Like earlier Toon Book “Otto’s Orange Day,” this one is written by Underground comics legend Jay Lynch. While “Mo and Jo” isn’t quite as much fun as the “Otto” book, Lynch does tell a fast-paced tale of sibling rivalry and, ultimately, teamwork. It’s the kind of book that a young reader might enjoy, and it’s a good read-aloud book for ages 4-8.
“Mo and Jo” begins with young siblings Joey and Mona fighting over a video game controller, and their quarrelling soon escalates when Mr. Mojoski, the mild-mannered moustachioed mailman, reveals that he is the superhero known as the Mighty Mojo. And he’s retiring. Because Mona and Joey are such huge Mighty Mojo fans, he leaves his costume with the two of them, before heading off to Miami. The costume has the Mighty Mojo’s powers built into it, and the two kids accidentally tear the costume in half while tugging on it.
All of this happens in the first five pages, just to give you an idea about the pace of this story. Why would the Mighty Mojo leave his powerful costume in the hands of two random kids? Why would the costume so easily tear exactly in half? None of these questions matter in the larger scheme of things, and the story sprints forward as Mona and Joey’s mom turns the torn costume into two separate, kid-sized costumes, so the kids can go off and play superheroes.
This isn’t a book built on a pervading logic, nor should it be. It’s full of childish whimsy as the two kids, with costumes labeled “Mo” and “Jo” fight the supervillain Saw-Jaw whose sinister plan involves popping a gigantic hippopotamus parade balloon. The story is really a parable about the importance of teamwork, but as a parent, I appreciate that the lesson isn’t so heavy-handed as to ruin a good story. The kids couldn’t win without teamwork, but Lynch and Haspiel don’t hit the reader of the head with the message any more than necessary. This is a book that revels in the silliness of kid superheroes fighting a lizard guy who’s trying to pop a giant balloon, and it’s all the better for it.
My seven year-old son and my four-year old daughter enjoyed listening to me read “Mo and Jo” to them, although even they admitted that it wasn’t quite as good as the other Toon Books — all of which are perfect for kids their age.