T-Minus: The Race to the Moon by Jim Ottaviani 
submitted by Lynette

This is a graphic novel written for teens, but should not be limited to this age group alone. T-Minus very beautifully sums up what led up to getting man not only into space, but onto the Moon itself.

As we all know there were two main players in the race to the Moon; the United States and Russia (then the Soviet Union). It is unfortunate that in school we aren’t taught much about the Russian side of the race, we were just taught that there was a race, and the United States won. But, that is far from the whole truth. Here’s a bit of history; did you know the Russians made it to the Moon first? Yes, they got there first with the Luna 2 which was the first man-made object to reach the Moon – though Luna 2 was not designed to travel back home, it was essentially designed to crash into the Moon, and that is where it still lies today. Yes, we were the first to put a human on the Moon, but let’s give credit where credit is due. Though I can rattle off some space trivia, I’ll tell you there was plenty of information in this that was new to me – and yes, I fact checked – Ottaviani did his homework!

The main characters in T-Minus are the scientists behind the programs of Apollo, Luna, and the flights that led up to it. The astronauts themselves take a backseat in this adventure, and put the focus on the many brilliant minds that made space travel possible. Ottaviani gives us an ample amount of names, dates, and trivia throughout the story. He uses skinny side panels that run the full length of the page with information on rocket and satellite launches, with which I was in love. He notes the major missions of both sides, even if they were failures. Too often in history we don’t talk about the failures, even though they too have their importance. Learning through our failures is how we make improvements – and it isn’t all rainbows and sunshine when it comes to science. This shows the blood, sweat, tears, and intense stress put on to employees at both NASA and the Soviet Space Program by politicians who were determined that their country would make it to the Moon first - no excuses.

T-Minus is beautiful in its clarity and simplicity of its illustrations. In no way do I feel like black and white illustrations take away from this. It added to the feeling of looking into the past; like watching black and white television, or looking at sepia toned photos. The line work is crisp, and easy to understand, with the added little bonus bits of information they squeeze into the spaces between panels. Ottaviani gives copious amounts of information without making it overwhelming. He provides ample amounts of reading suggestions at the end to further your independent study of space and the Moon, as well as a glossary of terms.

This is a great macro view of the Space Race for those who may already feel like they know everything, and for those who feel like they know nothing. Even space buffs who feel like they know it all will enjoy the story because it puts the facts into context – it shows the emotion and passion behind one of man’s greatest engineering and scientific feats.

It is definitely teen and up, and I as a grown up enjoyed it thoroughly, but this could be read by much a younger advanced reader. My only hesitation for that is that they might be overwhelmed with all the extra bits of information Ottaviani gives. Honestly, for a non-fiction graphic novel, I cannot say enough wonderful things about this title!

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Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry 
submitted by Katy

Have you ever lost something and couldn't find it? Remember how frustrating that was? Echo is a high school senior who has lost something vital, memories of how she almost died and was left with scars covering both arms. Now in counseling, Echo wanted to regain her lost memories and stop the recurring nightmares. Once part of the social crowd, an A student, dating a hot jock, in her junior year everything changed...blood everywhere and a cry for help that wouldn't be answered soon enough. When she returned to school after several months' absence, all but a few of her former friends avoided her. Life sucked. Aries, her beloved brother, was dead. Her parents divorced, her mother was facing her own demons, and her dad had married Ashley, the babysitter, who is now pregnant. Nothing would ever be the same again.

Noah, a high school senior, had once been part of the social group too, but since his parent's death he and his younger brothers had been separated, with very limited visitation rights. Guilt and worry plagued him. Shuttled between indifferent foster parents, angry, compensating with drugs and sex, Noah is on a downhill slide. All he wants now is to graduate and make a home for his two younger brothers and himself; but if he doesn't bring up his grades and go to counseling sessions he has no chance at all of graduating or seeing his brothers.

Enter Mrs. Collins, the school Counselor. Echo is in need of money to repair her brother's car, Noah needs help to catch up on his studies and Mrs. Collins sees an opportunity for both of them to get what they want. Echo will tutor Noah and get paid; Noah will bring up his grades and graduate. Both are angry at the world, hurting for different reasons, can they stop fighting against each other long enough to listen and help themselves heal their open wounds?

In alternating chapters, Echo and Noah share their feelings, desires, nightmares and hopes for a better future on the pages of this beautifully written examination of a rotten slice of today’s life in our imperfect world. They will lean on each other, touch your heart and show us a side of life that many know exists but would rather ignore. In the end they will find their own answers and still leave us with enough room to imagine the rest.

To check out a copy of Katie McGarry's Pushing the Limits, click here.

Editor’s note: Please use the “add a comment” button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.

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11/22/63 by Stephen King 
submitted by Debbe

On November 22, 1963 I was sitting in my 7th grade classroom, participating in an art project, a message was sent in from the principal’s office, the President had just been shot. The only other things I remember about being in school that afternoon is that my best friend dropped her bottle of black ink and that my teacher gave me permission to go to the school library, where my mother was volunteering that afternoon. That day and watching the televised events of the following three days changed my life, as it did for many of my generation.

