Paige Braddock has been doing exemplary comic work for over two decades now, with her hilarious Jane's World comic strip plus her work for Peanuts (she is the Creative Director at Charles M. Schulz Creative Associates, a position she's held since 1999) and The Martian Confederacy . This week, she released her first original graphic novel for children and, unsurprisingly, it was excellent.
Stinky Cecil is the story of a toad who spends his days hanging out at the pond with his buddies - a worm, a frog, a fly, a hamster and a...well, let's call him a lizard for now.
Amazon has a preview of the first few pages of the book, so let's check 'em out...
I love that opening page - it just delivers you right away into exactly what kind of story you're getting here, and it is just punctuated by the little tour of the city before landing up at the pond.
As you an see, artwise, Braddock is an excellent cartoonist - this stuff is practically second nature to her, so everything flows well, the character designs are all on point - it's really no less than what I would have expected from her going into this.
The book is about Cecil and his friends trying to prevent their pond from being paved over as part of a freeway development. How can a bunch of pond animals stop something like that? Well, that's the plot of the book. You'll just have to find out. I do love that part of their plan involves enlisting a hawk that almost eats Cecil early in the story, under the theory of "we should work together because if the pond goes away, then you'll lost out on your meals".
What impresses me most about this comic is its almost sardonic sense of humor - many cartoonists shy away from that type of comedy when they're writing for children, but that is an underestimation of kids in my book. Braddock obviously knows that kids are willing to buy into that type of humor - just look at Peanuts! So you have little things like Reggie the fly dying every five days, or Cecil eating bugs despite being friends with a fly (as Cecil notes, he has a complex relationship with Reggie).
And yet, Braddock also knows to play to the more traditional over-the-top sense of humor kids have, like the amusement of a protagonist whose superpower is essentially having really smelly farts (as Cecil points out, "The old Toad toot works every time!"). The book IS called STINKY Cecil, after all!
One interesting aspect of the book, too, is how it is also an educational book, just a really sly one, as kids learn a bunch of animal facts as well as the concepts of habitats and the food chain (I understand that the book also comes with some back matter about toads. Braddock sent me an early copy before that was put into the book, so I can't speak to that material).
In Stinky Cecil, Braddock has written a charming, funny and somehow educational book with great artwork. What more do you want from a book for kids?
Check out the book's page at Andrews McMeel Publishing for a variety of ways to buy it.