Present Writers: Marta Randall

Marta Randall is the author of seven novels, one as Martha Conley, and numerous short stories all across the science fiction and fantasy spectrum. Her characters dove the ruins of sunken Hawaii before most writers were willing to give the global effects of climate change the time of day. She was willing to take on refugee crises and generational resentments when these issues were just starting to ramify. If breadth, depth, and sensitivity in handling complex social issues were the metric, Marta Randall novels would be discussed in half the convention panels in 2018.

Her Kennerin duology–Journey and Dangerous Games–particularly exemplify the themes that make Randall’s work feel so contemporary forty years after its first publication. Disabled people, old people, and children all have strong agency. They make hard choices and deal with the ramifications of their decisions–sometimes for decades afterwards. For Randall, killing another individual always matters. Even if the killer was thinking of their victim as somehow lesser or unreal because they were a different ethnicity or origin of human, a different literal alien race, or because they were in good old science fiction fashion a little blip on the screen of a spaceship, they still count. Their deaths still matter, and there will still have to be a moral, personal and social reckoning for them.

For all that much of science fiction has featured colonies here, there, and everywhere, Randall’s work has been willing to deal with the ongoing legacy of colonialism in complicated and human forms. Her characters come up with solutions that their children don’t always agree with or even approve of, and the colonialism is intersectional and multidimensional. Some characters need to rename and reinvent themselves; others, to reiterate choices in a setting where moral purity is not a starting point or an outcome and the world is filled with people who are simply doing the best they can to stagger toward kindness among other flawed sentients.

The climax of Dangerous Games features a stunning indictment of respectability politics, in which a character demands, “Where is the law that says the victim of injustice must always be appealing?” and rails against the practice of pitting minorities against each other. It is a staggeringly fresh take on a topic that we will be generations more in fixing. It made me feel astonished and glad that Marta Randall is present, that her books are around to appreciate and to influence the conversation for those generations to come.

This is the beginning of a new series I’m doing here on the blog: Present Writers. I thought about eligibility for this, and I finally decided that what I want it to be is the opposite of a retirement party. I want to take retirement age and say: yay! We’re glad you didn’t retire and are still around doing cool stuff–you are present, and your work is a gift. Let’s keep the part of a retirement party where your colleagues say cool stuff about your work and ditch the part where you, y’know, go away and stop actually doing it. I don’t like the part where you go away. Don’t do that! I just like the part where people say the cool stuff about your work. This is in lieu of a cake and a gold watch, which are harder to shove through the internet at this time.

I picked 62 because in the US that’s the very beginning of Social Security eligibility, so I did not have to figure out where my personal milestone line would be. What “seems reasonable” to me? Eh, humans vary a lot, “seems reasonable” is a weird thing. Rather than angsting about it, I will pick the arbitrary line that is used in the country I live in, and once a month I will write a post celebrating the work of a writer who has achieved that arbitrary milestone, focusing on at least one specific book that feels contemporary and interesting to me. If you want to recommend authors who are over 62, have at it! I have a pretty long list in my head already, but adding to it never hurts.

Books read, late April

Elizabeth Bear, Stone Mad. This is a sequel to Karen Memory but with very different focus and structure. Karen and Priya have moved on–taking some of their more interesting machinery with them–and some of the discoveries they make along the way are earth-shaking. Also building-shaking. But the heart of this story is relationship stuff, established relationship stuff, ongoing relationship stuff, in a way that we rarely get to see in genre narrative. Making things work, getting things to a point where they can keep going, is a very different plot than finding one’s sweetheart, and I’m glad to see it here.

Kate Cavett, ed., Voices of Rondo: Oral Histories of St. Paul’s Historic Black Community. This is an amazing book. It’s a compilation of interviews with people who lived in the neighborhood in question, and Cavett is smart enough to let the interviews speak for themselves. There’s a great diversity of experience–economic, cultural, personal–and putting it side by side does so much to make it vivid and layered and real, with joy and suffering and the human experience in miniature, in neighborhood form. This is my city. There are probably similar stories for yours, and I recommend that you find them, because this is worth knowing about the structure of where you live, what has been lost and what remains, what your neighbors have to say about it.

Craig Laurance Gidney, Skin Deep Magic. The title of this collection is extremely well chosen; they are fantastical and dealing with race and culture in ways that go beyond the superficial.

