Friday, July 20, 2007

Casper, Moomin, and Asterix

This week we read some good, old-fashioned cartoon comics. I was curious to see how this material, some of it more than 40 years old, would go over with the girls. The lesson learned: quality lasts.

The Ultimate Casper Comics Collection by Sid Jacobson (ibooks)

Tracy says: I didn’t read too many comics when I was little, but I was a big Casper fan – I loved the cartoons on TV and I read the comics which my mom bought for me at the supermarket. So when I saw this reprint of early Casper comics on Amazon I had to order it. If only glowing memories of the past would remain golden as we age! About halfway through this book I found I had to force myself to read it – the inane writing just wore me down. Every character expounds at length about what’s going on – too much talk, not enough action! The few good bits involve Casper’s friend Spooky, (a different writer from the Casper stories). This might play well with young kids (the girls liked it), but I just didn’t enjoy it as much as I wanted to. Library and classroom safe for all ages.

Shelby says: It’s a bunch of different stories. Some of them are about Casper and Wendy but some are about Spooky. Some of the stories have evil people who cause trouble and Casper always gets them to be nice. The art is very cartoony but in a cute way. I like the scarecrow in one of the Spooky stories because he’s drawn really cute. In that story the scarecrow can’t scare away crows, but then Spooky comes up behind him and scares the crows. Then the scarecrow thinks he can scare anything, so he goes around town scaring everyone. Spooky has to stop him so he can scare them himself. Anyone will like Casper!

Sarah says: I like Casper mostly because of the artistic skills. The art is very cute but some of the stories are a little too cute for me. They’re a little too younger-kiddish for me – it kind of shoves one thing at a time in your face so younger kids will understand. Like, if Casper says, “I’m going to visit Wendy,” then he says to Nightmare, “I’m going to visit Wendy,” and when he meets Wendy in the woods he says, “Hi, Wendy, I was just coming to visit you.” I’m used to books where you kind of have to figure it out as you go along. I liked the Spooky stories the most because Spooky’s a mean ghost. My other favorite character is Nightmare, the ghost horse, because he can fly and turn invisible. I think young children would like it but as soon as somebody gets to about 7 years old they probably would get a little bored with it.

Moomin, by Tove Jansson (Drawn & Quarterly)

Tracy says: In this European favorite the Moomins, little creatures who look like cute hippos, stumble into and out of trouble, fall in love, go to the Riviera, and meet ancestral Moomin mummies and pirates. Definitely fun and quirky, it’s great that Moomin is available the States and the book itself is beautifully turned out. It may be difficult for little ones to understand everything that’s going on (I had to explain what the Riviera is), but they’ll get the gist of it most of the time. There are some bits that parents may object to, including quite a bit of whiskey for Poppa and rum for the pirates. This book is nominated for the Eisner Award for Best Publication for a Younger Audience. Recommended for ages 8 and up, with a warning for libraries and classrooms about gambling and alcohol references.

Shelby says: Moomin is about this hippopotamus-looking creature called a Moomin who goes on adventures with pirates and people taking over his house and things like that. The art is very simple because it’s just black and white and really cartoonish. The book has four different stories – I liked the pirate story the best because it was really funny. The pirates had to arrange a stone garden for the Mama Moomin in order to get their rum. The girl Moomin and the princess (that the pirates captured) were always saying, “It’s so romantic – those pirates are so manly!” but they get mad when the pirates have to do the stone garden because it’s not manly. The language sort of sounded a bit old-fashioned but I sort of understood what they meant and it was still funny. There are a lot of words, so if parents explained it to little kids they would probably like it. It would be good for parents and kids to read together.

Sarah says: Moomin is about a little elephant/hippo/animal-looking thingie named Moomin. He has a Moomin Mama, a Moomin Papa, and a girlfriend named Snorkmaiden. He also has a friend named Sniff – he looks like a rat. My favorite story was “Moomin on the Riviera”. I like it because they don’t understand the rich, French culture. They think that people welcome into their home, which is really a hotel, and they think everything is free until they get the bill. Snorkmaiden goes to the casino and wins a lot of games and wins a lot of money so she can pay the bill. After they run out of money they go to the beach to live under their old boat because they can’t afford anything. They’re just as happy there and a crazy, rich artist comes to live with them. He makes sculpture elephants. I think Moomin is very interesting and very strange, in a good way. It doesn’t feel old at all; it feels like something I’ve never read before. This book is for people who like make-believe creatures and realistic fantasy. I think this book is for ages 9 and up.

Asterix the Gaul by Rene Goscinny and Albert Uderzo (Orion)

Tracy says: Another of the few comics I remember from my childhood – for some unknown reason my grandmother had Asterix comics and I remember reading them while the grownups talked about boring stuff. Asterix, Obelix, and all the folks in the Gaul village drink a magic potion brewed by their Druid, Getafix, that gives them superhuman strength and they generally drive the Roman garrisons crazy. In this story the local Roman leader, Crismus Bonus, wants to get the magic potion, make his soldiers super-strong, and overthrow Julius Caesar. As you might imagine, things don’t go quite the way he planned.

It’s hard to believe these stories were first published in 1961 because they are so fresh and funny. I laughed out loud quite a bit, not only at the brilliant puns but also at the slapstick action. I can’t imagine how hard it was to translate all those puns from the original French! The art is so expressive and the writing so lively that everyone will enjoy Asterix. It’s truly all-ages – kids will love the slapstick and adults will love the puns as well. I plan on picking up the trades until we’ve read them all! Highly recommended for ages 8 and up.

Shelby says: Asterix is about these people named Gauls who have a magic potion that will turn them invincible. Their enemies are the Romans and the leader of the Romans wants the magic potion so he can take the place of the emperor of Rome, Julius Ceasar. The Gauls always trick him and his soldiers. I liked the part where one of the Gauls tricked the Romans into thinking that the magic potion would make them invincible, but it really made their hair grow all of the time. It was funny. It was easy to understand. It’s for about ages 7 and older.

Sarah says: Asterix is about two Gauls and a Druid. The Druid makes a potion and everyone in the town drinks it and it makes them stronger. A Roman leader knows that they’re strong and wants the potion so he sends some of his men to go get it. The Druid ends up getting captured by the Romas so Asterix and Obelix try to save him. I liked it because it has a little bit of history and a lot of comedy. My favorite part is where the Romans play musical chairs. My favorite character is a small character – Caligula Minus. I like him the most because he loses musical chairs and has to dress up as a Gaul. I can’t tell it was written a long time ago – it seems like the things I read today. This book is probably for you if you’re old enough to read.


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