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Review: Happyloo

Happyloo is a place where friends come together and have fun. Meet Tickle, Meatsauce, and Koolie–and the bullies Devon and Squirm–as they all have adventures together.

Happyloo: friends, foes, and fun
Mark Mariano
All Ages
My Pal Mark, April 2009, ISBN: 978-0-9823750-0-6
136 pages, $11.99

Mariano’s book is half wordless graphic novel and half craft and activity book. It’s unique combination that manages to be fun without seeming too much like a "Book for Educational Purposes." Each chapter is a story, usually with a gentle moral or lesson to be learned, and that story is followed by Happyloo @ Home which features suggestions for activities that follow up on the story. What makes those activities work is that Mariano varies them nicely. He offers information about things that happened in the story, such as telling readers how thunderstorms happen after Tickle and Koolie have an adventure in the clouds. He also gives writing prompts and discussion questions on topics such as achieving your goals, cheating, and "what happens next in the story." He gives ideas for craft projects and shows pictures from art or nature that tie in with the story and which are to be used as inspiration for the reader’s own crafts and stories.

There are a few weaknesses that keep this from being an excellent selection. Mariano’s decision to create a mostly wordless graphic novel, as well as his pastel color palette, make this collection seem like it is for a younger audience, about ages 4-7. Unfortunately the activity sections offer information and vocabulary that are better suited to a slightly older audience, about ages 8-10. I’m not sure if older readers would like the comics sections or if they would feel they are too babyish and younger readers would definitely have to have adult assistance to read the activity sections and do the activities. But overall that is a fairly minor quibble and as long as librarians are aware of the need to alert parents that this is a book which will require their participation then it shouldn’t hold the book back from being popular.

Mariano tells readers at the end of the book that Happyloo is an older title of his. (He and his brother were originally planning on turning it into an animated show.) His story about how Happyloo was created is fun reading and future comics creators will be intrigued by his tale. Careful readers will be able to see that his style has changed as time has gone on. The first tale, "The Balloon Flower," is a much rougher style of drawing than many of the others in the collection. As he has grown as an artist, Mariano has developed some nice techniques. In one full-page spread, Devon sabotages sleds before a sled race. Nuts and bolts rain down around the panels as he gleefully destroys. It’s an eye-catching page and proof that Mariano knows how to use the comics medium to best effect.

Libraries wanting graphic novels with an educational–but fun–slant or wanting to add titles from smaller presses and/or self-published authors would do well to look for this title. It’s a cute selection that will add some interesting variety to a children’s graphic novel collection.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © My Pal Mark.

Snow Wildsmith About Snow Wildsmith

Snow Wildsmith is a writer and former teen librarian. She has served on several committees for the American Library Association/Young Adult Library Services Association, including the 2010 Michael L. Printz Award Committee. She reviews graphic novels for Booklist, ICv2's Guide, No Flying No Tights, and Good Comics for Kids and also writes booktalks and creates recommended reading lists for Ebsco's NoveList database. Currently she is working on her first books, a nonfiction series for teens.


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