Monday, January 17, 2011

Book-A-Day 2010 # 348 (1/17) -- Salt Water Taffy: The Truth About Dr. True by Matthew Loux

One of the curious things about the modern graphic novel market is that the wider world is vastly more interested in stories for younger readers and in memoirs than the comic-shop crowd would ever have expected. Well, perhaps "wider world" may be too much of an assumption; the gatekeepers to that world, the publishers and booksellers interested in graphic stories, are the ones pushing memoirs and books for kids. It's good to have different segments to a market, even if the "mainstream" segments are as narrow and confining in their own way as the superhero-centric direct market is, since that at least gives creators three bowling alleys to try to aim their stories down.

Matthew Loux has been bowling in the kids-comics alley for a few years now with his "Salt Water Taffy" series, about two brothers (ages eleven and eight) living in the small town of Chowder Bay, Maine for one long summer vacation. (I reviewed the first two books for ComicMix back in 2008.) And a third book in that same series has just come along, in The Truth About Dr. True. I won't say that it's a pure strike -- to continue my increasingly-more-annoying metaphor -- but Loux does knock a lot of pins down, and is very entertaining while doing so.

The first two books had notable supernatural elements -- giant, talking animals in both cases -- and Dr. True continues in that vein, as the boys discover an century-old bottle and open it to release the ghost of Dr. Gershom True, namesake of the town's taffy shop and great-grandfather of that shop's proprietor. That ghost calls into question the history of the town's greatest hero, Captain William Hollister, and leads to a confrontation between both two ghosts and those ghosts' present-day relatives. There's a fairly pat reversal at the end -- well-executed, and entirely appropriate for the youthful audience of this story, but the kind of thing older, more jaded eyes have seen a thousand times before -- and then peace reigns again.

Loux's art is still one of the great appeals of "Salt Water Taffy," with slashing angles and swooping lines; it gives energy and movement to even static pages of characters talking to each other. Dr. True is a great book for pre-teens, and quite a bit of fun for their parents (or others of that age), though it won't hold much appeal for older teens and know-it-all twentysomethings.

Book-A-Day 2010: The Epic Index

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