Reading With Pictures: awesome, classroom-ready comics for math, social studies, science and language arts

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Since its inception as a 2012 Kickstarter, the Reading With Pictures project has gone from strength to strength, culminating in a gorgeous, attractively produced hardcover graphic anthology of delightful comic stories that slot right into standard curriculum in science, math, social studies and language arts. Read the rest

A Fairy Friend: storybook illustrated by a Disney animation legend

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Claire Keene is a legendary Disney animation artist whose work has appeared in Frozen and Tangled; she provides such lively illustrations for children's author Sue Fliess's poem A Fairy Friend that readers are transported to an enchanted world where play and imagination can take you out of this world.

Unflattening – A graphic dissertation that argues for the power of images over text as a way to teach

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

Unflattening by Nick Sousanis Harvard University Press 2015, 208 pages, 7.5 x 10.2 x 1 inches (softcover) $16 Buy a copy on Amazon

It is remarkable how much we learn in our youth and how fast we learn it. It is a pace that really cannot sustain itself as we age, though we might try to continue to learn as though we were young. In my youth, the newspaper seemed a vast swarm of text and a few images that encircled a hidden prize: the funnies. Comics, in youth, are acceptable, but as we age we regard them more as juvenile diversions. Over time, the picture book gives way to the novel. The non-fiction works in the form of text books and scholarly journals are tools to educate us. Finally, should we pursue learning down the institutional path long enough, we encounter doctoral theses with their many and myriad intertextual references. It is a long-standing joke among academics that it is rare that the thesis they slave over for four or more years ever actually gets read.

Nick Sousanis, with his doctoral thesis Unflattening, is a poignant departure from any trend of dissertations written for the sake of being written. More than that, it is meant to be more than a read work. It is an experiential work that asks the reader to not just read, but rather to participate in learning to appreciate imagery on equal terms with orderly lines of written text. Read the rest

Peace in Our Time: how publishers, libraries and writers could work together

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Publishing is in a weird place: ebook sales are stagnating; publishing has shrunk to five major publishers; libraries and publishers are at each others' throats over ebook pricing; and major writers' groups are up in arms over ebook royalties, and, of course, we only have one major book retailer left -- what is to be done? Read the rest

Kickstarting Losswords: a mobile game you play by unscrambling passages from great literature

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A group of successful indie game devs are kickstarting Losswords, a game whose premise is that players are the resistance in a totalitarian future in which books have been banned, and games are the only form of permitted entertainment: you keep literature alive by making games out of the great books of history. Read the rest

Kobo "upgrade" deprives readers of hundreds of DRM-locked ebooks

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Chris writes, "After a recent Kobo software upgrade, a number of Kobo customers have reported losing e-books from their libraries--notably, e-books that had been transferred to Kobo from their Sony Reader libraries when Sony left the consumer e-book business. One customer reported missing 460 e-books, and the only way to get them back in her library would be to search and re-add them one at a time! Customers who downloaded their e-books and illegally broke the DRM don't have this problem, of course." Read the rest

Weird porn author who was dragged into Hugo Awards mess pulls off epic troll

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For the second year in a row, a bunch of disgruntled "conservative" sf readers and writers are attempting to destroy science fiction's Hugo Awards by nominating slates of works that are, variously: rabid racist tracts; works by their ideological opponents; tepid military sf; works by bystanders; and weird porn by Chuck Tingle, a master of the form, who has nothing to do with any of this. Read the rest

The Planet Remade: frank, clear-eyed book on geoengineering, climate disaster, & humanity's future

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Since its publication in late 2015, science writer Oliver Morton's The Planet Remade: How Geoengineering Could Change the World has swept many "best book" (best science book, best business book, best nonfiction book) and with good reason: though it weighs in at a hefty 440 pages and covers a broad scientific, political and technological territory, few science books are more important, timely and beautifully written.

Ben Hatke, kids' author and superhero

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You'll know Ben Hatke as author of Boing Boing-beloved illustrated kids' books like Little Robot and Zita the Space Girl, but as this Children's Book Week video shows, Hatke is a literal fire-breathing, acrobatic, sword-fighting superhero! Read the rest

Kickstarting two YA fantasy novels from the press behind the Young Explorer's Adventure Guide

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Jenise writes, "Dreaming Robot Press is a teensy little publisher in New Mexico trying to fill a much-needed niche: they publish science fiction for children. In particular, they publish the Young Explorer's Adventure Guide, an annual anthology of SF short stories, most of which are for middle grades readers written by such luminaries as Nancy Kress and Beth Cato." Read the rest

There's a new Hyperbole and a Half book coming!

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In 2014, Allie Brosh's outstanding, hilarious, and gut-wrenching webcomic Hyperbole and a Half made the jump to print with an incredible book (review); now Simon and Schuster have announced a followup, Solutions and Other Problems, to be published next October -- I just pre-ordered my copy! (via Wil Wheaton) Read the rest

The Hunter Legacy, a great big huge space opera

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Author Timothy Ellis really enjoyed his time in the 1980's, and his Hunter series certainly pays homage. This, riddled with 80's references, space opera feels like it shouldn't work, but I've had a hard time putting down my kindle.

Backwater bumpkin, 16-year-old Jonathon Hunter, leaves his isolated world of Outback, in the Australian sector of space, and is instantly thrust into the spotlight! Hunter barely saves himself, and mistakenly saves a bunch of other folks, during a pirate attack on his Uncle's space ship. Thus starts a Keystone Cops like avalanche of unbelievable space adventure. Hunter can't make a mistake, women nearly twice his age fawn all over him, and he gets a cat.

