Mal’s a genius, but no one knows that except his faithful dog pal Chad, just like no one knows that Chad can really talk. These two secrets lead to a lot of frustration for Mal, since he’s forced to deal with boring school assignments and meaningless chores and since he can’t seem to catch the eye of Megan, the cutest girl in school. But at least there’s plenty of adventures–launching a backpack jet pack, building a rocket ship, traveling back to the days of the dinosaurs, and, of course, show-and-tell.
Mal and Chad: The Biggest, Bestest Time Ever!
Ages: 8-11, Grades: 3-6
Philomel, May 2011, ISBN 978-0-399-25221-1
224 pages, $9.99
McCranie’s fun-loving graphic novel can’t help but be compared with Bill Watterson’s classic Calvin and Hobbes comic strip, but luckily Mal and Chad are just as appealing as the trouble-making Calvin and his (sometimes) stuffed tiger Hobbes. Mal is arguably better behaved than Calvin, but that doesn’t mean he avoids trouble. Rather it’s more that trouble finds him, usually because he’s allowing his boundless imagination to run free. That imagination, combined with the intelligence to make his dreams into reality, is what kids will love about Mal’s story. What kid hasn’t wanted to build a rocket ship or a time-travel machine? And getting to meet real dinosaurs is just the icing on the cake, even when Mal has to save the adorable Megan and the self-important Zachary when they fall through a rip in time.
The artwork is strong and confident. McCranie uses thick, bold lines to illustrate his characters, with thinner lines bringing the backgrounds to life. He knows how to use the graphic novel medium to its fullest, allowing wordless scenes to tell readers about the joys of exploration and then dialing back to minimal scenery during the character interaction moments. At over 200 pages, McCranie gives his readers a lot to enjoy, luckily broken down into easily managed chapters. This is a fun, recommended addition to juvenile graphic novel collections.
This review is based on a complimentary copy supplied by the publisher. All images copyright © Philomel.