They call him Ruslan, the last human. Rescued from Seraboth by the Myssari, he does not remember his real name. Humanity all but destroyed itself due to violence. The once far-reaching human empire of many worlds eventually succumbed to the Aura Malignance, a contagious infection caused by a biological weapon that was developed by humans, which killed only humans and could not be stopped.
Ruslan has been kept alive by the Myssari for many years as a highly valued and well respected, last human specimen. The Myssari are more honest, kind, friendly, trustworthy and less violent than humans. Ruslan respects those qualities and appreciates their care. Still, he does not control his own destiny. The Myssari wish to preserve the record of human civilization and restore the species while he thinks it is a waste of time and resources. Ruslan believes that humans deserved their fate. He views humans as opportunistic exploiters of just about anything. The Myssari offer to search for any other living humans and to try to find the planet Earth. Together, they travel to several different worlds in search of humans and encounter many obstacles, competing species and a variety of unusual outcomes.
Any reader who lasts through Chapter 8 may wonder why the story is so long and drawn out and may be tempted to quit there. But it gets more interesting fairly quickly. The characters are well developed and this is a good story that has a surprise ending. Relic could be adapted as a very interesting movie.
Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.
During quarantine I became immensely comfortable with my couch and by extension my television. Many hours were lost to Netflix, Amazon Prime and Apple TV. One series that surprised and delighted me was Dickinson. It is a comedy which follows a young Emily Dickinson as she observes the constraints of gender, society and family in the 19th century. Hailee Steinfeld leads the cast as Emily and her portrayal brings to life the poet whose presumed life choices has overshadowed her poetry. Her poetry, or poetry itself, is the crux of my rambling – after watching an episode I went to my bookshelf to find The Poems of Emily Dickinson so I could read her words again.
I find reading poetry immensely energizing, it brings me great joy, so I leap at the opportunity to share it. Lucky for me a whole month is dedicated to celebrating it; April is National Poetry Month* and this year is the 25th anniversary. Unfortunately, this year’s celebration looks different from past years – there may not be as many public readings or SLAM performances, but you can have your very own poetry reading from the comfort of your couch. You can celebrate the occasion by reading a poem-a-day, picking up a book of poetry from the bookstore or library, or watching famous and local poets perform their work on YouTube.
There are also abundant resources to help you celebrate on Poets.org.
The Library has opened its doors just in time to celebrate, come browse our shelves and discover the world of poetry.
*National Poetry Month was created by the Academy of American Poets; a national, member-supported organization that promotes poets and the art of poetry. The nonprofit organization was incorporated in the state of New York in 1934.
Comics are a medium, one that comes in an many formats. Below is a short guide to the rich variety of these publications.
Album – European comics with larger page size and higher number of pages than comics in the U.S. See Pamphlet
Anime – Animation, for TV or the movies, made in Japan, and for the Japanese market. For more info, see our Manga and Anime FAQ
Animation– A form of film using drawings (and sometimes other techniques) to create the illusion of motion
Asian Comics– Comics are called manga in Japan, manhwa in Korea, or manhua in China. For more info, see our Manga and Anime FAQ
Audio Comics – A form of audio narrative that is structured like a comic when created. Important elements such as action and setting are explained in detail. Sound cues are used to indicate shifts from panel to panel. For people who are not blind, it sounds something like an old-time radio serial
Bande Dessinée (or BD) – French term for Comic Books. They are usually published in the Album format
Bluesies – See Tijuana Bible
Caricature – a drawing style that exaggerates features, particularly of the face, to portray individuals in an easily recognizable manner. Often used in editorial Cartoons
Cartoons (when not animated) – Typically, these are single panel comics of an editorial nature
Chick Tracts – Short Pamphlet with Evangelical Christian themes. This type of comic gained its name from the most prolific publisher of the form, Jack Chick
Comic Art– A form of Sequential Art
