Do you know a history buff with a sense of humor? That person should already have a copy of Kate Beaton’s first book, Hark! A Vagrant! Now Beaton brings us Step Aside, Pops (Drawn and Quarterly, $19.95) with all new strips featuring The Black Prince, Ida B. Wells, Emperor Maximilian, racist suffragettes, and a highly disgruntled Wonder Woman. Beaton is a master of three-panel cartoons: her drawing is loose and expressive, and her humor as silly, surreal, and angry as ever. Anyone who can read Step Aside, Pops without laughing out loud at least eight times is more to be pitied than censured. Plus, most of her characters have crazy eyes—who doesn’t like crazy eyes? If you want to sit on the sofa and chortle until it’s time to catch the plane back home—you see the holidays rollin’ up, you Step Aside, Pops. (Spoiler alert: Pops doesn’t step aside; he gets run over by an insolent velocipedestrienne.)
Zachary Thomas Dodson’s first novel is a bibliophile’s dream: gilded pages, cut edges, thick paper, hand-drawn maps, natural history illustrations, and beguiling other-worldly diagrams introduce a narrative equally rich and ingenious. Bats of the Republic: An Illuminated Novel (Doubleday, $27.95), starts in 1843 with Zadock Thomas leaving Chicago on a mission to deliver a letter to a general in Texas. But he is sidetracked—literally—by a sudden flock of bats. Then it’s three hundred years later. Paranoia rules the Earth and another Thomas, Zeke, has inherited a letter and many mysteries . . . By turns adventure, science fiction, and epic—or maybe all at once—this novel is riveting to read, gorgeous to hold.
This review is dedicated to Thea, Pax, Joanie, and Buster—some of P&P’s canine friends. We like having dogs around. Even the most diehard cat fans among us agree that it makes the workday a little easier to get through when there is a friendly (furry) face and a cold nose nearby. Dogs have a unique way of making us happy, even when we don’t want to be, even when we don’t think we can be happy. Maira Kalman got her dog Pete when her husband Tibor was dying. It seemed like a bad idea for someone who had always been afraid of dogs. But somewhere in a “remote part” of her brain, she knew a dog would help her family get through their tragedy. She was right, he did. Having Pete revealed a new world of unconditional love, humor, comfort, and fun that she had never known before. Beloved Dog (Penguin Press, $29.95) is Kalman’s tribute to Pete and to the dogs that she has drawn and written about throughout her career.