Saturday, November 10, 2007


AUTHOR: Lewis Trondheim
ILLUSTRATOR: Fabrice Parme
PUBLISHER: First Second Books

FORMAT: Trade paperback
PAGES: 124 pages
COLOR: Full color
ISBN-10: 1-59643-094-X
ISBN-13: 978-1-59643-094-5

The First Second website summed this title up well: “Welcome to Portocristo; its clear skies, sandy beaches, bustling streets—and its spoiled rotten, six-year-old king. The little despot is grouchy, whiny, and demanding—everything you'd hate to find in a boy on a throne. But here in Portocristo, anything he says goes, no matter how bizarre or harebrained. Prepare for zaniness as young King Ethelbert transports himself back in time to meet a dinosaur, swaps his country's kids for Ethelbert robots, tests his bodyguard's mettle by putting a price on his own head, and shrinks the world down to his size.”

King Ethelbert is a snotty, spoiled little 6-year-old with a flair for the exciting. As king, he can do whatever he wishes putting the adults at his beck-and-call. Typical of youth, he is self-centered and unconcerned with the feelings of others. His biggest concern is competing for riches with his cousin-king from around the bend.

TINY TYRANT is about more than a spoiled child. We have a dandy little yarn about what life would be like if kids were in charge, really in charge. King Ethelbert gets the grown ups and put them into all kinds of predicaments; kids will eat it up with a spoon, and they will see Ethelbert for what he is – a spoiled rich kid. Still, it is great fun to pretend that they are Ethelbert and bossing all of us around.

The most distinctive aspect of Parme’s art is the fact that he uses frameless (or borderless) panels in his illustrations. Some will enjoy the free flowing movement this technique implores; others may be confused by it. The sequence of panels is virtually the same on ever page making the frames unnecessary. I found the technique refreshing and very pleasing to the eye.

Parme also uses different background colors for each chapter, something that I found worked quite well. Many children and adults will check to see how long a chapter is before reading it. The colors make that very easy to do.

I found the illustrations to be absolutely fantastic: clean, clear, precise, and most importantly, the art added more to the story than was found in the text alone.

My Rating: Ages 8 and older
Publisher’s Rating: All Ages
All Ages Reads: All Ages
Comics in the Classroom: Ages 8 and older

There is some mild wrestling-style, Looney Tunes violence, but nothing that the majority of parents would object to.

TINY TYRANT lends itself to companion reading. I think adults and kids can sit down together and read about the hysterical antics of Ethelbert and then talk about how he acts naughty. Described as an anti-hero, Ethelbert is our what-not-to-do role model. Kids understand; they get it. They will not have problems with understanding why they cannot act like Ethelbert. I think it would be a great discussion to talk about why his actions are misguided. What would happen if we acted like Ethelbert at school? What’s wrong with acting like him? Why shouldn’t we all act like Ethelbert. I see a journal entry, classroom blog post, class discussion, or essay in the future. Come to think of it, TINY TYRANT may be just the perfect book to read to students within the first week of school, when we teachers are talking about classroom rules and appropriate behaviors.

Highly Recommended
First Second keeps putting out interesting and unique graphic novels for children. Their stories are not the typical superhero fare, expanding the genre and giving readers choices of what to read. I love it and hope they keep it up. TINY TYRANT is great and lends itself to a great discussion on proper ethics and behaviors. It does so without preaching or lecturing to the students. For that very reason, this title gets a “Highly Recommended” from me.

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