! This all-new collection of hilarious, totally wrong, real test answers serves a fresh batch of A+ wit misapplied to F- quiz scores. A little studying would reveal that the most powerful light source known to man isn't "lightsabers," nor do we salt the roads when it snows "to make them taste better." But where's the fun in that? From the same wellspring of failure as the million-selling F in Exams series, this special pop quiz collection will amuse and entertain anyone preparing to face down a test paper as well as those just glad to be far away from a classroom."
Available April 7
ISBN 9781492604396 | $16.99 pb
Take Cover! People of Walmart has issued an official state of emergency! Fortunately for you, all the survival gear you need is conveniently located at your favourite local super-centre, where these crazy, cringe-worthy shoppers are letting their freak flags fly high than ever.
Available April 15
FOOD & DRINK
Recipes for Desserts Using Natural Sweeteners and Little-to-No White Sugar
ISBN 9781452133003 | $35.95 cl
Trust Joanne Chang—beloved author of the bestselling Flour and a Harvard math major to boot—to come up with this winning formula: Minus the sugar equals plus the flavour. The 60-plus recipes here are an eye-opener for anyone who loves to bake and wants to cut back on the sugar.
Recipes for Good Times
ISBN 9781452141176 | $19.95 cl
A taste of the good life! This bite-size collection showcases 20 special recipes, all with photographs, that will inspire food lovers to take the party outside. Selected from some of Chronicle Books' best-loved cookbooks, here are easy-peasy drinks (alcoholic and nonalcoholic), quick appetizers, simple salads and sides, and great-for-the-grill main dishes.
Available April 14
Great Marinades, Injections, Brines, Rubs, and Glazes
Ray "DR. BBQ" Lampe
ISBN 9781452125305 | $31.95 cl
In his latest lip-smackin' cookbook, Dr. BBQ shows how to dress up meat, vegetables, and fruits with 120 brand-new recipes for tantalizing marinades, mouthwatering injections, savoury brines, flavourful rubs, delectable glazes, and full recipes for what to make with them.
Available April 21
ISBN 9781780672717 | $40.95 pb
Behind nearly every item in the feminine wardrobe there is a first of its kind that has spawned countless others. While the definitive example—often created by a single—has achieved icon status, its various reinterpretations, season after season, have become fashion staples.
Icons of Women's Style examines, item by item, the most influential and legendary garments and accessories—their provenance and history, the stories of their design, the celebrities who made them famous, and the various ways they have shaped how women dress today.
Available April 28
If you’ve seen Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line you’ll be well-prepared for what you’re getting into with Showa 1944-1953. The anti-war tone and island imagery are very similar; both tales also revolve around a central character whose positive experiences with native islanders contrast sharply with what they’re forced to endure fighting a short distance away.
I think that, like me, you too will be surprised when Shigeru Mizuki makes it out of the war alive (forgetting for a moment that there is a fourth volume coming that deals with events into the 1980s). It’s surprising that he survives not only physically, but also emotionally. If you’ve read the first two volumes, you know that Shigeru Mizuki’s possesses a unique sense of humour that is often expressed through his ravenous appetite and staggering capacity for punishment. That he didn’t lose his sense of humour or his life despite the severe mental and physical trials he went through is deeply affecting.
Mizuki’s escape from the war isn’t an escape from suffering. Postwar Japan was a hard place, and although Mizkui seems finally to have escaped regular beatings, his prodigious hunger rarely gets a break amid regular food shortages and frequent unemployment. Fishmongery will not contain Mizuki’s energies; running a boarding house merely provides an insecure launch pad into the world of professional art. We leave volume three with Mizuki poised for great accomplishment.
Showa 1953-1989 will be coming soon, but I really feel that Showa 1944-1953 is the heart of the story.
Mark Penney, Ampersand Inc.
2013 was a GREAT year for comics. If you like fantasy, adventure, and superhero comics, there was Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples excellent space opera Saga, Matt Fraction and David Aja's erstwhile Avenger Hawkeye, and Kelly Sue Deconnick's Captain Marvel.
The latest Batwoman by J.H. Williams III and W. Haden Blackman delivered more exquisitely drawn gothic horror, and The Joker returned in Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo's nightmare-inducing run on Batman. And—speaking of nightmares—H. P. Lovecraft met Jules Verne in Nemo: Heart of Ice by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill (I'm looking forward to next year's sequel, The Roses of Berlin, a lot).
Then there was the epic, Moebius-meets-Jack Kirby Battling Boy by Paul Pope, and the deliciously pulpy The Black Beetle by Francesco Francavilla.
The luscious historical fantasy adventure Delilah Dirk and the Turkish Lieutenant by Vancouver's very own Tony Cliff was just a joy from beginning to end. Not only did it look beautiful (Tony is also an animator), but the dialogue was sharp and snappy.