Joy Harjo, How We Became Human: New and Selected Poems: 1975-2001. Harjo is from Oklahoma, and the southern plains sing through the poems. This is not my prairie, but I can see how my prairie will slip down into this one, hotter and dryer. Harjo’s Muscogee background also informs her poetry in ways that sing through it, and I don’t know the songs the way I do the songs from the neighbors up here, but that doesn’t make them any less interesting to read.

Faith Erin Hicks, Rosemary Valero-O’Connell, Jen Wang, Holly Black, et al, Lumberjanes: Bonus Tracks. This was a bunch of side tales of whimsy and wonder and friendship to the max. Already sold on it. Yep.

Jim Kacian, Philip Rowland, and Allan Burns, eds., Haiku in English: the First Hundred Years. Okay so look. We do not do this with terza rima, people. We do not look at terza rima and say, okay, sure, this is a major cultural form, extremely important to you, but we’re going to say that when WE do it, it means basically whenever we want and not ANY of the stuff it means to you, but it’s the same thing with the same name yay. And I have serious issues with the way that Anglophones do that with haiku. This is an anthology of extremely short poems, and that is it. They have literally no other requirement than that. I decided within the first few pages that I could read them on that premise or not, since that’s what they are, and I did read them, and I learned some things about very short poems. But I still object to just willy-nilly declaring that minuscule poems get to be haiku because we feel like it. ANYWAY. One of the things I learned: repetition in really short poems is not nearly as searingly effective as the poets want it to be. Mostly, in poems of less than fifty words, it’s pretty bland. Interesting to have a large data set there. I still wish that they were not so blithe about how haiku can be three words or a bunch of letters or whatever. Eh.

Andrus Kivirahk, The Man Who Spoke Snakish. This is an Estonian fantasy novel set at a sort of mythical version of the Christianization of Estonia, with the new ways symbolized by such newfangled innovations as eating bread and living in villages, and the old ways by speaking snakish and intermarrying with bears. This is a weird, weird book, and the bear-on-woman sex is right there in it, so if you are not up for that, you’re going to want to opt out here. It is…well, look, I picked it up because the Estonian ambassador was like, this is the one book you should read to represent Estonia! and huh. Huh. It idealizes a natural state that never was, it is extremely weird about sex and gender and let us not even get into the role of “speaking German” or farming tools and…yeah, so, Canadians? if you want to not feel alone about the ursine stuff? in your books? sidle on up to Estonians, they’ve got you covered. In bears.

Ian Lendler, One Day a Dot. Discussed elsewhere.

D. Peter MacLeod, Northern Armageddon: The Battle of the Plains of Abraham and the Making of the American Revolution. Quite often I say of nonfiction “does what it says on the tin.” This does not: the making of the American Revolution is an extremely minor component of this book. What it does do is consider the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in loving detail from primary sources in more than one language. Popular songs get quoted extensively. It’s a lot of fun, sardonic in spots, but it’s very specialized, so judge for yourself whether you’re interested in something quite that specialized.

Sujata Massey, The Salaryman’s Wife. This is the beginning of a long mystery series, and maybe the later volumes are really cool. I will probably not find out, because this is very very mid-90s, in that way that was so perkily fascinated with all things Japanese in a very exoticizing way. Everything is explained in words of very few syllables: in Ja-PAN…. It also…starts with a sexual assault on a commuter train and goes from there. The ways that this book parsed as sexy or at least daring have not aged particularly well in a few places. I really liked Massey’s recent historical non-mystery novel, so I had hopes for this, and I did finish it, it just…didn’t hit me very well. Which is a shame; I could use another good mystery series. I just don’t think this is it.

Moliere, The Imaginary Invalid. Kindle. The first translation that came up on Gutenberg, and it was a stinker of a translation, no nuance whatsoever, but I speak enough French to be able to spot what the better version would look like, and anyway I was reading it in preparation for going to see a production of it. It was not a good production, this is not a good translation…and yet I’m really glad I read it, thinking and talking about it with the person I went with has been fascinating, and you can see the bones of an interesting comedy about relationships and trust through both things being suboptimal.

