A few years ago a story made the rounds in the media: a refugee helped save two very small children (barely toddlers) who were fleeing with their families out of the violence of Syria. By some miracle Doaa Al Zamel stays afloat and manages to get herself and the babies to rescue. This is the story of her early life and fleeing the terror to a new life. The book is written by Melissa Fleming, the chief spokesperson for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who initially told Doaa's story at a TED talk.
We learn about Doaa's early life and family. As a young child Doaa had a relatively peaceful upbringing but things soon changed in Syria and the situation gradually becomes untenable. After fleeing with her family for Egypt, Doaa finds she must leave again with her fiance, Bassem. Together they embark on a harrowing journey to Europe.
It's a fascinating story and should really bring home the horrors refugees are fleeing, but I am amazed at the high reviews this book received. It is not well-written at all. I thought Fleming was a ghostwriter (I didn't know of her position with the UN until I read the flap) helping Doaa tell her story. But the writing is at best pedestrian and could have used a lot more tightening up. This is another example of a TED talk/magazine article (I believe Doaa wrote at least one piece about her experiences) that should have never been made into a book or at least should have had a much better editor/ghostwriter to help.
It's a horrifying tale that has far too many similar stories told by far too many people. But I'd recommend most readers skip this and either watch the TED talk (I haven't watched it though) or seek out Doaa's writings instead.
It happened again. I fell in love with another book by Shaun Tan. The book I'm talking about is Lost & Found and it's absolutely fabulous. There are 3 short stories collected in this book: The Red Tree, Lost & Found, and The Rabbits. As with the other books by Tan, there is a fabulous mix of fantasy and reality. The fantastic elements are used to tell stories that are all too true and real. He hits at the heart of a person with stories of depression (The Red Tree), disenfranchisement (The Rabbits), and loneliness/otherness (Lost & Found). His ability to create elaborate stories through gorgeously drawn images astounds me. I understand now the phrase "a picture is worth a thousand words" because many times the illustrations themselves are all that are needed to convey the real emotions of his characters. The settings are a character in their own right and the urge to leap into the book and visit those places is virtually impossible to ignore. The Red Tree follows someone who is battling against their own mind and spiraling deeper and deeper into depression. However, there's something following her that she can't see (but the keen-eyed reader will) and the end result is uplifting and powerful. Lost & Found was probably my favorite. It's about a man who comes across something just a wee bit odd and out-of-place. He decides it must be lost and there follows a journey to take this thing back to where it 'belongs'. (It's also a short animated film which I am definitely going to watch.) The third was actually written by John Marsden with the illustrations by Tan. If you replace rabbits with basically any group of people who come into an already established area and claim it for their own you'll totally get what they're trying to convey with this one. And so another Shaun Tan book added to the list 'must own for life'. 10/10
Wickedly Powerful is yet another winner in Deborah Blake’s Baba Yaga series. Bella, Sam, Koshka and the whole crew made this story fun, definitely exciting, and also very heartwarming in its own way.
“Did that cat just talk, or am I losing my mind?”
Koshka laughed, a bizarre sound coming from something with whiskers and ear tufts. “So you believe in witches but not in talking cats? You have a very limited worldview, Human. You might want to work on that.”
I really do love the whole world Blake has created for this series. There’s something so intriguing about bringing a traditional fairy-tale to life in modern times and she has certainly done that successfully here. I’ve enjoyed how the tone of each Baba Yaga novel follows the personality of the particular Baba it is focusing on.
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Series: Eyeshield 21
Author: Riichiro Inagaki
Artist: Yusuke Murata
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
Format: Digital Scan
Now that the Devil Bats have an actual team, Harima takes them to watch a game played by other teams so that the newbies can see at what level more advanced teams play at. Harima also ups their training by making them participate in building the new clubhouse.
After watching the game, Harima signs up the Devil Bats to play a visiting American highschool team. However, the contest was rigged and another, higher profile, team was chosen. Harima hacks into the system and forces a duel between the Devil Bats and the Taiyo Sphinx to determine who will play the Americans.
This was a good volume. Seeing the White Knights struggle and their fan favorite QB stuck in the hospital wrestling with doubt, makes them seem that much more worthy as opponents to the Devil Bats.
The beginning of the game against the Sphinx is a good one. The linebackers of the Devil Bats, who we've only seen overcoming everything thrown at them, get flattened by the Pyramid of the Sphinx. Their confidence is shattered and not even Sena/Eyeshield 21 can get their spirits up. Of course, Harima has a plan for even this setback and using the natures of his linemen puts the "oomph" back in them.
Harima also shows his skills as a QB while the weak nature of the Sphinx's QB begins to crack under the pressure. It is rather nice to see Harima actually playing football instead of just whaling on the team and shooting off guns and rockets.
Sena plays a very small part in this volume and I suspect that will be the case from now on. Football being such a team sport, it can't rely on 1 individual to carry the whole story. My only gripe is the fact that Eyeshield 21 is supposedly a Notre Dame vet and Notre Dame is a college, so why would a college kid be in highschool? I know the American version of highschool doesn't exactly correspond to Japanese Highschool but I figured it was still all the same at the end.