Habibi, by Craig Thompson
Here's a review of a graphic novel to kick things off. And let me just say--Whoa.
I've read Craig Thompson's critically-praised earlier works, and if I were to use one word to describe Goodbye, Chunky Rice it would be "bittersweet". Blankets would be "loss." If I were to use one word to describe Habibi it would be "epic."
Actually, I might throw "tragedy" in there, too.
Set in a fictional middle-eastern Islamic country, this story has everything: child brides, slavery, prophetic visions, institutional misogyny and racism, water as a symbol of environmentalism, a harem... A lot of bad stuff goes down, but the author is very careful to never judge the Muslim worldview by which everyone is governed.
Equal to the scope of this book is the author's creative vision. Arabic calligraphy, magic squares, and the intricate abstract illuminations (necessary to the Muslim faith because representational art is considered idolatry) are all absolutely integral to the story-- all visual components, which move the narrative forward. The book itself is 665 pages with amazing art on every page. The author must have learned Arabic to write this, and obvious immersed himself in the Koran and Islamic tradition--nothing in the text gives away he grew up as a church-going kid in rural Michigan.
In the end, these broken characters have faith that water (and gnostic-like purity) will be their deliverance, and their ultimate redemption will be through loving Allah without the reward of heaven or the punishment of hell. As a Christian, I have faith that not water, but blood will save, and that the shed blood is evidence that a mighty God went through hell to love ME.
What a difference. This graphic novel is an amazing glimpse into an altogether foreign worldview which makes me so thankful for my own.
I just knew I'd forget one...
When I wrote Christmas Roundup: Children's books I had a feeling I was forgetting one. And I was. It was an impulse purchase at a local shop, and it was so beautiful I bought it right away. At full price! It's that good.
5. One Starry Night, by Lauren Thompson and Jonathan Bean
Like the rest of the books on my list, it has simple words and beautiful pictures that add up to a moving book for little people. And their parents, too. In a simple poem, animals are described loving and protecting their babies, and then Mary and Joseph are shown loving their newborn baby, Jesus. A loving book that is just ... lovely.
I'm not posting this 3 weeks late. I'm posting this 49 weeks early!
Actually I'm just very forgetful and I know if I tucked this post away until December, it would never happen. So, I'm sending out into the internet a few of the titles that my children and I greatly enjoyed this past Advent season, and hope that you will enjoy them in the upcoming year.
1. Peter Spier's Christmas.
A wordless, beautifully illustrated story of a family's entire Christmas experience. It kept my children transfixed, and I think it was especially helpful for my two year old, to help her know what to expect during the Christmas season.
2. Silent Night, illustrated by Susan Jeffers
If the classic carol wasn't already beautiful enough, Susan Jeffers' evocative illustrations give even more.
3. Song of the Stars: A Christmas Story, by Sally Lloyd Jones
My mom gave this to my girls for Christmas. Especially great for my four-year-old who loves animals, and I get goosebumps when I read it.
4. The Little Drummer Boy by Ezra Jack Keats
Confession: this book was due back at the library last week, but we're still reading it nightly to my two year old. I think she relates to the young boy seeing the adults worship in a manner beyond him, but wanting to honor King Jesus too. Plus, she likes singing the drum sounds while I read it.
Merry Christmas, everyone! :c)
P.S. I'm still looking for a good age-appropriate book about Saint Nicholas. Leave a comment if you have any recommendations!
P.P.S. Oops, I forgot one! Blogged here.
I, Rachel, being of middling health and (debatable) sound mind, do solemnly swear to blog every book I read in 2012, even if it is only one sentence, reveal my opinion, my whole opinion, and nothing but my opinion, to have and to hold from this day forward and until at least the following year.
I never stopped reading, but I did stop blogging. For almost ten months. I miss it, but I also miss having extra physical and mental energy, so there you have it. I'd like to return to blogging consistently but I don't know if that's possible, but in the meantime here's some miscellaneous reading goodness for you.
- A new Credenda/Agenda Magazine is out! Because they formerly published solely through the generosity of donations, there was no print issue for the last two years. They were still posting new issues at credenda.org, but there's nothing quite like holding an actual magazine in one's hands. From now on, the folks at Canon Press will publish each issue as though it is a separate book. You can sign up at canonpress.org. This issue reminds me of what I've been missing the last few years. Some highlights include an interview with Tom Wolfe, an article by Peter Hitchens asking in the era of globalization, who is my neighbor, really? and general mocking of various follies. Welcome back, Credenda. You've been missed.
- Have you signed up for Goodreads yet? I particularly like the iPhone app for convenience. I use it to keep track of books I'd like to read, and I find other reader's reviews are helpful. Add me as a friend if you're curious what's on my list to read next.
- Justin Taylor posted something intriguing which which makes me want to read Moby Dick, something which I find quite remarkable. You can read his blog post here.
Something Borrowed, by Emily Giffin
As chic lit goes, this one was fine. Lifelong BFF's Rachel and Darcy are now living the glamorous life in Manhattan... but beautiful Darcy has the hot fiance and all the luck, while Rachel just has long hours as an underling lawyer and her 30th birthday. The story was good, and I completely related to the protagonist. Not only was her name Rachel too, but she was the quiet, deferential best friend who couldn't believe someone would be interested in her. This is who I was in college, but I hope I've learned how to be kinder to myself since then... not to mention I have better friends now, too.
It's a good story, but none of the characters are very exemplary and as such, Hollywood is releasing the movie next summer.
Wilson, by Daniel Clowes
I found this from the sewing blog (with anti-establishment leanings) Angry Chicken and immediately reserved it from my local library. I like graphic novels, even if I'm a little late to the party. I enjoy seeing how authors use the artwork and medium to say something new. Also, the sarcastic humor appeals to a Calvinist like me, and I thought this one was pretty funny.
Wilson is a clueless, lonely, middle-aged man who is so aware of his own suffering he can't realize that his own self-focus has directly caused so much pain. Dark things happen, but his reactions are funny because of the total lack of self-awareness. I enjoyed the drawings, too, as the style varied on each page but the mood stayed the same. Each page is set up as a stand-alone episode, kind of like reading a collection of comics, except with heartbreak and a few felonies. The language and situations are most definitely R-rated, by the way, so don't read this, Mom and Carol.
Wilson: won't pick it up it again, didn't like him, and a depressing read. All in all, an excellent graphic novel.