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It is no secret that India-Japan relations have been on a strong positive trajectory over the past 18 months. Soon after taking office in 2014, Prime Minister Narendra Modi made Japan his first foreign destination outside of India’s immediate neighborhood and while in Tokyo, he and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe upgraded the India-Japan relationship
The Maze Stone, which has the power to turn the whole of Opera City into a maze, has been stolen, and you – dear reader – are needed to help track down the culprit and restore this magical object.
Why should you take up this challenge?
Because en route…
you’ll journey by air balloon, through the most impressive treehouses you’ve ever seen, in and out of Escher-esque buildings, across giant octopus infected oceans and through a bizarre underground fleamarket where just about anything you can imagine is up for sale.
you’ll enter a strange hybrid land set in the 1920s-30s, half-video game half-astonishing book, collecting extra points and hidden items, watching out for traps and more. All you need to do is imagine the soundtrack.
you’ll be dazzled by incredibly intricate illustrations packed with many more stories than the primary one following the fate of the maze stone. Every “wrong” turning as you try to crack the maze on each page will give you reason to wonder what’s been happening, and what will happen next!
If you’ve a child poorly in bed, or it’s just a rainy day calling out for a duvet on the sofa, Pierre the Maze Detective is a rich and rewarding rabbit hole ready for anyone who loves losing themselves in an adventure of almost unimaginable detail and scale.
This stop-motion video showing how one of the double page spreads was planned out gives you a good impression of the labyrinthine, meticulous nature of the illustrations:
A picture book for older children (and their grown-ups) who love a challenge or who are inspired by the imaginative possibilities of vast landscapes and settings, Pierre the Maze Detective helpfully comes with a key to all the mazes, and also a page of extra delights to go back and look for – all printed in the style of a vintage newspaper.
Playful, precise, interactive and highly imaginative, this incredibly well produced book (with its lovely paper and large size) is original and eye-opening. As I said, it’s quite something!
Pierre the Maze Detective owes something, I believe, to the work of another Japanese picture book creator: Mitsumasa Anno. Anno created a whole series of detailed wordless picture books where a tiny character wends his way through different landscapes, and although his books weren’t mazes as such, they share with Pierre the sense of journeying, immense details, and rich stories being told away from the most direct path to the final destination.
Having enjoyed the mazes, the details and the adventures in Pierre the Maze Detective we decided it was time to make our own mazes. Using the basic design principles outlined here, we decided to build our maze out of lego and turn it into a marble run.
We all really enjoyed making each other different mazes to try out. The lego made it really easy to create new mazes and kept the kids happily occupied for a good couple of hours – longer than I had anticipated!
Whilst creating our mazes we listened (rather eclectically) to:
Missing in the Corn Maze by vogelJoy
It’s A Maze from the Original Broadway Cast Recording of “The Secret Garden”
Friends are fun to play with. Friends keep you company. Friends comfort you. All this Emily knows.
She also knows a simple balloon can be your friend.
Emily’s Balloon by Komako Sakai is the gentlest of observations about how nothing more than a plain balloon and a little bit of imagination can be the cause great happiness.
Emily receives a balloon and takes it home to play with. Soon she’s sharing everything with her balloon and takes it outside to play house with. One gust of wind, however, and it is stuck in a nearby tree. What will Emily do now? What will console her?
The innocence and lucidity of this story gives it charm that is utterly captivating. It celebrates a sense of wonder that we sometimes lose as we grow older, but which we’re only too happy to be reminded of. Emily’s natural openness, her ability to imagine and indeed truly see her balloon as a friend – to show such a easy leap of faith – will warm all but the coldest of hearts.
Sakai’s illustrations have a quiet magic about them, capturing Emily’s body language like poetry; in a way that seems so right, so simple and yet still startling in its accuracy. Minimal use of colour and lots of wide open white space create a sense of meditative timelessness. All in all a peaceful, lyrical picture book with the hallmarks of a classic.
We batted it about, we took it outside, we played “chicken” letting it float away and then catching it before it flew out of grasp!
We tied a spoon to the string and found the “balance point” – using blutack we added and removed tiny weights until the balloon with the spoon floated mysteriously in mid-air, neither touching the ground, nor flying up to the ceiling.
This turned into a science lesson the next day when we saw how how the helium appeared to become less effective at lifting the balloon (this is actually due to helium leaking out of the balloon, through the relatively porous latex) and we had to reduce the weight of the spoon to re-find the balance point.
Whilst playing with our balloon we listened to:
It Only Takes One Night to Make a Balloon Your Friend by Lunch Money (this really is a GORGEOUS song)
You, me, and everyone into manga around 2006 should remember Death Note, the fantastic psychological thriller about a bored teenage genius outwitting the police and a reclusive detective as he reshapes the world one murder at a time. Following the series’ conclusion, creators Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata went on to create the light-hearted Bakuman, […]
I think this is the 2nd time we’ve honored a pair of illustrators together(the other being Los Bros Hernandez), but for all intents and purposes the Japanese dynamic duo “illustration unit” Gurihiru is “one” illustrator in the way the two works seamlessly together, focusing their particular talents in different skill sets to produce one beautiful picture. The Gurihiru team consists of Naoko Kawano(design, colors, webdesign) and Chifuyu Sasaki (design, pencils, inks).
