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General Jack and the Battle of the Five Kingdoms is an interesting anthropomorphic adventure which reminded me a lot of The Chronicles of Narnia and The Lion King. This adventure story is told in reflection by Miaow, the chief of cats, who befriends a ten-year-old explorer, Jack, who manages to unite the kingdoms in order to overthrow the despot Lions and larger ruling cats. This fantasy adventure is complemented throughout with black and white illustrations. The narrative focuses on a number of teachable lessons for younger readers such as the positives of teamwork as well as having a more traditional good vs evil tale to enjoy. I liked the anthropomorphised animals although I would have liked to have some of their animal qualities maintained in the wording. For example, the description of the lions “ruling with a firm hand”, I would have preferred the phrasing to be ‘with a firm paw’. I also thought I spotted and enjoyed the play on the word kingdom, the subtle nod to not only the traditional geographical definition but also the taxonomic ranks which classify every animal. Like The Chronicles of Narnia, I could see that the plot of General Jack shares connections to stories in the Bible, although I think that this book could be an entertaining read for any young fantasy fan. As Miaow tells this story, which is his own redemption and self-discovery as much as the larger animal revolution, it is easy to become attached to the chief of the cats and his family, and I read hoping that my favourite characters survived unscathed. I think that this would be a very good story for middle grade readers and above, and teaches them that you’re never too small to make a difference.
Using a host of vibrant images, David Bush and Jim Parsons' Hill Country Deco: Modernistic Architecture of Central Texas captures the essence of the Art Deco style of architecture as represented in the Hill Country of Texas. Hill Country Deco explores how the rich history of these structures collides with progressive notions of historic preservation for remodeling buildings and restoring facades. This collection of historical and modern photographs will encourage a newfound appreciation for Art Deco as seen in Central Texas. The Art Deco style covers a range of buildings, from commercial to residential. The sweeping curves of the Alameda Theater in San Antonio exhibit typical Art Moderne style. The Austin U. S. courthouse brings WPA Deco up to date from the 1940s, and the San Antonio Express-News Building showcases the classic style of what most people today think of as Art Deco. Not only does this book of photography embrace the history of Art Deco, it takes a series of edifices and recognizes the artistic elements and economic purposes of each one. The authors offer insight on architectural preservation while providing an appreciative view of sometimes overlooked corners of Central Texas. Some buildings are obscure and hardly recognizable as what they once were; others were fortunate enough to have their Deco style maintained over the span of decades. Bush and Parsons have made it a personal mission to ensure that the readers of Hill Country Deco will, upon viewing these beautiful buildings, yearn for a road trip to some of these sites to discover Art Deco history for themselves.