“The Magic of Reality: How We Know What’s Really True” by Richard Dawkins, illustrated by Dave McKean (Free Press, 2011)

The Magic of Reality

Richard Dawkins, bestselling author of The Selfish Gene and The God Delusion, needs little introduction; and neither does illustrator Dave McKean, who has worked with a number of well-known authors, including Neil Gaiman, and was the creator behind the movie MirrorMask.  Now the two have joined together to bring you a unique book of science and evolution called The Magic of Reality.

In the first chapter of The Magic of Reality, Richard Dawkins sets the stage with an important explanation of the differences between reality and how incredible it can be, and the impressiveness of magic and miracles and how they are just illusions and not real.  The book explores a number of astonishing things about our world and universe, and how we have come to know it, such as: who the first person was, what things are made of, what is the sun, what is a rainbow, and what is an earthquake, to name a few.  The last two chapters are perhaps the most important, as Dawkins talks about why bad things happen to people, and what exactly a miracle is.

The Magic of Reality is an important read for anyone who is uncertain about the world we live and how it came to be the way it is.  Dawkins puts thoughts and sayings, extreme coincidences, good and bad luck in perspective, saying you may think it an incredible series of incidents to lead to a specific point that it may seem like there is some power or force behind it, but when you study each of those incidents on a scientific level, it all makes perfect sense to be just that: an incredible coincidence.  Coupled with Dave McKean’s captivating and mind-blowing illustrations to help illustrate points and reveal the complexity of seemingly ordinary things, The Magic of Reality is an important book to have, whether you’re looking to help an adult make up their minds about something, or constructively and efficiently educating a youngster who is learning about science and the way of life.

Originally written on November 20, 2011 ©Alex C. Telander.

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“The Graveyard Book” by Neil Gaiman and Michael McKean (Harpercollins, 2008)

Graveyard Bookstarstarstarstar

It seems inevitable in some ways that Neil Gaiman would one day write a book about a graveyard; and furthermore would make it a children’s book; and even furthermore write a wonderful tale about growing up, learning from your mistakes, and appreciating life to it’s fullest.  Welcome to The Graveyard Book.

Nobody Owens is doomed to begin with.  After his family is tragically killed by a determined and terrifying murderer who is now after him to finish the job, Bod finds himself in a graveyard adopted by some very strange ghosts and a father figure, Silas, who is neither dead nor alive, but somewhere in between.  His growing up and education is not one filled with arithmetic and grammar, but abilities of the dead like Fading and Dreamwalking.

It is no surprise that the book Gaiman was destined to write – and has spent many years working on and putting the pieces slowly together – features some of the strongest characters he has ever written.  First off there is Bod Owens, a wonderful young boy you can’t help falling in love with as you grow up with him and experience his many adventures.  Silas, the strong, paternal caretaker who is shrouded in mystery as to his origins and what it means being one of the “Honor Guard.”  Miss Lupescu, an Eastern European lady who looks after Bod for a summer, teaching him, and forcing him to eat her unusual foods.  It is a relationship that begins with hate, but ends in love and respect.  Liza Hempstock, a witch buried in potter’s field, shunned by most in the graveyard, but becoming an unusual acquaintance for Bod.  Scarlett, a living girl who considers Bod an imaginary friend at first, and then something more later.  There is even an appearance from the Lady on the Grey for the Danse Macabre.

At the end of The Graveyard Book, the reader is moved to sadness, as all things must come to end.  Gaiman has said that many readers told him they cried at the end, which is no surprise when we feel a little part of Bod in all of us.  It is the innocent, adventurous spirit within that hearkens back to stories like Peter Pan and The  Jungle Book, which Gaiman references in his acknowledgments.  The Graveyard Book doesn’t end with a bang or a whimper, but with a moving expression of hope: “But between now and then, there was Life; and Bod walked into it with his heart and his eyes wide open.”

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on November 9th 2008 ©Alex C. Telander.