Book Rec: Looking for Calvin and Hobbes

There are very few people who do not have fond memories of reading the morning paper with a cup of coffee or a bowl of cereal, and the first thing they flipped to was the funny pages. Not for Peanuts or Garfield, but to read more adventures of a boy and his stuffed tiger.

77122In these strips, you were almost guaranteed a laugh to start your day off. Sometimes you’d be forced to ponder a philosophical topic. Sometimes your heart would break. Sometimes you’d nod your head in agreement or shake your head at Calvin’s silly antics and oddball disputes with his tiger Hobbes.

But who was the man who made millions of people laugh on a daily basis? Every Calvin and Hobbes strip was signed by “Bill Watterson,” and we all owed a debt of gratitude to him, but who was he, and where could he be found?

 

That’s what Nevin Martell asks, and he takes it upon himself to travel wo0Kzthe country in search of the greatest cartoonist our generation (and quite possibly the world) has ever seen.

But don’t worry. Martell is not out to exploit our dear friend, Mr. Watterson. He’s not simply after a juicy topic. His goal, as he states early on in his book, is to show Mr. Watterson how much he’s appreciated and missed, and to reveal the man behind the strip so his readers can have a tangible person to thank for his brilliancy.

In essence, Martell’s book, Looking for Calvin and Hobbes, is a love letter written on our behalf. There’s not a single illustration of the boy and his tiger except for the Calvin’s shoe walking in one direction and Hobbes’ tail cutting off on the other side of the cover. Illustrations in this book would not have been needed because the author captures those strips so perfectly that you can recall those original scenes as clear as day.

Martell does a supberb job at anazlyzing the strip as though he were a serious seminary student bent on dissecting a New King James Bible commentary. On the outset, some might think it kind of embarrassing how much he pored into this strip, viewing it from all angles, analyzing themes and recurring situations, and hypothosizing Watterson’s inspiration for the strip.

Calvin-Hobbes-calvin-and-hobbes-23762778-1280-800But really, it’s not embarrassing at all, because given the chance, we’d all do the same thing. So as fans of the strip, we’re indebted to Martell for doing the hard and tedius work for us.

I’m not going to lie. Some parts of this book made me tear up quite a Looking-for-Calvin-and-Hobbes-PB-Cover_fullbit. Not because the author was unsuccessful in tracking down his subject, or because it turned out that Mr. Watterson never took his seat in the limelight for all to admire and lavish praise upon, but because the author handled to topic with such care and attention that I felt like he truly did understand my own personal love of Calvin and Hobbes. And there were instances where I truly felt like I was back in my wooden fort in my backyard with copies of Calvin and Hobbes collections splayed all around me.

On a more personal note, Calvin and Hobbes had such an impact on me that it, in many ways, inspired my debut novel The Man in the Box. Calvin had such a vivd and wild imagination that my protagonist could have had the same childhood experience as Calvin. (The imagination, as you know, catches up with my protagonist, Robbie Lake, and he’s thrusted back into a more cynical, darker version of his childhood dreamlands. Not to mention all the countless ways Calvin reinvented the box.)

So lovers and fans of Calvin and Hobbes will adore their own personal walks down memory lane as Martell gives us permission, as adults, to have one last playtime with Calvin and his stuffed tiger.

You can read more about Nevin and his work here.

Read my review of the documentary Dear Mr. Watterson here.

340450

Another Post From My Daughter

 

Looks like my foster daughter hijacked my computer again. I attest that I did not put her up to writing any of the following…

10511159_10205390207898861_8713161645991812199_n

Hi, it’s me, Baby A. I’m the one in the pink-striped outfit above. My daddy is the one holding me (I’m bound and determined to get those glasses one day).

In the picture, we’re about to go into Mammoth Cave together with Mommy for his birthday, but I don’t remember it at all because I fell asleep just a few feet inside it. And good thing, too, because apparently there were giant crickets matting the walls of the cave that the tour guide didn’t reveal until we left the cave. That probably would have traumatized me.

Things have been good. My foster parents are in the process of adopting me, which means I’ll get to change my last name to theirs and then they’re lucky enough to keep me forever, which works out, because everyone says I look just like my foster parents anyway.

My daddy is still working hard to be a bestselling author so he can quit his day job and stay at home with me and Mommy all day and keep writing books for his fans. He just released his second book called I Am the Lion yesterday on Kindle. He hasn’t read it to me, because apparently it’s a little  “too emotional” for me to handle, whatever that means. But I’ve been watching him follow the reviews on some other people’s blogs who’ve read it and people really seem to like it so far.

Here’s a couple of them:

… it was wonderful…I Am the Lion truly left me with lessons in my heart that I didn’t expect to learn. So personal. So honest. It 100% captivated me, and I couldn’t put it down! (And it was a big football weekend too!)

