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by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

You’ve dug your shorts out of the dirty hamper. You’ve hitched, hiked or biked to the field. Your cleats are tied… and the thunder rolls.

Aaaarrrggghhhh! Practice is cancelled – again. The game’s been postponed – again.

Don’t give in to rain-out-rage! Use your lightning reflexes - grab a great read from your ball-bag and escape the soggy scene.

Here are a few rainy read suggestions...

And remember--things could be worse! This is could be snowing.

The Storm in the Barn Vanished Partly Cloudy Thunder Over Kandahar

When Steam Gets Fed Up With the Establishment

by Alexandra May - 1 Comment(s)

Steampunk is kinda like cyberpunk, only steamier, but not steamy as in romance; more like stLeviathaneamy as in steam engines, but not steam engines like in historical fiction; more like steam engines as in science fiction, which doesn't have many steam engines, which is why there's steampunk. Got it? Good...

Like a lot of genres and sub-genres steampunk isn't exactly new, (it's arguable how long it's been around) but there are always new entries and new people (like you!) to discover the old ones. Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan, Kenneth Oppel's Airborn series and of course Fullmetal Alchemist are some of the more recent and popular examples of Steampunk which combines historical settings (usually 20,000 LeaguesVictorian) with technology beyond what was available at the time. For example, a steam powered airship or... even more steam powered airships! (there's a lot of steam powered airships). Sometimes the plot is set in an alternate world, or sometimes just an alternate reality, but in either case it's always fun to see the ways in which society is reinvented through this clanky, gear driven, yet futuristic technology.

The roots of this genre go very deep, as such classics as H.G Well's War of the Worlds and my personal favourite, Jules Verne's 20,000 Leagues UFull Metal Alchemistnder the Sea (giant squid vs. submarine what's not to love?) can be regarded as inspiration for Steampunk as they introduced extremely advanced technology into a Victorian setting while actually being published during Victorian times! (1898 and 1867).

Will similar genres emerge about our own time? What would we call it? Gasolinepunk? ipunk? e-punk? Let's hope so... or not... but check out one of these titles in what is definitely a quirky, imaginative and very fun genre.

That’s a lot of history (and spandex!)

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

Born in the late 1930’s and early 40’s Superman, Batman, The Flash, The Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman are some of DC Comics most recognizable and beloved super heroes.

You might already know that Superman is “faster than a speeding bullet, more powerful than a locomotive, and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound,” or that Batman is often referred to as the “Caped Crusader” and that The Flash is “the fastest man alive.” You may be aware that Wonder Woman owes her power to Aphrodite, or that The Green Lantern can’t defend himself against the colour yellow (that’s my favourite too!). There might even be a few of you who could name all of Batman’s enemies, all of the characters who’ve been The Flash, or how many costume changes Wonder Woman has had.

And then there are the rest of us…

If you’re curious about these characters but don’t know much about the last 70 years of superhero comics, it’s a daunting task to pick a place to start. My suggestion: Start from the beginning! Check out DC’s compilations -- the stories of their most famous superheroes in chronological order.

Batman Chronicles Flash Chronicles Green Lantern Chronicles Superman Chronicles Wonder Woman Chronicles

Naruto vs. Bleach: Choose Your Team!

by Alexandra May - 1 Comment(s)

Bleach Vol 1 Naruto Vol 1

This post is the second in Laura's Manga Mania series.

Naruto and Bleach are both team-centered shonen adventure series which star blond spiky-haired troublemaking teenagers. Both heroes have enormous power and a desire to protect everyone. The series are epically long (over 40 volumes each and growing), with complicated plots and a huge cast of characters.

For some reason, anime and manga fans have taken it upon themselves to pit Naruto and Bleach against one another. So I urge you, read them both, get in on the action, and pick your team!

Art and story by: Tite Kubo

Teenage trouble-maker Ichigo Kurosaki has always been able to see spirits. But his trouble really begins when he meets Soul Reaper Rukia Kuchiki. He accidentally inherits her shinigami (death god) powers, and is forced to take up her task of sending lost souls to the afterlife and defending humans from evil spirits.

Bleach is an ongoing series, and the English translations are currently at volume 28, with a new volume coming out in December. It’s currently one of the hottest series in Japan, and has sold over 40 million copies. Bleach is so popular, it’s inspired several Original Video Animations (OVAs), animated feature films, rock musicals, video games, and a plethora of other merchandise.

