Books in the Park

suggestions from the Barbara S. Ponce Public Library at Pinellas Park


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Seconds, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Seconds, by Bryan Lee O’Malley

Until now I haven’t read an entire book in one sitting since I checked out Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban as a teenager and stayed up all night to read it. I picked up Seconds the other day and brought it home. I was exhausted but I decided to start reading anyway. What harm would a chapter or two be before bed? 

What I didn’t know, as I cracked open the book, was that I wouldn’t put it back down until I’d finished the last page. I loved O’Malley’s Scott Pilgrim series and, if I’m totally honest, I wasn’t expecting to like this as much. I hadn’t read much about Seconds, but knew that it always caught my eye on the shelf or in the bookstore. Now that I’ve read it, I can say that comparing Seconds to Scott Pilgrim is apples to oranges. The art style is similar and the writing hooks you, but they’re truly worlds apart in direction.

When we meet the main character, Katie, she’s 29 and is a chef at one of the city’s best restaurants – Seconds. Katie had opened the restaurant with friends and is gearing up to open her very own restaurant in another part of town. She’s got the place picked out and the contractors are working on the renovations. With one foot out the door at Seconds, Katie is feeling a bit lost. After a serious accident at work, she’s presented with a mushroom and a choice – if she could change one thing, would she? The mushroom not only comes with the choice, but with a set of rules.

Katie makes her decision and thus begins her descent down the rabbit hole à la Alice. As Katie falls deeper into a world that is changing day by day, she wonders what has brought her to this point and how can she fix it.

I’ll end my synopsis there, as this book truly takes some wild turns and I’d hate to spoil anything for the next potential reader. Going into Seconds blind (which sounds a lot cooler than saying I checked out a book without reading the description on the cover) turned out to be a good decision. I knew when I picked it up that if I didn’t connect with the story, I’d at least have loved the art and I wasn’t expecting any of the twists that came along.

Wait! One last thing! The art! That’s what I’ll leave you with. If you liked O’Malley’s art in Scott Pilgrim then you’ll love it in Seconds. His style is still the same but it feels very unique to this story. My favorite character design is Lis with her white hair and red eyes. She is somehow creepy and adorable in the same panel and has an epic sense of style thanks to Hazel’s contributions to her wardrobe. Now, go! Pick up a copy of Seconds and tell us what you thought of it!

Check the PPLC catalog for Seconds.

 

 


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The Creepy Case Files of Margo Maloo, by Drew Weing

Charles could not be more appalled by his situation. His family has moved him from their sleepy suburban home to the expansive, and statistically unsafe, Echo City. The city is dirty, his new bedroom is too small, and the Asian market on the corner doesn’t sell his brand of chicken nuggets! To make matters worse, Echo City appears to be infested with ghosts, trolls, and an endless variety of monsters, all of which would not be opposed to taking a bite out of Charles.

Enter Margo Maloo: Monster Mediator. Her job is to resolve conflicts between children and monsters, and Charles is about to find out that she does not always rule in the child’s favor.

One reason I love this graphic novel is that Charles is learning and changing during the story. Charles starts out as a spoiled, self-centered, and small minded brat. When he asks for Margo’s help, she has some bad news; the monsters causing his problems were there before he was, and he needs to respect that. He can’t just barge into a place and bulldoze the existing tenants, because she won’t let him. After some tough-love lessons from Margo, Charles learns how to respect others and live in a diverse world.

This book features some impressively subtle metaphors. While not directly teaching lessons, The Creepy Case Files will expose readers to the dynamics behind heavy topics such as imperialism, manifest destiny, and modern gentrification. Hopefully, stories like these will give kids the groundwork to fully grasp these topics when they are older.

Check the Pinellas Public Library Catalog for this item.


