Review: “Algeria Is Beautiful Like America,” by Olivia Burton and Mahi Grand

Algeria Is Beautiful Like America,” by Olivia Burton, illustrated by Mahi Grand. Trans. Edward Gauvin. 176 pages, Lion Forge, April 2018. Hardcover, list price $24.99.

Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find or order all of the books I review at the store.

Travel memoirs are a difficult genre to write well. The worst ones devolve into solipsism: too much about the narrator’s emotional landscape, when it’s likely the landscape of the location that drew the reader to the book in the first place. Yet the author can’t back off too much, lest the book desiccate into a daily calendar of events, or worse, a mere guidebook.

This balance between narration and location becomes trickiest on contested ground. “Algeria Is Beautiful Like America,” written by Olivia Burton and illustrated by Mahi Grand, was originally released three years ago in France, where a complicated colonial history with Algeria lives very much in the present. Newly translated and released in the US this past April by Lion Forge, the book explores Algeria through the lens of Burton’s family history—a lens that doesn’t always make for a pretty picture. Continue reading “Review: “Algeria Is Beautiful Like America,” by Olivia Burton and Mahi Grand”

Comics for the Common Core: TOON Books Encourage Kids to Read

An earlier version of this essay ran in the “Elkhart Truth” in September 2014. The “Luke on the Loose” storyline is a good fit for Father’s Day. Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find all of these books at the store.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As a comics devotee, I spend a lot of energy trying to convince people that comics aren’t just for kids—but of course many, many comics are intended for kids in the first place, even when adults enjoy them too. When done well, kids’ comics can strengthen young readers’ tools for interpreting both words and images, and help them develop reading and critical thinking skills crucial to navigating our visually complex society.

I usually review publications less than a year old, but in celebration of the recent creation of TOON Graphics, a new division of TOON books, I’m reviewing two of my preschool-age sons’ favorite books from TOON—practically their favorite books, period—“Luke On the Loose” (2008) and “Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking” (2011). Continue reading “Comics for the Common Core: TOON Books Encourage Kids to Read”

The Future in Retro: “The Joyners” by R. J. Ryan and David Marquez

This review was first published by the Elkhart Truth in October 2014. Thanks to Better World Books, 215 S. Main St. in Goshen, for providing me with books to review. You can find all of these books at the store.

A book is a technology that doesn’t often come with instructions. The instructions for “The Joyners in 3D,” by R.J. Ryan and David Marquez, are mostly tongue in cheek, recommending that readers take “snack breaks” from their 3D glasses to avoid “lightheadedness, memory loss, or heartache.” Give yourself enough light as you read, the authors explain, and the glasses included in a pocket at the back of the book will grant you the “simple but irresistible illusion of depth.”

  Continue reading “The Future in Retro: “The Joyners” by R. J. Ryan and David Marquez”