And Then I Read: MASKERADE by Terry Pratchett

This is the fifth book in the Witches sub-series of Pratchett’s vast Discworld saga, featuring the Lancre witches Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg, who are looking for a third to complete their coven. The likely candidate is Agnes Nitt, but she’s not having it, and leaves Lancre for the big city Ankh-Morpork to try for a career as an opera singer. Agnes has a fine voice, but lacks confidence, and once in the opera house, finds herself being used as a vocal stand-in for a much prettier young singer with a poor voice, not what he had in mind at all. The opera house is, of course, haunted, with plenty of references to “Phantom of the Opera,” and more than one corpse, as well as more than one possible culprit. Soon Granny and Nanny have followed Agnes and are on the trail of the ghost, using their unique talents in clever ways. Despite loads of scathing satire on opera in general, the plot is complex, the characters amusing, and in all, it’s a fun book with more variety and depth than I expected at first. Recommended.

Maskerade by Terry Pratchett

Rereading: THE WONDERFUL FLIGHT TO THE MUSHROOM PLANET by Eleanor Cameron

Like other 1950s novels for children I’ve reread recently such as “Rusty’s Space Ship” by Evelyn Sibley Lampman and “Freddy and the Space Ship” by Walter R. Brooks, this story, Cameron’s first, plays with the idea of space travel that was the fascination of children of the time, and specifically her own son David. Like those others, the science is poor and the methods of space travel unbelievable, but Cameron’s skill as a writer makes this one work for me as a fantasy and wish-fulfillment, with overtones of magic and mysticism that allows the ideas to succeed.

David Topman is shown an ad in a local paper by his father one day, an ad asking for children to build a space ship and bring it to a Mr. Tyco M. Bass on Thallo Street in his town of Pacific Grove, California. David is thrilled by the idea, and enlists his friend Chuck Masterson to help. Chuck’s grandfather has lots of wood and aluminum sheeting they’re able to use, and the boys finish their ship in a surprisingly short time and deliver it to Mr. Bass, a few blocks from their home. Mr. Bass proves to be a strange but charming small old man with an amazing house having mushrooms in the cellar and an observatory at the top. He explains he’s discovered a small planet orbiting earth that he calls Basidium-X, which is hidden from ordinary telescopes, but can be seen with the special filter he’s invented. Further, Mr. Bass has built a rocket engine, an oxygen source, and an impervious coating that will allow David and Chuck to travel to the small planet with his help and instructions, if they’re willing to take the risk. Mr. Bass has a particular reason for their trip, he believes he’s descended from inhabitants of the planet, and that they need help. But can they actually get there?

Just when you want to give up on this story for the many impossibilities, Cameron draws you back in with fine writing, clever ideas, and intriguing mysteries. First of a series that I’ll be rereading, and recommended.

The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet by Eleanor Cameron

Incoming: ROBIN, TIM DRAKE COMPENDIUM ONE Trade Paperback

This massive 1,100 page trade paperback collects stories featuring Tim Drake as Robin, see the image above for a complete list. I lettered several of the BATMAN issues, the majority of the lettering is by Tim Harkins. I can’t say I remember much about the stories I worked on, but the Batman books were fun at the time. Retail price is $59.99. Due out July 23, check with your comics retailer, or the Amazon link below if interested.

Robin Tim Drake Compendium One

Rereading: BENEATH THE HILL by Jane Louise Curry

The Arthur and Griffith cousins are having fun together at the Arthur’s farm for summer vacation, but that fun is threatened by the coal strip-mine operation just over the hill, where the huge steam shovels are working night and day, disrupting the area with noise and destruction. Miggle, one of the children, has planned a treasure hunt for the cousins, but that soon gives way to explorations of unknown caverns inside the hills when they meet Kaolin, a boy who lives there with his ancient family, descendents of people who were pushed out of Wales centuries ago. The mining has awakened an evil power that wants to destroy everyone, and the children are caught up in its delusions and tricks, but their dog Willy is able to see through the illusions and get them out of danger, though Kit is nearly drowned. Inside the mountain, amazing things and wondrous stories are revealed, and Miggle has found a key that can help Kaolin’s family and also defeat the Bane, as they call the evil spirit in the quarry, but can they get the key to the right place beneath the hill in time?

This is the first of many fantasy novels by Curry, and the first of eight books in the Abaloc series. It’s ambitious and full of ideas, but perhaps a bit too full, with too many characters, and by the end seems rushed, though the story is creative and appealing. Recommended.

Beneath the Hill by Jane Louise Curry

Incoming: SUPERMAN BY KURT BUSIEK HC

Images © DC Comics

I first met Kurt Busiek in the early 1980s when we were both trying to sell “Tales of the Green Lantern Corps” stories to editor Ernie Colón at DC. I was on staff, he was a frequent visitor. Little did I suspect I would one day hold a massive book like this of his fine writing about DC’s primary character. I lettered his excellent miniseries with Stuart Immonen SUPERMAN: SECRET IDENTITY, one of my favorite Superman stories and included here along with lots of other fine work, 664 pages of it! Release date is set for July 16, 2024. To order, check with your comics retailer or use the Amazon link below. Congrats, Kurt!

Superman by Kurt Busiek Book One