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The Creeps, by Chris Schweizer

creeps-schweizerCarol, Mitchell, Jarvis, and Rosario are not popular. Their investigations into the bizarre happenings of their sleepy town have raised the ire of their classmates, their teachers, and even the police. Throughout Pumpkins County they are known as “The Creeps”. Not to say their title isn’t apt; on any given day the gang could find themselves elbow deep in reanimated frog corpses or fighting a mutant pudding monster (creepy stuff), but the ill-will from the townsfolk is completely unwarranted! How many times have these kids saved the town? Lots, just ask them, they’ll tell you! But nobody seems to care about the monsters that threaten the fine folk of Pumpkins County, and so The Creeps will continue their thankless job.

This title currently consists of three volumes, and each one is amazing. The Creeps is marked as juvenile fiction, but I would strongly recommend it to all graphic novel readers. *This series is marked as “multi-cultural”, meaning that roughly 60% of the characters you see on the page are not white. This helps to make Pumpkins County an amazing display of diversity. The townsfolk come in every color, size, shape, and even social circle that humans can come in. You’ll see farmers, punks, jocks, little old ladies, and environmentalists walking the streets. Almost any reader could pick up this book and see a character that reflects them.

Additionally, Schweizer takes care to depict the townsfolk as people who are worth saving, even though they can be cruel. Even the most rotten school bullies are rendered likable to some degree. The most lovable characters of all, though are the Creeps. Each character has their own unique skills and hobbies that complement the group’s goals, making them the perfect mystery solving team. Possibly the very best part of the book, however, is the relationship the Creeps have with one another. Carol, Mitchell, Jarvis, and Rosario joke and pick on each other good-naturedly, but when the stakes are high, they are there for each other 100%.

Each volume of The Creeps is humorous, harrowing, a little bit touching, and completely charming. The volumes are episodic, and there is no need to read them in a certain order. So pick up a volume of The Creeps today!

Check the PPLC Catalog for The Creeps.


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Gotham Academy, by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher, Karl Kerschl

gotham-academy-cloonanOlive Silverlock attends Gotham Academy, the most prestigious boarding school in Gotham, and she is troubled. Not only is Olive’s mom locked up in Arkham Asylum for unknown reasons, but Olive is also haunted by hazy memories of a mysterious incident that happened over summer break. Closing herself off, Olive attempts to avoid Kyle Mizoguchi, her tennis player boyfriend who has the good looks of a K-Pop star. Unfortunately, she is forced to show his freshman sister, Maps, around campus. Add to these problems the innate secrets of Gotham Academy itself: the hidden passageways, the ghost haunting the campus, and the secret society running around, Olive is in for an interesting school year.

There is so much to love about Gotham Academy! It’s been described as Harry Potter meets Batman, and it doesn’t disappoint. Harry Potter fans will appreciate the mystery solving, allusions to magic, and the boarding school dynamics. Batman fans will appreciate the many Easter eggs and guest stars. Bruce Wayne gives a speech at the Academy and he swings onto the scene a couple of times as his alter ego, Batman. There are other familiar elements tossed into Olive’s experience too like a reference to the Langstrom virus and a surprisingly fun appearance by Killer Croc. For Batman fans, it’s fun to see Gotham from the perspective of new characters. It gives an already familiar setting more depth.

None of this, however, takes away from Olive’s story. Perhaps the best part of all is how even readers who know nothing about the Bat-Mythos will still enjoy this book. Olive’s story skillfully intertwines these elements, but they aren’t the point of her story. Readers who aren’t interested in typical superhero comics or who don’t know much about Batman needn’t shy away from Gotham Academy. The new stories and characters it offers definitely stand up on their own. One of the most delightful of these new creations is the character Maps. She’s got the spunky but steadfast sidekick thing down pat. But, she’s a great character in her own right. Her enthusiasm for the D&D-like game, Serpents & Spells, and her love of cartography (which gives her the nickname Maps) is fun, cool, and adorable.

Overall, readers of all ages will find Gotham Academy enjoyable. It’s got great art, smart storytelling, a diverse cast, and a bunch of mysteries that need unraveling. Also, don’t miss the crossover Gotham Academy is currently doing with the comic book Lumberjanes. Read about it here.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Gotham Academy.


