Craig Graziano

Happy Birthday, Monster! by Scott Beck

Happy Birthday, Monster!

There's a lot more to Happy Birthday, Monster! than just monsters. Sure, there is a mummy, a skeleton, a vampire, and a ghost involved, but there's an alien and a robot too. That is not a problem. Diversity is great, especially when dealing with guys and gals like these.

This bunch is just looking to have a good time at their friend Doris' (a lizard creature of sorts) birthday. Devilish Ben is throwing the bash, and early on we see him brushing and flossing his teeth... and then brushing and flossing his horns.

The fun of Scott Beck's book is seeing how each of these very different characters interact with each other.  The book explores what happens when the ghost slow dances ("You're very light on your feet.") or when the robot falls in love with an ordinary houselamp.

Shark vs. Train, by Chris Barton and illustrated by Tom Lichtenheld

Shark vs. Train

The unlikeliest foes of all time are put to a series of tests. One is a fearsome predator, the other a powerful example of human innovation. Contests, races, and video games are all necessary when trying to figure out who is better. It's teeth vs. wheels. It's beast vs. machine! It’s Shark vs. Train!
 
What starts as two boys’ simple search through a toy box spirals into the possibilities of pitting these very different opponents against each other and predicting what might happen. Now I know what you are thinking: there are a million differences between a shark and a train, and that is part of the fun. This book is the extreme equivalent of comparing apples to oranges.

Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) by Mac Barnett and illustrated by Dan Santat

Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World)

A bright young girl runs through the chaos of demolished streets. Plumes of black smoke rise from the rubbled buildings. No one else is in sight. Oh No! (Or How My Science Project Destroyed the World) is a life lesson that everyone should receive: always take responsibility for your actions, particularly when they involve a ginormous hulking robot with the power to crush cars and shoot lasers every which way.
 
Usually when my school science projects went wrong, it was more of a mild disappointment than anything else. My baking-soda-and-vinegar volcano did not erupt. I received a C- instead of an B+. These are minor hiccups when compared to our main character’s situation. Oh No! allows us to think about our own mistakes and say, “Well, it could have been worse…much, much worse.”

A Pirate's Guide to First Grade by James Preller and illustrated by Greg Ruth

A Pirate's Guide to First Grade

School is almost out, but pirates are most definitely still in, which is why it is wonderful to come across a picture book like A Pirate’s Guide to First Grade. In it, a young boy gets ready for his first day of school, accompanied by all of his imaginary pirate friends. He awakens to his scurvy dog happily licking his face, but there’s no time to wait! Ye must set sheets to the wind and sail!

The text, all in pirate talk, might be a bit distancing at first, but with a glossary in the back and the clear illustrations, I think most young first mates will be able to figure out what’s going on. A parent could even make up a game with their child, figuring out what “Gangway me hearties!” could possibly mean.

 

Conquest of the Useless by Werner Herzog

Conquest of the Useless by Werner Herzog

"We have no dinosaur, it says on a hand-lettered sign outside a farm that puts on rattlesnake rodeos."

                                                                                                                                                                             --Werner Herzog

To find pleasure in  Conquest of the Useless, you must have at least a passing familiarity with the filmmaker Werner Herzog. Herzog has been writing and directing films for five decades, but only a few of his movies have broken into the American mainstream. The most well known here are the documentary Grizzly Man and the Vietnam War film Rescue Dawn (starring Christian Bale).

Each of Herzog's works oozes with a mood of effortless intensity, as if he has summoned the stress and obsessions of humanity like moths to a flame. Whether it's Timothy Treadwell (Grizzly Man's protagonist, who lived with and was inevitably eaten by bears) or Nosferatu (from Herzog's 1979 remake), the director is singular in his subjects' driven focus on their goals and desire, no matter how self-destructive they may be.

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger

The following is an email conversation between two CRRL library staff members, Craig and Mercy, about Audrey Niffenegger's graphic novel for adults, The Night Bookmobile. The Night Bookmobile "tells the story of a wistful woman who one night encounters a mysterious disappearing library on wheels that contains every book she has ever read. Seeing her history and most intimate self in this library, she embarks on a search for the bookmobile. But her search turns into an obsession, as she longs to be reunited with her own collection and memories." (Book summary)

-----Original Message-----
From: Mercedes Sais
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2011 5:58 PM
To: Craig Graziano
Subject: Perusal

Hey Craig,
Would you peruse The Night Bookmobile by Audrey Niffenegger and tell me what you think? I am not a connoisseur of graphic novels, but this one disturbed me in its view of the reading life.

I love her Time Traveler’s Wife and was intrigued by Her Fearful Symmetry but this one...

Mercy
 


-----Original Message-----
From: Craig Graziano
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2011 6:01 PM
To: Mercedes Sais
Subject: RE: Perusal

Sure Mercy, I put it on hold and will tell you what I think of it.

Craig
 


 

-----Original Message-----
From: Mercedes Sais
Sent: Tuesday, March 15, 2011 1:56 PM
To: Craig Graziano
Subject: RE: Perusal

Craig, let's do a duet blog with our email responses to The Night Bookmobile. What do you think?

The book says "dark" from the beginning with the title. Even the colors chosen are not primary colors often chosen for children's books so you know it's an adult novel. Plus no regular bookmobile comes late at night. Alexandra is a creature of the night.

Mercy
 

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).