Adventures in Cartooning : Characters in Action! by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold, and Alexis Frederick-Frost, 61pp, RL 1.5

In 2009 Adventures in Cartooning hit the shelves. Adventures in Cartooning : Characters in Action is the third book in this hugely popular series, all of which are presented by the The Center for Cartoon Studies. At first I thought that The Center for Cartoon Studies was something like the ACME company in Warner Brothers cartoons, but, as I began researching this series to write my review, I discovered that it is REAL! The CSS offers a two year program exploring the art of creating visual stories with over 100 students enrolled. And, author James Strum, besides being the author of award winning comics and graphic novels, is on the faculty of The Center for Cartoon Studies and Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost are alumni of the school! Now the title really makes sense, right?

Before I say anything else, I need to alert you to the wonderful fact that this graphic-novel/how-to-draw series is also PERFECT for emerging readers! Like the TOON series of graphic novels (which are specifically written to be beginning to read primers) the Adventures in Cartooning series is an enticing step up from leveled readers that will give kids a true sense of accomplishment. In Adventures in Cartooning we are introduced to the Magic Cartooning Elf who helps a young princess with writer's block create her very first comic, which leads to a story-within-a-story. As the plot unfolds, the Magic Cartooning Elf, while helping the princess, is also teaching readers about story structure and the basic elements of cartooning and techniques. There are even more straightforward instructions on how to draw a comic at the end of the book. The beauty of this series is that the authors present a seemingly simplistic story that is really layered storytelling that folds actual instruction into the plot like Nutella in a cronut.

Photo from First Second

Based on my fantastic description, you might guess what's going on in Adventures in Cartooning : Characters in Action. But really, the story was so entertaining that I read for plot and forgot to look for tips on drawing characters in action and didn't even realize what was going on with the Basic Shapes characters (Jonesy and his son, able to portray hundreds of different characters) until I reached the page that shows how to make characters look old (or young) and how to draw expressions. And, while Adventures in Cartooning : Characters in Action is a mere 60 pages, two of which are "About the Authors" pages that contain no real information about the authors, and one page dedicated to the thoughts of a fly stuck in the intestines of Edward, the horse who gets turned into a galloping stalk of broccoli, there is so much going on in this book that I'm not sure where to being to describe it! However, the back cover, above, comes close, informing the reader that there are so many great characters in this great story that they all didn't fit inside the book and had to be relegated to the back cover...

However, if you really feel the need to know the plot of Adventures in Cartooning : Characters in Action, here goes: the Brave Knight and his horse, Edward, come upon a group of intruders in the forest and quickly realize that they need to get to the castle to protect the King. Once there, they find renowned director Otto Airs, the man behind "GrowBots," "Outlaws - Inlaws," and "Loudmouth." He is making a movie, using the castle as a set, and in the middle of a casting call for a seven-year-old witch. A miscast spell and the appearance of a brilliant, mad scientist and inventor of the Mash-O-Matic leads to some pretty awesome mash-ups, including a Boat-O-Saurus and (almost) a Broc-A-Lina (broccoli crossed with a ballerina). Amazingly, all is set right in the end - the King is returned to his throne, the Special Effects Gun is destroyed and the Magic Cartooning Elf discusses body language, among other things, gently shifting from story to drawing lesson then back to story again. Really, you have to read Adventures in Cartooning : Characters in Action to truly believe all the amazing stuff rolled into this book! Now, I am going to get my pencils and paper and draw some peanut-shaped characters, which I'm sure is exactly what your kids will want to do as well when they finish this book!

Other books in the Adventures in Cartooning series!

Source: Review Copy

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