CM . . . . Volume XXIV Number 25 . . . . March 2, 2018
Simone: The Best Monster Ever! is a compilation of one page comics with varying titles that were previously published in the magazine Aime Lire. Each page has a different humorous theme or story, but the basis for each is the antics of best friends Simone and Morris. In the world of Simon and Morris, everything is opposite and completely backwards of what the reader might traditionally expect from the two characters as well as the situations they are in. Even though Simone might look like an adorable little girl and Morris a monster, the reader quickly discovers that all is not what it seems.
Other characters are woven into the stories, adding credence to the upside down reality that exists between the two friends. There is an elephant-like doctor who is going to give Morris "a tiny needle" which the accompanying illustration shows is actually enormous, badminton with a bird instead of a birdie, and Zombie bowling with a giant snowball.
What the reader would normally perceive as gross or disgusting is seen as everyday life. Spaghetti made out of worms, snow that is actually dandruff, and a gigantic litter box full of pee and poop so large that a backhoe is required for removal are just a few examples.
Most of the stories are told primarily through the eyes of Morris who particularly sees the upside down world as perfectly normal. Many of the interactions are Simone seemingly puzzled, asking Morris questions which show the contradictory world in which they reside.
When Simone describes what constitutes her reality, readers see the vast differences. Simone reflects the "real world" of the reader while Morris can best be described as a potential expression of a reader's imagination and silly response to the "grown up world".
"In my world, the grass is green, the sky is blue.….birds sing all day long," Simone recounts. Simone's statement evokes a reaction from Morris to "stop …I'm going to have nightmares." This contrast is continued where flowers are described as ugly or a dream, accompanied by an illustration of a cute boy swimming, is described as being a "nightmare" by Morris.
Simard's characters with their consistent, uniform apparel, along with objects and props in each panel, are vibrantly colored and outlined in black, standing out against the softer surroundings. Illustrated body language of the characters, as well as between characters, is such that a reader can clearly see both emotion and reaction, enhancing the reader's connection and interest. Of particular note is that the figures and objects within the panels are varying enough in size to create depth, exaggerating certain parts, and minimizing others.
The panels are set against a white background to great effect while the background color within each panel is more muted. In addition, the vibrant settings in each story are an important baseline, adding support to the themes within. They vary with the storylines and include school, and home, but many of the settings take place outdoors and in different seasons. Traditional elements, such as standard speech balloons, make the text readable. The use of onomatopoeia is also present throughout the book and includes "tak, tak" to represent a jack hammer and "aaaahhhh" to represent surprise or fear.
In Simone: The Best Monster Ever!, Simard has created characters that, despite the upside nature of their world, feel real, with thoughts, emotions, and personalities that stand out. The comic strip presentation is quick and does not require a lot of patience for young children as the storylines, while consistent with a theme, change rapidly from each comic to the other.
Harriet Minuk is a librarian at Winnipeg Public Library in Winnipeg, MB.