Hans Rosling, with Ola Rosling and Anna Rosling Ronnlund, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–And Why Things Are Better Than You Think. There’s a lot to like in this book–Rosling uses facts and figures to undermine a lot of well-educated westerners’ stereotypes about the rest of the world, ways in which worldviews have not been updated in 50 years or more, etc. I agree with Rosling that believing that things can actually be improved in the ways that they factually, verifiably have been improved will help us to be heartened to work toward improving more things. Hurrah. However, he goes off the rails in some areas that are not his main area of expertise, missing the point in ways that really have the potential to do harm because of his own firm, serene conviction that he couldn’t possibly have missed anything. A few easy examples: he brings up DDT as “safer than we think” because “it has not directly killed any humans.” Probably not true–very few manufactured products have no manufacturing fatalities–but in any case, direct, immediate human deaths are not the only possible point and also he completely neglects the DDT resistance that has come about in the areas where it’s continued to be used. So…stop that, Rosling. Another example: he blithely claims that menstrual pad companies “should be” trying to exploit the poorest markets as they emerge from being even poorer still, rather than questioning whether that’s really a case of “should.” Do those factors need reinforcing under the guise of pure fact? They really, really don’t, and I wish there was a good book about improvement in extreme poverty worldwide and general examining of statistics in that kind of area that didn’t wander off into that kind of bad logic.

Maighread Scott and Robin Robinson, The City on the Other Side. Discussed elsewhere.

Robert Service, Spies and Commissars: The Early Years of the Russian Revolution. If you’re looking for an account of what things were like on the ground, for Russians, this is sure not it. This is about who knew what among various groups, many/most of them foreign. So if you want to hear a bunch about Arthur Ransome’s Russian Revolution–which, surreally, I guess I did–here is a book for you. It’s another piece in that very large puzzle. I like having more pieces, but at the end of the day I’m more interested in most of the other pieces, and I expect most of you will be too.

Carrie Vaughn, Martians Abroad. Discussed elsewhere.

Martians Abroad, by Carrie Vaughn

Review copy provided by Tor Books.

Sometimes you read the first book in a series and think, this is really well written, but it’s not for me, I should circle back when this author is doing something different. And then the author does fourteen volumes of that very popular series, and it becomes easy to not think of that. But! Molly Tanzer was glowingly positive about Bannerless, and I liked that, so when Tor had its paperback release of Martians Abroad, I asked for a review copy. I’m glad I did.

It’s pretty clear that this volume is a response–not a retelling or a rewriting, a response–to Heinlein juveniles, specifically to the loathsome Podkayne of Mars. Vaughn is smarter than to name a character pee/toilet (I know, I know, “it’s Poddy not Potty,” oh yes, that enunciation makes all the difference in the world–I have talked to people from Missouri, Bob, it totally does not), so her sibling characters are Polly and Charles, not Poddy and Clark. And…I don’t know who else sees this, but…to me, it highlighted something else. That Vaughn wasn’t just influenced by the Heinlein juveniles, the “Golden Age” SF by men. Someone else wrote teen siblings named Poly and Charles, patient analytical boys, reckless frustrated angry out-of-place girls. (Anybody? No? Madeleine did that. Meg Murry O’Keefe’s two eldest kids, who get books of their own after the Wrinkle in Time series, are named Poly–later Polly–and Charles.)

Carrie Vaughn has learned from a whole world of previous generations of speculative writers. Not just the men. And Martians Abroad is much the better for it.

So what is this book. Polly and Charles Newton are Martian teenagers who have gotten shipped back to Earth to go to school at the very snooty Galileo Academy, due to their mother’s machinations, and Polly is not thrilled. Charles is generally off in his own head, trying to weather things in his own way. Polly wants to be a pilot–she wants nothing to do with Earth–but gradually through mishap and adventure makes some friends at school. And then they begin to suspect that the mishap and adventure they’re suffering are a bit more than Polly’s penchant for getting into trouble, more than the weirdness of living in a heavily biological higher-gravity environment, more than they seem.

This is simultaneously a fun adventure science fiction novel that seems like it would be entirely plausible to give to teens and a fun adventure science fiction novel that I would be entirely comfortable giving to elders who complain that they just can’t find things like they used to like. It is both. And since it’s not extensively quoting from anything–since its argument, where there is one, is by example–there’s no need to immerse yourself in “original texts” or “source material” to enjoy it. You can just pick up a story about how weird Earth feels when you’re from Mars, how weird your teen years feel when you don’t get along with your mom, how you can find friends and learn to get along with your brother and figure out how to get the career your want that you’re really good at, if you can manage not to get yourself and everybody else killed along the way because gravity wells and biological systems are difficult, and also so is space.

Please consider using our link to buy Martians Abroad from Amazon.

The City on the Other Side, by Maighread Scott and Robin Robinson

Review copy provided by First Second Books.

