Terrouge E-zine Archives
Badger Reading Corner Reviews
By: Geo Holms
Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon
The Fog Mound: Travels of Thelonious by Susan Schade and Jon Buller
Ah, graphic novels, the art of telling a story with dialogue and pictures spun together in an intricate fox trot between art and writing. Graphic novels can range from the slam bang graphical overload of superhero comics to the to the point factual basis of a graphic novel based on the 9/11 Report (highly recommended by the way). It’s a tricky feat to balance but when it goes right, the victory is sweet.
Perhaps I’m misdirecting you though. This month, I'm reading two non-conventional graphic novels, both directed for the younger sets, and both using written prose and comic book prose. This is to say, while many parts of these books are written, some of them are also told in graphic novel format. So are these still graphic novels? I'd say yes. But I'll leave that to you to decide.
The first book is Dragonbreath by Ursula Vernon, which after reading her last book, Nerk, I was required to buy for my sisters. It tells the story of Danny Dragonbreath, who doesn't quite have dragony breath yet (aka: can't breath flames) and his friend Wendell, an iguana. Danny is just a normal kid with normal problems, like getting an F on his report about the ocean (on snorkel bats). So he must go on a quest, dragging Wendell along to visit his cousin who happens to be a sea monster. This brings Danny and Wendell on a plunge into a literal sea of adventure and danger.
Wow, totally went into bookflap summary mode there.
In any case, Vernon knows how to mix together an absurd tale with enjoyable characters. You'll want to read the book a few times to catch all the fleeting wordplays and puns. The illustrations prove to add a nice flavor to the stew that is Dragonbreath. It's a nice little quest into the depths of the ocean with quirky detail to spare. It also has monstrous potato salad. Where could it go wrong?
The second book reviewed this month is The Fog Mound: Travels of Thelonious. It tells of a post-apocalyptic world, where humans are gone and animals have gained language. Thelonious is a chipmunk who lives in the Untamed Forest and tells legends about human society. His tree home is washed away in a storm and he comes ashore at the edges of a ruined city, only confirming the legends he's told but never quite believed. There he meets an unscrupulous lizard, who he escapes from, and then a friendly (yet gruff) porcupine named Fitzgerald. As Thelonious explores this strange new world and meets more creatures (like Olive, the flying bear), he finds more clues about what happened to the human race.
For being a book for children, there are some heavy issues lying just under the surface of this post-apocalyptic tale (for instance, the fact that it's post-apocalyptic!) and it has just enough depth to interest a reader of an older age. The illustrations are brilliant, the characters aren't as developed as I would hope, but it does a nice job of progressing the plot and making use of the format anyway. It's intriguing how the creators had a subtle interplay between the prose and comic sections. It being told first person from the perspective of Thelonious, the tale had a certain tone of wonder. The comic sections helped give a sense of some of the events that would not have the same kick within the prose.
So which would I recommend in the end? Both, of course, though I would rather buy Fog Mound to give away after reading and buy Dragonbreath to keep for myself while saying that I'd give it for my sister's birthday later (which, though it was hard, I did?the sequel too..which I need to capture from her to read for myself?it has ninja frogs!). Both are totally worth the hour used reading them and that bite-size reading makes them quite worth a re-read a month or so later. So go forth and seek these out. But come back in a few months, for another Badger Reading Corner Review.