17 April 2009

Rave Review: Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss

I have been a fan of the Toon Books from the very beginning. They have successfully tackled the formative but sometimes creatively-challenged Early Reader market-- with comics. And it makes such good sense! Favorites among their list so far have included Benny and Penny by Geoffrey Hayes and Stinky by Eleanor Davis. Now I must add Luke on the Loose by Harry Bliss. Young readers will recognize Bliss' from Diary of a Worm/Spider/Fly while parents will know him from The New Yorker. The story here is a simple one: little boy chases pigeons across NYC--madcap shenanigans ensue. But if you read the Author Bio at the end, you'll see that Harry Bliss himself, as a child, often considered life in New York as a comic panel. And that is what he has created for little Luke--one big comic in which he can run himself to exhaustion. Starting with the cover, in which Luke is looking at a comic book on the ground and wondering where the pigeons are, as if he can jump into those pages and look for them, this is a story meant to be told panel by panel.

But I have to confess, I love this book for the nerd factor--Captain Haddock is in it! And Olive Oyl! Even the Hulk manages to sneak in. At first I thought it was a coincidence--that Bliss' style suggested the similarity. But after a few more cameos, I knew he was purposely treating comic lovers. And it reinforced for me the idea that Luke was run amok in a comic world. Readers need not recognize the allusions to enjoy the visual humor; my daughter had no idea what I meant when I started yelling, "Olive Oyl! Olive Oyl!" but she embraced the pure thrill of the mayhem.

Librarians may fret about where to place Toon Books: is it an Early Reader? is it a Graphic Novel? But just so long as they are put somewhere visible so that kids can find them--you can't go wrong.

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