Sunday, October 19, 2008

Coraline and Houdini

More from the Prince William County Public Libraries.

Coraline - Adapted & Illustrated by P. Craig Russell, based on the novel by Neil Gaiman.  I have not read the book by Neil Gaiman. I enjoy his novels, I have enjoyed his comics, I imagine I should give this one a read as well. 

This is a graphic novel adaptation of the novel by the same name. The art is fantastic and creepy. This book has an extremely creepy vibe that isn't always easy to convey in comics. It is the sort of story that I love. It's a children's story where the child protagonist gets ahead and ultimately comes out on top based on their goodness and inteligence, and with the help of others they meet along their journey.

Coraline is a bored young girl living in a place where no-one seems able to get her name right, with parents that just don't seem to have enough time for her, and conditions that aren't exactly what she would have if she could choose for herself. Things change for her when she goes through a doorway that has been bricked up and despite that fact usually remains locked. She enters a world where others live. They approximate the people she knows, but are twisted versions of them. 

When she returns to her own side of the door she finds her parents missing, which necessitates a trip back to the other side. Her 'Other Mother' wants to keep her there, but with the help of a black cat that moves between the two worlds, and the spirits of three children trapped there by the other mother, she will get her freedom back, and that of her parents as well.

This was a pretty quick read, and a great story. If your child isn't easily freaked out, I would say it is a perfect story to read together.

Houdini, The Handcuff King - Jason Lutes and Nick Bertozzi - This is a children's book of a graphic novel about a very specific instance in the life and carreer of Harry Houdini. The art works well for the subject matter and the place and time. The story takes place in 1908 in a very short time span between when Houdini takes a practice jump into the charles river, and when he later does an actual handcuff and shackles escape jumping off the Harvard bridge into the Charles. It seems to highlight his skill at self promotion, his ego and his love for and partnership with his wife Bess. 

The book is put out by the Center for Cartoon Studies. The introduction by Glen David Gold is worth reading, and the 'panel discussions' at the end of the book are just brilliant. The story is a short and sweet one, but with the extra materials that are provided, a parent or teacher could use this material to cover a wide variety of issues and lessons and starting points for discussions with kids. I like this format much better than if it was just presented as an illustrated story book on the same topic.

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