Tuesday, January 27, 2015

The Art of Richard Thompson

In the realm of comics, my son started with Calvin and Hobbes at five years old, then went deep into Garfield, took a left and held tight to Foxtrot, and now, at nine, is dedicated to Pearls Before Swine and Cul de Sac. We've followed the Richard Thompson story for some time, but it was only tonight that we finally got around to watching the documentary short "The Art of Richard Thompson", and man oh man... what a talent. If you have about 22 minutes to spare, I suggest giving it a go. One of the best things you'll see all year.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Creature Comforts

Creature Comforts
Chas Addams ~ Simon and Schuster, 1981

As many of you know from my other blog, I've made books a major priority in the upbringing of my son. Perhaps even the number one priority. And what all those books and hours and hours of story-times have helped to create, is not necessarily a die hard reader, but an avid storyteller and artist. 

At nine-years old, he would rather read a graphic novel over a straight novel, and will almost not really read anything unless it has a picture in it. Thanks heavens for fabulous authors like Chris Ridell (the boy's current favorite) who weaves fabulous art into equally fabulous stories. (BTW... If you are on Instagram and do not follow @chris_riddell, you are missing out. His sketchbook work is out of this world!) Trips to the book store now almost exclusively rotate around the graphic novel and humor section, where my son collects Tin Tin and Foxtrot and Calvin and Hobbes.

This summer while listening to NPR, my son heard a story on Charles Barsotti, the recently deceased and legendary New Yorker cartoonist, which opened up the now ongoing New Yorker cartoonist conversation in our house. A conversation that almost always inevitably ends up back at one of my childhood favorites, Charles Addams.

Granted, everything I learned about anything spooky always came from my older sister Drake. She read me aloud whole Stephen King novels as a child, showed me my first Edward Gorey book, and taught be to appreciate vampires and werewolves and zombies. And introduced me to Chas Addams, New Yorker cartoonist and master of the comic macabre.

This book has been making the rotation at our house of late, in a big way. The thing I always loved as a child about his work was the fact that the joke was not always evident at first blush. Much like Gary Larsen went on to perfect in The Far Side, the laugh is often visual and not in the words, and sometimes it takes an extra beat or two to sniff them out. As Robert Mankoff put it in an article on Addams for The New Yorker in 2010, "He tapped into that vein of American gothic that has a touch of paranoia about it, seeing behind every comforting fa├žade the uncomfortable truth about the duality of human nature. But where Gothic literature usually combined these themes with romance, Addams made the horror hilarious: disturbing, but at the same time friendly, identifiable, and acceptable."


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Saturday, January 3, 2015

Father Christmas Goes on Holiday

Father Christmas Goes on Holiday
Raymond Briggs ~ Puffin, 1975

It's still sorta Christmas, right? Raymond Briggs is one of my favorite children's books authors, for no other reason than he's also a graphic novelist, and his picture books reflect that. My son loves his Fungus the Boogeyman (what little boy or girl wouldn't!?!), and that book has instilled a loyalty in him for anything Briggs. Most famous for the unforgettably wordless The Snowman, this book is actually a sequel to Briggs' original book, Father Christmas, but I couldn't seem to locate that one in our stash of Christmas books from the attic.

When Santa decides to go on a pre-Christmas holiday, he sends his pets to the kennel, fashions his sleigh into a motor caravan, and heads for the south of France.

Following some la creme nightmares and the absence of anonymity, he tries Scotland only to run into SHARKS!!! Finally settling on Las Vegas where the steak, french fries, ladies, and sun almost make up for the giant hotel bill.

In the end, dear old Father Christmas remembers there's no place like home for the holidays.

Happy New Year everyone!