Friday, August 24, 2012

Comet in Moominland by Tove Jansson

In which Ashley reads books about strange creatures...

Several friends mentioned their fondness for Tove Jansson's Moomin series, and I decided to finally read the series. Tove is a Swedish-speaking Finnish artist who published these beloved stories, but the stories have been translated into English throughout the years and I found the almost-complete series in my library. (Mysteriously the first book is difficult to find, but due for reprinting this fall).

The Moomin series revolves around the Moomin family-- Moomintroll, Moominmamma, and Moominpappa. Another creature called Sniff lives with them, and throughout the series more creatures come to live with them in the Moominhouse (which is blue and round with rope ladders from the windows because stairs take too long).

Comet in Moominland is technically the second book, but the editions by Squarefish are referring to it as the first. They came to Moominvalley because the flood washed their house here-- which is referenced throughout the book, but little background exists in this story since we theoretically already read The Moomins and the Great Flood. Regardless of that strangeness there are no holes in this book that would take away from it.

The book begins with Moomintroll and Sniff discovering pearls and a cave. Eventually Muskrat came to the house and predicted a ____ and unnecessary disaster. Strange things started to happen-- the pearls arranged themselves into a star with a tail pattern, as did gulls, jam jars, and pears. When Muskrat tells them it's a comet, they decide to journey to the Observatory to find out what and when it was going to happen.

The language and humor in the books are sophisticated and highly accessible for most readers-- there may be unfamiliar phrases or uncommon expressions to some readers. The characters have unique personalities that complement each other and further the plot.

These are stories about adventure and friendship that are perfect for elementary-aged children, and perhaps middle grade children, but any reader would find the tales enjoyable.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Mameshiba: We Could Be Heroes!

Did you know? ...

Mameshiba: We Could be Heroes! is a fun, colorful graphic novel that includes three short stories about the mameshibas, or bean dogs.There are also single-page comics about a Mameshiba named Tiger Bean.

The graphic novel is actually based on a Japanese merchandise franchise, which led to television shorts, short comics, and these graphic novels. The mameshibas spout random facts when encountered, always beginning by saying, "Did you know?"

The stories included are Chili Bean in Love, Sweet Tiger Bean, A Whole Lot of Cocoa, Science! With Tiger Bean, Once Upon a Time..., and Good Night, Tiger Bean. The Tiger Bean stories are all single page stories about a little bean named Tiger Bean who isn't very bright (but rather cute).

In Chili Bean in Love, Chili Bean must win a sports competition to win his love's heart, but who is he in love with anyway?

A Whole Lot of Cocoa is about a magic show that doesn't go so well. This story introduces the ultra-cool Mameshibot and some of my favorite moments in this graphic novel.

Once Upon a Time... shares a story about scary monsters and how the mameshibas save the day in a fantasy land.

If you like randomness, cute characters, and are looking for something new, check out Mameshiba: We Could Be Heroes! 

The Mameshiba stories are great for any audience. Boys and girls will both enjoy this graphic novel, and although it would be recommended for elementary-age children, middle school students would enjoy the stories as well.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Library Wars: Love and War

Based on the description of Library Wars: Love and War, I wasn't sure how much I'd enjoy it. I'm a librarian, so I felt that I should like it, but I have been reading a lot of shoujo manga lately that I haven't enjoyed. 

It's the future and the government has created a committee to rid society of books that are "unsuitable." In retaliation, libraries create their own military group called the Library Defense Force to protect their collections! 

Iku Kasahara has left home telling her family she was going to be a librarian, but secretly she has joined the Library Defense Force as a soldier. Why did she choose this dangerous life? Because of her prince that rescued her favorite book from confiscation by the government when she was younger. She wants to be just like him.

This is not the typical shoujo manga you may be familiar with, but when it comes down to the relationships Iku has with other characters and their personalities maybe it is. Her drill instructor is out to get her, and her new partner has little respect for her and thinks she's useless. Her best friend is a librarian and totally attractive and gets all the boys. Iku? She's clumsy, barely studies, and always runs into trouble. The story and character development has significantly more substance than many shoujo manga, and therefore appeals to fans of graphic novels and readers who are new to the format. 

If you're looking for a new shoujo manga that is thought-provoking and exciting, but still full of complicated romance, check out Library Wars.

The manga is based on Toshokan Sensō, a light novel (a book for teens, like what we call YA Lit) in Japan. The plot is based on the Statement on Intellectual Freedom in Libraries in Japan in 1954. Below is the opening page of the manga, which is based on actual articles from the real Statement on Intellectual Freedom in Libraries.

(Teens at the Arlington Library, the teen library blog of my library system, has shared this post on their blog as well)