Escaping the Winter BlahsA column article by: Penny Kenny
Everyone seems to be suffering from the "Winter Blahs" at my school, including the children. Fortunately I have something that will help them snap out of it. Cinebook has recently released new The Bluecoats and Lucky Luke volumes. These two series are very popular with my middle and upper elementary boys and I anticipate both these books will be greeted with open arms.
The Bluecoats Volume 4: The Greenhorn by Cauvin and Lambil (46p, ISBN: 978-1-84918-066-5): Sergeant Chesterfield is in love. But he has a rival for his lady's affection, a handsome young greenhorn of a lieutenant. Or does he? Misunderstandings abound and soon Chesterfield and the reluctant Corporal Blutch are involved in bar brawls, Indian uprisings, doomed cavalry charges, and buffalo stampedes. While there's more than a bit of satire in Raoul Cauvin's script, there's also enough broad humor and slapstick action in Willy Lambil's art to make the story accessible to young readers. The story never drags and the cartoony style art is expressive and fluid. There's plenty of emotion and movement on each page.
Lucky Luke Volume 26: The Bounty Hunter by Goscinny and Morris (46p, ISBN: 978-1-84918-059-7): It's just another day in the Old West as Luke has to find a stolen horse, tries to prevent an Indian attack, and foils the plots of an enthusiastic bounty hunter. While younger readers might not get the "Lone Ranger" joke, readers of all ages will appreciate René Goscinny's clever, quick moving script. Morris gives the characters a lean, lanky look that lends itself to physical comedy. The scene where Luke keeps knocking the bounty hunter Elliot Belt down has an animated feel to it. The action flows easily from panel to panel. There are also some fun visual gags, such as the masks the Indians wear for their rain-making ceremony. Fans of a certain movie monster will recognize them immediately.
Other Cinebook offerings that will appeal to kids and tweens include:
Spirou & Fantasio by Tome & Janry: Reporter Spirou, his friend Fantasio, and his pet squirrel Spip follow the call of adventure around the world and generally wind up in trouble. In the second volume, Spirous & Fantasio in New York (46p, ISBN: 978-1-84918-054-2), the intrepid heroes get caught up in a gang war between the Mafia and Triad. This story will appeal to older tweens who like explosions, shoot outs, and impossible escapes. The violence is handled with a light touch and there are plenty of twists and turns in the story to hold the reader's attention. Cultural stereotypes abound, but it's done in fun. The art style leans toward caricature and has a rougher, less polished look to it than the other books on this list, but it suits the material.
Yoko Tsuno by Roger Leloup is a great series for girls in the third grade and up. Yoko is a young electrical engineer who has encountered everything from time travel machines to ghosts to weather control devices. She's intelligent, kind, curious, and brave, making her a great role model for young girls. However, boys who enjoy Godzilla and other giant monster movies will also enjoy her latest adventure The Dragon of Hong Kong (46p, ISBN: 978-1-84918-041-2). While looking up relatives in Hong Kong, Yoko encounters a giant lizard, a mysterious little girl, and a dragon. The story plays out like Godzilla vs. Mothra or the 1995 Gamera Trilogy, only without the gore. The art is clean, attractive, and uncluttered. The action scenes are dramatic without being scary.
Papyrus by De Gieter: Tweens who are interested in Egypt and/or mummies and light horror will enjoy Papyrus Volume 4: The Evil Mummies (46p, ISBN: 978-1-84918-027-6). Papyrus and Princess Theti-Cheri set out to find the mummies of ten warrior archers. Unfortunately for them, the mummies are still alive and resent being disturbed. The script has a nice blend of history, action, horror, humor, and self-awareness. Papyrus and Theti-Cheri are likable characters who, though they might be frightened, never give up. The story is intense enough to hold the attention, but not scary enough to give younger readers nightmares. The art, while having a superficial resemblance to Egyptian hieroglyphics, is fluid and expressive.
Parents, educators, tweens, and children looking for stories that combine action, humor, and believable, heroic characters should check out Cinebook's offerings.