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Junji Ito’s Cat Diary: Yon & Mu, by Junji Ito

junji-itos-cat-diary-itoA horror manga artist, J, has recently moved into a new home with his fiancee, A-ko. The artist can see a rosy new life opening up before him—until A-ko asks him the fateful question: “Are you a dog person… or a cat person?” Thus begins J’s life with two fractious cats, Yon and Mu. Yon is  A-ko’s quirky childhood cat, and Mu is a Norwegian Forest kitten, adopted as a companion  In a series of biographical vignettes, Ito chronicles J and A-ko’s life with their exasperating but beloved felines.

Ito is best known for his horror manga, and it is a stroke of genius to bring a creepy element to this sleepy slice-of-life comic. Ito creates a sense of dread, both with the atmosphere and the illustration. This is beautifully juxtaposed with the humorous tone, and the everyday plot of human/cat interaction. It makes for a very surreal and entertaining story. In addition, Cat Diary perfectly captures the joys and frustrations of living with cats. Ito’s love for his fur babies shines through, making the manga adorable and touching.

Admittedly, this is a weird book, and it might not be for everyone. However, if you have had surreal experiences with cats of your own, you will enjoy Junji Ito’s Cat Diary.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Junji Ito’s Cat Diary.


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Y: The Last Man (Vol. 1) by Brian K. Vaughan

y last manAnother gem from Brian K. Vaughan. This series pre-dates the Saga series but is no less awesome. Totally different in story and illustration, Y: The Last Man is 10 volumes of adventure.

In this post-apocalyptic Earth, every person with a Y chromosome has died—except for Yorick Brown and his monkey friend, Ampersand. Together they must work with Agent 355 and Dr. Allison Mann to discover what happened to their world and discover a solution to save humanity.

In the first volume we discover that Yorick’s only real skill is escaping. Years of practicing upside-down in a straightjacket have finally paid off. However, his mouth often gets him and his female saviors into trouble. Agent 355 of the U.S. government’s mysterious Culper Ring organization is tasked with protecting Yorick on his journey to discover the truth. She’s a no-nonsense, butt-kicking professional who also happens to knit. All of the other characters introduced in volume one are quirky like this and it makes for a fun read. Initially, the idea that a world without men would lead to chaos offended me. I quickly got over it as it is made apparent that it’s not the women who are incompetent; it was the system that was in place before the fall that really created the chaos. The first page lists that in 2002 (the time of the plague) “495 of the Fortune 500 CEOs are now dead” and that “in the United States alone, more than 95% of all commercial pilots, truck drivers, and ship captains died as did 92% of violent felons”. Any loss of this magnitude would turn the world into a chaotic mess. Do not fret my feminists friends, this comic was not designed to attack you! I loved this first volume and look forward to reading the others.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Y: The Last Man.


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Lady Killer #1, by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones

lady killer richLady Killer is a magnificent play on words that draws you into the story of Josie Schuller, the lady who is a killer. Josie is a perfect 1950s-era housewife and mother who is also, secretly, a trained assassin.

The book opens with an Avon lady calling on a homemaker client in the afternoon. Innocuous, sure. Very June Cleaver. Then we see the Avon lady slip something into the housewife’s drink and we get a taste of the brutality Josie is capable of as the poisoning attempt fails and she is forced to improvise the successful conclusion of her contract.

The running joke is the balancing act of a life of homemaking when the husband is home and murder when he leaves for work. Early in the tale, this life is threatened by assassin-for-hire politics and a nosy mother in law. The breakneck pace of the story takes you from mission to mission, interleaved with Josie’s perfectly coiffed housewife persona, lipstick un-smudged. Her mother-in-law’s sordid suspicions of infidelity are hilarious when compared with the dark reality of Josie’s wet work side job.

The graphics are perfect, underscoring the clean with the brutally messy and lending a counterpoint to the story. The background scenery is quintessential 50s décor and style. Setting the comic in that era of squeaky-clean nuclear family life with its underlying Cold War paranoia and clandestine chaos is a telling commentary on how we can look back at an era with rose-colored glasses. Lady Killer has just published its fifth issue, each as entertaining as the one before. Be aware, some of the scenes are graphic.

Check the PPLC Catalog for Lady Killer.