Friday, October 21, 2011

Funny Book Friday: A Parent's Guide to Cura Te Ipsum Volume 1

Disclaimer:  I've been sick with the flu for almost two weeks. Just keep in mind that I'm kinda high on cold medicine while I write this....

Cura Te Ipsum
Written by: Neal Bailey
Illustrated by: Dexter Wee
To Buy: www.CharlieEverett.com

Cura Te Ipsum was my favorite find of Geek Girl Con.  The con was winding down and we were finally taking a few moments to check out the expo hall in detail.  Author Neal Bailey was sitting at his table and a mock prop from the book caught Nate's eye. Since I was standing there awkwardly,  I asked him what the book was all about.  He summarized the plot and when he was done Nate politely asked "What age do you recommend this for?"  and I knew that his interest had been piqued.

Cura Te Ipsum is the story of Charlie Everett.  From The Cura Te Ipsum website:
Charlie Everett is much like any other Charlie, the everyman. In most universes, Charlie Everett gets sick of his life (where he’s most often a guidance counselor who tells other people how to live their lives, while not knowing how to live his own). After a certain point, he’s fired, and he goes home and sticks a pistol in his mouth and blows his brains out. Charlie Prime, our hero, is stopped by another character, Leo, who introduces him to the concept of the multiverse, and tells him that there’s a whole team of Charlies, Cura Te Ipsum, fighting to stop him from committing suicide across time and space.
Charlie is our hero. He is brave, sad, and after he meets the Dark Everett, steadfastly committed to keeping himself and other versions of himself alive, to end the threat.

Nate is in his angsty tween phase, and I think the idea of sad, suicidal Charlie being saved by confident, alterna-Charlie (Leo) was appealing to him.  He’s also really into alternate universe stories at the moment (he loves Marvel's Noir series, for example).   Neal's answer to the age appropriateness question was "It's dark and has swearing and violence; but all in context.  You know your kid and what they can handle".  

The book is indeed dark and violent.  Nate handled it just fine for the most part, but one of the more violent scenes in the book did seem to stick with him. If your kid is emotionally mature enough to handle a dark storyline about suicide, the book is worthwhile read.

I think this is a fantastic book, and Nate agrees.  He cannot wait to get his hands on Volume 2, and neither can I.  The writing is snappy without being trite and the art, even without the aid of a colorist, is beautiful.  (The lack of color in the book actually has the benefit  of taming some of the violence; blown off heads just aren't quite as gross without color).  The story gets off to a nice quick start, pulling the reader into the story right off the bat.  The main antagonist is introduced with enough exposition to intrigue the reader, while leaving enough unanswered questions to keep you wanting more.

The idea of alterna-yous searching you out to tell you it's going to be okay and invite you to be part of a inter-universe super squad is fresh and unique and is sure to appeal to many.  Cura Te Ipsum explores the human will to survive, the struggle to pull yourself up from darkness and find a purpose.  So many of us have felt as bad as Charlie at one time or another, this book will resonate with that part of you.   

Parent's Guide:
Age Appropriateness: It's a pretty dark subject matter, and there's a good amount of swearing and violence, though it's all in context. This one is definitely one to read with and/or before readers younger than 16. Nate really enjoyed it, but it was a bit disturbing to him.  I don't think it's anything worse than what's sometimes on TV.

Things to look out for: Suicide, swearing, violent images including a background image of someone eating a corpse.

Talking Points:Why does Charlie want to commit suicide.  Why do you think the other Charlies want to save him?  Why do you think that Dark Everett wants to stop them?  Why does the group use the phrase "Cura Te Ipsum" and how does Dark Everett use the same phrase, even though he has an opposite objective?  What would you say to Charlie?  What do you think alternate versions of you would be like?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

You win some, you lose some.

A few days ago Kitty overheard me talking about the masquerade taking place at this weekend's Geek Girl Con.  After peppering me with questions about what a masquerade was, she asked if she could "finally" dress as Buffy.  After two years of steering her in a more child-friendly Halloween costume direction, I conceded that if there was a group of people who were going to appreciate (instead of being appalled at) a preschooler dressed as a teenage vampire slayer it would be the Masquerade Audience at Geek Girl Con. 

