Craig Graziano

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea by Michael Ian Black and Illustrated by Kevin Hawkes

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea

We’ve probably all had the fantasy of seeing a Pig Parade flicker in our mind at one time or another. Don’t deny it. The orchestra of oinks matched up with little hooves marching down the street, it all just sounds so fun. Well…forget about it.

A Pig Parade is a Terrible Idea, by Michael Ian Black, is a point by point dismissal of what at first seems like an incredibly delightful idea. Pigs are whimsical, funny, and intelligent creatures, but Black, a comedian best known for his commentary on VH1 shows, has found his niche in the picture book world by being the ultimate bearer of bad news.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Sam LaCroix has got some serious issues. He’s a college dropout working a dead-end job in fast food and an elderly next-door neighbor who has more of a night life than he does. But at least none of Sam’s problems verge on the darker side of paranormal…until now.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, by Lish McBride, is the story of one man’s journey from slacker to soul reaver. The only things Sam has going for himself are playing hockey with potatoes in the parking lot and betting when the rookie employee is finally going to crack under the pressure. This all changes when a renegade tater obliterates a car’s tail light.

The Brixton Brothers 1: The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett

The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity

Steve Brixton definitely doesn’t have a brother, and he absolutely is not a detective. He’s just a huge fan of the old Bailey Brothers detective stories, which entirely make up Steve’s top 59 list of favorite books.

So why does everyone keep calling him a detective? That’s the central question in The Case of the Case of Mistaken Identity by Mac Barnett. Steve simply came into the library on a Saturday morning to research this stupid paper on needlework when a bunch of sinister looking people dressed all in black started flying down on ropes, bursting through windows and chasing him without mercy. This couldn’t possibly be related to his overdue fines…could it?

The Disappearing Spoon by Sam Kean

The Disappearing Spoon

Chemistry appears to be the coldest, most sterile field of science, breaking down all the values that we as humans hold most dear. When we look close enough, these basic drives of ours, love, money, entertainment, courage, are just the combinations of different elements. Thanks chemistry, for sucking the fun out of the party.

But Sam Kean’s new book, The Disappearing Spoon, manages to take the history of the periodic table of elements, that impenetrable fortress from your high school chemistry class, and relate some of the most amazing, unbelievable, hilarious stories that have ever existed.

Almost episodic in nature, the crux of each story is often how a particular element was discovered, and then how humankind has chosen to put it to use. Sometimes it is for public welfare (copper is used on doorknobs and stair railings because most bacteria that land on it die with in a matter of hours), other times for warfare (high demand for the metals used to construct cell phones have contributed to five million deaths in war-torn central Africa since the mid-90’s).

The Vinyl Princess, by Yvonne Prinz

The Vinyl Princess

There was once a time when you couldn’t fit every song that ever existed into a small metal box and put it in your pocket. I know that might sound horrible, but it’s true. Before iPods, CDs, and cassettes, there was vinyl. Back then, you could run your fingers along the grooves of a recording and actually feel the music that would soon be blasting through your speakers. I’m not necessarily saying it was better…just different.

The Vinyl Princess, by Yvonne Prinz, is a love letter to that outdated media of yesteryear, which certain groups of people will always swear by. Sixteen-year-old Allie is one of those devout few. Not only does she love vinyl, she knows a heckuva lot about the bands that are on it. It’s no wonder that she has the perfect job of working at her favorite record store this summer.

I Slept With Joey Ramone by Mickey Leigh and Legs McNeil

I Slept With Joey Ramone

How’s that for a title that gets your attention? No, this isn’t one of those glamorous, tell-all, rock star groupie memoirs. In fact, I cannot imagine any of the members of the punk rock pioneers, the Ramones, even using the word “glamorous” in a sentence…except perhaps to describe a pizza.

I Slept with Joey Ramone is the affectionate account of lead singer Joey Ramone’s complicated relationship with his kid brother Mickey, who also wrote and played music, but lived in Joey’s shadow.

The sections relating the brothers’ childhood in Queens were especially informative, and had the same sense of deep camaraderie that I loved in Frank McCourt’s first memoir Angela’s Ashes, with just a couple of brothers looking out for each other in the big bad city. You learn about their fascination and burgeoning love of rock music, thanks to the Beatles and Phil Spector’s wall of sound.

Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka

Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka

Humor, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. What makes one person snicker or guffaw might leave another stone cold. Thankfully, the new short story collection Guys Read: Funny Business presents many different senses of humor throughout its pages.

The brainchild of writer Jon Scieszka (of Stinky Cheese Man fame), Guys Read is a project that finds and suggests books that will inspire boys to read, to enjoy what they’re reading, and to seek out more. Different authors contributed their own pieces that will, with any luck, put you in stitches without requiring the mandatory hospital visit.

Funny Business is not just for boys, but it has a lot of things that they might like. It has goofiness and gross-outs. It has suspense and action. It has evil turkeys and chocolate swimming pools. This installment of the new series focuses on humor, but the group plans to release books that are focused on mysteries, sports, and real life stories as well.

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

Fat Vampire by Adam Rex

“I think sometimes you think you’re the hero of the story, and sometimes you think you’re the victim…but you’re not either.”

Douglas Lee is rightfully confused in Adam Rex’s new novel Fat Vampire. He is the title character, doomed to remain a chubby fifteen-year-old for all time. He was trying to lose weight before he was attacked at his family’s cabin, but the curse of a vampire means that he will never change. Eternally hefty, eternally hungry for blood. 
 
At first, he gets by biting cattle and stealing from a bloodmobile (aided by his partner in nerd-crime Jay). But an incident at the San Diego Zoo while trying to suck a panda has blown Doug’s cover, and the host of the basic cable show Vampire Hunters is now close behind and frantic for high ratings.

Bone by Jeff Smith

Banished from their small village, three small, bald cousins aimlessly wander in the desert. The one with a star on his shirt is greedy and sneaky. The tallest one is jolly but dim-witted. The quietest one is a hero in the making, though he doesn’t know that yet. They quickly become separated and when they reunite they are wrapped up in the beginnings of a brutal war involving humans, dragons, and a frightening race of giant rat-creatures…stupid stupid rat creatures.

Jeff Smith’s graphic novel series Bone manages to combine the look and humor of Disney cartoons while tackling the sort of epic adventure that one might find in J.R.R. Tolkien or C.S. Lewis.

Fone Bone, our hero, and his cousins owe their looks to early Disney characters, particularly the work of Carl Barks, who created Scrooge McDuck comics and revolutionized the drawing style of Donald Duck for the company. Recognizing Barks’ influence baffled me at first. Donald was not someone’s subject to be reformed and retooled. Similar to Athena, he sprung forth from Walt Disney’s head, already wearing his sailor suit…without the pants. Right?
 
Apparently not. Just like those famous ducks, the Bone cousins have large heads, round bellies, low centers of gravity, and the same aversion to pants. All of this might make it hard for a reader to take their epic quest seriously, but Smith valiantly strikes at the importance of their mission.

Cooking With Henry and Elliebelly by Carolyn Parkhurst and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino

Cooking with Henry and Elliebelly, written by Carolyn Parkhust and illustrated by Dan Yaccarino, is a culinary blast of imagination as two siblings present a cooking show. Henry is your host, and two-year-old Eleanor (Elliebelly is definitely a snappier stage name) helps out…sort of. They’ve got spatulas, they’ve got a theme song, and they know what they are cooking today. Henry instructs his viewers with a cool professional expertise that you just don’t always see on the Food Network: “There are two ways you can make barbecued banana bacon: you can start with bacon and add bananas, or you can start with bananas and add bacon. It’s really up to you.”

Elliebelly gets on Henry’s nerves at times, but for the most part he is incredibly flexible with this sister’s demands. When she insists that they wear pirate hats instead of chef hats, Henry agrees for the sake the show. Only when she throws her doll into the bowl (“Baby Anne go swimming!”) does Henry really lose his cool.
 
The children’s interpretation of television is satirical, but lacks any sort of cynicism due to Henry and Elliebelly’s positive energy. When it comes time for the commercials, they offer a rapid-fire sales pitch, hawking cars, giraffes, rockets, and pudding. Elliebelly demands that viewers buy these items, “Nownownownownow!!!”