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December 7, 2007 Edition

The Magical Life of Long Tack Sam, by Ann Marie Fleming

The greatest act in vaudeville is a name hardly known today: Long Tack Sam. This illustrated biography about the author’s great-grandfather tells the story of a Chinese boy who left home and traveled the world as an acrobat, magician, ambassador, and an impresario for nearly 70 years. His career was affected by two world wars, changes in audiences’ tastes for entertainment, and the immigration laws of the US and Canada. Fleming pieces together the many versions of his story into a vibrant whole. Her mix of photos, fine art, cartoons, stick drawings and succinct text turn Long Tack Sam’s amazing life into a fascinating read.

Wire Mothers, by Jim Ottaviani and Dylan Meconis

Harry Harlow was the psychologist who brought the word “love” into the vocabulary of science with his experiments on rhesus monkeys. In stark black and white images, this book explores Harlow’s scientific life and discoveries, while in the background, Harlow’s personal life plays itself out as well. He used the word “love” to define the feeling of security that young animals gain from their mothers which allows them to venture out on their own, learning and adapting to new situations. The scientific community rebelled at such an unscientific term, but had to admit that the experiments with wire and cloth monkey mothers did indeed show that something vital was missing from the monkeys who grew up with only wire mothers. Eventually, Harlow’s theories became mainstream and changed the advice new human parents were given. Well-illustrated and cohesive, this is a great introduction to the life of a scientist and the science he loved.

Exit Wounds, by Rutu Modan

Koby Franco’s estranged father has been killed in a suicide bomb attack in Hadera – or has he? Contacted by Gabriel’s young lover, Numi, Koby begins to unravel his father’s life, but everywhere he turns he finds more puzzles. Stymied in his attempt to use a DNA test to match his father’s name to an unidentified corpse, Koby begins tracing Gabriel’s steps backwards and discovers that his father may well still be alive, albeit even more removed from his family’s life than ever before. Modan has been lauded as one of Israel’s finest cartoonists and this, her first graphic novel, has been acclaimed for both its illustrations and for its depiction of modern Israeli life.

Silverfish, by David Lapham

When Mia’s father and new stepmother go off for a ski weekend, Mia and her best friend Vonnie start investigating Suzanne. Mia wants to know if Suzanne is a golddigger, but what she discovers is so much worse. In stealing Suzanne’s address book to try to find out who she really is, the girls accidently put a psychotic killer on their track. The excellent black and white illustrations allow the full horror of the girls’ situation to blur, but the tension doesn’t let up till the satisfying resolution in this thriller.

The Clarence Principle, written by Fehed Said, illustrated by Shari Chankhamma

When Clarence wakes up in the bathtub, he’s surprised to find the water is pink. He’s a little confused, but finds a message written in the mirror’s condensation “Find me.” Off he goes through a convenient door into… the land of Death? Whoever he’s looking for leaves him clothes and clues, and he travels on, mending a heart here and losing an arm there. Atmospheric manga-inspired art drives the story of a young man searching for meaning in his new world.

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