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Reviews Written by
Mr. Timothy J. Franklin "Tim Franklin" (Colchester, England)

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Crossed Volume 1
Crossed Volume 1
by Garth Ennis
Edition: Paperback
Price: £18.22

13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very very nasty, and funny to boot, 12 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Crossed Volume 1 (Paperback)
The fad for zombies / zomboids (fast or slow, living or other) has about run its course, which is all to the good. China Mieville pointed out the lethargy in the mode could only run a little while before the grisly edifice spluttered to its knees. Crossed is an attempt to reinvigorate (re-animate?) the genre by making zombies threatening again. The monsters in Crossed are alive, sexually rapacious, immune to pain and generally just vile. And they love what they do!

The monsters of crossed are (almost) shocking. There is no line Ennis won't cross in order to get a grim chuckle or confirm to you the hopelessness of the survivor's plight.

It's good, basically, and I recommend you go read, provided you can take your coffee black and sugary. The plot and all the rest is as you would expect - a band of survivors amble across America, gradually picked off by internecine strife and terrible luck. Ennis is really a very good character author, and the survivors he creates are likable, humored, varied, consistent, growing, failing... and yes, occasionally, being raped to death while their intestines slop out through a laceration in their stomach wall.

To whit - it's not for everyone.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 16, 2012 2:54 PM GMT

The Sea Swallow
The Sea Swallow
by Gareth Thompson
Edition: Hardcover

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, surprising book, 11 Aug. 2011
This review is from: The Sea Swallow (Hardcover)
The Sea Swallow is eye-catching because it breaks a lot of rules. It's a wide, landscape book, with an old-fashioned cloth spine and surprisingly tactile paper, not the glossy paper you find in most illustrated books. This gives the illustrations a look and feel that is somewhere between water-colour and drawing pencil. And the story, although written for children, is quite mature, intended for children about nine years rather than four or five. In America and Europe this type of book gets called a "sophisticated picture book", and that's just right - it's a more developed version of the picture book, for slightly older children, with an interesting design.

The story is a classic quest: Mary is a young girl who lives in a seaside town. Her father is killed in a storm, leaving his family destitute. Then a magical event (I won't spoil what!) sends Mary on an adventure that leads her underwater, and eventually back to land in order to save her home town from being swallowed by the sea. Gareth Thompson's other books are for teens, but he's carried over a lot of what makes his work stand out: a really good understanding of how dangerous even very beautiful landscapes can be. And his prose moves along at a very good pace.

Hannah Megee's illustrations are very well integrated into the story. With the wide landscape format, the illustrations stretch over the pages to capture wide vistas with low skies, really capturing the feel of a sea-side town. The pages have white borders at the start of the book, but sea birds fly all over them, dipping in and out of the illustrations. Then when Mary dives underwater the illustrations spread out to cover whole pages from edge to edge. The effect actually made me gasp in surprise.

All in all a lovely and well-considered book, in which the story, illustrations and design are perfectly matched.

Erika's Story
Erika's Story
by Ruth Vander Zee
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Chilling, beautiful, essential, 11 Aug. 2011
This review is from: Erika's Story (Hardcover)
Erika's Story is a beautiful piece of visual storytelling, with large detailed pictures supported by concise text. It recounts the tale of a holocaust survivor, thrown to safety from a death-camp bound train-carriage by her parents. The book has an unusual, landscape format, with pages wider than they are tall. Images of people being herded into cattle trucks, of traincars receding into icy distances, spread out in thin bars over the width of a two page spread, creating huge vistas. Although the scenes are filled with people, you will see few faces - every person is turning to look away, just as everything animate (the leaves, the rivers, the tiles on roofs) is fleeing, caught in an unseen current. Some of the pictures in this book are so filled with darkness and cold wood and steel that you won't notice they are drawn in full colour.
I found Erika's Story truly affecting, bringing home the human cost of the holocaust by showing up the incredible value of a single survivor's life. It is a book that children can understand: the text is simple, the images are comprehensive. There is nothing ghoulish or gruesome about this book, but you might do well to expect tears. On a topic so important, however, tears are the correct response.

The Mousehole Cat
The Mousehole Cat
by Antonia Barber
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A benchmark for children's literature, 11 Aug. 2011
This review is from: The Mousehole Cat (Paperback)
The Mousehole Cat is a perfect example of timeless children's literature. Although this book is decades old, it is enduring and charming. Nicola Bayley's artwork has a style that equally evokes the calm, comfort and warmth of a home, and the dizzy activity of a wild ocean. Antonia Barber's tale, told from the perspective of a plucky (and community-minded) fisherman's cat is perfect for younger readers, simple but rich with detail, and will warm the heart of any grown-ups who are lucky enough to share in the experience.

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