The San Francisco earthquake of 1906 is one of history’s canonical disasters for a reason. I myself have stood and looked at a place where the fence line was dislocated several feet from where it had been, because the fault line had moved by that much; the city was in flames and rubble for days afterward, and it took much longer than that to clean up. Scott and Robinson have used this as the inspiration for their children’s fantasy comic: what if that natural disaster was not natural at all, but the result of a rift in the fairy kingdoms? What if the Seelie and Unseelie courts were warring and caused the quake?

That’s the backstory here, not a spoiler for this volume. This volume is a kids’ graphic novel about the fallout. It’s about a wealthy Latinx human girl, Isabel, ignored by her separated (divorced?) parents, who stumbles into the fairy war still raging after the earthquake, picks up a talisman, and finds she can use it when no one expects her to be able to. She crosses between the human and magical worlds and forms friendships and alliances with people of various shapes and species. They are chased back and forth across the worlds, and Isabel has to help find a lasting peace for both worlds, for humans, Seelie, and Unseelie.

It’s reasonably pretty, but if the plot sounds kind of generic to an experienced reader, that’s because it is. There’s a lot of “oh yes, one of those” going on here, and the San Francisco setting feels more phoned in around the edges to me than vivid–there’s not a lot of vivid “definitely San Francisco/Carmel/Northern California” art here. There is an attempt to show the diversity of the city even as of the early twentieth century, both on the human side and on the magical side, but that’s entirely visual. The plot and characterization are just…fine. They’re fine. And once again I’m reminded that the audience for this is kids, so this may be where they learn how the shape of this plot goes. This may be their first trip through this plot. And yet on the other hand…there are other kids’ books that still manage to do something that isn’t cookie-cutter, so…this one is fine. Not likely to offend, but not likely to stick with you long either.

Please consider using our link to buy The City on the Other Side from Amazon.

relationship with spoilers

I’m not seeing the new Avengers movie this week. I haven’t even seen Black Panther yet. And it’s not because I’m just too hipster to see the thing that all my friends like, it’s because I have a major balance disorder and I have learned my lesson about what I can and can’t see in movie theaters. The answer is mostly can’t. You don’t want to know how many times I was sick in the five days after The Last Jedi–and sure, yes, we later figured out that I probably had either very persistent food poisoning or a stomach bug that I managed to pass on to zero of the people I cooked for that night, but honestly, the first several times? surprised no one. Because balance disorder. Even when the balance disorder is well under medication control, the things I can see in the theater are the things that people tell you are not important to see in the theater. The things where the spectacle is not the point. The things that are not packed with fast-cuts and panning and awe-inspiring camera angles.

(Speak not to me of Arrival. NO.)

So: theaters. Not for me. I know people who go internet silent for a day, two days, even a week, to avoid spoilers on a movie they’re not going to have a chance to see right away, but honestly: that is not feasible. I have not seen Black Panther yet. Sure, if it was vital to me, I could pirate a copy. A better solution is to form a different relationship with spoilers.

Because…sure, yes, it is nice to be able to let a story unfold without knowing where it’s going. It is. I recently watched Brigsby Bear (at home, streaming on my TV), and if you can watch that without spoilers, I recommend it; it’s not that it’s thoroughly unpredictable, but having it unfold organically added to my experience, I think. (Mark Hamill is great in it.) But I watched it with someone who had seen it before, and I will happily watch it again; if it wasn’t worth watching again, it wouldn’t really be worth watching. Because most stories have been told in some form already, and the question is, how will the details work this time. How will the experience of it be.

Which is not to say that I think you should go out of your way to spill the details of a brand-new book or movie to those who haven’t read or seen it; you notice that I’m fairly careful about that in my posts here. I know that a lot of people don’t have the attitude I do, and that’s okay. But…I don’t have a lot of choice. And I like where I’ve ended up with that. I’ve made a virtue of that necessity, rather than railing against it. I’m still looking forward to seeing Black Panther. Being the last one on my block to see a thing has its perqs; having a phalanx of friends I could turn to and say “I got to the episode that’s Amethyst’s origin story!!!” when I was watching Steven Universe was a lot of fun.

And I’m not really the last one on my block. This week someone else got to Amethyst’s origin story and wrote to me. A couple weeks ago, a different friend did. Today I read a Moliere play for the first time. When I read Middlemarch there was the entire horde of Middlemarch fans ready to squee and welcome me in; when I mentioned it in a recent book post, a local friend said “OH FINE YOU’VE CONVINCED ME” and I expect that when she gets to it I will get email from her. My best girl friend from college hasn’t gotten there yet, but maybe when her youngest leaves for college I’ll get an email that says, “Dear Marissa, I have just finished Middlemarch. OMG YOU WERE RIGHT.” Because you’re never actually the last one on your block to get to it, and hearing something something Dorothea something is not the same thing as reading it.

