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April 26, 2012 Edition
When Lucille was young, she realized she’d never be one of the girls that all the boys (or even any boy) wanted. She understood it was her body’s fault and she decided it would just disappear. When Arthur was young, he turned counting into an obsession while watching his father’s empty beer glasses pile up on the bar. After Lucille’s most recent hospitalization for anorexia, and after Arthur inherits his father’s name and becomes Vladimir, the two unhappy young people meet and fall in love. Vladimir is anxious to leave their small seaside town in search of better opportunities and he thinks that Lucille might be better off somewhere else, too. Together, the two set out for Italy to find happiness, but find their relationship tested by insecurity as well as language barriers, and finally, deception. Plain, black and white line drawings tell Lucille and Vladimir’s coming-of-age story leaving the reader undistracted.
Deceptively light and comic in its exploration of dark scenarios, this follows a philosophical flock of birds and three humans through a series of trials (a tree that used to be a home is now a stump, a plane drops a bomb that starts a cult when it is mistaken for an egg by the provincial birds, and the grandmother of a disabled young man dies). When the plane crashes, it destroys the only house ever seen in the book and the downed pilot is unable to get any help from the disabled boy. Physically surrounded by birds and linked to them by circumstance, the boy and the man muddle on as best they can, but their future, and that of the birds, is equally bleak. A decade in the making, and weighing in at nearly 600 pages, this is an open-ended fable for our time.
Illustrated by Joe Infurnari
All these sled dogs want to do is run, and when they aren’t running, they’re bickering over who’s mating with whom and strategizing to become lead dog. Their (unnamed) humans aren’t much better – they’re living off the land out outside Fairbanks, where the woman worries about accidents and the man worries about making it through winter. No one, not the dogs or the humans, is really happy, and tension builds until both species come to blows. For the dogs, it’s all about the juiciest fish heads. For the humans, it all hinges on apricots. Short and funny, this combines cabin fever, existential angst, and the joy of running a sled into one gripping whole.
Illustrated by Sylvain Savoia
In this utterly delightful autobiography, we meet little Marzi, who is growing up in Communist Poland. Born in 1979, she lives happily behind the Iron Curtain, unaware that there is any other way to live, though she catches glimpses from time to time of a different life from relatives and friends who have emigrated. Mostly, though, her life is full of normal, everyday things: waiting in line for groceries, taking first communion, picking mushrooms with her father and neighbors in the fall. Though the cover hints at dire events, they just don’t materialize. Marzi’s living during a calm time for Poland, and though there are deprivations, her life is fun to follow – an only child who is indulged within her family’s limited means, loved very much, and secure and adventurous.