Some fun facts:
You will notice the appearance of the number 15 in background art and costume design. This is because the name Ichigo can be broken up into “ichi” and “go,” which in Japanese are the words for “1” and “5.” The word “ichigo” also means “strawberry,” something that the hero is often teased about. His father meant for “Ichigo” to mean “he who protects." With Japanese kanji, it all depends on how you spell it!

Art and story by: Masashi Kishimoto

Naruto is a story about an adolescent ninja, Naruto Uzumaki, whose skill is pulling pranks. However, his dream is to prove himself by becoming the leader and most powerful ninja in the village, the Hokage. Although this seems to be a pipe-dream, it’s not out of his reach. After all, he’s the vessel of an enormous power: the nine-tailed fox demon.

This series is ongoing, and available in English up to volume 46. The next volume is due out in December. Naruto has sold over 89 million copies in Japan and is the inspiration for: several sequels, original video animations (OVAs), novellas, video games, trading card games, and much more!

Some fun facts:
The name “Uzumaki” literally means “coil.” You will find images of coils throughout this manga (especially noticeable on Naruto’s belly). The word “naruto” is the Japanese word for a steamed fish-paste cake (looks like a flower with a coil in the middle) which is used to decorate soup or ramen -- Naruto’s favourite thing!

Have Yourself a Merry Shoujo Christmas!

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

Christmas was introduced to Japan in the 16th century with the arrival of the first Europeans, but it has only become a popular holiday recently. As with a Canadian Christmas, there are decorations, music, traditional foods, and presents. But somehow, Japanese Christmases have taken on some unique characteristics. For instance, they eat KFC rather than turkey in Japan. They enjoy strawberry shortcake instead of fruitcake. And they wait for Hotei Osho, not Santa Claus.

But the most significant difference is that Christmas in Japan is a holiday for couples, rather than families – think Valentine’s Day! It has become a favourite day for romance, and is often featured in shoujo (girls’) manga!

High School Debut Cover

High School Debut (Volume 4)
Story and art by Kazune Kawahara
Meet tomboy Haruna. After dedicating her Junior High years to softball and shoujo manga, she has decided that her High School years are going to be committed to being in love and having a boyfriend. But she has a problem: she just doesn’t know how to attract boys. Luckily, handsome and popular Yoh knows what boys like about girls. On the condition that she doesn’t fall in love with him, he agrees to become Haruna’s love coach.
In volume 4, Haruna decides that she’s going to plan her and Yoh’s first Christmas together. Typically, she dives in heart first, turning their Christmas into a total production. This is one of my favourite shoujo Christmas moments: it’s full of angst, comedy, and of course, romance!

Ultra Cute Cover

Ultra Cute (Volume 8)
Story and art by Nami Akimoto
When rivals Ami and Noa meet Tamon and Hiro, they are shocked to discover they DON’T fall in love with the same boy. Tamon and Hiro seem like cute, likeable boys, but they’re actually planning a mean prank on the girls. When Ami discovers this, she decides to get revenge.
Volume 8 is an angsty shoujo-style Christmas. Ami is excited to spend her Christmas with Tamon, but her plans are ruined when Sana is injured and it seems to be Tamon’s fault. When Sana requests that Tamon visit her in the hospital, will Ami be able to trust him or will jealousy get the better of her?

Sugar Princess Cover

Sugar Princess
Story and art by Hisaya Nakajo
This is a short 2-volume shoujo series about first time skater Maya Kurinoki. After making an impression on skating coach Eijo Toda, she becomes the partner of Shun Kano, a professional skater. Although he agrees to train her, he has no interest in become partners with anyone – especially a novice. But when they learn that the rink is going to be shut down due to lack of funding, the two will have to pair up in order to save it!

Manga Mania: Sports Manga

by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

We are happy to introduce a special guest blogger! Laura works in the Library's Collections department. Her expertise is manga, and she reads all genres, age levels and styles. Laura's interest in manga sprouted from her study of the visual arts and her love of all things Japan. This post is the first in a series called Manga Mania that Laura will be writing. Take it away, Laura!


You really don’t have to know anything about a sport (or even like it) to appreciate the great characters and fantastic stories to be had in Sports Manga!

What you should know:

The story usually revolves around an amateur player, which means that much of the plot is devoted to them learning the skills and strategy to become the ‘star’ player. For example, I had never heard of the game Go before I was introduced to Hikaru no Go. After reading it, I knew enough about the game that I went out and bought myself a Go board to try it out!

