Book Reviews: Parenthood, Armadillos, and Secrets

“Put it in!” she begged, then waited for his look of shock before adding, all smirky smirk, “perspective.”

Science of Parenthood
This book posits that being a parent is like being a scientist, and lists a few reasons at the beginning to prove its point. The best one basically states, “Always underfunded and overbudget.”
Everything is shown as though this is a scientific textbook, though hilarious, thankfully. There’s a flowchart on whether you should have another kid, a crop of new disorders like “mourning sickness,” when your previously favorite food now makes you sick during pregnancy (cartoon of woman hugging boxes of mac and cheese), and the invention of a new science: Paleosexuality, which includes the Ice Age. I skipped the chapter on poopology, though I thoroughly agree with Pavlov’s Highchair. More helpful is the chapter that translates texts and emails for the passive-aggressive, though not so much the chemistry of post-birth sex.
I’m not sure if this is intended to help parents at all or is strictly for entertainment’s sake, but it certainly skews toward the latter. At first it feels like this is going to be long book, but there’s so many graphics it just flows. . . like a chart. There are some wickedly funny moments, but then there’d have to do be, with so many jokes. Like the Old Airplane and Naked Gun movies, one gag after another. If you don’t find one funny, just turn the page. . .

An Armadillo in New York
The title tells you all you need to know: drawings of an armadillo wearing an orange and white bandana doing the sightseeing thing his grandpa told him about in Noo Yawk. That simple.
It is cute watching him try to talk to the lions in front of the library, and the drawing of the Guggenheim was so realistic it almost gave me vertigo. I don’t know what an armadillo’s usual diet is, especially one from Brazil, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t consist of pretzels, churros, or tacos. But he has to experience everything his grandfather told him about, which includes going to the ballet. There’s a running theme where his grandpa keeps mentioning Lady Liberty in his journal and he doesn’t know who that is.
It’s a short story, but at times very endearing; I can see this inspiring a kid to want to travel.

The Dreadful Fate of Jonathan York
Subtitled: A Yarn for the Strange at Heart
Mr. York is in a swamp, lost. He joins some fellow travelers to an inn to spend the night, where payment is the telling of a story. The first is about a little girl who loved ice cream so much she went to see it being made, and what started out as a sweet poem turned into something altogether opposite; you know it’s not a conducive workspace when a sign says, “Dilbert cartoon posters will be hanged.” This stanza was particularly enjoyable:
“You human folk are all alike
And if I may be mean
You’d rather send the world to heck
Than alter your routine.”
The second story was a testament to the lengths people will go for love. . . except for the twist ending; dude, you are so marrying the wrong woman. . .
The third story was shown and not written, with small cameos from Andy Kauffman, Elvis, and Amelia Earhart. It’s an alien nightmare, though the sign that says “No flash photography” is bilingual, so there’s that. And in a later panel there’s a flash going off, though we don’t see what happened to that rebellious photographer.
But Mr. York has no story to tell, so it’s back out into the nighttime swamp to meet many more strange denizens, some with accents. Then things really get weird when he’s forced to participate in a treasure hunt. . .
This is more a book with illustrations than an actual graphic novel; there are no dialogue bubbles or such, simply text at the top, bottom, or sides of each page. Not that I know anything about artwork, but this seems more “sketched” than “drawn,” and I think it’s better for it; makes the weird happenings all the more different from the ordinary. Especially when you’re tricking monsters into eating giant rocks.
So all in all it’s an enjoyable piece of fluff, wittier than expected if you look closely.

The Returning Tide
A woman—told in first person, so you don’t find out the gender for a while—goes to Cornwall in England for the first time in 30 years; the story is told both in the present and the past.
There isn’t much plot here. We know she has a secret, but most of the book is stories about how she lived in France, Australia, and New Zealand, with her two kids and the three men in her life.
Any suspense as to what the secret is about is removed about halfway through, when she gives enough clues for anyone paying attention. Yet because she doesn’t actually reveal it till the end, it’s a letdown. Even worse, there’s no ending; it just chops off. If the dastardly intent is for me to come back when the sequel is written, then it’s a failure.



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