Go Go Gravel Books

Two friends independently told me about Elise Gravel’s nonfiction picture book series Disgusting Creatures. The Slug! The Fly! The Rat! More! I saw them in a bookstore recently, and wondered what else Gravel had been writing. The answer: great comics for very little kids (and adults with great taste).

The Great Antonio by Elise Gravel. (Easy-To-Read comics Level Two) Toon Books, 2016. 9781943145089.

great-antonioInside the front cover, there’s a photo of a giant bearded strongman (Antonio Barichievich, 1925 – 2003). Is he about to pull those three elephants sideways?

This is his story. He was a big baby from Europe. There’s a drawing of him hauling a tree around with no hands when he was 12. Antonio was even more enormous when he moved to Canada at 20. There he became a famous wrestler who not only fought ten people at a time, he once fought a bear.

After a relationship ended badly, he lived on the streets outside a donut shop in Montreal (Gravel’s hometown). Apparently everyone knew and loved Antonio and his crazy stories about his life, many of which turned out to be true.

This is an amazing book, and my favorite of the three

I Want a Monster by Elise Gravel. Katherine Tegen Books, 2016. 9780062415332.

i-want-a-monsterWinnie wants a pet monster like her friends. She talks her dad into it by convincing him she’s willing to do all the hard work involved and they head to the Monsterium to choose one of the weird creatures. Things are great after they bring Gus home, but there are also some issues, particularly after he grows a bit.

I’m a huge fan of kids’ graphic novels full of simply-drawn weird creatures. (This is marketed as a picture book, but it’s also just a big hardcover comic.) This is one of my favorites — it’s right up there with Trondheim’s A.I.L.E.E.E.N. And it’s extra cool because it looks like it’s drawn on blue-lined graph paper.

A Day in the Office of Doctor Bugspit (Balloon Toons) by Elise Gravel. Blue Apple Books, 2011. 9781609050924.

doctor-bugspitDr. Bugspit wants everyone to believe he is the galaxy’s best doctor. (He’s not.) Aliens come from all over to get help with their crazy problems. (Ms. Picklepus is growing toes everywhere!) His fix-it-up syrup’s disgusting ingredients are secret, but I can tell you it includes both ear wax and dead flies.

The best things about this one: it’s general zany tone, plus it appears to have been drawn on lined paper like kids use at school.

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