24 February 2008

Ronald Reagan: Paper Dolls in Full Color

Author/Illustrator: Tom Tierney

Anyone following the election knows that every Republican nominee had been desperately trying stake claim as the heir apparent to Ronald Reagan. Mitt Romney had the looks, but not the soul. Fred Thompson had the acting chops, but not the stamina. Mike Huckabee had the charm, but not the stature. (I'm not even going to bother with Giuliani and Ron Paul... the rest of the country isn't, why should I?)

Now, for all intents and purposes, there is one GOP candidate left standing: John McCain. And now, thanks to Tierney's book, McCain can actually put on Reagan's clothes and try to convince America that he is Reagan's true successor.

Though I don't see it happening. Reagan's greatest asset was his gift as an orator--he was such a great speaker that he fooled the country into thinking that a silly idea like Trickle-down economics made sense. As for McCain, his speeches sound about as convincing as a 4th grader reading the book report that his mom wrote for him.

But still, let's take a look at how McCain might conjure the spirit of Reagan to convince America that he is as paper-thin as the Gipper himself.

Straight Shootin' John McCain

I am the candidate that is not afraid to tell it like it is. I shoot straight from the hip. I drive the Straight Talk Express. And the straight truth is that despite my better judgment, I have no choice but to pander to my party's base in order to secure the Republican nomination.

If that means supporting the Bush tax cuts, so be it. If it means fudging my stance on torture, why not? If it means denouncing evolution, bring it on! In fact, if I did see a dinosaur, I would shoot it dead and serve it at my next fundraiser to prove just how straight I can shoot... at whatever it is the base wants me to take aim at.

Damage Control McCain

What, this picture? I've told you already that Ms. Iseman and I are merely acquaintances. I am saddened and frustrated by the obvious liberal media bias being perpetuated by the New York Times.

I also find it comical--if a bit flattering--that anyone would believe that a man of my age would still have any sexual impulses left. Because my friends, let me assure you... when it comes to little John McCain, he's been little John McCan't for some time now.

Bedtime for Bonzo McCain

My friends, we live in dangerous times. We must take care not to let our guard down lest we allow the terrorists to win. Just like Ronald Reagan held firm when caring for an unruly chimpanzee named Bonzo, I, as your Commander In Chief vow to accept the challenge and stare the great ape of terrorism in the eye. And trust me my friends, I won't be the first to blink.

The Democrats don't have the backbone to put Bonzo to bed. But I assure you, the American people, that when I am President, I will not rest until we get the monkey of terror off our backs and we put the issue to bed once and for all.

When I consider the prospect of another neglectful Democratically-led country, I think back to something the great Ronald Reagan once told me. He told me, "Johnny, whether you're babysitting a chimp or battling terrorists, you can be sure of one thing: If you turn your back for even one second, you are going to get feces thrown at you." So America, the choice is yours: do you want to get feces thrown at you? I didn't think so.

19 February 2008

BSB Flashback: Stick

This flashback is in honor of the recently discovered Beezlebufo or Devil Toad, a prehistoric frog the size of a bowling ball which (according to Scientific American) may have eaten baby dinosaurs.

Note: Word on Capitol Hill is that Sen. Arlen Specter (R-PA) will be calling in the Beelzebufo to testify on possible use of human growth hormone... which is only slightly more ridiculous than Congress wasting taxpayer time and money on Roger Clemens and cheating in the NFL.

27 June 2007

Author/Illustrator: Steve Breen

This is the first picture book for Breen, the Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist. With the story of Stick, a headstrong young frog who likes to do things on his own, Breen displays an impressive sense of humor and comic timing. One day, when Stick shoots his tongue out to catch a dragonfly, he gets carried away (literally) and embarks on a wild airborne adventure. Through a series of surprising developments, Stick excitedly explores the wild world... but will he ever make it back home?

Stick is merely the latest in a long and celebrated line of frog explorers. Indeed, nature's first true explorers were the frog's distant ancesters, those intrepid souls who first ventured out of the primordial ooze: the early amphibians. Frogs are direct descendants of those brave few who left the comforts of their homes to explore the unknown lands above the surface of the water. It's almost as if wanderlust is genetically encoded in frog DNA.