Click here to read more of this review by Told By Ginger

I am the Lion is a heart-warming, heart-wrenching roller coaster ride that will have you smiling, crying and sighing in frustration but it’s all worth it. Such a rare treat to read. Perfect Holiday read and socking stuffer.

Click here to read the whole review by Creatyvebooks

What  I thought would be [a] small diversion turned out to be a delightful experience…The only downside, i don’t have more of this to read!

Click here to read the review by WaltzingWithWhims

So anyway, you can make this baby (me!) very happy by purchasing my daddy’s book on Kindle. From what I gather by sneaking a peek at the computer while he’s writing is that it’s a story about a father and his little girl trying to get along. I wonder if it has anything to do with us. Other than rapidly kicking my feet while he’s trying to put my pants on (it’s funny to watch him unsuccessfully hold back his temper), I think we get along pretty well.

Get his book here!

IMG_0946

Little Fault in This Book

tfiosWhen you close a book after reading the final page the characters and their story sort of just… end. But in the really good books these characters become immortal and they take on a life of their own in our imaginations that egg on their continued existence.

In the hot teen book The Fault in Our Stars by John Green the characters do tend to take on a life of their own. And in the end, well, yes they linger. They linger in your mind and in your heart because you feel something strong for them. You feel like you have gotten to know them and become their friend. You feel like you travelled halfway across the world with them and laughed with them and cried with them and even offered your two-cents worth at their pre-funerals.

As an author, I was struck dumb with Green’s lavishly crisp writing and sharp dialogue. He is one of those authors who make other authors like me say, “Crap. This guy just raised the bar even higher.”

Must. Reach. Farther.

And to the stars we must reach in order to achieve perfection in our craft. Or, if we at least want to be as good a writer as this guy.

Don’t think for a minute that you can get away with reading this book in public – if you don’t want to humiliate yourself by all the crying you’re bound to do. It’s a lot harder for a book to make people cry than for a movie. A movie has many mediums vying to tug at the heartstrings at just the right moment, with just the right notes from the orchestra, with just the right look from the actor, or the right word from the screenwriter, or the right scenic view by the cinematographer.

But a book? The author is carrying the load all on his own to evoke such powerful emotions from the reader. His choice words, verbs, adjectives, timing, scenario, etc. And Mr. Green demonstrates not only that it can be done, but it can be done well. (I only hope my upcoming book I Am the Lion (Nov. 11, 2014) can be half as touching as this book.)

I will miss you, Augustus Waters. And Hazel Grace, wherever you are, keep dreaming of that sequel. Okay?

I will be visiting the rest of John Greens books very soon.

What Your Next Bible Study Book Should Be…

disruptive-messiah-coverweb

I don’t read very many Christian books, mostly because I don’t like 50 different people resaying the same things, so I’m very selective with my Christian reading list. But every so often I’ll pick one up that really stands out on its own.

The one I recently ran across is by a new author, Ken Ruggles from Southern California, who writes about a Messiah who doesn’t come to give peace, nor offer comfort, nor sit idly by as a mere observer. He writes, instead, about the Jesus of the Bible who comes as a disturber – a Disruptive Messiah, if you will.

Ruggles walks his readers through thirteen separate instances of Jesus’ life, beginning with His birth and ending with His entry into Jerusalem. Ruggles’ vast knowledge of the mid-Eastern landscape and culture, particularly in regards to biblical times, aids his readers in having a clearer understanding of the background surrounding the particular stories he calls to attention.

You can read The Disruptive Messiah on your own, but I think it would best be discovered as a small group discussion guide as each chapter is conveniently bookended with thoughtful questions for reflection.

Ken Ruggles isn’t the pastor of a church, nor some high-profile missionary, which is to his credit because he is able to relate to his readers on their level and meet them where they’re at. It is his many years of study and teaching and traveling to the Promised Land that affords him the credibility to teach us about Jesus from a unique perspective.

So grab a copy for yourself and talk to your Bible study leaders about making The Disruptive Messiah your next discussion guide.

Order your copy here.

Book Rec: The Presidents Club

61iyNBdczoLI’ve been reading through the biographies of our presidents and so far have been enjoying getting to know them. It’s interesting to learn about their accomplishments, what drove them toward their failures, and how history has decided to label them.

But there’s one thing that their biographies tend to overlook.

We may learn about each man’s upbringing, his habits, his fierce run for the top job, what made him tick, etc. But even the most in-depth biography touches very little on the behind the scenes story of how each president interacted with one another before and after their arduous campaign battles against one another.

The Presidents Club by Nany Gibbs and Michael Duffy undertakes this task, with every post-WWII president (beginning with Truman and Hoover).

The wonder of this book is in the telling of how unlikely friendships – and rivalries – formed because of stark differences of ideology and running the White House.