Unlike other manga series, Sports Manga has short story arcs within the whole. There is usually a grander plot at play, but the short stories keep the pace fast. They also create lot of opportunities for characters to grow and change. Sports Manga are a very satisfying read, especially when the star accomplishes something extraordinary.

Although Sports Manga is usually written for boys (shonen), there are some girls' stories (shoujo). The girls' stories usually have a love interest as the sub-plot, but the sport and her rivals still dominate the protagonist’s feelings.

The formula for a good Sports Manga is this: train…fight…train some more…fight…train harder…etc…win! You may have noticed this formula in other popular manga like Dragon Ball Z and Hunter x Hunter. But the plot works especially well in Sports Manga. After all, there is always a game to play, a tournament to prepare for, or a rival to out-do.

Check out the Sports Manga at the Library:

Crimson Hero CoverCrimson Hero – a shoujo manga about volleyball. A girl named Nobara aspires to become a high school volleyball player, despite her obligations as the “young miss” for her family’s establishment. With her mother set against the sport (she even has the high school remove the team), Nobara will have to fight for a chance to even see the gym.

Eyeshield 21 CoverEyeshield 21 – a shonen manga about a lightning-fast runner named Sena who is scouted by his high school football team. However, Sena is bullied and it becomes necessary to keep his identity a secret, which earns him the nickname “Eyeshield 21”.

Hikaru no Go CoverHikaru no Go – a coming-of-age story about a boy named Hikaru who is possessed by Fujiwaru no Sai, a former instructor of Go during the Heian era. Still determined to play the legendary “hand of god,” Sai convinces Hikaru to play Go. When Hikaru shows an aptitude for the game, Sai learns what he’s really hanging around for, and Hikaru discovers a life-long rivalry with a young Go protigé named Akira.

Slam Dunk CoverSlam Dunk – a shonen manga by my favourite author, Takehiko Inoue. Hanamichi is a hopeless high school gang leader whose only skills are beating people up and being rejected by girls. When he discovers Haruko Akagi and her love of basketball, he thrusts himself onto the team. Then things get complicated: Haruko is in love with Rukawa, the team’s ace player!

Whistle! CoverWhistle! – a shonen manga about a boy named Shou Kazamatsuri, who desperately wants to join his new school’s soccer team. Kazamatsuri will have to work hard to become a regular player: he must overcome the disadvantage of his small stature and defy the low expectations of his classmates.


by Alexandra May - 0 Comment(s)

In the spring of 2007 DC comics released its first book under the new Minx line of graphic novels. DC comics, known primarily for the caped crusading men of steel (and ill-fitting costumes) was pleased to introduce the line which was aimed primarily at teen girls. It was a bold and interesting idea, which recruited the talents of known comic artists and talented young adult writers to create something decidedly different from what was already on the shelves.

After a little more than a year, the Minx line was closed… so what happened?

The first Minx release, The Plain Janes by young adult author Cecil Castellucci is a well crafted (and well reviewed) graphic novel which set many of the standards by which the rest would follow. The Minx line eschewed the superhero tradition (especially the ill-fitting costumes) for a more realistic kind of storytelling. The books tend to focus on “real” people with “real” problems such as Jane’s struggle to fit in at a new school while dealing with the past (she survived a terrorist attack in a nearby city), or Shira’s difficult relationship with her father and new interest in shoplifting in Alisa Kwitney's Token. The artwork was also a departure from the usual superhero standards which depicted women (and men) in impossibly proportioned bodies, bulging from spandex suits three sizes too small. The women in Minx's line were drawn to reflect the same realism which set the stories aside from the usual comic book fodder. What this perhaps the problem?

Was a focus on realistic stories and realistic bodies what teen readers were looking for? The most popular teen fiction out there is populated by vampires, wealthy debutants and wizards. Are readers looking for people who look, talk and act like them, or are they looking for an escape, a vision of who or what they would rather be?

There have been many reasons suggested for Minx’s demise. Some blame marketing, some say the books simply weren’t shelved in the right place at bookstores, while others think Minx just needed a little more time to find its audience.

What do you think? The Calgary Public Library has several titles in the Minx line, so if you’re interested place a hold on a copy and let us know what you think. Was DC on right track? Do girls enjoy comics as much as guys? Take a look and let us know!

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