Binky is a large cat, with a large curiosity and a very large brain. As such, he has managed to become Outer Space Certified, via a mail order course – and this without his human finding out! In this book, titled Binky The Space Cat (pictures and words by Ashley Spires, 2009, filed in the children’s shelves at C-160), Binky takes the next step.
He secretly builds a space ship. It’s hidden under the kitty litter.
He’s going to go… where no. Cat. Has gone. Before.
Binky is charming and driven, and the book offers a delightful look into a mind that is completely different from our own.
He’s been watching space shows on the telly, and knows that he is trapped inside. There’s a couch, kitty litter, and humans, and it’s safe inside. But out there, in outer space – it’s dangerous. There’s no air, and there are evil space beings! Binky is determined to fine-tune his rocketship, and get outside.
Why? Because he loves his humans, that’s why. They’re not very smart, and they need him to hunt down and destroy the space aliens.
Through scientific deduction, he has concluded that bugs are actually alien beings! Some of them have already infiltrated and are INSIDE!
Binky eats them.
Any flying or crawly thing is instantly gulped up. It’s the only way to keep the humans safe.
Binky has similar plans for his conquest of outer space, too.
Binky The Space Cat is a short graphic novel that both adults and children will love, filled with its own internal logic and analysis. (Warning: If read out loud, it might make less technologically inclined kitties feel insecure about their blowtorching skills. Remind your cats that they have other talents that are just as worthy.)
For another surrealist tale, check out Seeing Stars, by Gary Barwin (2001, in C-210 — a young teen book that adults will also find quite witty). It’s the story of Alex Isaacson and his strange family.
When he was three years old, his dad disappeared. And his mum has been in bed ever since. For 12 years.
Mom nonetheless holds down a job, making $3 a minute as a psychic reader of the stars. (While her predictions are incredibly accurate, she unfortunately cannot decipher anything about her own future in the heavens.)
Alex is embarrassed by his mother. He has grown up to be smart and self-sufficient, but he is still just a kid.
He feeds and washes his mother, changes the bedpan and plays cards with her. He goes to school (although he is at times late: “I was going to miss the bus… I’d only left myself time to shower my left side”).
But if his father’s family is anything to go by, dad was odd, too: “It was obvious that normal behavior and Uncle Bernard didn’t get along. Normal behavior kept banging on Uncle Bernard’s door trying to sell him a normal life and Uncle Bernard kept peering through the peephole, telling it to go away.”
Eventually, Alex may gave in and decide that it’s time to redefine “normal”. Readers certainly will.
FLOWERS, DOGS, AND SUICIDE ATTEMPTS
Katharine Mckenney has compiled a list of six novels, on the rather serious topic of mental health, that are also great reads.
“The concept of art as a coping mechanism for people suffering from mental illness is not new; and the idea that books can be relaxing is also not a ‘novel’ idea! In the spirit of mental health awareness, I decided to compile a list of books that bring awareness to lesser-known mental disorders and help ease the stigma associated with said illnesses. Reading can help ease the side effects of stress, anxiety, depression — and also end the stigma surrounding mental illness.”
Mckenney wrote these comments in an email to Good Reads, after compiling a column titled “Six novels to read during mental health and wellness week,” which was held this month on the Bishop’s University campus.
Here’s her list:
1) The “memoir” written by a human guinea pig in Flowers For Algernon, by Daniel Keyes (1966, a winner of that year’s prestigious Nebula Award for best sci-fi novel), “deals with the nature of mental illness and the nature of society”
2) The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath (1971, available via inter-library loan), the fictionalized memoir penned by the well-known poet (it was originally published in 1963 under the pseudonym Victoria Lucas, with Plath telling her mother: “I think it will show how isolated a person feels when he is suffering a breakdown…. I’ve tried to picture my world and the people in it as seen through the distorting lens of a bell jar”)
3) It’s Kind Of A Funny Story, by Ned Vizzini (2007, available via inter-library loan), follows a teen committed to a mental health institution after a suicide attempt
4) Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson (2009, in the Lennoxville Library under Young Adult) is a novel about anorexia, and is described as “harrowing and eye-opening”
5) Stephen Chbosky’s The Perks Of Being A Wallflower (2012, available via inter-library loan), the “endearing” tale of a “neuro-atypical” guy
6) The Curious Incident Of The Dog In Night-time, by Mark Haddon (2002, in the Lennoxville Library under Adult Fiction) is “written from the perspective of a 10-year-old boy on the autism spectrum as he tries to unravel a neighbourhood mystery.”
Mckenney acknowledges that autism is not a mental illness, but Dog In Night-time was included “to help shed some light on the inner workings of autistic minds. Many people in mainstream society struggle to understand the complex nature of minds different from their own, and those with autism-spectrum disorder are often wildly misunderstood. The inclusion of autism in the list was not to imply that people with autism can be ‘fixed’ — more to bring awareness to the gross injustices often suffered by those who are not neuro-typical.”
She hasn’t read Flowers For Algernon, she adds, although it’s now on her to-do list. That book came highly recommended by a colleague.
Her list is published in the current issue of The Campus, the student newspaper at Bishop’s University, where she is arts editor. (In her spare time, she is in her second year of an Honours International Studies degree.)
Says Mckenney: “I would just like to highlight the importance of creating awareness of mental health, and how the Bishop’s University Mental Health And Wellness Week was conceptualized to combat this hard-hitting stigma. In the spirit of ending prejudice against those suffering from mental illness, the article was created, which will (hopefully!) make understanding these illnesses easier.”
– Eleanor Brown, February 20, 2015