Comic Books (or Comics) – The most generally used name for individual issues of comic art; often they are Soft-bound(Comics). See Pamphlet
Comics Strips – Short pieces of comic art to be published in a periodical (such as a newspaper or magazine), most often to be read horizontally
Comics with hand-sewn spines – Comics assembled like a scrapbook
Comics with tête-bêche binding– A rare format for comics wherein two different comics are bound together back to back, each reversed from the other so they share the same spine. Tête-bêche is French for, roughly translated, “head to tail.” These works are sometimes called double books or reversible books
Crossover – The placement of two or more otherwise discrete fictional characters, settings, or universes into the context of a single story. They can arise from legal agreements between the relevant copyright holders, or because of unauthorized efforts by fans. Most of these comics are not part of the canon of any of the original works
Digest-sized (Comics) – Comics which are roughly the size of paperback books
Digital Comics– Comics that are released digitally. They may be Motion Comics or Webcomics
Film Comics – Sometimes known as Cine-Manga or Ani-Manga. Manga works which use illustrations directly found in an Anime rather than original art, and which utilize dialog from that anime
Flipbooks – Comics where each page’s art varies slightly and when flipped creates the illusion of motion
Floppies – See Soft-bound (Comics)
Foldable Comics– Comics that are shaped in some manner (like a work of origami) and are to be read as the shape is unfolded
Fumetti – Italian term for comic books as a whole. Some use this term to designate a specific format using photographs and word balloons (which was very popular in Italy during the 1940’s and 1950’s). In the English speaking world, this specific format is known as the Photonovel
Graphic Adaptations – These are works that use a story from another medium (poetry, movies, or novels are most common) but translate them into a comic format. They may also be called Tie-Ins with relation to a particular current popular work (where they act primarily as advertising for that work)
Graphic Novels – In the purest form, a stand-alone comic of book length with a clear beginning, middle, and end to its story. However, the term is often used interchangeably with Trade Paperback
Hard-bound (Comics) – Publications with a stiff cover (like a book or graphic novel)
Hybrid Comics– Printed comics that are read in tandem with digital content
Illustrated Book – A book with words and pictures but where the story is coherent without the pictures. Contrast with Wordless Comics
Infinite Canvas – A format for comics on a computer wherein the monitor does not replicate the printed page. The screen is seen as a window to a story told in any direction, theoretically ever-expanding. Hyperlinking and touch options may add interactive elements to works
Light Novel – A Japanese publishing format of short stories, liberally interspersed with manga illustrations. Typically, the story is about what would be classified as a novella in the U.S.
Magazines– Serial pamphlets of a larger size than the average comic book in the U.S., often printed on higher quality paper. See Pamphlet
Manga – Comics made in Japan for the Japanese market. In Japan, titles are published first in magazine format as part of a larger anthology. If successful, an individual manga will be reprinted in a collected edition. There are many genres of manga, catering to a wide variety of audiences. For more info, see our Manga and Anime FAQ
Metacomic – In brief, a metacomic is a comic about a comic. The characters are able to take advantage of the comic’s structure to progress in the storyline. Or – if the characters remain unaware of their fictional status, the story itself comments on those structures, conventions of genre, or fan expectations
Mini-comics– Comics which are not professionally published, often having an unusual size. See Zines
Motion Comics –Digital Comics that combine motion, sound, or interactive elements with pictures and words to tell a story. Some feel that Motion Comics are really just a kind of Animation
Pamphlet – A complete publication of generally less than 80 pages stitched or stapled together and usually having a paper cover. There is no particular size requirement, thus Albums or Comic Books or Magazines fit the category of pamphlet if they are not Hard-bound
Phonebook (Comics) – A term for a certain type of collection of previously published comics that is printed on pulp paper and is very thick (like old-fashioned phonebooks). The style was made popular in the 1980’s by Dave Sim when he collected story arcs of his comic, Cerebus
