Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Sweaterweather and Other Short Stories by Sara Varon

This is not a new book by Sara Varon, cartoonist of Robot Dreams and Bake Sale. That may be slightly disappointing.

It is an old book by Varon -- originally published as her first collection back in 2003 -- expanded with as much new material as old, so it's kinda new, and probably unfamiliar to most of Varon's audience (who I suspect were, in most cases, not alive yet in 2003).

So this new edition of Sweaterweather and Other Short Stories has the eight stories from the 2003 first edition (plus the cover, presented as an interior spread), which originally appeared various places in 2002 and 2003. And it also has nine newer stories, created since the first edition of Sweaterweather and running up through 2014.

Some are fictional, and some are about Varon's own life, though the distinction gets muddy -- she draws all of her characters as animals and robots and creatures, and some of the "fictional" stories are directly from her life, just not presented as a "true" story about "Sara Varon." And it's all appropriate for fairly new readers -- say the middle reaches of elementary school, and maybe even a bit lower -- with an intrinsic sweetness and inquisitiveness that kids that age love and embody.

So the stories that aren't Varon showing us around parts of the world -- that aren't specifically nonfiction with a "Sara Varon" narrator -- are set in her usual Busytown-style kids-world, where all of the characters have adult lives and responsibilities (jobs, shopping, errands, and so on) but are essentially kids, almost playacting in that world. And, of course, everything is nice, and conflicts are almost entirely avoided. It's a sweet, lovely, nurturing world of happy creatures who like each other and maintain great friendships.

A steady diet of that would be too much for most of us, but it's a great thing to dip into now and then, to wash off all of the cynicism and unpleasantness of the adult world. Varon's world is a kinder, happier place than the one we really live in, and should be celebrated for that. I hope this book is in a million schoolrooms and libraries, and as many homes as it can find a place in.

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