I’ve been trying to read more kids’ graphic novels, so when this came home from a Daddy-sponsored library trip for the kids, I had to try it. It’s a series I’d been hearing about as one of the Big Kid Series for years, and now I understand it. Big as in nominated for multiple Eisner awards, Harvey awards, won a Cybils award in 2007, and the most recent volume, Her Permanent Record, made the New York Times Bestseller list.
Amelia Rules. Vol. 2. What Makes You Happy. by Jimmy Gownley
Amelia is a happy-go-lucky, rock’n’roll-loving fifth grader who lives with her mom and her aunt Tanner, a former rock star. Her stories are told in episodes that are certainly longer than a comic strip, but shorter than a typical floppy comic book – short enough to be clear that the humor is important, but long enough to go for some character development as well. Amelia is a member of the GASP club for superheroes, more because it’s run by her crush, Reggie, than because she really aspires to be a superhero. Also in the club is her frenemy Rhonda, a rival for Reggie’s affections, and the quiet and shy Pajama Man. This is younger middle grade romance, so what the girls are aspiring to is getting Valentine’s Day cards from the object of their affections. There are also stories about GASP’s battle with the ninja kids from across town, Aunt Tanner’s brief moment of returning fame, a bittersweet episode as Amelia deals with the death of an unknown great aunt and its impact on her mother and aunt, and a trip to Manhattan to visit her dad and her old best friend.
I have to say, this book deserves its accolades. The stories hit just the right balance of realistic kid, hilarious adventure, and kids learning about life. The art is solidly done, very aware of the comic heritage it’s drawing on, from Peanuts to Calvin and Hobbes. While he mostly uses an easy-to-follow grid pattern, Gownley sometimes breaks the grid to hilarious effect. For those who like their stories realistic and funny – I’d give this to fans of Big Nate, Dork Diaries, and yes, Calvin and Hobbes, as well as the standard realistic but funny middle grade fiction.
Speaking of kids’ comics, I recently heard about the Kids’ Comics Revolution Awards. Podcast hosts and comic book artists Dave Roman and Jerzy Drozd have started this first-ever award for kids’ comics where only kids can vote. The categories range from best in a variety of genres to best hair in comics and grossest moment in comics. Voting is online (see the link above) or in person at the Kids Read Comics Convention in Ann Arbor next weekend.