Thursday, January 3, 2013

Review - "Giants Beware"

I’m a bit of an evangelist for graphic novels in a library. One of my first goals when I was hired as a librarian was to build up my department’s graphic novel section. At the time, it consisted of a handful of superhero books (some Iron Man, Spider-Man and Hulk), a couple of Indiana Jones, quite a few non-fiction graphics (a pretty nice selection, I have to admit), and Gene Luen Yang’s American Born Chinese (my predecessor might not have bought many graphics, but she did buy good ones, I’ll give her that). In the nearly two years I’ve been in my position, I’ve expanded that section by nearly three shelves, filling it with favorites like Babymouse, the Bone series, On the Case with Holmes and Watson and (my personal favorite), Raina Telgemeier’s Smile. This past year I added countless new titles, one of the the best of which is Jorge Aguirre and Rafael Rosado’s Giants Beware! I got such joy from reading this title, I can’t wait to share it with others.

Claudette is not your average young lady. Quite frankly, she’s not your average anything. She’s unruly, occasionally stinky (watch out for her feet!), and dead set on killing her village’s tyrannical baby-feet-eating giant. To aid her on her quest, Claudette enlists the help of her friend Marie, who wishes to be a princess, and her little brother Gaston, who wishes to be a sword making pastry chef. Along the road to the giant’s mountain, the small gang face a cursed Apple Hag, an ornery River King, not to mention hunger and disappointed expectations, all the while half the village and Claudette’s father are on their trail. When the trio finally comes face to face (face to ankle?) with the fearsome giant, they find things are not as they’ve always been told. What will bloodthirsty Claudette do?

Real heroes are rare, because real heroism often involves more than slaying the mighty giant. What Aguirre has done here is create three unique heroes, who find their heroics in different ways. Claudette has nerve, Marie has brains and Gaston has heart. Together they are unstoppable. We also gets shades of heroism in Claudette and Gaston’s father, who has suffered dismemberment from his own adventuring past, but who wastes no time in racing after his children when he believes them to be in danger and in his friend Zubair, who gives Claudette advice and helps in the search. They are both very clever men. Aguirre’s story is full of vim and vigor, adventure and lots of humor. Rosado’s art echoes the story beautifully with excellent characterizations (Gaston in his chef’s hat is a hoot) and landscapes. The adventures on the Mad River are particularly stunning.

Full color graphic novels for kids may not be a dime a dozen, but they are not exactly rare, but ones this good are few and far between. As I said, I’m thrilled to be able to share this with kids, and I would be perfectly content if there were more adventures of Claudette, Marie and Gaston down the road. Hear that, universe?

Giants Beware! By Jorge Aguirre, art by Rafael Rosado
2012, First Second
Library copy

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