Robot 6

Robot Reviews: Kids’ comics roundup

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Little Mouse Gets Ready
by Jeff Smith
Toon Books, 32 pages, $12.95.

Children’s comics don’t get more basic than this. Little Mouse wants to go play in the barn with his brothers and sisters, but first he has to get dressed. He does so step by step showing readers important things like how to button your shirt (and illustrating a narrative sequence of events). Then there’s a punchline and rimshot, the end.

Smith’s art is lush and spry here. I especially liked Little Mouse’s Warner Brothers-style reaction at the end. There’s no denying it’s a cute book, made by an extremely talented guy. But this is really a book for preschoolers and those just learning to read. If you know someone like that, then Little Mouse will make a great gift. But older Bone fan, even those still in elementary school, aren’t going to get too much out of this, beyond a chuckle or two at the end.

Lunch Lady and the Cyborg Substitute
Lunch Lady and the League of Librarians

by Jarrett J. Krosoczka
Knopf, 96 pages each, $5.99 each.

This is another superhero/super-spy parody, along the lines of Word Girl, but with a whole K-12 cafeteria theme. For example, our hero has a spatula that doubles as a helicopter blade, she throws chicken nugget bombs, she wields fish stick nunchucks, and so on and so forth.

Even by kid standards, it all feels a little shallow. The jokes basically stay on that lunch-derived level and never build on each other in a satisfying way. The characters are all rather generic and Krosoczka’s art work is rather bare-bones as well. I think kids will like it — it’s certainly not offensive or dull — but I don’t think it’s going to hang around in their imaginations the way good children’s literature is supposed to. Even by second grade, they’ve seen this kind of thing before.

Knights of the Lunch Table: The Dragon Players
by Frank Cammuso
Scholastic, 128 pages, $9.99.

Combining King Arthur mythology with middle school angst is a recipe for disaster (witness, or better yet don’t, Tokyopop’s Avalon High) but Cammuso manages to make the whole enterprise work. Part of the reason is he isn’t a slave to the source material but just takes what he needs and mushes it into a school setting until it fits. It doesn’t hurt that he has a fun, rubbery, big-nose art style that plays up the comedy.

This time, Artie and his friends somewhat unwittingly enter into a robot joust contest, a feat which finds them double-dealing with basement-dwelling nerds, infiltrating junkyards and trying to avoid bullies and detention. There’s no real surprises here, and the whole “don’t cheat” moral comes out of a thousand ABC Afterschool specials, but Knights has nevertheless proven to be an engaging, witty series that’s growing on me with every new volume.

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Comments

2 Comments

Little Mouse Gets Ready is SUPPOSED to be for the littlest ones, that’s its function as a super-beginning comic. I see nothing wrong, and a whole lot of right, in creating a book for the little ones.

How much time do you spend with kids, Chris? I’m a school librarian in a preK-8th grade school. The kids may have seen stuff similar to The Lunch Lady in cartoons, but not so much in books, and not in books carried by the library. We NEED to have fun, shallow books like these, just as we have all kinds of fun and shallow books for adults (James Patterson, anyone?). Not every book has to be memorable. And BTW, I don’t know about you, but some of my favorite kid books when I was a kid weren’t of the great literature type, but fun stuff like this. When kids are required to read the quality literature for school, they need to know that the libraries have lighter reading that they can just enjoy without worrying about deeper meanings. The Lunch Lady books fulfill this need.

I do think these books have a little more “depth” than such highly popular books as the Ricky Ricotta or Captain Underpants series, and in my little school library, the graphic novels get checked out as often as the prose novels (except for Bone, which beats everything else in the collection).

Um, I don’t think I ever said it was a bad thing Kat. As a matter of fact, I think I said it was a great choice for preschoolers. I just don’t think it’s the sort of book that might have crossover appeal to an older audience, the way, say, Where the Wild Things Are might (an unfair comparison I know). I like the Toon Books line, am glad it’s around, and have done a fair share of recommending titles.

As for Lunch Lady, I’m all for fun reads, but these are a little on the shallow side. The whole “superhero meets elementary school” thing has been played out in a lot of other, better series. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the books, they’re just kind of “meh.” I’m sure there will be kids that like them. but I doubt very many of them are going to LOVE them.

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