There are publishers who put out great stories and there are publishers who put out beautiful books and there are a handful of publishers who manage to do both. In the world of kid's books, Candlewick Press and Amulet Books stand out as publishers of beautiful books that contain superlative stories. When it comes to graphic novels, :01 First Second publishes books that are equally compelling, entertaining and most often a work of art. Giants Beware! by Rafael Rosado and Jorge Aguirre is a perfect example of this synthesis.
Claudette, with her wooden sword and way of making herself heard, practically jumps right off the page. She has to be one of the feistiest, brashest, bravest girl heroines I have read since Mirka got her sword and Rapunzel used her hair as a lasso. But, like any good hero, Claudette knows the importance of having a strong crew behind you. This comes in the form of Gaston, Claudette's stubble-headed little brother who, while he loves to cook and treat his family and friends to culinary delights, also years to learn his father's craft of sword making, and her scrappy pug, Valiant. Rounding out the posse is the smart, reliable Marie, the daughter of the Marquis who takes her princess training very seriously and is unfailingly loyal to Claudette.
After hearing the story of the giant that forced the town of Mont Petit Pierre to build a fortress around its perimeters for protection, Claudette is ready to track him down and slay him. But first, she has to break into her father's secret trunk where his monster fighting equipment remains locked up since he lost his legs, an arm and his sword to a dragon. She convinces Gaston and Marie to join her by telling them that killing a giant father will ensure that Father will teach Gaston how to make swords and Marie will win automatic Princess-ship from the Princess Certification Board.
The three set off and the adventure begins. Aguirre and Rosado do a fantastic job coming up with imaginative hurdles for the three to overcome. When the Marquis finally notices that Marie has gone missing, he does his best to round up the villagers to help rescue her. Unfortunately, this cowardly bunch insists on being paid for their services rather than doing it out of the goodness of their own hearts. While this wrangling is going on, Gaston and Claudette's father, Augustine, and his assistant, Zubair, are first out of the gate to rescue the children.
Claudette, Marie and Gaston are such entertaining, delightful characters that I think I would be happy to read about them giving Valiant a bath. However, Aguirre and Rosado have created a richly detailed, rollicking story with a strong fairy tale feel to it that will be sure to entrance both girls and boys. All three children get the chance to shine when facing adversity and for Claudette, her moment comes when she is forced to admit that she can't fight giants on her own.
The climax of the story result in play, not violence. There is no giant killing, but quite a bit of tickling, which is perfect. When the children realize that the village is coming after them and the giant, they find a way to protect their new found friend and ensure that the villagers will not return to hunt him in the future. And, in what I hope is a glimpse of stories to come, there are some oblique references to Juliette, Claudette's even more fiercely brave mother who is not part of the story, as well as other giants who might be roaming the mountainsides. I hope that there are more stories on the horizon for Claudette, Gaston, Marie and Valiant!