Gurihiru is known for their comics work on titles such as Avatar: The Last Airbender, Wolverine and Power Pack, and A-babies vs. X-babies, to name a few. Team Gurihiru is also known for producing many dynamic variant covers for comics, including this week’s Silk #7 variant.
You can check out more of Gurihiru’s art, including some of their game art design and animation work, on their website here.
For more comics related art, you can follow me on my websitecomicstavern.com– Andy Yates
As we approach the 70th anniversary of the end of Japan's War, Japan’s “history problem” – a mix of politics, identity, and nationalism in East Asia, brewing actively since the late 1990s – is at center stage. Nationalists in Japan, China, and the Koreas have found a toxic formula: turning war memory into a contest of national interests and identity, and a stew of national resentments.
This is a mega-review of vol. 1-13 (aka, the ones that are currently available in English)
The Library Freedom Act Libraries have the freedom to acquire their collections. Libraries have the freedom to circulate materials in their collections. Libraries guarantee the privacy of their patrons. Libraries oppose any type of censorship. When libraries are imperiled, librarians will join together to secure their freedom.
In the not-to-distant future, Japan passes the "Media Betterment Act" which censors objectionable material. Librarians are against censorship and will fight to keep their collections free and available. Literally fight. Like, they made an army. To fight against the federal censors(and their army).
AND YOU WONDER WHY I LOVE THIS?!
I devoured this series. Like, read all of them in a week, often staying up way past bedtime because I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I love the overall concept. Plus, not only is about people fighting to protect access to materials (with their literal lives!), but it's a shoju manga, so SO MUCH SEXUAL TENSION.
Our main character, Iku Kasahara wants to join the Library Defense Force to be like her "prince"-- a member who saved a book she wanted to buy from censorship. She has passion, but not a lot of skill and is driven hard by her Sargent Dojo (who, um, OBVIOUSLY is her "prince.") She eventually becomes the first woman on a super elite squad that has to both be an army fighter, but also an actual librarian. But, over the run of the series, this is far from the only relationship we see (I won't say my favorite, because it develops pretty late and is a bit of a spoiler.)
I love the politics and maneuvering the library forces do. I like the plotline where Kasahara's parents don't know what she does because she knows they won't approve. I love love love Kasahara's roommate, Asako Shibazaki. She's very beautiful and a bit aloof and a lot of people read her as shallow, but she has a lot going on beneath the surface. She's a librarian with some serious hidden talents. I love the way her character develops. (In fact, she might be my favorite character.)
I like that there are cultural end notes to explain things, and several bonus mangas at the end of most volumes to fill in some quiet moments.
The over-the-top melodrama of some of the relationship stuff gets old, but I'm starting to recognize that it's standard for a lot of shoju manga.
Overall though, I LOVE THIS SERIES and am trying to force all my coworkers to read it. (LIBRARIES BUILT AN ARMY TO PROTECT FREEDOM OF ACCESS FROM GOVERNMENT CENSORS. DUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUDE.)
If I understand Wikipedia correctly, there are 15 total volumes in this series. 13 are out in English now, and the 14th comes out in October. Based on past publication schedules, I'm guessing the 15th will be out next April. My one regret? This is based on a novel series and the source material doesn't seem to be available in English.
Books Provided by... my local library
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The Second World War affected me quite directly, when along with the other students of the boarding school in Swanage on the south coast of England I spent lots of time in the air raid shelter in the summer of 1940. A large German bomb dropped into the school grounds fortunately did not explode so that we survived. To process for entry into the United States, I then had to go to London and thus experienced the beginnings of the Blitz before crossing the Atlantic in September. Perhaps this experience had some influence on my deciding to write on the origins and course of the Second World War.
Over the years, there have been four trends in the writing on that conflict that seemed and still seem defective to me. One has been the tendency to overlook the fact that the earth is round. The Axis Powers made the huge mistake of failing to engage this fact during the war and never coordinated their strategies accordingly, and too many have followed this bad example in looking at the conflict in retrospect. Events in Europe, North Africa, and the Pacific often influenced each other, and it has always seemed to me that it was the ability of Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt to engage the global reality that made a significant contribution to the victory of the Allies.
A second element in distortions of the war has been the influence of mendacious memoirs of German generals and diplomats, especially those translated into English. The enthusiasm of Germany’s higher commanders for Adolf Hitler and his projects vanished in the postwar years as they blamed him for whatever went wrong, imagined that it was cold and snowed only on the German army in Russia, and evaded their own involvement in massive atrocities against Jews and vast numbers of other civilians. They were happy to accept bribes, decorations, and promotions from the leader they adored; but in an interesting reversal of their fakery after the First World War, when they blamed defeat on an imaginary “stab-in-the-back,” this time they blamed their defeat on the man at the top. Nothing in their memoirs can be believed unless substantiated by contemporary evidence.
