Northanger Abbey

Pretty things have always made me weak in the knees and if I didn’t spend the last 4 years of my life being a poor college student then I would not be able to stop myself from buying some of these swoon-able book covers. Instead of splurging, I’ve added some of these gorgeous book covers to my endless Amazon wishlist in the hopes of one day marrying rich and buying a pretty library… or getting a good job and buying them for myself.

I wanted to focus on Austen’s Northanger Abbey, a book which often will get over shadowed by giants like Emma, Sense and Sensibility, and Pride and Prejudice which have amassed an almost cult-like following and a handful of spin-off books and movies.

Northanger Abbey is not like these regency classics but is delightful in a very different, amusing, cringe-inducing, and naive way. It was the first Austen I read and for that it will always be remembered as a bit of a gate-way drug and it feels so much like Persuasion – my all time favorite of Austen’s stories – and for that will always have a fond place in my bookish heart.

For these reasons and so many more, I’m glad to see book covers of this story that are try to capture the essence of the narrative and take it beyond the tiresome, nondescript, classic covers.

So that’s my round up of Northanger Abbey book covers I liked… or at least appreciated for being different from everything else. Let me know if there was one that was your favorite!

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The Day the Crayons Came Home

The Day the Crayons Came HomeAnother fun Drew Daywalt and Oliver Jeffers! This time Duncan’s crayons are off on their adventures and send home postcards detailing where they were lost or forgotten.

As someone who has sent a lot of postcards and received almost as many, I really loved flipping through each of these creative postcards documenting the crayons and where they’ve been. I loved seeing Jeffers’ creative ways to convey each crayon’s story, especially the glow in the dark spread (spoilers!) and the courageous Pea Green (aka Esteban)’s many post cards from exotic but misplaced locals.

All in all, a very fun picture book!

Journey

Sadly, I haven’t been reading quite as many books lately – I think it has something to do with traveling and going to school… maybe. Regardless, I was recently in a Czech bookstore (despite not being able to speak or read the language I still like to visit bookstores) and saw a copy of Journey and cracked it open.

The beautiful thing about this book is there are no words and the narrative relies solely on illustrations to convey the story which is fantastic when you probably wouldn’t be able to read the book in the first place.

Journey is one of those books that transcends typical children’s books and is an absolutely stunning work of art. Telling the story of a little girl who uses a red crayon to create a red door and step into another world filled with magic, depth, and mystery. The influence from Harold and the Purple Crayon is evident but Journey has a feel and tone to it that is different from the unmistakable classic. I absolutely loved this book and didn’t even care about the strange looks people were giving me as I slowly flipped through it – they can blame it on me being a foreigner for all I care!

Following the little girl through the fantasy world there were times that I had to pause the unspoken narrative and study the detailed, full-page illustrations closer adding to the tone and feel of the world and story. With themes of imagination, creativity, and adventure streaked throughout the story and incredibly imaginative and at times breath taking illustrations – it’s hard to not love this little beauty.

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Chloe and the Lion

Chloe and the LionThis book brings the fourth-wall crumbling down when author and illustrator begin bickering about the direction the story should go. It all begins when Chloe wants to ride the merry-go-round but devolves as the illustrator and author dispute about the antagonist of the story, the illustrator is fired, the author tries to draw, the illustrator gets eaten by a lion until Chloe finally puts her foot down and straightens out the story.

Visually, this story is hilarious. The story begins in a specific cartoon format but once illustrator and author begin commenting on the direction it’s doing the picture pans out and includes claymation stylized replicas of the two with Chloe’s story on a theater-like pedestal. Eventually, the author even tries to draw a new direction and his child-like attempts mangle the direction which is the catalyst for Chloe’s intervention. The use of several different mediums of illustrations – cartoon, claymation mannequins, and child-like drawings – alludes back to the meta-fictive and postmodern nature of this book.

The realization of the character’s roles in the picture book – self-referential – is an added element that is not often seen in other classic picture books and increases the sarcastic role of the story-line. I think these added characteristics that make the story atypical and non-linear really endear the story-line to readers and make Chloe and the Lion a huge hit!

