Quote of the Month

When love and skill work together, expect a miracle. John Ruskin

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Perfect Combination-A Boy and His Dog

Black and white illustrations never looked as good as they do in this first graphic novel, Mal and Chad: The biggest, bestest time ever! by Stephen McCranie.  McCranie began the adventures of Mal and Chad as a feature for his college newspaper.  They have evolved from a mad scientist and his test subject into a child genius and his dog, a forever friend.

McCranie does not waste a single frame as the story begins with a bang; literally as Mal's experimental jet pack with his favorite stuffed animal, Captain Porky, is accidentally shot through the ceiling of his bedroom (roof of the house) by Chad to wander in the upper atmosphere.  Of course the jet pack was Mal's backpack containing his homework, textbooks and lunch.  Chad's over-dramatic reaction at the mention of lunch is the humorous, classic dog-always-craving-food response; not dog food though because it tastes yucky.

At Einstein Elementary School Mal has chats with the huge Einstein statue in front of the building.  It's his way of sorting through his thoughts.  Most of the students stay clear of Mal; in trying to protect his giftedness he comes across as a dork.

Two characters, Megan and Zachary, play prominently in the storyline.  Mal has a major crush on Megan even after she strikes him with one her flaming dodge bombs in gym class.  Zachary is the classic know-it-all whose biggest supporter is himself; spying Mal's backpack with Captain Porky through his telescope thinking it's an alien ups the ante in the laughter department.

Each day Mal can hardly wait to get home, trying out inventions stored in his treehouse, building his rocketship and just being with Chad throughout all his escapades.  When his teacher assigns an essay about what they want to be when they grow up, Mal has no clue. We readers get to share in all his attempts with Chad to discover what that might be.

An old vacuum cleaner becomes a Mini-Mega-Morpher shrinking Mal and Chad to bug size; a sink full of dishwater their venue for underwater exploration.  Barely escaping when Mal's Mom comes home early, lands them in a cloud of dust in the kitchen and straight upstairs for a bath and bed.

A time machine crafted from an old elevator, complete with the appropriate music, zings them into the age of dinosaurs.  Chad's attraction to a baby Ankylosaurus nearly costs them their lives and the possibility of a return trip home.  As the time machine blasts homeward Zachary spies it through his telescope thinking it's a crashed spaceship. 

Between the inventions (rubber ducky life raft, modified Swiss Army knife, seed growing into a flower tent, potion that makes even dog food taste good), the day to day challenges of school life, the presence of Murphy's Law in their fast-paced perils, the upbeat dialogue between Mal and Chad (he can talk due to Mal's creativity) and an ending that couldn't be better, Mal and Chad:  The biggest, bestest time ever!  is just that for each and every reader.

A mixture of frame sizes, liberal use of sound effects sans balloons and facial expressions that leave no doubt as to the character's state of mind, continually move the reader forward quickly turning the pages.  Readers explore with Mal and Chad just what it means to live life with a sense of wonder. Stephen McCranie manages to convey zany hilarity and true heart throughout with the seamless blend of narration and graphics.

More copies are on their way to Charlevoix and the new title to be released in January of 2012, Mal and Chad:  Food Fight! has been preordered.  Don't miss all the extra features at the web site linked above by clicking on Stephen McCranie's name.

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