Adventures in Cartooning
written by James Sturm, Andrew Arnold and Alexis Frederick-Frost
When a princess throws down her pencil and exclaims that she doesn’t draw well enough to make comics, the Magic Cartooning Elf comes to her rescue, offering to show her how it’s done. He begins by introducing the story of a brave knight who sets out to rescue a beautiful princess from a dragon. A bubblegum-chewing dragon that flies, breathes fire, and drools in its sleep.
But before the brave knight can save the princess from the dragon, he must first establish himself in space, and to do this, he needs to be in a panel. And in the panel, he must move and communicate with the reader through dialog and thought balloons and sound effects, and the layout of each panel must flow in the direction the reader reads. Basic art lessons like these are layered effortlessly into the story and the reader quickly forgets that this is a how-to book. The simple Ed Emberley-type shapes used to create the knight, dragon, elf, and backgrounds are all unintimidating and easily imitated by novice artists.
As the story progresses, the concepts are less frequently explained using dialog. Instead, the techniques are illustrated, showing rather than telling how to create depth and motion via shadow or speed lines. The knight is wearing a helmet, so he has no facial expressions. Therefore, the artist uses body language and expressive symbols to convey emotion, including tilting the head to show laughter or using wavy lines where the knight’s legs once were to indicate fear.
Plenty of emphasis is placed on imagination and storytelling. The story is told and the instruction given with plenty of humor that will appeal to kids. That the plot is farfetched and childlike serves the book’s purpose, giving kids permission to tell their own story rather than trying to write one that will satisfy the adults around them. An example of a child-drawn comic is at the back of the book and is the perfect end note, as it makes clear the point that anyone, even a seven-year-old, draws well enough to make comics. Adventures in Cartooning is highly recommended for kids. It’s also recommended for adults who aren’t sure why comics work the way they do or who are afraid to make stories of their own.