The Second Annual 12 frogs list of 12 media bits

Last year I put out my first list of favorites, with the rules being that each thing had to be a non-blog media bit, and new-to-me for the past year. (Non-blog because there are enough lists with blogs already, so I think this is more fun.) I’m
adding one more rule this year: it has to be a “media bit” that, in theory, someone reading this list can go experience for themselves. So the excellent East Boston Open Studios and 2nd Annual MoCCA Festival aren’t eligible for the list — they were events that are over, so you can’t go see them now. (You should, though, go see them next year.)

In alphabetical order, here is this year’s list of the media bits I
enjoyed the most and why:

Blankets I waited months and months for Craig Thompson’s graphic novel to come out. I was lucky enough to pick it up at MoCCA and have Thompson sign it. I find it is a rare thing when a book or movie can live up to the kind of expectation I had for this — it just makes enjoying it all the sweeter.

Empire Falls Richard Russo can write: he made me believe in all the characters in this small Maine town, from the assholes hanging out in the diner where Miles Roby’s worked, to his awkward teenage daughter, Tick. A believable slice of life as it is, not always as it should be, and all the better for that.

Finding Nemo Yes, there is the standard Disney element of killing off a parent (and overboard even for them, eliminating 499 siblings in the first five minutes) but Pixar really has the chops — it is a visually stunning picture. It is funny and smart enough for grownups, too. Best of all, I went to see this with someone who was really really excited to see the movie, and that made it even more fun.

Gould’s Book of Fish Richard Flanagan’s novel is one of the most unusual and engrossing novels I’ve ever read. It is about William Buelow Gould, a convict imprisoned at Sarah’s Island, but like all great novels it is about a lot of other things, too: “Once upon a time, terrible things happened, but it was long ago in a far-off place that everyone knows is not here or now or us.”

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix I don’t care if the latest from J.K. Rowling is on everybody else’s list, I’m still putting it on mine. L read the entire thing to me out loud — that was so much fun I’d probably have to put this on the list, even if the story wouldn’t have otherwise made the top twelve. And yes, Harry was an asshole in this book.

James Kochalka’s Sketchbook Diaries, volumes One, Two and Three I admit it is kind of weasel-like to count three volume as one bit, but hey it is my list so I can do what I want. I did get these all at the same time, and read them in close succession, and I think of them as one set. Also, I couldn’t pick just one, I loved them all. Kochalka has a warped sense of humor, he isn’t afraid to embarass himself by revealing his quirks, and he draws a really cute cat.

Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers Not the third one, but the second: I saw it after December 12th last year, so it belongs on this year’s list. (I have high hopes LoTR: Return of the King will make next year’s list.) The Ents were amazing, Gollum was fascinating and creepy, and it was among the best $10 I’ve ever spent on entertainment.

The Miracle Life of Edgar Mint Brady Udall’s novel was wonderful. Edgar gets his head run over by a truck almost immediately, and I can’t even say that is the worst thing to happen to him. Not a depressing book, though. Funny, adventurous in a nontraditional way, and deeply satisfying.

The Red Tree You can probably find Shaun Tan’s book in the Children’s section, but you need to go look at it even if you don’t have kids. The art is beautiful, not at all what you might expect from a children’s book because it isn’t easy or cute — it is haunting. A great message for kids, and one they probably don’t get often enough, about fear, loneliness, and the power of hope.

The Story of Frog Belly Rat Bone Another kid’s book, Timothy Basil Ering’s first one on his own. This is the kind of book kids will want to touch, and will no doubt quickly memorize because so much of the story is fun to say out loud. Ering wrote the story, hand-lettered all the text, and created the illustrations. The art is multilayered, dark, absorbing, and unusual; the story combines the right amount of menace, expectations, and reward. Go look for it:
“Frog Belly Rat Bone,
one, two, three . . .
You must be patient and
then you will see. . . .”

Stranger Things Happen A weird collection of stories from Kelly Link. Stranger things may happen, but you will have a hard time finding anyone else writing them down. Early this year I was complaining that all the new-to-me books I was finding and really enjoying were all written by men — then I found this.

X-2: X-Men United I don’t feel one bit apologetic for loving this movie. I looked forward to it, I loved it, and as soon as the credits rolled I asked L when she wanted to see it again. I loved the opening scenes of the attack on the President, I loved it when Magneto said “You are a God among insects, never let anyone tell you different,” I loved it that the freaks kick ass, I loved it that the movie’s morality is more complicated than simple good vs evil.

That’s my list. What is on yours?

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