Bubbles and Gondola, NBM Publishing, $16.99
Art and story by Renaud Dillies
I've avoided writing this review for some time, because I didn't much care for Bubbles and Gondola. And not only do I not like to say bad things about books that people have poured their heart, soul and sweat into, but I like that NBM publishes such a wide variety of material -- which means that some of it I won't like, and I don't like "punishing" them for that. But I'm trying to clear out the review pile, so here goes.
Bubbles and Gondola is about Charlie the Mouse, a shy writer who lives alone and has writer's block. He does, however, babble on about the joys of living alone -- sleeping when you please, eating what you like, making as much noise as you want, etc. Then a bird -- possibly imaginary -- arrives and cajoles him out of his apartment, where he spends a day and a night with other people, especially in a carnival, and learns the value of companionship. Not coincidentally, he becomes writer un-blocked.
Now, I realize that Dillies rose from the ranks of children's books. I know that the PR describes the book as "a tale for all ages full of whimsy and lyricism." I know the subtitle is "A Magical Graphic Novel." I know what I'm getting into here: kids' lit. (I mean, "whimsy" is a dead giveaway.)
And that's fine. There's definitely a place for kids' lit. I'm all for it.
But really well done kids' lit doesn't mean you have to be a kid to enjoy it -- our little hobby is rife with "kids' stuff" that could be enjoyed on a number of levels. I loved Rocky & Bullwinkle. I loved Batman: Brave and Bold. I love Superman Family Adventures. But whatever is it that I liked in those works, I'm not finding it here. And 80 pages is a lot of pages to learn the pretty obvious saw that friendship is better than solitude.
Still, I'm glad that Bubbles and Gondola exists. There are probably a lot of pre-schoolers would simply be enchanted by the anthropomorphic animals, the colors of the carnival, the suggestions of music. Maybe they'll enjoy the art style, mostly Franco-Belgian with nods to "Merrie Melodies" cartoons and "Krazy Kat." And maybe some adults would enjoy reading it to them, too.
So yay for Bubbles and Gondola, and for those who enjoy it, and for NBM for publishing it. It's just not for me. And that's fine, too.