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Review: Panda Man Graphic Novel Hybrids

Snow Wildsmith

VIZ Media’s VIZKids line recently released two new graphic novel hybrid (part comic book/part novel) series aimed at kids ages six and up, both of which should appeal to readers who like silly adventure stories such as Dav Pilkey’s Captain Underpants (Scholastic). My colleague Kate looked at book one of both seriesTaro and the Magic Pencil by Sango Morimoto and Panda Man by Sho Makura and Haruhi Kato–but I wanted to give the first two volumes of Panda Man a once over myself.

Panda Man to the Rescue
pandaman01 pandamantotherescue 209x300 Review: Panda Man Graphic Novel HybridsStory by Sho Makura; Art by Haruhi Kato
Ages: 6-10; Grades 2-5
VIZ Media, October 2010, ISBN 978-1-4215-3520-3
96 pages, $7.99

Panda Man and the Treasure Hunt
Story by Sho Makura; Art by Haruhi Kato
Ages: 6-10; Grades 2-5
VIZ Media, January 2011, ISBN 978-1-4215-3521-0
96 pages, $7.99

“Meet Panda Man, the greatest martial artist in the world. That may not be quite true, but Panda Man thinks so, and that’s what matters.” And so begins the story of a panda hero who possesses the power of stinky feet and long farts. When a young cow comes to Panda Man for help solving the diabolical theft of milk, there’s no way Panda Man can turn his back! (Especially when he’s to be rewarded with butter cake.) Then Panda Man finds himself on a treasure hunt, facing down the rest of the World’s Greatest Heroes. Can he find the treasure or will Ko Mando the Koala take first prize?

Makura’s books are fun because they never try to take their protagonist too seriously. Readers will chuckle at the bird w1101295 ful1 208x300 Review: Panda Man Graphic Novel Hybridsho appears to make rude comments about Panda Man’s “training regimen” and other aspects of the hero’s personality. They’ll also see right through Panda Man’s hero status, but even though he isn’t the amazing figure he (and the other characters) think him to be, he still gets the job done. Good wins in the end, so each book finishes on a high note. Throughout there are enough fart and poop jokes to keep even the pickiest elementary school aged boy entertained, but they are–for the most part–integrated into the plot so they aren’t a distraction, but a silly addition.

Kato’s art is simple enough to be clear, but with just the right touch of fun. The cast is drawn with unique references to their animal characteristics. For example, Ko Mando eats eucalyptus leaves to gain strength. But Kato gives everything a silly, child-friendly twist, such as the hilarious drawing of the girl cows excreting milk through holes in their tummies. Each book is mostly black-and-white–with a few color pages–and includes mazes, seek-and-find puzzles, and a how-to-draw page. Libraries stocking the books should be warned that kids are encouraged to draw in Panda Man’s eyes on several pages and there is a bookmark to cut out on the back cover flap. But an explanation of the proper care of library books vs. personal books should keep these in decent shape for many re-reads, so these extras should not be deal-breakers as far as adding this sure-to-amuse series.

This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © VIZ Media LLC.

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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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