Perhaps my favorite part of the book is toward the end when we learn about the unforeseen friendship between Clinton and both Bushes, the iconic polar opposites in the political arena.

A colleague of mine a few years back became one of my very good friends, even though we had completely different political views – he a Carter supporter, and me a Bush man. Thing is, we never had a fight or argument. We explained our views and we listened to the other with respect and understanding – understanding that we each want what’s best for our families and the country. But, as he often said, we just have different ways of getting there.

Here is an eye-opening excerpt from The Presidents Club that I think every American can learn from.

“…George W. Bush did me one of the great favors of my life,” Clinton [said]. “He asked me not once, but twice, to work with his father. We took 7 trips together. This man who’d I’d always liked and respected and run against … I literally came to love … and I realize all over again how much energy we waste fighting with each other over things that don’t matter … He can virtually do no wrong in my eyes …” 

The Bush family paid Clinton back at this particular gathering, “conferring on him the highest possible honor: a family nickname … Laura Bush asked all twenty-seven Bushes in attendance to gather for a family picture … Clinton [was] standing quietly off to the side backstage, watching the big family take its places for a photographer when the call came from Neil Bush rang out: “Bill, Bill! Brother of Another Mother! Get in here!” 

And so he did, taking his place in the back row, near some grandchildren. “Yeah,” Clinton mused, recalling the moment a few months later, “the family’s black sheep. Every family’s got one.”

Even in this party-split nation we can still live as one country, in unity and love for one another.

US-POLITICS-PRESIDENTS

Movies as Good as Pixar Movies

It doesn’t take much browsing on my blog to figure out that I’m a devout Pixar enthusiast (Disney included). But there are some movies made by competitors that come awfully close, if not hit right on target, to Pixar’s standards of excellence. Here are my favorite non-Pixar/Disney animated movies that you’re sure to have a good time with.

Shrek-2-card-2004-12Shrek 2 (Dreamworks)

I love the second installment of the Shrek movies. It’s hip, it’s fun, and the soundtrack is awesome. It’s a fairytale within a fairytale, and it doesn’t bash all the other fairytales like its predecessor does. And the pouty Prince Charming is just hilarious.

surfs_up_620x348_0Surf’s Up (Sony Pictures Animation/Columbia)

This one didn’t sit too well with critics and audiences far as I know, and I can’t understand why. It’s a very original animated flick told in the style of a documentary. Sarabeth says you’ve got to have a love for the beach and surfing to enjoy this movie, so she might be right. At any rate, I’ve always said it’s as good as a Pixar movie, if for anything, its originality.

1_0_2008_07_09_05_16_25_65625Horton Hears a Who (Blue Sky Studios/Fox)

This is a fun little movie based off of the Dr. Seuss classic storybook, which I hadn’t read before seeing it. It’s not as sophisticated as other movies, but it’s big, bright, and colorful. Definitely pulls out the child in me, and it’s no chore to sit down and watch it on a rainy weekend.

despicable-me-2-22543-1280x800Despicable Me (Illumination Entertainment/Universal)

There’s nothing truly awe-inspiring about this movie, but it’s fun – just flat-out fun, with a few quotable moments throughout. Another good one for rainy weekends. I think what draws me in so much is the adoption theme. That’ll get me every time.

81AjuXCw9UL._SL1500_How to Train Your Dragon (Dreamworks)

This one probably comes the closest to being on par with Pixar standards. It’s got everything you need to make an animated movie go from really good to exceptional – fast action, witty dialogue, no potty humor, emotional content, and the protagonists lose something dear in the end. I haven’t seen the sequel yet, but I’m sure excited to whenever we get around to it.

What are your favorite non-Pixar/Disney animated movies? 

A Call to Resurgence

1037I find many contemporary Christian books lacking in either sound theology or cunning intrigue. When it comes to Christian books I tend to stick with the classics like R.C. Sproul and C.S. Lewis.

A friend of mine suggested I read Mark Driscoll’s new book, A Call to Resurgence, and he asks the question: “Will Christianity have a funeral or a future?”

I’m not going to lie. I like Driscoll. I agree with about 97% of his teachings about the Chruch, the Bible, God, and the people of God. And I believe he’s got a good handle on what’s in store for Christianity in the very near future.

As citizens of the 21st century are drowning in the rapid currents of the new “tolerance” movement, Driscoll makes the point that we Christians need to know where we stand on issues such as gay marriage, abortion, and basic theological truths that many of us may have forgotten.

I loved this book. Not only because I agree with most of his statements and predictions, but because he explains this “brave new world” we’re living in crystal clear, and reminds Christians that we can no longer sit on our butts and watch the world spiral out of control.

We’ve got to join in the chaos, because, really, it’s not chaos at all. The world is heading in the direction God has planned – bad as it may seem now.

We just have to know how to live in it and stand strong.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 16,315 other followers