Monthly Archives: June 2011

Not as absorbing as expected

Maharaj, R. (2010). The amazing absorbing boy. Toronto: Knopf Canada.

I had high expectations for this book drawn mostly from hearing it recently received the Trillium Book Award ($20 000). Unfortunately, I must confess I did not find this book as captivating as I had anticipated.

I did appreciate the viewpoints in this book and how Maharaj helps to highlight the Canada that many Canadians thinks no longer exists. As the Harper majority slowly starts to revert Canadian immigration policy back to the antiquated, racist, and xenophobic “None is too many” rhetoric of the 1930’s it is of crucial importance to recognize this fact: When it comes to the integration of immigrants and refugees into our society we have never seen complete success. It should be noted that the main character of this book, 17 year old Sam, like most refugees didn’t actually want to come to Canada in the first place! Once here what we see through Sam’s eyes are glimpses of uncomfortable, but very real truths:

  1. Immigrants who come to Canada do NOT always/automatically fare better than their peers from their place of origin.
  2. Canadians are mostly passive in their acceptance of foreigners. We (native born citizens who work outside of immigrant aid organizations) generally accept, but we do little to actively welcome, aid, and acclimatize new comers.
  3. It is primarily other immigrants & refugees who help new immigrants & refugees.

In addition to these aspects of the book I also liked how Maharaj made Sam a fan of comic books (funny scene in a Toronto Public Library where some snotty kid gets mad at Sam for calling his “graphic novel” a “comic”… they’re the same thing, Bud!). Sam often makes sense of his world by relating it to comic book scenarios and characters. This is definitely an element of Sam’s character that teens can relate to.

However, what might put teens of this book is that… well, frankly this book is kind of boring. As Donna Bailey Nurse wrote in her review for the Globe & Mail, “Most of the novel’s conversation about race and immigration unfolds through thought and dialogue rather than dramatic action.” A book of over 300 pages needs dramatic action!!!

This book is almost a great recommendation for reluctant readers as it centers on a male in his late teens who like comics, but the length and the plodding plot are big turn offs… sorry Maharaj 😦 However, if you read this book and liked aspects of it (or would rather skip this book and look for something of more particular interest) let me make some recommendations:

If you like hearing about the struggle of immigrants to Canada and how they help to build our society you may like Michael Ondaatje’s In the Skin of the Lion.

If you like reading about a boy coming of age trying to find who he is and what he can do you may like Andre Alexis’ Childhood.


This could be the “New You”!

The blog Awful Library Books is a constant source of hilarity for me. Today’s post is one I’d like to share with y’all. Do you want ot be a more “likeable” teen? Well don’t try “being yourself” or being like the teens you see on TV (who are often played by 20-30yr old actors)… simply go out to your nearest Time Machine and travel back to the 1960’s, an era when you will be able to obtain a copy of Your Home and You by Greer and Gibbs. For a prime example of the benefits this book can bestow upon your forming person please note the list of grooming tips. As always the standard that boys are held to pales compared to what girls have to go through to look “presentable”… barf.

Can you feel the oozing, palpable sarcasm? If not please insert your own. I haven’t read the book, so I the morsels of legitimate information that may exist within are lost to me, however because the book is outdated by 1/2 a century I am guessing that it will lead you farther astray than it will guide you to your true self. That being said I still stand behind a sizable portion of The Little Red School Book which is circa 1969 (see my post on My Little Red Book for some context).

Ultimately, if you want a “new you” you’ll have to do more than just read a book (strangely, reading 100 books would probably help you become a “new you”). Study your desires, decisions, actions, and emotions and FORCE YOURSELF TO BE THE PERSON YOU WANT TO BE/ REALIZE THAT YOU ARE PROBABLY AWESOME ALREADY! Also, don’t listen to jerks. Remember that every second of every day you ARE a new you, so act accordingly.


Classic X-Men X-Men: First Class

A group of librarians and I (and a Chemistry master’s student who has been adopted into our stack of librarians) decided to hit the town last week and went to go see X-men: First Class on cheap night! (yes, it WAS a wild night for sure. We parked two downtown city blocks from the theatre and didn’t get home until 9:45pm!!! True story.

Aaaaanyway, we had varying expectations, but were all happy with our experiences at the end of the show. The sets were well done with a nice mix of realistic detail and cartoonish grandeur. The office of Dr. Shaw’s nazi labratory is the prime example where a dimly lit stone room with finely carved wooden funiture is placed beside a glass walled, neonlit lab with 100’s of gleaming metal instruments adorning the far wall beyond the surgery tables. Also the period costumes and equipment of the Soviet and American navies versus the swanky style of Shaw’s submarine.

We all liked different parts and different aspects of it, so I’m happy to recommend it as “a good movie” a good movie for the action-lovin’ crowd, a good movie when you’re lazing around and feel like killing a couple of hours. I have a couple boeufs though, pardon my french. They are as follows:

Boeuf #1: The movie is borderline to failing The Bechdel Test, the criteria of which are:

Does this film…
1. Have at least two women in it?
2. Who talk to each other?
3. About something besides a man?

Approximately half the leading characters are female, but the amount they talk to each other is sparse and barely of any quality. Female characters are also dwarfed by the male characters authority, specifically thinking of the “pet” roles Emma Frost and Raven played. If you disagree, tell me why, or join the discussion online @

Figure 1.0

Boeuf#2: Nicholas Hoult does a great job playing Hank McCoy/Beast, Nichalos Hoult looks great… but beast looked like a CG combination of the Cat in the Hat and the Grinch, see Figure 1.0 for my visual argument.
This beef isn’t as important to me as under-representing female power, so I can see why the animators wouldn’t have made beast look as fearsome as he does in comic book form. This movie is a prequel and the standard for how Beast’s face should look is based off the 2006 movie X-Men: The Last Stand… which is based off of Kelsey Grammer’s face. The eyes and chin of First Class Beast offer glimpses of

Figure 2.0

Nichalos Hoult’s face, but still as Figure 2.0 shows you both versions of Beast look strikingly like Kelsey Grammar regular face… unless he actually IS Beast and his beige skin is the mask! Stranger things have happened (probably).

Of course nothing counts like your own opinion don’t take what I say verbatim! Go out and see this flick for ya’self… if you like action movies about comics and/or have some time to kill and/or it’s cheap night and your friends are going.