Graphic Novel Review: Cleopatra in Space (Target Practice)

This graphic novel has bandied about our house for nearly a year. I don’t know why it took me so long to read, but I know my youngest son had read it a few times and said he liked it. I think that’s why it took me so long … I couldn’t find the book and only recently did I find it during a “clean the bedroom or else” sweep.

I’m glad I did (find the book).

Cleopatra in Space, by Mike Maihack, is a series of graphic novels about, yes, THAT Cleopatra as a budding teenager who gets herself zapped not just into the future (where she is destined to change the fate of the Universe) but also to an entirely new galaxy altogether (where many of the character are intelligent cats).

The mechanics of her transformation from Ancient Egypt (ancient to us, anyway) to outer space is less important than knowing that Maihak is attuned to character development and to using humor to tell a full-on action story. We don’t get a ton of backstories to the friends that Cleopatra is making but I suspect that might be coming with other books in the series. The artwork is colorful and engaging, and the story moves at a solid pace, without sacrificing characters and plot gaps.

Cleopatra is no fool and she’s pretty handy with her laser gun, too.

This is just the first book in the series (entitled: Target Practice) but I am intrigued and want to know more about this feisty heroine. This book is well-suited for boys and girls in the elementary and maybe middle school years. The boys won’t be turned off by a girl as protagonist because of the sense of adventure and action, and the girls will be excited to see someone their own age as the hero of a graphic novel story. Win-win.

Peace (connecting across time),
Kevin

Snug Inside the Baseball Glove

Day eight poem

Today’s poem is inspired by a patent I saw shared via the Library of Congress for a baseball glove. Our house has lots of baseball activity — from players to fans. In April, before any game has started, anything is possible. You can dream of the season ahead.

Peace (in Spring’s potential),
Kevin

Book Review: Who Is Jeff Kinney?

I can answer the question in the title of this small book for you rather easily enough: Jeff Kinney is the author of the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. If you teach in an elementary/middle school, or have young readers at home, ’nuff said. This short biography — Who is Jeff Kinney? — gives more details about Kinney’s life as a budding and aspiring cartoonist/novelist, and how his hard work and vision for story eventually paid off.

Who Is Jeff Kinney? is a quick read, but it could be a solid companion piece for those readers who want to know more about how Kinney and his series became the blockbuster that it is. Kinney seems like a regular guy who loved to draw, but realized that his drawing ability would not likely get him far. He turned that weakness into a strength with his books, though, and got a few breaks along the way.

What I found most fascinating is how Kinney worked hard for a handful of years to gather together stories and drawings, with no publisher in sight, and when he was done, he had a mountain of ideas from which to work from (which is why he can publish a book a year now). Also, the first iteration of Wimpy Kid were aimed at adults, not children (I’d love to see some of those) but the publisher who took a chance on Kinney (all the way to the bank) saw a market for young boy readers, so Kinney reworked his ideas for a younger audience.

This biography is written by … his younger brother, and so it is rather flattering (not that I have any dirt on Kinney or anything … he seems like a genuinely nice guy and who couldn’t like a guy who used his fortune to open a bookstore in his hometown?).

Peace (in the bio),
Kevin

Poetry: Writing by Modem’s Flickering Light

Day Seven poem

I was off daydreaming about something — trying to put together some ideas on a project — when I realized I was staring at and being mesmerized by the blinking lights of our modem on the floor of our living room, by the television. So odd. The mathematical phrase of “mean, mode ..” came late, first as an alliterative stretch but then as something more … I also went for the “found poem” look here, on purpose.

Peace (in the movement of ideas),
Kevin

Dreaming by Day

It’s April and I am writing poems, with different visual media apps and platforms and whatnot.

Peace (in the share),
Kevin

Slice of Life: Are You Listening, Mother Nature?

Every Tuesday, the crew at Two Writing Teachers invites educators and others to write about the small moments of the day. It’s called Slice of Life. You write, too.

grass in snow in april

We shoveled the driveway three times yesterday. That’s a good indication for how much snow fell during an April day when, really, it should have been all sun and flowers. Right? April? Look at that poor tuft of grass from our backyard. It looks confused and out of place. Instead of sun, we had snow, totaling about five to six inches, and a whole day off from school.