I had a lot of time on my hands this weekend, while my daughter played with her grandparents, and I read 6 of this 9 book series. Ellis wrote manuals for the X video game series, and I think relies on this game, which I've never played, for some of his physics and backstory. He also evidently writes some spiritual guide books as well. Both are minutely present in these novels, but don't get in the way. However, the portrayal of women as mostly the same character, with different names and physical descriptions, does get a bit boring after a while, even the AI is just another mid 20s woman who wants to dance to electronica.

Mostly, these books are fun space pirate, and then space religious zealot, smashing action scenes. Relying on his video game background, Ellis writes some great space combat. Read the rest

The Collector follows an 1880's rogue and dandy as he travels in search of treasures

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See sample images from this book at Wink.

The Collector by Sergio Toppi Archaia 2014, 252 pages, 8.5 x 11 x 1 inches $23 Buy a copy on Amazon

I was delighted to discover this terrific collection of comics by Italian artist Sergio Toppi. Although I’d never seen his work before, it instantly got my attention and seemed familiar. It combines a flat graphic art style, a swashbuckling sensibility and witty writing that I found irresistible.

Sergio Toppi (1932-2012) was an artist and illustrator from Italy, whose books have been published for decades in Europe but only recently translated and available in the U.S. through Archaia, a division of Boom Entertainment. The Collector won the Soleil D’Or prize for Best Series at the Soliès-Ville Festival. It’s easy to see why.

The book follows the exciting exploits of an 1880’s rogue and dandy, known as “The Collector,” as he travels the globe in search of treasures. Not a seeker of gold or jewels, he collects only artifacts with historical significance. This sets the stage for adventures featuring Hopi Indians in the American Southwest, camel-riding Ethiopians, Mongol tribesmen, warring Irish clans, Maori chieftains and more. Although the artwork is in black and white, it’s most highly folkloric and historically colorful. The separate wide-ranging episodes and characters are knitted back together into a satisfying finale.

Each page is laid out in dramatic fashion with bold layouts. Some pages have conventional multiple comic panels, while others feature free-wheeling compositions, along with other full-page designs, more fine line illustration than comic book. Read the rest

Edward Snowden on the accelerating pace of whistleblowing, and what it means for state secrecy

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After Daniel Ellsberg's astonishingly courageous release of the Pentagon Papers to the New York Times, he waited 40 years to meet someone like Edward Snowden or Chelsea Manning, someone else inside who risked everything to expose the wrongdoing they had sworn to oppose. Read the rest

Walt Whitman was into paleo and wrote a “Manly Health and Training” guide with sex tips

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Leaves of Grass? He probably ate them now and then.

A scholar at the University of Houston in Texas has discovered a 13-part, 47,000-word series by Walt Whitman, published by the New York Atlas in 1858, under the pseudonym Mose Velsor.

Under that most macho of aliases, “Manly Health and Training” amounts to a "part guest editorial, part self-help column," a “rambling and self-indulgent series” that reveals Walt Whitman's thoughts on a variety of manly-man topics. Including sex.

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The Sartorialist – NYC stylish strangers happily caught by a candid camera

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See sample pages from this book at Wink.

The Sartorialist by Scott Schuman Penguin Books 2009, 512 pages, 5.2 x 7.4 x 1.6 inches (softcover) $19 Buy a copy on Amazon

Scott Schuman once worked in the fashion industry but found that the outfits that amateurs wore on the streets of New York City to be a lot more interesting than those from famous designers. He began photographing people on the street who caught his eye, and, with their permission, posted their images on his blog, The Sartorialist. His street photos had their own style, and soon fashion followers were happy to be caught by Schumans’s candid camera. Soon The Sartorialist blog became legendary in the fashion world. It was also the first of many photo blogs to feature street fashion – showcasing what people with a personal flair wore everyday. This brick of a book collects the best of The Sartorialist’s first 10 years of images. It works as a one-stop shop of hip clothing designs; it also works as a document of “what they wore” in 2010; and it also works as a cool gallery of contemporary fashion photography. It lacks the richness of the life stories in Humans of New York, but it gains something by focusing so obsessively on the design decisions of creative people. A second volume called The Sartorialist X, takes Schuman outside of New York to other cities of the world. Read the rest

The secret history of Mac gaming

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With its high-resolution monochrome display, the early Mac didn't fit easily into the gaming mainstream, where chunkier, colorful graphics were the norm well into the 90s. But as a result it generated a culture of its own, focused around detailed artwork, literary experimentation and powerful tools such as Hypercard. This history is often ignored, but Richard Moss is setting the record straight.

His book, The Secret History of Mac Gaming, shares the stories behind the often-whimsical 80s Mac games and glorifies the unique "1-bit" art style that emerged from the technology.

Mac gaming welcomed strange ideas and encouraged experimentation. It fostered passionate and creative communities who inspired and challenged developers to do better and to follow the Mac mantra "think different".

The Secret History of Mac Gaming is the story of those communities and the game developers who survived and thrived in an ecosystem that was serially ignored by the outside world. It's a book about people who made games and people who played them — people who, on both counts, followed their hearts first and market trends second. How in spite of everything they had going against them, the people who carried the torch for Mac gaming in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s showed how clever, quirky, and downright wonderful videogames could be.

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