Photonovels – Comics which use photographs rather than drawings. See Fumetti
Picture Book – A book where words and pictures are used to tell a story but where the pictures are of equal value (or are more dominant) in doing so. Most often picture books are for children
Poetry Comics – Comics that use poetic structure rather than the more typical prose style. The term may also be used for Graphic Adaptations of poetic works
Sequential Art – A term defined by Will Eisner as, “an art form that uses images deployed in sequence for graphic storytelling or to convey information”
Soft-bound (Comics) – Single issues of comics with a floppy spine, often stapled in the middle. They are also sometimes called Floppies
Square-bound (Comics) – Publications printed on flexible cardstock that are bound on the side like a book. Known in the publishing industry as a Trade Paperback
Tankōbon– A Japanese term for a book length, stand-alone comic (similar to how Trade Paperback or Graphic Novel are used in English)
Tebeos– Spanish-language term for comic books. In Spain the term is more specific, used to denote a magazine that contains comics
Tie-Ins– See Graphic Adaptations
Tijuana Bible – Sometimes known as Bluesies. Small-sized pornographic comics, often parodies of mainstream comics, that were published from the 1930’s to the 1950’s
Topper – A smaller comic that runs across and/or around the borders of another comic. This was once a popular technique used in comic strips when the size of comic strips and the space allotted to them in the newspaper was much larger than today
Trade Paperback – A book of previously published issues that originally appeared as individual comics. In common parlance, this is often referred to as a Graphic Novel
Treasury-sized (Comics) – Oversized comic books, approximately the size of an unfolded newspaper page
Typography Comics – Comics which play on the graphic element of words to tell a story. They often have pictures to accompany the words
Webcomics– Comics created for and published on the Internet. They may be limited to what is immediately on the screen, hyperlinked to other information, or use the Infinite Canvas format
Webtoons – A style of Digital Comics that originated in South Korea which takes advantage of the Infinite Canvas and which may include animated or audio elements. They are designed to be best consumed on a phone or tablet
Wordless Comics – Stories told using only pictures. Contrast with Illustrated Book
Zines– D.I.Y. Magazines that combine any number of art styles, particularly self-created comics
Warning:This review contains allusions to disordered eating, parental emotional abuse, trauma and PTSD.
With the release in December 2020 of the recent documentary, Audrey, providing a personal glimpse into internationally beloved actress and humanitarian Audrey Hepburn, fans of her activism, her iconic style and her legend will likely find themselves reaching for other works to provide insight and a feeling of closeness to her. I cannot more strongly recommend Robert Matzen’s Dutch Girl, an addicting biography of Hepburn’s adolescence in the Nazi-occupied Netherlands that reads like historic fiction written by your favorite World War II scholar. It is a marriage of emotion and adrenaline, crafted by a historian whose awe of his subject is apparent throughout the work, and in this intimate tribute to the origins of Hepburn’s legacy of empathy and philanthropy, it doesn’t take readers long to see his point.
Meticulously researched and assembled with the care and sentiment of a personal scrapbook, Dutch Girl is a window into Hepburn’s childhood, defined by parents whose Nazi sympathies nearly destroyed her family and contributed to the occupation and abuse of the Netherlands by Germany during World War II. We are treated to the story of a child of respectively absent and dominant personalities in a wealthy, titled family that had already begun to decline by the time Adolf Hitler rose to power, and how far that family had still to struggle. To say young, mild-mannered Audrey (so-called Adriaantje in Dutch) is the perfect perspective for readers to experience life in the Netherlands as it existed under German occupation is an understatement, and Matzen’s detailed yet fluid writing style adds to the sensation that you’re simply reading a novel about a young girl set during this time. As someone for whom ADHD makes focusing on sitting through an entire book difficult, it surprised me how quickly and easily I was sucked in to this wartime account. Even before Matzen compares the two, it’s easy to see through the story of another girl experiencing the same events from a different perspective why Otto Frank initially asked Hepburn to portray his daughter Anne when her famous diary was made into a film.
