All Ages

Friday, April 08, 2005

Read Like a Kid - Quick reviews

OWLY VOLUME 2 JUST A LITTLE BLUE: There's no decrease in the quality of the 2nd book in Andy Runton's OWLY series, in fact, it's better. Instead of two short stories, there's a single and stronger narrative this time -- Owly and Wormy decide to build a birdhouse to attract some new bluebird friends. Runton successfully combines a light hearted story of friendship with something deeper, a seamless tale of selflessness and also manages to touch on animal behavior and habitats all at the same time. For the amount of bad press that's been following manga titles these days, this is the book that needs to be put in front the faces of teachers, librarians, parents and obviously kids.

YOTSUBA&! VOLUME 1: Loosely translated as 'four leaf clover,' this new manga from ADV features the adventures of a spunky green-haired girl as she moves into a new neighborhood with her guardian. On my initial read, it was hard to figure out what exactly is age level for a book like YOTSUBA&! but the best way I could describe it would be a cross between Junie B. Jones and Judy Blume's Fudge books. The chapters are pretty much self-contained and episodic and feature humor stemming from Yotsuba's misunderstanding of the world -- one scene she is told that air conditioners contribute to global warming and from then on believes that anyone with one is evil. It's pretty funny but odd at the same time. I can't quite put my finger on it.

PEACH FUZZ VOLUME 1: As one of Tokyopop's first books in their original Ameri-manga line, PEACH FUZZ has all the makings of a great comic for kids - it's fun & humorous, it taps into the pet care trend that's attractive to the tween market, it teaches kids about responsibility and it delivers with appealing and relevant artwork. That is until we come to the vet office scene where two things stand out like sore thumbs -- the receptionist of the vet asks the main character's mother if she thinks the clerk at the pet store is cute. The mother thinks the receptionist is talking about a girl when in fact she's referring to a boy. The mother is very uncomfortable with this instance of mistaken lesbian identity. The second scene is when the main character, a young girl, runs into the vet who says "Women can't seem to keep their hands off me. Ha! Ha! Ha!" I can see something like this kept in a Japanese originated title, the views on sexuality are much more open in their manga, but to have these scenes in here with no reasonable context just seems sloppy and a bit gratuitous.

NANCY DREW VOLUME 1: Nancy Drew is one of those book properties will always remain in print despite the ups and downs of sales. After reading the first issue of the Hardy Boys comic book I was pretty skeptical of this line but Nancy Drew surprised me. The title character has a great internal voice in this book that's not heavy handed and that rings true as a young but smart teenager. It's a nice self contained mystery that unfolds with a decent pace. My major beef here though is the inconsistency of the artwork. There's really nice almost French comics-inspired work happening in the book that's reminiscent of the new Totally Spies cartoon. But the artwork has been muddied and darkened by so many computer coloring effects it makes entire pages blurry and almost unreadable. I'm not sure if the dark overcast to the artwork is supposed to create a moody effect but it's just not working here.


  • yotsuba is a great book. thanks for the review.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:21 PM  

  • Regarding Peach Fuzz and sexuality:
    Garfield also uses sexuality.

    "Women can't seem to keep their hands off me." << Jon must've said that 10000X in Garfield manga

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 1:07 AM  

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