Thursday, January 29, 2009

Amelia Rules!: When the Past is a Present

Amelia Rules! Volume #4: When the Past is a Present
by Jimmy Gownley
Renaissance Press, 2008

This was my snow day gift to myself: curl up on the couch and read a book I want to read for me.

In this volume, Amelia's life is rocketing forward (her mom has a date, she's going to her first dance) and she's trying to make sense of how all that fits into her past.

Gownley's goal with the Amelia books "was to create a comic book with comic strip sensibilities that both traditional and nontraditional comic book fans could enjoy. He also wanted to provide good, solid entertainment for kids that didn't talk down to them." And he totally succeeds. He even made me cry.

In Part 3, "The Things I Cannot Change," Amelia learns why her friend Joan has been so sad and withdrawn even though she shares the news that she doesn't have to move. At the dance, it is announced that Joan's father is being deployed, and not to someplace fun like Germany. We feel Joan's pain, we see how Amelia and Joan's friend Hannigan cheer Joan up and get her back to the dance floor, and then in three pages of stark panels that march 3 by 3 across pages with empty, white backgrounds, we watch Joan say goodbye to her father.

This book is not a serious downer, just because there's a serious part. There's also a nod to comic strip history in the part where Amelia's mother and Aunt Tanner tell her their family's story. There's a hysterical babysitter-gone-bad part. There's a game called "Thank Goodness You're Open," and a definition of "Hangin' Out." What makes this book so hard to describe, and what makes it (and the rest of the Amelia books) so brilliant, is that all the random funny, weird, serious, thoughtful, historic, artsy, comic-y parts are woven and interconnected in ways that...well, suffice it to say: read it for yourself. Read them all.

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