Paris I Love you But You’re Bringing Me Down

9780374146689Paris I Love You but You’re Bringing Me Down is first a very long title for a book, but also the story  of Rosecrans Baldwin’s 18 month adventure in Paris, France.  It’s the story of an idealistic couple searching for a change of life, a new pace, an opportunity to trade New York City hustle and bustle for a the romance of Paris living.  Baldwin, though see the realities of his dream.

Baldwin writes about his life while there and all there beautiful, hilarious adventures he ends up in during his time in the magical city.  I loved reading about his day to day life, his co-workers, and the odd tedium’s of daily life in a beautiful city.  His writing style is fluid, funny, and relaxing as he paints a new picture of Paris than that many of us think of.  A clever, quick read.

The Graveyard Book

TheGraveyardBook_HardcoverThe Graveyard Book begins with the murder of a family in modern Britain by the man Jack, but somehow the youngest of the family – a toddler – was able to slip away unnoticed.  He ended up in a graveyard where he was quickly accepted by its late inhabitants and adopted into the family.  He is given a name – Nobody Owens – given a guardian – Silas, who walks between death and life –and a family – the Owens’ a nice family that were among the older residents in the graveyard.  The book follows Bod, as the boy prefers, as he grows up in the care of the dead, all the while still hunted by the man Jack.

This book felt satisfying.  It felt like curling up by a rainy window, hot cut of chai tea, and a free day to sit and enjoy.  There was no real rush to the book; Gaiman meandered through Bod’s life growing up in the graveyard focusing on certain adventure he’d undergo or periods of his life in a relaxing, almost whimsical way.  It felt like a series of short stories carefully written together to be one novel.

One of the things I love about Neil Gaiman is that he never reveals the whole world he’s created.  What I mean by that is this: this story takes place in our modern world but we know throughout the book that more exists (the graveyard, Silas, ect), and beyond that more exists in this world (and we see glimpses of it) but we’re never shown everything.  Gaiman leaves so much to the imagination of the reader allowing us to wonder about what else is out there and how it interacts with our world.  He tells one story and follows it where it leads.

Oh, and there’s pictures!  I’m really a sucker for art in books.  I’ve heard a few people who aren’t thrilled with the idea of pictures in a middle reader book, but I think the artwork matches the story and the tone of the writing so well and to not include it in a publication would just be silly.

Even though I love it, Graveyard is really a children’s book.  It’s lighthearted at times – serious and adventurous in others.  It works for boys and girls, and it’s the perfect combination of ghost story, and fantasy.

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The Queen’s Thief

Queens Thief

You know that moment when you realize the series you just finished is scheduled to release another book, but there isn’t a title, or a release date?  Yah, that’s not fun, when I found out there would be another book in the Queen’s Thief series I was excited then quickly became impatient knowing it would take years for this book to be published.  Still, it inspired me to go back and re-read the first four books in Megan Whalen Turner’s fantasy middle reader series. 

The Thief is set in a time period similar to ancient Greece but with some medieval era inventions (ie glass, rifles, books) and is an adventure quest story revolving around three main countries – Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia.  It all starts in a prison cell in the kingdom of Sounis where Gen, self-proclaimed master thief, is locked away until the king’s Magus (the most trusted advisor) approached him with an offer of freedom in return for stealing something.  This sends the characters – Gen, Magus, his apprentices Ambiades and Sophos, and the soldier Pol – on an adventure to find a mythical stone.  While a really great book – well written, clever plot – it’s not my favorite in the series.  That honor belongs to the second book in this series – The Queen of Attolia.

The second book, begins with Eugenides (Gen from the first book) captured by the Queen of Attolia and as penalty for steeling in Attolia his hand is cut off.  This all happens in the first three chapters so I’m not spoiling any of the book but I’m also trying hard not to spoil any of the first book as well.  Eugenides is returned to Eddis, his home country, while a war breaks out between Eddis and Attolia.  I can’t tell you much more without giving too much of the first book away but I promise you – this book is really good!

King of Attolia is the third book in the series and if I even began to describe the story I’d spoil the first two books so I’ll leave the third and fourth book – Conspiracy of Kings – un-reviewed.

Mrs. Turner writes clever, plot driven books, populated with interesting characters.  As much as I wish she’d just hurry it up some and publish the fifth book in the series I know that good books take time and can’t be rushed – and these are really good books so they take an extra long time.