from graphic novel guest blogger, Francisca Goldsmith:
As experienced readers even in traditional print formats, we all know how the size of a page, the presence or lack of margins, font choice and color can be relevant to something beyond merely our enjoyment or comfort with reading. These factors can also tinge how we judge what we read, where we find ourselves holding the book, and how deeply our noses may be pressed into the narrative figuratively as well as anatomically. The choice of binding, paper stock and ink aren’t just matters of economy, but also lights and textures we experience physically as we read glossy coffee table pages, cheap paperbacks, “book club” editions that, although encased in board covers, nonetheless tend toward less than quality ink crispness.
The story of Charles the Mouse would have a very different feel if it had been given narrow gutters, an arrangement of panels that bound individual scenes, or a black and white palette. An important manner in which this story of a depressed and blocked author is experienced by the reader includes full pages of panels that contain one image arranged in tile like panels, beautifully hued in oranges, pinks, and a brilliant light blue. Because Bubbles & Gondola is folio sized and lies flat, it can be left open as one reads, without having to move one’s thumb from where it could block the print as one’s eye scurries down a gutterless, tight paperback.
Dillies and his publishers have used some very physical choices here to show the magic Charles finds as he steps outside, makes friends, allows himself to delight in things as winsome as soap bubbles and a hot air balloon. And that is a perfect arrangement, for the charms of bubbles and a balloon are physical, relying as much on the space of air as the skin of substance.
Adult/High School–Disguised as a cute animal story, Dillies’s substantive tale of writer’s block, social anxiety, and the magical and restorative powers of allowing oneself to take a break and have fun proves striking it its visuals and narrative. The mouse-man at the center of this tale is an appropriately garret-dwelling fellow named Charlie, possessor of big ears; long, upturned nose; and a penchant for the guitar. The artist’s cartoon style takes readers into delightfully cluttered crowd scenes as well as panels showing the singular detail of a closed eye, with many pages showing one large image broken into tilelike panels that invite the eye to travel through the image along a reading route. While this is in fact a very different story from Craig Thompson’s Good-bye, Chunky Rice, there are some similar tropes, beyond the disheartened mouse: here Charlie experiences urgency and sadness and then confusion when his bluebird friend seems to disappear; the visual aspects of the narrative carry the story, with words a pleasant but ultimately somewhat incidental shading and highlighting of what we see. Like Chunky Rice, Charles is a an adult who drinks, smokes, and has attitudes he’s fostered across a lifetime. The title derives from two activities that lead to his salvation, along with his renewed willingness to socialize and play his music openly.–Francisca Goldsmith, Infopeople Project, CA