Author: Daniel Pinkwater
Unwilling to stay bored in her own plane of existence, Audrey hops on a bus and travels to what is presumably our own plane of existence. After a while, she catches a ride to New York, but due to various circumstances, only makes it as far as Poughkeepsie, where she finds a job in a bookshop dedicated to extraterrestrials . . . where her cat-whiskered appearance is a selling point as the shopkeepers are convinced she’s an extraterrestrial herself, despite her best attempts to explain her origins. While in Poughkeepsie, Audrey meets others who make her seem nearly normal: a mountain dwerg who thinks she’s crazy, a professor who actually is crazy (but only part of the year), and a creature who makes everyone else cringe in fear but who looks like an adorable puppy to Audrey, to name a few. Not to mention the fact that everybody thinks Audrey is another cat-whiskered girl who apparently lived in the area, like, a hundred years ago!
I admit, I originally picked this book up because of the title–I mean, who wouldn’t want to read the Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl?! When I saw the Neil Gaiman & Cory Doctorow recommendations on the back, I was doubly hooked, and I certainly wasn’t disappointed in what I read. Reading this book feels like joining a secret society or something niche like that–it’s super weird in the best way possible, with all kinds of things that don’t make sense at all, only they actually do. And the characters are such a zany mixed up bunch–they’re super fun to meet along the journey. Seriously, Adventures of a Cat-Whiskered Girl is a trip you won’t soon forget–I highly recommend checking it out!
Authors/Illustrators: Rob Reger, Jessica Gruner, & Buzz Parker
Whether it’s inviting her ghost friends for tea, surviving an excruciating afternoon in traffic school, or cooking up a batch of rock soup (not necessarily intended for human consumption), Emily Strange is ready to rock. Actually in this, the fourth volume of the Emily the Strange comic book set, Emily is set to explore all things rock. As with the first volume of the comics, it’s both cool and somewhat weird to see Emily in graphic novel format. Emily the Strange: The Rock Issue is a huge mishmash of short comics, pictures, advertisements, etc. My personal favorites were the rock soup short and the two-page spread showing Emily’s cats demonstrating various rock styles. There were plenty of other interesting features, although on the whole this volume didn’t appeal to me as much as the first volume did. That’s my own fault though–I like rock, but I like a lot of other stuff just as well if not better. (Actually, as I’m writing this, I’m listening to Vocaloid–mostly Kagamines.) So, while it will probably never be my favorite, I did find Emily the Strange: The Rock Issue to be an interesting graphic novel and one which does suit the main Emily Strange series, although in a weirder than normal way.
Author/Illustrator: Greg Ruth
Nate has just moved into a new town, and within minutes of entering his now home, he finds a secret stash of audio reels and an old tape recorder/player. As he begins to listen to these tapes with his new neighbor Tabitha, they discover that these recordings belonged to Walt Pidgin–a boy who disappeared years before. And that’s not the worst of it; the tapes reveal Walt’s uncanny encounters with the strange creatures in his town. And of course, now that Nate and Tabitha are aware of their existence, said strange creatures are getting eerily involved in their lives as well.
I originally picked up The Lost Boy just because it has a really cool cover. It definitely lives up to the cover, and then some. This graphic novel is eerie, creepy, bizarre, but also extremely creative and skillfully crafted. The concept is kind of Twilight Zone-ish–definitely spooky–and the execution of the concept is quite well done. The characters are excellent, very well developed for a graphic novel. I think the writer does a great job of using the art to build the characters’ personalities–the facial expressions and such are very, well, expressive. The art in general is quite realistic and detailed, even for the parts that have little basis in reality. The Lost Boy is definitely the stuff of nightmares, but it’s quite well written. I would definitely recommend this graphic novel to anyone who’s up for something a bit creepy.
Author: Margo Lanagan
This book is deep and dark and dangerous. It’s the sort of book that pulls you under, and when you finally surface, you’re not the same person as when you started. Really, that’s my strongest impression upon finishing this intense short-story collection. Black Juice collects a double handful of unusual, imaginative stories that display different facets of the darkness within us all, but also of the hope, steadfastness, and just plain stubbornness that keeps us going through the darkness. The ideas presented in this collection are troubling but moving, and the creative, sometimes disturbing tales Lanagan uses to express them are really quite excellently done. Read Black Juice. If you’re brave enough.
Author: Neil Gaiman
Warning: Mature Audience
Have you ever imagined listening in as the twelve months sit around a bonfire telling stories? Or accidentally crashing a party being thrown by alien tourists? Maybe you’d like some instructions for what to do if you ever stumble into the middle of a fairy tale? This collection offers all of these and much more.
Fragile Things is an intriguing, provocative collection. It comprises a wide variety of short stories, poetry, and short writings of other sorts ranging from science fiction to dark fantasy, from horror to mystery, and all sorts of shades between. Some I found wondrous, some fascinating, some frankly offensive, but all thought provoking and worth my time. All are distinctly Neil Gaiman. It should be noted that this book contains adult content of several varieties–I would recommend this for a 21+ audience only.
Editor/Illustrator: Chris Van Allsburg
My rating: 5 of 5
The basic premise behind this fantastic collection of short stories is nearly as odd as the stories themselves. Supposedly, a person calling himself Harris Burdick came to editor Peter Wenders sometime around 25 years ago, dropping off a collection of 14 drawings with titles and one-line descriptions. This Burdick then left, promising to bring the accompanying stories the next day, only to never return. In The Chronicles of Harris Burdick, a group of incredible authors take these illustrations and create the stories that might have accompanied them.
Whatever the truth about Harris Burdick and his illustrations may be, this is an excellent collection of stories from a brilliant group of writers. In keeping with the concepts of the illustrations there is an eerie, Twilight Zone sort of feel to the stories. Mostly, they’re about fairly ordinary people to whom some extraordinary events occur. There is a spine-tingling quality to these stories that is simply delicious. Anyone who likes the unusual, or who simply likes short stories, should check out this creative collection.
Featured Authors: Sherman Alexie, M. T. Anderson, Kate DiCamillo, Cory Doctorow, Jules Feiffer, Stephen King, Tabitha King, Lois Lowry, Gregory Maguire, Walter Dean Myers, Linda Sue Park, Louis Sachar, Jon Scieszka, Chris Van Allsburg, & Lemony Snicket