Craig Graziano

She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain by Jonathan Emmet and Deborah Allwright

She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain by Jonathan Emmet and Deborah Allwright

She'll Be Coming 'Round the Mountain takes the popular folk song to new heights of silliness. A serenading cactus begins our tune, inviting us to sing along. The "She" in question is a pint-sized cowgirl whose legend grows with the song.

We start normally enough, but when we find out that the six white horses she'll be driving are named "Misty, Moonbeam, Milkshake, Stardust, Silvermane, and Snowflake," we find ourselves riding off the beaten path into hilariously imaginative scenarios involving jelly-juggling and rooftop-dancing.

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

Fat Kid Rules the World by K.L. Going

Troy Billings is about to kill himself. At 296 pounds, he's tired of being a joke. Every aspect of his life, the way he looks, moves, even the way he breathes, has become a punchline for his peers. If Troy had his way, Fat Kid Rules the World would be a pretty short read. Thank goodness Curt MacCrea enters the picture.

Moonday by Adam Rex

Moonday by Adam Rex

Like a lost puppy, the moon follows a family home one night. Soon an entire town is affected by the celestial visitor. They all have just received their first Moonday.

At first, it is very exciting. When the moon shrinks enough to fit in the backyard, our protagonist hops onto it and explores. But things grow peculiar. Morning never arrives and everyone is feeling extra sleepy. Soon the backyard is flooded with a high tide and howling dogs!

Picaresque by The Decemberists

Picaresque by the Decemberists

An unseen beast trumpets mightily. There is a slight pause, then the drums approach, rolling across the sonic landscape. Picaresque, The Decemberists' densely-textured folk pop album, begins.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

Hyperbole and a Half explores artist Allie Brosh's almighty id with a kind of courageousness usually reserved for walking on hot coals or taunting killer bees. Based on the popular blog of the same name, Brosh's book features anecdotes and musings from her life, complemented by pictures drawn with a basic paint program. 

Sheer audacity is one of Brosh's best assets. Her stories are bold examinations of what she fears most in life and how these anxieties form her identity. 

King Dork by Frank Portman

King Dork by Frank Portman

If King Dork's cover seems vaguely familiar, that's because it looks like a defaced copy of The Catcher in the Rye. The title and its author Frank Portman are scrawled in ballpoint pen with a blatant disregard for the granddaddy of all coming-of-age novels.

This sums up how Tom Henderson feels about Salinger's classic novel. He notices a Catcher cult amongst most adults, who sing the praises of the book changing their lives. Tom thinks all of this is, to borrow a phrase from Holden Caulfield, "phony," but a particular copy of the book is about to turn his world upside down and inside out.

Great Podcasts for Life-Long Learning

Bullseye with Jesse Thorn

When I can't get my audio learning fix from our many Modern Scholar courses, I turn to podcasts. Podcasts are audio or video-based shows available for download, streaming, or online subscription. Many of them regularly update in weekly or monthly installments, so there is almost always a new episode to catch up on or many past installments to explore.

On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne and Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

On a Beam of Light by Jennifer Berne and Illustrated by Vladimir Radunsky

On a Beam of Light starts with a little boy who barely talked as a child, who got in trouble at school, and who was told he would never amount to anything. That boy was named Albert Einstein.

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg and Kevin O'Malley

How They Croaked: The Awful Ends of the Awfully Famous by Georgia Bragg

How They Croaked begins with a clear warning: "If you don't have the guts for gore, DO NOT READ THIS BOOK." They are not kidding.

American icon Billy Joel once sang, "Only the good die young," but before modern medicine, almost everyone died young. The only difference was whether it was quick or slow and gruesome. Infections, malaria, gout, and tuberculosis were pretty common ways to go. King Tut, Christopher Columbus, Pocahontas, and Edgar Allan Poe were victims of such illnesses.

Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges

Calling Dr. Laura by Nicole J. Georges

When a palm reader told Nicole J. Georges that her long-deceased father was very much alive, Nicole's first thought was, "Who does she think she is?" But the psychic was definitely onto something, and Calling Dr. Laura started to take shape.