The costume was simple to put together, a "mini" skirt, and a hooded sweater vest from her closet were a good age-appropriate approximation of what Buffy would frequently fight the vamps in.  I bought her a pair of shiny black boots that we will paint and repurpose for Halloween and a cheap costume cross.  We made a stake from floral foam and paper mache.  Kitty practiced her staking and kicking and off we went.

As soon as we got to the con I knew there would be stiff competition in the kids' category.  We ran into an absolutely adorable young Dr. Horrible with his sister dressed in a sweet interpretation of Captain Hammer.  The caliber of costumes of the kids in line with us was AMAZING.  Their mom-made costumes were intricate and awesome.  The kids spent time backstage playing with their accessories and having a great time.

When the show started  moms started reminding their kids about their "moves" and we all cheered loudly for each child.  Every single one of them rocked the stage, making their costumed personas come to life.  It was adorable.

Then it was time to announce the winners.  We had told Kitty that we were proud of her, that she did great, and that she needed to cheer loudly for whichever of her new friends won, even if it wasn't her.  Then it happened...it *wasn't* her, and she totally freaked the eff out.  She was crying, loudly.  At first it was kinda sad and adorable, a little mini Buffy crying onto her patent boots, stake in hand.   It was understandable.  At four years old losing is hard.  Then as it went on it quickly became not cute.   We explained to her that it was okay, that not everyone could win, that she should be happy for the girl who won, whose costume she had admired backstage.  She was still sobbing, whining that "I wanted a prize".  At that point the response from me was "You didn't win so you don't get a prize. Take a breath and pull yourself together, you need to be a gracious loser".


It was like this, except not as cute.

As people filtered out of the auditorium and we sat there, holding tear-stained Kitty, people offered their congratulations and compliments.  But more than one of them said the same thing: "ALL the kids should get prizes".  I appreciate the sentiment, I do.  It's hard to see little ones upset about something they were excited about (a tiny Princess Leia, the only other contestant as young as Kitty was also crying over her loss) but what do our kids learn if they always win?   I'd rather Kit experience losing and have her meltdown over the disappointment of her first big loss now when it's developmentally appropriate.  If we let all the kids win, victory is meaningless.  And frankly, the kid who won had a better costume and put on an awesome stage show, she deserved the win.

As parents we work so hard to teach our kids to be fair, be kind and be polite.  Losing is a fantastic opportunity to reinforce those lessons.  It's really, really hard to be a gracious loser, but it's a skill we all must learn. Making every kid a winner isn't a great way to prepare kids for real life. Most adults will experience more "losses" than "wins". No one wants to see a grown woman sobbing because she couldn't find jeans in her size on sale or an executive throwing a fit because she didn't land a deal (though that actually does happen...).

We went home, we had celebratory banana splits, and when someone later that night asked her about her experience she said  "I had fun, and I jumped around, but I didn't win." without even a hint of sadness.  She got over losing, just like we all learn to.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

In Memoriam: Steve Jobs


Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do. - Apple Inc.

I remember the first time I sat down in front of a computer that wasn't in my school computer lab.  I sat there, perplexed as I looked desperately for the Apple key.

I was part of the first generation of school children to have a computer lab in our school. Thanks to the generosity (and marketing genius) of Jobs/Apple, many kids in the mid-eighties grew up learning how to compute using an Apple computer. My father was an IBM  programmer at the time, but the lack of affordable home computer options meant that his oldest daughter would do her first word processing, Print Shopping and ascii art (and later layout the high-school newspaper) on the competition's equipment.

I'm not a big Apple fan today - I tend to lean more towards open source options - but Job's affect on technology development isn't lost on me.

I hope his family is able to find a small comfort in the fact that Jobs' innovations are part of most Americans'  daily lives.  He made a huge mark in this world and will live on in a way that few of us ever will.
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