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Review: ‘Bolivar’

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Bolivar
by Sean Rubin
Archaia, $29.99
For ages 8 and up

It seems lately that there’s been a mini-boom in books about how great New York City is. For the adults, there’s Roz Chast’s Going Into Town: A Love Letter to New York and Julia Wertz’s Tenements, Towers & Trash: An Unconventional Illustrated History of New York City; for the kids, there’s the TOON book Lost in NYC: A Subway Adventure and now Sean Rubin’s Bolivar. Only this one has a dinosaur!

Bolivar is an eight-foot-tall grey dinosaur living in New York City. He’s the last dinosaur, actually. Dinosaurs don’t like attention, we’re told, so he settled in “the busiest city in the world.” Everyone is too busy to notice him as he goes about his everyday life — buying a magazine, visiting the deli and grocery store, and browsing the used bookstore.

Bolivar

Except for Sybil, the girl next door. She tries to tell people her neighbor is a dinosaur, but they just remind her that dinosaurs are extinct. In fact, the mayor is dedicating an exhibit on just that subject, an event that will later complicate Sybil’s quest to reveal Bolivar’s existence.

Bolivar began life as a picture book but greatly expanded into a graphic novel that makes full use of its images, with many two-page spreads. Rubin’s intricate crosshatching beautifully portrays the cityscapes with depth, giving the reader a substantial sense of place. He’s not afraid of packed images, full of the details that flesh out the feeling, particularly during visits to the art museum, Central Park, and the Natural History Museum. Some of the pages become a hunt-and-seek puzzle, as we look for signs (most often the tail) that we’ve just missed seeing Bolivar.

Bolivar’s life is pretty good. The spread where he’s tucked in the bath, in an old-fashioned claw-foot tub, reading as we see his record stacks and book shelves, is enviable. Things get a little hyper later at the museum, but overall, we’re reminded of the virtue of paying attention to those around us and how much we can learn from interacting with those who are different. Plus, just how cool the many offerings of a big city can be!

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Johanna About Johanna

Johanna Draper Carlson has been reviewing comics for over 20 years. She manages ComicsWorthReading.com, the longest-running independent review site online that covers all genres of comic books, graphic novels, and manga. She has an MA in popular culture, studying online fandom, and was previously, among many other things, webmaster for DC Comics. She lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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