Friday, May 09, 2008

Grapic Novel review: Little Vampire

First Second is issuing three of Joann Sfar's Little Vampire tales in one beautifully produced volume out May 12. Little Vampire includes "Little Vampire Goes to School," "Little Vampire Does Kung Fu!," and "Little Vampire and the Canine Defenders Club."

Sfar's Little Vampire tales feature two heroes, one important sidekick (a flying red dog ghost named Phantomato), and a multitude of creepy-funny secondary characters. The two heroes--Little Vampire and a boy named Michael--meet in the first tale when Little Vampire decides to go to school. Because he can only attend school at night, he amuses himself by doing Michael's homework. When Little Vampire's collection of ghostly guardians discover what he's up to, school is over for Little Vampire and he is sent to convince Michael to never tell about the Vampire and his world.

Michael, however, is a lonely little boy who lives with his grandparents and is bullied at school. As soon as he arrives to Little Vampire's crazy house with ghosts and ghouls of every shape, size, and color, he never wants to forget Little Vampire and his world.

The Little Vampire stories combine the wacky with the sweet, traditional folkloric tropes with more modern jokes, serious thoughtful passages with pure frivolity. Take a look at this exchange between the Captain of the Dead and Michael when he first arrives to Little Vampire's house:

Michael: I swear to devote my life to protecting the dead and keeping their memory. And if I break my word, may a thousand curses befall me.

Captain of the Dead: Now do the sign of the cross.

Michael: No. I can't do that.

Captain: It would give more strength to your oath.

Michael: But I'm Jewish, Captain. The cross doesn't mean much to me.

Captain: Do the sign of the star, in that case.

Michael: We don't do that either. And I don't believe much in God. 'Cause my parents are dead.

Captain: You're a bit young to believe in nothing.

Michael: Well, maybe he exists, Captain, but after what he did to me, I don't feel like I owe him anything.

Captain: You should think about all that some more. Sad times often open miraculous doorways.

Next up? Taking a bath--or not--jokes.

Sfar fills each page with colorful, compelling hand-drawn boxes. He'll also interrupt from time to time with "important information"--names of ghost monsters, for example. Each page and every panel gives the child reader something to think about, something to laugh at, an adventure to follow.

Little Vampire is highly recommended for readers ages 8 to 14.
This review is part of First Second's Vampire Month. Check out First Second's blog for more!