Friday, October 17, 2014
Almost a Superhero Graphic Novel (but really about a boy trying to learn a job)
Pope, Paul (2013) Battling Boy New York: First Second.
Okay, I know the cover makes it look like this is a typical superhero smash-'em-up story, but it isn't. This is the story of a twelve year old boy who grew up in another dimension. When he is twelve years old, according to tradition, his parents outfit him with all that he needs and send him to Earth when his job is to fight the monsters that are loose (he is taking over for the city's previous hero, Haggard West). The boy, known only as Battling Boy (his parents call him Son -- we never get his real name) is expected to figure things out as he goes. This includes not only figuring out how to defeat monsters and gangs of ghouls, but also how to deal with the mayor of Arcopolis who wants to manage his career and ride on his coattails, and finally, with the Aurora, the daughter of Haggard West, who has been training to take over for her dad, and views Battling Boy's arrival as an insult to her father's memory.
There is enough action in this book to make it an instant favorite with fifth grade and older boys through middle school-- but because Aurora plays a big part as well, it may catch the interest of girls as well. There are also enough themes to give young readers something to think about -- including Battling Boy's struggle between being self-reliant and depending on his father and this new adopted community; the question of whether Battling Boy has a choice besides following in his father's footsteps; and a persistent theme of adults not taking kids or their contributions seriously. I also really appreciated that Battling Boy's parents and Aurora West's father (we are not told what happened to her mother) are kind, intelligent, loving people (though sometimes a bit busy).
The bottom line? Both parents and kids will think this is a good book (though perhaps for different reasons.