Lola: A Ghost Story

Jessie is a middle-school-aged boy from Canada who travels with his parents to The Philippines to attend the funeral of his clairvoyant Lola (grandmother). While staying at the family’s ancestral home, he becomes reacquainted with his cousins, one of whom (Jon Jon) died tragically at some point prior to this visit. Jessie struggles to understand and appreciate his ability to see ghosts–a talent his living Filipino cousin Maritess has always longed to have inherited from their Lola. Maritess imparts all of her knowledge on the subject to Jessie in the hopes he will embrace his gifts, and stop hiding them.

Earnest Or’s smooth and minimal illustrations are sepia-toned from start to finish, giving the story a memory-like quality. The clean lines used for the sweet-faced characters and serene settings lie in stark contrast to the gory visions of decimated corpses that appear to Jessie (and Jessie alone).  I especially appreciated how real the relationships felt. For example, the cousins must reestablish their bonds after a long absence, and do so. And in a spooky scene about Jessie and Maritess in the woods at night, his dad is in the background keeping his grief-stricken uncle company (and giving Jessie’s Aunt a much-needed break from her husband’s drinking).

The family’s bonds are tested again and again, not only by time and distance, but by a plethora of adversity like trauma, grief, substance abuse, and cultural clashes. Through it all, they are there for each other even when they part.

Spooky…the Literary Dead and the Undead

October 16, 2011

Which is the  “most literary” of all cemeteries?  Sleepy Hollow Cemetery in Concord, Mass., may very well be the one. Writers of no less stature than Thoreau, Emerson, and Louisa May Alcott rest there for eternity.  Read this off-beat post on PWxyz and see the interesting responses from readers.

A new anthology on Zombies entitled “Zombies!  Zombies! Zombies!”  is just out. Despite the plain name, the book reveals different aspects of, for lack of a better term, zombiehood. A range of time periods and types of tales are represented. The book’s editor is confident that you’re in for a treat. And as the reviewer concurs, “I’d say it’s a no-brainer.”  groan…      Shira S.

A Great Time to be a Zombie

October 30, 2010

Oh, what I wouldn’t give to be a zombie these days.  With a single-mindedness that only an animated corpse could muster, the zombies have recently risen from the grave to enjoy unprecedented heights of popularity.  But even as they rub rotting elbows with the “beautiful people,” the zombies have always managed to stay true to their rancid, flesh-eating roots.  Sure, they’ve experimented a little on their way to the top.  They’ve dipped a gangrenous toe into classic literature, played slapstick for laughs, and even done a bit of thrilling song and dance.  But the bottom line is that the zombies have earned their stardom by remaining committed to doing what zombies do best.  Namely, they’ve doubled and redoubled their efforts to scare you snotless, and let’s face it, you’ve got to respect their work ethic even as you run screaming from their lurching pursuit.  So this Halloween celebrate the Year of the Zombie with a book that captures all of their consistent creepiness.   In each of the following gory reads, you’ll thank the zombies for keeping it real… real scary.

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