For those unfamiliar with the Nick Jr. show, Yo Gabba Gabba is a manic blend of color, music and lessons geared toward the toddler set and their very cool parents. At its best, the show is a fun, silly, indie band half hour that both the kid and the parent can find something to enjoy. At its worst, Yo Gabba Gabba can be cloying, annoying, and preachy. The graphic board books fall right in line with the show’s feel and message. Kudos to Oni Press for knowing their audience. The show is best enjoyed by kids under four. My current preschooler is over it and my toddler is massively in love. But my toddler can not handle a real book because he’s still orally fixated on eating them, so the board book is perfect.
Before bed we started with Gabba Ball. He was very excited to see his favorite characters and I was pleasantly surprised to see the artwork. The drawings capture the hyper, over-the-top movement of the show. In Gabba Ball they are drawn in the style of Ren and Stimpy with wide mouths, cute triangle eyes, and a ton of color. The characters float through the story in a trippy, wavy way that is visually appealing, even if the story is lacking. DJ Lance Rock (controller of Gabbaland) wants to play ball. The lesson is taking turns and the moral is that everyone wins – which isn’t true and can be tiresome to parents who are looking for a little more bite. However, two-year-olds don’t care about lessons or morals and mine just loved singing the songs that I made up to go with the word bubbles. This is surprisingly easy, especially if you’ve seen the show, just pick a beat and repeat.
We ended the night with Good Night Gabbaland which sat better with me. In Good Night the message is, ‘get yourself to bed, you can do it, you’re independent’ and this parent is all for two-year-olds doing things for themselves. The artwork is calmer but still very interesting. Again, this book captures the feel of the show without directly reproducing how the characters look. If the last book was Ren and Stimpy, this book is more new My Little Ponies. The characters take themselves to bed and at the end my toddler was delighted to see all of the Yo Gabba Gabba dreams.
One thing that should be noted is that toddlers may need to be taught how to read and look at sequential art. I just dove right in and quickly realized my toddler was overwhelmed, didn’t know where to look, and was generally confused. I began pointing to each panel as I read it and by the end of storytime he was following along just fine. I believe we will be reading these again tonight! Like the show, there is enough to keep both me and my son interested.
Yo Gabba Gabba: Gabba Ball
Oni Press, 2010