Sunday Book Reviews – 10/11/20

Bookshelf books, photo by Alien Motives

The Wild Goose Chronicles by Trent Harris (1998, Gibbs Smith)

This is a travelogue book, written in gonzo journalism style by the creator of the movie Rubin and Ed. It details his efforts to get to Timbuktu, Mali, and his return.

It’s a very good example of the form, but misses out on most of the sex and drugs which is typically awash within similar efforts. Gonzo journalism was popularized by Hunter S. Thompson and focuses on the accuracy of emotion and impression rather than factual accuracy. It is particularly helpful when writing pieces where the journalist may have been impaired because of mind-altering substances; rather than worry about whether something experienced was real, the journalist can explain what their particular impressions of reality were at a given time.

This provides a great deal of leeway to the author, and that freedom needs to be supplemented with storytelling. In this case, that requirement is fulfilled with humor. The result is a pleasant, if short, book. Despite being supplemented with pictures, taking advantage of blank space and using variable font sizes in an effort to convey emotional state, the book clocks in at about 110 pages.

It’s a pleasant casual read, though, and instructive without being too offensive for anyone who is curious about the format.

Bad Kitty For President by Nick Bruel (2012, Roaring Brook Press)

The Bad Kitty books are designed for young readers, from introducing children to the alphabet up through middle school concepts. Because of that, an adult needs to check the reading level of a particular book in the series before purchasing it for a child. That is fairly uncommon in books which aren’t tied to existing products (like Marvel or DC heroes) and needs to be addressed.

This book is designed for the older range of readers, the middle schoolers. It explains the American election process to children without getting into policy questions, staging the story as a challenge between Bad Kitty and one of the supporting characters in their effort to get elected to a position of prominence in their neighborhood.

The book is very impressive.

While other books regularly cover the function of government, it’s rare to find one that focuses on campaigning. Not only does BKfP fill that role, it does so fairly comprehensively. The book covers misinformation, attacking one’s rivals, positive messaging, debates and debate prep, balloting, and more. For a person who is truly politically active, it’s a relief to see all of the basics laid out in a presentation that is easily understood while having a storyline that can maintain a child’s interest.

For the typical parent, including those who believe they’re politically astute because they forward a lot of memes on Facebook, the result contains a hidden danger. It’s a book which, if read by a parent to a child, will likely teach the parent quite a bit; and if read exclusively by a child, will enable the child to correct their parents in conversation.

Many children love to correct their parents.

If you happen to have a young relative, aged 7-10, who’s confused or disinterested by the election and aren’t alienated from their parents because of partisan support, this would make an ideal gift. If there is some tension, you might want to wait a few months or more before presenting it to the child… but this is a book which should be made available to most kids. It’s an excellent supplement to the typical rudimentary explanations of government function.

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About AlienMotives 1991 Articles
Ex-Navy Reactor Operator turned bookseller. Father of an amazing girl and husband to an amazing wife. Tired of willful political blindness, but never tired of politics. Hopeful for the future.