Dutch Girl sometimes veers away from a focus on Hepburn to describe significant military maneuvers by Allied or German troops and what their operations meant for Velp, the town in which Hepburn’s family relocated to try to survive the war and unwittingly placed her in both extreme danger and as privy to some of its major events in the Netherlands. But these digressions into what the S.S. was also up to at a certain time or Hepburn’s mother’s lineage and what it meant for her rarely feel distracting: Matzen is an experienced biographer who spins his historic narrative with its seemingly-unrelated factual events in an engaging way that you barely mind, and sometimes forget about Audrey Hepburn the fifteen-year-old a bit in the middle of all the excitement. When we steer back to her it is as a palate-cleanser from the adrenaline of an exciting wartime account and the emotional anchor of the book. As Hepburn’s son Luca Dotti notes in his foreword, after reading the biography, “Even I immediately forgot that there would be a happy ending for Audrey. As I read, I realized that bomb, that bullet, that German truck and its load of prisoners could simply be The End.”
We are led with Hepburn on a journey as she witnesses atrocities experienced by Jewish friends and neighbors; experiences her uncle being murdered by the SS in an assassination that would become infamous; volunteers as an errand-runner for members of the Dutch Resistance; and experiences the “Hunger Winter” of 1945 in brutal detail. But these are just the major placeholders between dozens of everyday accounts that fill the book, curated from the few occasions Hepburn ever spoke of the war and from others in her immediate community who gave accounts as well. Matzen’s thoroughness in bringing multiple facets of her experiences to life through others introduces us in depth to figures like Hepburn’s mother, the complicated and flawed Ella van Heemstra, who transitions from an outspoken supporter of Hitler’s genocidal plans to someone who finds her mind changed when it’s her own family impacted, bombed and starved, and her sons are in hiding from the threat of being drafted while she struggles to keep her daughter safe from German soldiers.
We also learn about everyday heroes of the Dutch Resistance active in Velp that Hepburn had links to: especially Dr. Hendrik Visser ‘t Hooft, an illegal-motorcycle-riding, Nazi-evading, charismatic figure in the Resistance for whom Hepburn volunteered at his hospital and who was likely the person through whom she worked with the Dutch Resistance. I have never heard his name in a history class or anywhere else, and I’m sure most people haven’t, but it was just plain fun reading about this everyday hero who used his privilege in his own community to work to safeguard his Jewish neighbors and facilitate efforts to resist fascism, even with Nazis actively marching down his streets. I now have about six books on the Dutch, German and French Resistances lined up to read, and it’s completely his fault.
A wide collection of works documenting the life of Audrey Hepburn as a starlet and later ambassador have been produced, but as the kids say, Dutch Girl just hits different. It tells the story of a complete human whose world was so much more than many know, and relatable at every turn despite taking place nearly a century ago in what likely felt like a completely different world. Artists and performers pushing themselves physically to the limit to pursue their dreams around multiple side-hustles can see themselves in Matzen’s account of Audrey’s post-war struggles, newly arrived in a different country and flinging herself from ballet to theater while still a teenager in order to earn enough money to support herself and her mother. Her complicated, lifelong relationship with food first as a child studying a physically intensive sport, nearly starving along with her entire family on “war rations”, and joyfully, chronically overeating when once again able and describing herself as a “…swollen, and unattractive, as a balloon…” when from a lifetime of photographs we know this to be an untrue perspective on her own body, will resonate with many. Children of domineering parents may recognize the origins of Hepburn’s self-criticism in her mother early on in this account of her childhood, only to be proven right towards the end of the book at Hepburn’s self-deprecating account of her mother’s casual, backhanded insults of her even at the height of her Hollywood career.
While it is impossible for those of us living in 2021 to comprehend the horrors of World War II, it feels almost familiar to read, over a year into pandemic quarantine, of a young girl forced to shelter in a basement with her family, sneaking out for a bit to get some sun in the backyard one day (and almost getting bombed by the war literally playing itself out in her backyard). It feels like a balm, or even a promise, to read about that time in her life when hope was in short supply and then celebrate with her as Matzen describes the final liberation of Velp by Canadian troops with accounts of joyful reunions with long-lost neighbors and families reuniting to rebuild. The war never ended for Audrey Hepburn in many ways that she barely let on in her lifetime, but her actions as a tireless advocate for those devastated by wars and disasters speak more loudly than the quiet interviews that earned her a reputation for mystery ever could.