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.

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The Innocents 
submitted by Alex

The Innocents, directed by Jack Clayton and starring Deborah Kerr, is a 1961 film adaptation of Henry James’ ghost tale novella The Turn of the Screw. The film is over a half-century old yet still has the ability to unnerve its audience through an innovative opening, carefully crafted performances, and unreliable narrative.

The film opens with a black screen and only the haunting sound of a girl singing. We do not see an image for several seconds, we just listen, and right from the start the movie has us on edge. Soon we meet Kerr as Mrs. Giddens, a governess who accepts her first job caring for two young children, and who soon becomes convinced that something otherworldly is wrong with them.

Mrs. Giddens’ demeanor is a shade too dramatic but she might just be resolute in her concern for the children’s safety. Similarly, the children Miles and Flora, portrayed by Martin Stephens and Pamela Franklin, respectively, may be possessed by evil spirits or perhaps merely seen askew as such by Mrs. Giddens. As the movie ends, we are left wondering what is real and what is not, and whether anyone at all is really an innocent party.

It is a brilliant movie, and one everyone should check out from our library.

You might also be interested in a direct adaptation of Turn of the Screw. This version was originally produced for Masterpiece Theatre. It stars Jodhi May, Grace Robinson, and Joe Sowerbutts.

Our guest reviewer, Alex Goodman, has worked for LFPL for nine years, and for the past three at the Middletown branch. He has been a film buff for much longer than that.

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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Just Kids by Patti Smith 
submitted by Tommy

I’ve been meaning to read this book for two years and just got to it. I regret that it took me so long. Having been a fan of Patti Smith’s music for decades, I am now a fan of her writing. These memoirs have the ease of her speaking voice. At once both soothing and painful, it is one of those books that I can’t put down. She has been through a lot of personal grief, but is able to use her wisdom and the teachings of other wise people to pull through.

But as much as I’ve been into Patti and her music, I knew nothing about Robert Mapplethorpe, her lifelong soul mate, except that he was an artist. Just Kids is a good starting place for information about him and his tragic death. I must admit that this part of the book made me cry.

The more I read about Patti, the more I like her. She likes all the stuff that I like: poetry, Brian Jones, Bob Dylan, Tim Hardin, Rimbaud, Jim Morrison, Jim Carroll, Janis Joplin, The Beats, The Velvet Underground, and Sam Shepard.

Even before she was a singer/songwriter, she was in love with music. She lived in NYC in the late 60’s/early 70’s. She lived in the Chelsea Hotel for a time, and at a wonderful time to be at both The Chelsea and in NYC. This book makes me lonesome for New York.

This book has many stories and they weave through time like a history lesson that is both personal and universal. Her honesty is remarkable. Just Kids is a must read!

The library has a lot of her music which you can find by clicking here.

The library also owns a great DVD on her called Dream of Life.

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Ted Kooser and Jon Klassen 
submitted by Natalie

When a former United States Poet Laureate (2004-2006) and Pulitzer Prize for poetry winner (2005) sets their pen to writing for children, it’s hard not to be curious of the outcome. The House Held Up by Trees, published by Candlewick Press in 2012, is the second picture book by the acclaimed poet Ted Kooser. Jon Klassen adds digitally edited watercolor visuals and brings illustrator-of-the-moment status to the project. Klassen is also the author and illustrator of the brilliantly deadpan I Want My Hat Back as well as the companion title This is Not My Hat.

The main character in The House Held Up By Trees seemed familiar to me and then I realized that I have lived next door to this man more than once. Once where the neighbors cut their grass three times for each one of my lazy mowings and currently where the man adjacent is so fastidious with the upkeep of his yard that I have witnessed him using a leaf blower during a rainstorm. Much like them, the owner of the small country house at the center of this picture book world meticulously and deeply cares for the appearance of his lawn. He ritually manicures it as his young children watch from the outskirts of the neat green clearing.

