Written by Jorge Aguirre
Illustrated by Rafael Rosado
First Second Books, April 2012
204 pages, $14.99
Ages 7 and up
If there’s a giant to be slain, look no further than pint-sized Claudette to do it. She’s a fierce and feisty red-headed little girl who won’t back down from anyone or anything. Claudette is joined on her quest by her younger brother Gaston (who’d much rather cook food than fight), their pug named Valiant, and their friend Marie, the daughter of the town’s Marquis who longs to be a princess-in-training. Claudette might like to kick butt when she lives in the most peaceful town of all, but her companions are hardly made of sterner stuff. Still, despite Claudette’s “once more unto the breach” attitude about her dream job, she’s loyal, loving, and not afraid to admit she’s made a mistake in the end.
Our tale begins as Claudette, Marie, and Gaston listen to a storyteller tell the story of a giant who loved to eat baby’s feet came that came to their countryside. He was a ferocious beast but was chased into the mountains by the villagers under the leadership of the Marquis, Pierre the XXXII. The Marquis then walled up the city to protect the people from any threatening monsters and magic. Chasing away a giant isn’t good enough for Claudette: she wants to finish the job and slay the giant, and she won’t settle for anything less. After all, she takes after her father, the local village blacksmith—a warrior who fought a dragon named Azra, but lost both of his legs, left arm, and his favorite sword in that epic battle. Claudette’s poppa and his friend Zubair are battle hardened, and she loves to hear them talk about the beasts that surround the land.
Soon after some creating some mischief in their town, Claudette lies to Gaston and Marie, promising them that if they join her on their quest and slay a giant, their dreams will be fulfilled—Gaston will be taught by his father how to make swords and Marie will be an automatic princess. Soon they’re off on a quest through the ominous-sounding Forest of Death and beyond to rid the land once and for all of the giant. Along the way they meet a ferocious man-eating tree, an apple hag, a river king, and of course, one giant.
Both the writing and the art in the book are charming. The kids’ antics are really fun to see, especially Marie’s stint trying to act princess-like by imitating the story of the “Princess and the Pea.” Giants Beware! is non-stop humorous adventure written with a lot of attention to detail in creating a believable characters. Even throwaway characters like the farmers who come to rescue the kids have a lot of charm to them, and the monsters—who might terrify a 7-year-old since some of them are pretty spooky-looking—for the most part are sympathetic and have a reason for some of their actions.
Artist Jorge Aguirre comes from an animation background working on storyboards, and the characters all have wonderful charm and appeal. Claudette is full of spunk, Marie is tall and willowy as a princess wannabe, and Gaston has a quiet, soft-spoken charm that eventually blossoms. Everyone has a very cartoonish look, which helps to create a whimsical look of the world they live in—aside from Claudette’s father and his friend Zubair who both look appropriate war-weary.
The book is for ages 7 and up. There may be some tredipation from the younger crowd about some of the beasts in the forest, but there’s plenty of good-humor, poop jokes, and action to keep the kids coming back for more. The kids also all show growth throughout the book and learn a little about themselves. Claudette is maybe not as fearless as she thinks she is, Gaston is braver than he thinks he is, and Marie might rethink her career choice too after their adventure.
First Second also has for free a fun Giants Beware! Activity Kit. Just click here to access it. It’s a great companion to the graphic novel. I was also thrilled to read that there are already sequels planned for this first endeavor. Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado are off to a great start, and I can’t wait to read the continuing adventures of Claudette, Gaston, and Marie.