Friday, February 21, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #52: Giants Beware! by Rosado and Aguirre

The all-ages graphic novel is now a major category, since librarians have been persuaded it's a great way to snare those "reluctant readers" and kids gobble them up. And, just like the animated movies they often closely resemble, there's a common mode and style that those graphic novels fall into: relentlessly positive, smotheringly soft-edged, teeth-wreckingly sweet.

If DreamWorks or Blue Sky is looking for their next franchise, they could do far worse than Giants Beware!, a very sweet graphic novel entirely suitable for all but the very tiniest tots. This is probably not a surprise, since writer Jorge Aguirre has written for Dora the Explorer and other kid's TV shows, while illustrator Rafael Rosado is a storyboard artist, mostly for TV animation like Transformers Prime and Scooby-Doo. So they're from that world, and in that world, and their book shows it.

In a vaguely medieval land that doesn't entirely make sense -- one small town that deliberately cut itself off from the rest of the world behind high walls, with scary scenery outside that no one every ventures into and a bunch of farmers who can't possibly have jobs -- three very carefully drawn young characters are about to have an adventure. Claudette wants to kill monsters and save the world: she's the turned-up-to-eleven chibi version of Barry Deutsch's Mirka. Her younger brother Gaston is a world-class pastry chef at the age of about four who also really wants their crippled father to teach him the family trade of swordsmithing. And their best friend is Marie, the daughter of the local Marquis, who desperately wants to be a princess in the storybook fashion.

Claudette drags the other two into her scheme, as the loud emphatic character always does in family animation, and so they manage to get out of the never-opened gates and out into that very dangerous landscape. Well, very dangerous in a kid-friendly way, of course. They are pursued, as well, but they are kid protagonists in a story for kids, so they are smarter and braver and more competent than any mere adults.

Giants Beware! is sweet, and Aguirre's art is particularly energetic and bright. The fact that two of the main characters are girls -- and that both are competent and useful in very different ways -- shouldn't be overlooked as well; it's a very modern and positive entertainment. If you have or are a girl under the age of ten, I recommend it; only slightly less so for a boy (and the difference is purely dependent on that boy's sense of cooties). For anyone older or more sophisticated, Giants Beware! will be fun, utterly undemanding, and contain not a single surprise. But perhaps that's enough.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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