Ape and Armadillo Take Over The World by James Sturm. (Easy-To-Read Comics Level Three) TOON Books, 2016. 9781943145096.
Maya Makes A Mess by Rutu Modan. (Easy-To-Read Comics Level Two). TOON Books, 2012. 9781935179177.
I’ve been working on what may become a kids graphic novel, so I went through the Seattle Public Library’s catalog to find TOON Books that I haven’t read. (If you don’t know, TOON is a groundbreaking imprint of easy-reader comics.)
Sturm’s was the best of the lot. Friends Armadillo and Ape are trying to come up with an evil playtime plan for sneaking into a castle and stealing the Wizard King’s wand. Ape objects because Armadillo gets to do all the cool stuff, like flying away on a pegasus, while Ape has to do unpleasant things like walk through a sewer. When Ape comes up with his own ideas, Armadillo objects. (Armadillo REALLY wants to pretend to be evil, but Ape doesn’t want to blow up the world.) Can they learn to play together?
Sturm adds comic strips starring both characters to the bottom of each page, adding extra fun and moments of character exploration to an already great book. I have to say I’m a bigger fan of Sturm than ever — in addition to being an amazing comics creator (Market Day, Adventures in Cartooning, Satchel Paige) I recently found out he was also The Stranger’s first art director.
Modan’s Maya is totally hilarious. Maya’s parents are highly critical of her table manners. After her father says, “You need manners! What if you were eating dinner with the QUEEN?” Maya’s invitation to dine with the queen is announced by a royal page and she is whisked away in a plane. Maya’s parents would be horrified by the way she eats her pasta and ketchup with her hands, but it all works out for the best.
The subject matter is quite a departure from the other books by Modan that I’ve read — The Property, Exit Wounds — but she uses her straightforward narrative style to amazing effect. The crowd scene of all the royals eating with their hands would make an amazing placemat.