Young Stick also owes much to the most persistent explorer in frog history... an adventurer whose exploits are so well-known that he is known simply as: Frogger. Before Frogger, the frog population had to be content with life around the dank world of the pond. But Frogger yearned for more, he want to stretch the boundaries of his world and boldly go where no frog had gone before.

While people still wonder why the chicken crossed the road, no one questions the Frogger's motives. Frogger did not set out to conquer the world, he set out to conquer himself. Despite frequent setbacks and increasingly dangerous traffic, he refused to quit until he crossed every street that he came across. His indomitable spirit would not be denied... he would either succeed or get flattened in the process.

Left: An 18th Century Tapestry depicting The Wondrous Adventures of Frogger: Explorer Extraordinaire.

Other notable amphibious explorers:

Mr. Toad: Not content with life at Toad Hall, our hero follows Dante's lead and explores the depths of Hell. This harrowing journey is well documented in his memoirs: Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.

Kermit: Perhaps the most famous frog in history, Kermit was the ultimate explorer, blazing trails and opening doors at a prolific clip. He first burst onto the scene as the first frog in space ("One small hop for frogs, one giant leap for frogkind.").

Returning to a hero's welcome, Kermit leveraged his newfound fame into a legendary career in film and television. After conquering the entertainment world and winning every award possible, Kermit begins to feel that familiar itch to touch the void of the unknown... it was not in his nature to be content. So he set out to explore what he believed to be the frog's final frontier: Politics.

Stealing a page from the GOP playbook (which turned the celebrity of Reagan, Schwarzenegger, and possibly Fred Thompson into political gold), the Green Party convinces Kermit to make a run for the presidency. Kermit immediately accepts the challenge. In the first in a series of shrewd moves, Kermit selects his longtime advisor Fozzy Bear to be his running mate (Fozzy's down-to-earth charm and folksy humor polls extremely well down South).

Despite a spirited campaign, Kermit's bid for the highest office in the land eventually falls short (though, being a third party candidate in America, they never really stood much of a chance anyways). While he may have lost the election, Kermit once again wins our hearts when he ends his concession speech with a tearful rendition of "It's Not Easy Being Green."

Who knows, perhaps young Stick will go down in history as the next great frog explorer. But if so, it should be noted that he did not do it alone... he was standing on the shoulders of giants.

15 February 2008

A Bottom Shelf Public Service Announcement

I originally made this for fun. (Note: If you are in the field of literacy and you are a photoshop dork, yes this is considered fun. Stop laughing.) Then I thought I'd offer these up on Cafepress so that you could buy your own pro-literacy merchandise.

Unfortunately, there were questions as to whether it was parody (good) or copyright infringement (bad). But if enough people are interested in sporting their own YouRead merchandise, let me know and I'll see if I can outfox Youtube's legal team.

14 February 2008

Valentine's Day Flashback: The Dot & the Line: A Romance In Lower Mathematics

14 February 2007

Author: Norton Juster

In honour of Valentine's Day, here is a timeless love story from the man who brought you The Phantom Tollbooth. This is the story of a straight line who is in love with a dot. The dot, however, is infactuated with a freeflowing and "too cool for school" squiggle. The dejected line goes off and conquers his insecurities by improving himself through the magic of geometry. He then puts on an impressive display that puts the squiggle to shame and wins the heart of the dot.

Rumor has it that Juster wrote this book just before going to his 10 year high school reunion. True or not, Juster's book embodies the dream of every nerd in history: to return to the scene of his shame (high school) as a successful and worldly man that suddenly turns the tables on all those jocks and stoners by winning the girl that had so painfully dismissed him in the past. If this were an eighties movie, the cast would be:

Dot: Molly Ringwald
Line: Anthony Michael Hall (though my younger sister suggested Jon Cusack, which is probably a better choice)
Squiggle: Some unkempt combination of Christian Slater and Judd Nelson

Directed by: Robert Zemekis (only because John Hughes would be too obvious)

Happy Valentine's Day...

...from the Bottom Shelf!

11 February 2008

Yes We Can!

Author: Sam McBratney
Illustrator: Charles Fuge

The cover of this book really does a good job of capturing the momentum that is building behind the Obama campaign. Here you see animals enthusiastically jumping in the air, which is appropriate because this election has drawn more interest and enthusiasm than any election in recent memory.