Stephen King is one of the most prolific authors writing today. Horror, science fiction and fantasy are not genres I enjoy reading so that is why I had not chosen to select one of his titles for my bedside table. However the premise of this book was intriguing, as I am one of many, along with King, who have wondered how would the world be different if John Fitzgerald Kennedy had not been assassinated. I’ve always thought I should give King a try so I took this opportunity to do so.

I found 11/22/63: A Novel both fascinating and tedious. King is an excellent story teller. I was hooked from Chapter 1 and finished all 849 pages. I found it to be repetitive, so in my opinion it could have been just as good a story with 200 less pages.

The main character, Jake Epping, by stepping through a time portal can return to 1958. He then has 5 years to decide if Lee Harvey Oswald is a lone gunman (there are the conspiracy theories he needs to investigate) and if he is, how can Jake stop him. Jake has a personal mission that motivates him has well. But over and over again, adding to the suspense of the novel, he is reminded that “the past is resistant to change.”

Five years is a long time so it is not surprising when Jake falls in love with Sadie. She also needs to be rescued and have her future changed. Will he be able to stay in the past with Sadie or will she be able to move forward 48 years with him? The questions keep you reading. The final question is will he use his ability to go back, as every step through the portal resets the past, so if you don’t like the outcome you can change it again.

What will 2011 be like if John F. Kennedy had lived? King has an interesting alternative history to recount. However, this is a work of fiction so it is a history we will never know.

I doubt I will read another of King’s books although I have had others tell me to give The Stand a try, all 1153 pages of it. Maybe in my future life I will.

Editor’s note: Please use the “add a comment” button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.

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submitted by Nita

I picked up Winkie by Clifford Chase because I thought it would be hilarious. Winkie is a teddy bear who comes to life, runs away from home, and is eventually mistaken for a terrorist and put on trial. But Chase eschews “Farce=Funny” literary convention, crafting a brilliant and surprisingly poignant allegory about the loss of innocence and how it may be recaptured through memories.

We begin with Winkie's recollections of his early life:

"He had never been smaller than he was now...but he had once been like a baby just the same. It was a time when he wasn't even Winkie yet, when he wore a white blouse and black velvet dress, and he belonged to the little girl Ruth. He could almost hear her calling to him across time, 'I love you, Marie.'"

The story alternates between Winkie's wistful memories of his early life as a beloved toy, his life in the woods after he ran away and found a bear cub to call his own child, and his present status as an imprisoned terrorist suspect.

"It could be said that the whole of the bear's life as a toy formed one long incantation that produced, at last, the miracle of his coming to life. Winkie had hoped to understand that incantation through recollection, maybe even to reproduce its magic and thus regain his freedom."

Remembrance as self-actualization is a constant thread throughout the tale. Just as Winkie is spurred by memories to will himself to life and mobility, Chase suggests that revisiting those things that fed our spirit as children can recharge our spirit as adults.

“In the dream and in remembrance of the dream, inside and outside, a hated thing might be let go, might fly off, might weep, and then the wider world could unfold again in small clicks…the rose in the coloring book, the rose of the world and hope.”

The book includes photographs of Winkie, his childhood home, and the "Killer Bear Manufacturing Facility." While sly humor abounds in this little gem of a book, you'll want to read it for its heart and the lyrical ring of the language. This is a grown-up fairy tale that will stay with you long after you've stopped reading.

Editor’s note: Please use the “add a comment” button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.

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My Top Ten Graphic Novels of 2012 
submitted by Tony

The year is coming to an end in a few days so, of course, it is time for "best of" lists!

This is my top ten list of graphic novels which I read during the past year. They may or may not have been published in 2012.

All of these works can be checked out from LFPL. Some have more than one volume but I just list the series as a whole when this is the case. If only a particular volume of a series is available at this time, it is annotated by an asterisk.

Due to the difficulty of ranking such varied stories, the following titles are listed in alphabetical order rather than in order of preference.

Are You My Mother?: A Comic Drama by Allison Bechdel

"Are You My Mother?" is a companion piece to Bechdel’s Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic, which centered on her father.

Batwoman: Hydrology, Volume 1 by J.H. Williams III & W. Haden Blackman*

Chew by John Layman

Echo: The Complete Edition by Terry Moore
For a previous review of this work on the Readers Corner, click here.

Grifter, Volume One: Most Wanted by Nathan Edmondson*

iZombie by Chris Roberson and Mike Allred

Scarlet by Brian Michael Bendis and Alex Maleev*

Stuck Rubber Baby by Howard Cruse

Sweet Tooth by Jeff Lemire

The Unwritten by Mike Carey and Peter Gross

If you are interested in discussing these titles or other works of sequential art, please join LFPL’s Graphic Novel Discussion Group. Meetings are held at the Main Library on the second Monday of every month, starting at 7:00 PM.

The next two meetings will take place on the following dates:

January 14, 2013 – We will be discussing digital and web comics.
February 11, 2013 – We will be discussing the role of African-Americans in comics and the comics industry.

Editor’s note: Please use the “add a comment” button below to leave any response you may have about the book or the review.

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