Friday 3 May 2013

ReaditDaddy's Book of the Week Part 1 - Week Ending 3rd May 2013 - "Gum Girl" by Andi Watson (Walker Books)

We do take our "Book of the Week" awards very seriously indeed. I don't know if it'd help to try and picture the scene at home when we're putting together the BOTW articles - a grown man politely 'discussing' with his 5 year old boss that we can't really keep having TWO books of the week.

But the bottom lip comes out, the arms are crossed, and there's that "this conversation is OVER!" huff of breath - and to cut a long story short Charlotte's word is law!

So here's part one of our book of the week. For years the Japanese have pretty much ruled the roost when it comes to comics of this nature - that is, comics that have appeal to children and aren't all about uber-violence, dark themes or need a ton of gloomy backstory and thorough series commitment to get the best out of them.

The west is now fast establishing itself on the 'young' comics scene, in fact "Gum Girl - Catastrophe Calling" feels exactly like the comic I've been looking for to introduce Charlotte to that vibrant and wholly involving world of fast paced and fantastic comics that she's been missing out on. In short, Gum Girl is a comic that's absolutely written for her (but that doesn't mean I didn't enjoy it - It rocked my socks off!)

Grace Gibson is a fairly ordinary girl, moving to a new town and a new school. Slightly alarmed that Catastrophe seems to be more than a bit dangerous (Buffy fans might snigger at the intro bit in this!) Grace soon finds out that life in Catastrophe is hazardous and quite, quite surreal.

Her dad is the school's new headmaster but like most dads he's got his head in the clouds a bit. So when Grace witnesses a gigantic 50ft tall Mech bullying one of her classmates, she resolutely decides to try and do something about Catastrophe - and people's attitudes.

Stumbling across an old chemistry set in the loft of the new house, Grace accidentally creates an explosion and a huge mess in her room - but doesn't notice that her green chemical goop has leeched onto her fave pack of gum.

In true superhero style, Grace discovers too late that the gum has taken on unique properties - that could enable her to fight back against Catastrophe's many nasty miscreants. Fight back as (dramatic drum roll) GUM GIRL! She's got gum, and she's not afraid to use it.

Andi Watson's imaginative and energetic storylines (you get three fantastic stories in this volume, with two more volumes currently available - which we'll be getting as soon as we can!) are brilliant because despite Catastrophe's slightly surreal setting, this is a world that Charlotte recognises instantly. A world of school, daft lessons, crazy teachers, schoolkids, cliques and (yikes) school dinners. The humour is absolutely bang on the nail, and Gum Girl's plethora of super-abilities are fabulous (as is her costume. I think I have an idea who Charlotte will be going to her next Book Week dressed as!)

"Gum Girl" nails what comics were all about for me when I was a kid - The excitement, the adventure, the conveying of a story in a wholly cinematic and fast-paced way that no other illustrated medium can quite match. Better still, it's something for Charlotte to get behind and comfortably share with her classmates (who, thankfully, are largely comics-mad too!) particularly the girls who don't get enough comics that are like "Gum Girl", speaking to them in their own language about cool things they like and want to get into.

I've gone on a bit - but Charlotte's reaction to this and our other Book of the Week have been nothing short of amazing. She's clamouring for "Gum Girl - Tentacles of Doom" and "Gum Girl - Countdown to Destruction" so we'll definitely be picking them up as soon as we can. If you're a concerned parent who feels that comics are still a bit too 'old' for your 5 year old, and feel that the comics scene is all too dark and disturbing, breathe a fresh blast of bubblegum-scented air and get Gum Girl in your life NOW!

Charlotte's best bit: The evil Rapunzel-Hair-Monster! AIEEEEEE!

Daddy's favourite bit: I've never met a comic featuring cool girls, giant mechas, and crazy superpowers that I didn't like. Gum Girl has all those and more. Utterly rocking good comic, Andi!