Online, I have been quietly addicted to the post-Harry Potter fantasy adventure Nimona by Noelle Stevenson. But that won't be out as a book until 2015! (You can, however, find one of Noelle's illustrations on the cover of Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell).
Affectionately making fun of tight pants and all that heroic stuff was The Adventures of Superhero Girl by Halifax-based cartoonist Faith Erin Hicks (which I loved, loved, loved), and the brilliant You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack by Tom Gauld. While Superhero Girl dealt with the daily trials and tribulations of a novice superheroine, You're All Just Jealous of My Jetpack mashed up literary classics with robots, astronauts, dinosaurs, sea monsters, Victoriana, and masked men (where else would you see a Batman-inspired steampunk Dickens?!).
Also somewhat affectionately deconstructing pop culture (but in an oh-so different way) was the bonkers and acidic My Dirty Dumb Eyes by illustrator Lisa Hanawalt. I'm not sure I'd describe it as comics exactly, but it was sure as hell funny (where else would you see Anna Wintour riding an ostrich?!).
For kids, the pair of eccentrics in Odd Duck by Cecil Castellucci and Sara Varon were lots of fun (the book's been a popular birthday gift), and I really liked Hilda and the Bird Parade by Luke Pearson. Luke also contributed a really great story, 'The Boy Who Drew Cats', to the charming Fairy Tale Comics collection edited by Chris Duffy. (You can read my interview with Luke here).
My kids are still a bit young for them, but I fully expect My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic and Adventure Time Fionna & Cake will soon be in required reading in our house...
But comics continued to explore new territory beyond the typical genres associated with the medium. Lucy Knisley's Relish was a tender food memoir with recipes; Primates by Jim Ottaviani and Maris Wicks, a colourful look at the work of primatologists Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey, and Birute Galdikas. The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg was a series of strange, funny, and magical stories. Gilbert Hernandez had two remarkable books out this year: Marble Season, a heartfelt, semi-autobiographical comic about childhood in 1960s southern California, and the haunting Julio's Day, a fictional account of man's life from his birth in 1900 to his death 2000. Peter Bagge returned with Woman Rebel, a surprising and fascinating biography of Margaret Sanger, the founder of Planned Parenthood.
(I actually had the pleasure of meeting both Beto and Peter this year. Peter was terrific at this year's IFOA—smart and disarmingly funny—but sight of Elvira Kurt sprinting from one side of a CBC studio to the other to meet Beto was something else entirely!)
Rutu Modan's The Property was an extraordinary follow-up to her debut graphic novel Exit Wounds. Lovingly observed, it told the story of an Israeli woman accompanying her elderly grandmother to Warsaw, ostensibly to reclaim property lost during World War II. It was funny, heartbreaking, beautiful and poignant. Literary in the best sense, it was still criminally overlooked by the critics.
And I didn't even get to Blue is the Warmest Color by Julie Maroh, The Great War by Joe Sacco...
2013 was the 10th anniversary of Chester Brown's monumental Louis Riel—a book that changed how we thought about comics and, I think, profoundly expanded the possibilities of the medium. Would a book like Rebel Woman have been possible without it? I don't think so. Nor would my favourite comic of the year, Boxers and Saints by Gene Luen Yang, which shared some of its sensibility.
The result of 5 years work, Boxers and Saints is a remarkable achievement. The two volume graphic novel told the intertwined stories of two young people on opposites of the Boxer Rebellion in 19th century China. While Boxers was a brightly coloured adventure story inspired by Chinese opera and superhero comics, Saints delivered an introspective story of identity and faith, drawing more from the personal narratives found in independent comics. Both books were beautifully coloured by Lark Pien (a cartoonist in her own right) and they are visually stunning. But it was the complex storytelling—in turn funny and tragic—and Gene's unique magical realism that made the books truly extraordinary.
Shortly after the release of Boxers and Saints, Gene came to Toronto and delivered two brilliant presentations about becoming a cartoonist and his career from self-published indie comics to the present day. If you ever get chance to hear Gene talk about his work you should definitely take it. I was lucky enough to spend a couple of hours with him just talking comics and superheroes. It was one of the highlights of my year.
Dan, Online Marketing Manager
Paul Pope's long-awaited graphic novel Battling Boy is finally released next week, and the award-winning American comic book artist will be in Toronto to launch the book with The Beguiling on the evening October 15th!
"A straight-up, kick-butt superhero book for kids and grown-ups alike," Battling Boy is the story of an untested hero charged with defending a city infested with monsters. The first of two hotly anticipated volumes, it's already the subject of much excitement in the comics world.
Starting at 7:00pm at the Revival Night Club, Pope — whose previous work includes the acclaimed 100%, Heavy Liquid, and Batman Year 100 — will be on stage to talk about his new work, before taking questions from the audience and signing copies of the book.
