Friday, March 16, 2007

LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS: Volume 1





FORMAT:
Paperback
ISSUE: Volume 1, collecting issues 1-4
PUBLISHER: Image Comics and Runemaster Studios
AUTHOR:
Mike Bullock
ILLUSTRATOR: Jack Lawrence
GENRE: Animal Fantasy


TOPICS ADDRESSED
  • Toys Coming to Life
  • Monsters
  • Family Dynamics
  • Courage
  • Death


MAIN CHARACTERS
  • Joey
  • Courtney
  • Pallo
  • Aries
  • Venus
  • Minerva
  • Mumbler
  • Grumble
  • Valthraxx


PLOT SUMMARY
Joey’s mother got a new job and he has to move away from his friends and his beloved grandmother. Loneliness has already set in. With his grandmother far away, he wonders who will be around to comfort him when the Beasties come out of his closet at night. Before he leaves, granny gives him the Night Pride, a package of four stuffed animals that protect children while they sleep. It’s a good thing, because that very night the Beasties came after him. What ensues is a wonderful adventure for Joey, his pride, and a new friend.



AGE RECOMMENDATION

My Rating: All Ages
Comics in the Classroom: Ages 8 and older

This is an action-filled plot that will keep even very young children’s attention. It has a scary element, but nothing beyond the imagination of the typical child. LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS offers a creative solution to the nighttime problem of monsters in the closet. It is just enough to be suspenseful, but not enough to be inappropriate. It is a fantastic story that is great for all ages.



STORY REVIEW

What kid doesn’t think about his toys coming to life or monsters laying wait in the closet? They are universal concerns for children and Lions, Tigers and Bears hits on both fronts. This is a fantastic story with a nicely varied pace. Mike Bullock does well to discuss real issues without being too mature, and yet his writing does not talk down to children either. It is the perfect balance.

My 6-year-old daughter was interested in this book from the beginning. I kept the reading limited to one chapter per day, but that was not enough for her. She begged every morning and every evening for us to read another chapter. She could not wait to find out what happened next. The story had no significant effect on nightmares or on her being scared. Even still, after the first chapter we had to dig out four stuffed animals and put one at each corner of the bed, just like Joey does with the Night Pride. She took his fear and made a game of it, enjoying the creativity and incorporating the idea into her own play-pretend. She was hooked on the story because it is that good.



ART REVIEW
The art is accessible to people of any age. Like the story, the illustrations are engaging and enticing bringing the reader, especially the young and the reluctant reader, into the pages. The art is some of the best I have seen. There is a youthfulness about it, yet it is not childish for the older reader. The inking is thin. Details are achieved through coloring and shading. The panels are complete and interesting, yet clear and concise. Young readers will be able to follow the story and illustrations without any problems.


Joey is getting ready to move
to his new home and he is not happy.
The darkness of the sky is a nice touch.


This is the gift that Joey's grandmother
gave him before he left. It's the
Night Pride and they will protect him.


Joey is in his new house and
he sets up the Night Pride.


IN THE CLASSROOM
This story opens the doors for children to explore things that scare them: beasties, bugs, sock monkeys, puppets, dark hallways, clowns or other innocuous things that, for one reason or another, can scare a kid half to death. The magic here is the mixture of the real and the fantastic. With guidance and rules, children could develop creative works – short stories, poems, illustrations, or comics – that can help them make sense of their world and use their imaginations. The works do not have to be fantasy. The scary image does not have to be magical. Children could explore the ideas of loss, death, friendships and other social aspects that affect their daily lives. For instance:

Communication Arts and Science
Each student or group of students could be asked to make up a story – fantasy, realism, or some combination of the two – that includes an animal. As part of the research, the student or group can research that animal’s habitat and behaviors and make a poster that depicts the information. All the stories and scientific information could be shared with the entire class.

Communication Arts and Science
Each student could pick an animal that scares him or her: spiders, snakes, lizards, cockroaches or the like – and then he or she could research that organism and learn about its behaviors, habitat, food sources, natural predators, and environmental factors that affect it. Each student could create a non-fiction, informational book about that organism.

Technology in the Classroom
Runemaster Studios also publishes a self-contained issue of LIONS, TIGERS AND BEARS online. That is the perfect addition for an eMINTS or other technology-based classroom. (NOTE: This section was added after the review was posted. Thanks to Comics in the Classroom's Scott Tingley for pointing this online issue out to me.)



OTHER INFORMATION
Lions, Tigers and Bears, won the 2007 Angouleme Discovery Prize for Younger Audiences. According to Diamond this award is similar to the America’s Eisner Award.



MY RECOMMENDATION:
Highly Recommended


The pacing, style, story and illustrations give way to a perfectly produced piece of children’s comic literature. I can imagine all kinds of students (those from different backgrounds, gender and reading ability) being enthralled with this high quality work. It taps into their interests and spins a great yarn. It should be in every home, public school classroom and library.

2 comments:

The RP Muse said...

My 4-and-a-half year old son really enjoys when I read the Lions, Tigers, and Bears series to him. I second this recommendation--the quality of the writing and the art go along way in this piece. When we went back to our local comic store to get volume 2, the owner highly recommended a youth-appropriate series called Bone, which has been re-released in a set of 9 books. We bought book #1 and my son sat and listened through the entire book when we got home--I'm not sure we've ever read for 45 minutes straight. I would also highly recommend this series. The general plot is that a very greedy rich businessman gets run out of Boneville, his cousin joins him as a show of support, and they bumble into having to fight the forces of evil. The comicbook store owner described it as being somewhat like a looney-toons meets lord of the rings--i.e., a blend of goofy humor and fantasy.

Jack said...

RP:
I have heard about Bone, but haven't been able to pick it up yet. I think I am going to have to break down and buy it soon. ThaI always appreciate it when readers give me a heads up on what they think is a great all-ages read.