Thursday, May 10, 2007

AMELIA RULES! The Whole World's Crazy

Jimmy Gownley
Renaissance Press
GENRE: Realism

ISSUE: The Whole World’s Crazy
FORMAT: Hardback
PAGES: 176 pages
COLOR: Full Color
ISBN 10: 0-9712169-3-2
ISBN 13: 978-0-9712169-3-8

Moving to a new home
Fights with friends
Feeling alone
Play pretend
Santa Claus

Amelia Louise McBride: 9-year-old protagonist
Reggie Grabinsky: Amelia’s friend and superhero wannabe
Pajamaman: The silent friend
Rhonda Bleenie: Amelia’s arch-enemy and a member of the group
Mom: Amelia’s mother
Tanner: Amelia’s aunt

In this first volume the book is split into five sections, each one a separate story from the others. This is the story of Amelia. Her mother and father are recently divorced. She and her mother moved in with Tanner, Amelia’s 20-something aunt. Amelia finds herself a new group of friends, two of which she likes and one she does not. She and Rhonda love to hate one another and they frequently compete and bicker.

Jimmy Gownley has tapped into something special with AMELIA RULES! Not only is she a likeable character, she also has her faults. Each of the characters do. Life isn’t easy for Amelia, but she is happy. Like all kids, she finds her way through her circumstances and discovers little gems about life along the way.

Amelia has a habit of talking directly to the reader from time to time. This can be a dangerous writing tool if not done correctly, but no worries here. Gownley pulls it off and ends up making Amelia more interesting because of it.

Amelia and her friends are round characters, with depth and meaning. They are real, enjoyable, and kids will be able to make sense of Amelia’s life. They laugh, they fight, they have fun and they struggle: all things that real kids go through. Gownley crafts a story with laughter and fun, while still taking on all kinds of hard issues. Even still, he never once bogs down the reader.

Gownley even takes on the subject of Santa Claus, specifically the existence of said Christmas icon. Between fake Santas at the mall, and confusion about why some kids do not get Christmas presents, Amelia learns about Santa, agrees that he is real, but that sometimes he needs a little help. It is one of the most poignant Christmas stories I’ve ever read.

As with the story, the art is high quality. Gownley’s sense of color and shape makes the story engaging on a very youthful level, while offering a stream of good stories. The inking is subtle, backgrounds accentuate the story, and the colors are bright. The flow from panel-to-panel and page-to-page is clear and readable allowing the reader can move through the stories in a fluid manner. One aspect that I found particularly enjoyable is that the outlines for the panels are hand drawn giving the book itself a personality.

My Rating: All Ages
Publisher’s Rating: Ages 8-12
All Ages Reads: Not Rated
Comics in the Classroom: Not Rated

This is a great book for young readers. Older children will enjoy reading it for themselves and younger ones will beg to have it read to them. My 6-year-old daughter loved the book; we read it together. She read Amelia while I read the other parts, and together we finished a chapter a night.

AMELIA RULES! offers many opportunities for a teacher to engage students and talk about life issues the kids will encounter everyday: divorce, fights with friends, feeling alone, love and adventures. It is all there and makes for great reading and discussion. This would be a hit in the classroom on so many different levels and would be a great book to hook kids on reading.

Lesson Plan: Economics

There are two more books in the series: What Makes You Happy and Superheroes. According to the official homepage, AMELIA RULES! has been nominated for three awards: The Howard Eugene Day Memorial Prize, the Harvey Award, and the Eisner Award.

Highly Recommended
This graphic novel is fantastic. No doubt about it. Kids, even those who struggle to read, will enjoy this book and find reading (or being read to) enjoyable. This has a place in every classroom, library and home. This is definitely one of my favorites.


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