Helicopter like seeds of maple rivet down to earth and take root but at the first sign of growth the father appears to pull them individually from his immaculate rectangle. Many seasons of careful maintenance pass and the daughter and son who have watched their father’s devotion to order are now of an age for moving from their childhood home. Retirement comes for the man which only increases his drive to tame nature. More time passes and eventually he is unable to keep up and he begins to long for living close to his children once more. And so he does and the house is put up for sale.

“As it happened, nobody wanted to buy the house. Nobody could explain why, but it just didn’t seem like a house where anybody wanted to live. That happens sometimes.”

Without the property’s caretaker, seedlings that were once carefully plucked from the ground are now allowed to grow. Years go by and the seeds become trees and the once new and well cared for house has become dilapidated. Glass from the windows has been broken and shingles fallen away from the roof and then we can see that oddly enough trees have begun to grow from the interior.

Considering the general picture book audience, disintegration and the passing of time may not pop out as go-to themes. But why not devote some time to pondering such matters? Children will come to see that things that were once new eventually break and that nature will have its way with us be it in the end or points in between. These concepts are simple enough to grasp and yet there’s no fear here of exposing an elementary aged reader to morbidity; instead here lies an opportunity to introduce the concept of acceptance. There's also a quietness and sense of awe aimed at the natural world both of which could always bare cultivation. This picture book does nothing to overstimulate the reader and is compelling enough for those who have come to rely on such.

“And very gradually, the growing trees began to lift the house off its foundation. First there was a crack of light beneath it, and then in a few more years, you could see all the way across the top of the foundation.”

Because who wouldn't be intrigued by the idea of a clump of trees that raise a house from up off the ground? I know I am.

Watch an interview with Kooser and see the actual house that inspired the story.

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The Impetuosity of Youth (or Youthful Thinking): A Review of Arcadia by Lauren Groff 
submitted by Rob

There are myriad behaviors shared among all humankind that tie each person to the next. Over time, these behaviors form recognizable and predictable trends. Among these is the seemingly innate desire by some to organize society or select groups in the attempt to maximize happiness and achieve some level of worldly perfection. From the Essenes of Ancient Judea to the Transcendentalists of Nineteenth Century America, people have endeavored for thousands of years to build a utopia.

Earlier this year, Lauren Groff published her second novel entitled Arcadia. It follows a fictional group of Americans in the 1970s which forms a commune sequestered in rural New York on the land surrounding an old, decaying house known as the Arcadia House. There they wish to live what is - in their minds - a righteous life of free love, strict vegetarianism, shared work, and the prohibition of the keeping of pets (considered by them to be animal slavery).

With the narration being a mixture of omniscient voice and the internal musings of the son of one of the founding couples, Ridley Sorrel Stone (but referred to almost exclusively as Bit), the reader follows this ragtag band of merry pranksters in their journey from traveling caravan to Arcadia and beyond. As a spectrum of characters is introduced throughout, the reader is constantly engaged with their personal quirks and life stories.

Despite the best efforts by many, the fruit that results from these idealistic labors is bittersweet, and through it all, Bit remains a steadfast observer. He witnesses the happenings and consequences of the wishful dreams of gentle people who wanted nothing more than to live in peace and harmony. However, the realities of modern life cannot be avoided forever, and the world that was being eschewed nevertheless came to Arcadia, sans invitation.

Framing the story is Ms. Groff’s wonderful writing. Her descriptions of nature, people, and events bring the reader directly to that Arcadia. The reader feels surrounded by the characters, sharing in their everyday joys, sorrows, hopes, and triumphs.
“But this morning, Bit wakes alone, heart racing. The icicles in the window are shot with such red light of dawn that Bit goes barefoot over the snow to pull one with his hand. Inside again, he licks it down to nothing, eating winter itself, the captured woodsmoke and sleepy hush and aching cleanness of ice.”

Ms. Groff is also the author of the novel The Monsters of Templeton (2008) and a collection of short stories, Delicate Edible Birds: And Other Stories (2009).

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