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'Lisa's Story: The Other Shoe'

By Tom Batiuk

Kent State University Press, $18.95.

"Funky Winkerbean" cartoonist Batiuk has compiled a book of his comic strips that deal with the death of Lisa Moore, a young wife and mother, and one of the strip's central characters.

The character was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years ago, and she succumbed to it in the Oct. 4, 2007, strip, leaving behind her husband, Les, and their 5-year-old daughter, Summer.

Batiuk has also tackled such issues as teen pregnancy, suicide, capital punishment, alcoholism, dating abuse and the war in the Middle East in his strip. When breast-cancer story line began in 1999 it received praise from national cancer organizations and from breast-cancer survivors.

When Lisa discovered a lump in her breast, it was the first time breast cancer had ever been the subject of a comic strip. Batiuk, whose sense of humor is very much intact, often mixes humor with serious subjects. — Dennis Lythgoe

'Shakespeare: The World as Stage'

By Bill Bryson

Harper, $19.95

Famed satirist Bryson has taken on many subjects with great success. So it is not surprising he would also tackle Shakespeare. Using his trademark wit, Bryson sorts through the mixed information available on the most celebrated poet in the English language.

This book is a little more serious than Bryson's other books, as it pays expected tribute to Shakespeare while considering the various authors who have been acclaimed as the rightful originators of Shakespeare's work.

Putting Bryson's genial wit with such a serious subject was clever indeed. — Dennis Lythgoe

'The Toxic Sandbox'

By Libby McDonald

Perigree, $14.95 (soft cover)

This handy little book treats all the modern conveniences we constantly worry about — plastic wrap, microwaves, tuna, pesticides and other things that might be poisoning our children.

The author is an investigative journalist who tries to separate important facts from myths. She has examined current research findings and done interviews with several medical, toxicological and environmental experts.

The book discusses the nature of safety with respect to fish, dangers of household dust, fatty tissue in meat and dairy products, clothing and furniture that may cause health problems — and the diverse chemicals that surround us. — Dennis Lythgoe