Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Vampires and Aliens and Purple Monsters

Little Vampire
by Joann Sfar
:01 First Second, 2008
review copy compliment of the publisher

Three short stories in one thin volume for graphic novel readers who like to pore over detail in the illustrations, and who don't mind small text.

In the first story, Little Vampire Goes to School (just like the title says), but he and his bright red ghost dog, Phantomato, are disappointed to find all of the classrooms empty. It's night time, after all. The next night, the Captain of the Dead and all the ghosts come along and play school with Little Vampire. They all bring their own school supplies because they must not use any of the daytime children's supplies and let them know there are such things as ghosts. Little Vampire doesn't follow these rules. He completes a mortal's unfinished homework. Thus begins a written conversations and ultimately a friendship with Michael.

In the second story, "Little Vampire Does Kung Fu," Michael is having trouble with a bully at school. Michael's grandfather counsels that violence is not the way to solve the problem, but Little Vampire takes Michael to visit a Kung Fu Master. In a very convoluted way, Michael learns that violence is not the way to deal with a bully, but it does sometimes have unintended positive consequences.

The final story is "Little Vampire and the Canine Defenders Club." Little Vampire, Michael and Phantomato save the lives of three dogs who had been imprisoned in a cosmetics testing lab. In the course of the story, the reader loses faith in adults on the one hand (the scientists), but gains faith in adults on the other hand (Michael's grandfather's total acceptance of Little Vampire.)

Kaput & Zösky
by Lewis Trondheim
:01 First Second, 2008
review copy compliments of the publisher

You've never met two more inept aliens. Kaput and Zösky are out to enslave populations, trash cultures, demolish planets, and, in general, wreak havoc so that they can "cheat in the casinos and win loads of dough" in the worlds they conquer. Needless to say, their plots and plans never work out. Think a pair of Wiley Coyotes and a new population of alien RoadRunners on every planet in every galaxy that Kaput and Zösky visit before you worry about polluting the minds of young children with violence and intergalactic domination. They've maybe never read this story before in a graphic novel, but they've sure seen it on Saturday morning TV and on their video games. Best thing about this book -- if they read it again when they get older, they'll get the irony of the stories.

If you don't believe me, take a peek and see for yourself. Publishers Weekly has a 10-page preview here.

And now for the purple monsters.

Flight Explorer, a kid-friendly version of the twice Cybils-nominated Flight, edited by Kazu Kibuishi (recently of Amulet fame) is just out (yesterday). I must have it! Until then, I'll be satisfied with a Jellaby short story from the book.

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