A third contribution to misunderstanding of the great conflict comes from an all too frequent neglect of the massive sources that have become available in recent decades. It is much easier to manufacture fairy tales at home and in a library than to dig through the enormous masses of paper in archives. A simple but important example relates to the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan. One can always dream up alternative scenarios, but working through the mass of intercepted and decoded Japanese messages is indeed tedious work. It does, however, lead to the detailed recommendation of the Japanese ambassador in Moscow in the summer of 1945 urging surrender rather than following the German example of fighting to the bitter end, and to the reply from Tokyo thanking him for his advice and telling him that the governing council had discussed and unanimously rejected it.
A fourth type of misunderstanding comes from a failure to recognize the purpose of the war Germany initiated. Hitler did not go to war because the French refused to let him visit the Eiffel tower, invade the Soviet Union because Joseph Stalin would not let the German Labor Front place a “Strength through Joy” cruise ship on the Caspian Sea, or have a murder commando attached to the headquarters of Erwin Rommel in Egypt in the summer of 1942 to dismantle one of the pyramids for erection near Berlin renamed “Germania.” The purpose of the war was not, like most prior wars, for adjacent territory, more colonies, bases, status, resources, and influence. It was for a demographic revolution on the globe of which the extermination of all Jews was one facet in the creation of a world inhabited solely by Germanic and allegedly similar peoples. Ironically it was the failure of Germany’s major allies to understand this concept that led them over and over again, beginning in late 1941, to urge Hitler to make peace with the Soviet Union and concentrate on crushing Great Britain and the United States. World War II was fundamentally different from World War I and earlier conflicts. If we are ever to understand it, we need to look for something other than the number popularly attached to it.
The narrator of this delightful book is a boy who loves baseball – in two different countries! He goes to games in the U.S. with his American grandfather (pop pop) and games in Japan with his Japanese grandfather (ji ji). Bold, colorful illustrations show, side-by-side, the trip to each stadium. It’s a wonderful invitation for kids to compare and contrast two different experiences and also reflect on the countries and cultures of their own families.
Clara Lemlich immigrated to New York with nothing aside from her family, clothes, and a few words of English. When her parents were unable to find work, she took a job as a garment factory worker – earning a few dollars a month for countless hours bent over a sewing machine. With a blend of vivid watercolors and stitched fabrics, this book tells the story of how Clara led her coworkers on strike to protest their horrendous working conditions. Bosses of the factories paid for Clara to be beaten and arrested repeatedly, but nothing could stop this gritty, five-foot tall woman from securing a better life for millions.
The moment Apollo 11’s Eagle touched down on the Moon, it became a defining moment for a nation that had lived up to a President’s lofty goal. With stunning illustrations, this poetic story allows you to join Armstrong, Collins, and Aldrin as they prepare for liftoff, follows them at every stage of the mission, and doesn’t let go until they are safely back home. Brian Floca has created a work of art worthy of inspiring young readers to dream beyond what is easy, and strive for what is hard.
Loading 500-pound bombs into a Navy warship is, to say the least, a dangerous job. On July 17th, 1944, the fears of the untrained men who held this job became reality when an explosion claimed the lives of 320 men, the majority of whom were black. During this time, the Navy, like every other part of the United States Military, was segregated,frequently leaving black men to be treated as second class citizens serving menial roles. This masterfully crafted nonfiction book follows the fifty men who refused to go back to this life-threatening and degrading work, and the court case that followed.
There are few characters you will ever root for more than Doug Swieteck. On the surface, he is a good for nothing, skinny thug with a reading disability. Just ask his teachers and they’ll tell you. However in the depths of Doug Swieteck, where this book takes place, you find a boy who is trapped – one brother a bully, one a vacant shell of his pre-war self, and an abusive alcoholic for a father who has left a horrific mark on his youngest son. The secrets Doug is holding back from the reader are gut-wrenching, but with the help of a few strangers-turned-friends and a newfound passion for art, this fourteen-year-old will inspire every person lucky enough to pick up his story.
On March 5, Marie Mutsuki Mockett and I will be reading and talking about exorcising the past (all meanings of exorcise possible) at McNally Jackson at 6 p.m.
Marie’s wonderful new book, Where the Dead Pause and the Japanese Say Goodbye, is about death and grief and family and ghosts and so much more. She’ll read from it, and I’ll read from the working introduction to my book on the science and superstition of ancestry, and then we’ll talk about all of that and take questions and comments from you. Hope to see you there!
World War Two was the most devastating conflict in recorded human history. It was both global in extent and total in character. It has understandably left a long and dark shadow across the decades. Yet it is three generations since hostilities formally ended in 1945 and the conflict is now a lived memory for only a few. And this growing distance in time has allowed historians to think differently about how to describe it, how to explain its course, and what subjects to focus on when considering the wartime experience.