Join us if you can!
BATTLING BOY BOOK LAUNCH
Featuring author Paul Pope
@ Revival, 783 College Street, Toronto
Tuesday, October 15th, 2013
Doors at 7PM. Event starts at 7:30pm
Exit Wounds by Rutu Modan, first published by Drawn Quarterly in 2007 (and now available in paperback), is one of my favourite debut graphic novels of recent years. Set in modern-day Tel Aviv, and drawn and coloured in a beautiful, contemporary ‘ligne claire’ style, the book is a portrait of modern Israel, a place where sudden death and dissolution of family ties is an everyday reality.
I met Rutu in Toronto at the International Festival of Authors shortly after Exit Wounds. One of the first cartoonists to be invited to the literary festival, she was a witty, charming and down-to-earth advocate for both the medium and women in comics. It's not surprising that they have invited many more cartoonists since.
Now six years(!) later, Rutu has brought a similar combination of wit, style and realism, to her second full-length graphic novel The Property. Like Exit Wounds, it's a book that deals with family, relationships, and harsh truths. In a recent interview with The Comics Journal, Rutu discussed her own background and family, as well as the influences and ideas that informed The Property:
The idea for The Property came to me after I finished “Mixed Emotions.” One of the stories was about my grandmother. She was this tough, unpleasant old woman, the type that is called in the US “Yiddisher Mama” and in Israel “a Polish lady.” I got very emotional responses to this story in particular. It seems that everyone in the world has “a Yiddisher grandmother,” Italians, Koreans, Japanese, everyone. Maybe it’s not so much about being Jewish. So one night I was lying in bed, just about to fall asleep when suddenly it just came to me. I said, ‘I’ll do a story about this young woman who is going with her grandmother to look at the property.’ I thought it would be a good combination of family relations and money and history, with the Holocaust in the background, but only in the background.
It’s funny because I met Joe Sacco at Angoulême a year ago and we were talking about this book and I said ‘It’s not a Holocaust book, but the Holocaust is in the background.’ I told him I didn’t want to make the grandmother a Holocaust victim. That’s why she came to Israel before the war, because making her the victim is like saying that you can’t touch her. I said, ‘for me, it’s more interesting for the characters to be attached to the drama but not in the middle of it,’ and he said, ‘wow, that’s exactly like Exit Wounds.’ <laughs> I said, ‘oh, I didn’t think about it, but actually, yes. It’s the same.’ <laughs>
The Property is available now.
The following night (Saturday November 24), Julie will be at Librairie D+Q in Montreal for an "evening of beautiful art, good conversations, and the occasional book signing."
Julie Morstad in conversation with Anabela Piersol
Friday, November 23 2012
6PM, with Q&A at 7PM
TYPE Books, 883 Queen Street West, Toronto
Julie Morstad at Librairie D+Q
Saturday, November 24 2012, 7PM
Librairie D+Q, 211 Bernard Ouest, Montreal
Saturday November 3rd, 7pm
3972 Main Street, Vancouver
Toronto-based illustrator and hometown hero Michael Cho will be signing copies of his new book Back Alleys and Urban Landscapes 6pm–8pm on May 23rd at Type Books on Queen Street West near Trinity Bellwoods Park. TYPE will also be featuring a gallery show of selected work from the book.
Michael began creating drawings of the back alleys near his Toronto home in 2008. Collected together in this book, the work speaks to the beauty of the urban landscape: sometimes gritty and citified, sometimes unexpectedly pastoral, but always beautifully rendered. Michael is a brilliant draftsman, and Back Alleys shines with loving attention to detail – from expletive-filled graffiti splayed across backyard fences to the graceful twists of power lines over a bend in the road.
Last weekend, Michael joined a host of other super-talented cartoonists – including Kate Beaton, Guy Delisle and Tom Gauld to name a few – signing books at the Toronto Comics Arts Festival at the Toronto Reference Library. Unsurprisingly (in retrospect!) Backalleys was in big demand and we sold out of the book in no time at all, so make sure you come by early on the 23rd if you are want to get your hands on a copy!
It was the Toronto Comics Art Festival at the weekend, and the brilliant Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton won the award for Best Book at the 8th Doug Wright Awards, hosted by Geoff Pevere, which took place on Saturday night at the Art Gallery of Ontario.
Founded in 2004, the annual Doug Wright Awards recognize the best and brightest in English-language comics and graphic novels published in the previous year in Canada.
Speaking on behalf of the jury, Shary Boyle praised Kate’s book. “The world of comics can be a sequestered and dusty place,” she said. “As the comic community bemoans its shrinking readership and dying forms, Beaton rises up and throws open the doors to a whole new audience—welcoming one and all with her generous vision and sense of sophisticated, inclusive playfulness.”
Amen to that!