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Monday, June 23, 2014

Frenetic Fun Graphic Novel for 2nd to 4th graders

Burks, James (2012) Bird and Squirrel on the Run  New York: Scholastic

When I see modern cartoons on TV I feel really old.  I realize that my beloved  Bugs Bunny and the Jetsons must have seen frenetic and chaotic to my parents, but somehow when I see Phineas and Ferb or SpongeBob SquarePants or whatever, it seems like a lot of running around and screaming and not a whole lot of plot or humor or anything.  That has affected the way I look at graphic novels of lower elementary students too.  If even the style of the thing resembles the zigzag blocky style of modern cartoons, I tend to write the thing off without even giving it a chance.  Frankly, that is kind of what I did with James Burks's Bird and Squirrel on the run. 
     Then my amazing fourth grade daughter and her friends, who love the book, turned it into a hilarious dramatic reading and I finally got it.  So here, then is a review of Bird and Squirrel from an enlightened curmudgeon:
     The plot is fairly simple.  The gregarious, daring and outgoing bird decides to be friends with the nervous, anxious, terminally shy squirrel.  When a carnivorous cat enters the picture, the two friends must run, dodge and outwit the feline terror.  But that really isn't what the book it about.  It is about two very different friends, who come to appreciate the aspects of their personalities that make them different.  That part of it is quite heartwarming. 
     The style of the art is still not my favorite, and it does tend to have a fair amount of violence-without-consequence (think Road Runner and Coyote's epic battles); but I have to admit, the book is funny, engaging, and has some substance to it.  It think it would be enjoyed by both boys and girls from second grade on up.  I cannot imagine a parent challenging this book.

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