The boys, of course, were happy to have an expected long weekend (and we streamed the Star Wars movie, so it wasn’t all bad).

But I see now that our last day of the school year is set on a Friday. If we have any more of these Spring Snow Days, it pushes the final day to the Monday, and that impacts a wobbly balance we chanced on this year when booking an early vacation week up in Maine in late June (normally we go later in the summer but with the oldest son going off to college for the first time in August, we moved our vacation back and then took advantage of the pre-summer-vacation rates. Seemed like a good idea at the time.)

So, now, more snow, please. Are you listening, Mother Nature? It’s me, Kevin.

Peace (in the think),
Kevin

Woody Guthrie Lives Inside of Me

memecat stays positive

From time to time, I pull out my guitar and record a “corner concert” in my house. Nothing fancy. Just me and a song. Given all the noise about politics, to which I am very much attuned, I pulled out this song that I wrote, Woody Guthrie Lives Inside of Me.

While the politicians sleep
We’ll occupy the streets
Woody Guthrie lives inside of me

Thanks for watching and listening and being engaged in this crazy political season.

That man

Peace (in the songs),
Kevin

I hear; I listen; We dance

I was reading a book about music and came upon the word, Entrainment. I was intrigued.

Entrainment in the biomusicological sense refers to the synchronization of organisms (only humans as a whole, with some particular instances of a particular animal) to an external perceived rhythm, such as human music and dance such as foot tapping — from Wikipedia

That got me thinking of a poem, as I listened to some jazz while I was writing. (You can view the poem here, too, if this image doesn’t work right)

Dayfour poem

And thanks to a Snow Day (ah!), I was able to do a podcast of the poem:

Peace (inside the spaces between the notes),
Kevin

Graphic Novel Review: The Nameless City

The city is named over and over, and no conqueror can name it for long.

The Nameless City is, as noted, a place without a name. Or rather, a place with many names, designated by those who have invaded it over time and who have called it what they wanted to call it because they held the power. But those who live in the Nameless City — the ones who wait out the invasions and the subsequent transitions of power over time — know better and call their city Nameless.

Told beautifully, and with great depth, The Nameless City by Faith Erin Hicks (and art by Jordie Bellaire) is a fascinating story of what seems to be city of the past, somewhere in Asia, in which politics and ambition, and intrigue, play out even as the story focuses on a young boy named Kaidu (whose father is part of the invading force now governing the city and fearing for the next invasion) and Rat, a young girl of the streets of the Nameless City.

What makes the Nameless City so ripe for invasion is its location and a strange history of its original founders, who dug tunnels in the ground and carved out the mountainsides, and whose language is a mystery to those who live in the city (setting the stage for a future story, no doubt).

The book has it all: humor, adventure, friendship, danger, courage, and flow. This story flows naturally, moving the narrative along in ways that only graphic novels can, particularly when we see the city through the eyes of Rat, who prowls along the roofs of the city buildings, leaping like a superhero from building to building, and over rivers. The use of art to show us up high, and then down low, and the action of the leap … that is an experience of graphic storytelling. Rat’s a headstrong, powerful girl, and she teaches Kaidu a few things about life.

I’ll be honest, too. As I read this first installment of The Nameless City, the place that came to my mind was Afghanistan, for some reason. Perhaps it was the narrative of subsequent invading forces and the native population finding ways to live and survive through each turn of events by becoming invisible and patient, until some start advocating violent rebellion. The Nameless City could be anywhere, or nowhere, but the ideas of who owns the heart and soul a place is at the center of Hicks’ graphic story, and that idea remains an important one throughout time, even beyond the graphic novel.

Even today, on the world stage.

I’ll be curious to see where Hicks and Bellaire take the story of Kaidu and Rat in the future, as this is the first of a trilogy from First-Second publishing. It’s well worth your time, and the book is appropriate for the upper elementary and middle school classrooms.

Peace (in the flow),
Kevin