Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Sardines in Space
My lovely daughter, P, is somewhat of a reluctant reader. She's an enthusiastic listener, so I am not worried, but it warms my heart to see her sit on the couch and, on her own volition, become immersed in a book. My book antennae are on constant alert for new graphic novels to fire her way -- something other than BONE, please. So I was delighted to come across the Sardine in Outer Space series. There are four books in the series by French artists Emmanuel Guibert and Joann Sfar. I love these guys already for their quirky sense of humour and fun, fun books, and, um, they live in Paris and I wanna go. (Apparently they shared a studio space in Paris for many years and would alternate tasks in particular project -- one would write the other would illustrate on one project; on the next one, they'd switch. A talented duo for sure.)
Sardine is a little red-headed girl in a tall blue hat and matching blue gown. (Her black cat lives on the top of her hat, making it look as if the cat is the peak of a witchs'-type hat.) Sardine lives on the spaceship Huckleberry, which is piloted by her swashbuckling space pirate Uncle Yellow Shoulder. The trio is rounded out by Little Louie. In each book, there are 12 short stories, most of which involve battling the tyrant Supermuscleman and his evil sidekick, Doc Kroc. In the first story in volume 2 for instance, Uncle Yellow, Sardine and Louie are off to break into Supermuscleman's orphanage and free all of the kids the evil SMM is putting through his "obedience training," complete with a gigantic brainwashing machine. The kids who are dropped into the brainwashing machine don't go willingly of course, and shout out things such as "Supermusclman, you're a dirty bedpan" (to which SMM and Doc Kroc respond - DK: Ew....that one was particularly filthy. SMM: I'll press VERY DIRTY!) or "Kroc, you old schmuck!!" much to the hilarity of the reader. And so we go on.
The stories are short, funny and witty, with enough "in jokes" for adults and just the right amount of potty humour IMHO. In The Cha-Cha Fly, for instance, children bitten by the cha-cha fly "get stupid dance tunes stuck in [their] head and just can't get them out." One victim is now "skipping" and keeps repeating the same line over and over again. Too boot, "Cha-cha flies live in cocoa trees. They use their delicious chocolate turds to lure their victims to them." Yes, gross but somehow charming in a warped kind of way. So, my vote for a great graphic novel series for pre-teens definitely goes to Sardine and friends. The series is published by First Second Books (who also have some great-looking graphic novels for adults). You can read some other reviews here.