________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 22 . . . . June 27, 2008


Claire and the Bakery Thief.

Janice Poon.
Toronto, ON: Kids Can Press, 2008.
103 pp., pbk. & hc., $8.95 (pbk.), $16.95 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-55453-245-2 (pbk.), ISBN 1-55453-286-5 (hc.).

Subject Headings:
Baking - Comic books, strips, etc.
Bakeries - Comic books, strips, etc.
Detective and mystery stories.

Grades 2-4 / Ages 7-9.

Review by Gregory Bryan.

**½ /4


Dear Diary:

My whole life is changing. Things got kinda weird after Dad lost his job. But then he goes and buys an old bakery in the country! And now we have to move there. He says it will be good for us to get back to the earth. I think I'd rather go to Mars.


Kids Can Press is one of the leading publishers of books for Canadian children. As such, I was interested to see Kids Can Press branch out into the increasingly popular children's graphic novel market. Claire and the Bakery Thief is Kids Can Press' first graphic novel. As with all of their books, this one is attractively presented and has sturdy, durable binding. I was surprised, however, by the lack of colour in the book. From first page to last, all of the illustrations are greyscale. Although there are a number of greyscale or black and white graphic novels on the market, the fact remains that some publications are in full colour and Claire and the Bakery Thief must compete with these colourful graphic novels. I expect that, generally speaking, children would prefer to see colour illustrations.

     In Claire and the Bakery Thief, pre-teen Claire initially has trouble dealing with her family's relocation to the country. After losing his job, Claire's father purchases a country bakery. Together with her parents and family dog, Bongo, Claire begins her new life in Bellevale, a half hour drive from their former home in Bigville (population 82,000). Despite some initial discomfit, Claire soon settles into her new surroundings and makes a friend in the imaginative Jet. "The woods are full of amazing things," Claire confides in her diary. Claire's mother, however, has more trouble settling into her new surroundings. "Mom and Dad are really busy fixing up the bakery," Claire writes. "Why do they want a bakery when all they do is argue about it? They should open up a bikery instead." When Claire's mother disappears, Jet fears that Claire's parents may have separated. Claire, however, refuses to accept that her parents will, like Jet's parents, end in divorce. Claire decides to reunite her family with "Operation Mom."

internal art

     In penning Claire and the Bakery Thief, the author/illustrator, Janice Poon has given a nod toward Marvel Comics and DC Comics and other comic book leaders with the inclusion of farcical, overcooked hyperbole. Just as these comic book leaders produced super heroes and super villains of the order of Spider Man, Superman, Radioactive Man, and The Riddler, Poon has created a super villain of her own. Despite the contemporary, realistic setting, Poon includes the villainous Submarine King whose plan is one of world domination, if only he can secure a winning bread recipe. One assumes Poon's tongue is planted firmly in her cheek, but I wonder how many young readers will recognise the humour of the farcical notion. Other readers will question the Lassie-like Bongo saving Claire and Jet from peril. Called upon to lead the police to Claire and Jet's aid, the dog rides in a police car—a position from which the dog can hardly lead. Such nonsensical humour may prove a distraction to some young readers.

     The book is over one hundred pages in length, but the amount of text per page is very limited. Most pages have four or five separate panels or images. Some panels carry no words, but most panels contain one or two voice balloons, each carrying a sentence or two of speech. There is almost no narration. That is to say that, outside of the voice balloons, there are almost no words to read. The one exception is that the story protagonist, Claire, keeps a diary. Scattered through the book, there are half a dozen or so diary entries. These diary entries, however, serve as a reflection of Claire's thoughts more so than serving the traditional purpose of third person narration.

     In keeping with the bakery theme, at book's end, several pages of recipes are included for children and their parents to try out. I expect that many young readers will enjoy experimenting with the recipes. Similarly, I expect that many girls in early elementary school will enjoy reading about Claire's adventures. The novel-like appearance and book length (in page numbers), combined with the brevity of the text, will prove popular for girls making early forays into novel reading. My own eight-year-old daughter read the book, and she enthusiastically endorsed it, saying that she enjoyed the plot twists. She also liked the graphic novel format, saying that it was a nice variation to "normal" novel reading. Because my daughter sits right in the middle of the book's target audience of seven to nine-year-old girls, her reaction is an important one to recognise. In my opinion, however, the book has limited general appeal beyond the narrow target audience.

Recommended with reservations.

Gregory Bryan lives in Winnipeg, MB, where he teaches children's literature at the University of Manitoba.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.