So yeah, I’ll probably find out sometime this week that the Infinity War was the friends we made along the way, and that’s fine. It really is the journey. And when it’s not, I don’t want to go on that trip anyway.

Minds of the future….

Today you can read a new story by me in Nature Futures, My Favourite Sentience. I’ve adjusted the spelling of the title because the characters in it are in fact British, and their teacher would mark them down if they spelled it the American way! So many sentiences to choose from….

There’s also a writing of the story blog post, but obviously read the story itself first.

One Day a Dot, by Ian Lendler

Review copy provided by First Second Books.

Picture book readers vary. There are the ones who read every word faithfully, the ones who wander off on each page going, “do you see the flippers on the nice tetrapod, Moo?”, the ones who make things up that bear only glancing resemblance to the author’s original text. Then there are the footnoters.

I am a mix of all of the above, but oh, am I ever a footnoter.

Because…mostly picture books that are trying to inform kids are aiming for simple, and once upon a time I was given a superhero name by an ex-boyfriend, and that superhero name was The Great Complicator. (He was wrong. My superhero name is The Non Sequitess. But I digress.) And I know all the arguments that kids need simple, and that picture books need simple. I get that.

But part of simplicity is choosing which simplicity. And choosing carefully.

Which brings us to One Day a Dot.

One Day a Dot is telling a very simple, very small child oriented creation story. It is telling the story of how the universe got from nothingness to you, tiny child. It starts with the Big Bang and goes through planetary formation (in the blink of an eye) and evolution and all the way to your current family, where you live as the end product of evolution.

Did you wince at that phrase, “end product of evolution”? I winced typing it, but this is a very, very linear narrative. It is a directed narrative. It is a narrative in which the self-centeredness natural to a tiny human child is not the least bit disturbed: you, tiny human child, are not only the most important thing in your own life, not only the most important thing in your parents’ lives for a few years yet (as indeed you must be to survive), but the most important thing. The. Most important thing.

For example, when a comet falls, tiny human child is told, “When the big dot hit the blue dot…the explosion turned the whole sky red. The world was on fire…and all the land-fish burned. But one thing survived.” BZZZZT sorry wrong! It will be quite important to you, tiny human child, that more than one thing survived. You are a mammal; quite a few other creatures you like will probably be mammals; but guess what? It turns out that many, many other species that are *not* proto-mammals survived the Cretaceous-Palogene Extinction Event, and it will be important to the entire world and to you particularly–especially if you are the sort of tiny human child who is interested in these things–that they did.

So…this is a book with very cute illustrations, and it gives very cute My First Bible kinds of answers to not at all Biblical narratives. And if you are the sort of person who wants a simple narrative to footnote–if you find it useful to be able to say, “okay, but not quite like that”–then you can bounce around this book with a tiny human and say, look, yes, but also no. The Great Chain of Being was not fundamentally right, evolution is not a line, and resulting in you does not mean that you were its goal, any more than echidnas or the current coloration on the moths that have been peppery in various shades, but yes, One Day a Dot, and so on for billions of years.

Please consider using our link to buy One Day a Dot from Amazon.

Books read, early April

Graham Annable, Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths. Discussed elsewhere.

Deborah Cadbury, Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain’s Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII. I think one of the things that people who are from a non-royalist country find a little difficult to wrap their heads around sometimes is which kinds of influence royal families have in which cases, in a modern situation. This book was valuable for that alone: lots of very specific instances of what the royal family could and could not do, what was expected of it, how it influenced the government and how the government influenced it. Not a staggering, world-altering book, but does what it says on the tin.

Jonathan I. Israel, The Expanding Blaze: How the American Revolution Ignited the World, 1775-1848. Jonathan Israel is my go-to author for things about Radical Enlightenment, and what he’s doing here is tracing threads of that going into and coming out of the American Revolution: how it influenced other countries and how those influences came back into America. He goes into places this kind of discussion often misses but shouldn’t: Haiti, Latin America, South Africa, Greece, the Netherlands. He is often trenchant and fascinating. He also has a very particular focus/fixation, and he wants his terms to keep meaning the things he wants them to mean, so “radical” is supposed to mean “Spinozist,” dammit, and round about 1848 it stops meaning that, dammit, and they did not ask Jonathan Israel. But it is generally, like his other doorstops, worth the read. He remembers that Gouverneur Morris existed and was important! He remembers Olympe de Gouges! It’s at very useful right-angles with a lot of other history of this period.

