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Review: Adventures in Cartooning

Esther Keller

One of the most popular sections in my library, aside from the graphic novels, is books on drawing. It’s often that a student comes up to me and says they’re writing/drawing their own comic. These students request books on how to draw and how to write comics.  And while Jessica Abel and Matt Maden’s Drawing Words and Writing Pictures  is looked at and even borrowed, the truth is, it’s too complicated for my young middle school students. (Hey that book is used for college courses!) So enter the perfect remedy….

Adventures in Cartooning 
Sturm, James, Arnold, Andrew, Frederick-Frost, Alexis
Ages 9 and up
First Second, March 2009, 978-1-59643-369-4
109pp., $12.95

Tadventures Review: Adventures in Cartooningold in comic form, this book takes young readers through the very basic elements that make up a comic book (or graphic novel… whatever you prefer to call it).  The story, which is fictionalized, contains a desperate princess who cannot draw, a magical elf, a brave but clueless knight and his horse Edward.  The Princess is ready to crumple up her latest cartooning effort, when the magical elf appears. Then using the story of a missing princess, he takes us through the building blocks of a good comic.

Topics that are covered: Panels, the relationship between words and pictures, and balloon bubbles.  In fact, only the basics are really covered, but it’s enough for the intended age group.  And yet, this book doesn’t necessarily cover some of the elements my students want to read about, like how to draw, or coloring.  But there are other books for that.

The art work is purposely done in simple stick figure drawings, to show kids that they don’t necessarily have to be Van Gogh or Picasso to draw comics.  And the use of colors is so bright and vivid that it just adds the energy that’s already on the page.

The book is certainly not didactic. It truly “teachers a lesson” in a very entertaining manner.  There is enough of a story and tons of humor so that readers will want this book just for the fun story.  (I’m still not sure who my favorite character is: the magic elf, or the bubble-gum-chewing dragon.) 

This is a great addition to any library.  Parents who have young kids with an interest in cartooning should consider adding this book to their Easter basket or Passover afikomen present or you know buy it as a “just because” gift.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © First Second.

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Esther Keller About Esther Keller

Esther Keller is the librarian at JHS 278, Marine Park in Brooklyn, NY. There she started the library's first graphic novel collection and strongly advocated for using comics in the classroom. Her collection is also the model for all middle school libraries in NYC. She started her career at the Brooklyn Public Library, and later jumped ship to the school system so she could have summer vacation and a job that would align with a growing family's schedule. On the side, she is a mother of 3 and regularly reviews for SLJ, LMC. In her past life, she served on the Great Graphic Novels for Teens Committee where she solidified her love and dedication to comics.

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