Monday, April 2, 2007

Little Vampire

Little Vampire Goes to School and Little Vampire Does Kung Fu, by Joann Sfar

Little Vampire lives with his mom, dad, and assorted haunts and spooks in an old mansion on a hill. In Little Vampire Goes to School, his fondest wish is to go to school like other kids, and his parents reluctantly agree. Of course, there’s no one at school in the middle of the night, so Little Vampire strikes up a pen pal conversation with one of the daytime students, Michael, and a great friendship is soon formed. In Little Vampire Does Kung Fu, Michael and Little Vampire deal with a school bully – but not in the usual way!

I guarantee you’ve never read anything quite like Little Vampire. Translated from Sfar’s original French, these stories are warm, funny, enchanting, unconventional, intriguing, and, ultimately, satisfying. And the art! Creepy and dark, yet charming and lovable, the mix of simple and complex character designs gives the book a rich, textured feel. The panels are unbelievably detailed, yet feel uncluttered and inviting. You’ll be drawn in from the first page and will want to read these stories again and again.

Sfar has created some truly unique characters. There’s Phantomat, Little Vampire’s grumpy flying dog; his parents, the Captain of the Dead and Pandora, who have impressive parenting skills; Rabbi Solomon, the violin playing Kung Fu master who lives in a painting; Ophtamol, Claude, and Marguerite, a trio of odd monsters; and a group of truly bizarre magicians that live under the Luminous and Legendary Tree of Chinese Hanukkah.

The main characters, Little Vampire and Michael, are sweet and lovable, but they are also “real” kids. There’s none of the sugar-coating you get in most kids’ books – Sfar takes on weighty topics such as honesty, friendship, death, the existence of God, and the value of doing your own homework. The monsters act as sort of a Greek anti-chorus, voicing (and acting out) Michael’s emotions and impulses. There are morals to be learned and questions to be pondered, but they are embedded in such imaginative and unexpected stories that kids won’t notice that they’re learning and growing while they read. None of that should imply that Sfar’s work is only for children, though, because I love it just as much as the girls do.

While Little Vampire Goes to School is truly all ages, Little Vampire Does Kung Fu is probably just a shade too dark for the youngest or most fragile kids (“Ages 10 up” is printed on the back cover). There is a scene in Kung Fu where the monsters have eaten a little boy, then they spit out the pieces and sew them back together (don’t worry – it turns out okay in the end!). Much of the lettering is in cursive, so younger kids might not be able to read it alone, but this just means you have to share the reading, and these stories are best when shared.

Shelby says: I read this book a lot because we keep it in the bathroom. Little Vampire’s dad is the Captain of the Dead. He’s cool looking and has curly hair like George Washington and he knows everything, even if he doesn’t tell. I like how the Captain always has something following him around, like an octopus as big as a house or a bird as big as your thumb. It’s different than other books because of the way it’s translated from French to English – sometimes the words sound kind of funny, but it’s a good thing. I like the way Little Vampire is drawn because he looks kind of like a vampire, but not very scary at all. And some of the pictures are disgusting because there are green, white, or yellow blobs coming out of a monster’s nose. The house is really cool because of the way he draws the bricks. The eyeball monster dude thing is drawn really cool because he has about 5 eyes which are on long eye stalks and each eye has a red hat on it.

Sarah says: It’s about a young vampire who meets a boy named Michael. They become friends and play with the monsters in Little Vampire’s house. The ending of Kung Fu is different than most stories – it’s surprising and I liked it. This is one of my favorite comics because it’s unusual. The art is great because it has so much detail in one teeny panel. I like the way he uses color. The creator’s imagination is different than most – his ideas make you feel like you’re really there even though most of it’s not real. I think it’s not for little tiny kids or kids who get scared easy, but if you like a little bit of violence and some funniness packed into one book, you will like Little Vampire.


Post a Comment

<< Home