Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Fixing My Gaze

by Susan R Barry
272 pages.

A brain scientist walks into an eye doctor's office and says, "Doc, I'm having this trouble with my vision."

It sounds like the start of a joke, but it's not. This book is the story of Susan Barry, a neuroscientist, who lacks stereovision or depth perception. Cross eyed in early infancy, Susan Barry never learned to see the world in three dimensions. She lived in a flat, two dimensional reality that would be hard for any of us to fathom. As she approached 50, Barry went to an optometrist about other vision problems and the doctor held out the possibility that it might still be possible to learn to see in 3D.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Noah's Ark

by Peter Spier
1977 / 48 pages

What author and illustrator Peter Spier gives us here is a beautifully illustrated, nearly wordless account of the Flood, with only three of the 48 pages containing text. There are two biblical quotations, one to start the book from Genesis 6:8: “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” The second ends the book, and is taken from Genesis 9:20: “… and he planted vineyard.” In addition, one page is given to an English translation of a 400-year-old poem about the Flood by Dutchman Jacobus Revius.

The rest of the book is filled with seemingly simple, but incredibly detailed pictures of Noah and his family as they build the Ark, bring in the animal pairs, and feed and care for them inside. Some of the detail is amusing – two dodos are shown waddling their way to safety (at least for a few thousand years). But we also see, in a series of panels, the floodwaters overtaking the many animals that were left behind. This is no cutesy, sanitized account!

I find most Bible storybooks quite problematic, as they so often mangle the biblical texts. What I appreciate about Spier’s account is that, because it is wordless, it actually requires that you go to the Bible to read the original account. So it is not a Bible storybook meant to replace Bible reading, but is instead a Bible study book, meant to spur further thinking on God’s Word.

Americans who like Noah’s Ark will also appreciate Spier’s We the People, a picture book he made celebrating the creation of the US constitution. It contains the text of the constitution (but only 26 amendments, as the book was written before the 27th was passed), a short account of how it was drafted, and pages upon pages of pictures showing how this document has shaped the country over the last 200 years. Most picture books are intended for children, but this is one of those rare ones that an adult will readily appreciate too.

You can pick up Peter Spier's Noah's Ark at Amazon.com here and Amazon.ca here.
One of the gorgeous illustrations: Noah and his sons hard at work, keeping the Ark clean.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Perelandra (Voyage to Venus)

by C. S. Lewis
originally published by John Lane the Bodley Head, 1943
206 pages

Last month, we saw parallels between C. S. Lewis's Out of the Silent Planet and Gulliver's Travels. Given that Lewis was a professor of English literature, it's not surprising that the second book in his space trilogy Perelandra (Voyage to Venus) also links up to a famous literary work: John Milton's epic poem Paradise Lost.

Perelandra raises the two questions that all Christians think of when reading Genesis 3 or Paradise Lost: How might the fall have been prevented, and why allow temptation into the world in the first place? To explore these questions, Lewis takes Ransom to Venus this time rather than Malacandra, and on a mission rather than in a kidnapping.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Physics and Psychology in the service of deception
by Jim Ottaviani and Janine Johnston
G.T Labs, 2007, 71 pages

Jim Ottaviani writes graphic novels about scientific topics, including the creation of the first nuclear bomb, and a biography of Neils Bohr. In this, one of his shorter efforts, he stretches to make the connection to science, insisting in his subtitle that this is about physics and psychology. It is, instead, a history of the development of the levitaiton magic trick, as it was refined by John Neville Maskelyne (1839-1917) and Harry Kellar (1849-1922).

So this is chance to not only see how one of the most intriguing magic tricks is done, but to how it was developed. If you have any interest in magic acts or an interest in clever engineering you will find this as fascinating as I did.

I should note that there is one language concern: there are three occurrences of the word "damn." The only other caution I could add is that the magicians used mystic patter in the set-up for their tricks, calling on the spirits for help, or talking about how they learned this secret from a pagan priest in far off lands. This is a minor element, and hardly a persuasive presentation of paganism, but might be a reason not to give this to the very young.

But then this is quite clearly intended for teens and adults, as it is a fairly reading-intense "comic." Overall, just a fun, intriguing read, and I look forward to reading more of Jim Ottaviani's material.

You can pick up Levitation at Amazon.com here and Amazon.ca here.