CM . . .
. Volume XXIV Number 31. . . .April 13, 2018
Ian Boothby. Art by Nina Matsumoto. Colour by David Dedrick.
New York, NY: Graphix/Scholastic (Distributed in Canada by Scholastic Canada), 2018.
187 pp., trade pbk. & hc., $16.99 (pbk.), $34.99 (hc.).
ISBN 978-1-338-02946-8 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-338-02947-5 (hc.).
Grades 4-8 / Ages 9-13.
Review by Allison Giggey
Intellectual August and fearless Charlie team up to free themselves and other animals from the lab where they are the subjects of cruel experiments. After their daring escape, the friends become local rescue heroes but keep their identity secret inside a robotic dog suit. When an evil villain from their past returns, they need to figure out how to keep themselves and their town safe.
I’ve often imagined my cat is actually a dog in disguise, but never the other way around. The premise of this graphic novel is wacky, silly, and fun--- kids will love it. Honestly, adults probably will too. Sparks checks a lot of boxes in terms of general appeal: suspense? Check. Comedy? Check. Flawed but lovable main characters? Check. Evil genius baby and sidekick squirrel? Check.
Balance is the key word in this graphic novel. The vocabulary is mostly simple without being dull, which is something that I value when adding graphic novels to my intermediate school library collection. The ratio of text to illustrations is well-balanced; many graphic novels seem to either over- or underestimate the reading level of the target audience, but Sparks sits right on the line. Younger or struggling readers will be able to manage it independently while older, stronger readers likely won’t feel that it’s beneath them.
David Dedrick’s colour palette is extremely eye-catching. Mostly done in blue and yellow tones, the dominant colours in each panel support the action. For example, the flashback scenes to the laboratory are done in mostly blues and grays, giving those panels an institutional, prison-like feel. Besides the colour palette, one of my favourite things about the illustrations in this book is the scale of the animals in comparison to the people. Matsumoto manages to make the main characters-- the animals-- prominent on the pages without making them comically larger-than-life.
Sparks has already been “stolen”, read, and enjoyed by my seven-year old daughter, 11-year old nephew, and two of my 13-year old students. At their insistence, it has been added to my school library order, and they are looking forward to future installments.
Allison Giggey is a teacher-librarian from Charlottetown, P.E.I. who really needs to remember not to leave her review copies of books lying around at home or work until she has finished with them.
© CM Association
University of Manitoba
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