Leena Krohn, Collected Fiction. This is also a doorstop. It’s a rare opportunity in two ways: one, to read Krohn’s work in English (she is a Finnish author), and two, to read a prose writer’s work all at once, in sequence, the way one can do with the collected works of a poet. This isn’t quite everything. But it’s a substantial fraction of Krohn’s work, and it allows the reader to watch her style and ideas evolve. She does a lot of episodic/fragmentary style, which makes it easier to read such a large volume in small bites and still take it all in, the strange cities and their stranger denizens looping back around each other, insect people, plants, pelicans living among humans. I am so glad and so grateful that we have more translated strange works than we did when I was a teenager, so that I can have this.

Yoon Ha Lee, Raven Stratagem. I have always been a middle book person, and the end of this middle book particularly was very satisfying to me. I found how he handled the mathy/calendrical nature of the worldbuilding really fine. A lot of spoilers would lead up to that, so…yep, as of the end of this twisty volume I am glad to still be going with this series.

Anna Meriano, Love Sugar Magic: A Dash of Trouble. This is a warm and loving book about a Tejanx Latinx family that runs a magical bakery and misadventures of the youngest member of that family trying to claim–and understand–her magical birthright. I found it so charming, cozy without being cloying, highly recommended for kids on up. (Although it made me hungry for cinnamon rolls.)

Tochi Onyebuchi, Beasts Made of Night. For some reason I had gotten the impression that this was a very different kind of book than it is, but it was still fun. YA fantasy with lots of action and intriguing worldbuilding, young people struggling with the strictures of power and social bonds none of which fit quite right, but not using usual fantasy genre-furniture, building with very different blocks.

V.E. Schwab, A Conjuring of Light. The conclusion of a series, and wow were there a lot of ends to tie up in the parallel worlds here. Schwab had to just keep tying, and there were sections, set pieces, callbacks from previous themes…it wasn’t entirely tidy, but it did all fit together. I wouldn’t recommend starting here. This is definitely an ending. On the other hand: this series is now complete, so if you wait for that, here you go.

Michael Sedgwick and Thomas Taylor, Scarlett Hart, Monster Hunter. Discussed elsewhere.

Michael W. Twitty, The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African American Culinary History in the Old South. This is a rambling and personal account that touches on all sorts of interesting points in Southern cooking, and in the foodways of America in general. Twitty relies a bit heavily on DNA testing sites for my tastes, but he takes a long look inward and connects it outward in ways that end up being really interesting, and he’s done very concrete research into what things taste and feel like. I’m very glad I read this.

Jennifer Wright, Get Well Soon: History’s Worst Plagues and the Heroes Who Fought Them. I am not the target audience for this book. The target audience for this book does not read monographs about specific instances of yellow fever. The target audience for this book is looking for a breezy, humorously written book with a chapter each about different historical diseases. That…is probably a lot more people than a lot of what I read, honestly. Wright brushes past some issues in historiography (why, for example, some biographers decline to state for certain whether their subjects had syphilis: hint, it is usually because they do not know), but in general if you want an overview, this is probably an entertaining way to get one.

Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths, by Graham Annable

Review copy provided by First Second Books

This is a picture book story of two sloths who go on adventures separately and find each other again at the end. It’s graphic novel length but picture book age, so…long picture book? If a kid talks you into reading this for their “one more book” before bedtime, I hope they’re a pretty big kid, or you got conned.

The two sloths enjoy watching clouds, but one of them, Ernesto, wants to see more of the sky, different kinds of sky. Peter is more worried, less daring, but when Ernesto leaves on his adventure, Peter wants him home safe. So he goes out after him and meets his own new friends, sees his own new habitats…less enthusiastically, and in more detail.

There’s not really any kind of acknowledgment that their differences could be good, here, just: here are two personalities seeing the world, seeing the world is great, here is a cranky tapir, here is a flock of lackadaisical crabs. The illustrations have their own very specific character, minimalist without being sparse, and somebody will probably attach hard to Murphy the parrot or some other character in particular. I think this is probably more of a little kids’ picture book than an all ages’ picture book, but it’s reasonably charming, not going to be offensive to big people for the first forty-leven reads.

Please consider using our link to buy Peter and Ernesto: A Tale of Two Sloths from Amazon.