But note that the animals are not your standard elephant and donkey. No, here you have a kangaroo, a mouse, and a duck. In their diversity, they represent the vanguard of the movement towards a post-partisan political climate. We are more than just democrats and republicans, blue states and red states... I mean, a blue kangaroo? That's just silly.

Look a little closer and you will notice the leaves falling from the sky, indicating that we are indeed in a season of change, which has been one of the prime buzzwords of this election season. It is no wonder that Obama chose this book to be the foundation of his campaign message: Yes We Can.

Here is the Obama Yes We Can speech in New Hampshire, the one used for the will.i.am video. While the video is cool, I prefer the speech without the celebrities because, call me square, but I'd rather not have my vote swayed by the lead singer of the Pussy Cat Dolls.

07 February 2008

Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday

Author: Judith Viorst
Illustrator: Ray Cruz

All this week, football fans across the nation are sympathizing with young Alexander. With all the betting that goes on around the Superbowl, many Americans used to be rich last Sunday. I mean, the Patriots seemed like such a lock...

It just goes to show, gambling is bad. Are you listening, kids? Gambling. Bad. Don't turn away, take a good hard look at that picture of poor Alexander and you'll see the fate that awaits you if you enter into the shady world of sports gambling. If you're not careful, you could be that loser in the unlucky football jersey standing alone with empty pockets and a deflated spirit. Don't let that be you.

Luckily, I don't gamble on sports (not that I have any money to gamble with anyways), so I didn't lose any money by betting on my Patriots (I know they cheated, but your team is your team).

Even though I didn't lose money and even though it is just a sport, as a Pats fan, I still feel like I've lost something on Sunday. I mean, as if this miracle play wasn't bad enough...

...someone had to go convert the play into the following clip, which has to potential to simultaneously taint a great Radiohead song and the memory of my favorite Nintendo game.

I may not have lost any money on last Sunday's game, but like Alexander, I felt much richer last Sunday.

05 February 2008


Author/Illustrator: David Wiesner

That's right, it's Tuesday. But not just any Tuesday... it's SUPER TUESDAY. And Wiesner's masterpiece, which features a night of flying frogs, is oddly appropriate on this day. How so? Not just because the title is Tuesday, but because Wiesner's surrealist vision asks us to challenge the boundaries of what we believe is possible. And isn't that kind of the point of this whole process? It's Tuesday, a chance to imagine the world as you would like to see it and to cast your vote accordingly.

For a minute, allow yourself to imagine a world that has finally woken from the nightmare that is the Bush Administration and consider where we go from here. So, if you are in one of the 24 states participating in this political royal rumble, determine which candidate's policies, vision, and leadership speaks to you and most closely matches your hopes and dreams for this country... and then whether by car, bike, foot, or lily pad, get yourself to the polls and cast your vote.

Because it's Tuesday, and anything is possible.

03 February 2008

The Three Golden Keys

For someone who loves picture books and used bookstores, I actually spend very little timein the children's sections of used bookstores. I guess this is because they are usually crammed in a neglected corner of the store, and usually nothing more than a mountain of chaos.

But this weekend while roaming the city on a unexpectedly beautiful day, I decide to brave the kid's section for a few minutes. I look over and the spine of one book pops out at me right away. It was a beautiful brand new hard copy of The Three Golden Keys by Peter Sis.

Sis is one of the modern giants of children's literature, who truly elevates the medium to the level of high art. His books bring to mind the fiction of Borges, Italo Calvino, and Orhan Pahmuk... but with the added bonus of beautifully intricate illustrations.

After reading through the book, I flip back to the front and find this inscription:


I plopped over the $15 for the book and after a quick google search it turns out that this is an autographed first edition which currently sells for $150!

So I guess I did "reach for the best" when I bent down to pluck this treasure off the store's bottom shelf. Thank you, Mr. Sis! Or should I say, thank you whoever was foolish enough to let go of the book in the first place!

Putting the Minh in Advertiseminht.

FYI: I'm experimenting with Google AdSense, but that shouldn't really affect anything. I'll try not to let the pennies go to my head...