Eleanor Davis has created two of my all-time favorite graphic novels, the multiple award winning Stinky, one of the first TOON Books published in 2008, and Secret Science Alliance, which came out in 2009. After creating art and a graphic novel for adults, Davis and fellow graphic novelist and husband Drew Weing have teamed up with each other and TOON Books to bring us Flop to the Top.
The most unexpected and exciting thing for me about Flop to the Top, despite being called a "modern day fable" on the back of the book, is that is has a message that is both timely and not at all heavy handed. Weing and Davis bring cartoon humor to Flop to the Top, from the exclamation point hairdo of Wanda, the main character, and the stolid, constant expression of her mostly companion, Wilbur. Their palette is rich with warm oranges and yellows and cool blues and purples and the illustrations are chunkily solid, while at the same time dynamic and expressive. This in turn couches and softens the very real commentary on social media, obsession with celebrity and the inherent narcissism that this fascination engenders in Flop to the Top. I can't tell you how weird it is to be talking about something that I consider a serious plague on children and society in general these days while also discussing a really fun and funny graphic novel for beginning readers.
Wanda lets the reader know right from the start that she IS amazing and she IS a superstar. On the second page of the story, she is already taking selfies and giving them captions. The silent, non-reactive Wilbur is Wanda's biggest fan, and probably only fan since Wanda refuses to play with her little brother and sister. When a selfie with Wilbur (titled "Superstar Wanda and her Floppy Dog) goes viral, Wanda is thrilled - until she realizes all the attention is for Wilbur. Wilbur is whisked off into the world of celebrity where he gets to ride in limos with Sassy Cat, current star of the Star Show ("Where WE choose the stars!") and field compliments from his new hordes of fans. Wanda can only pedal behind (how she fits her exclamation point ponytail in her bike helmet is hilarious) and watch from the wings. Happily, Wanda gets in one good (true?) word that reaches Wilbur before she is dragged off by security and convinces him to give up the high life for fun in the backyard with Wanda, Jade and James. Wanda ends Flop to the Top by telling them all that they are her superstars. As one review of Flop to the Top ended, "The book is so much fun that both lessons - in reading and in life - go down easy." I couldn't agree more.
Also by Eleanor Davis:
Source: Review Copy