Saturday, April 05, 2014

Book-A-Day 2014 #94: Explorer: The Lost Islands edited by Kazu Kibuishi

First there was Flight, of which I reviewed volumes three, five and seven. Then there was one volume of Flight Explorer, a version of Flight for younger readers that I also reviewed. And then came Explorer: The Mystery Boxes, a themed anthology edited by Kibuishi that looked awfully like Flight Explorer with less flight. Now, there's another volume of Explorer, which is more aggressively good for you than the first one (unfortunately).

Explorer: The Lost Islands contains seven stories -- seven "graphic novels," as the book grandly but inaccurately puts it -- each of which has a moral to tell you and which won't let you go anywhere until it teaches you that lesson. They're by many of the creators associated with this loose circle -- Jake Parker, Dave Roman & Raina Telgemeier, Michel Gagne, Kibuishi himself -- and all of the stories are as gorgeous and well-designed as a great animated movie, and as lesson-filled as those movies were in the 1980s.

The lessons themselves are generally decent ones -- work hard, listen to old people, explore new places, care for each other and yourself -- but they are all quite lesson-y. (Although Chrystin Garland's "The Mask Dance" seems to be saying that you should never ever trust strangers or go anywhere new, which is more renormative even that Kibuishi's story, which relies on the fright and/or wisdom of the proverbial Old Sailor.) Since these stories are relatively short -- eighteen pages each, with one slightly shorter exception, their lesson-ness is what shines through the strongest.

This whole loose series, all the way back to the first Flight, has been appropriate for tweens, but The Lost Islands is the first one that seems to be stooping down to tell them Something Important. Most kids I've known can sniff that stuff out really quickly and avoid it as much as possible -- my thirteen-year-old son already has a sophisticated understanding of the difference between the books he wants to read (mostly middle-grade fantasy) and the books "They" want him to read (mostly problem novels). So I hope this was just a momentary aberration -- like the prior books, Lost Islands is pretty and adventurous and mostly romping fun. It would be a shame to lose that for yet another spinach delivery device.

Book-A-Day 2014 Introduction and Index

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