Read Like a Kid - Grampa and Julie
by Jef Czekaj
128 pages, full-color
published by Top Shelf Productions
On the first day back to school, Julie presents a report on what she did over her summer vacation. Dragging a literal tome up to the podium she begins to recount her adventures with her grandfather and their quest to find Stephen, the largest shark in the world. Along the way they meet up with rapping squirrels, pirates who use cellphones, an alien scientist-monster and more in this first all ages graphic novel from Top Shelf.
The strength of Grampa and Julielies in its frenetic style. The constant unexpected plot twists and weird lack of story logic really work here -- it's like listening to an actual kid tell a story with all of its bizarre tangents and exaggerations. The book is also packed with what I like to call "groan" humor -- it's the kind of jokes that make adults cringe but kids absolutely love it. Remember there's no such thing as a cliche for a child. While Grampa and Julie is far from closely following curriculum, there are a few instances where Czekaj drops in science concepts and terms that most kids between the ages 8 and 12 would probably know. It totally enhances the reading experience here for a kid to either think "hey, I just learned that in school the other day" or "cool, I didn't know that before." Sometimes I feel like a broken record writing here, constantly harping on a good 4 or 5 key elements all kids comics should have. Probably one of the most important of these is large, easy-to-follow panels and Czekaj's book exceeds at that. And while the larger trim size may be a bit wonky for booksellers (publishing kids books is all about maintaining uniform formats and sizes to make things easier for bookstores), it encourages a clear reading experience, especially for a kid who may not have read comics ever before.