Category Archives: Books

Book Review: 1776, by David McCullough

I guess you could say that I either feel cheated by the school system that I grew up in for not engraining in me a knowledge of American history, or I cheated myself in not obtaining it, but either way I’ve been feeling lately that my knowledge of events that transpired in the creation of our country was sorely lacking. Actually, I tend to feel this way every year around Independence Day, but this year I figured I’d do something about it by reading 1776, by David McCullough.

Before opening it, I was a little unsure about what I would find. Could a strictly historical book be all that interesting? Would it just present the facts as they occurred? Or would there be so much embellishment and added dialogue to make me wonder if what I’m reading is actually what really happened? Well, after reading it, I’m pleased to say that all of my questions have been answered in pleasing ways. Yes, it is strictly a history book, but it is very interesting. It does present facts as they occur, but in a narrative that illuminates both sides of the conflict and reveals the histories and personalities of the individuals involved. There is a sort of dialogue, but it’s in the form of quotes from letters or journals and I never felt like any of it was embellished upon.

Actually, if you’ve ever seen a documentary by the likes of Ken Burns, you already have a feel for the type of storytelling that’s set forth in 1776. Throughout the narrative, I can almost hear David McCullough’s voice, which (whether in truth or just in my imagination of him) sounds a lot like Walter Cronkite, interspersed with quotes from correspondence which illuminates the inmost feelings of those involved in our battle for Independence.

I’m already a believer in the divine hand that aided in setting up this free country, so it was very interesting to read quotes from George Washington where he states that the “finger of Providence” was involved in “blinding the eyes” of their enemies to their true condition, because if they’d known, they would have easily eliminated the rebels once and for all.

All in all, this is a compelling read and an enlightening way to learn a bit about the origins of the United States. A historical book that does a good job at not reading like a history book.

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Book Review: Caught Creatures and Klawberry

>In this day and age of desktop publishing, it’s a rare thing to see something published outside of a standard book publishing company that doesn’t reek of amateurism. How refreshing it is, then, to see the work of Daniel Davis, an independent illustrator/author who has just self published his third graphically-intense book, After Halloween—an alphabet primer about what monsters do after their holiday, Halloween, is over.

Daniel has a great imagination and an ability to create fantastic creatures that are unlike anything you may already be familiar with.

In his first book, Caught Creatures, Daniel wrote haikus about various creatures his alter ego Duke Davis has caught. It was fun seeing how much could be done with the syllabic limitations of haikus, and the illustrations are very engaging and could each function as a separate piece of art in itself.

Caught Creatures being Daniel’s first undertaking, it was bound to contain elements that would serve as lessons for him in future books, and I can see a definite refining and improvement in his second book, Klawberry.

Klawberry is a tale of a girl who makes a remarkable journey of self-discovery. As in Secret Creatures, the story telling is done mostly in pictures, but unlike Caught Creatures, Klawberry is a complete narrative, whereas Caught Creatures has no over arching story, but is a mosaic made up of the haikus about each of the monsters.

I haven’t been able to pick up After Halloween yet, but it’s definitely on my list of things to get. Daniel Davis is a very talented artist, but more importantly, he has a uniquely creative artistic vision that has the refreshing potential to give us many things that we’ve never imagined before. I’m looking forward to seeing what he comes up with next!

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Jim Henson, The Works

Everyone who knows me as an adult thinks that I must have been a huge Disney fan as a child. While I’ve always enjoyed Disney films and shorts, my childhood was focused mainly on three things: Peanuts, Star Wars, and The Muppets.

This week’s book spotlight is Jim Henson, The Works — yet another of my most prized books in my library. In it, we not only read biographies and histories of the characters that we’ve grown to love, but we also learn about some of the projects that he would have like to have produced and how much of an artist and visonary Jim Henson really was.

The book contains some of the most creative and unique page layout designs that I have ever seen. I especially enjoy the small “Jim Henson: The Early Years” book which is about a quarter of the page dimensions of the rest of the book which is tipped-in to the binding. The entire volume appears to have been assembled as thoughtfully and lovingly as you can imagine Jim doing all of the projects during his life.

In a nutshell, I would highly recommend this book—not just to people who are fans of the Muppets, like myself, but to anyone who likes to have a peek into what makes creative people tick, and maybe glean some inspiration in the process.

What made me decide to comment on this book—besides seeing it on my bookshelf every day at work—is my recent purchase of The Muppet Show: First Season on DVD. I was a little nervous when I first got it that I wouldn’t enjoy the humor as much as an adult as I did when I was a kid, but I couldn’t have been more mistaken. It is so nice to see the sophisticated wit in the writing of this show that still makes me laugh out loud. I was also happy to see that my 5 & 7 year old daughters also laughed quite a bit at the show and often ask to watch them over again. The shows still have value today as great entertainment and I would highly recommend them.

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The Art of Charles Schultz

One of my favorite books that I own is Peanuts: the art of Charles Schultzstyle=border:none. Its rich, close-up photography of the yellowing newsprint pages are so warm and inviting. It also includes a biography, rare memorabilia, sketches by Shultz as well as images of the original inked artwork from the strip. Even though I’ve had the book for a few years now, I never get tired of immersing myself in the evolution of Shultz’s talent and the Peanuts characters.

There was a time in my life when I very much wanted to be a syndicated comic strip artist. Occasionally my fancies take me down that path even now and usually it’s encounters with this book that trigger such wanderings.

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